Bits: Virgin adds new Jo’burg service, Melia extends Avios earning to BA

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News in brief:

Virgin Atlantic adds a second daily Johannesburg service

Filling the gap left by South African Airways move to drop one of its two daily Jo’burg to Heathrow services from late April, Virgin Atlantic has announced that it is doubling its Johannesburg services from Winter 2018.

Launching on 28th October, the service will use a new Boeing 787-9, assuming Virgin Atlantic still has one that is working properly.

Flying daily, it will leave Heathrow at 16.45 and land in South Africa at 5.40.  This makes it the first Heathrow service of the day to arrive.  Unfortunately for Virgin, the $200m aircraft will then sit on the ground earning nothing for the next 17 hours as the return flight to Heathrow does not leave until 22.20.  It arrives back in Heathrow at 7.30am.

Seats will be bookable from 24th March.  Whilst Virgin does not guarantee to make a certain number of reward seats available per flight, you may have a decent chance of finding something for Christmas or New Year with your Flying Club miles if you jump in early.

PS.   If you are wondering what has happened to the 2nd South African Airways landing slot, it has been leased to British Airways for five years.  It is not clear what BA will do with it, but you would imagine that a valuable early morning Heathrow landing slot would end up being used for a North American or Asian service.

PPS.  If you are wondering how the new South African Airways business class seat measures up, Anika is popping down to Johannesburg for a couple of days to try it out.  We will have a review in a few weeks.

Virgin Atlantic Economy Delight

Melia Rewards extends its Avios partnership to British Airways Executive Club

Spanish hotel group Melia has, not surprisingly, had a long term relationship with Iberia.  This allowed you to earn Avios in Iberia Plus from your stays, and to convert existing chunks of Melia Rewards at the rate of 100 points to 30 Avios.

Melia has now extended this to British Airways, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Meridiana.  You can credit your stay directly to a British Airways Executive Club account rather than having to move them across from an Iberia Plus account.  Full details are here.

To promote this new deal, Melia is offering a very generous launch offer of 9 Avios per €1 you spend.

This is a good deal.  A £200 spend, excluding taxes, would earn you over 2,000 Avios for example.

You need to book your stays between 9th March and 9th May for stays by 15th June.  Existing bookings do not appear to count and should be rebooked if the rate is flexible and the price has not increased.

About Melia

Melia brands include Gran Melia, Melia, ME, Paradius, INNSIDE, Tryp and Sol.  As well as being the biggest hotel group in Spain, the company has a decent presence elsewhere with 350 hotels in 40 countries.  In the UK you have:

ME London, the Norman Foster designed hotel on the Strand which has a good reputation.  Think of a hotel like The Trafalgar nearby or a more sophisticated W.

Melia White House, a surprisingly pleasant art deco era hotel near Regents Park where we had our 2016 and 2017 HFP Christmas parties

INNSIDE Manchester, the first UK outpost for Melia’s four-star business brand.  I reviewed INNSIDE Manchester and was impressed. 

We’ve also reviewed the INNSIDE New York NoMad here, the Gran Fenix in Madrid here and the impressive Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques in Madrid hereReader Nick reviewed the historic Rome property here when he won a Melia-sponsored competition on HFP a couple of years ago.  A review of the new INNSIDE in Hamburg is coming soon.

If you have an American Express Platinum charge card, you will receive free Gold status in Melia Rewards.  

Melia Rewards Gold offers the following benefits – which, to be honest, are not life-changing except for late check-out:

  • 30% bonus points
  • free breakfast for a companion (so basically 2-4-1)
  • free wi-fi
  • 3 x 20% off vouchers for room bookings
  • 4pm late check-out at city hotels, 2pm at resorts

Late check-out IS guaranteed as long as the hotel is not 100% full.  You will also receive free wi-fi.  There is no upgrade benefit.

Full details of the new Melia / British Airways partnership can be found on this page of the Melia website.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Bits: Book Lapland on Finnair with Avios, Loganair to run flights from Carlisle Airport, £50 off car rental
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  1. Early departure from Heathrow is optimised for USA connections. Presumably they will have some heavier maintenance checks and work done there at low cost which will offset the cost somewhat.

    I believe BA had to return a slot to Qantas for their Singapore & Perth flights (as they are now both morning arrivals) so they need the early flight to maintain their current early AM arrivals

    Presumably they’ve now got an afternoon slot but that would be absorbed into their Euro schedule

  2. OT: Anyway have any joy getting the bonus transferring MR points to Iberia. I did a small transfer Tuesday and point arrived in my account yesterday, no bonus showing yet …..

    • JamesB says:

      No joy according to several comments in bits yesterday.

      • My transfer also arrived without bonus, but it may still land in another 6/7 days time according to some posts.

        here is hoping!

        • The Original Nick says:

          Give it 4-5 days after your transfer hit and you may find the bonus arrives. Rob may have a bit more information on it.

        • JamesB says:

          When does the transfer bonus promo end? I could force my PRG sign up bonus early if it is reported to work.

        • 31st. Still waiting to see if my test bonus works. Seems to be 5 day delay.

    • Thanks to the poster who mentioned the 25% off flights to the Americas last week in the comments. I have changed my booking from MIA.

      Here is a link re the offer.

      • Luthar says:

        That was me. No problem, I’ve been helped many times by some OT comments in ‘Bits’.

        • Don’t you need not to be based in the UK for that to work?

        • Luthar says:

          I got it to work by changing my address on my Iberia account to a relative in Spain. It also works for addresses in US, Mexico and Argentina (not an exhaustive list).

        • Thanks again Luthar. Yes Bits sometimes highlights great offers great deals that Rob sometimes decides not to run with. Like the one you mentioned 25% Avios off the already low Iberia reward costs plus low taxes to the Americas and Asia. Too good a deal to pass up on.

        • The problem with this one is the requirement to change your Iberia account address which a) is rule bending and b) if you can’t change it back – remember BA only allows country changes once every 6 months – could mess up your ability to use Combine My Avios or take advantage of other offers.

        • Luthar says:

          That makes sense. No comment on a) but for b) I actually had zero avios in my Iberia account and transferred the avios after changing my address so no problems there. Having said that, there might be issues if I tried to transfer them back to BAEC though.

        • Rob. Not a problem combining Avios from an IB account with a US address to a BA account with a UK address and visa versa I just sent the few hundred back from IB to BA that were left over after transferring from BA to IB to make the booking.

          I thought one had to change addresses for the IB Groupon offers you wrote articles on.

        • Genghis says:

          @xcalx even a BA HHA? I normally have to transfer avios to first and then onto BA so how would changing IB address to US impact this with the UK address requirement?

        • @Genghis sorry no idea, I have never had household accounts in any programme

    • Andreas says:

      I’m based in Spain so I do qualify for the offer and whenever there is one of these MR to IB+ bonuses, the Bonus payout lands in your IB+ account at the same time as the base Avios, albeit shown in a separate transaction. So if you haven’t seen them yet, there is little hope you will get them…

  3. Morning Rob, the aircraft day stop in JNB provides time for scheduled routine maintenance. It’s not a problem, it will be part of the planned maintenance cycle for the fleet.

  4. Andrew says:

    Shame VS aren’t flying to Cape Town !

    • I never understand why they dont. (im sure someone here may know)

      • I am guessing it is yield – Jo’burg has a lot of business traffic and leisure carriers will (slightly unwillingly) go there and connect to CPT if the price is right. It doesn’t work the other way round.

        • Would it not make sense for virgin to utilse the place and do a joburg to cpt hop and back whilst it is sitting idle! Win all round

        • ‘Fifth freedom’ rules probably do not apply. South Africa probably does not allow foreign airlines to operate domestic services (in the same way the UK does not allow non-EU airlines to operate domestic services).

          It should, admittedly, be able to drop off in JNB and continue to CPT as long as they didn’t pick up any new passengers.

        • Michael Jennings says:

          To be pedandic, the fifth freedom gives an airline from country A the right to carry passengers between countries B and C. The right to fly domestic routes in a foreign country is cabotage – sometimes (unofficially) referred to as the eighth freedom.

  5. My experience with the Melia Rewards program is mixed, I managed to nominate BA Exec club as my preferred partner programme. However, when looking to transfer my current Melia Reward points into BA Avios, there is no option on the Melia Rewards Site to do so despite them saying you can do this – very frustrating. Have tried to contact them, but with zero success. Anyone else tried to do this?

    • FlyingChris says:

      I’ve also come across the same problem (can select as partner, but not to transfer) as keen to transfer mine across to BAEC. Their website is terrible. I’m just waiting to see if the option will eventually be patched in.

  6. New Card says:

    Big EU261 news – Emirates refused permission to appeal to Supreme Court. Could open floodgates for a lot of claims for missed connections outside EU.

  7. I’ve always thought the UK-SA runs to be ripe for investment in a slightly quicker version of subsonic aircraft. Even just 5% more speed might allow immediate turnarounds on this route.

    • Nothing stopping them doing immediate turn around now (KLM does).

      Rather a strong commercial preference from high yield passengers on the route for overnight in both directions. Quicker plane isn’t going to change this.

      • It would benefit South Africa if they took a more relaxed view on open skies. I’m sure more airline would fly there if the aircraft could do a cheeky Jo’burg to Addis Ababa round trip during the day, or even stop in Jo’burg and then be able to sell seats for a Jo’burg to Cape Town tag.

        • Presumably there would be a need for additional crew resources which might complicate the matter.

  8. OT can someone confirm the most up to date Insurance booklet for Amex Platinum. I have one from last year dates May 17. We upgraded our Gold to Plat on 9/2 and despite several requests and promises we have not yet received the Platinum pack with the T&Cs and Insurance info. I can’t find the documents online either.

  9. gastrocnemius says:

    I have struggled to get any avios from Melia.

    The points leave my Melia account, and then haven’t arrived in my Iberia account. I submitted an claim online, but haven’t heard back from them….

    Has anyone else had this issue?

  10. Any news on when I can use VS miles on KLM?

    • The JV won’t be approved until Spring 2019. I believe they are hoping to have cross-redemptions available before that though, since that does not require regulatory approval.

  11. Graham Walsh says:

    Virgin Atlantic makes first loss in 4 years

  12. Tom Cook says:

    Cancelled my SPG card this morning – only had it for 10 weeks, hit the spend within 6 weeks and transferred all the points over. Closed the account down over the chat function which was fine (used Genghis’s line of not using the card anymore)!

    No mention / threat of not getting any other sign up bonuses when cancelling, all very painless. We now have 30k of SPG points. My other half has just got the SPG card and so I presume that we can combine SPG accounts to get her 10k to add to the fund?

    • Yes you can transfer between accounts at the same address.
      I transfer to Marriott as they give breakfast with Gold (from Amex Platinum) whereas SPG don’t.

      • Tom Cook says:

        So could she give my SPG account number to transfer points to?

        TBH we have booked up our hols and accommodation this year so I planned to leave the 30k SPG where they are though it seems that some say that transferring to Marriott at 3:1 results in them getting more value.

        • That is a different question. Probably not; it depends on the checks made. With same surname and address you may get away with it. I forgot to say that you can only transfer in multiples of 1,000 so earn accordingly.
          I find Marriott to be better value, but as ever it depends on your individual requirements, and in 2019 the schemes may have been merged. Another big advantage with Marriott is that you can make a booking before you have earned the points.

  13. Final OT post about G-MEDN I added a few more pictures since my last post, so the full set is now online

    It looks like the aircraft again might not be operating this weekend. The only unanswered questions are whether there’s any changes to the legroom in row 1 CE, does CE have any power sockets and is the wardrobe still available? If anyone gets to try out CE on this aircraft before I do then post a reply on here.

    • Remember how you were asking why it didn’t fly for a few days last week? It was removed to have wifi fitted.

  14. OT regarding CW on a 777 – I am flying back from LAS to LGW in May. The seat map shows 48 seats in J instead of 40 – I understand that the usual Gatwick fleet has 40 (due to reduce to 32)

    In short, does a 48 seat J cabin mean my plane might be a bit nicer (in terms of refurb, IFE) than if it were a 40 seat cabin?

    Thanks a lot

    • Catalan says:

      Not necessarily so. The LHR fleet of 3 class B777s have the 48J configuration. So it’s likely you’ll be travelling on one of those during the LGW fleet upgrade.

  15. Is anyone able to see the 3 x 20% vouchers for melia this calendar year as a Gold member?

    I have none in the promotions section of my melia account, I’m gold courtesy of Amex plat. They seem to have been removed as the calendar year turned over and I’m not sure if they are gone for everyone or gone for renewals through amex (or maybe even just for me)

    • Just you I think. I auto-renewed and can still see mine. Not that I ever seem to be able to use them!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Never had them this year.

      Seems hit and miss as to who gets them on amex upgrade to gold

  16. Any room for 1 more flight to JNB?

  17. David Henderson says:

    Interesting to see that BA is cutting its second A380 service to JNB and reverting to a 747.

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