HOLY SMOKE: Is British Airways About to Devalue Its Points? Iberia Massively Jacks Up Award Rates!

It looks like Iberia may have just gone and gutted their frequent flyer program for redemptions on most partner airlines, at least for the rewards that have been the best value.

And since Iberia and British Airways are jointly owned, and share very similar programs (and the same named currency, Avios), one worries if something similar could be next for British Airways.

The award chart has gotten astronomically expensive for short distance flying — so expensive I almost questioned whether it was a mistake. But there are some positives, too.

Here’s the redemption table for using Iberia’s points on British Airways. Remember that British Airways and Iberia are both owned by the same company, IAG. The chart looks to me to be the same that it was before. It should also look familiar to those used to redeeming British Airways points.

Click to enlarge

Here’s their oneworld chart, which only applies to most oneworld airlines. And it has truly exorbitant short haul pricing.

Note though that long haul flying can be cheaper than using BA Avios. For instance, Los Angeles – Sydney in first class on Qantas runs 150,000 points each way under the British Airways chart but less using this Iberia oneworld partner chart. It’s still too expensive, so in my view not useful but interesting to see the top end get less expensive. That’s the reverse of the trend we’ve seen with programs generally.

The above chart oddly does not include flights on American Airlines. There’s a separate chart for American, although it is nearly identical. I flag the only one difference that I saw:

Iberia is showing different mileage ranges, and different prices, for flights on their partners like American and US Airways than they are for their own flights and British Airways flights.

A 650 mile flight on British Airways is 4500 points. A 650 mile flight on American or US Airways? 24,000 points.

The British Airways website does not show different pricing for partners at this point. But that’s the worry.

The best use of British Airways Avios is short-haul, non-stop flights. BA is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest.

I do this quite often to fly DC – New York, Chicago, and other short haul destinations.

The only value I’ve seen in Iberia as such, though it is an American Express transfer partner, is transferring BA points over in order to book flights on Iberia without significant fuel surcharges.

If Iberia is going this route, is co-owned British Airways likely to follow? I do not know the answer to this. I have decent contacts with several airlines — British Airways isn’t one of them.

Of course, it makes no sense for Iberia to have this chart and not British Airways. Otherwise, you just transfer your Iberia points over to British Airways Avios and redeem on partners from there. In order to effectively charge so much for partners, you’d expect that both programs would have to more or less move in tandem.

When BA introduced their current chart in November 2011, they did it without releasing the details in advance. So they have that track record.

(HT: @saianel)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] sense that it’s going to happen. The first people I saw write about were Free-quent Flyer, View from the Wing, Milenomics, and PFD (plus KennyBSAT on Twitter) – so you can read more about the details […]


  1. awful.
    not all oneworld members are listed but the same new chart probably applies to them

  2. Seem like it was only a matter of time. $350 tickets for 4500 Avios did not seem sustainable.

  3. That chart has been in use for some IB partner airlines since 8/15 when I had it in a post on using IB for Royal Air Maroc among other things. So BA doesn’t seem to be on the same schedule, but it’s still an ugly sign.

  4. The AA one says round trip though. Does that mean they are pricing the entire itinerary and not by segment?

  5. It sure looks like this is total itinerary distance (a la NH or JL). Otherwise, there’s no point in having so many high mileage categories that not a single flight in the world fits in to.

    This would be a big deval for my purposes, but not quite as bad as charging 19,500 miles for a one-way shuttle flight.

  6. WHOA and I was literally just about to sign up for the BA credit card, thank god I haven’t!

  7. @Sam I agree, and wasn’t explicit in making this point, but DC-Chicago roundtrip becomes 30,000 miles instead of 9000. And indeed a one-way shuttle flight would be 19,500 miles (and roundtrip too since it’s less than 300 each way)

  8. Indeed, not saying this just happened today, but it’s still pretty new and I can’t understand how it would make sense to do this and not do it on the BA side. That doesn’t mean BA will do it, but it’s too porous if they don’t. Just transfer your Iberia points over to BA.

  9. Oddly enough…BA seems to not be seeing any american availability now…hopefully this isn’t a bad sign, but it is quite ominous…

  10. So, who would actually use Avios anymore under an award chart like this? It is the same or worse than all other redemption methods – it just doesn’t seem to make sense. Unless they are going to start selling a lot of toasters for Avios…

  11. I’ve noticed the last day or so that I can’t find some partner space on award bookings on BA.com. I hope they don’t ramp this up like Iberia that would be very bad. I guess that’s what I get for hoarding avios.

  12. This could be really terrible. I agree it looks like the figures must be per itinerary, not per leg, which in some cases puts the numbers more or less in line with other carriers and in other cases is horrible.

    Could those big numbers be a sort of Explorer reincarnation, whereby you get a large number of segments to put together in those large categories? They can’t be individual flights.

    I have too many Avios. Wish I had spent them.

  13. where can you find a plane that flies 50000 miles in one segment? thats twice around the world!

  14. A friend told me that in fact IB has always had a significantly more expensive oneworld chart than BA. It was only their BA/IB chart was the same as the BA OW chart. I couldn’t independently verify this because I couldn’t find the old IB OW chart. Anyone has any thoughts?

  15. I saw the IB chart a few weeks ago when trying to get an award on US with avios that wasn’t showing up on BA.com. I don’t recall the exact number on the IB chart but it was much higher than the equivalent one-way with BA avios. Possible this was always the case and no one ever tried to book a US/AA award with IB avios…

  16. Ouch, if BA follows suite one of my favorite awards, West Coast -> Hawaii, will go from 25k miles to 42k.

  17. Just checked on a RT economy award on AA, SEA-DFW, July 3-10, 2015. Under existing BA distance-based chart, should have been 20,000 Avios for RT. Quote now is 60,000 Avios, which appears to line up with the new IB non-BA award chart. Yikes – will check it again.

  18. Tried another week in June 2015. Same result: 60,000 Avios required. And I just fell for the pitch to convert 99,000 Club Carlson points to 10,000 Avios + 25% bonus (not many Carlson properties near me). Now I can use the Avios to do a cash + points hotel res somewhere for a lot less value than I could have received if I had left the Carlson points alone (holding for future travel outside my region). Lesson learned!

  19. @garyE – I looked at two routes out to the end of schedule RDU – ORD and RDU – DFW and neither are pricing at the updated IB award chart.

  20. Tremendous devaluation of my Chase Sapphire points if this takes place. With the UA devaluation plus a BA devaluation for short haul… and Southwest as a useless option for points, this would make me want to freeze spend on CSP cards and maybe move all spend to SPG.

  21. @Gary E – I believe you’re looking at First Class seats for SEA-DFW routes, which under the current BA award chart cost 30,000 avios.

  22. @GAry E, Precisely. I transferred MR points to Avios, something I would not have done had I known they would become nearly worthless. That may go from one of my better uses of MR points to one I’d never consider. Assuming, of course BA actually follows suit.

    But I’m still seeing 4,500 for a short haul route I often use, trying dates in 2015. Not to question you, but are the routes you’re checking actually available on AA at Economy MileSAAver rates nonstop on the days you’re trying?

  23. IB always charged a higher amount of miles than BA for AA short distance flights I think its was in the range of 12,500

  24. TPE-HKG showing as 6750 (originally 4500) in Y all the way to payment age while J still shows 9000…

  25. I tried to make a reservation on TAM, which had plenty of availability. When I tried to pay it said the flights had just sold out and voided the purchase. My guess is you cant make reservations at the old rates, it will stop you when you try to pay. But only one data point.

  26. Like others I unfortunately have a fairly sizable Avios balance. Single but positive data point – I was able to book 3x domestic flights on US and AA at the old rates, 1 @ 4,500, 1 @ 10,000, and 1 @ 12,500.

  27. Just got my BA CC this week. Seems like their miles will be about as useful as my Delta miles. I ought to just cut the damned thing up, though I suppose I can get a toaster or something out of those 50,000 miles.

  28. Any indication on taxes/fuel surcharges? Could this ridiculous increase for partners mean it is covered by the extra Avios, or no such luck?

  29. @Tim
    You usually need to call BA to make a TAM booking. They tend to fail most of the time online.

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