Bits: BA ‘Upgrade to First’ back, SPG / Marriott merger clue, IC Ambassador 5k bonus goes

News in brief:

British Airways brings back ‘Upgrade To First’

BA has brought back its regular ‘Upgrade To First’ promotion.

This offer is only suitable for people travelling for business, as you are required to book a flexible or semi-flexible Club World ticket (in R, D, C or J ticket buckets) in order to qualify.

The rules are:

You must book by 10th December for outbound travel by 23rd December and return travel by 31st December

You must book a return Club World ticket, of which one leg (your choice) will be upgraded to First Class

The offer is also valid on American Airlines flights from the UK to the US, Canada and Mexico when booked under a BA flight code

The upgrade books into the ‘A’ ticket bucket in First Class.  If there are no seats available in the ‘A’ ticket bucket, you cannot upgrade, even if other seats in First Class are available for sale.

You cannot book this offer on – it must be booked via BA’s call centre or a travel agent

You can take advantage of this deal as often as you like

You will receive First Class Avios and tier points for the upgraded leg

Full details are on here.  Remember that only selected British Airways routes have a First Class cabin!

British Airways First Class middle pair

Clue to the Marriott / SPG merger date

If you were wondering when Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest will finally merge into a brand new programme – which may or may not be an improvement on what we already have – there is a little clue.

The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express has, all year, been offering double points on stays at Marriott hotels until November 2017.  This wording has now changed to say:

Earn 2 Starpoints for every £1 of eligible purchases charged to your Card at participating SPG & Marriott Rewards hotels. Until 31 December 2018.

This could imply that both programmes will continue as they are until the end of next year.  This makes sense because launching a new scheme in the middle of the year – when status requalification is based on calendar year stays – would be crazy.

This also means that the Starwood Amex should survive for at least another 15 months which is good news.  My review of the SPG Amex card is here if you want to look at what it offers.

InterContinental Ambassador

InterContinental drops 5,000 point Ambassador bonus

I have written about InterContinental’s ‘pay to join’ Ambassador loyalty programme numerous times – my last article was here.

I find InterContinental Ambassador good value and have been a member for many years.  The free weekend night voucher (really ‘buy one get one free’) offsets the $200 joining fee by itself.  Renewing is just $150.

New members used to receive a voucher for 5,000 IHG Rewards Club points as an extra bonus.  This now appears to have ended.  A reader told me that he did not receive a code when he joined recently, and the IHG contact centre has confirmed that these points are no longer offered.  All mention of 5,000 extra points has been removed from the IHG Ambassador website here.

The bonus points were never a key reason for joining Ambassador so I can see why IHG may have decided to drop them.  What I don’t understand, however, is why they still continue to charge an extra $50 for first-time joiners.

Bonuses for renewing members are unchanged.

The Ambassador website is here if you want to find out more.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

My review of the Signature private jet terminal lounge at Luton Airport!
What is the best use of American Express Membership Rewards points?
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  1. OT. I want to apply for the Amex Plat again, but I’m about to move house. Never been declined before, but my credit rating has dipped a bit to 878 after the mortgage application.

    Am I more likely to succeed with the application if I apply now using the old address, or after I’ve moved house, re-registered to vote etc? I should have a week or two overlap where I can still access the old property to pick up mail. Thanks.

    • Alex, you have much better chances with the old address. Royal mail redirection for a month might also be a good option for you since Amex is not using any couriers.

      • I think Royal Mail redirection for 6 months is worth it. I’m pretty diligent when it comes to admin and also tight as a duck’s **** but it’s worth paying to mitigate any fraud risk.

        • Completely agree about paying for the redirection. It’s amazing how you forget opticians, dentists and other occasional places you visit when you move.

      • Thanks guys.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        Amex will most likely be instructing Royal Mail that card are non-redirectable and they will be returned.

    • Credit rating numbers are meaningless since Experian etc don’t issue credit cards.

      You’ll still need to enter the old address for the next 3 years so it’s not like they won’t know who you are. Even if that was a problem, the Amex online form is good in that it lets you enter the number of another Amex, so they definitely know who you are.

      Furthermore, if you have an existing Amex they probably won’t even credit-check you (costs them money!)

      With charge cards I think they aren’t too strict anyway, I assume you are in good standing with them so it really shouldn’t matter.

      • So would you say it’s better to apply after I have changed my address? Thanks.

        • Well my view is that it probably won’t make a difference, so I would just apply when the dates work for me.

          But I never have worked for Amex and don’t know anyone who does, so I can’t say for sure, all I can say is that my wife got an Amex 3 months after moving despite having not been added to the electoral roll at the new address yet (some councils only update it once a year)

        • One thing to think about is not applying just before a mortgage goes through as it can affect your credit rating at the last minute and the mortgage may fall through. A risk not worth taking!

  2. OT – flying out of LHR T3 for the first time soon. We are flying CE and have priority pass with Amex Platinum so which is the best lounge to use please? I think we can access Cathay, Club Aspire, BA Galleries, No1 and AA. Spoilt for choice!


  3. BrotherBear says:

    OT – looking at a redemption from London to Bangkok. Only options are indirect from Amman with royal Jordanian or Kuala Lumpar with Malaysian. First segments with BA. Will be a one way flight only. I have an Amex 2 for 1 voucher and therefore to take advantage of this I would need to break the booking into 2 separate bookings.

    If I do this, am I correct in thinking BA will not check luggage through to Bangkok? And I would need to collect luggage and check in again and clear security again? Any advice on which option would be better with or without the 2 for 1?

    Many thanks in advance.

    • Correct, BA will not check the baggage through. Never done RJ (although I am thinking about doing a review trip early next year) but Malaysia has a decent hard product – A380, moving to a new A350 soon. I would imagine cash tickets from KL to BKK are fairly cheap on Air Asia etc if you don’t want to use more Avios.

      • guesswho2000 says:

        And, if the copious amount of TV advertising they’re (AirAsia) doing in Australia is anything to go by, it looks like a very decent product for your money!

      • Yes, MH is excellent on a380 and probably better seat on new a350. However, if he wants to use 241 he will need to take BA which is currently a 787 I believe but could well switch back to a 773 as loads have reportedly been good. Air Asia is awesome, what every LCC should aspire to. I believe they are now operating out of KLIA1 which would simplify the connection, bags etc. Flexible flights on Air Asia are usually very affordable and include a seat reservation, a meal, hot seat at front of the plane and priority boarding. The flexible option always shows at flight and fare selection page on their website. I would opt for Air Asia as opposed to avios redemption on MH as the latter are prone to cancellations and less frequent. If Phuket or Krabi figure in plans though them MH is just a zone 1 redemption. I’m a little surprised there is no availability on BA via HKG as it’s relatively easy to find.

    • Unless you need to use the 241 I’d consider paid tickets to BKK

      TK has a J sale LGW/LHR-BKK for £1100 (not sure if that includes APD or not – but you can avoid long-haul APD by stopping in IST for 24 hrs)

      I think the QR ex-VCE and ex-PRG deals are still on

      BR had a Econ+ sale recently for £600 – might have ended

      There’s also some UL deals via LCA/MCT/DXB/DOH/CMB etc for £1000 or so but you have to get to Cyprus

      • Good point, there is little value in a BA redemptions to zone 7 these days let alone zone 8 even when using a 241 due to the tax and fees. Thanks for the heads up on current TK offer, I will check if it works for me ex EDI

      • Qatar sale launching tomorrow too.

  4. As bits,
    I flew from BHS-STN with easyJet and took only hand luggage as usual, I had seen from HFP and a notification on the easyJet app about the hands free baggage service to check your hand luggage into the hold pre security for £4. So on my return journey I decided to take advantage of this service. I queued in the bag drop line and when I reached the front advised the lady that I wanted to use hands free, I was then directed to another member of staff member who tagged my bag and took my £4 giving me a receipt and off my bag went. I asked her if many people were using the service and that it was good that you could take through items larger than security allow. It was at this point she said that if my bag had items not allowed in hand luggage taken through security it is no longer hand luggage and would be checked in as hold luggage at £35. I made a joke with her and went on my way. What I didn’t tell her was that I had 3 bottles of full size gin in the bag. When I got to the gate I asked the boarding staff about this and she confirmed that it was correct what I had been told. My bag and gin arrived in Belfast in one piece although no priority tag and almost last on luggage belt. Nowhere could I see on the easyJet website that larger items are not allowed. So it appears this service is not as good as many think.

  5. Lady London says:

    What’s this thing called Royal Ambassador that IHG also have?

    • Invitation only apparently requires lots of stays at intercontinentals. Free mini bar – sounds awesome!

      • I think the criteria is now $10,000 of annual IC spend. They have tightened up on it – it used to just be 60 nights across all IHG hotels, and you were allowed to give a friend RA status for free. I had it for a couple of years on this basis. To be honest I rarely bothered with the free mini bar, unless there was a half bottle of wine or champagne in it. The upgrades were better – usually to a suite – but that has now been cut back and the only requirement is ‘two levels’.

        • I would be arriving with an empty suitcase every time and leaving with a full one!!

          Stayed at Indigo Edinburgh recently and they provide a free mini bar with drinks and snacks. No booze sadly but they did refill it every day. Not sure if this is normal or just because I am Spire?

        • Indigo Newcastle has a free minibar too – with local craft beer back in February, but only non-alcoholic last time – July I think.

          They also seem to have a bug in their booking system; both times booked room only, but told on checjkng in that breakfast was included. Quite decent breakfast too. Prepay rooms at £60+.

        • Routine for Hotel Indigo IME – I think they’re one of the best IHG brands TBH! Had great stays in both York and Helsinki with them recently.

  6. OT Flybe reward flights anyone know when they release availability? Cash flights live for next April but nothing yet for rewards thanks

  7. OT – Anyone know if Hertz are OK with early returns? Conditions only state no refunds for early returns, not that they are OK or against them. 2 weeks is cheaper than 13 days on a rental for next year with a high daily rate so looking to save a few quid

    • I have always got a refund when I have returned a Hertz car early!

      • It depends I think whether it is a prepay or not, I returned a prepay a day early and received no refund or no early return fee.

      • I’m thinking (partly educated by reading online) that for the normal rates, they calculate it on return – in which case my 2 weeks might be reassessed as 1wk 6 days, and therefore go up in cost – but even if it does I’m no worse off…

        As long as they won’t get shirty that’s the important thing

  8. OT but I was having trouble registering for the Marriott “two stay Megabonus” offer from a couple of days ago, so e-mailed them and they added it to my account.

  9. the real harry1 says:

    on your marks, get set, go! 🙂

    TDX-VPKP = £5 Off wys £40
    TDX-YGHR = £10 Off wys £75
    TDX-TWHJ = £25 Off wys £150

    stacks with Collect 1500 Extra Clubcard Points wys £75 on selected Lego Friends

  10. OT – Amex customer service awful this evening – awful voice recognition software! Surely they should know how much this annoys people!

  11. In the fine print of T’s & C’s – Upgrade to First only eligible for flights departing UK – or what they should say is bookings originating in the UK.
    So offer only really valid for UK residents (UK point of origin).
    Won’t work for myself as all my tickets are of foreign origin.
    Long time back the eligibility was all tickets regardless of point of origin

  12. Graham Walsh says:

    O/T – Just checked into HI in Slough and went for the Welcome Drink this time. Nice large glass worth £7.65. Whilst sipping said wine, welcome points email arrives 🙂

    Reverting back to my query on receiving points on reward nights, this is what I got back from the IHG club via email. Have asked about Reward Nights as it’s not clear.

    Thanks for reaching out! So sorry about the delay in reply. We’re receiving high email volume lately, but we’re looking to catch up so we can reply to your emails right away.

    Please see below details about the Welcome Amenity points:

    > The IHG® Rewards Club Welcome Amenity is a standard designed to recognize our IHG® Rewards Club members loyalty with a gift at check in.
    > Receiving a consistent Welcome Amenity shows appreciation for our members
    > The Welcome Amenity standard is offered at our hotels in the Americas, Greater China, and Europe regions.
    > Members who chose points will be able to see them in their account by the end of stay. Hotels are instructed to add the Welcome points on the arrival date.
    > Members who booked via an Online Travel Agent(OTA) are not eligible to receive this member benefit, as per the IHG® Rewards Club Booking Benefit. Reservations booked through a Global Distribution System (GDS) are eligible for a welcome amenity. GDS bookings are booked through travel agents whom book reservations using a company’s travel portal. Examples are Cliqbook and Carlson Wagonlit).

    I hope this helped to clarify your concern but if not, please let us know – we’d be happy to follow up.

    • Would you really pay £7.65 for a drink in Slough…? At least this was truly free since you got the points too.

      Not sure what isn’t clear, you should always get points and/or drink+/-snack on all stays including reward nights.

      • Agreed. You’re still being fobbed off, Graham.

      • True. It clearly doesn’t exclude reward nights. Correct I wouldn’t pay that for a glass of wine would of had a water probably.

        I’ll keep contesting it as a matter of principal now. Seems over on F T there are many people not getting the top but then also getting both. Hard being a consistent global brand when run by franchises

        • And it seems that can’t provide proof so just posted the points for me 🙂

          Hello Graham,

          Warm greetings from IHG Rewards Club! Thank you for letting us know. I apologize for the delayed response as we are currently receiving a high volume of emails.

          On behalf of the hotel, please accept our apologies for the delay in posting the welcome bonus points to your account.

          We’ve just credited the 600 points to your Platinum Elite account, so you now have x points.

          We appreciate your patience regarding this matter. If this happens again, kindly inform us immediately and we will be delighted to be of assistance to you again.

          For all other concerns regarding your account or the IHG Rewards Club program, please contact us anytime and we’d love to help you out.

          Thanks for your usual support and understanding! We look forward to being of assistance in the future.

        • Good result, glad they saw sense in the end!