Bits: pay Aer Lingus to fly to your city, interesting new Vueling credit card in Italy, is BA Flight Pass going away?

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News in brief:

Aer Lingus launches a competition to win a new route!

It is a topic that is rarely discussed but almost all airlines are happy to accept ‘commercial support’ from local government in return for launching a route to that city.  Such deals were a cornerstone of Ryanair’s European strategy in its early years.

Aer Lingus has decided to blow the process wide open by putting out a press release announcing that it is open to offers:

“Aer Lingus has launched a Request for Information for Commercial Support for Transatlantic Network Development (RFI). The process presents a unique opportunity for North American airports and their local communities to invest alongside Aer Lingus in the introduction or expansion of Aer Lingus service.  Multiple studies have shown the economic multiplier benefits of international air service.  Aer Lingus would operate to Dublin, Europe’s fastest growing transatlantic hub, offering both US Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance and extensive onward connectivity throughout Europe.

The process is extended to both airports not yet served by Aer Lingus for new route opportunity and those already served by Aer Lingus, for increased capacity/frequencies. The process applies to both the A321LR aircraft as well as existing A330 aircraft, as wide-body capacity may become available by substitution with the new A321LR aircraft.

Airports along with local government, business and tourism bodies are invited to submit information to assist in building the commercial and operational case to operate a new direct route by 6th April, 2018. Shortlisted airport meetings will take place at the end of April at Routes Europe, followed by an official announcement of 2019 destinations in early May.”

With 12 new Airbus A321 long-range aircraft arriving from next year, capable of reaching the US East Coast, the airline needs homes for them.  If your city is on the West Coast, Aer Lingus is happy to take an A330 off an East Coast route and downgrade it to an A321 if the price is right.

This will be a quick process and we will know in under two months who has offered to write the biggest cheque, obviously in conjunction with Aer Lingus modelling of potential passenger volumes.

Interesting benefits with Vueling’s new Italian credit card

Vueling, BA’s sister airline which also uses Avios as its reward currency, has just launched a Visa credit card in Italy.  It is worth taking a look as – since Italy has the same 0.3% interchange fee cap as the UK – it is likely to be a similar model for future UK airline cards.

The model is now becoming standard.  An annual fee, relatively low earning rate but numerous ‘soft’ and status benefits for people who fly the airline.

Take a look on the Avios website here.  For a €49 annual fee you get a Visa card with:

a one-off sign-up bonus of 4,000 Avios

2 Avios per €1 spent with IAG airlines (BA, Iberia, Vueling etc)

1 Avios per €1 spent elsewhere

priority check-in when flying Vueling

20 annual credits towards Vueling Premium status.  You will only need 20 x one-way flights instead of the usual 40.

I don’t know anything about the Italian card market so I can’t comment on how willing people are to pay annual fees, or how this card stacks up in the competitive landscape.  My gut feeling is that the package is weak given the €49 fee unless you are flying Vueling in the sweet spot where you don’t currently qualify for Premium but would with the 20 extra credits.

IAG has also launched new Aer Lingus and Iberia credit cards in the United States this week, but there is little value in comparing the benefits to EU cards due to the huge interchange fees charged (600% higher than the EU rate) which fund the rewards.

Is BA running down Flight Pass?

After making a fresh attempt to breath some life into Flight Pass last year, it looks like British Airways may be running it down.  (EDIT: or not, see the last line.)

Flight Pass is no longer available for sale for use beyond 31st December.  All 12 month passes have been withdrawn – we need to see if 9 month passes are withdrawn on 1st April.  OptionTown, which runs the scheme for BA, is not responding to queries.

If you don’t know about Flight Pass, via this OptionTown linkyou can buy route passes for economy travel on flights from Heathrow, Gatwick and City.

There are a huge number of pricing permutations based on how many people would share your pass, how many tickets you want, what expiry date you are willing to accept and how close to the date of travel you want to book.  You can buy a pass for one route or for an entire country.

For example, you can buy 12 one-way flights from Heathrow to Newcastle for £605so £50 each.  This includes taxes.  You must use them within 3 months AND must book 90 days in advance.  At the other extreme, 12 one-way tickets bookable up to 4 hours in advance will cost you £131 per seat.

Given the huge number of pricing options, it is impossible to say if this offers decent savings or not but I know many frequent air commuters use it.  Note that you can only book return flights with Flight Pass which means that it is less flexible than you may think – you may be able to book your outbound with just four hours notice but you need to lock in the return at the same time (changeable for a fee).

You have last seat availability.   If there are still seats for sale, irrespective of the price, you can book them – as long as you are inside the booking window of your Flight Pass.  There are no blackout dates or minimum stays.

All of this is irrelevant, of course, if the product is now on its last legs.

EDIT: Comments below suggest that OptionTown has run the product down before, and then kicked it back to life, so it may not be the end …..

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Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    O/T I upgraded to CW from PE using Avios at the weekend on a flight back from Abu Dhabi and have been credited CW TP instead of PE. I’m aware this is a mistake, would they take them away again?
    Whilst this is good (plus the extra avios!), last week I’d upgraded using cash a trip to Sicily in May as I needed the extra TP to keep silver status and now with these bonus ones that wasn’t necessary. Cost £149 which now seems like a bit of a waste.

    • JamesB says:

      Something funny going on with this, happened to us too. We changed dates and both avios and TP shot up. I have no idea why but I’m not mentioning it and hoping for the best. If they come through it will sweeten the £370 change fee. For benefit of others be aware that if changing an UUA ticket you get hit with both the ticket change fee and the avios £35 change fee.

      • Rebecca says:

        Fingers crossed for you! I’m just going to have to try and get my moneys worth in food and champagne on the flight I needlessly paid to upgrade!

        • We got lucky on this quite a few months ago, no clawback so far.

          If it makes you feel better I spent a fair bit more than £150 on a mini tier point run to secure Gold and on that I got stuck at Heathrow overnight as missed a connection on the way home.

        • JamesB says:

          Figured out what’s going on with mine and will certainly not be getting the points unfortunately. Both the original and changed sector are currently on my booking. Once a new ticket has been issued I expect the original flight will disappear along with the associated avios.

    • Tom Cook says:

      We upgraded from CW to F using avios at Christmas – we got the 210 tier points + bonus avios for that element of the trip. They didn’t get pulled. Interestingly we have a flight to Abu in two weeks, upgraded from PE to CW (we’re CW coming back anyway) and the tier points are showing as 280 for the trip.

    • RussellH says:

      This happened to us last summer LGW-OAK in both directions. There was a separate award for the WTP and for the upgrade, so I assumed that that was how it was supposed to work. No problems since at all

  2. wyvern says:

    Re Flight Pass:

    The same was true of BA Flight Pass last year – all the passes sold after 31 December 2016 (into at least April 2017) were only available until 31 December 2017, and the 12 month passes became unavailable after 31 Dec 2016, and the 9 month passes became unavailable after 31 Mar 2017.

    The terms and conditions of BA Flight Pass at any one time say all travel must be completed by 31 December 20xx, so I guess that maybe BA makes a fresh agreement with OptionTown to cover each calendar year? Hopefully this is just the same thing, and passes for 2019 will become available in due course.

    Ideally BA Flight Pass would be a permanent scheme with fixed no end date, but even if not, I would prefer that there was the ability to purchase the a flight pass to cover the entire remaining period if this is less than year, at the rate for the shortest pass that is no longer available, e.g. if 8 months 14 days remained of the fixed period, you could then still buy a pass at the cost of a 9 month pass which is valid for 8 months 14 days, even though you would be losing 14 days’ of its use, rather than only being able to buy a 6 month pass or shorter.

    The other change I would really like to see to the scheme would be the ability to book single fares in either direction rather than returns. Given the way BA prices shorthaul fares with a return no longer necessarily being that much cheaper, and singles generally half the cost of a return, this would make the Flight Pass product much more usable.

  3. Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

    I’d love for BA to relaunch a Visa/MasterCard with the same benefits as BAPP currently offers and the same price. Even if it had to reduce the earnings rate slightly, being able to get 1 Avios / £1 spent (a lower earnings rate than the Vueling card mentioned) then I’d be reasonably happy.

    I do like Amex in some ways, but being able to use the card literally everywhere without even thinking (especially when considering the Amex Apple Pay issues) would be a joy!

    • I have the BA Amex for the points, but have found worldwide that many places do not accept Amex.
      Their charges to the vendors are extortionately high (which is how they fund their generous customer benefits programmes).
      Most main chains accept them, but independent businesses often don’t. This has been the case as for over a decade and hasn’t changed much since.

      • Duncan Stevenson-Price says:

        I don’t have a huge issue with Amex acceptance domestically. And more and more small businesses are on board, especially with the increasing prevalence of Square, iZettle etc. for small businesses which all take Amex as standard.

        But still, I’d love to be able to use one card everywhere, and for that it has to be a Visa or Mastercard.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Am I missing something? Why is 1 Avios per Euro on a Visa a low earning rate?

    • Graham says:

      I was thinking that. It’s a lot more generous than my Lloyds Avios Mastercard.

    • Because of the €49 fee.

      Not an issue for a big spender but spend £1000 a month on a card with a £40ish fee and each Avios is subsidised by 0.33p of annual fee.

  5. Cate ⛱️ says:

    The Vueling card’s interesting enough for us to pay the €49 fee. For short haul economy hops to BCN and over to the Balearic’s would soon pay for itself. Granted we live near LGW.

  6. JamesB says:

    OT Nectar: They might be targeted bug I thought worth flagging up for those with kids. 1500 points gets a voucher for £11+ off Pizza Express. 200 points gets a 3 month subscription to kids tv app hopster.

  7. OT(dropped it in another bits, but missed this one… sorry!)
    I want to travel LON-NYC on BA.

    I have 40k amex points and 3k avios. I’ve not bought any points. My flights will be a shade over £1k for 2 people in economy. Can anybody suggest the cheapest way to book these flights?

    Thanks

    • Rob MC says:

      What dates and why specifically BA?

      • Thanks for the response!

        28/04-06/05 (ish, can wiggle by a day or two)

        Wanted BA as a friend can usually get us upgrades on BA (not BA/AA flights though) once we’re on the system, thought it would be a good treat especially if the return flight is overnight.

    • Don’t fly on BA. Book Aer Lingus from Dublin and get a separate ticket to Dublin. Tax will drop from roughly £300 per person to under £70. See https://www.headforpoints.com/2018/02/06/how-to-redeem-avios-points-on-aer-lingus/

      You need to call BA to check Aer Lingus availability.

      • Rob MC says:

        If it were me I would use the amex points for a hotel in NYC, much more lucrative than the savings made by an economy redemption, especially if no interest in going to Dublin

        • Solid advice, thanks – I’m still feeling my way round all the points fun. Happy to save the points for hotels. Any recommended to make the most of the points?

        • Thanks for both your comments, really appreciate the insight.It’s taken a while to get the hang of points/taxes/redemptions.

      • Had been keen on BA, given potential for an upgrade via a friend, however will look into aer lingus. Thanks!

        • Rob MC says:

          Just looking , economy redemptions are only available 26/4 or 30/4 on the way out, bit good availability on return.
          And for two it’s 52k avios and £742 tax.. so you’re not getting good value at all.

  8. OT – Any recommendations for hotels in Singapore? I have status with Hilton, SPG and Marriot and Expedia credit via Nectar.

    • Genghis says:

      We really liked the IC near Bugis (used AMB cert). Others I know like the Conrad but we found it very average.

    • If money is not an issue, Capella on Sentosa. You can even rent a villa (normally long-term rented to expats) via a separate website if they have any spare. Great for kids as 30 seconds walk to the beach, albeit across a road.

    • I have a stay coming up at JW Marriott courtesy travel package.
      Review seems to be good too.

      • Genghis says:

        I would love to spend a week in Singapore eating at loads of different food courts. Enjoy.

  9. A friend of mine works for a regional airport in a small European country – and commercial support is often the only working tool to attract LCCs To Fly to these destination. Ryanair is still using it high and wide, btw. Then it’s just a question is whether paying the airlines is justified in terms of ROI – whether passengers bring more money into the country/region than it’s being spent on commercial support

  10. rams1981 says:

    OT Marriott resorts. Will my gold status get any recognition? I’m staying at Grande Lakes, Orlando

    • Stevie G says:

      Not much as it is a resort. More points. That’s about it.

    • JamesB says:

      On the subject of resorts, is there any way of knowing whether a hotel might classify itself as a resort even if it does not have the word resort in the hotel name?

      • Cate ⛱️ says:

        Interesting comment JamesB. I usually avoid Marriott hotels with the word ‘resort’ as there are no elite benefits but, if a hotel decided to call itself a resort then they could supposedly refuse your elite benefits. I suppose the only way to know is to drop them an email.

        • Don’t think so. Venice is called a resort but for the first year of operation was not one. Then, overnight, it decided it was and out went free breakfast and upgrades.

  11. Another post promoting Vueling *sigh*

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