Bits: Now use Avios on Virgin America, new Marriott Amex coming?, a HFP winner

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News in brief:

Use Avios on Virgin America flights from April

Virgin America, the US domestic airline operating primarily on the West Coast, was bought by Alaska Airlines in 2016.

Integration, as always with airline mergers, has been slow.  However from 25th April 2018 all Virgin America routes will carry Alaska Airlines flight numbers instead of Virgin America ones.

This sounds like a trivial change, but it isn’t.

Alaska Airlines is an Avios redemption partner.  A lot of people don’t know this, because the flights are not bookable on – you have to call BA to book them.  This Head for Points article (click) explains all you need to know about booking Alaska Airlines flights.

From 25th April, flights on the old Virgin America routes are also bookable with Avios.

US domestic flights have a slightly different Avios pricing chart.  There is a minimum cost of 7,500 Avios points per one-way flight.  Everywhere else in the world, a flight of up to 650 miles will cost 4,500 Avios one-way.  Inside the US, it will cost 7,500 Avios.   For flights above 650 miles, standard Avios pricing applies.

Full details of the new expanded Alaska Airlines route network can be found on its website.

Is Amex launching a Marriott credit card?

A couple of years ago, the Marriott credit card – operated by Creation Financial Services – was closed to new applicants.

The reason is mysterious, but seems to involve Marriott discovering that it did not actually have the necessary licence from the Financial Conduct Authority to promote credit cards.  (This is the same licence that I am obliged to have in order to write about them.)

Things are moving on.  If you look at this page of the FCA website, Marriott International Inc received an FCA licence on 22nd August.

More interestingly, as Marriott International Inc is a US corporation, it appointed American Express Europe to act on its behalf – not Creation.

This does not necessarily mean that Amex will launch a Marriott branded card.  The merged Starwood Preferred Guest / Marriott Rewards programme is now expected to launch in January 2019.  My money is on that scheme being called Marriott Preferred Guest and the licence may be linked to that.

However …. many people are expecting Marriott to sever its links with American Express.  These were inherited with the acquisition of Starwood but, in the US, Marriott has worked exclusively with Visa for many years.

The UK is a different market, of course, but now that Amex co-brand cards incur the same 0.3% interchange fee as Visa or MasterCard products there is little incentive to launch one.  Why bother, when a Visa or MasterCard is more widely accepted and has the same interchange fees?

It is all very confusing …..

Hilton Park Lane

A Head for Points winner

Back in January I ran this article on two semi-secret cashback deals for Hilton and Avis that American Express was running via Facebook.

The cashback deals came with a twist.  Five people who triggered both the Hilton and the Avis cashback deal would win a weekend at the Hilton Park Lane in London.

Reader Alex dropped me an email yesterday, from his £1,000 per night Park Lane Suite at the hotel, saying that he had been one of the five winners.  Well done Alex.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. FlyingChris says:

    Quick O/T: If I downgrade my BAPP to the regular BA card, do I have to wait until the Avios sweep over at the end of the month, or because I’m keeping a card open in the same points family – they’ll still be there for the fee free card? Would rather save the pro-rata fee if possible as opposed to waiting until the end of Nov to downgrade.

    • Genghis says:

      Same account. It shouldn’t make a difference when you cancel.

    • Cuchulain says:

      Just be careful to not completely close your BAPP a/c with Avios still in it, pending them sweeping across to BAEC. Currently almost 10k Frozen Avios waititing Amex to force BA to allow them to transfer from a closed account…

      • I had that problem but only 526 Avios. Amex said that BA would not accept them so gave me 300 SPG instead. Avios arrived today so happy bunny.

  2. rams1981 says:

    OT latest groupon avios posted to Iberia last week.

  3. OT – Upgrading a Reward Flight

    If I book a reward flight now (for say June 18) in WT+, is there the possibility that I can then upgrade this booking later to CW if I have the available points?

    To give a few more details, I am planning a trip to Tokyo & Beijing. Tokyo availability seems quite limited, whereas Beijing is practically full for all dates. I don’t currently have the Avios to book a CW return, but I do have enough to book Tokyo CW and Beijing WT+. I know for certain that before I depart I will have enough additional Avios to put Beijing in CW too.

    Is it fine to book Tokyo CW (to secure the seat) and Beijing WT+ now, and then upgrade from WT+ once I have enough Avios? I assume this would be done through the call center? Does one even need to purchase the outbound/inbound at the same time?

    Using a 2-4-1 if that matters.


    • Yes, just call BA. It’s not a problem, as long as you’re happy to pay the £35 per person change fee. You can do just one leg.

  4. O/T I had a hilton stay on saturday night paid cash. I had a family issue and had to leave early. I checked in at 7pm, checked out 11.30pm. Should I still get points etc? Looks like only 500 points for app booking have posted…

    • Why why why did you check out?! Just leave the key card on the bed, they’ll assume you left the morning after! You were probably recorded as having a ‘day stay’ which may not attract points…

      • I checked out as I needed a ticket to get the car out of the car park. Guess I could have said I just wanted to leave car park and not checked out but didnt think it would matter.

      • Someone else did this recently. If you’re officially not in the hotel at midnight then it does NOT seem to count as a stay. Just leave the key on the bed, as Nick says, and walk out of the door. I have done this, what, four times this year? And probably 20 in my life. Never had a problem.

  5. Optimus Prime says:

    OT – BA flight LHR-LAX in CW.

    How does the configuration 2-3-2 work on the upper deck? Does 51-D have to jump over E or F?


  6. O/T – BA lounge access. Hello, I am travelling through Gatwick with my wife and 2 (very well behaved) children (11/13) this week. All on same BA flight, however, my wife is in CE and the rest of us are in economy. I am BA Gold. Do you think we will be allowed in lounge as a group of four? Can a CE passenger take in a guest?

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Yes you will each get one guest

      • Thank you, I could not find a clear statement to that effect on the BA website.I knew I could, wasn’t sure if a CE ticket could take a guest.

        • I didn’t think you could guest into the lounge with a CE ticket without status. Only First tickets allow you to guest someone in. Look for the sub-heading, Guesting Privileges Qualified by Class of Travel in this post:

        • OK, looks like a no then. Might try my luck anyway, worst thing that can happen is that we have to choose one of the kids to come it, give the other a fiver and point it to Pret! Might ask the receptionist to choose, avoids any long term issues with favouritism
          Another question – on check in, I am BA gold, my wife Bronze and travelling CE, can we both take someone through priority check in, security and boarding?

          • Can’t see it being an issue at all for priority check in and boarding – I’ve always just taken it as status card holder + rest of the folk on their booking (for the occasional times I’ve taken 2 folks) and never been any issues at all.

          • Agreed.

        • I think it would be pretty mean of BA not to let you take both kids in as guests!

          • Although I did like the suggestion of making the lounge agent choose to avoid any claims of favouritism! 😛

        • No, CE cant bring guests. Why not let your wife and kids in (using your status) and you go to a pub?

        • Pub? well it will be at 06:00 ish, however, having been through GLA early a few times over summer, it does seem a popular way to start a holiday. As you head down to where Easy Jet gates, there is a little coffee bar with a sign saying last Tennants before departure gates. Always makes me smile.

        • the real harry1 says:

          the sun is over the yardarm somewhere in the world! 🙂

  7. OT//

    Have a economy seat booked with Avios on AA next week in the US, seems that it’s a hand luggage only fare. Not sure if that’s changed or I just assumed it would include a bag!

    I’ve just lost my BA silver and I’m now a bronze (one world ruby) so as far as I follow that means I get one free bag. But my brother is Blue so gets nothing included?

    Has anybody have experience of this? Can we just pay for a bag on check in? Or does it need to be in advance? If so how?

    • Hi Simmo, I’m not sure if this is of any help short of checking the t/c of your flight… however I am BA Blue, and have not paid any extra for my 3 avios redemptions on AA (1 piece of gold luggage) in the last 18 months.

  8. Yatin Vadhia says:

    OT slightly – “This is the same licence that I am obliged to have in order to write about them.” – Could you elaborate more about this FCA licence? What are you licensed for? Is it free or is there a fee? I’ve seen you mention this before in previous articles and I’ve always been curious.

    • If you link to a credit card website, you are ‘marketing’ those cards – irrespective of whether the card company pays you. You therefore need to be a Licensed Credit Broker.

      Very messy process potentially involving exams if you have no financial services background since you have to convince the FCA you are ‘competent’ to discuss cards accurately. I had been licensed – for different stuff – by the FCA and its predecessors for 16 years before I started HFP so I got an easier ride. Fees are a % of your revenue.

  9. O/T

    Please forgive me for simply sharing my excitement ahead of a seat 1A (on a 747) redemption on BA57 to JNB tomorrow. Can’t beat the feeling of having paid 50k avios (shared a 2for1redemption-my mate is in seat 1K) and £349 for a seat that sells at £7k.
    Thank you to Rob and all who make these moments possible.

    • Enjoy Chris!! 🙂

    • Hope you enjoy – although looks like you had a 5 hour delay, so extra compensation in your pocket plus time in the lounge.

      Just had a look at this route, a CW 241 Amex redemption is costing me 125k avios + £1,100. Can I ask how you booked this for 100k avios + £349?

      • Genghis says:

        50k (half of 100k as applied 241) + £349 is price for one person one way in F (based on two travelling)?

        • Yes, that’s right-this is just one way and factors in the 2for1.
          We’re flying back Iberia business to MAD and then on. (31900 avios as booked during a promo +£90 fees).
          I’m flying tonight, no scheduled delay. Looks like last night’s flight was diverted to Barcelona for some reason.
          Thanks Cate, btw.

        • Silly me – was looking at RTN. Thanks!

  10. OT – just heard that Norwegian are dropping many of its European routes starting March next year to concentrate on their US routes. Those affected from LGW are Barcelona, Las Palmas, Madrid, Malaga and Tenerife.

    • Supposedly Norwegian won’t make it through the winter

      • It’s interesting. We do a fair few flights on Norwegian and especially to Spain and they’re always full – usually with Spanish workers who work in the UK and fly home weekends. I’m wondering if Easyjet is going to pick up their routes which if so, nectar may become more of a travel credit card player.

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