BA

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. 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.

  2. Another post promoting Vueling *sigh*

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