Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Bits: avid hotels confirmed as a new IHG brand, how to save £68 tax on Avios flights to Cape Town

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

News in brief:

avid hotels confirmed as the new IHG hotel brand

Back in June IHG announced plans for a new midscale brand.  It has now confirmed the name and concept, although it doesn’t seem as if they will be in Europe for a few years.

With the motto ‘Fresh, Frank and Fair’ avid hotels are focusing on ‘the basics done exceptionally well’.

The hotels will offer a free breakfast and free wi-fi with a price tag promised to be $10 – $15 cheaper than a Holiday Inn Express.  My best guess is that this will be something like Marriott’s MOXY concept which is now open at London Excel and Aberdeen.  (Rob will be discussing the MOXY at Vienna Airport tomorrow.)

Like other midscale hotel brands like element, ibis Styles and Hampton by Hilton, avid hotels will have open communal spaces in the lobby area where guests can work, eat and “connect”.

Pleasingly IHG seems to be bucking the “no desk” trend by promising that avid hotels will contain a large desk, as well as an entertainment system which lets guest connect their smartphones and watch content on the TV screen.

The first avid hotels will open in the US in early 2019 which means we won’t be seeing the end product for another year and a half, but looking at the images it promises to be interesting. The avid hotels website is here.

How to save £68 tax on Avios flights to Cape Town

There is a little-known arbitrage you can use to save £68 of tax when booking British Airways Avios redemption flights to Cape Town.  I thought it was worth mentioning this again today.

Whilst Cape Town does have a direct British Airways service, it is often tricky to find Avios reward seats.  Most people end up travelling via Johannesburg and changing to a Comair connection.  Comair is a BA franchise and its planes have the usual British Airways livery.  They can be booked using Avios via

This is how it works, assuming that you can’t find direct flights to Cape Town:

If you book London to Cape Town via a connection in Jo’burg, the cost (economy return) is 45,500 Avios off-peak plus £456 tax

However ….

If you book London to Jo’burg on one ticket and Jo’burg to Cape Town on a separate ticket, the individual costs are 32,500 plus £332 for the long-haul, off-peak, and 13,000 Avios plus £56 for the connection. The total is 45,500 Avios plus £388.

That is a saving of £68.

There is a trade off.  Comair and BA are also not technically liable to look after you if you miss one flight because the other is delayed.  In reality, I would not be worried about this as Comair and BA effectively operate as one airline and will ensure you are OK.

As per the comments below (and I have edited the article to reflect this), you need to collect your bags at Johannesburg irrespective of how you book.  Even if both flights are on the same ticket you will still need to clear customs and check them in again.

If you are looking to keep your costs down, it is worth considering.

This trick also works for Club World flights, where the saving is a little smaller – £677 versus £553 + £64, for a saving of £60.

Note that as you cannot use a British Airways American Express voucher on Comair, you may be forced to split your trip into two separate tickets anyway if you have a voucher to use.

Comments (82)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Phil says:

    OT- is it just me or have more AMEX cards recently become available in the UK?? I’m seeing rewards cards which I don’t believe I’ve seen before!

    • New Card says:

      Such as which cards?

      • Phil says:

        Membership rewards credit card (not Gold card or Platinum).

      • New Card says:

        Ah I see – “The American Express Card” (10k MR bonus); “The Amex Rewards Low Rate CC” (5k MR bonus) and “The Amex Rewards CC” (10k MR bonus).

        I think I am right in saying you can’t apply for these if you’ve had a Gold/Plat card in the last 6 months (as the 6 month limit backs off having an MR-earning account)

        Could be an option for some though.

        • Phil says:

          Are these new cards?

          I thought you could have another MR card but you’d just not get any intro bonus. I have neither currently anyway!

  • Nadia says:

    OT: Not sure if it’s already been noted but I spotted a new offer on my Gold card: £20 off £60 Eurostar spend. First 15,000 cardmembers and spend by 16th October.

  • Alex W says:

    £677 fees! What an absolute joke.

  • James says:

    OT: Can anyone tell me if its possible to earn 2 companion vouchers in a calendar year on an individual’s Executive club account?

    I ask becuase I churned a the Prem Plus amex earlier this year after hitting the £10k threshold very quickly and now that 6 months has passed I was thinking of applying again as I have some spend coming up that would allow me to hit another voucher.

  • Genghis says:

    OT. Email just now from Eurostar. The EFT is relaunching as “Club Eurostar” later in the year.

    On the earning side, £1 spend = 1 point (significantly better than the bandings currently).

    On the spend side, “value tickets” return (limited per train) are 1k in standard (currently 900) and 2k in Standard Premier (currently 1800).

    1 EFT point = 1 Club Eurostar point.

    On balance, a “valuation”. E.g. Looking at my last three return tickets, in the existing scheme I earned 600 points, in the new scheme I’d earn 789 points, a 31% increase, more than offset by the 11% increase in redemptions.

    • Nick M says:

      It depends on how many “value tickets” they have per train, and how this compares to the previous allocation… it could well be a case of tickets generally now costing 1500 for standard class

      • Toby says:

        Yes – this looks like a significant devaluation to me (using amex MR points for close in bookings of standard class tickets at peak weekend times – so it’s jumping from 900 to 1500 points).

        • Genghis says:

          Good point @Nick M. I generally book travel a while in advance for leisure where I’m sure I’d be able to get such “value tickets”. Each individual circumstance is different, of course.

          • Nick M says:

            I generally do too, but you could then argue that the “value tickets” are effectively like the £29 tickets…

            (Which is why I haven’t got round to using the 1800 points in my account as I was saving them for last minute/high cost trips)

        • Rob says:

          Apparently not. In fact, according to stuff I have seen, there will actually be MORE standard priced seats because the ‘extra’ seats currently only shown to Carte Blanche members will now be available to everyone.

  • James says:

    Thanks for the reply above Genphis. Another OT question, when you hold the SPG Amex are there referral bonuses available for referring the card as there are for Gold/Plat and BA Cards? I notice Rob’s review states an 1k bonus for the applicant.

    • James says:


    • Genghis says:

      Yes. As you note, the applicant gets an extra 1k. The person doing the referring gets 5k.

      • James says:

        Great thanks. I couldnt find confirmation of that 5k figure anywhere online or in previous articles/comments and without holding the card at present couldnt bring up the referral page on the Amex website either.

  • MarkH says:

    OT but South Africa related. Some advice if possible please:

    I have a 2-4-1 redemption to CPT in April and flying back via JNB. We will be doing the garden route so to avoid having to back track I am planning to change the internal flight to PLZ-JNB and also move it forward a 2/3 days so we are able to visit Kruger. This part will be straight forward I think and just a case of paying the change fees. How to get to Kruger and how long to stay is a bit more complex…

    I’m not sure I fancy driving 4/5 hours to the park gates and then another 2/3 hours to wherever we are staying so looking at flight options.

    Which airport is best to fly to-Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, Skukuza or Phalabarwa? Nelspruit seems to have the best flight times whereas Skukuza is in the national park so maybe the most convenient overall
    I am guessing a lot will depend on where we are staying so if anyone also has any recommendations that would help.
    My initial thoughts are to fly from JNB 26th am and back 28th pm to catch the overnight flight back to LHR. Is that enough time in Kruger?

    Also South African Airways is part of Star Alliance and we have ~50k MR we could use. Would I be able to check availability through SQ and then transfer the MR across and book through them?

    • Genghis says:

      I’ve not been yet but going early next year. Paid cash for GRJ-JNB on SA, c.£60 single each. We’re doing the Intrepid Kruger tour – overland from Joburg. 3x value at Tesco clubcard. Has good reviews if you dig into it

    • Roger I* says:

      If you’re taking the Garden Route and then on to Port Elizabeth, take a look at Addo Elephant Park, 70 km or so from PLZ. Much easier travel, malaria-free and although nowhere near as big as Kruger, there is much to see. The Big Five? Possibly, though lion is hard to find.

      • Barry cutters says:

        I went to addo and We saw a lion/rhino there in November. We did game drives and also it’s Pretty cool driving your hire car round the park.
        If I’m honest it’s not the same as Kruger tho

      • MarkH says:

        A friend of mine did Addo and enjoyed it but Saffer friends have said we should definitely do Kruger and given that I don’t know if or when I’d be likely to go back to SA I’d like to do it if the time allows and not too difficult to organise

        @Genghis – thanks for the tip. will take a look

    • Trish B says:

      I would say Kruger is an essential, Flying into Nelspruit gives you more options, Skukuza you are right into the park. This is our third visit in 3 years, also lived in SA as a child so love the whole driving yourself option, you need more than 2 nights, but 2 nights is better than nothing. By the way I only got reward tickets to Cape Town and couldn’t find Jo burg!!

      • MarkH says:

        We’re flexible on time at the moment as nothing booked or set in stone yet.

        I am guilty sometimes of trying to cram too much in – would probably make sense to spend at least another night.

  • rams1981 says:

    Interesting re cpt and jnb chat. We’re booked into Cape Town and home from Johannesburg on our 2 for 1.

    Have booked nothing yet but heard it’s worth doing the garden drive. I’ve done massai maara before but my wife has never done Safari so we’ll definitely fit Kruger in. Be interesting to compare notes of plan trips with @genghis, @markh and others.

    • the real harry1 says:

      Hemingway reading might inspire a few of you before you go – I love his stuff! – it’s mostly East Africa but still gives the atmosphere – try The Green Hills of Africa; The Snows of Kilimanjaro; True at First Light.

    • Kinkell says:

      We did CPT and garden route a few years ago( Nov/Dec) and to Gorah Safari camp in Addo. The 3 days in Garden route were a complete washout. Went back the following year at same time ( JNB to Goerge) great weather! Nice walking,and beaches. Went to Marakele safari camp , north of JNB.. Great scenery and animals. Both safari camps we were ‘glamping’ and they are malaria free. Whatever youchoose will be great.

    • Genghis says:

      I’ve no idea whether the holiday will be great yet so cannot make any recommendations but here’s my itinerary:
      3 nights in Cape Town. 15k Marriott in the Protea by V&A
      3 nights in Franschhoek. Cash / voucher
      2 nights Oudtshoorn. Cash / voucher
      2 nights Plett. Cash / voucher
      1 night Knysna
      Fly George to Joburg
      1 night in Joburg at African Pride. 15k Marriott before recent band changes
      3 nights Kruger with Intrepid
      1 night Joburg at same hotel
      Fly home.

      If you’ve any specific Qs, let me know.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.