British Airways Avios awards aren't usually that attractive to me, given the high rates charged for international first class awards. For example,
That said, in the course of a busy season booking my clients for Spring Break trips, I had to get a family from Mexico City to Europe, and this gives rise to the first example:
Example 1: Mexico City to Madrid in Iberia Business Class: 42,500 Avios + $270
Iberia operates 2-3 daily nonstop flights between Mexico City and Madrid:
- Iberia 6400 departs Mexico City 12:55am and arrives Madrid the next day at 6:25am (daily)
- Iberia 6406 departs Mexico City 4:50pm and arrives Madrid the next day at 10:30am (Mondays, Fridays, Sundays)
- Iberia 6402 departs Mexico City 8:30pm and arrives Madrid the next day at 2:10pm (daily)
The one way fare is often over $6000, but let's say you found a roundtrip for $5239 and are throwing away the return. Less the $270 taxes, you're looking at over 11 cents per point, given the 42,500 Avios required.
Example 2: San Francisco to Madrid in Iberia Business Class: 51,000 Avios + $506
Iberia is starting a nonstop between San Francisco and Madrid in late April 2018 that operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays:
- Iberia 6174 departs San Francisco SFO at 6pm and arrives Madrid the next day at 2:20pm, an 11 hour 20 min. flight
- Iberia 6175 departs Madrid 12:30pm and arrives SFO at 4:15pm the same day, for a 12 hour 45 min. flight
One way in Iberia from San Francisco to Madrid is 51,000 Avios, although comes with some significant taxes of $506, whether you reserve with British Airways Avios or Iberia Avios.
The return, from Madrid to SFO, is better in terms of taxes: 51,000 Avios + $276.
One way paid fares can be well over $7000 one way, but let's assume that you've found a round-trip fare for $4900, and are throwing away the return if you can't use it within the 1 year validity period. Less the taxes, that still works out to over 8 cents per point.
Transferring Points to Avios
Ultimate Rewards points, AMEX Membership Rewards points and SPG Starpoints all transfer 1:1 to British Airways Avios (SPG points transfer with a 25% bonus, when you transfer in increments of 20,000 points). I prefer to top up my Avios account with Ultimate Rewards points, since it's so easy to earn them at 3X to 5X per dollar of spend, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve 3X for all travel and dining, the Chase Freedom quarterly 5X categories (this quarter: 5X with Apple Pay) and the Ink Plus 5X for internet, cell phone, and office supply store spend, including Amazon and Whole Foods gift cards.
Sure, Iberia Business Class isn't terribly aspirational, but it does have a flat bed seat and can be one of the better ways to get from the West Coast or Mexico City nonstop to Europe, with enough time to sleep on the flight. And particularly with the Mexico City route, it can be possible to book an entire family for certain dates, which generally isn't the case for many business class products from the West Coast to Europe.
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