UPDATE: Is this a false alarm? While flights from Chicago and Los Angeles initially show a higher price, they're still booking at the lower rates of 34,000 miles and 42,500 miles, respectively in business class.
For years, using Iberia Avios has been one of the best ways to book flights to Europe. Whether you're flying economy for as low as 17,000 miles each way or business class for 34,000 miles, you can't beat it – it's one of the best deals in the world of points and miles.
But over the weekend, Iberia award rates took a hit. With no warning, flights from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Madrid (MAD) suddenly got more expensive when using Iberia Avios, as did the much-longer flight from Los Angeles (LAX).
- From Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), rates jumped from 17,000 miles to 21,250 miles in economy while shooting up from 34,000 miles to 42,500 miles in business class for off-peak dates. During Iberia's peak travel times, it went from 20,000 miles to 25,000 miles in economy and from 50,000 miles to 62,500 miles for business.
- From Los Angeles (LAX), flights went from 21,250 miles to 25,500 miles in economy and jumped from 42,500 miles to 51,000 miles for a business class flight on off-peak dates. For peak-season travel, flights went from 42,000 miles to 51,000 miles each way in economy and a major increase from 62,500 miles to 75,000 miles in business class.
Some of those increases are sizable. Yet popular flights from Boston (BOS), New York City (JFK), and other U.S. destinations remain unchanged. Inside Flyer broke the news about the price increases from select U.S. cities, along with a few other international Iberia award flights.
So what's happening here? Why did Iberia increase award costs from just a few U.S. gateways?
Why the Increase?
On its face, this stings: No one likes paying more miles for a flight – especially when the airline gives flyers no warning. Add it to the pile of unannounced airline mileage devaluations from 2021 along with Virgin Atlantic gutting many Delta sweet spots to ring in the New Year and another crushing increase from Delta itself.
But diving in, there's a different story. Let's back up to basics.
Iberia Avios work a bit differently than most airline mileage programs. Rather than setting award rates based on regions – or seemingly at random, like Delta SkyMiles – Iberia is distance-based: How many miles you need to book a flight depends on how long it is. Along with its parent company partners like British Airways and Aer Lingus, it’s one of a handful of major airlines still using this approach.
That generally makes long-haul travel pricey, but that’s not the case here. What’s more, Iberia also carves out lower pricing for “off-peak travel.” And Iberia has a generous definition of what’s “off-peak”: only mid-June through mid-September and the winter holidays will trigger higher peak pricing. Check out Iberia’s full peak- and off-peak calendar to scope out the dates.
Here's how Iberia divvies it up.
|Award Band||Miles Traveled (One Way)||Off-Peak / Peak Economy||Off-Peak / Peak Business|
|1||0 - 650 miles||4,500 Avios / 5,000 Avios||9,000 Avios / 10,000 Avios|
|2||651 - 1,151 miles||7,500 Avios / 8,250 Avios||15,000 Avios / 16,500 Avios|
|3||1,151 - 2,000 miles||10,000 Avios / 11,000 Avios||20,000 Avios / 22,000 Avios|
|4||2,001 - 3,000 miles||11,000 Avios / 12,500 Avios||21,250 Avios / 31,250 Avios|
|5||3,001 - 4,000 miles||17,000 Avios / 20,000 Avios||34,000 Avios / 50,000 Avios|
|6||4,001 - 5,500 miles||21,250 Avios / 25,000 Avios||42,500 Avios / 62,500 Avios|
|7||5,501 - 6,500 miles||25,500 Avios / 30,000 Avios||51,000 Avios / 75,000 Avios|
|8||6,501 - 7,000 miles||29,750 Avios / 35,000 Avios||59,500 Avios / 87,500 Avios|
|9||7,000+ miles||42,500 Avios / 50,000 Avios||85,000 Avios / 125,000 Avios|
Not sure how long your flight is? Tap in your airports at GCmap.com and it will give you the number.
That distance-based chart has put the East Coast in the sweet spot: With flights under 4,00 miles, you can expect to pay just 17,000 Iberia Avios for a one-way economy during the off-peak season, or just 34,000 in business class.
But Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) has been an oddball. While it should price higher thanks to the length of the flight, Iberia has treated it just like the shorter flights from Boston (BOS) and New York City (JFK): 17,000 miles for an off-peak economy flight and 34,000 in business class.
But no more. That's what is driving the overnight award increase. Iberia is finally pricing flights between Chicago and Madrid properly. And while any increase is unwelcome, at 42,000 miles for a business class flight, it's still a steal. For reference, American Airlines would charge you 57,500 miles for the exact same Iberia flight.
The same is true from Los Angeles (LAX), which has been pricing as if it were in award band 6 … when in reality, it's much longer.
Is Iberia Business Class Still Worth It?
Yes. Unequivocally, yes.
No-notice award rate increases are never fun, but this one comes with a few massive grains of salt. Even by the terms of its own award chart, Iberia was pricing flights from Chicago and Los Angeles too low. While it may hurt if that's where you're based, these changes only affect a few U.S. cities.
Flying from Boston or New York City to Madrid for 17,000 miles in economy or 34,000 miles in business class is untouched. It remains one of the cheapest ways to get to Europe using points and miles. And even at a new price of 42,500 miles in business class, the flight between Chicago and Madrid is still cheaper than you'll find with almost any other airline.
Iberia business class won't win the mantle of the world's best business class, but it's more than solid. The seats are comfortable and spacious, the food is somewhere from good to great – especially now that the airline has Do & Co doing its catering. The airline has a great lounge in Madrid (MAD) if you're heading back for the U.S.
Read our full review of Iberia business class from Chicago to Madrid from 2019.
And even after this increase, you cannot beat the price. No worries about earning Iberia miles, as you can transfer Amex points or transfer Chase points straight to your Iberia account.
Using more miles to book a flight is never welcome news. But in the scheme of what we've seen from airlines in recent years with exorbitant award rate increases, this Iberia hike isn't nearly as painful.