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Let’s talk about Avios.

Three airlines—Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia—use this rewards currency, yet they’re separate award programs. Same, same, but different. And, because the programs are different, they also use their own award charts and follow their own rules.

Although there are three loyalty programs that use Avios, in this article, we’ll focus on two: British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus. Unfortunately, Aer Lingus Aer Club isn’t useful to many travelers aside from booking Aer Lingus-operated flights and isn’t worth considering for partner flights.

British Airways and Iberia are part of the Oneworld alliance, which means that knowing how to use these two programs can benefit the U.S.-based travelers who want to redeem miles domestically and on short-haul international American Airlines flights.

Because in some cases British Airways program is better than Iberia Plus and vice versa, we’ll also discuss different instances when you should redeem BA Avios and Iberia Avios.

Take Advantage of Better Redemption Rates on Specific Itineraries

As mentioned above, award redemption rates are different in each of the programs. In some cases, you will come out ahead using BA Avios. In others, Iberia will yield a better result.

Take a look at the following example of a round-trip American Airlines flight from Seattle (SEA) to Denver (DEN) with a stop in Phoenix (PHX) in each direction. When you search for the itinerary via British Airways, it’s going to cost you 34,500 Avios + $11.20.

When you search for the exact same itinerary via Iberia Plus, you’ll have to redeem 23,000 Avios + $29.20.

The fare difference is explained by the fact that British Airways prices out awards segment by segment. In other words, the final cost of an itinerary with multiple legs will cost the sum of Avios required to book each leg. Iberia, on the other hand, prices out awards based on the total distance flown.

If you were flying on a nonstop flight to a destination that doesn’t require a layover, you’d be better off redeeming BA Avios instead, like on the following flight from Seattle to Dallas (DAL), for example. A round-trip journey would require 22,000 Avios + $11.20 in this case.

Generally, it’s best to redeem British Airways Avios on short-haul, nonstop flights and Iberia Avios on flights that require a connection. In either case, make sure to double check redemption rates with both programs before committing to either booking.

One-Way Awards Aren’t Available with Most Iberia Partners

As we’ve seen above, Iberia Avios can be great for certain awards. However, most partner redemptions must be done for round-trip flights. If you try searching for one-way awards on American Airlines or another Oneworld or non-alliance partner, you’ll get the following error.

However, the website will show you one-way award flights operated by Iberia itself and by British Airways.

British Airways Executive Club, on the other hand, allows redeeming Avios for one-way partner awards. So, if you’re after one-way awards, British Airways is a better bet even if the redemption rate for a one-way trip is slightly higher than half of a round-trip flight booked with Iberia Avios.

Mix Classes of Services with Iberia Plus

One of the most interesting features of the Iberia Plus program is the ability to mix classes of service on one itinerary. In other words, you can mix business class and economy class tickets on two segments of one ticket.

For example, here’s an Iberia-operated itinerary from New York City (JFK) to Rome (FCO) with a stop in Madrid (MAD). You can choose to fly the long segment to Madrid in business class and the short intra-Europe segment in economy class.

Why would you do that? The main reason is to use fewer miles for an award ticket, in case you don’t have enough or if you don’t care about flying the short leg in a lesser class of service. Another possible situation could be that not all classes of service are available in the first place and you must pick a cabin that’s actually available.

If you choose to fly the whole itinerary in business class, it costs 66,500 Iberia Avios + $117.05. If you select to fly the long leg in business class and the short leg in economy, you’d need to redeem 58,250 Avios + $110.94. Not only do you redeem fewer miles, you also save a few bucks on taxes.

With British Airways Executive Club, you can’t mix classes of service on one award ticket. The whole itinerary must be available in the same cabin to be bookable.

Take Advantage of Off-Peak Rates in Both Programs

Both British Airways and Iberia divide the calendar year into standard and off-peak dates for its own flights. Off-peak dates require lower redemption rates than flights on standard dates.

The two airlines separately decide what their peak and standard dates are—they’re not universally set across programs. Some peak dates overlap, but not all. The trick is to check with both programs and use whatever one that requires fewer Avios on your preferred date of travel.

Save Money on Taxes

Another reason you might be opting to redeem one program’s Avios instead of the other’s is to save your cash.

Say both programs require the same number of miles for a specific redemption, but the cash portion of the award ticket is higher with one program, so obviously you’ll want to go with the less expensive option.

For example, here’s an Iberia-operated flight from Chicago (ORD) to Madrid (MAD) in business class. You can book it with either program’s Avios, so why not compare the difference?

When booking this flight with Iberia Plus, you’ll have to pay 50,000 Avios + $102.52. When booking via Executive Club, the same flight costs 50,000 Avios + $729.20. The tax portion is significantly higher when redeeming BA Avios.

Again, make sure to compare your options across all award programs to get the best available redemption rate and save the most cash.

How to Earn British Airways and Iberia Avios

Both airline programs partner with American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards. You can transfer points from either program at a ratio of 1:1.

Keep in mind that although Chase points transfer instantly to Iberia Plus, American Express points do not. It might take a day or two for the transfer process to complete. Both types of flexible points transfer to British Airways instantly.

If you need Iberia Avios right away, you can convert points to British Airways Avios first because the process is instant and then transfer them to Iberia (for more details, see the next section).

How to Transfer Avios Between British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus

What if you have accumulated some miles in one program but need to use the other to book an award ticket? Well, we’ve got great news for you—it’s possible to transfer Avios for free between two programs.

All Avios transfers are instant, and there’s no restrictions on how many of them you can move. You can transfer as few as 1 Avio if that’s all you need.

Before you move the points, though, make sure your accounts are eligible for a transfer.

  • Iberia Plus account must be at least 90 days old.
  • Both accounts must have registered a rewards-earning activity in the past.

So, we suggest you create an Iberia Plus account now. You never know when you’re going to need to transfer Avios between accounts.

Also, make sure to earn some kind of rewards in both of your loyalty accounts, whether by flying or transferring points from a transferable currency program, such as the American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards.

To initiate an Avios transfer, log in to your British Airways account. Click on “My Executive Club,” then on “Manage My Account” and select “Combine My Avios” from the dropdown menu.

From there, link your British Airways account to your Iberia account by logging in with your credentials. Select which way you want to move Avios and how many, click on “Review my transfer” and confirm on the next page.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the two programs aren’t interchangeable but are complementary. Where one program lacks, the other shines, and vice versa, giving you more choice for an award booking.

Redeem British Airways Avios on short-haul flights without connections, whenever you need to book a one-way flight and when British Airways calendar favors you with its off-peak redemption rates.

Redeem Iberia Avios on domestic American Airlines flights with layovers, whenever you want to book a mixed-class award or when you want to save money on taxes and fuel surcharges.

It helps that moving Avios around is easy and free, which means you can take your pick and choose the program that benefits you the most in your particular situation.

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