Through March 27 Iberia Airlines is offering a 25% discount on US awards flights to Madrid between September 1 and December 14th. The airline bases awards on both distance and peak/off-peak travel dates, providing opportunities for great deals on European travel during “low travel” times.
With the current discount, business class flights from Miami, Boston, Chicago, and New York are 25,500 Avios each way plus tax during off-peak days, a phenomenal deal; Los Angeles and San Francisco flights are merely 6,000 more Avios each way. I flew Iberia’s lie-flat business class to Madrid last year and it was a very good experience; the tougher judge, my wife, enjoyed it as well. I would absolutely recommend taking advantage of this deal for any planned trips to Europe this fall, if you want to travel in business class.
But what about economy flights? One-way tickets to Madrid from the Midwest and East Coast are 12,750 Avios + $74 in fees with the discount, and ~16,000 Avios from the West Coast. Flying an entire family to Europe in business class isn’t usually feasible, even at a discount, so should you book coach tickets with Avios during this deal? There are reasons you should skip this deal, but a few reasons why this might work for you.
Why you shouldn’t use Avios for this deal in economy
You’re flying from any place but San Francisco. Flights to Madrid from Iberia’s US connections aren’t particularly expensive during the deal, especially from the east coast. Week long non-stop round trips are below $400 from New York and Boston. Subtracting the award flight taxes and fees of $150, you’d be using 25,500 Avios to cover $150 – $250 of a cash fare, receiving .6 to 1.0 cents per mile (cpm). It isn’t hard to find more valuable uses for Avios than these measly values. Flights from Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami are slightly more expensive at just under $500 round trip, meaning you’re receiving about 1.4 cpm for Chicago and Miami, and slightly less for Los Angeles (which costs more due to the distance). That’s not a terrible value, but not particularly compelling.
You have flexibility on your travel dates. If you can choose the exact dates you are traveling this fall, you can purchase cash tickets at their absolute lowest price. You’d be getting the least possible value for your Avios in this case, and the lowest values mentioned above.
You have future travel plans where you could use Avios. There are several sweet spots for Avios awards, including AA domestic short haul flights and Cathay Pacific flights within Asia (Lucky at One Mile at a Time has a good article on this). If you hope to use Avios for a more valuable trip in the near future, spending them at a poor value during this deal is a bad idea. (SEE ALSO: The 3 Best Ways to Spend 90,000 Avios)
Why you should use Avios for this deal in economy
You’re flying from San Francisco and have limited flexibility. Round trip flights from SFO to Madrid are sometimes as low as $450 for this fall, but just as often they are over $800. If you can only fly on the pricier dates, it makes sense to use Avios instead, with a value of about 2.1 cpm to cover $650.
You earn Avios very quickly and cheaply. If you are sitting on hundreds of thousands of Avios, hoarding them for the absolute best value might not pay off. After all, every award currency devalues over time, and holding Avios until they are suddenly worth less is not a great idea. But then again, if you have tons of Avios, why not use them for a business class redemption during this sale?
You have no other major travel plans in the near future where Avios could provide outsized value. This is related to the previous point. If you have Avios but no plans to use them for the next 18 months, then it might make sense to use them while you can.
You travel with a family. Even if flights are inexpensive at $400 each, finding $2,000 to fly a family of 5 to Europe can be a stretch! 130,000 Avios and $750 might be a much easier target, especially with a few credit card bonuses.
Almost all miles and points decisions are based on your personal preferences. In most cases, though, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use Avios to fly in Iberia economy to Europe, even with the current 25% discount. Prices are cheap enough from Iberia’s US locations that you’d be spending miles you could use for much better options. If you have flexible travel plans, you’re generally better off paying cash and earning more miles than burning your Avios. But if you have a large family or have limited flexibility or travel dates, Iberia’s discounted awards flights might be your best option to see Europe for less cash.
Will you use the discounted Avios rate to book Iberia flights this fall?