Bits: BA’s London City NYC gate lounge closes, Virgin’s CEO on cost cutting, HFP IT help wanted

News in brief:

British Airways closes the BA1 gate lounge at London City

If you have ever taken the British Airways ‘all business class’ A318 flight from London City Airport to New York JFK (with a refuelling and passport control stop at Shannon on the way out), you will know that there was never a proper lounge.

Instead, British Airways set up a DIY lounge at the gate it used.  There were 32 seats for 32 passengers and a ‘help yourself’ table of food and drink.  It wasn’t the classiest thing you’ve ever seen and I never liked it but it had its fans.

As of last week, the gate lounge has gone.  It seems this is one of only a handful of gates at London City that can handle the new Bombardier CS100 aircraft being introduced by SWISS, and SWISS needed all of the space.

Instead ….

“Before your departure from London City you are invited to enjoy a complimentary pre-flight meal and drink at Pilots Restaurant. The restaurant is conveniently located in the main terminal, just after security on the left hand-side. On arrival at the restaurant please show your boarding pass to the Welcome Host, who will then show you to your table.”

I’ve never eaten at Pilots, but I get a feeling it is – overall – a better experience than the gate lounge.  I wouldn’t see this as another BA cost cutting exercise.

Overall, it is difficult to see much of a future for the London City – New York service.  One of the two daily flights was chopped last year.  The expansion of Global Entry means that regular travellers to the US no longer need to queue at immigration, so the time saving from clearing immigration in Shannon is no longer important.  As London City becomes more crowded and with the new First Wing now open at Heathrow Terminal 5, the market may be swinging back westwards.

And that is before you factor in Crossrail, which will take you from Canary Wharf to Heathrow in just 39 minutes from the end of 2019 (end of 2018 if you are happy to change at Paddington to the Heathrow Express) ……

British Airways City Airport A318

Virgin Atlantic’s CEO on cost cutting

Last Monday I saw Alex Cruz speakThis Monday, I went up to Manchester to see Craig Kreeger, the Virgin Atlantic CEO, give a talk.

He had some interesting things to say which I might summarise in another article.  Here is one key point.  A member of the audience asked him what he had done to turn Virgin Atlantic around, after some years of losses, when he joined in 2013.

“Airline Management 101”, he said, “is to go for the easy stuff.  Swap the £10 bottle of wine in Upper Class for a £6 bottle.  No-one picks an airline just for the wine.  Swap the napkin for a thinner one.”

“I did none of that.”  “You do this once, you can get away with it.  If you do it 20 times, you take away the reasons that people choose the airline in the first place.”  All of Kreeger’s focus was on back office cuts, as well as trimming unprofitable routes.  Spending which impacted the customer experience was protected.

He even stressed what I have stressed on here before.  When you have a $200m long-haul aircraft which requires $100,000 of fuel for every trip, cutting your wine bill by £50 per flight (or taking the flowers out of the toilets) is stupid and counter productive.

Something I should remember to mention next time I bump into Alex ….. although to give him credit – given his speech last week – I think he may have got the message.

HFP IT help

Long-term readers will know that the site hasn’t had a full refresh for five years, nor indeed has it had any change in hosting despite a big growth in readership.  The cracks are starting to show as you may have seen recently.

I would like to find a freelance IT person who would like to project manage some changes.  This person does not necessarily need to do the work but would oversee it.  Anika and I simply do not have enough hours in the day to do this ourselves.

This is what we will need doing:

contracting and overseeing (or doing yourself) the development of a custom-built WordPress theme to specifications we will provide – potentially sticking with the Genesis Framework

contracting and overseeing (or doing yourself) some work on the existing WordPress database which has some structural issues

overseeing a server move

overseeing some standard cloud-based office IT

If this is what you do for a living, drop me an email at rob at together with your rates and some examples of what you’ve done.  My experience is that getting readers to help out with projects results in better quality work than picking someone who does not understand what we are trying to achieve.

I foresee it taking a handful of hours a week over a couple of months, depending on how much you outsource.  The first two points listed above are the key ones.   You don’t need to be based in London but we will want to meet you here on a regular basis.

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  1. OT Review,

    I used my Marriott free night certificate at the weekend at Hollins Hall Country Club.

    When i made the booking i call to see if they would upgrade me to a double double room as we had our 2 small children with us. they told me to call beack nearer the time. a few days before they happily did this.

    the property itself is nice, nothing too exciting. pool was excellent, large and clean.
    breakfast (free as a gold) was great, buffet style plenty of choice. not a huge amount nearby. the orginal Wollpack from emmerdale is a 15 min walk across the road. The nearby morrisons has a bar! only found this out after.

    all in all a great use a of free night away from home.

    • Roomers baden-baden is obviously the best place to use this voucher in Europe, if you don’t mind getting to Germany..

  2. O/T – but can anyone recommend a one world lounge at Chicago o’Hare

    • I live in Chicago, and am very happy with the BA lounge, assuming you are talking about the international terminal. The AA lounge in T3 is also newly refurbished and impressive.

  3. OT – Rob, could you refer me for the SPG Amex, thanks

  4. Not sure if this has been mentioned already but on the SPG referral terms it now says a ‘maximum of 90,000 points can be earned in a calendar year’. This used to be 25,000 or am I going mad?

    Also, the first point on the referral T&C’s does not state that the applicant has to apply for an SPG card for the referee to receive bonus points. It simply says ‘not the basic card’. Is this also new or does it mean we can now refer across different cards?


  5. OT just had my declined application on the BA Blue card overturned and an apology from AMEX. It was confirmed they should not have done a credit search as i currently had the BAPP card. They have also removed the ‘credit search’ from my credit rating.

    • I had always understood that any downgrade of a card triggers a new credit application as it is treated as a new application. Good to learn that this not the case.

      • I hope it stays this way but i get the feeling they are tighting up on churning! Time will tell.

        • I upgraded using the link from Gold Charge to Platinum Charge card in the weekend. I have not had a search on my credit file logged, but my online account now shows me as having the Platinum Charge card.
          The concerning part though looking online is the lack of my membership rewards balance showing, but I imagine this will come back in the next day or 2.

  6. the real harry1 says:

    Jugé trop compliqué par la majorité de ses membres, Flying Blue change de formule en avril.

    À partir du 1er avril prochain – cela ne s’invente pas! -, Air France-KLM lancera son nouveau programme de fidélité Flying Blue. Grâce à cette carte – de plus en plus souvent virtuelle -, les voyageurs fidèles sont récompensés avec des services et peuvent dépenser les «miles» accumulés en billets d’avion. Deux ans de travail, 15 millions d’euros investis dans le développement informatique, 120 personnes mobilisées en France et aux Pays-Bas donneront

    behind the pasywall, unfortunately! I’ll see what I can find out 🙂

    could be interesting news

    • the real harry1 says:
      • the real harry1 says:

        Google Translate:
        More simplicity
        To achieve this, Air France-KLM has changed the way it has accumulated “miles” and has relaxed the way it uses them. While the “miles” gain was so far linked to the distance of the trip, it will depend tomorrow on the ticket price and the status of each passenger between the members Ivory, Silver, Gold, Platinium. For each euro spent, they will receive respectively 4, 6, 7 and 8 “miles”. “Miles” will also be accumulated on the purchase of paid options in addition to the airline ticket. To spend the “miles”, Air France will give access to the reward tickets to all the capacity of the aircraft from June 2018. So the impossibility to book a bonus ticket on flights that have already reached the quotas reserved for this type of tickets while seats are available. At the same time, the group will combine the use of “miles” with cash payments (up to 25%) to book award tickets.

        Moreover, the level of each member will no longer be determined by the value of the ticket (linked to the distance and the price) and by the notion of so-called “qualifying” flights. Air France-KLM introduces a system of acquisition of “experience points” (XP in English) for each flight according to a scale established according to the type of flight (domestic, medium-haul and long-haul) and the passenger cabin chosen by the passenger.

        With the redesign of the program, Air France-KLM intends to distribute about as many “miles” as today, a volume that the group refuses to communicate, saying only that they represent about 400,000 premium tickets per year, ie equivalent of three long-haul aircraft each day.

        • the real harry1 says:

          I think I saw this on FT, I’ll see if there’s any more on combining with Virgin Flying Club

        • the real harry1 says:

          Google translate messed up – it actually says ‘Air France va donner accès aux billets primes à toute la capacité des avions à partir de juin 2018. Fini donc l’impossibilité de réserver un billet prime sur les vols ayant déjà atteint les quotas réservés à ce type de billets alors que des sièges sont disponibles.’

          ie all seats on the plane will be available as reward tickets

        • Interesting. As a slight aside, I have just booked 3 reward seats with Virgin Flying Club to JFK. Using Delta out and Virgin back. The addition of the Delta flights to the program has really opened up the usability of the Virgin Miles. It will be interesting to see how its going to work with Flying Blue.

        • Isn’t that just what we knew a week or so ago when they announced the changes?

      • The article refers to Flying Blue but also to “Le programme Virgin Flying Blue de Virgin Atlantic”. Might this mean two separate programmes with a shared reward currency?

      • Good evening all

        Hopefully this will mean that AF First class redemptions will be available to everyone and not just the current Flying Blue Silver and above members.


    • At the risk of stating the obvious, there is also a Flying Blue news article about the changes on their web-site in English on the Air France web-site, fairly detailed although it is a few days old – sorry it hasn’t copied as a link

      • the real harry1 says:

        yeah I was really looking for intel on how to spend Virgin miles on Flying Blue and got carried away 🙂 Insideflyer has a full briefing

      • I will get around to covering this but the lack of good English language stuff – and the vagueness of the announcement – means I need a clear half day at least which I haven’t had in the last week.

  7. OT – when flying on One world airlines and getting points to BA.. is it correct that I am only getting avios and tier points and no cabin bonus nor status bonus
    I flew CX to HKG in premium and only got given Avios and tier point!?

  8. I’ve booked the BA1 for the middle of next year so hope they don’t can it.
    I’m not a regular visitor to the States – last time was 10 years ago and I spent 8 hours in custody in immigration at JFK for reasons unknown. I was hoping to avoid that delight this time round.

  9. the real harry1 says:

    O/T earning Iberia points, eg to keep a/c alive or earn your first point – Plustore now features @ 1EUR = i Avios – you can order something cheap such as a book – log in with your UK details, it stays the Spanish Ebay – plenty of items are the same items as on & delivered from the UK

  10. Completely O/T but there appears to be a Tesco deal on Now TV boxes

    £12.50 for a Now TV box (Not the very newest version) with either 3 months kids, 2 months entertainment or 1 month cinema pass, with 500 bonus clubcard points.

    It works out to be £12.50 for 1228 Avios, so less than 1.02ppa worst case (assuming you don’t sell the box or the pass, and excludes any value you may get from CC spend)

    • the real harry1 says:

      free box/ pass 🙂

      • I already have a couple at home. If I can manage to get £8 each for them, I’m looking at somewhere in the region of 0.36ppa thanks to an extra few avios from the BAPP card.

        I’ve not sold them on eBay before so no idea what they generally go for (The major sellers are around £10). I’ve got half a dozen ordered, and will probably do the same again if the first batch sell well

        • the real harry1 says:

          I think they’re a tough sell these days but you should get away for £8

        • Just bought one – the Mrs can watch Babylon Berlin now ….

          And £15 of Uber credit for me. And it will finally trigger the 500 Avios on my wife’s BA Amex from the Amex promo, although obviously I would have ensured that was triggered via an in-store spend at some point anyway.

    • If you buy via the BA Shopping portal, you get 4 extra Avios per £1. Plus another 1.5 per £ paying on BAPP card (I think you could get an extra 2.4 per £ if you use a Tesco credit card? …I don’t have one, but believe that to be the case).

  11. Graham Walsh says:

    Had a mail from Amex today offering 18k bonus points if I refer someone (we will both get them) and promoting the small shops

    • Isn’t 18k bonus points very standard for platinum referrals?

      • Not to Gold. It is now implying 18k for Plat, Gold or Green (whether this is true or not is a different question).

        • After reports on here about an increase in bonus MR points I took a little further look into it and saw in the t’s and c’s

          You will receive 18,000 bonus Membership Rewards points if your friend or family member uses the Referral Programme to apply for a card (other than a Basic Card) and is approved. You will not receive any points if they apply for a Basic Card.’

          I referred my old man who’s gold card came yesterday and got the 18,000 points!

        • Will this be permanent? Not due to churn again till April!

        • @anna looks like a permanent change..

      • Graham Walsh says:

        Could be, doesn’t say they have to take out a Platinum card though.

        • Anyone know when this came in? Wife referred me in October and only got 9k… Also if I was to add her as an additional card holder would that affect me referring her in 6 months time?

        • 1. Only seen 18k for both mentioned in last week at most
          2. No

        • 1. Last couple of weeks. 2. No

        • Damn! Wife referred me about 6 weeks ago. Oh well, never mind. Hopefully will still be around in 6 months when I’m due to refer her again.

    • OT: Whilat walking in the dales at the weekend I visited 2 pubs that were showing on the current Shop Small promotion. Both were Pubs I visit quite regularly which I thought did not accept Amex and on Sunday they still didn’t accept Amex. I reread the small print on the offer and hadn’t spotted it doesn’t start till 2nd Dec!!!! I am hoping this means that from 2nd Dec they will accept Amex which is great news. I assume therefore that maybe the whole Shop Small promotion is in support of places which have just started accepting Amex?

      • Based on previous experience it could also be that the info is duff! Certainly the ShopSmall map has been wrong before, on the upside Amex always used to then still manually apply the credit of you contact them.

      • the real harry1 says:

        no, it works like this – you go into the pub & order 3 pints for £10+

        they refuse to accept Amex so you pay with Visa

        you drink your 3 pints

        you go home and phone Amex customer services – you wouldn’t have ordered the beer without the map & offer – they’ll send a £5 or £10 credit your way for your trouble

  12. OT – Qatar sale now £500 return p.p. LHR-SIN in econ, A380. That’s cheaper than Norwegian.

  13. Tom Murray says:

    Slightly off / though almost on topic:
    Wife and I are both BAPP holders and have both got this year’s 241. She used to have Preferred Gold as well but cancelled this about 8 months ago after capturing membership bonus etc.
    My question is – can she refer me for a preferred gold although she now only has BAPP?
    Many thanks TM

  14. O/T – on most offers I save to my amex cards the t&cs say “Full payment is required on the American Express Card to which the offer is saved.”

    Does this mean you can’t split the bill over a few cards to trigger the spend on say 3 or 4 cards for bonus points? Example…… the Mulberry offer of 3000 MR/avios bonus points for spending £200 ……. if I buy an £800 bag, can i put £200 on 4 different cards to trigger the bonuses on all of them?

    • the real harry1 says:


    • No problem at all doing that – many of the T&Cs they list as a bit ‘optional’ 😉

      • Awesome. Thanks everyone!

        I’ll have to give that a go and make sure I take hubby with me to use his cards too. That’s really easy MR/avios points …….plus he’ll have my Christmas present sorted out

    • Works for shop small most of the time. Just ask to split the bill over multiple cards. I wonder if the girl from Poppie’s still remembers me from last year…

      • Artisan du Chocolate (forget the Sloane Sq store and head to Borough Market) are more than happy to do it £10 batches. You can negotiate hard with them too for a better price. Good people and great chocs

        • the real harry1 says:

          redundant ‘e’ there, Genghis

          first I wondered if that was deliberate – by them – because Brits can’t speak French 🙂

          quite a few of those around

        • 🙂 just my spelling. And I speak French. Looking forward to our stay at Le Grande and Hilton Opera at the weekend.

        • the real harry1 says:

          sounds better than walking up & down the Camel Trail 🙂

        • Fab! I’ll try them! Work in Borough so it’s a 10 mins walk from my office. Thanks for the tip

    • Yes. If the shop can do it, you’re fine.

  15. Still can get my head round why virgin cut the LGW – CUN service from 3 to 1 trips a week over the summer…

    • Errrr not difficult… like always one or more of the following will be the problem…
      1. Demand
      2. Revenue
      3. Yield
      4. Costs
      5. Operational difficulties

  16. Interesting comment about Virgin.

    Virgin did introduce Champagne that seems to be universally unpopular and did cut things out for years. Nice to hear that this is ending.