Iberia Plus Overhauls American Airlines Award Chart, Axes Sweet Spots

Some award flights now cost more than 60% more Avios than they did before.
JT GenterMay 19, 2021

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Without any notice, Iberia overhauled its award chart for American Airlines awards. With this change, Iberia effectively axed many of the best uses of Iberia Avios on American Airlines — especially on short, connecting domestic award flights.

While the changes are mostly bad, there are a couple of bright spots to this change. Iberia no longer requires travelers to book round-trip awards, and a few nonstop flights dropped in price.

Here's what you need to know about these changes — and why you should care about this mileage program at all.

Iberia's new award chart for American Airlines flights

Iberia now uses the following pricing chart for award flights on American Airlines:

This new award chart may seem familiar. It’s virtually identical to British Airways’ unpublished, but well-known, partner award chart. That's not a coincidence. Iberia confirmed to NerdWallet that it intentionally aligned its pricing model with British Airways.

Like British Airways, Iberia now prices award flights by segment. Say you're booking an award flight from Atlanta to Ontario, California, via Dallas-Fort Worth. Using the previous Iberia award chart and pricing scheme, this 3,838-mile itinerary would cost just 23,000 Iberia Avios round-trip. After this change, this award itinerary now costs 40,000 Avios round-trip:

  • Atlanta to Dallas (731 miles): 9,000 Avios.

  • Dallas to Ontario (1,188 miles): 11,000 Avios.

  • Ontario to Dallas (1,188 miles): 11,000 Avios.

  • Dallas to Atlanta (731 miles): 9,000 Avios.

Why this Iberia award chart change matters to U.S. travelers

Iberia Plus has been a favorite niche award program for domestic U.S. award travel on American Airlines — particularly for short, connecting award flights.

For nonstop award flights, travelers have been able to utilize the British Airways program to book American Airlines awards at a reasonable rate. However, British Airways prices award flights by segment, so award flights that require a connection aren't usually a good deal.

Iberia Plus used to be different. Before this change, Iberia based the award price on the distance of the entire round-trip itinerary. You'd simply need to add up the distance of all of the flights and then refer to the award chart. That made it the go-to program for short connecting itineraries.

For example, a trip from Huntsville, Texas, to Austin via Dallas-Fort Worth used to cost 17,000 Iberia Avios round-trip:

Now, the same itinerary costs 30,000 Avios round-trip:

Avios can be transferred between British Airways and Iberia at a 1:1 ratio, so award travelers used to be able to take advantage of these two unique award charts and policies. Savvy travelers would book nonstop award flights through British Airways and connecting round-trip itineraries through Iberia — transferring Avios between the two to book the best option.

Now that Iberia's award chart for American Airlines flights matches British Airways' partner award chart, there's no pricing arbitrage to take advantage of.

The cost of flights in Avios before vs. after the change

For nonstop flights, here's a comparison of what economy awards used to cost under the old system and what the prices should be using the new award chart:

Flight distance (each way, nonstop flights only)

Previous price (round-trip, economy)

New price (round-trip, economy)

1 - 300 miles

11,000

12,000

301 - 500 miles

12,000

12,000

501 - 650 miles

17,000

12,000

651 - 1,000 miles

17,000

18,000

1,001 - 1,151 miles

23,000

18,000

1,152 - 2,000 miles

23,000

22,000

2,001 - 2,500 miles

28,000

26,000

2,501 - 3,000 miles

42,000

26,000

3,001 - 4,000 miles

42,000

41,500

4,001 - 5,500 miles

65,000

51,500

5,501 - 6,500 miles

65,000

62,000

6,501 - 7,000 miles

65,000

72,500

7,001+ miles

65,000

103,000

Award prices have dropped on many nonstop flights based on the new information. Still, this change isn't necessarily positive. You could already book awards at these Avios rates by booking American Airlines awards through British Airways.

Major changes worth noting

The bad

The Iberia Plus program was also a go-to program for some longer American Airlines flights. Let's run through how this award chart change is affecting some of these other sweet spots.

Business class flights to Europe are more expensive

Under Iberia's prior award chart for American Airlines, business class award itineraries between 5,001 and 8,000 miles in length cost 100,000 Avios round-trip. That meant you could fly between New York and many cities in Europe for just 100,000 Avios round-trip in business class — a solid deal.

Under the new award chart, award flights between 3,001 and 4,000 miles cost 62,000 Avios each way — or 124,000 Avios round-trip. That's a 24% increase.

Connecting award flights to northern South America cost more

Iberia previously charged 23,000 Avios round-trip in economy or 46,000 Avios round-trip for flights between 2,001 and 4,000 miles in distance. You could use this sweet spot to fly between the southeastern U.S. and destinations in northern South America (through Miami) for fewer miles than what American Airlines charges.

Now that Iberia prices each award flight separately, these connecting award itineraries cost a lot more. For example, an award from Atlanta to Medellin, Colombia, now prices at 37,000 Avios round-trip in economy or a whopping 74,000 Avios round-trip in business class. Both of those rates are a 61% increase over the previous rates.

The (sorta) good

As you can see, these changes are mostly negative. However, two changes may be positive.

One-way award flight availability

Before this change, Iberia priced awards based on the round-trip flight distance. Technically, you could still book a one-way award, but the award would be priced as if it was a round-trip.

Now, the requirement to book a round trip has been eliminated. That opens the option to book one-way awards on Iberia — at least in theory. Currently, we are getting an error whenever searching for one-way awards.

Some nonstop award flights are cheaper

The other positive: Some nonstop award flights may have gotten marginally cheaper under the new system.

For example, you can save 18,000 points, compared to the previous award chart, on flights up to 6,000 miles round-trip under the new system. This is great for coast-to-coast itineraries like New York-JFK to San Francisco.

How to collect Iberia Avios

Although Iberia is based in Spain, Iberia Avios are easy for U.S. travelers to collect. Iberia Plus is a transfer partner of many of the major transferable point currencies:

  • American Express Membership Rewards (1:1 transfer ratio).

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards® (1:1 transfer ratio).

  • Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio with a 5,000-Avios bonus for transferring 60,000+ points).

  • British Airways and Aer Lingus (1:1 transfer ratio).

Overall, the changes to the Iberia Plus American Airlines award chart are disappointing

Iberia overhauled its award chart for American Airlines flights. The new award chart now matches the British Airways partner award chart — both in price and policies.

Although this change decreased awards rates on some nonstop economy flights, it doesn't make this a positive change. After all, you could already get these rates by booking awards through British Airways. With Iberia now matching British Airways prices, there are less distinct options for savvy award travelers to utilize.


How to Maximize Your Rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.