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

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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.)

Comments (62)

  • Joe says:

    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.

    • Katy says:

      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?!

      • Joe says:

        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.

        • Katy says:

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

          • Joe says:

            £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.

  • 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