Maximizing Membership Rewards for Business Class: British Airways & Iberia [Part 2]

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This is Part Two of Using Amex Membership Rewards to Book Business Class Seats. In Part One,  I focused on booking business class seats on Star Alliance partners ANA, Air Canada, and Singapore Airlines. However, in this post, I’m going to take a look at two OneWorld partners, British Airways and Iberia Airways. 

Membership Rewards partners 

As a refresher, here are all of the Membership Rewards airline transfer partners. 

  • Delta Skymiles
  • Club Premier AeroMexico (1,000 = 1,600 premier points)
  • Aeroplan Air Canada
  • Etihad Guest
  • El Al  (1,000 = 20 Matmid points)
  • Flying Blue (Air France/KLM)
  • MilleMigilia Club Alitalia
  • ANA
  • Asia Miles
  • Avios British Airways (250 points = 200 Avios)
  • Emirates Skyrewards
  • Hawaiin Airlines
  • Iberia Plus (250 points = 200 Avios)
  • JetBlue (250 points = 200 TrueBlue points)
  • KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines
  • Virgin America (200 points = 100 Elevate points)
  • Virgin Atlantic

For part two, I’m going to be focusing on two OneWorld partners: 

  • Iberia Plus (250 points = 200 Avios)
  • Avios British Airways (250 points = 200 Avios)

(I’ll focus on Cathay Pacific Airways Asia Miles separately because tackling the different charts in the Avios programs and Asia Miles might be a bit much for one post.)

Avios refresher 

There are different types of Avios: British Airways Avios, Iberia Avios, Aer Lingus Avios, and you can transfer Avios between the programs. It’s important to note that the transfer ratios from American Express Membership Rewards to British Airways and Iberia are not 1:1 (like BA is with Chase Ultimate Rewards). However, American Express often offers annual bonus transfer rates to these programs so you can often transfer to one of them at an even better ratio than 1:1.

***Tip: When it comes to business class rewards, it’s generally better to use British Airways Avios for shorter flights (flights under 2,000 miles) and to use Iberia Avios for business class rewards above that amount.***

British Airways Avios

North America to Europe

  • Business class:
    • Off-peak: 50,000 (one way)
    • Peak: 60,000 (one way)

Using Avios to fly on British Airways to and from London is usually a bad idea, unless you’re okay with paying over $1,000 in total fees. However, when flying from other airports via LHR, the fees can be more reasonable. For example, a one way flight from OSL to JFK would “only” require $240 in fees which for BA is pretty reasonable.

However, if you jus flew directly out of LHR, the fees would be much higher as seen below. (The mileage requirement for the trip originating in Oslo is higher due to the increased distance and is not a result of the lower fees.)

Aer Lingus

Unfortunately, the sweet spot from Boston to Dublin on Aer Lingus was moved to zone 5 even though it actually falls into zone 4, so that sweet spot is gone. However, there are still some other “semi-sweet” spots you can take advantage of when going to Dublin. The following 6 airports fall within zone 5 and thus offer roundtrips in business class for 100,000 Avios during off-peak times.

  • BOS
  • ORD
  • BDL
  • EWR
  • JFK
  • IAD

This isn’t the best deal that you can find but 100K for a roundtrip in J to Europe is still cheaper than many other programs. Fees will not be nearly as bad as they would be with British Airway but they are still not exactly negligible. I pulled up a roundtrip business class itinerary from BOS to DUB and fees came out £209 ($256 USD). It’s possible the fees could be a bit lower since Avios.com often sows inflated fees for some odd reason.

Air Berlin

Another way to greatly cut down on the fees when booking British Airways Avios is to book your flight on Air Berlin.

Here are some of the routes you could take advantage of (all prices one way):

  • 60,000 Avios – NYC to Berlin
  • 60,000 Avios – NYC/Boston to Düsseldorf
  • 75,000 Avios – Chicago/Miami to Berlin
  • 75,000 Avios – Ft. Meyers/Miami to Düsseldorf

Note: In my experience, business class availability on Air Berlin has been very poor compared to others like Iberia. 

75,000 Avios for a one way to Europe is too pricey for me but the 60,000 requirement isn’t too bad and is still competitive with other airlines like United and American.

Finally, you can also use British Airways to fly Iberia to Europe but you should opt to transfer your Avios to Iberia and book it that way, since it’s a much better bargain. That will be shown towards the bottom of this article.

North America to Mexico or the Caribbean

  • Business class:
    • 15,000 Avios – DFW to CUN (one way)
    • 30,000 Avios – JFK/ORD to CUN (one way)

British Airways Avios is a tremendous way to get to Mexico or the Caribbean if you’re going to be traveling from states in the lower half of the country. In fact, from places like DFW, British Airways Avios probably offers the #1 way to fly business class down to Mexico. And even from places further north like Chicago, it’s still one of the best ways to use miles, offering rates that beat out JAL and Korean Air (which is really hard to do).

North America to Hawaii

  • Business class: 37,500 West Coast to Hawaii (one way)

British Airways offers a decent rate in business class to get to Hawaii from the East Coast. Roundtrip you’re looking at 75,000 Avios. Unless you’re not able to utilize an Iberia account or you’d like to book a one-way on American, I’d typically recommend using Iberia to book this segment because as described below, you could book this for 62,500 Avios round trip.

 Intra-continental flights

Another great use of British Airways is to book intra-continental business class flights. These can be found in all different regions including South America, Australia, and Asia. Specifically, flights under 2,000 miles will often offer superb value. 

I’ve recently used Avios to book some pretty otherwise expensive flights between Lima and Santiago. The particular flight I booked costed $2,000 for a one-way business class ticket. I used 20,000 Avios for a 10 cent per point redemption, a great value that you usually find on higher-end first class suites.

Another great example is using British Airways to fly Qantas around Australia. I looked above the flight below from Melbourne to Perth Australia on Qantas and saw that the flight was priced at $1,585. For $14 in fees, that’s a redemption of 7.9 cents per point. 20,000 Avios is also one of the more competitive redemption rates for that route as well.

Melbourne to Perth.

Another good example would be flying intra-continental in Asia with Cathay Pacific from HKG to SIN. For only 20,000 Avios and $36 in fees, you can fly on a $1,900 flight, for value around 9 cents per point.

Hong Kong to Singapore.

Iberia Plus

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. Thus, the sweet spots I’ll focus on will be in those zones. Keep in mind that when booking a partner award, you’re going to be subject to the peak mileage requirement. 

North America to Europe

  • Business class:
    • Off-peak: 34,000
    • Peak: 50,000

This rate applies to journeys under 4,000 miles, which include:

  • Boston to Madrid 
  • New York to Madrid 
  • Chicago to Madrid (this is actually more than 4,000 miles but registers as being under 3,000)

Secret sweetspot from Chicago to Europe

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. If you booked this same ticket with British Airways, you’d have to shell out 100,000 Avios for the round trip. 

North America to Hawaii

  • Business class: 62,500 (roundtrip)

This rate applies to journeys under 3,000 miles, which include:

  • LAX to HNL
  • PHX to HNL

Using Iberia Avios to fly American Airlines to Hawaii in business class is a huge sweet spot that doesn’t get a lot of attention. The trick is that you’ll have to book a roundtrip ticket since Iberia doesn’t allow one way awards with American and you’ll also have to book non-stop tickets from the West Coast or PHX (which is just under the 3,000 miles threshold).

Europe to the Middle East

  • Business class: 31,250

This rate applies to journeys under 3,000 miles, which include various European destinations to Doha, Qatar and is one of most competitive rates for any airline.

If you’re flying from certain places in southern Europe, such as Geneva, Nice, Milan, etc., then you could hop on board a flight to the Middle East via Qatar Airways and fly on one of the very best business class products in the world (including the new “super business” product they will be unveiling soon).

Intra-continental flights

I think it’s always a good idea to look at utilizing distance-based rewards systems like Avios when trying to fly around within a region or continent. In this case, you can find many solid redemptions all round. With British Airways Avios, the sweet spots were under 2,000 miles but for Iberia, as a rule of thumb, any route you can find between 2,000 and 3,000 miles will be a competitive redemption in business class points-wise, you’ll just have to lookout for the fees and compare them to other redemptions.

For example, if you’re trying to get from Rio De Janeiro to Lima, Peru, you could book a one way business class ticket for 31,250 Avios on one of the OneWorld partners of LATAM, which is definitely on the lower side of business class redemptions. Fees should be reasonable at around $50.

Final word 

Both Iberia and British Airways offer several opportunities to redeem for exceptional value with Avios. Typically, you’ll want to keep business class trips under 3,000 miles each way to maximize value but there are plenty of ways to do that. As a result, I think Avios from both programs can be a smart way to use Membership Rewards to book business class.

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