Bits: BA GGL Heathrow Express First upgrades extended, Etihad scraps chauffeur cars on redemptions

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News in brief:

Heathrow Express / BA Gold Guest List upgrade deal extended

We were with the Heathrow Express team at the Business Travel Show yesterday.  They confirmed that – whilst ba.com has not been updatedthe offer of free First Class upgrades on Heathrow Express for British Airways Gold Guest List members is continuing.

There is nothing to do to take advantage of this offer.  Simply buy a standard class Heathrow Express ticket and sit in one of the First Class carriages.  You need to show your Gold Guest List membership card to the guard.

Note that Heathrow Express staff have recently been retrained and will now only accept BAEC membership cards with the letters GGL in the corner.  For the last year or so they have been allowing anyone with a Gold card to sit in First Class ……

Full details of this deal are on ba.com here.   Ignore the expiry date shown online.

Etihad drops its chauffeur service on all reward bookings

Etihad has been unveiling a steady drip drip of cuts to its Business Class service over the last year or so, in what will clearly end up being a failed attempt to improve its financial position.

Some of these decisions have been bordering on the bizarre.  Etihad scrapped free pyjamas in Business Class, but then started letting Economy Class passengers pay for them.  But not Business Class passengers ….

Data caps have been tightened on in-flight internet.  The spa in the Heathrow lounge was closed, but only after free treatments had already been removed for most passengers.  Paid-for lounge access was introduced at its First Class and Business Class facilities.  Baggage limits were recently tweaked – not entirely for the worst, admittedly, but primarily so.

The chauffeur service has been cut four times.  Back in 2016 they removed chauffeur cars on reward tickets booked using miles from partner airlines such as American.  Cars were removed from the cheapest cash Business Saver tickets.  Last year, more importantly, they scrapped the chauffeur service outside the UAE for all passengers.

In the latest development, from 1st April First and Business Class reward tickets will no longer qualify for free chauffeur car trips in the UAE.  Cash tickets, except Business Saver, will continue to count.  This new rule applies irrespective of when you booked your ticket.

Full details are on this page of the Etihad website.

PS.  We should highlight a couple of Etihad positives, just to even things out.  Judging by the current £1700 business class tickets to Australia, the airline may be about to start fighting more on price.  Reward space has also been very good recently – I was shocked last month to find I could get 4 x A380 Business Class Studio seats back to London at the end of October half term, and on my preferred flight too.

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  1. So BA has a benefit of free upgrade to First Class on Heathrow Express for GGL holders (some of its best customers) yet on their website tells them “The offer is valid for purchase and travel by 31 December 2017” therefore the information is nearly 3 months out of date.

    • They are slovenly and you are more alert Mike – but Rob does say above to ignore the date.

  2. But just when we thought we’d got rid of Etihad and the last of their points, this Easter on LHR-BKK, at short notice, Etihad came up miles ahead of Qatar (bizarre £3/4k pricing each), Emirates (raised their standard pricing from £1850/1900 to £2050/2100 but no availability unless £3/4k) and even Finnair who wanted a ludicrous £3k plus each. TG were £3.5k or so.

    So whilst all the old points are gone, we now have some new ones coming, plus additions to the Etihad Business Connect mileage bank !

    Dropping chauffeurs after so many years is hurting us, not only on cost but also on convenience and the lack of an updated plane on the AUH-BKK leg (old 777) is a nagging point. However, even if worsening wine lists, the cheese plate reducing, the meals not as good as before, even the baggage restrictions etc. are thought of as all little nails in the coffin, I will admit, if they hit back on price, then when I pay for 3 tickets each time, saving money is a consideration.

    If TG had last year’s aggressive pricing policy of around £1795 versus a complacent £2600 plus then we would be on their metal. BA don’t figure. Finnair have become too flaky on price with huge fluctuations whilst Qatar are bonkers when not on sale. Emirates was getting the business this time until Etihad came in with the redemption and the other seat prices.

    Crucially too is the addition of the extra points for the business side and critically the ability to combine points within a family.

    Idea for Rob – how about a piece on which airlines have a business side to earn points on and also another story on which airlines let you combine points and which ones do not ?

  3. Alistair says:

    Are you certain about “This new rule applies irrespective of when you booked your ticket”?

    When they say “Etihad Guest Redemption Tickets booked in First or Business after 1 April 2018 will no longer be eligible” it’s not clear to me if “booked” means scheduled or bought.

    In the terms and conditions it says “From 1 April 2018, First and Business Class Guest redemption tickets will also no longer be eligible for this service.”

    That seems clearer and yet for my flight on the 15th April the chauffeur booking page seems to indicate that my booking still exists and says “If you would like to make a change to your Etihad Chauffeur booking, please get in touch with your local travel agent or contact us.”

    • Alistair says:

      Can confirm the chauffeur is indeed still available for redemptions booked before 1st April regardless of date of travel

  4. Will anyone really use Heathrow Express once Crossrail opens?

    • People still use Gatwick Express and Vienna’s CAT (even more useless as it only runs twice an hour, and if you just missed one, a local train will get you there almost before the next one departs).

    • They think so. The ‘Express’ bit means they have little choice but to stick to 4 per hour anyway, if the frequency dropped then no-one would use it.

    • Lady London says:

      Does anyone really use Heathrow Express now, when the link on the Heathrow Connect that also goes on the same lines via Ealing Broadway, offers within minutes of similar journey time?

      • It’s a lot less reliable. Regularly cancels, or ‘delays’ to the point it might as well be cancelled. I get it inbound if it’s there, but don’t plan to get it outbound; annoying as it runs from Ealing nearish to my work

        • Lady London says:

          Good point George but it’s soooo much cheaper if you’ve got a bit of time to allow, it’s well worth it and takes you right into Heathrow same as the Heathrow Express.

      • I use the Express, I consider it ‘cheap enough’ with the Network Railcard discount and the connect runs every 30 mins as opposed to every 15. Also most of my flights go from T5 and although some Connect trains venture that far the ones that do aren’t listed in the timetable.

        TfL Rail are coming in May replacing Heathrow Connect, the intention is 4 trains an hour between Paddington and Heathrow using the Crossrail train sets but London Reconnections has said there may be delays to the launch of 4 trains an hour. Until all the signalling issues with the new trains in the Heathrow Tunnel are sorted out TfL Rail may use former Heathrow Connect trains to keep the 2 trains an hour running to Heathrow and then run the other 2 trains an hour just as far as Hayes.

        So timeline is as follows:
        – May 2018: TfL Rail takes over Heathrow Connect services.
        – Dec 2018: Crossrail launches and TfL Rail is rebranded as the ‘Elizabeth Line’, however the route through the core will terminate at Paddington low level and to go onwards to Heathrow you’ll need to go to the mainline station and either get an Express or another Crossrail train
        – Dec 2019: Through running on Crossrail will be in operation. Also services will start serving T5 but only 2 per hour compared to 4 for T4 (as T5 will still have HEX)

        Once TfL Rail get the 4 trains an hour running I think the more knowledgeable people will start to use this service, but many will still use the HEX as it’s easier to get to T5 and it’ll still be slightly quicker. There’ll be a further drop off of HEX custom when the core route opens, but as you have to change at Paddington anyway there’ll still be some who want to take the HEX.

        I think once through running is enabled by December 2019 then most people will just stay on the Crossrail train, changing at T123 for T5 if they’ve got on a T4 train.

        The means the central terminals at LHR will be really well served by 2019. Six Crossrail trains an hour + four HEX.

        • Thanks for the detail. I need to cut & paste this for reference as I certainly won’t remember it !

  5. Didn’t Mr. Halliday from Avios move over to Etihad? I guess we haven’t seen the last of the cut backs then.

  6. Are there any other airline cards that get an upgrade to first?

  7. IslandDweller says:

    AndyS. I’m no fan of HEX. But remember that through trains from the airport across central London are not until Dec 19, so quite a while away yet.

  8. Tesco wine is 10 points per £1 if your cellar needs re-stocking, also Holland and Barret 20 points per £1.

  9. Lady London says:

    Are any other readers getting served ads in Chinese and in Japanese Kanji on HfP this morning? It’s a first for me… 🙂

  10. Any other insights from the Business Travel Show ? OneWorld was there en masse, so was StarAlliance and Amex, along with several others… It looked quite interesting!

    • Less interesting than it has been – no new seats to try this year for example. We have secured a couple of interesting things so it wasn’t a waste but it is less use than you think. Business Traveller had an £85 bottle of Penfolds Reserve 15A chardonnay out for their on stand wine tasting so worth going for that. Anika got a colouring book and pencils off Amex and was very happy 🙂

  11. Papaya77 says:

    OT: Having gone around in circles on the Marriott website, I’d appreciate if somebody knows – to order a travel package, do you have to call them or am I missing some way to order them online…?

  12. OT (as in bits): Club Eurostar – I’m guessing it’s more like an airline scheme, each traveller needs to have their own account or would it be possible to enter my number for all passengers to pool the points earned?

  13. O/T – does anyone know how long it takes for the 20,000 MR points to credit after spending the £1000 when upgrading from gold to platinum? The T&C’s state upto 60 days. Anyone had any experience of this?

    Also just a thought – maybe it would be a good idea for this website to have a forum so people (like myself) don’t keep asking the same questions.

    Thanks very much

    • johnny_c-l says:

      They post within a few days of the transaction which takes you over the threshold, along with the normal base point.s

    • I noticed mine yesterday after spending over the weekend

    • Spend today has just taken me well over the £1k mark for my gold to plat upgrade bonus points. 2 weeks after upgrading I’ve still not had a welcome pack or my new card. Been using my gold.

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