Bits: Waitrose / Virgin – up and down, BA to launch airside in-app upgrades

News in brief:

Waitrose / Virgin – what’s going on?

On Wednesday I wrote an article pointing out that the generous Virgin Atlantic earning rate for shopping in-store at Waitrose was due to end.

Giving you 4 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1 was unsustainable as anyone who understands the economics of grocery retailing will tell you.  I suggested that you might want to buy some Waitrose gift cards to lock in ‘4 miles per £1’ for a while longer, since I expected a fall.

And what happened yesterday?  It isn’t clear.

If you are not logged in to the Virgin shopping site, it shows that Virgin Flying Club increased the earning rate in Waitrose to 5 miles per £1.   However, once I log in (with cookies cleared) this changes to just 1 mile per £1.

We have seen this behaviour before with Caffe Nero on the Avios in-store shopping programme.  A high rate is promised, and continues to be promised to new customers, but existing customers see their earning rate cut without warning.  Even worse, anyone who looks at the Virgin site to double-check their earning rate – but fails to log-in – will mistakenly think they are still getting the higher rate and spend accordingly.  Not clever.

Details of how to earn Virgin miles at Waitrose, including how to register your credit cards, are in this article.


British Airways to launch airside in-app upgrades

I got a news release this week about the development of the British Airways app.  This was all very ‘meh’ (“there’s been some good progress on fixing the basics”) except for one nugget of information.

From this Summer, British Airways customers will be able to upgrade themselves airside via the app.  I assume that this has been made possible by the ability to generate a new digital boarding pass automatically.

There is no clue about how this would work:

Will you be able to upgrade with Avios as well as cash?

What will the cut-off be?  (By definition, if you’re airside these are upgrades which will be processed in the 90 minutes or so before departure.)  

Will these upgrades only open up after check-in closes, at which point BA would know exactly how many people are going to be on the flight?  

How will BA handle catering, given that meals will already have been despatched to the aircraft at the point you upgrade?

There are plenty of ways this could go wrong, but it has the potential to be a very interesting initiative.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

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  1. Speedbird676 says:

    BA will already onload standby pax when the flight closes at -45 mins, so they have a mechanism in place to handle a few last minute meals. This is common practice for most airlines. My guess is these requests will all be added to the upgrade list and processed along with standby pax at closure. Bad news for staff upgrades 🙁

    • Fine for ex-LHR and longhauls, but I expect on inbound shorthauls you just won’t get a meal. I don’t know why anybody would pay last minute prices for CE though.

  2. I suspect that what they are looking to do is try and monetise these overbooking upgrades. Why not try and sell something that you would end up giving away for free at the gate? Bad news for higher status holders.

    • BA has never been big on upgrading status pax. What they actually do is upgrade people who do not usually fly that cabin to persuade them to fly it next time. If you are in PE you have a better chance of a CW upgrade if you have never flown CW before.

      • Yup, upgraded to CW and F as blue and once to F as silver, never upgraded as gold

      • once got upgraded from WT to WT+ at check in and then WT+ to CW at the gate, still to thus day not sure why as a lowly blue, didn’t complaint though.

  3. Stu R says:

    Well I’ve linked my BAPP card to my Virgin shopping site, spent £130 in Waitrose in the last month (our nearest store is 30 miles away) and my FC balance from Waitrose = 0 miles.

    I guess you’d say my earnings rate is definitely on the ‘down’ side!

    • If you look online you will see what has tracked but not paid. I am due about 6,000 miles (which show as tracked) but have only had a few hundred so far.

      • I didn’t see this before, but it would explain why some anticipated points have not tracked. Was the exclusion of “Retailer store cards” there all along, on the Virgin / Wairose instore page?
        Please note, rewards can’t be earned on transactions made through:
        – Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay
        – Wallet providers including PayPal and YoYo Wallet
        – Retailer store cards
        – Cards not bearing the Amex, Visa or MasterCard/Maestro symbols

        • That’s not what it means, I think. I think it means that if you have, say, a Next account card then you cannot register that account card – and it won’t have a MC / Visa / Amex logo anyway (and of course Next isn’t included, but it’s an example …..!).

      • It’s not that simple. Virtually none of my myriad of waitrose purchases have even tracked. This is possibly the most disappointing points experience of my life….

        • Fenny says:

          Raise a missing transaction claim.
          I kept a list of all my purchases since the points started. Some of them have not tracked and I will be raising claims when I have time over the bank holiday. My desk drawer is full of receipts, but they are all tracked on my mywaitrose card along with my free coffee, so there shouldn’t be any reason to decline them.

  4. Angmo says:

    I got upgraded on Cathay recently due to an aircraft type swap which meant there was no Premium Economy (technically I was downgraded but then upgraded by check-in).

    I was surprised that despite this I still got the requested special meal (Indian Vegetarian).

    Additionally I missed a connection in Hong Kong and got rebooked, again into Business as this flight had no PremiumEconomy. A special meal (Indian Vegetarian) in business class got loaded again.

    • CX has equipment swaps all the time on regional (though sounds like one of your flights might have been longhaul) so they have the special meal thing down to an art

  5. My other question re upgrades is will they only be for direct flights to/from LHR (as is the case with POUGs just now), or will it be able to cope with domestic connections?

  6. rotundo says:

    I wonder if the app will allow to choose the seat while purchasing the upgrade. If the CW middle twin seats are the only ones left available I want to know beforehand!

  7. Simon says:

    O/T Just got this on my Amex Plat login….
    Apply for the companion
    Platinum Credit Card – Representative14.9% APR variable
    by 31 May 2017 and receive3,000 bonus Membership Rewards® points

    when you spend £500 on the Card in the first three months.

    • Good deal, def do this.

      • Grimz says:

        I have this on my Gold card – is this worth doing?

        • Andrew says:

          I had a similar offer, via targeted(?) email on my BAPP (but for 3,000 Avios) on my first supp card. Shame I already have one.

        • I got one on my BA Blue card but only for 1000 extra avios.

    • If it doesn’t involve a credit search it’s fundamentally free points. But I don’t think I’d be so keen to dent my credit history for the sake of a £25-30 payoff.

      • Amex has never credit searched me since my first ever Amex

        A dent would last for 6 months, I would happily accept £30 for that, it’s not like I’m applying for 10 cards a year

      • I think people overplay this. Lots of things, including a new mobile phone or a new insurance company, can lead to a credit search. It should have virtually no impact on someone with a perfect record of repayments, low utilisation of existing debt and at least one credit card with a long life span (I’ve had my Amex Plat since 1999, which makes me look reliable).

    • Miguel says:

      Care to share the link to apply, please?

    • I got that offer via email last month on my gold card and had forgotten about it… Thanks for the timely reminder!

    • Graeme says:

      Ooh, I have that too! That’s pleasing – I only upgraded from Gold about a month ago, and I still have the Gold Credit Card. Nice, easy Avios.

      Thanks Simon – there’s every chance I wouldn’t have noticed that.

  8. Richard says:

    >>By definition, if you’re airside these are upgrades which will be processed in the 90 minutes or so before departure

    where does the 90 minutes come from ? Not everyone starts their flight at Heathrow. On a connecting flight you might be airside many hours before departure.

    • When BA says it is launching ‘airside’ upgrades, what it means is ‘last minute upgrades’.

      They aren’t getting to let you upgrade 4 hours before departure just because you happen to be airside at Edinburgh at the time, waiting for a connection. They can and do still sell seats – and for full fare – at that point.

      • Macca says:

        Coincidentally I just stumbled across your post about the Loyalty 2017 IATA figures saying 44% of people would like airlines to sell last minute discounted points upgrades. Could BA be actually listening to its most loyal customers for once…?

  9. I’d like to think bringing in additional revenue from Airside upgrades would be a positive step to improve the customer experience and more importantly potentially reduce the cynical deliberate overbooking and damaging forced downgrades in other classes.

    I’d also like to think BA would promptly adhere to its obligations for downgrades within 7 days (as advised by the CAA under EU261/2004) without having to go to unnecessarily lengthy arbitration.

    But I guess I’m a naive optimist at heart…

  10. Gavin says:

    O/T – anyone got any experience of Sri Lankan in Y. Honeymoon involves 4 flights with them. I can see there’s the option to bid for a J upgrade but I imagine the LHR route will be full from paid passengers

    • Chris says:

      Flex Sri Lankan Y from Colombo to Doha last month, it was my first time in economy for a while but it was absolutely fine. Meal was right up there with the best food i’ve ever had in the air, vegetarian curry it was oustanding

    • David S says:

      Have done business and economy short and medium haul with them. Economy is perfectly fine and food is very good particularly if you like curries!!! Recommend the A330 aircraft.

  11. Doug M says:

    Just as a data point. Waitrose gone from 4 to 5 for me, I have about 200 miles approved, and around 800 pending.

    • Clear cookies (or use in-private browsing), log in and look again.

      • Mycity says:

        Yep mines as Rob suggests, shows 5 miles per £ till I log in after clearing cookies it then shows 1 miles per £. However my wife has never shopped at Waitrose through Virgin, go through the same process hers shows all the way 5 miles per £1. Looks like we’re using her account moving forward.

  12. rams1981 says:

    In terms of earning is buying John Lewis cards from Tesco the best approach (assuming they still give club card point per £ spent)

  13. Dennis says:

    O/T – how long for the Starwood credit card referral points to post?

    • Genghis says:

      A few days. Often the day before the person you referred gets the card.

      • On a related topic, I’ve spend £1000 on my new SPG card and referred my wife in less than a month. I now have 16000 Starpoints awaiting transfer. Am I completely safe to cancel the card now and expect the starpoints to hit my Starwood account in a week or two (as happens when I cancel the BAPP), or should I wait for them to transfer before cancelling (and incur part/more of the card fee)?


        • Genghis says:

          I’ve always waited for them to transfer across to SPG. There can be issues problems otherwise as @Liz can testify.

        • Thanks, I’ll play it safe then. Going to be tight getting in another round before SPG closes.

        • Genghis says:

          Supposedly it’s now autumn 2018 so looks like a few churns still for the taking

  14. lostantipod says:

    This is BA we are talking about. It is either a plan to monetise last minute upgraders, or a ploy to get more passengers airside earlier (to improve flight departure and get more handluggage in the hold) with the carrot of an upgrade.

  15. OT but BA…
    Flying to Alicante tomorrow and booked 4 economy seats, which we selected and paid for last October. A family of four, we picked a row of 3 and the aisle seat across the way, all in row 6. This was confirmed in our itinerary. As I was about to check in, we are now a middle and window in rows 22 and 23. Call me cynical, bit I wonder if row 6 has been designated CW and we have just been shunted down the back. Customer services closed at 8 and I have decided not to check in until I speak to customer services and understand the reasons for the move. Does anyone have any similar experience of this situation? Not the best way to start the family holiday and this has never happened with our usual carrier, EasyJet

    • Genghis says:

      Easyjet don’t have a habit of moving the J/Y divider…

      • Thanks Genghis I’ll use that line when I speak to customer services tomorrow

        • Jonathan says:

          Common issue with BA in short haul Y as the divider is moved frequently to accommodate actual & predicted CE loads. I would avoid choosing first couple of rows as you can end up being dumped in whatever is left down the back. Incidentally, if the curtain moves forward again due to lower than predicted CE loads then the system is not sophisticated enough to move you back to your original seats so if moved keep checking every day to see if they open up again

  16. I had a really strange experience today. We flew LHR – JFK on WTP, but we had separate booking references and I got bumped to CW. I noticed on the app, that there was the upgrade offer for £420 on place for the return flights. I went to ticketing at LHR lounge to check what can be done, but they said they couldn’t do anything and/or the price would be a lot more. I tried to upgrade my partner on her app and it went through the payment and failed. I called the Gold service line and got poor service, basically she said there was nothing to be done. We got to the hotel and I went online on my laptop and the upgrade option was there again. I starting upgrading and there was the selection available and there was a small banner saying upgrade not available for this flight, yet I was able to proceed. I upgraded us both and the seats were updated on the app.

    • Where is the upgrade shown on the app and online? I have never seen it and I travel to the US with BA about ten times a year?!

      • A little star with text upgrade shows up next to the seat number in the app. Online that comes up when you go ‘manage your flight’ and it’ll come up on top half of the page ‘this flight is available for upgrade for a limited time only’ etc.

        • Thank you!honestly never seen it before. What are the prices like usually for transatlantic WTP to CW?

        • £420 single, £840 return. I had the option of upgrading both ways, even though I was already sitting in the lounge, but I had a free upgrade to CW already.

  17. Chris Cannon says:

    Saw something similar to this last week. My wife and I on different booking references. They upgraded and moved me from WTP to CW but not her. When I pointed out that we wanted to sit together they tried to sell her a 1 way upgrade for £635 to Chicago. We declined as that’s extortionate and then they upgraded her anyway. They were obviously trying to maximise revenue on something they were going to do anyway.

    What I also found interesting was even on their screens, they see the same seat availability as the ticket holder – as Silver I have more free sear options than her on Bronze. I would have thought they would have been able to see it all