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Bits: new BA strike dates, Virgin Trains reduces Flying Club earning and Traveller redemptions

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News in brief:

New British Airways strike dates announced

It seems that more of us will be getting the chance to fly on a Qatar Airways short haul plane this summer.

British Airways Mixed Fleet cabin crew have announced another two week strike, starting on 19th July.

This leaves just two days of normal service after the current strike ends on 16th July.

Flights from Gatwick and London City are not impacted, and the number of Heathrow cancellations at the moment appears to be modest.  BA has been cancelling flights to Doha, moving passengers to Qatar Airways and freeing up cabin crew, as well as leasing nine fully crewed aircraft from Qatar Airways.  None of this comes cheap, of course.


Virgin Trains West Coast cuts Flying Club earning

There are two ways to earn rewards when bookings Virgin Trains West Coast tickets directly on the Virgin West Coast website.

You can either take 2 Nectar points per £1 or 2 Virgin Flying Club miles per £1 spent.

As long as you collect Flying Club miles, I have always recommended taking those as they are worth twice as much as the Nectar points in my view.  The only reason to take Nectar points is if Virgin Trains is running one of its regular bonus point promotions via the Nectar app – these are often worth 500 or 1,000 Nectar points on top of your base points.

From 1st August, Virgin West Coast is halving the earning rate to 1 Virgin Flying Club mile per £1.

Even existing bookings are included in this.

Going forward, my recommendation will be neutral between taking the Nectar points or the Flying Club miles as I think the value of the two rewards is now roughly equal.

There is no word yet as to whether Virgin East Coast will follow.  The two companies have different ownership – East Coast is 90% Stagecoach / 10% Virgin Group whilst West Coast is 49% Stagecoach / 51% Virgin Group.  Very oddly, it is the franchise which is 51% owned by Virgin Group which is reducing the money paid over to Virgin Atlantic (49% owned by Virgin Group) in favour of paying Nectar instead.

Virgin Trains Traveller changes

….. and hits the Traveller programme too

Virgin Trains West Coast has an invitation-only loyalty programme called Traveller.  To be eligible, you need to be booking substantial volumes of First Class travel on West Coast.

Details can be found on the West Coast website here.

The primary benefit of Traveller was free First Class travel on off-peak trains from Friday until noon on Monday.

For any long distance commuter on the West Coast network, this was an excellent deal.  If you lived in London during the week you were basically getting free travel to and from your other home.

For bookings made after 3rd September, this benefit will only be available for travel on a Saturday and Sunday.  It will be a big blow for those commuters will now need to pay for their travel home or resign themselves to just spending a Saturday night out of London.

Comments (86)

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  • JamesB says:

    OT BA: I have two longhaul CW redemptions coming up which I booked before the introduction of CE on domestic flights. My domestic connections and seat reservations from INV- and EDI-LHR were migrated from row 1 to row 9 so I remain in economy for both reservations after the introcdtion of CE. I raised a complaint about this and requested seats be reallocated in Club for the domestic sectors in keeping with my longhaul CW sectors but BA refused to budge. Does this mean I will no longer be able to access the lounge and use fast track at INV and EDI or can I still do so on the basis of the One World rules relating to longhaul business or first class flights on the same day? I would be interested to hear from others in a similar position what hapoened in practice and if anybody was able to get rebooked in Club?

    • d4ve says:

      I booked EDI to BOS in CW prior to introduction. Post introduction outbound was auto upgraded but inbound was not. I was on the phone for best part of 2 hours to get resolved – mainly because I think I selected the wrong phone option but they did eventually relent. Tried to get me to use more avios.

    • Stu_N says:

      Similar situation, I got my domestics changed from ET to CE both ways for 9,000 Avios and a small refund in the week or so after domestic CE was announced. That was a 2-4-1 booking with long haul F/CW sectors. No idea how they worked that out but the agent ran it past ticketing and they confirmed the calculation and it has all gone through OK. So far so good…

      I called a couple of weeks ago as I wanted to shift to an earlier connecting flight that now had Avios availability but it was going to be about £300 in taxes and charges to do so. Seems they have however done something weird to the booking when they upgraded it.

      There were a lot of inconsistent reports on changes from around the time of the announcement – some people got switched for free, some were flatly refused, others had partial charges like I did.

      You should be OK for lounge access for same day connections but if you have an overnight connection you won’t get access before the domestic leg unless you have status. Personally I would leave it be, particularly if you might want to change the bookings at any point in the future.

    • JamesB says:

      Thanks folks, I don’t want them messing with tickets so I’m happy to sit in ET for the short flights. More concerned about lounge as I have just cancelled amex platinum. I believe it is an aspire lounge at Inverness so I’m unsure they will know or respect the One World rules.

      • Kinkell says:

        I spent a while on the phone to CS and eventually got our recently travelled domestic legs from/ to INV as part of our 241 to west coast USA put into CE with no additional Avios or cost. I also got them to do the same for our forthcoming trip to Tallinn ( 280TPs hurrah!) . Both trips booked prior to the introduction of CE on domestic routes. All required talking to helpful knowledgeable Newcastle CS reps. ( Had to phone several times to eventually get someone to agree ! ) Inverness is a nice wee lounge and the folk who run it are superb and very helpful.

  • Leo says:

    OT: But BA – what isn’t?! Has anyone had experience of selecting seats in advance with status when buying a basic economy flight? Think it was changing last month but haven’t tried it yet.

  • Stu_N says:

    OT: again – looks like my Iberia Rioja Avios posted this week too, and the wine was really bloomin’ good for £8 a bottle.

  • Doodles says:

    OT but BA related, I booked a flight in the last two weeks. The website gave an error message at the time but the next day the flight was showing in my account and the part avios payment was deducted. I’m sure the amount showed as a pending transaction on my Lloyds avios card but it has now been removed. Should I just wait a while and see if the charge appears again? The flight is for April 2018.

    • Rob says:

      Yes, I’d wait. If there is an issue I’m sure BA will call you.

    • JamesB says:

      About 2 years ago I had a flight with BA which they never charged me for. Everything was fine, I had PNR, ticket number, could use manage my booking, select seats, received usual reminders and offers relating to flight by email up to OLCI before departure. The night before I tried OLCI and got an error message. I still thought little of it as everything else seemed in order. When I arrived at EDI check in the next day they could not find my reservation despite showing them details as hard copy and online on the spot. Was sent to the ticket counter, a series of long calls followed and I was told I had no seat reserved. Fortunately there was still three empty seats in CW so they gave me one but I had to pay tax etc on the spot. Ticket agent said it happens sometime but is very rare. I don’t know what they would have done if no seats were available or what they would do now in the Cruz era.

    • Genghis says:

      If you want them to charge you, contact their twitter team. They sorted it out for me a few months ago when I wanted to then cancel the credit card to churn.

    • Doodles says:

      Thanks all for the replies. After the error message, I just tried to book again so, after some concern I would end up with two tickets, I now need to make sure I have one. I will contact them later this month if nothing appears on my statement.

  • Andrew Gilligan says:

    A contact I have been working with for over a year on a much bigger story (breaking soon) works in a senior management position in BA. He told be (over a pint) that the Qatar deal is a first step in a larger strategic shift to outsource through the back door more of BA operations to Qatar. One consequence is we’ll see LHR increasingly becoming a second hub for Qatar with UK staff employed on foreign contracts. Management has had it with the unions and sees this as a viable option for a virtual relocation to a jurisdiction where unions can not operate. Looks like the chickens will be coming home to roost finally for BA flight crew. Mark (not his real name) was a little vague on the detail but assures me the details had been worked out as part of the BA-Qatar route sharing relationship announced a while back. Mark and many of his colleagues will be reassigned to a Qatar executive management team before the end of the year. The deal has been approved by HM Government as part of some behind the scenes deal encompassing long term energy supply. It is the latter that is the subject of my soon to break story.

    • JamesB says:

      Much more likely Qatar will be a pile of dust, broken concrete and jagged metal in a few years if SA has anything to do with it.

    • Leo says:

      “Chickens coming home to roost”? Don’t assume everyone on this site is anti-trade union or the striking mixed fleet crew. BA might just see its own “chickens coming home to roost” if what you say is correct. Many people still only fly BA out of a (misplaced?) sense of national pride. The little good will left towards BA could disappear over night if they get too obviously into bed with a undemocratic ME regime with the ultimate purpose of crushing its own staff who have the benefit of being protected by UK legislation. And don’t assume the current government will stand by any promise made to anyone given their current need to appease.

    • the_real_a says:

      This has to be a Troll post

  • Nick says:

    OT – does anyone know if you can pay bills at the post office using Amex (assuming the bill has a PO barcode)?

    • robstaaaar says:

      Depends on the payee. I tried the other day, one went through, the other didn’t. I gave the usual “…Oh, that’s odd…” remark and turned on my heels. Try Paypoint at yr nearest co-op stores – works for me.

      • Nick says:

        Thanks. I’ll try, but not holding out much hope – where I live is the ‘midcounties co-op’ rather than the more major national one so they have different systems. Will report back if there’s success.

  • Alexey says:

    had just told ( after checking in online and already having boading pass i.e. less than 24 hours notice ) that my BA flight is cancelled , and got alternative 12 hours later with overnight flight instead …

    any advice – is there right for compensation for that disruption of plans ? or strike are not included ?

    • Artem says:

      I believe we were on the same flight. I managed to rebook to the same flight leaving on Sunday.

      Re compensation – if it’s between
      1,500km to 3,500km and
      Arrival – at least 3 hours later than booked flight
      then the compensation is €400 per passenger + reasonable expenses

      • Alexey says:

        main question here if the strike action is included into reasons to pay compensation or is ‘out of BA control’ event and then don’t … I saw few confusing articles on that recently

        • the real harry1 says:

          there’s no compo because strikes are not within BA’s control – however BA must either refund you – or re-route you and give you food & accommodation until you can fly

          as Genghis noted below, I saw earlier there is a firm of lawyers (from memory Bett) which wants to test in law whether airlines can rightfully deny compo if there’s a strike – since strikes are generally foreseeable and airlines can make provision for some staff downing tools & walking out

    • Artem says:

      The above applies if the cause was within airline control.
      whether strikes are extraordinary circumstances outside their control – that hasn’t been tested in English courts.

      • Genghis says:

        TRH1 posted the other day that a firm of solicitors are arranging some kind of class action so you could look at joining the party?

        • the real harry1 says:

          Coby Benson, Flight Delay Solicitor at Bott & Co, said: “If a passenger’s flight is cancelled or delayed for more than 3 hours then they are entitled to between €250 and €600 compensation, unless the disruption was caused by extraordinary circumstances.

          “The law says that circumstances are only extraordinary if they are beyond the airline’s control or due to events that are ‘not inherent’ in the day-to-day activity of an airline. In our opinion this is not extraordinary since the events are well within British Airways’ control and the management of disgruntled staff is simply part and parcel of running any business, not least an airline.

          • the real harry1 says:

            rang them up out of interest to see if they want to run a test case (or class action?) but you’d need to speak to the flight delay team Mon-Fri 9-5 if you are in that boat – I’d be interested to hear more but since I don’t have a claim, won’t be pursuing it

            Our legal teams are available on 01625 415 800 Monday to Friday 9am to 5.30pm to take calls and enquiries

      • the_real_a says:

        Just a word on Boutt and Co – i used them some years ago for an EasyJet claim back in the days when EU compensation was not cut and dry. They took 20-30% if i remember correctly but did successfully make Easy pay.

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