Booking Iberia award tickets for fun and profit

Before I get started today, it would be irresponsible of me not to state that your Avios are fine. You see, the last time I wrote about Iberia, the travel hacking blogosphere exploded with speculation about an upcoming British Airways Avios devaluation. While British Airways Avios have since been devalued, they weren't devalued in the specific, weird way that Iberia was pricing out oneworld partner awards.

So promise you won't freak out.

Iberia charges lower fuel surcharges on their own flights than British Airways does

Once you've initialized your Iberia account, you can freely transfer Avios between a British Airways,, and Iberia Plus Avios account.

The obvious reason to do so is that on identical Iberia-operated flights, you'll be charged lower fuel surcharges using Avios in an Iberia Plus account than Avios in a British Airways account.

For example, here's an Iberia Plus Avios redemption between Chicago and Madrid in early January, pricing out at 20,000 Iberia Plus Avios and €74.20 ($85.54):

And here's the exact same itinerary pricing out at 20,000 British Airways Avios and $275:

Did you see my sleight of hand?

I'll give you a hint: one of the fuel surcharges I cited had to be converted to US dollars. One of them was converted for me.

British Airways has a funny approach to currency conversion

Here's a British Airways-operated flight between Chicago and Budapest in June, 2015. With Great Britain's passenger charges, as expected there are some substantial taxes and fees on such a ticket. It prices out at 19,500 Avios and $321:

Here's the same ticket priced out on Iberia's website, costing 19,500 Avios and €264.34 ($304.70):

I understand, you're not impressed with my saving you $16.30 in surcharges. Now watch this.

British Airways and Iberia both let you buy Avios at deep discounts

Instead of paying 19,500 Avios and $321, British Airways will let you book the same itinerary for just 6,700 Avios and $481, letting you buy 12,800 Avios for $160, or 1.25 cents each:

Meanwhile, Iberia will let you buy 9,750 Avios for €90 ($103), or 1.06 cents each:

At this point you might start to admit that this currency conversion business is at least worth being aware of. Now watch this.

British Airways and Iberia both let you buy lots of Avios for premium-cabin awards

I've been showing you economy cabin redemptions so far. But British Airways also operates premium cabins!

Here are the same Chicago-Budapest flights in business class, priced out at 62,750 British Airways Avios and $491, allowing you to buy 30,950 Avios for $805, or 2.6 cents each:

And here's the same flight priced out for 62,750 Iberia Plus Avios and €412.26 ($475.82), allowing you to buy 30,100 Iberia Plus Avios for €510 ($588.63), or 1.96 cents each:


I would never suggest earning, let alone buying, rewards currencies speculatively: if your account balances are high enough, you'll be better off simply transferring your Membership Rewards or Ultimate Rewards points to Avios and booking traditional award tickets.

On the other hand, if you're diligently keeping your flexible balances as low as possible, and especially if you're planning trips involving high-value Hyatt redemptions (or if you have a Southwest companion pass), you may well find that buying up the Avios you need to complete a redemption makes sense compared to transferring the points in from Chase Ultimate Rewards.

If you happen to find yourself in that situation, do yourself a favor and see if an Iberia Avios redemption will save you a couple hundred dollars.