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Booking Europe awards with American miles can be tough. American releases very little space on its own flights, and their primary transatlantic partner is British Airways — and British Airways fuel surcharges can be truly choke-worthy.
American adds fuel surcharges onto British Airways awards, and very very limited fuel surcharges onto Iberia flights, but not other partner awards.
Generally speaking the only way to get premium cabin awards between the US and Europe without big fuel surcharges is to book Iberia through Madrid, or airberlin. American’s partner Finnair flies New York JFK – Helsinki but business class awards are quite limited. Even airberlin is a limited option as well.
Fortunately Iberia business class award space for two passengers is fantastic in July and August of next year. American can book award space only 331 days out, so the last few days of August are not yet available to AAdvantage members.
Iberia flies from New York JFK, Chicago, Miami, Boston, and Los Angeles. With American, you can include flights to one of those cities in your award and also flights beyond Madrid to elsewhere in Europe (or on to other regions where Europe awards are permissible).
Iberia Business Class Award Space Available Most Days From Most Cities
New York, Miami, and Chicago have the best availability. Boston availability is good. And Los Angeles – a flight that operates just 4 times a week – does have availability on some dates in August.
Here’s availability for two passengers in business class, Miami – Madrid non-stop and vice versa, in August.
Here’s availability for two passengers in business class, New York JFK – Madrid non-stop and vice versa, in August.
Avoiding Big Fuel Surcharges With Iberia Business Class Award Bookings
If you use British Airways points directly to book these flights, fuel surcharges really hit the wallet (especially if booking more than one seat!). Here’s the fuel surcharge on a one-way business class flight from New York JFK to Madrid.
However booking an Iberia business class award through American AAdvantage or through Iberia directly entail fuel surcharges that are less than 15% of what British Airways would charge.
If you have an Iberia Avios account that has been open at least 90 days, and has had some activity (earned at least a mile, American Express Membership Rewards transfer into Iberia) you can move British Airways Avios over to Iberia and then book Iberia flights from your Iberia account.
American charges 50,000 miles each way between the US and Europe in business class. That includes connecting flights in the US and in Europe, and is a fantastic deal as long as you’re not paying big fuel surcharges.
These awards will cost 50,000 – 62,500 Iberia Avios each way depending on city (New York and Boston are cheaper) or the same number of British Airways Avios though with big fuel surcharges. Off peak dates are even cheaper:
- Boston and New York – Madrid costs 34,000 points each way in business class
- Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami – Madrid costs 42,500 points each way in business class
Unfortunately while British Airways has some August dates coded as off peak, off peak for Iberia ends in mid-June:
Nonetheless, the ability to claim these awards at reasonable points cost with minimal fuel surcharges using American miles, Iberia Avios, or British Airways Avios transferred to Iberia will be huge for many readers.
Bulking Up on AAdvantage Miles and Avios
There are currently big limited-time offers for credit card signups providing both American AAdvantage miles and British Airways Avios.
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card. Earn a total of 100,000 British Airways Avios.
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard. Earn 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles. (offer expired)
- Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints transfer 1:1 into both American and British Airways, with a 5000 bonus awarded for transfers of 20,000. My major source of Starpoints is the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer 1:1 into British Airways. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has both a 40,000 point signup bonus you can earn and awards double points on all travel and dining.
(HT for the idea to share this to MileCards)