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 ba.com – 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 …..
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.