Bits: 10am check-in for IHG Spire Elite, 40% bonus buying Hyatt points, buy Avios bonus

News in brief:

10am check-in (guaranteed?) now a Spire Elite benefit

IHG Rewards Club sent out an email to Spire Elite members over the weekend.  It said:

“We know that when you’re busy travelling, every second of down time is precious. That’s why we’re making check-in times as early as 10am for Spire Elite members like you.  Just update your stay preference to early arrival when you book a room.”

It has also been added to the list of benefits by tier on this page of

The small print on that page says:

“Subject to availability.  Spire Elite members may check in as early as 10 a.m. Please select early arrival as a stay preference in your reservation confirmation.”

Regular readers will know how I value hotel elite status benefits:

Valued at £nothing – anything with the words ‘subject to availability’ next to it

Valued at £something – anything with the word ‘guaranteed’ next to it

Making an early check-in ‘subject to availability’ is particularly rubbish.   If I turn up at 10am expecting a room, I want a room.  If I have chosen an IHG hotel just because my flight landed at 8am and I want somewhere to freshen up, I don’t want to be turned away at check in.

We need to see, in reality, how this benefit works out.  If it turns out to be ‘subject to availability but you will get it unless we physically don’t have a room available, of any sort, and we will make sure these rooms get prioritised by housekeeping‘ then it should be OK.  If it turns out to be ‘we’ll give you a room if we feel like, but to be honest it won’t be happening‘, then not so good ….


Up to 40% bonus when you buy Hyatt points

Until 15th December, Hyatt is offering a 40% bonus when you buy World of Hyatt points.

This may well be the biggest bonus that Hyatt has ever offered.  It comes after a turbulent time for the programme, with its CEO leaving amid much criticism of the new benefits package and ludicrously high (given Hyatt’s small footprint) qualification requirements.

The deal is obviously worth a look if you need to top up your account.  It may also be worthwhile if considering a stay in a top tier Park Hyatt such as the ones in Paris or Sydney, where buying the points may be cheaper than paying cash.

The bonus is staggered:

20% bonus on purchases of 5,000 to 9,000 points

30% bonus on purchases of 10,000 to 29,000 points

40% bonus on purchases of 30,000+ points (the annual cap is 55,000 points pre bonus)

At the top end, you are paying $1,320 for 77,000 points (55,000 plus a 22,000 bonus).  That works out at 1.71c – or 1.29p – per point.

The new Park Hyatt resort in Mallorca pictured below is a location where buying points may make sense.   Prices for cash are still a little scary – rooms from Euro 495 (£441) in August 2018, or Euro 550 (£490) if you want a cancellable one.  A redemption at 20,000 points per night (£258) would be a good deal.

The Hyatt ‘buy points’ site is here.

50% buy Avios bonus still running on Iberia Plus

If you regret missing out on the 50% ‘buy Avios’ bonus on last week, the offer is still running for an extra week over at the Iberia website.

(I don’t necessarily think you should be worried about missing out, as even with a 50% bonus I do not think the price is low enough to buy speculatively, but if you have a definite plan for using them …..)

The Iberia Plus ‘buy Avios’ page is here.  You will need to pay in Euro so factor in any FX fees on your credit card.

Note that you must be logged in to see the 50% bonus.  Remember that your Iberia account must be 90 days old before you will be allowed to use ‘Combine My Avios’ to move the points out of Iberia Plus and into or British Airways Executive Club.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

My review of Aer Lingus Business Class from Dublin to Boston and back - Part 2
What are the best UK airport lounges you can visit for free with Amex Gold's Lounge Club passes?
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  1. I couldn’t agree more on the “subject ti availability” point. It really means “if we feel like it and don’t have to incur cost or go to any trouble we might think about it”. There is real potential for IHG to shoot itself in the foot with things like this.

    • Agreed, with the exception of those chains that charge for early check in, I’ve never failed to get in at any hotel regardless of what time I appeared on the arrival day if they had a room available. Where rooms have not been available immediately I have found that hotels have generally been good at getting one ready as quickly as possible and can give reliable estimates of how long it would take.

      • At Hiltons I go to the lounge if a room isn’t available. Checked in at 6am at a conrad last month and got late checkout until 4pm, on a one night stay.

        Wouldn’t happen in an IC, and 50% of CPs still don’t offer lounge access as a spire perk

        • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

          Agree – never been turned away from a Hilton, always been invited to breakfast/lounge if a room wasn’t already available.

  2. OT Bit: Virgin Trains East Coast 50% off sale goes live 10am today through Wednesday for travel 6 January through 2 March with the usual excluded dates in February. 500 bonus nectar points available too.

    • All prices are the same as when I looked last Friday 4th 5th Feb 18th 19th Feb LDS-LON return.

      • Did you find the sale page? What you say does not surprise me though, it has become par for the course with sales everywhere.

        • Thanks, no I was looking on my normal sign in link, signed in through the sale email and saved a few pound.

  3. IHG need to make up their mind what they want to do with Spire. I have been Spire since it launched but have hardly stayed this year switching to Hilton thanks to guaranteed breakfast and lounge access. That said I stayed in a U.K. hotel this weekend which had s checkin time of 4pm and which it enforced it ridgedly even for Diamond members. When I complained they said they were full so I asked why I had been able to book a room the night before at 10pm at a fraction of the rate for the night of my stay. They back tracked and following a series of other disasters comped the room.

    They just don’t have the staff and hope no one will notice but in general UK hotels are dire places to stay.

    If this is a guaranteed benefit then great but IHG have overall a very poor record on benefit delivery unless you are staying in an IC and have Ambassador status

  4. It’s better than nothing I suppose but I’ve had to go into battle on occasion for Ambassador benefits which are supposedly guaranteed in the past. I dont want to be negative for the sake of it but ultimately this is relying on the good will or competence of staff.

  5. i also find that they don’t automatically preassign an upgraded room for Spires before you check in – you always have to ask for it. So if you arrive early they will probably not have cleaned an upgraded room – just the regular rooms – so you will likely miss out on an upgraded room if you accept an early check in.

    • If it’s even possible to generalise then I would expect the opposite is more likely. The better rooms are probably more likely to be occupied by business customers either through payment for room type or through status upgrades. Business customers are more likely than leisure travellers to check out early I would think therefore the best rooms are more likell to become availabld early.

    • This is the problem with IHG, it is all so inconsistent. I have had pre assigned upgrades in Germany, and in Asia, but thats it. I have always found the hotels helpful in sorting out early check ins, so i dont see how this alleged new Spire benefit will work – will they now not check in early non Spire members?! Doubt it. Trying to arrange travel around non guaranteed benefits versus the guaranteed benefits of Hilton mean that IHG have lost most of my stays while i max out on Hilton Diamond benefits whilst i still hold status.

  6. pointsarb says:

    OT: Morning all. Calling Polly and all others here who frequent the Far East on hols please. I’m holding Virgin Upper Class redemptions to HKG and looking for ideas on best final destination in the Far East/Indonesia for a family of 4 with 2 kids aged 6 and 4. Currently booked in to the Hilton Phuket however cannot get the internal flights on avios on CX from HKG. Looked at Singapore (but rainy season?), Bali (but monsoon season?) and so a little stuck on final destination if the objective is not really to sight see just to enjoy great weather and a great hotel with great kid amenities. We are normal Caribbean go’ers and so spoiled by stunning beaches and weather, first time to Far East hence looking for guidance.

    Can anybody offer any suggestions please for a final destination ex HKG that I might have missed? Thanks in advance!

    • What time of the year are you travelling in? Rainy season will vary with location and time of year, also the severity of it varies by location.

    • Firstly, unless you want to hire a car then I would swap Hilton Phuket for HI Patong Beach if you have IHG points. The latter is a very nice hotel, just across the road from the beach and walking distance to everything. I might be wrong but I seem to recall a kids club room or something at that hotel too. Can you not get there via KL with MH? A stopover in KL could be good, Doubletree Hilton is only 10k per night, huge breakfast buffet and lounge. Free shuttle bus to points of interest in the city, 5 minutes walk to metro. Don’t overlook Air Asia, they are great. If you use them you should pay extra for the hot seats at front, extra luggage, priority boarding and food. They fly direct from HKG-HKT. If you want something quieter than Phuket then Ao Nang beach at Krabi might appeal, MH fly there too. As an alternative consider Bangkok city hreak with Koh Samet for quiet beach break. HKG-BKK is a good CX business redemption and you can also use miles on Sri Lankan. In HKG I recommend taking kids up to the big Buddha on the cable car, take the public bus or taxi down the hill to the port and return to HK by fast ferry. There is also Disneyland in the same area so perhaps worth staying locally for two nights. If taking the cable car then buy tickers in advance as lines can be very long at times.

    • We’re going in Feb, which is possible Monsoon season in Bali, so we’ve decided to go Langkawi(Andaman) and KL if that helps also with 2 young children. Thanks JamesB for the tip re:Doubletree! I was debating between that and the Hilton in KL

      • Hilton is directly opposite the railway station but that is still more hassle than a taxi right to door of Doubletree. Hilton is a better hotel but at 10k a night it is difficult to ignore DT. IIRC Genghis also got upgraded to a suite.

        • Yep. Suite upgrade at DT in late Apr / early May. It was great value but I only gave it a 3* rating on TA. Happy to share my review if interested

    • From HKG there are direct flights to Samui, Phuket (or Khoa Lak), indirect to Krabi or Ko Lanta (via BKK as an example). I’m sure others will fill in the gaps for family options, I’d imagine Phuket and Samui would give a few choices.

      Best weather would depend on the time of year but if your saying Bali is wet then I’m thinking it’s early in the year.

      • pointsarb says:

        Thanks for all the responses guys, appreciate it….

        @ James B, yep looked at Air Asia and they want circa £350pp round trip HKG to HKT so £1400 for our family of four – ouch! – compared to a CX redemption! We wanted to avoid Patong area completely, too crazy for us I think!

        @ Darren I will check out Samui and Khoa Lak thanks.

        @ Rash, yep we are set on Bali too…until we found out that since we would be going over Xmas we would likely be rained out as monsoon season so don’t want to risk that.

        • I think there are still a lot of fifth freedom flights between BKK and HKG with cheap cash fares so maybe have to go long way round. Patong is not so crazy as Samui or Pattaya but certainly not quiet. Phuket still not a bad option though. If you hire a car you can find lots of great quiet beaches as you explore the island , and the coastline of the mainland nearby is stunning. Driving in South of Thailand is easy, cars are right hand drive like here and road signs are both in English and Thai. Taxi and tuktuks in Phuket are a PITA so I strongly recommend a car.

        • @JamesB I’d agree re Pattaya v Patong but Samui is an island with different places for varied holidays. The north and south being the best imho and Chaweng being less so.

          Saying all that Phuket is a good choice for an all round destination.

    • Stevie G says:

      Where / which hotels do you recommend in the Caribbean pointsarb?

      • pointsarb says:

        Our current favourite is actually in Mexico – JW Marriott Cancun. Very nice property but limited elite recognition as it’s a resort. Check out Turks & Caicos too for some stunning beaches.

  7. Rob,

    Coincidentally, I emailed you the Hyatt Offer this morning 😉
    I did have a problem accessing HFP this morning so hadn’t seen the article 🙁

  8. Hmmm – I’m Spire and didn’t get any email from IHG. But completely agree with the above comments about the worth of non-guaranteed benefits.

  9. I can’t see how you select this on a reservation. Is it just the Early – before 3pm?

  10. pointsarb says:

    OT: Morning all. Need some advice from folks who frequent the Far East on hols please. I’m holding Virgin Upper Class redemptions to HKG and looking for ideas on best final destination in the Far East/Indonesia for a family of 4 with 2 kids aged 6 and 4. Currently booked in to the Hilton Phuket however cannot get the internal flights on avios on CX from HKG. Looked at Singapore (but rainy season?), Bali (but monsoon season?) and so a little stuck on final destination if the objective is not really to sight see just to enjoy great weather and a great hotel (on points of course!) with great kids amenities. We are normal Caribbean go’ers and so have been spoiled by stunning beaches and weather, our first time to Far East hence looking for guidance.

    Can anybody offer any suggestions please for a final destination ex HKG that I might have missed that would ‘tick our boxes’? Thanks in advance!

    • Depends when you are going and how old the children are. To be honest I would steer well clear of Patong as it’s a glorified tourist trap IMO.

      I would fly into HKT and then transfer up the coast to Khao La (Phang Nga). Much more “Thai” and family orientated. Hotels at all price ranges too. It is much more laid back than Phuket and alot better prices.

      • pointsarb says:

        Sorry forgot to say we’re going this Xmas! We were never going anywhere near Patong for the reasons you mention!

        • I found Ao Nang (Krabi) nice around 8 years ago. No idea though how it’s changed / whether good for kids

        • If you really want to get away from it all fly to Trang and head out to Koh Lipe or similar. Songkhla still very Thai, non touristy and has an enormous white sandy beach; nearest airport is Hat Yai. For something different hire a catamaran with Toon, live aboard and go sailing through the Andaman Islands from Phuket.

        • +1 for Koh Pipe, almost as good as the Maldives for snorkeling, intend to go back at somepoint

          Have a look at

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        I’ll second Khao Lak. The JW Marriott is great, albeit modest on elite benefits.

    • pointsarb says:

      apologies for the duplicate post, the HFP website was playing up this morning!

  11. OT. @JamesB. Nectar points for Sainsburys life insurance have just posted for wife and me. Fifth payment will be at month end and we will then cancel. 28k nectar for £50 not bad. Now for a VTEC / ebay 1p / nectar offer.

    • Scallder says:

      Genghis – Nectar double up is running until tomorrow if you haven’t made use of it yet and can do so before Wednesday. I think i remember you saying before you’re in SE London which if so, there’s a large Sainsbury’s in Sydenham which would easily allow for any of the categories. Managed to max out all 7 there on Saturday.

    • Good stuff, I think my 5th payment was today so I will check and cancel. I thought the Virgin Trains deal today was the nectar 50% refund so disappointed it was only a 50% sale.

  12. Optimus Prime says:

    Speaking of guaranteed benefits: is the room upgrade at Intercontinental hotels for Ambassador members 100% guaranteed? Even on peak season? How about late checkout at 4pm?

    I know the website says they both are but then at The Palazzo in Vegas they told me late checkout was 2pm. I didn’t dispute it because I didn’t need it. Also they gave me a welcome letter which said late checkout was 4pm for Spire Ambassador (this is my current level) and just 2pm for Gold/Platinum ambassadors. I thought Ambassador benefits were supposed to be independent of IHG elite status?

    P.S. – I may be wrong and 2pm checkout it’s just for Gold Ambassador. Anyway as per the Ambassador website I thought any Ambassador level should give you 4pm checkout.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Both are guaranteed benefits. Sometimes you need to remind the manager and/or escalate. I had the same issuer at the Westin recently where they’ve tried to tell me late check-out is “subject to availability” where it’s a guaranteed benefits for SPG Gold. Complained to SPG, got 10,000 points right away and the manager was reminded what the rules are.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      I vaguely recall that SPG has a benefits cop-out for ‘resort’ hotels.

      • As does Marriott, as I find out in Venice every year.

      • Indeed they do – and an ever-increasing number of properties fall into that category!

        Their own advertising does catch them up sometimes though – I Tweeted them after seeing an in-app ad for my stay boasting about the free WiFi & water I’d received as an SPG Gold. I pointed out this seemed to overlap massively with the $30/day resort fee I was paying. Twitter team contacts hotel manager who then comped resort fee for the entire 5-night stay – said it was a one-time thing but I was happy to take it 😀

  13. OT – just boarded Hamburg – Heathrow flight. We checked in 24 hours ago but couldn’t get 3 seats together. Are BA going the way of the LCCs – split up pax travelling together so they’re more likely to pay in advance next time?

    • the real harry1 says:

      I don’t think so – is it a busy flight? it could have a lot of status passengers on board with theoretical seating blocking off lots of middles

      did you just check in once on MMB without going back repeatedly to check seat availability afterwards? that’s what I do when we get ‘toilet row’ seats – and I’ve always managed to move us up the plane

      has Hamburg got self check-in machines for British Airways yet? not that widely available in out-stations yet but that allows you to check in online T-24 (but don’t print BPs) then at the airport you can see all availability/ move seats (and grab an exit seat for free)

      • Louise Sargeant says:

        We are usual BA fliers, flying AA to Miami in December, the only seats we could book for “free” were the middle seats on edge of the aircraft or one of the middle of the 4 in the centre of the aircraft – my solution is booking the middle seat for me for free and the seats either side for husband and daughter for a fee

    • No, they haven’t done this. Are you all on the same PNR? It would surprise me if you didn’t get seats at least very close to each other if you were. If you’re not then all bets are off, as ‘theoretical seating’ will kick in.

    • Just back from Iberia MIA=MAD-LHR-LBA Booked in Business, on iberia seats picked no problems. BA LHR-LBA decided to seat me in 23B and mrs xcxlx in 10D said it was down to balancing the load as only 25% full.

  14. Bits OT.

    Anyone know if this offer for 3000 miles works if you’ve ordered in the past, but you haven’t been a Winebank member for ages….?

    • the real harry1 says:

      you would have to use your mum’s address etc

    • Would be interested too, I want to get somebody a case as an Xmas gift? @TRH1, what’s the best deal at the moment Harry? I guess most of us have all the amex offers. Thanks.

      • the real harry1 says:

        thinking about it, it’s once per Virgin Atlantic FC so won’t work twice even in you get it delivered to mum etc

  15. OT anyone know when the Caledonian Sleeper renovation will complete next year (inc the double bed ensuite cabins) and when tickets might go on sale? TIA.

    • Renovation? I understood it was new carriages?

      • You’re prob right!!


          The first carriages built…in Spain…and tested in Czech Republic! You would think we could do both here in UK.

        • RussellH says:


          Velim (CZ) is where just about all European rolling stock is first tested Siemens have their own test track at Wildenrath, but that is the only other facility I know of.

          You need special facilities these days for testing new kit. With all the electronics on board these days you have to start testing somewhere completely isolated from a working railway and the Velim test track does this. Only once the initial tests have proved the stock safe to run on standard track do you let the new trains onto the track that they will actually use.

          UK rolling stock builders are actually pretty busy at present, and none of them are building loco-hauled rolling stock. I suspect that CAF were able to come up with an earlier delivery date than anyone else, and they are also building Mark 5 day coaches for Transpennine Express

      • RussellH says:

        Coaches, please, not carriages. And yes, it is completely new rolling stock, 75 Mark 5 coaches being built by CAF, in Spain. The first five are complete and undergoing testing at Velim in the Czech Republic. Once those tests are complete, they will move to the UK. Another 12 coaches due at Teesport late this month or early December. UK testing is due to start before the end of this year. The first trainsets are due to enter service spring 2017, full service is due by summer 2018. I would imagine that tickets for first class double bed suites will only be announced once testing is complete. Never a good idea to sell something in advance that turns out not to be available!

        • Thanks RussellH. Any idea if they are running on Fort William route? It would be cool to take a trip from London to Fort William mid-latd Jube and wake up to breakfast on the West Highland line.

        • That’s my plan JamesB. Thanks RusselH for insight. I’d like to do the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig and some distillery visits this time.

        • @Genghis, haste ye back. If you make your way from Mallaig to Skye then the citylink bus ride fiom Portree to Inverness is awesome. You could then pick up a hire car in Inverness and head into the Spey Valley.

        • RussellH says:

          Replying to myself since I cannot reply to the others (cue Rob for longer threads when you get your new IT person!)

          The new Mark 5 sleeprs will be running on all the current Caley Sleeper routes: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William. (Current plans anyway!)

          Serco are looking into options for the to be redundant Mark 3 sleepers. One option, apparently, is a sleeper from the central belt to Wick and Thurso, timed to connect to the Orkney Ferries.

        • Pretty certain the UK has its own rail test track at Old Dalby.

        • David – it does, that’s where our company tests trains

        • RussellH says:

          Re The Old Dalby Test Track:

          I have often wondered why it does not get much use these days. I imagine that it has nothing like the facilities that Velim does these days. It will also be easier to get from Besain in Spain to Velim for the initial testing than to Old Dalby. Even more important is, if necessary, getting the stock back to factory, given that it does not come to the UK via the Channel Tunnel, but by ship.

    • Now that Gleneagles has had a full refurb (and Gleneagles has its own station on the sleeper route) I have got very keen to give this a go.

    • Most articles sadly just seem to give a generic 2018 mention. This Guardian article from a few months ago is a bit more specific, saying Spring –

    • This looks like the page to follow – – first batch of trains gone to Czech Republic for testing. Looks very nice!

  16. Louise Sargeant says:

    So, with the wording of IHG being looked at how do you see this wording from Hampton by Hilton? Would the wording make you nervous, especially booking a standard room between Christmas and New year??


    ‘Book a Standard Room and receive an instant upgrade to Suite. 50% off parking, FREE late check-out until 4PM. Discounted coupon books to Dolphin Outlet Mall, Dadeland Mall, Sawgrass Outlet Mall, Bayside and Aventura Mall. Complimentary Welcome Drink at our Lobby Pool Bar between 5:00pm-11:00pm.

    This offer is only valid when the reservation is made directly through our website. Subject to availability’

    This is from the offers page(Hampton Miami Brickell), elsewhere online you find ‘subject to availability’ on check in on both upgrade and late check out.

  17. I stayed in a CP recently and turned up a bit early. They did the whole ‘you know check-in is 3pm’ thing but then immediately offered either to hold a bag while I went out or a seat in a comfy lobby while they prepared my room. I opted for the latter, heard them make a call to prioritise cleaning, and sure enough it was ready within 10 mins. I was very impressed. So if this new offer means they’ll just do this more often, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

  18. the real harry1 says:

    O/T Air NZ Black Friday deals

    I doubt if you’ll get the LA or NZ return deals (worth a try, though!) – but I noticed the as yet unannounced Business tickets – I bet they will go quickly as well, but a few people would hesitate before spending (say) £1500 return in Business to NZ – yet that’s amazing value

    top tip: Use Fare Hold

    Fare Hold gives you the opportunity to reserve fares for your selected itinerary at the displayed price for up to 3 days in exchange for a fee of £25 for international flights from the UK.

    The advantage of Fare Hold is that you don’t have to complete your passenger details or select your seats until later. This is substantially quicker than completing your booking straight away but please note that the £25 fee is in addition to your flight price.