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.
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).
The following credit cards earn Avios. Remember that you can move Avios between British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Qatar (see the section on combining Avios below).
The following table displays which transferable currencies can be transferred to Avios. Keep in mind that some currencies may not partner with all Avios programs, but you can combine Avios yourself and move them between programs (see “Combining your own Avios” below).
|Rewards Program||Amex Transfer Ratio||Chase Transfer Ratio||Citi Transfer Ratio||Capital One Transfer Ratio||Bilt|
|Aer Lingus Avios||1 to 1||1 to 1||1 to 1 via Qatar, BA||1 to 1 via BA||1 to 1|
|British Airways Avios||1 to 1||1 to 1||1 to 1 via Qatar||1 to 1||1 to 1|
|Iberia Avios||1 to 1||1 to 1||1 to 1 via Qatar, BA||1 to 1 via BA||1 to 1|
|Qatar Privilege Club Avios||1 to 1 via BA||1 to 1 via BA||1 to 1||1 to 1 via BA||1 to 1 via BA|
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
- For flights on British Airways or Aer Lingus booked via British Airways, Aer Lingus, or Iberia (prices shown off-peak/peak):
- 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, Capital One, 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.
South America from 17K one-way via Iberia
- The short story: Iberia Plus offers a distance-based award chart that matches British Airways. However, since they don't allow changes or cancellations on American Airlines awards, you're probably better off booking via British Airways
- Miles required: From 11K miles each way depending on distance. No fuel surcharges on American Airlines. See our Avios Complete Guide for a full award chart.
- 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. Because of that policy and the fact that Iberia's chart for American Airlines flights now matches the British Airways chart for the same flights, you're probably better off booking via BA. Only book AA flights with Iberia if plans are certain.
- Transfer from: Amex, Bilt, 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: Amex, Bilt Chase, Capital One, Marriott
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 Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy
Fly Qatar Airways to Doha for 70K one-way
- The short story: British Airways normally offers a distance-based award chart, in what is an exception they charge 70K Avios each way for business class between the US and Doha on Qatar Airways (these flights do not follow the distance band).
- Miles required: 70K miles each way in business class between the US and Doha. Taxes and fees add around $250 round trip.
- How to find awards: Search for available space at britishairways.com. It's always best to search before transferring.
- How to book awards: Book American flights online at britishaiways.com or over the phone at 1 800 452 1201.
- Change and cancellation fees: $55
- Key warnings: British Airways charges for each segment separately, so multi-segment trips can get expensive quickly. Taxes & fees also increase substantially with further segments on Qatar.
- Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One, Marriott, Bilt
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.
- Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Capital One, Marriott
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.
[…] know what would make this post a must bookmark? Maintaining the specific routes! Avios Sweet Spots for Award Tickets (British Airways & Iberia). As I need to start looking at award flights for next January to Kauai…because I did manage […]
Useful stuff. Thanks. For Europe in coach you list award prices starting at 13K for Aer Lingus, Iberia, and BA. Wouldn’t the price be the same for AA flights?
I think AA/AS domestic first is another sweet spot. Like ORD-ATL on AA domestic first is 15k Avios and ~$5 in fees through BA.
The good thing is that redemption rate is fixed. You can easily find examples where the same exact F flight costs 25k miles and $5 in fees when going through AAdvantage. (Obv, AA has gotten rid of the award chart like all US carriers so redemption rates get higher than 25k. But if AA charges some crazy amount like 75k for a one-way ORD-ATL, there’s usually no availability through BAEC.)
Good point! Can be worth it just for the checked bags. I was DJing a friend’s wedding in Chicago a couple of years ago. I rented most of the equipment, but still brought some stuff and needed the extra capacity. For 15K to also get a seat up front was worth it to me for sure.
Why is avios valued so low? 100k only $613? That sounds very low.
That is the first year value, not the value of the bonus points alone. If you click the question mark, it’ll take you to a post that explains how our spreadsheet calculates first year value. In short, we take the value of the bonus points and subtract the annual fee and the opportunity cost of doing the spend on the card in question versus a cash back card. In this case, since the full bonus requires $20,000 in spend, that opportunity cost is significant and thus decreases the net first year value.
Got it. Thanks Nick!
Another sweet-spot for Iberia is US-TLV in biz. Off-peak is 55,250, which is incredible value considering that Iberia has a decent hard product on the MAD-TLV route, unlike most European carriers.
For awards on Aer Lingus flights, wanted to note that united.com is not always a reliable indicator of availability. I have had sometimes that I searched on United.com and not seen availability, but the same search on avios.com does show availability, which was confirmed when calling BA to book. Note that it is always cheaper to book Aer Lingus US-Ireland flights using BA Avios, as the surcharges are less, but you have to call, which is annoying. Be sure to make sure they waive the $25 phone booking charge. You can calculate the surcharges you will pay using BA Avios by searching for your desired flight on matrix.itasoftware.com. The cash portion of your BA Avios ticket will be all the charges you see listed that aren’t the “Fare” at the top. Generally it’s around $120 round-trip US-Ireland in economy.
is the $55 cancelation per person or per booking? e.g. taxes from/to (RT) DFW to CUN are over $100 per person, i believe. If the $55 is for the whole family, it’s not bad at all, but if it’s $55 per person, then it can get very expensive
I’ve never heard of an award cancellation fee that isn’t applied per person. I think with any program it will always be per person. While I understand that $55 times 4 or 5 or 6 passengers isn’t a small amount of money, it is much more reasonable than the $200+ per passenger that most US-based programs long charged before the pandemic changed things — and paying a couple hundred bucks to get back a couple hundred thousand miles is still probably not an awful trade compared to giving it all up as you would on most cash tickets pre-pandemic.
thanks. I agree that it’s not terrible, but it would be sweet if it were $55 for the whole booking and not per person. Thanks
couldn’t edit, so replying… the problem is that it’s not very flexible for speculative bookings (e.g. for one year from now)…i guess I’m spoiled by Southwest
I can see Aer Lingus flights on UA award searches from BOS-DUB, but they don’t appear on ba.com award searches. Is this an instance where it’s necessary to call BA to book this flight?