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Avios collectors are probably pretty familiar with the British Airways Executive Club reward chart. Slightly more advanced collectors also know about the Iberia Plus reward chart with its sweet spots for traveling on Iberia. In both cases, you should know that each individual flight is charged separately in terms of the Avios required. So if you require connecting flights, the number of Avios charged will really add up quickly under the segment-based methodology.
You also know that avoiding surcharges usually requires booking rewards on partner airlines. But BA is way ahead of you there, charging peak date pricing for all airline partner rewards. Moreover, if you are interested in short flights in the United States, BA has imposed a minimum cost of 7,500 Avios. It seems like the deck is stacked against you sometimes…
Iberia Plus and British Airways Executive Club have published little-known reward charts for partner rewards, however, that members can access instead of the standard reward charts. These come with certain pitfalls, but if you are careful you can save both Avios and, with careful structuring, surcharges and the worst of UK taxes.
Short Flights in the United States
For this, you want to look at Iberia Plus. Iberia offers a reward chart that is valid for a single Oneworld partner (or Iberia plus ONE partner). It looks like this:
Say you want to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco return. Despite the short distance of 337 miles, Executive Club is going to charge you 15,000 Avios for a return reward on American Airlines. However, if you book via Iberia Plus, your total mileage would fall beneath 1,000 miles, meaning that the reward itinerary will cost you 12,000 Avios.
Now I want to stress something. Only try this at home if you really know what you are doing, since:
- Iberia Plus rewards on partner airlines (i.e. all airlines except Iberia, Iberia Express, Air Nostrum and British Airways) are NON-REFUNDABLE. We all think our holiday plans are firm, until they aren’t. Most rewards in most frequent flyer programmes are cancellable for a fee, Iberia Plus is the exception!
- You can only book partner rewards by calling an Iberia Plus call centre. Although I speak fluent Spanish, there are few things I wouldn’t rather do in my spare time! Even if you like talking to call centre agents more than I do, many times you will find that Iberia Plus cannot see the reward availability you painstakingly searched for on aa.com and ba.com. You should also be charged a fee for booking over the phone, which counteracts much of the potential Avios savings.
- You need to make sure you are not wasting Avios on reward flights that might cost you less than £80/$100 if paid with cash.
- The column for “Full Fare Economy” only applies for Iberia flights. Iberia Plus offers two classes of award availability in Economy. Full Fare is obviously easier to find, but not applicable to any partner airline.
Longer Multi-Stop Itineraries
Both British Airways Executive Club and Iberia Plus offer multi-carrier reward charts that require the use of at least two separate Oneworld partners. BA’s version looks like this:
Iberia’s version looks like this:
These reward charts are particularly attractive in Business Class and First Class. Why? Under the standard BA reward chart, long-haul flights in Business cost roughly three times more Avios than Economy. In First Class the multiple is four times. However, with these multi-carrier charts, Business Class only costs double and First Class triple.
Not everybody has enough annual leave for a multi-destination holiday, but many people do. I’ll provide you with a simple example. Let’s assume you wanted to visit Australia, but instead of flying straight through you wanted to stop in Asia for a few days. You also have no interest in paying BA surcharges for their mediocre 8-across Club World product so you want to book a nice combination of Finnair, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Cathay Pacific. By being flexible, you also have a chance of accessing reward availability from several different airlines, rather than just BA. And, for good measure, you’d like to add in a 24-hour stopover in Europe so that you don’t have to pay £190 of UK taxes for your long-haul itinerary in Business Class. Your itinerary might look like this:
If you book individually on ba.com – admittedly the easiest option – London to Helsinki would cost you 15,000 Avios. Helsinki to Hong Kong would cost you 75,000 Avios. Hong Kong to Melbourne or Sydney would cost you 75,000 Avios and the return back to London will add another 150,000 Avios, maybe more if you fly via Kuala Lumpur to try out Malaysia’s Airbus A380. In total, you would require at least 315,000 Avios if booking each segment separately. (All in business Class) It is easy to play around. Cathay Pacific flies to a number of European destinations. Japan Airlines do as well.
Of course, you could aim for some of the incredibly scarce premium cabin availability on BA’s one-stop flight to Sydney, but that Club World return reward would cost you 250,000 Avios off-peak or 300,000 Avios peak, plus a scary amount of taxes and surcharges.
Or, you painstakingly put together a multi-carrier reward that will total 21,000 +/- total miles flown. In Business Class, this will cost you 240,000 Avios if you call BA and ask to book under the multi-carrier reward chart. And, since you are nowhere near the 25,000-mile cap for that particular reward, you could also add domestic flights in Australia or a jaunt over to New Zealand with Oneworld partner Qantas. By avoiding BA and by avoiding any long-haul flights from the UK, you shouldn’t pay more than £150 +/- in taxes and surcharges.
If you’re being doubly clever and/or aren’t based in London in the first place, you will figure out an itinerary that squeezes under 20,000 total miles flown. Maybe you’ll hop over to somewhere in Germany, Switzerland or Italy – anywhere with a Cathay Pacific flight – and position yourself there separately with a LCC or a Reward Flight Saver. Then you’ll just pay a total of 200,000 Avios for your Business Class reward. (+ positioning costs)
If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you could call Iberia Plus instead, where an 18-25K mile itinerary would cost a mere 225,000 Avios in Business Class. However previous warnings about Iberia Plus agents and the non-refundable nature of Iberia Plus partner rewards definitely apply!
Of course that’s a lot of Avios, and any 2-for-1 vouchers wouldn’t work. But if your ideal reward involves 2 or more partner airlines and a stop or two along the way, these obscure reward charts are just what you’re looking for!