Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Bits: BA hand baggage fares, hotels.com sale, 4000 free Alitalia miles, Finnair starts Dublin, Virgin sale

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My inbox continues to exceed the space available for full length articles!  So here is a summary:

British Airways makes ‘hand baggage only’ fares less attractive

You will probably have received an email from British Airways yesterday regarding ‘hand baggage only’ fares.  Introduced two years, initially at Gatwick in an attempt to stop the rise of easyJet, they are now available across short-haul at Heathrow and London City.

From March 26th, you can no longer select a seat on an HBO fare.  It is actually worse than that – BA will randomly give you a seat when check-in opens.  This will presumably be a middle seat next to the toilets.

If you don’t like your seat, you need to pay to change it.  Whether this will be enforced onboard by the crew if you decide to move during the boarding process I don’t know!

There is no leeway for Executive Club Gold, Silver or Bronze members.

What you might not have realised is that this policy applies to ALL ‘hand baggage only’ fares, even fully flexible ones.  If you pay £643 for a fully flexible HBO ticket to Hamburg (as opposed to £663 for a standard fully flex) you will STILL be dumped in a middle seat at the back!

It seems that ‘hand baggage only’ fares have been too successful.  Whilst some passengers may have decided not to check in a bag to save money, the majority of users were presumably people already travelling without a suitcase.  They were receiving a discount for no good reason.  BA now wants to persuade these people to go back to paying the higher price and leaving HBO as a niche product.

British Airways 350 3

hotels.com launches 72 hour flash sale

hotels.com is running another 3-day sale this week, starting today.  Details are here.  Advertised savings are ‘up to’ 50%.

4,000 miles for joining Alitalia’s MilleMiglia

Etihad is now in full control of Alitalia’s MilleMiglia loyalty programme – and in partial control of the airline.  To encourage new members, they are offering 4,000 bonus miles if you sign up before March 15th.

You will need some activity on the account within three months for the 4,000 miles to be awarded, which could be a small American Express Membership Rewards transfer or some SkyTeam flights.

There is no desperate reason to join up – you can’t do anything with 4,000 miles.  That said, if you will have a one-off SkyTeam flight (Air France, KLM, Alitalia etc) coming up, this bonus would push you along a bit.  Some Etihad partners, eg airberlin, can also be credited to MilleMiglia.

The link to join is here.

Helsinki

Finnair launches Dublin to Helsinki

Something I picked up at the Business Travel Show last week which had otherwise passed me by was the impending launch of a new Dublin to Helsinki route by Finnair.

If you have never been to Helsinki it is a lovely, albeit not huge, city. Summer is obviously the best time to go given the temperatures at other times. It is also a very short hop by ferry to Tallinn in Estonia which is another beautiful place to visit.

The service will use an Embraer 190 aircraft with 100 seats. It will operate six days a week (not Tuesday) from March 30th until October.

Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any Avios redemption seats available (yet?) –  possibly as this route is operated by the Flybe Finland joint venture.  You would earn Avios on a cash ticket though.  Finnair also flies from Manchester to Helsinki and that route IS available for a redemption.

Virgin Atlantic economy and premium economy sale

Finally, Virgin has launched a short economy and premium economy sale which ends TODAY.  Fares are certainly not bad (£349 to Dubai from mid April) but not life changing either.  Full details here.

Comments (48)

  • Andi says:

    can anyone tell me if they have ever had a genuine ‘sale’ price from hotels.com? i use them when i stay at a hotel without its own loyalty club/points system, but when i check their price with anyone elses its never EVER cheaper.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that their ‘rates’ and ‘sales rates’ are based on RRP or Rack Rates of the chain.

    anyone know or think any different?

    • Tom says:

      I always think it is just a giant con..never really seen significantly cheaper prices!

    • Kai says:

      I don’t use hotels.com so often but last time I checked a hotel in Barcelona and its sale price was indeed much cheaper than competitors. I would always use Trivago to compare the prices before make the booking.

    • Scott says:

      There is always the clause in their material that says something along the lines of “excludes most major hotel chains”. So the sale fares generally only apply to a small number of independent hotels that their sales people will have persuaded to discount. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t some value out there somewhere, but it is hard to find and only suitable to a relatively small number of people…

    • Lady London says:

      For mainstream European geographies and some others, I used to find hrs.de used via the Air Berlin site did provide some very good pricing on some hotels in key places – typically either European cities or holiday destinations popular with Germans. Going via the Air Berlin site even without a flight booking on AB did produce these better hotel rates quite often.

      Hrs.de did work very hard not to honour one exceptionally low price, which I had genuinely thought was an opening promotion, on one of my bookings though. I resolved it drect with the hotel in the end and they honoured it. I stopped using hrs after that but would still recommend taking a look.

  • czechoslovakia says:

    Re: HBO fare email
    “Your main piece of hand baggage can be up to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in), including the handle, pockets or wheels at a maximum weight of 23kgs (51lbs).”
    23KG! Is that a typo? I can imagine the scenes….

  • Brian says:

    Well, one thing this HBO change does is to make booking via the AMEX Travel site (and thus getting bonus MR points and no credit card charges) much more attractive. As somebody who never checks in luggage, the HBO fares always stopped me from booking via AMEX, since the 10 pound saving outweighed the extra poins and charges. However, being able to select a seat will now push me towards AMEX. No doubt BA pay AMEX a commission…

    • Ronster says:

      Hi Brian/Rob

      Just booked a BA flight to a European destination via AMEX Travel

      I was wondering if you could kindly tell me

      1)How do you reserve your seat BA seat with AMEX Travel?Can I know do this for free by ringing Amex Travel,after my ticket has been purchased?
      2)I will have hold luggage. How do I know the above ticket lets me bring hold luggage for free and is in fact NOT a HBO ticket?
      3)Does anyone know if holding a Cathay Pacific Gold card, means a free seat booking?

      Many thanks

      R

      • Rob says:

        Cathay Gold gives free seat selection. You need to get your Cathay number into the booking. The easiest way, oddly, is to use the Finnair or Qatar website ‘Manage My Booking’ system and pull up the booking using the 6 character booking reference. It will let you insert your Cathay number.

        Wait half an hour, go to ba.com and retrieve your booking using the 6 digit reference. It should let you select seats for free.

        The ticket rules should tell you your baggage allowance. Hopefully Amex has not naughtily sold you a HBO ticket without telling you!

  • Flight Risk says:

    Can anybody answer this for me please.

    When redeeming virgin air miles is all availability shown on the virgin website like BA or do you need to go on to partner sites separately like Air China or would that availability be shown via virgin? I’ve never redeemed on virgin before.

  • Dan says:

    Quite a generous offer on the Atalia sign up – does anyone know the expiry rules around these points?

    • Alan says:

      I’ve never joined it myself, but be very wary – they’ve repeatedly closed their old programme and enforced miles expiry if members aren’t quick. On the SkyTeam front Delta have no echoey, although they’ve just devalued their longevity.

  • sandgrounder says:

    Sorry for going off topic, but it is the last Tesco Clubcard Boost Flash Sale today, and the product featured is railcards. The price is a third of the usual- £5 in tokens. A couple could get this back on one trip to the airport with a Two Together. The token is valid for six months so it’s worth getting one if you have a renewal coming up soon. They are going fast though so get in there!

    • Rob says:

      Thanks for the reminder. Grabbed a Friends & Family one – don’t normally bother as they are not valid in First Class, but will easily justify £5 for the odd trip around the South East. 49 left!

      • callum says:

        Why you’d use first class in the South East, except maybe during rush hour, is completely beyond me!

        • Rob says:

          Exactly, I don’t – which is why I can use the new railcard I just bought! For Inter-City trips we usually go F, just so the kids can annoy a better class of person 🙂

  • Frankie says:

    Does anyone know with the new HBO seat rules, whether the following sentence in the email from BA means that you’ll be able at least see the seat they’ve allocated you at check in, at that time, and can then choose to pay to change it if you don’t like it?
    ‘When travelling on these great value fares, your seat will be allocated when check-in opens. Should you wish to change your seat you can pay to do so at that time’

  • Simon B says:

    Regarding Finnair redemptions, I am looking to book an internal flight from Helsinki to Ivalo in Finland. The flight itself is marked as “Finnair operated by Flybe Finland” but can only be booked as a cash ticket on Finnair’s website (not on Flybe).

    Any idea if it is possible to book this as an Avios reward flight (the route does not seem to be available on ba.com).

    • Rob says:

      Good question. The new Finnair service from Dublin is also flown by the Flybe JV and I couldn’t find Avios seats for that when I tried. You won’t find seats available by Flybe because a) it was a subcontracting job done by Flybe and b) they are pulling out from the joint venture after taking large losses so these services may go back to being wholly run by Finnair.