Earlier this week I posted “Searching for business class sweet-spots in Iberia’s OneWorld award chart.” In that post I showed that it was possible to make Iberia OneWorld business class awards cheaper by tacking on economy segments. Iberia OneWorld awards are awards using Iberia Avios where at least one segment includes an Iberia OneWorld partner that is not part of the Avios loyalty ecosystem (e.g. it applies when flying American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, etc., but not Iberia or British Airways). I noted that this would be much more hackable if Iberia allowed one-way awards (because you could then tack-on throw-away economy segments to the end). When I wrote that, I knew that Iberia allowed one-way awards for flights flown entirely by Iberia and/or British Airways. And so I hoped that those awards would be super-hackable. They’re not.
Avios Award Redemption Basics
Iberia has different award charts depending upon which carrier you fly. Their Iberia (IB) and British Airways (BA) charts are very similar, but not identical. Each has Peak and Off-Peak pricing. And each prices awards by segment. That means that you can’t reduce a business class award price by adding on an economy segment since the additional segment price would be additive.
I found a few more interesting things when poking around:
- The award price, in Avios, for IB and BA awards is exactly the same regardless of whether you book with Iberia or BA Avios.
- Even though the price in Avios is always the same, Iberia usually charges a bit less in fees. For example, a one-way economy flight from Madrid to Johannesburg priced at 21,250 Avios off-peak or 25,000 Avios peak in both systems. But, BA would charge 161.78 in fees whereas Iberia would charge $92.90.
- If you mix carriers in one trip (e.g. fly IB one segment, and BA the other segment), each segment prices according to its own award chart. In other words, the BA segment price comes from the BA award chart and the IB segment price comes from the IB award chart.
Comparing BA vs. IB Award Charts
The BA and IB award charts are similar but not identical. What follows is a condensed version of the Off-Peak charts. Note that BA and IB have a few exceptions in their charts that are not indicated here.
As you can see above, it is always a bit cheaper to fly BA economy vs. Iberia economy. However, to fly business class, BA is only cheaper for short flights whereas Iberia is much cheaper for long flights (32% cheaper where highlighted in green, above).
Peak dates follow a similar pattern, but the award price differences are more modest:
Can we hack it?
Given the nature of the per-segment pricing, there’s not a lot of hacking to be done. There is one thing, though. Long ago, Travel is Free documented in-depth ways to reduce BA award prices by adding stop-overs. The idea is that sometimes a non-stop flight costs more than the sum of two segments. It is sometimes possible to add extra stops to your trip in order to visit more locations while also saving Avios.
One example Travel is Free documented was where a non-stop economy flight from Los Angeles to Sydney Australia (~7500 miles) would cost 50,000 Avios during peak dates, whereas you could fly Los Angeles to Honolulu (2,556 miles), and then Honolulu to Sydney (5,067 miles) for a combined cost of 37,500 Avios. In other words, you can stop-over in Hawaii and save 12,500 Avios!
Of course, this is dependent upon finding award availability with British Airways partners. And, it certainly won’t always be cheaper to break up a trip in this way. Plus, note that this has very limited use when booking with Iberia Avios since Iberia would flip to a different award chart (the OneWorld chart I wrote about previously) when you include partner airlines like American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, etc.
Still, I was curious how often it would be cheaper to fly two segments rather than one. So, I created a spreadsheet to help.
Click here to view Frequent Miler’s Avios Hacking Award Chart (click the tab titled “Avios When 2 Segments Are Better than One”)
The basic gist of the spreadsheet is that it shows all 2 segment combinations of the Avios award charts. Here’s a piece of it:
This table requires some explanation. The grey rows are the one-segment prices from the original award chart. I gave each segment a letter name: A through I. Then, each combination of two segments is represented as the two letters: AA is made up of two segments, each of which fall within the distance range determined by segment A (1 to 650 miles each). And AB is made up of segments sized A plus B. And so on.
The rows of the table are sorted ascending by maximum distance (with the exception of segment, I, which is actually unbounded). Each two-segment row overlaps in distance range with the one-segment row (in grey) above and below it. Cells colored green represent the biggest hack: with these, the max distance of the range would let you fly farther for fewer Avios with these two segments rather than one. Cells colored yellow are where the award price for 2 segments is the same as the award price for one segment. And cells colored blue are compared to the one-segment row below (rather than above) and are shaded blue when the price is less or the same.
This chart shows that there are many possible situations where two-segment awards would be cheaper than one-segment awards to travel a similar distance. That said, I think it would be a lot of work to try to find real-world examples that fit within these ranges. In other words, it’s cool (in a geeky way), but maybe not super helpful. If you’re interested in pursuing this further, it’s probably best to start with Travel is Free’s series of old posts. Some of the details have probably changed but the gist is still intact:
- Using Stopovers to Save Avios to South America
- Using Stopovers to Save Avios Across the Pacific
- Using Stopovers to Save Avios to Europe
- Using Stopovers to Save Avios to India
- Conclusions, tools to help and crazy plans]
The Iberia Avios award charts for flying Iberia or British Airways are not nearly as hackable as I’d hoped. That said, a look at the award charts made it clear when you’d be better off flying BA vs. Iberia (BA for economy, IB for long distance business class). And the exercise reminded me of a long known hack of sorts that primarily applies to BA Avios: You can often add a stop-over for no extra cost, or even to reduce the cost of an award.
I am contemplating the British Airways card vs the Iberia Card. Both benefits look almost identical. I fly to Spain 1 to 2 times a year. Uk, 1 to 2 times a year. Any recommendations on which card to apply for? I have the Venture One with 2x miles, and hope to mix and match benefits
Do you ever fly to Spain with a second person? If so, I’d argue that the $30K spend benefit on the Iberia card is better than BA’s. Iberia’s: Every calendar year you make $30,000 in purchases on your Iberia Visa card, you’ll earn a discount voucher good for $1,000 to use toward two tickets on the same flight
[…] Hacking Avios […]
[…] revisit and update a topic from a few weeks back on Shop talk. I mentioned Greg’s piece on “Hacking Avios.” So it will probably be no surprise that the companion piece, “Toward Hacking Asia Miles: The […]
[…] As you can see above, the best economy awards in this mid-distance part of the chart are Iberia and BA awards which cost 4 to 5 Avios per mile flown. Note that these awards are limited to single segments and will usually cost more if multiple segments are included (however, sometimes they are cheaper with multiple segments. See: Hacking Avios). […]
[…] other news, I loved this piece by Greg at Frequent Miler. Not so much because it presented earth-shattering ideas or a crazy loophole. […]
Iberia allows one way rewards? Can I just use my miles from mad-bos? Don’t want to transfer points over if they won’t allow one way. Thanks!
They allow one-way rewards if you fly only Iberia and British Airways, but if you fly American, Cathay Pacific, or other OneWorld airlines that don’t belong to the Avios ecosystem, then they only allow round-trip
great post! Yesterday I had an IB peak econ 651-1151 price out at 17k round trip which i still cant figure out since it is 8.25k one way vs 8.5k one way. Did they change it possibly? Ended up going with BA at 15k roundtrip.
figured it out from your other post. Iberia is cumulative vs BA is segment.
Love you Greg, but really do miss Drew’s amazing analysis on Travel is Free
Wow. Impressive information. Regarding BA and Iberia, I could have sworn people were making a big deal about Iberia awards often being the better way to go because they price according to total distance, regardless of segments, as opposed to BA’s more strictly segment pricing. Guess I’ve been listening to the wrong people.
Actually that’s correct under certain circumstances. If your award includes any OneWorld partner other than fellow Avios airlines then you switch to the OneWorld award chart which prices according to total distance regardless of segments. See my prior post on that topic and how to make your Avios go further with that award chart.
Ah, o.k. Now I see what they were talking about. Thanks.
I’ve about had it with Avios. The more hoops I have to jump through to get from point A to point B on travel I’d have otherwise paid for the less valuable they are to me. Yeah I could make a stop over in HNL to get to Sydney…but that’s a much less valuable flight segment than one I’d pay for.
Besides some shorthaul AA flights (which are often either so cheap in cash or unavailable as to be a deal) it seems like unless you happen to have a handful of global itineraries you’re very unlikely to get much over 1.2 cool, if that.
I don’t blame you. I’m unlikely to actually attempt any of this stuff for myself, but I find it fun to explore the possibilities.
OOP’s you should’ve posted this a month ago when I booked ORD>HNL stopover >BNE ..
It’s only points !!!!
How does this apply when wanting to use AVIOS on Vueling airlines? They recently stopped their PUNTOS and changed to AVIOS. I know it is not the best use of points but a lot of AVIOS and wanting to bump around on Vueling fuels my curiosity. Can anyone advise if these same charts work on them or are transferable?
Since Veuling uses Avios I expect that it will work the same as BA and IB. That is, when flying Vueling you will be charged by segment according to the Vueling distance based award chart. FYI, you can find award charts by carrier, here: https://www.iberia.com/web/webPartners.do?service=/web/homesectorial.do&idSector=641&menuId=IBPHOME&language=en
PSA – IB awards have more restrictive T&C than BA awards
Yes, thanks for the reminder. I mentioned that in my previous post on the subject, but didn’t reiterate it here.
Potentially could be great to combine with the transfer from CUR to Korean Air. We booked round trip flights from BNA to HNL last year that way. If you could find the availability you could just fly on to SYD and back through HNL with Avios.
Now these are the posts we are looking for , eventhough it may not help me. But atleast a good read. And we wont mind including affiliated credit card links in these posts …rather than a full fledged credit card posts.
Tips and Tricks are more which we needed.
This blog continues to amaze me. Well done!