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Quite often, somebody somewhere will mention “just combine your Avios and book with…” without really considering whether a beginner to this hobby (or a newcomer to Iberia Plus) even knows what that means.
Avios is the loyalty currency of the International Airlines Group, which is principally made up of British Airways, Iberia, the very-recent addition of Aer Lingus and the now-defunct BMI. Some call them Avios miles or Avios points; I just use Avios and have no idea if the singular is supposed to be Avio. However, Avios is also a loyalty platform, which includes the UK’s avios.com shopping scheme (formerly Air Miles) as well as a version for South Africa; extensions appear to be in the works for Canada, the United States and elsewhere. IAG are regularly seeking to add additional airlines to this loyalty platform, essentially offering an off-the-shelf loyalty programme to airlines such as Royal Air Maroc who might think that the costs of operating a stand-alone loyalty programme outweigh the benefits.
Now, the vast majority of the time somebody asks “can I move my miles from airline programme X to airline programme Y” the answer is no. But IAG allow their loyalty programme members to move their Avios freely between any Avios-based programme. Over the medium term, perhaps everything will be merged into a single programme but, for now, each programme is separate.
The process of moving Avios from one account to another is called “Combining Avios”. The most popular combination of Avios is between British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus; frequently there are special offers or reward redemptions that are only available with one programme or the other.
This is actually an unfortunate choice of words, as many beginners then rush to query “can I combine the Avios of my parents/siblings/grandparents/cousins/friends into my account?” Again the answer is no. In order to combine Avios, the following details must be IDENTICAL in the two accounts (at least for an online combination to work):
- The member’s name is identical in both accounts. This might sound obvious, but actually Spanish citizens have two surnames, so their Iberia Plus account reflects this. British Airways Executive Club doesn’t cater for this, meaning that online combinations of Avios will fail. Another common error is setting up your BA account as “Tim Smith” and your Iberia account as “Timothy Smith”.
- The member’s birthdate is the same in both accounts. (so forget about stealing your father’s Avios as payback for his giving you his name and calling you Junior)
- Both accounts use the same e-mail address.
In addition, the following restrictions apply to combining Avios:
- The Iberia Plus account must be “activated”. The account must have earned at least 1 Avios from a standard earning transaction such as crediting a flight, hotel stay, car rental, etc. Naturally, many people inquire about free or low cost methods of activating an Iberia Plus account. I’m not aware of any current “100% free” methods of activating an Iberia Plus account, but you can always set your browser settings to “Spain”, enter the IberiaPluStore (Iberia’s online shopping portal) and buy a song from ITunes for 1 euro.
- Your Iberia Plus account must be at least 90 days old.
- Your British Airways Executive Club account is NOT a Household Account. If it is, you can get around this restriction by opening an individual avios.com account and combining Avios to your avios.com account and separately from avios.com to Iberia Plus. If you have a household avios.com account, you are truly stuffed…
And, in case you were wondering, Combining Avios is not an activity that extends the life of any expiring Avios, or counts as earning 1 Avios within 12 months for the purposes of Reward Flight Saver eligibility.
Assuming your accounts are all set up properly and activated, you can combine Avios via any of ba.com, iberia.com or avios.com.
With BA, you log-in to your Executive Club account and, whilst hovering over “Manage my account”, you click on “Combine my Avios”. From there all is straightforward.
With Iberia, the capability is hidden away and counter-intuitive. You log-in to your Iberia Plus account and hover over the Iberia Plus menu in the top right hand corner. You then select the “Avios” sub-menu and aim for the “Buying or transferring Avios” link.
You will then be taken to a page that is principally concerned with selling you Avios. But way down at the bottom of the page you will see this, and from there all should be straightforward.
With Avios.com, you log-in to your account and hover over “Your Account” in the top right hand corner. One of the links you’ll see is Transfer Avios to/from British Airways or Iberia. From there all is straightforward.
Once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature to combine your Avios between accounts. If you happen to have a very inactive account, make sure to double-check the last time you made a qualifying activity – you don’t want to move any BA Avios to Iberia Plus and have them expire immediately!
Although perhaps worthy of an entirely separate post, every Avios collector should have at least three accounts open and activated. You never know when an incredible offer might come along, such as 18,700 Avios for a three-day car rental with Avis (via Iberia Plus, now finished) or 1,000 Avios for a simple partner transaction via ba.com or avios.com (I earned 1,000 Avios in both accounts!)