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How I flew to Spain in Business Class using points

by Arun Victor

· Points,Miles,Business Class,Spain

With Spring Break around the corner, I was itching to plan a trip. Where will it be? A week in the Caribbean where I can get my scuba fix? Or Amsterdam, perhaps? IcelandAir was running some fairly good deals at the time, including a stopover in Reykjavík, if you wanted. That’s when it occurred to me - why not redeem my British Airways Avios to a destination that’s been on my list? Spain!

The reason I’ve been wanting to redeem Avios for Spain is because doing so for nonstop flights from Chicago to Madrid can be a particularly lucrative opportunity, with Economy somewhere in the $1300 range and Business Class at nearly $5000.

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Chicago - Madrid round trip fares on Google Flights

There were two things that interested me about this route -

  1. It was nonstop.
  2. It would give me a chance to fly Iberia, an airline I haven’t flown before.

So off I went to to search for award availability and this is what I found (note that these are sample dates, not the ones I actually flew. Nonetheless, the same Off-Peak dates are used in all of the examples below for comparison).


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British Airways would charge you 34,000 Avios + $342.54 in taxes, fees, and surcharges in Economy.

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Business Class award using British Airways Avios

By contrast, Iberia charges the same 34,000 Avios but only $206.68 in Economy.

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Business Class award using Iberia Plus Avios

Now you might notice I’m speaking in the same points currency while referring to 2 different rewards programs - British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus. That’s because both, British Airways and Iberia share the same rewards currency - Avios. In fact, both airlines are owned by the same parent company, International Airlines Group, or IAG. And the ultimate beauty of all of this is that you can freely transfer your Avios between the two programs!... something that is extremely rare when dealing with airline miles. Since I had the British Airways Avios I needed for this trip, but my Iberia Plus Avios balance was 0, this was a very beneficial provision.

Freely transfer your Avios points between British Airways and Iberia to save hundreds of dollars in taxes, fees, and surcharges!

There are 2 caveats to this -

  1. Your Iberia Plus account needs to be at least 90 days old (so go ahead and create one now if you don’t have one already). This part was easy - I had opened one a couple of years back in anticipation of this day.
  2. There needs to have been some activity in the account in order to “activate” the moving of Avios from British Airways.

The second requirement got in the way of things. Ideally, I would credit an Iberia, OneWorld, or an Iberia partner flight to the Iberia Plus frequent flyer program. That would count as an activity. But I did not have time for that. The seats were available and I had my credit card out. This is where a flexible points currency, such as American Express Membership Rewards in this case, saved the day.

Rewards currencies such as American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi Thank You Points can be quite versatile. They can be transferred to a range of airline and hotel loyalty programs. For example, you could convert 250 Membership Rewards points to 250 Iberia Avios. The ratios and increments of transfers is a topic entirely of its own. Suffice to say that at the time of this writing, MR transfers to Iberia Avios in a 1:1 ratio and in increments of 250 points.

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You can convert your American Express Membership Rewards to Iberia Plus Avios

The transfer was instant and I was on my way to topping off my Iberia Plus account with my British Airways Avios.

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All set to transfer British Airways Avios to Iberia!

The British Airways to Iberia transfer was also instant and I went on to complete my booking! Ultimately what I ended up booking was Economy from Chicago to Madrid and Business on the return, for a total of 51,000 Avios and ~$200. You can mix and match as long as award seats are available. Another thing I should highlight is that the mileage rates shown above are on Iberia's off-peak travel dates. The cost will be a bit higher on peak dates. So if you have some flexibility on when you can travel, you'll not only save on the cash component, but on the number of miles you'll need as well.

I could’ve easily called this post “Why I went to Spain?” since this was a redemption that’s been on my list for some time, and honestly, that’s what prompted me to think of Spain. But, what an amazing 9 days it was in the Spanish country! Follow me on this series on Spain as I share my travels and experiences there.

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