Points or Cash? Business or Coach? My Flight from Madrid to Tel Aviv


This post is part of the #NoCollusion, No Albania for TPOL Trip Report, the trip where TPOL will join the Traveler’s Century Club (for the haters out there see Is Hawaii a Country? For the lovers and friends, so the pride of my site, see the Where I’ve Been map). The first step in this journey was my leap of faith that Iberia would honor their Avios promotion. When the points showed up, I booked a flight from SJU-MAD. The next step was to figure out the best way to see new countries while finding an efficient way to get to Albania the country that TPOL trolls voted to send TPOL to before I stayed true to my Iraqi authoritarian DNA and moved to Puerto Rico, a tax-free haven for Americans.  And this haven serves my favorite interest : me.

Using my favorite trip planning tool, ITA Matrix, I checked Madrid to Tirana

$146 isn’t awful.

Until I read that it takes 26 hours and 35 minutes on Pegasus airlines to get there. Based on my arrival time, the only alternative was to fly Alitalia.

Price or points, that routing is also atrocious. Having delayed my move to Albania so many times before, I began looking for more alternatives. The first place that came to my mind was Tel Aviv, a city I chose not to visit in 2014 in the midst of the unrest (see Tel Aviv another time). I typed MAD-TLV into the Matrix and ignored the cheap pricing.

Here’s why:

Pegasus! While this flight isn’t awful, I was curious as to direct options. I scrolled until I found this:

Curious as to the points needed, I went to Iberia‘s website which turned up this result.

I went back to the Matrix to see the retail price.

I went to Seatguru and found this. 

31k + $76 + continuing to lie-flat after my Iberia flight from San Juan made this seem like the right choice. The value wasn’t as good as SJU-MAD, but I challenge anyone to show me a better redemption of 50k than SJU-MAD.

Really, who is paying this! And it’s like this everyday in August coming and going.

Despite the value per point, I was hesitant to book the points flight because:

  1. I have flown Iberia from Madrid to Chicago for 25k Avios. It doesn’t get cheaper than that.
  2. This flight is only 4 hours and 45 minutes. TPOL prides himself on being able to sit in any seat on a plane without fuss so long as the flight is under 5 hours.
  3. This flight is only 4 hours and 45 minutes. TPOL’s rule of thumb is to think hard about expending on business class flights less than 8 hours.
  4. Had I taken advantage of the deal under Ms. TPOL’s account, I would be burning ‘fake’ Avios. Instead, I have to use real Avios which weren’t set to expire in December.
  5. Even though I took advantage of Iberia’s promotion, I only received 81k points. I have yet to complain about that, but assuming I don’t get the other 9k, I am really coming out-of-pocket for this.

What would you do?

Find out what I did after this photo which has nothing to do with the post.

Gato Negro, my roommate in San Juan.

I booked that flight! Why? Avios are easy to get, it’s in business, it’s direct, and who would fly all the way to Madrid in business to switch to coach and have to connect in Istanbul?

Not TPOL my friends, not TPOL.



  1. Connecting in Istanbul is not that much fun to me. Some of those flights even require an airport change in Istanbul from IST to SAW #notfun . Iberia is the right choice here but I’m surprised that the cash price would be high. I could be wrong but I was thinking that Icelandair or Wow or some LCC runs an odd route through Madrid to TLV.

    • I checked the LCC’s after the fact (a lesson on that will be posted on Monday) and concluded that business class is best!

    • and in this case, I checked: smart wings, air europa, el al, smartwings, and israir (which i couldnt find the english translation) none were cheaper

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