spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

An Adventure in American AAdvantage and Avios

on July 10, 2018

…ay ay ay 🙂  My mission: get the 4 of us from Seville (SVQ) to Barcelona (BCN) using less than $420, preferably on nonstop flights, preferably later in the day. Seemed easy at first: Iberia MUST have a nonstop flight between these popular Spanish destinations, right? And I could totally use my Avios on Iberia flights, so that would be a cinch, right? You would think so…

The first thing I discovered was that, no, Iberia proper did not have a nonstop flight between Seville and Barcelona- only ones with brief stopovers in Madrid (MAD). The second thing was that Avios could be used, but the redemption process was not so simple due to limited availability.  Here is the Iberia Avios distance-based chart:


That image is a bit small but the gist is, the Iberia route I was looking at to be able to use my Avios (SVQ-MAD-BCN) fell in Zone 1, at 547 miles.  Great!  There are some subtle differences in the Peak/Off-Peak calendar dates whether you are flying Iberia or British Airways, but in either case, our early-New-Year date had us in Peak territory.  Ok, that works.  For 20k Avios total, I had us taking the connecting flight through Madrid, with minimal cost in taxes since we were not flying through London ($$$$ holy fuel surcharges Batman!) or on a British Airways plane at all.

Vueling and RyanAir did have nonstops.  But as I mentioned in a previous post, at this point I’m not considering flying RyanAir.  That left Vueling, and again, as explained in a previous post, some Vueling flights can be booked with Iberia Avios.  On the Vueling website, the Avios cost was quite high- well above the 5000 supposedly needed for Iberia flights under 650 miles long (probably because it was a codeshare and not Iberia metal).  I didn’t have enough Avios to cover it on the Vueling site, so I set my attention back to Iberia.

But then I tried to book it.


Same, Yzma.  Same.

I had experienced Iberia’s …less-than-user-friendly website during my research phase.  It times out after a very short while, won’t let you see certain information unless you are logged in, and the search results page is simply confusing.  There are 2 flight results listed below.  See what I mean?


I can hardly tell where one itinerary begins and the other ends.   Let’s say I selected the last flight there, with the overnight layover in Madrid.  I would then click “View,” and get this screen:


As you can see, no clear and easy 5000 Avios option as there should be.

But I kept at it, and once I was within my booking window, I started to check availability in earnest.  Some days had flights you could book with Avios, some routes didn’t apply, and most had higher-than-5k Avios costs associated with them like the example above.  My other problem was that my Avios were kind of scattered- in the Iberia Plus program, I had 3200; more were available via transfer from Ultimate Rewards (UR) and Starwood (SPG).  I was waffling about whether or not to transfer points into Avios.  One day I just decided to search on the British Airways (BA) site to confirm availability- this is another good method to check Avios routes.  BA always tries to route you through London-Heathrow to collect those fuel surcharges, and this was no exception:

ba thru lhr

Can you imagine trying to go from Seville to Barcelona and routing through ENGLAND?!  Ridiculous.  And through 2 different London airports, no less.  Yeah, right.  But you just scroll down to get to the partner airline options.  I chose the same flight as on the Iberia site above:

ba iberia example

More pricing options you can select when paying :                                                                             8900 Avios + $ 48.17
8000 Avios + $ 68.17
7300 Avios + $ 88.17
6200 Avios + $ 98.17
5600 Avios + $ 118.17

And you can see that the price for 1 adult is 10k Avios here as well.  So it would be 40K instead of the 20K I was anticipating and could more easily gather together between my and my husband’s miles/points accounts.  So I put my thinking cap on, and I decided to check the 3rd major player in this airline group: American Airlines (AA).  I was thrilled to see this:

aa 10k

In the end, there were only 2 Economy MileSAAver fares available with the AAdvantage miles for the departure/arrival and times/date I wanted, so I booked for my husband and son, paying 10K AA miles plus $41.20 each in taxes.  Then I transferred just 3k SPG points to Iberia Plus, went back to the Iberia Site, and booked for me and my daughter using Avios for the same flights. Because we used fewer points, I paid a higher amount of fees, $139.45 each.

To make a long story short (too late!), I reached some of my objectives.  I got the date/times I wanted, and my total cost came out to $361.30, within budget!  I did not get nonstop flights, but the Madrid stopover is less than 2 hours long and makes geographical sense.  So I can update my table yet again 🙂

Spain and France in 2018 or So Help Me
Estimated Actual
Main Transit Costs
Flights to/from US Mainland $ 2,500.00  $2835.00
Flights to Europe $ 30.00  $22.40
Eurostar to France $ 630.00
Flights to Spain $ 500.00  $461.61
Flights within Spain $ 420.00  $361.30
Flights to US Mainland $ 200.00  $255.24

Next post: an absolutely screaming deal on the Eurostar tickets that will have me floating on air for DAYS.





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