2015: Chicago to Barcelona, Madrid to Chicago

2015: Chicago to Barcelona, Madrid to Chicago

Trip Synopsis

Economy Class One Way Chicago to Barcelona for 20K American Airlines AAdvantage Miles + Business Class One Way Madrid to Chicago for 40K British Avios, both on Iberia Airlines


MMB Analysis

  • This was my first time redeeming points on OneWorld Alliance member Iberia.
  • Revenue tickets during Christmas/New Year week are usually pricey. Almost all trans-Atlantic fare sales exclude this winter break time. Award tickets are also in demand, often requiring planning ahead. In this case, it was 11 months ahead.
  • As I pointed out before, when it comes down to fees and surcharges, not all airlines’ frequent flyer programs are created equal. This booking illustrated the vast difference in fees and carrier surcharges even though the entire award trip was carried by the same airline, Iberia in this case. On the outbound redemption using AAdvantage miles under American Airlines’ rules, I paid $108 in fees in addition to miles. Inbound trip was governed by British Airlines rules using British Airways Avios. BA assessed $202 in economy and $272 in business class from Madrid to Chicago.
  • Almost without exception, redeeming on long-haul business class produces the best point value. Round trip business class tickets to Europe hover around $5000, pinning one way business class ticket value of easily above $1500. Evan with high carrier-imposed fees, 40K Avios saved at least $1200, or three cents/Avios.

How will it work out today

Both American Airlines and British Airways have devalued their award chart. For AA, end of year travel to Europe is considered “peak” travel time that requires 30K AAdvantage miles one way in economy. Similarly, BA has also split its redemption chart into “peak” and “non-peak” rates. Beginning of the year falls under “peak” and for distance between 4000 to 5500 miles as Madrid to Chicago measures, one way economy costs 25K Avios and business a whopping 75K!

Trip Metrics

From To Distance (Miles)
Chicago Madrid 4202
Madrid Barcelona 301
Madrid Chicago 4202
Total 8704

MMB Highlights

Iberia Airlines

The mediocre rating of Iberia Airlines worked to mute my expectation for a new airline, even for its business class product, prior to the trip. Because of this, I was pleasantly surprised by the hardware and service offered on Iberia.

1-2-1 lie-flat seat configuration on A330 proved to be very comfortable. Food choices were pretty impressive, too.

I missed the pitted olives, better than any olives I had on land.

Sea bass main entree

Free hotel stay at Madrid



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