The Best Way to Use Avios for Business Class to Europe (And a Secret Sweet Spot)

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 

Avios offers several ways to get around the globe for cheap when utilizing distance-based award charts. There are different types of Avios: British Airways Avios, Iberia Avios, Aer Lingus Avios, and you can transfer Avios between the programs. When it comes to business class redemptions, these three programs are definitely not created equally. By knowing how to utilize the right program, you can end up saving yourself thousands of Avios and hundreds of dollars in fees avoided. Here’s a look at how to use Avios to book business class to Europe and even a secret sweet spot you might be able to take advantage of! 

The award charts

Each Avios program has its own award chart. They are simple to use. Simply use a tool like the Great Circle Mapper to find how long your trip distance will be one way and then find the “Zone” that the distance falls into. For your convenience, I’ve input the mileage zones and redemption requirements for economy and business class for each program below. 

British Airways 

Aer Lingus 

Iberia 

Aside from some small differences with the Aer Lingus chart, the zone requirements are all the same between the charts. British Airways does have zones beyond the other award charts, however, presumably because they offer flights much longer than both Aer Lingus and Iberia.

In terms of the mileage requirements, you’ll notice that Aer Lingus and British Airways have the same exact Avios requirements. However, Iberia has different requirements. Interestingly, Iberia’s requirements for the first three zones in business class are worse than than British Airways and Aer Lingus, but after that they actually offer better redemptions. (I’ll flesh out those sweet spots later.) 

Note: if you want to book a an itinerary purely with OneWorld partners, you’ll be charged the off-peak rate.

Off-peak calendars 

In addition, each award chart has its own calendar for off-peak dates. The off-peak dates are somewhat similar for each program but there are many slight differences between the calendars so you’ll always need to check closely to make sure that you’re looking at the calendar for the right airlines. 

You can find the calendars here: 

You can also see an overview of the calendar for British Airways and Iberia here

So where are the sweet spots? And what’s the secret?

One of the most well-known sweet spots was using Avios to fly Aer Lingus from Boston to Dublin to get to Europe. However, with the recent addition to Aer Lingus to the Avios family, this sweet spot was removed and effectively “re-distanced” so that it fell in the zone above. In fact, the award chart on Aer Lingus specifically states: (Please note the exceptions of Shannon/Dublin to Boston which are based on Zone 5).

But that was just one sweet spot that fell. There are still plenty of ways to get great value from Avios in business class by utilizing Iberia Airways. Take a second look at their award chart below. This time, I’ve marked the sweet spot range in business class. Note that both the off-peak and peak rates are much better than the rates from British Airways or Aer Lingus. 

Not only are the redemption rates much cheaper, but the fees are way less than what British Airways would force you to pay when flying through Europe. 

Note: You can also avoid higher fees by using British Airways to book flights on partners like Air Berlin (the cheapest), Finnair, and American Airlines. However, availability on American in business class to Europe is very hard to come by and the partner rates (which are all off-peak rates) are still not as cheap as what Iberia offers in business class, so I’m focusing on Iberia here.  

2,001 to 3,000 miles 

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 31,250
    • Peak: 37,500
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 21,250
    • Peak: 31,250

No routes from Europe to North America fall within this distance (that can be utilized, at least) but the rates aren’t bad so for trips with distances close to 3,000 miles it might be worth exploring using Iberia Avios. 

3,001 to 4,000 miles 

This is a tremendous sweet spot for using Iberia Avios to book business class, especially if your trip falls within the off-peak calendar. 68,000 Avios for a roundtrip in business class to Europe beats some of the best redemption rates like Korean Air and ANA and the fees are reasonable so don’t overlook this option!  

The 100,000 (round trip) redemption rate from British Airways and Aer Lingus during off-peak times isn’t bad either, so long as you can avoid or minimize fees. 

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 50,000
    • Peak: 60,000
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 34,000
    • Peak: 50,000

Iberia Routes: 

  • Boston to Madrid 
  • New York to Madrid 

Unfortunately, the Ibera website is glitching very badly right now so I couldn’t search for fees for these routes but they should all be very reasonable and likely close to $200 roundtrip. 

Secret sweet spot? 

Interestingly, when I searched Chicago to Madrid on Great Circle Mapper I found that the route is 4,202 miles. However, when I searched for that route in Iberia’s website, it showed me that the roundtrip cost in Avios would be 68,000 which is what a round trip in zone 5 would cost. I’m not sure why it came up like that but it’s definitely a steal with only 68,000 Avios needed and $220 in fees!

  • Chicago to Madrid
Secret sweetspot from Chicago to Europe

Now compare what you would pay with Avios and fees if you flew to Europe with British Airways in business class. It would take 100,000 Avios and over $1,100 in fees! And that’s off-peak. No thanks. So if you’re considering British Airways Avios to get to Europe, I strongly recommend looking into booking with partners like Air Berlin. 

For a route like Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus in business class, you’d also be shelling out 100,000 Avios for an off-peak award but the fees would be a lot more reasonable at around $260. Not quite as cheap as Iberia but still not nearly as insane as the British Airways fees. 

Keep in mind that when booking partner American Airlines with Iberia you are limited to roundtrips only. However, unlike British Airways, Iberia does not factor in connecting flights into the total distance traveled for your trips, so there are both advantages and disadvantages for using Iberia to book American flights. 

4,001 to 5,500 miles 

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 62,500
    • Peak: 75,000
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 42,500
    • Peak: 62,000

Iberia Routes: 

  • Miami to Madrid 

Unfortunately, the above “glitch” or exception does not also work for Miami as the rates are where they should be at 85,000 Avios. Still, that’s not a bad redemption at all and the fees are again pretty reasonable. 

 

5,501 to 6,500 miles 

  • British Airways/Aer Lingus
    • Off-peak: 75,000
    • Peak: 90,000
  • Iberia
    • Off-peak: 51,000
    • Peak: 75,000

Iberia Routes: 

  • Los Angeles to Madrid 

Flying to Europe for only 102,000 Avios from the West Coast isn’t bad either. 

Transfer to Iberia

The biggest issue with using Iberia Avios is that you must have an account opened for at least 90 days in order to transfer points from your British Airways account which is how a lot of people accumulate Iberia miles. Your account also needs to be active. I suggest reading up on this post from the Frequent Miler to find out different ways to get your Avios into your Iberia account

Final Word

When it comes to getting to Europe in business class with Avios, Iberia is a great option. Depending on where you are flying from and where exactly in Europe you’re trying to go, Iberia can end up being one of the best sweet spots out of any airline in the world to get there in business class. 

Cover photo by Clément Alloing via Flickr

UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

5 comments

  1. I have hseveral hundred thousand miles on American Airlines. Do you suggest I open up an Iberia account and transfer miles? Is that even possible? I want to plan a trip but o Europe in may and the mileage award cost is outrageous. I live in chicago and my son is in Copenhagen. I was hoping to go to Germany (Munich &a Berlin), then Copenhagen home. What advice do you have for me?

    1. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to transfer AA miles to Avios for Iberia. The mileage requirements are probably super high because you’re not able to find any saver awards, which is a major complaint of AA’s award system (especially for trips to Europe). I take it you’re trying to fly business class and don’t want to fly British Airways because of high fees? You could keep monitoring the calendars to see if anything opens up to Germany but also consider other routes. For example, ORD to HEL (Finland) has some decent availability in May flying Finnair. I found routes with only $73 in fees and for 115,000 miles (saver awards). You could then add a leg to Copenhagen or possibly Germany.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *