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Bits: good SPG auction ends today, third runway to destroy BA HQ, new Gatwick route

News in brief:

Good SPG Moments auction ending today

There is an attractive SPG Moments auction ending today which, so far, has attracted very little interest.  It is one of those auctions where the headline used to sell it vastly undersells the value of what you will receive.

Take a look here.

The auction is headlined “Get backstage passes to Five Guys Named Moe at Edinburgh’s Christmas”.  The current bid at the time of typing is 9,500 Starwood Preferred Guest points (28,500 Marriott points).

Dig into the auction and it looks a lot more interesting:

  • A two-night (2-night) stay in a Club Room at Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh, checking in on 4 December 2016 and checking out on 6 December, 2016
  • Two (2) 55-minute spa treatments at One Spa
  • Dinner for two (2) at One Square on Monday 5 December
  • Two (2) tickets for the Street of Light on Sunday 4 December, 2016 (6:00 pm showing)
  • Two (2) VIP tickets to Five Guys Named Moe on Monday 5 December (show starts at 7:30 pm)
  • Private backstage meet & greet with the cast of Five Guys Named Moe on Monday 5 December, 2016

As long as you are free on those dates and can get to Edinburgh, this looks like a good deal to me.  The Sheraton Grand was fully refurbished a couple of years ago and is one of only a handful of Sheraton hotels to carry the ‘Grand’ name.  The hotel website is here.  I value the package at around £700.

The auction ends at noon today although the closing time extends by 5 minutes if there are any bids in the last 5 minutes, and only ends when there are 5 minutes with no bids.

waterside

Third runway to destroy BA’s Waterside headquarters!

Falling into the ‘couldn’t make it up’ category comes this article from The Guardian yesterday.

Apparently, until he saw the final draft of the Airport Commission report into Heathrow expansion, Willie Walsh (CEO of IAG, the parent company of British Airways) didn’t actually know that the third runway would require the demolition of BA’s state-of-the-art and hugely expensive Waterside HQ – photo above, I’ve been, it’s very nice.  No-one from Heathrow Airport had ever bothered to tell them …..

Whilst BA will receive 25% above its market value when the site is purchased, this is of limited benefit as the airport recoups the cost by increasing charges to airlines – 56% of which is paid by BA.

limoges

New British Airways route to Limoges

British Airways has announced a new route to Limoges in France, pictured above.

Flights will operate four times a week from Gatwick, with the service commencing on 28th May 2017.

Tickets, for cash or Avios, are available for booking at ba.com.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Come back at 8.30am for BA's Black Thursday mega-deal!
Bits: Yotel / Virgin partnership, my trip next Easter, 50% off Hilton points
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Comments

  1. Monopolies commission says:

    I thnk BA knew, either WW didnt or he means he was never ‘officially’ informed…

    Suspect he playing dumb to better IAG’s negotiating position.

  2. Of course he knew, it’s typical Walsh posturing. If he doesn’t want to pay so much for the new runway he can easily solve it by giving up some of BA’s slots, which obviously he won’t want to do.

  3. I think it is that the plans were changed somewhere during the many government reviews. I remember seeing plans where waterside remained but they have probably changed whilst the politicians mess around.

    Still I don’t think BA should worry, we have as much chance of getting a third runway as we have of getting the nuclear power stations and every other large scale project that every government we have is to timid to make an actual decision on.

  4. I thought BA sold their HQ some years ago on a lease back deal. If so they probably won’t get any compensation .

    • the real harry says:

      THOUSANDS of jobs are being axed, planes sold, routes abandoned, debts piled up. And the share price has plunged. But the futuristic £200m ‘glass palace’ known as Waterside – headquarters of British Airways near Heathrow – remains intact.

      BA chief executive Rod Eddington has ruled out selling the extravagant monument to feng shui. He told Financial Mail: ‘The problem with Waterside is that it does not have enough people in it. I want to sell some of our buildings around Heathrow and move the staff into Waterside.’

      But the decision to retain the building has inevitably angered BA staff as they face a highly uncertain future. The announcement last week that a further 5,700 jobs are to go brings the total to 13,000, a quarter of the workforce. As Ed Blissett, national officer of the GMB union, said last week: ‘If they had spent less time and money on an airy headquarters with bubbling streams, they might not be in such a mess.’

      The contrast is startling between the headquarters of BA, which is losing £2m a day, and those of its no-frills rivals easyJet, Go and Ryanair, all returning record profits.
      EasyJet has a converted hangar at Luton, while Ryanair is run from a drab building near Dublin airport’s runway. Go, the former BA-owned low-cost subsidiary based at Stansted airport in Essex, operates from a conventional two-storey building shared with airport staff.

      Lord Marshall, BA’s £125,000 non-executive chairman, authorised the Waterside project in the mid-Nineties. The building, which houses 3,000 staff, was supposed to introduce employees to a new way of working and thinking. They operate in offices and surroundings where New Age feng shui lifestyle experts have run riot.

      When Norwegian architect Niels Torp was put in charge of what turned out to be one of the largest projects of its kind in Britain, he was told to create a building ‘that will be a catalyst for change, transforming the way BA does business’. It ended up as six, four-storey truncated pyramid-shaped buildings, each with its own individually designed courtyards arranged alongside a 175-yard glazed atrium street.

      Every whim of staff is catered for. They may order weekly shopping electronically from an inhouse Waitrose store. And keep fit enthusiasts can use a gym equipped with the latest high-tech equipment. The building houses a bank, shops, cafes, a florist and a hairdresser. There is even a beauty therapy salon, where staff – mainly men, according to insiders – may enjoy massages (head and shoulders) and beauty tips.

      Waterfalls and a stream were incorporated into the building to further boost staff creativity. And when workers look up from their desks, they can gaze at works of art designed to ’emphasise the global nature of our business’. According to BA, after the building was opened by Prince Charles in 1998, working practices had changed so much that specialists on workplace behaviour had to be hired.

      The liberation provided by the new building was not confined to staff. Dragonflies, kingfishers, and water voles, which until then had to endure a 280-acre wasteland, found that BA had created a new green environment for them. Waterside was the centrepiece of a public park and nature reserve. Tons of soil were moved and cleaned so that animals could enjoy the newly created undulating park featuring two man-made lakes, a bat cave and a cliff designed for sand martins.

      There is certainly no haven for bats and water voles at easyland – the lurid orange converted hangar where about 450 easyJet staff are crammed into the once corrugated shed. Most staff in ‘the hangar’ are telephonists selling flights. Marketing experts and managers squeeze into what small space is available. There is not an economist in sight, compared with three full-time ‘thinkers’ at BA.

      There is no special office for easyJet boss Ray Webster. He has a no-frills desk just like any other member of the staff. The only concession to a New Age experience is the Friday evening free barbeque where staff mingle and have the odd beer. They do not wear ties or suits because to do so, according to insiders, can mean only one of two things – you are going to a funeral or to a job interview. A spokesman for the airline said: ‘We are a no-frills airline and that means the same for us as for the passengers.’

      Only Virgin Atlantic’s leased headquarters, The Office, a mile from Gatwick airport, bears any similarity to Waterside. There are just 1,300 staff, but like their BA opposites they can experience the full joy of massages in a beauty salon and can work out in gyms. There is even an attempt at creating atmosphere by building the offices around a Japanese garden.

      A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said: ‘After the terrible events of September 11, we bit the bullet and worked on a new plan. It took six days of hard work, then we agreed to cut 2,000 jobs out of 9,200. Contrast that with BA, which took six months to come up with another 5,700 job cuts. It is not surprising that airline is eating up cash.’

      Eddington disagrees. He says: ‘We have cash and we have been radical. A quarter of our workforce will lose their jobs. Telling 13,000 they have no future here is very painful.’ Sources close to Eddington say he finds Waterside a little rich for his taste. He has not ruled out selling the building and leasing it back. But he believes he will get a better price when BA is seen as profitable and powerful, rather than a distressed seller of assets.

      Meanwhile, Waterside remains a monument to a culture of corporate excess that has helped bring a national flag-carrier to its knees. A BA board member recently compared its outlandish design with the Aztec temples of the Moon and Sun in Mexico City. BA will hope that their ‘glass palace’ will not go the same way as that once great civilisation.

      BA has reportedly mortgaged 26 of its planes to banks for £600m in an attempt to bolster its finances without calling a rights issue.

  5. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    Stayed at the grand a couple years ago in a club room. Very pleased with the stay – hotel seemed well-run, great view of the castle and came with access to the spa next door as well (with an outdoor rooftop hot tub).

  6. TGLoyalty says:

    As this is bits O/T Anyone use award wallet for Flying club able to use it since the change?

    Seems I always get the two step verification and that means Awardwallet will no longer work, everyone got this problem or is it my Flying Club account or is there a hidden option somewhere to switch off the question prompt

    • I’ve not been able to use it. Also Virgin still not posted any points due just after the membership no transfer.

    • I updated my Award Wallet account with the new membership number on our 3 accounts and they update ok every morning.

  7. Well I used to work at BA and I knew and I was a regional IT grunt. I was always told the high ups knew even before Waterside was built that it would go if there was a third runway.
    There’s no way he didn’t know – he’s just got some clever reason to pretend not. He always has a reason.

  8. Airport Worker says:

    BA knew about Waterside. I was in meetings with them when it was discussed and where their new HQ might end up being, years ago.

    There’s plenty of office space being cleared out in the Tech Blocks near Cranebank.

    Almost as if someone in BA knew?

    Perhaps nobody told WW?

  9. OT – some discussion in the last few days re Naked wines and stacking the amex2016 offer with the £100 off £150 offer. Has anyone got this working over the past 48 hours?

    • I did this yesterday (before seeing the comments…) – have had email confirmation, and currently have 3 pending transactions (£1, £1, £156). Hoping it all goes smoothly, if not will be having a chat with Amex. (and if it comes to it, NakedWines have a moneyback guarantee)

      • the real harry says:

        You mean the success email from Amex? if so, the £100 is yours 100%

        pls confirm as I’ll double dip :)

        • I wouldn’t be so quick Harry. I received the success email from Amex when I made my purchase but as I mentioned yesterday not the credit.

          I have followed up with amex twice now & it has been passed to a specialist team to look into. I have to say Amex were very evasive on phone about whether I would ultimately get the credit, despite having an order confirmation for £150+ from Naked & an email from Amex saying I had successfully redeemed the offer.

          • Confirmation of redemption almost instant from Amex, but It took a few days before the £100 appeared on my account. We are well stocked up as I also got the Majestic offer a few weeks back as well (£20 off £80 spend)

          • They won’t credit the £100 to me either despite getting the success email. The fact the naked wines split the transaction sounds dodgy to me and I don’t know what recourse we have if Amex don’t honour it. The email I got was basically oh sorry the pulled it tough luck. Yet the offer is still saved in my account.

          • the real harry says:

            I think it’s pretty much unheard of for Amex Customer Services to act in anything but a very correct & helpful way – perhaps you need to go higher? I certainly would be doing all of this on the phone, not by email.

            But you’re right, Jim – I should wait & see. I think we’ve got a few more days yet to redeem.

            FWIW my £100 credit was applied 2 days after the purchase.

  10. OT. I’m just pricing up Frankfurt-New York (or JFK-FRA) on Singapore Airlines and have found some saver fares in Suites class but they all say “Waitlist” for the 57k Saver fare. I’ve not found one without the Waitlist. Does anyone have any experience of the waitlist? I don’t want to transfer points across only to not get tickets. Cheers.

    • I think 1 gets released at T-355 and another within 2 weeks or departure. If you have status (can get silver via the shangri la Jade status tie up via Amex Plat, then phone them to send a chaser which often has success.

  11. Wally1976 says:

    OT – I posted this the other day but no replies.
    I matched my SPG gold (from Amex Plat) to Marriott gold and was expecting it to be valid until end 2017. However, got a Marriott card in the post a few days ago showing valid until 2/17 only :-(. Anyone else had this? Have some Marriott stays coming up later in 2017 so hoping I can get Amex Plat nearer the time and re-match the status.

    • I haven’t asked Marriott for a card yet, however in previous years SPG has renewed my Gold status, even when not holding a Platinum card. So current SPG card runs until end of Feb, so if the SPG gold is renewed, then it should automatically update/match your Marriott membership. Personally I have got 10 nights in SPG properties in April in the US, so if that doesn’t renew then will get a Platinum card to get the gold level back. Hope that’s of some help

  12. OT/
    How far does Credit Card insurance go?
    Booked the Rod Stewart event at the o2 for Tomorrow night, and its now been cancelled due to ‘health concerns’ I have booked a couple of rooms on the Accor Happy Mondays rates, which obviously now pretty useless.

    Its not a great deal of money, but still a waste…

    Any advice, of how best to play it? maybe the hotel? or try Amex?
    Luckily I’ve never had this happen before…

    • Hotel may move the room to the new date as a goodwill gesture. Can but ask. SPG refunded us our concert points as the new date for last Tuesday does not work.

  13. BlackBerryAddict says:

    To be fair to WW, until recently he was based in World Business Centre at Heathrow, away from Waterside. His desk there was also of the normal variety, and in an open plan office. IAG have recently moved back to Waterside, to reduce costs

  14. OT – My friend just cancelled his BAPPC after having it for a year and his companion voucher is sitting in his BA Executive account. He was told by the Amex rep on the phone that unless he takes out the free classic card his voucher would become invalid.

  15. the real harry says:

    O/T the Skyscanner boys did pretty good :)

    I couldn’t believe the £1.4b this morning when I heard it about 7am – & looking into the numbers, we’re talking annual revenues (REVENUES!) of £120m. Any guess as to bottom line on that figure?

    I just can’t believe it is any sort of unassailable business. OK, 700 employees and a decent market position. But you could presumably start from scratch and put up a very decent model/ competition with (say) $50-100m investment.

    • Revenue is commission revenue, 700 at £50k average is £35m, £15m overheads, £70m profit, 20 x multiple? Rough guess.

      • the real harry says:

        oh right – 20x not so amazing

        thanks

        even so – Skyscanner rarely passes my radar – I have on occasion looked – because they don’t offer me anything particularly exceptional in value terms

        so am I a rare beast?

        do they offer anything very exceptional to anybody? (I wish you well, Skyscanner!)

        and couldn’t a bunch of us set up Skyscanner2 in about 6 months with $50m?

        • I agree, never used it – except – it can do ‘clever’ stuff (I think) like look for flights to a country or from various airports at once. Can’t it?

          • That’s what I mainly use it for – pick a date and say from Edinburgh to Anywhere. Or pick a route and then look at prices over a month. I’ve been using it more since RFS doubled in price as it is often cheaper to go direct and I find they have a decent interface (web and mobile)

        • In my old City job some colleagues wanted to buy Trainline. I took the same view – you could recreate it for a fraction of the cost (altho’ see redspottedhanky who tried).

          My other reason for not spending £400m on it was that only a loon buys a business which sells a commodity product (rail ticket) at a higher price (due to fees) than its competitors …..

    • Yes, I always think how well they’ve done when I walk past their HQ in Edinburgh (it’s on the site of the old Royal Infirmary), but hadn’t realised they were doing THAT well – wow! Hat’s off to them. Not surprised they got snapped up though given the weak pound.

  16. I suspect going into business with you Harry would be like going into business with Philip Green

  17. How much sympathy does anyone have for WW? Talk about wanting your cake. Own mega terminal at the world’s 2nd biggest airport, presumably more slots on the way and, as a business, your driving staff and customers down. I’d simply say in the language of 2016 “get over it”. Zero sympathy from me.

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