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The Caribbean is a hugely popular destination for travelers from both sides of the Atlantic but not only can it be an expensive place to stay, but it can also be an expensive place to fly to in any kind of comfort. Fortunately for miles & points fans, there’s at least one very economical Business Class award available for travel between Europe and the Caribbean and it’s an award that can open up travel to multiple destinations.
Iberia’s Caribbean routes
As I’ve said many times before, Iberia Plus can be an incredibly useful program but despite having made good use of some of the program’s sweet spots on more than one occasion, I have to confess to not really knowing Iberia’s route network as well as I should.
This is something that I’ve been working to address and one thing that I’ve recently discovered is that the airline operates two non-stop routes to the Caribbean (I’m not including any Central American destinations which may have a Caribbean shoreline).
I have no idea why I never noticed this before (with a plethora of Spanish speaking islands, the Caribbean is a very logical destination for Iberia), but it probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve long associated the airline with South America and the occasional great fare to the United States and not much else.
Evidently, this was a mistake.
If you’re looking for a Caribbean break, this is where Iberia will fly you to (non-stop) out of Madrid:
For those who don’t speak airport-code, those destinations are San Juan, Puerto Rico (SJU), and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (SDQ).
Both are popular destinations, but neither is really a major destination for non-Spanish speakers originating in Europe and that may be a reason why these routes don’t get very much attention.
Nevertheless, one of these routes offers a very nice Avios redemption opportunity while the other offers a truly fantastic Avios redemption opportunity and an economical way of getting to multiple other destinations in the Caribbean.
The great Avios deals
The big problem that most people have with Avios redemptions is that they’re associated with high surcharges on most long-haul routes which can make the currency uneconomical to use. Fortunately, Iberia’s surcharges are mild in comparison to what you’ll find other Avios-using airlines charging and that is a big help here.
Another big help is Iberia’s award chart:
Like the British Airways award chart (which is no longer officially published), Iberia’s award chart is distance-based, and because Madrid is a little closer to the Caribbean than most other major European cities, this is a very useful feature.
Madrid to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic falls into Band 6 of the Iberia award chart and that means that one-way off-peak Business Class awards can be booked for just 42,500 Avios + surcharges.
I don’t happen to have enough Avios in my Iberia Plus account to get the Iberia website to price up a booking, but based on the fact that the airline will allow me to book a roundtrip Business Class award by buying 85,000 Avios and paying $335, I think it’s safe to say that taxes and surcharges come to approximately $335.
As I value Avios at no more than 1.0 cents each, that sees the cost of the whole roundtrip booking come to approximately $1,185.
Even if you happen to overvalue Avios and think that they’re worth as much as 1.3 cents each, the whole roundtrip will still cost less than $1,500 and we should all be able to agree that that’s a pretty good deal.
The better deal, however, is to be found on the route to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Where the Madrid – Santo Domingo route comes in at over 4,000 miles and is categorized as a Band 6 destination, the Madrid – San Juan route comes in at a little under 4,000 miles and so gets categorized as a Band 5 route.
This makes a big difference.
During off-peak season, this route can be booked for a little as 34,000 Avios + surcharges (one-way)…
….which translates to 68,000 Avios + $241 for roundtrip travel.
That’s a phenomenal deal.
Even in peak season when roundtrip travel will cost 100,000 Avios + ~$240 in surcharges this remains a fantastic deal, but as Iberia’s off-peak season dates don’t have very much to do with the weather at the destinations to which it operates, you’ll find that off-peak pricing can usually be found for most of January, February, and March which are the most popular months for travel to the Caribbean.
For reference: American Airlines will charge 62,500 AAdvantage Miles + surcharges for one-way travel between Madrid and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Using San Juan as a stopover
A lot of people reading this will probably be thinking that as great as these deals are, they’re not much good to anyone who doesn’t actually want to visit Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. But that’s not necessarily true.
If you use the Flight Connections website you’ll find that there are over 50 destinations that can be reached from San Juan without a stopover being required, and this means that San Juan can be used as part of a one-stop strategy to get to a number of other destinations in the Caribbean.
The British Virgin Islands, St Barts, Saint Maarten, Anguilla, St Kitts, Nevis, Dominica, Saint Croix, and the US Virgin Islands are a few examples of destinations that can be reached with a short non-stop flight from San Juan, so it should be possible to use an Iberia Business Class award to cross the Atlantic in comfort before connecting on (possibly the next day) to a short-haul service to any one of those destinations.
Yes, this may not seem like a very direct way to get to the Caribbean destination of your choice, but keep in mind the fact that a lot of the destinations mentioned above aren’t easily reachable from Europe without a stopover anyway (have you tried getting to the BVI?!) and keep in mind how much money this could save.
If you’re considering booking a trip from Europe to the Caribbean, don’t forget that Iberia Plus may be able to get you to the Caribbean in comfort (the Business Class cabins are very good) and without asking you to break the bank. 68,000 Avios + $241 for a roundtrip Business Class fare between Europe and the Caribbean is a deal that is hard to beat and although these routes may not represent the most direct way of getting you to the destination of your choice, the savings that they offer could make any extra stopovers more than worthwhile.