Avios Sweet Spots for Award Tickets (British Airways & Iberia)

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Avios sweet spots depend entirely on the length and number of segments in your itinerary. Generally speaking, the best British Airways Avios sweet spots are short non-stop flights, whereas Iberia is better for those on connecting itineraries. However, there is a massive difference in flexibility that needs to be considered when weighing your options, particularly when plans may be subject to change beyond your control.

Avios sweet spots
Iberia business class can be a fantastic use of Avios and a decent way to get between the US and Europe.

The key sweet spot: the shortest flights

The key sweet spot for Avios is short flights on oneworld airlines. Since both British Airways and Iberia use distance-based award charts, you’ll pay fewer Avios for shorter flights. Avios can sometimes be a great way to transition & position since a small number of Avios may be all you need to fly to a nearby city or country that is classified in a different zone in order to take advantage of some other airline’s sweet spot award.

The antithesis of a sweet spot is using Avios to fly on British Airways since you will pay massive fuel surcharges on flights operated by British Airways.

The sweet spots below highlight the best values to/from North America in economy class and business class, but keep in mind that Avios can come in handy when you’re looking to take a short hop on Japan Airlines from Tokyo to Seoul or to fly between Melbourne and Sydney on Qantas or between the Maldives and Sri Lanka on Sri Lankan. In some cases, flights like those can be quite expensive with cash but quite a value via Avios.

Also note that those looking for a better travel experience than economy class without the business class price tag might consider premium economy awards. In many cases, international premium economy is similar to domestic first class within the US and rings in at a price between the economy and business class sweet spots seen below.

An Avios sweet spot for new parents: lap infant awards via British Airways

For those traveling with a lap infant, British Airways is one of the few programs to charge a percentage of the award cost rather than a percentage of the cash cost. Lap infant award tickets booked via British Airways cost 10% of the Avios for an adult ticket. Unfortunately, Iberia follows the more common pricing model of 10% of the cash fare.

Fuel surcharges and flexibility concerns

British Airways has very high fuel surcharges on its own flights, so if you must fly British Airways you are going to be on the hook for well over a thousand dollars round trip in premium cabin carrier-imposed surcharges.

By contrast, Iberia charges much milder fuel surcharges on its own flights booked via Iberia.

Another huge point of contrast between British Airways and Iberia comes in flexibility. British Airways has a very reasonable $55 change/cancellation fee if you need to change your flight or cancel and redeposit Avios. If the taxes & fees were less than $55, you can alternatively forfeit the taxes and get the Avios back (though in practice you sometimes get the taxes back anyway).

On the other hand, Iberia allows no changes or cancellations on most partner awards. You can change or cancel award tickets for travel on Iberia, British Airways, or Aer Lingus, but you can not change or cancel on partners like American Airlines. This means that if you must cancel your flight, there is no way to get your Avios back – they are just lost. For this reason, I only recommend using Iberia to book partner awards when travel is imminent and certain. Iberia can be a great option when you need a last-minute flight this weekend for a family emergency, but I would be wary of booking a flight months out for travel on partners. Note that change and cancellation fees for flights on Iberia metal are 25 Euros (about $40).

Collecting Avios

Credit Cards

Card Offer
Chase British Airways Visa Signature® Card
50K Avios
Get 50K Avios after $3K spend in first 3 months. Also get 5x on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL for first 12 months (then 3x) and 3x on hotels booked directly with the hotel for first 12 months (then 2x) and a Travel Together ticket after spending $20,000 within the first 12 months.

$95 Annual Fee

Card Offer
Chase Iberia Visa Signature® Card
Up to 100K bonus Avios
Get 50K Avios after $3K spend in first 3 months + 50K more Avios after $20K spend in first year. Also get 5x on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL for first 12 months (then 3x) and 3x on hotels booked directly with the hotel for first 12 months (then 2x)

$95 Annual Fee

Card Offer
Chase Aer Lingus Visa Signature® Card
Up to 100K bonus Avios
Get 50K Avios after $3K spend in first 3 months + 50K more Avios after $20K spend in first year. Also get 5x on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL for first 12 months (then 3x) and 3x on hotels booked directly with the hotel for first 12 months (then 2x). Also get 5x on purchases with British Airways, Aer Lingus, and LEVEL for first 12 months (then 3x) and 3x on hotels booked directly with the hotel for first 12 months (then 2x)

$95 Annual Fee

Transferable Currencies

Rewards ProgramAmex Transfer RatioChase Transfer RatioCiti Transfer RatioMarriott Transfer RatioCapital One Transfer RatioBrex Transfer Ratio
Avios1 to 11 to 160K to 25K1000 to 750

Combining your own Avios

Avios can be combined across Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Iberia. For more on how to transfer between these programs, see: How to transfer Avios between Aer Lingus, BA, and Iberia.

Avios Sweet Spots (Economy Class)

Europe from 13K one-way

  • The short story: You can use British Airways, Iberia or Aer Lingus Avios to fly on those airlines for low mileage prices on nonstop routes.
  • Miles required (Note that this gets confusing, particularly for Iberia. For more on the Iberia charts, I recommend reading this post at Travel is Free):
    • For flights on British Airways or Aer Lingus booked via British Airways, Aer Lingus, or Iberia (prices shown off-peak/peak):
      • 13K / 20K for flights 3,000-4,000 miles flown
      • 16,250 / 25K for flights 4,001 to 5,500 miles flown
    • For flights on Iberia booked via Iberia Avios only (prices shown off-peak/peak):
      • 17K / 20K for flights 3,001-4,000 miles one way
      • 21,250 / 25K for flights 4,001-5,000 miles one way
  • How to find awards: Search for British Airways available space at britishairways.com for Aer Lingus at United.com or Avios.com. For Iberia, use the Advanced Avios tool. It's always best to search before transferring.
  • How to book awards: Book British Airways flights online at britishaiways.com or over the phone at 1 800 452 1201. You can book Aer Lingus over the phone with British Airways or use Avios.com
  • Key warnings: Note that it may be worth checking all 3 booking options (Avios.com, BritishAirways.com, and Iberia.com) to determine your best deal, though keep in mind that things like cancellation policies differ (note that Iberia offers no changes or refunds at all on most partner flights whereas British Airways offers cheap cancellation). Aer Lingus and British Airways charge for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly (Iberia charges based on cumulative distance each way, which can be cheaper on connecting itineraries).
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Hawaii for 13K from the west coast

  • The short story: British Airways offers a distance-based award chart, so flights from the West Coast of the USA on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines can be a great value with Avios.
  • Miles required: 13K miles each way plus $5.60 for economy-class segments between west coast cities and Hawaii.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com for AA or aa.com for Alaska flights.
  • How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or Alaska flights over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
  • Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Aiways Executive Club for American flights.

North America from 11K round trip via Iberia

  • The short story: Iberia Plus offers a distance-based award chart that can be useful for short itineraries on American Airlines (even those with connections) with no close-in booking fee. See: From 11K RT on American: A sweet spot for North American flight redemptions as the same concepts apply to flights to South America
  • Miles required: From 17K miles round trip for plus $11.20 for economy-class itineraries of 1,000 to 2,000 miles traveled. The best deals are itineraries of 2,000 miles flown or fewer since they cost 17,000 miles round trip at most when American has availability, though the next couple of distance bands can also be good (23K for 2,000-3,000 miles traveled or 28K for 3,000-4,000 miles traveled). No fuel surcharges on American Airlines.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool.
  • How to book awards: Book online at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool.
  • Key warnings: Most Iberia partner bookings, including those on American Airlines, are completely nonrefundable and can not be changed. Only book AA flights with Iberia if plans are certain. Iberia requires round trip booking for American Airlines flights (you will get no results if searching one-way).
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase

South America from 17K one-way via Iberia

  • The short story: Iberia Plus offers a distance-based award chart that can be useful for short itineraries on American Airlines (even those with connections) with no close-in booking fee. See: From 11K RT on American: A sweet spot for North American flight redemptions as the same concepts apply to flights to South America
  • Miles required: From 17K miles round trip for plus $11.20 for economy-class itineraries of 1,000 to 2,000 miles traveled. The best deals are itineraries of 2,000 miles flown or fewer since they cost 17,000 miles round trip at most when American has availability, though the next couple of distance bands can also be good (23K for 2,000-3,000 miles traveled or 28K for 3,000-4,000 miles traveled). No fuel surcharges on American Airlines.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool.
  • How to book awards: Book online at iberia.com. Use the Advanced Avios Search tool.
  • Key warnings: Most Iberia partner bookings, including those on American Airlines, are completely nonrefundable and can not be changed. Only book AA flights with Iberia if plans are certain. Iberia requires round trip booking for American Airlines flights (you will get no results if searching one-way).
  • Transfer from: Amex, Chase

Avios Sweet Spots (Premium Cabins)

South America from 22K one-way via British Airways

  • The short story: British Airways has excellent award pricing for shorter distance American Airlines award flights, whereas you're better off booking with another program for longer flights or if you need connections (since British Airways prices each segment separately). Keep in mind that while LATAM has left oneworld, their flights should still be bookable with Avios.
  • Miles required: From 22K miles (Miami to Bogota falls in this distance band) to 92,750 miles (Los Angeles to Buenos Aires is in this distance band) each way in business class. The best deals will be from Miami to Northern South America for 22K or 38,750 miles one way depending on distance (and assuming direct flights). See the full award chart here at One Mile at a Time. No fuel surcharges on American Airlines.
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at BritishAirways.com
  • How to book awards: Book online at BritishAirways.com
  • Key warnings: Note that British Airways periodically stops showing American Airlines award availability. When this happens, phone agents are generally unable to book the space either and your best bet is to keep searching or book through another partner.
  • Transfer from: AmexChaseMarriott

Europe from 34K one-way via Iberia

  • The short story: Iberia charges as few as 34K miles one-way in business class on its own flights from New York, Boston, Chicago, or DC to Madrid during off-peak season. Sometimes they run a winter travel promotion for even less.
  • Miles required: Varies by distance. Best deal are the cities above to Madrid: 34K during off-peak dates or 50K during peak dates on Iberia metal. Fuel surcharges are very mild (Around $175 in total taxes & fees round trip. If booking one-way, surcharges are higher leaving Europe than flying to Europe.)
  • How to find awards: Search Iberia.com using the Advanced Avios Search Tool
  • How to book awards: Book at Iberia.com after using the Advanced Avios Search Tool.
  • Key warnings: Iberia's website can be challenging to navigate and availability can be challenging to find. There are some surcharges, but at under a hundred bucks from the US to Europe, they are much milder than when using British Airways Avios. Note that Iberia's award chart is distance-based, so itineraries with connections will require more miles.
  • Transfer from: Amex Membership RewardsChase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy

Oceania / Multiple Carrier tickets (build-your-own-round-the-world)

  • The short story: British Airways offers an award chart for travel on a single partner and a lesser-known chart for travel on two partners. That second chart could save you some Avios if you were to mix AA and Qantas for example.
  • Miles required: From around 200K "round trip" in business class from most US cities (can vary based on distance). See the mixed partner chart along with an excellent explanation for how to leverage it here. In short, you could turn this into a multi-stop, multi-carrier journey and the number of miles required will vary some but be less than booking separately via British Airways
  • How to find awards: Search for available space on each segment separately at britishairways.com.
  • How to book awards: Book over the phone at 1 800 452 1201. According to Head for Points, there isn’t a clear methodology for pricing mixed-cabin awards. I suspect some agents may be less well versed in this mixed chart.
  • Key warnings: This secondary chart would save miles over the single-carrier chart, which would price a one-way to Australia at 154K one-way assuming a single carrier and single segment (add more for additional segments). However, as this is a lesser-known chart, some agents may not be well versed in using it. Be prepared to hang up and call again. Furthermore, the British Airways site sometimes shows phantom award space for AA (see: Phantom menace: an award search time suck). You may want to double-check Qantas.com for availability before transferring to British Airways Executive Club for American flights.

Bottom line

Avios can be a helpful currency to keep in your tool belt for great deals on Iberia business class and for short oneworld award flights all around the world. The ability to move your miles freely between British Airways, Iberia, and Aer Lingus gives you the ability to pivot as necessary to easily take advantage of all of the various Avios sweet spots.

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