Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Thoughts from the Business Travel Show

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I ran a couple of posts in the last few days based on news I picked up last Tuesday at Earls Court at the Business Travel Show.

This is the main UK event for the UK business travel industry, and attracts a mix of corporate travel managers, PA’s and a scattering of keen travellers.

Regular readers of Head for Points will know that I am very sceptical about travel shows. Business Travel Market did not impress me last year, neither did The Luxury Travel Fair.

The Business Travel Show is the best of the bunch. That is not saying much, though, and it is weakened by BA refusing to exhibit. Ironically, though, Willie Walsh – the CEO of BA’s parent – did give the opening address.

The only regular exhibitor who always makes a big effort is Virgin Atlantic. This year, yet again, they had a huge stand with Upper Class seat mock-ups. Japan Airlines was also showing off its new fully-flat business class seat.

That was it, though, in terms of seats you could try out. Previous years have seen a better selection.

Apart from the airlines, you have a mix of travel management companies, a lot of very small (one desk) airline stands, the train companies and the train ticketing groups, a few individual hotels and a few hotel chains (Travelodge had the biggest stand, Hilton by comparison had a very poor effort).

A key reason to go is the Business Traveller magazine wine tastings, which run twice a day on their stand! I try to meet friends here if I can, and it is a pleasant way to spend an hour.

(Although Tom Otley, editor of Business Traveller, went down a notch in my estimation when he said he’s never read this site!)

They feature wines from their ‘Cellars in the Sky’ awards, which reward the best in-flight wine list. Amazingly (!) British Airways actually won one of these awards this year, for one of its First Class white wines.

One thing I did come away with was a proper understanding of Virgin Atlantic‘s coverage these days. They had a huge route map on one wall of their stand.

I couldn’t help but notice that all of my long-haul travel from the past 18 months – Dubai, Barbados, New York, Cape Town – could have been done with Virgin.

I have real issues with Virgin Atlantic over their ludicrous cancellation policies on award seats (you lose 25%-100% of your miles), and their ‘coffin’ style Upper Class seats don’t work well with young children. However, it is time I looked at trying them out for a long-haul redemption.

Comments (5)

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  • tom says:

    Hi Raffles and thanks a million for the fantastic blog

    Sorry for going of topic but I couldn’t figure out how to contact you so I’ll ask you here

    How do I transfer MR amex points to a different avios account for example from my gold card to my wife’s BA account?

    Second question, any possibilities to transfer UK AMEX points to American airlines?

    Thanks again, enjoying your blog every morning!

    • Raffles says:

      raffles [at] for future reference!

      Avios transfer – assuming your wifes Avios account has the same address and surname as your Avios account, the transfer might go through automatically. If you have already transferred MR points to YOUR Avios account, you will need to ring Amex and changes the Avios account linked to your MR account to your wifes. Don’t tell them its your wifes, of course, just say your account has got a new number.

      American – you can do it, but the deal is bad. You need to move your Amex points to Starwood Preferred Guest (rate of 1 Amex to 0.5 Starwood) and then out of Starwood at 1:1 to American. This means that you only get 0.5 AA miles per Amex point. If you transfer 20,000 Starwood points at once then you get a 5,000 mile bonus – so 40,000 Amex = 20,000 Starwood SPG = 25,000 American. However, that is still only 0.625 AA miles per Amex point, so not great.

      Remember that there is a specific UK AA credit card you can get, see the Credit Cards Update page. The current 5,000 mile sign-up bonus isn’t very generous, though.

  • tom says:

    Thanks a million for the quick response!

    Thanks for the link for future reference

    However, regarding this two issues,

    About the MR transfer to a different AVOIS account, it won’t work with a different surname and postcode?
    I just used my wife’s account as an example, as we anyway share a household account, does it really make a difference in who’s specific account the avios are in ? In my BAEC or in here’s?

    Regarding the American airlines issue, all I want is to be able to fly American Lon- NYC with AA low taxes and avoid BA high tax and fuel charges , so is there any other way to do it ? I have avois and amex MR .

    about the American airlines credit card , as I hold already the MBNA virgin Atlantic card it’s unlikely that I’ll be approved on the MBNA AA card . But if the amex SPG can be transferred to AA why not apply for this one instead?

    Sorry for troubling once again, and thanks again for sharing with us your information

    • Raffles says:

      Different surname and postcode – almost certainly won’t work, not with BA. Some Amex partners, ie Nectar and Carlson, do not check but BA does.

      Anyway, if you share a household account, it doesn’t matter! The Avios from both people are pooled for making redemptions, so you can transfer your MR points to your BA account and BA will show you the combined total of both you and your wife when you log-in. Either of you can then spend the Avios.

      There are 2 ways of avoiding taxes to New York using Avios. The first is using Aer Lingus from Dublin, the second using airberlin from Dusseldorf or Berlin. (I am flying airberlin from New York to Berlin next week, in business, and the tax is £1.50!) You will need to buy a separate positioning flight to Dublin or Germany though. Click on ‘Avios Redemption University’ under the Categories menu and you’ll find articles on airberlin and Aer Lingus.

      There are other options (transfer Amex points to SAS or Scandinavian and redeem for a United Airlines flight to New York, or to Flying Blue for a Delta flight) but you would need to check very carefully about fuel surcharges. And, of course, you can’t escape Air Passenger Duty that way.

      AA / MBNA – MBNA is happy to let you have multiple credit cards with them. If you get refused, you ring them up and offer to reduce the credit limit on your Virgin card by £x,000 in return for being given a credit limit of £x,000 on the AA card. This always works, MBNA is very flexible this way.

      And yes, you’re right, the SPG card – given the 20,000 point sign-up bonus at the moment – is a better deal for AA. Long term, the AA card is marginally better (1.5 miles per £1, whilst the SPG card is 1.25 miles per £1 and only then if you convert in 20,000 point chunks). But for sign-up bonus, SPG wins.

      Remember you can also buy AA miles fairly cheaply (well, cheaper than Avios) in their regular promotions.

      • tom says:

        Thanks. Waiting to hear your experience from business class with air Berlin

        About the MBNA AA cars , I think I’ll wait for a more generous sign up offer

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