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

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 launches 72 hour flash sale 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.


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.

EXCLUSIVE: Negotiations for Priority Pass lounge in Terminal 5 'well advanced'
Hilton 'Double Your HHonors' promo for March-May now active - combines with Avios and Virgin offer
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  1. Nick Burch says:

    I can see why BA want to offer HBO on their very cheapest fares, especially on routes where there’s strong competition from lower-cost players, so they look good in comparison searches.

    I can’t work out why they offer HBO on their most expensive fare buckets though? With lots of companies using booking systems/rules which force the cheapest fares, lots of corporate travellers (including status card holders) are presumably ending up HBO on their work travel without any way to avoid it

    • Agreed – I’ve found myself unwittingly on a HBO fare to London when booking through the corporate travel agent. To be honest, I don’t know how I’d select a non-HBO fare on the system let alone be able to justify it if challenged.

      • They do it due to IT system compatibility. If the outbound has an HBO fare available but the inbound doesn’t, the system does not compute and won’t allow HBO out and normal back. So in order to get HBO out, you need and HBO back option

        • Calchas says:

          Yes but if your customer is already willing to pay a full Y fare why not retract the option of the cheap HBO, O fare?

    • Calchas says:

      BA make a saving in the charge they pay the airports to handle checked baggage when they sell HBO fares

      • 90% of HBO passengers would never have taken a bag in the first place! I would guess they don’t pay any more than £2 for handling a suitcase either.

  2. BAEC tier points on Helsinki – Dublin seem a poor deal when compared to HEL-MAN or HEL-LHR. You get half the tier points even though you fly further (and probably see Manchester down below on the way from Helsinki to Dublin). This is because BA offer more TP for some far away european places like Helsinki and Finnair match that but ONLY that, so longer Finnair european flights revert to normal TP rates if the airport is not in the UK.

    • Calchas says:

      BA only offer extra TPs on their band 4 routes and routes out of the UK.
      They don’t give me extra TPs on my 1600 mile north American flights either. 😉

  3. Poincianakings says:

    Is that right Raffles? Isn’t it you can pay to select a seat on HBO at the time of booking As well?

    • Yes, you can pay to select a seat at time of booking. However, as doing that would take the cost to the same price as a non-HBO fare, it is unlikely your corporate travel department will allow it.

  4. Re Not being able to choose your own seats. Add this to the recent points changes and I have to ask the question of whether there is a mole working on behalf of the competition in BA’s marketing team.

    How else can you explain a raft of measures that disincentivse me and I am sure others from booking a flight with BA.

  5. I had been pretty sanguin about the BAEC changes that come in April but am genuinely furious at this latest downgrade to BAEC benefits. I could have accepted a number of scenarios with regard to seat selection but the blanket ban on changes without payment is a step to far. I wrote to BA, my first such email with regard to benefit changes. The BA cut and paste department obviously worked overtime during the night to come up with the following nonsense.

    • I am sorry to hear that this change of seat selection when travelling on our Hand Baggage Only fares is making you reconsider your travelling future with British Airways.

      We believe that these fares continue to offer our customers who choose them excellent value for money, however in order to offer such low fares we have to restrict the terms and conditions on them.

      Of course everyone on our short-haul flights, regardless of the fare purchased, is offered benefits such as:
      – an allocated seat number before boarding their aircraft
      – a generous two-bag cabin baggage allowance (
      – free online, mobile or airport check-in and boarding pass issuance
      – parties travelling with infants get free seat choice at time of booking, and families are allocated seats together (where possible) a few days before departure
      – infants and children on Hand Baggage Only fares may still check in a fully-collapsible pushchair and a car seat.
      – semi-flexible and fully flexible fare choices, offering extra benefits
      – Executive Club benefits including earning Avios points that can be redeemed for flights
      – a unique London proposition – British Airways is the only short-haul airline to fly from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City with fares that can combine choice of airports

      Please be assured that we will share your feedback with our Executive Club team.

      I hope that this will not come as too much of a disappointment.

      • Olivula says:

        BA is doing a fantastic job of making their airline less and less attractive to use. A business that tries hard to disincentive customers has a problem, sooner or later.

      • Worzel says:

        I had a similar response from BA in April last year when I emailed to have a moan about them “forgetting” to make mention, in the Executive Club Members Area, that they were increasing cancellation charges. Not happy I chased it up and got:

        ‘Thank you for taking the time to write back to us. I would like to apologise for the delay in replying to you. I am sorry you felt that our website was not updated with the information related to the increase in amendment charges to your booking. Please accept my sincere apologies.

        I would like to assure you that we do listen and take account of what our customers tell us. I have now recorded the details of your complaint. A group of senior managers from across the business look at the problems our customers face, and how we can improve. Some issues are easy to fix quickly, and some may take a little more time to put right. We want to iron out the difficulties, and our chief executive expects us to make continuous improvements across all areas of our business for our customers.

        Thank you for taking the time to follow up with me again. We hope we will have the opportunity to welcome you on board again soon’.

        • callum says:

          No rational person without vested interests would whine about those responses. Just because they don’t tell you what you WANT them them to tell you, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it.

        • Worzel says:

          OK Callum.

  6. Regarding Alitalia’s MilleMiglia: I had a Tokyo-Paris-London flight three days ago. The ticket is sold by Air France but the first leg is an AF code-share operated by Japan Airlines, which is not a partner of Alitalia. The miles for my second leg has already posted but not the first one, I wonder if the flight being operated by a non-partner means I don’t get the miles?

    • Potentially. Does SkyTeam work on the operating carrier or the marketing carrier? That would be the clincher.

      For oneworld it is marketing carrier (so you can’t credit the JAL flight to BA). With Star Alliance it is operating carrier.

      • Thanks! I know FlyingBlue works on the marketing carrier but I’m not sure if it’s the same across SkyTeam. I will probably reach the customer service if nothing happens in the next week. I don’t wanna lost 12k miles!

  7. andystock says:

    The orange lot must be loving this latest move by BA.

  8. Jovan says:

    Re: Finnair flights – I was on MAN-HEL about four weeks ago and it was operated by FlyBe E190. Has something changed recently and it is operated by the mainline?

    And a thought re: BA HBO fares, would it be better to check in as late as possible, if the allocation of seats will start with the rubbish ones?

    • Thanks, have tweaked the text as (if Flybe is running Manchester at present) that cannot be the reason for the lack of Avios seats.

    • timezonehopper says:

      This isn’t a recent change – Flybe Nordic have been operating the MAN-HEL route for a couple of years now. You still get tier points and Avios as if flown on AY.

  9. can anyone tell me if they have ever had a genuine ‘sale’ price from 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?

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

    • I don’t use 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 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. 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.

  10. 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….

  11. 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


      • 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 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!

  12. 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.

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

    • 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.

  14. 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!

    • 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!

        • 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 🙂

  15. 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’

  16. 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

    • 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.