Bits: Iberia A350 test flights from Heathrow bookable, 2400 Avios with Hasbro board games, Lapland

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News in brief:

Iberia A350 test flights from Heathrow now bookable

A few weeks we wrote about the new A350-900 long-haul aircraft, with an improved business class seat, that are coming into service with Iberia this year.

To get the crew familiar with the aircraft before they start long-haul operation, the new aircraft are going to be tested on the Heathrow to Madrid route.

From 20th July to 3rd August and from 17th August to 31st August, an A350 is due to fly IB3166 and IB3167:

IB3167 (BA522 as a codeshare) leaves Heathrow at 18.50, landing in Madrid at 22.15

IB3166 (BA7058 as a codeshare) leaves Madrid at 15.55, landing in Heathrow at 17.20 

Oddly, only the Madrid outbound flight has been updated to an A350-900 so far.  The return flight from London still shows a long-haul A340 but that must change because it is the same plane.  On ba.com, both flights still show as an A340.

You clearly need an element of faith if you are going to book one of these!  I would be very wary of booking one for non-refundable cash rather than refundable Avios.

I have booked myself on one to give it a go.  Remember that, whilst you will get a flat bed business class seat, you only pay the standard Avios cost of 30,000 Avios return.

Here is a handy tip which I have covered before – Iberia has better Avios availability for its own flights on iberia.com than can be booked via ba.com.  If there are no Avios seats in business class on IB3166 or IB3167 showing on ba.com, use Combine My Avios to send your points over to an Iberia Plus account and book from there.

Remember that you can only use Combine My Avios with Iberia Plus if your Iberia account is 90 days old and has earned at least one Avios.

PS.  If you book your return flight on Iberia Plus with Avios you will be offered an interesting ‘part cash, part Avios’ deal.  I was offered the chance to pay 15,000 Avios or 3,000 Avios + £105.  This means I was basically ‘buying’ 12,000 Avios for £105, which is just 0.875p each.

Iberia A350 Heathrow Madrid

2400 Avios or 2500 Virgin Flying Club miles with Hasbro board games

Tesco Direct has brought back its extra Clubcard points offer with Hasbro gaming.  Until 25th March, you will get:

  • 500 extra Clubcard points (1,200 Avios or 1,250 Virgin miles) when you spend £25
  • 1,000 extra Clubcard points (2,400 Avios or 2,500 Virgin miles) when you spend £50

Full details and potential good buys are in this Shopper Points article.

Train to Lapland

Off to Lapland ….

I am heading off to Lapland for Easter later today.  Normal service will continue but I am also taking the opportunity to run updated versions of our overviews of the seven major global hotel loyalty programmes.

Whilst Lapland is conspicuously short of branded hotels (our booking went via Hotels.com Rewards) I might cover it if it is interesting.  In particular, we are taking what is possibly the greatest remaining sleeper train ride in Europe from Stockholm to Lapland.  A 14 hour trip, the £300 cost of a private cabin for the four of us is only marginally more than I just paid for four First Class tickets from St Pancras to Sheffield ……

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

UPDATED: Amex changed the bonus rules when you are referred for an Amex Gold card - but this morning changed them back!
The British Airways 'On Business' programme explained (Part 1, 2018 edition)
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Comments

  1. A 14 hour trip, the £300 cost of a private cabin for the four of us is only marginally more than I just paid for four First Class tickets from St Pancras to Sheffield

    LOL………. had a similar experience in Europe using Austrian Railjet business class and German railways. 12 hours of travel in First and Business class for about £300. Very efficient, very comfortable.

    Last week Reading to Bristol on a highly restricted ticket cost me £100 for just over 2 hours of travel for 1 person. But and here’s the kicker, when I tried to jump on a train 30 minutes earlier, around 2pm, I was advised that the change fees would be £84!!!!

    It’s trully incredible how in Britain we have come to accept such shoddy service whilst paying so much!

    • If you ever get bored of the points game there are similar but less aspirational and more anoraky websites entirely devoted to playing the cheap train tickets game

      • When the fully flexible and refundable 1st single is £114, the completely inflexible £106 or £97 tickets are not worth touching

        • Unless you want to try the (overpriced) Pullman dining or use the sleeper, GWR 1st is not worth touching

        • @John – I’d not call the Pullman overpriced. Expensive, yes, but it’s worth it. I’ve been meaning to write a review of it.

          You can use the Pullman restaurant with a standard class ticket if spaces are available but only first class ticket holders can reserve a seat in the restaurant with standard it’s just the luck of the draw.

          GWR sleeper doesn’t have a first class. You are entitled to use the 1st class lounge in Paddington with a sleeper ticket (nice to get a drink and snack on arrival into London) but the sleeper ticket is listed as standard class. Unlike the Caledonian Sleeper (although they’re phasing this out) there’s no chance of having to share a cabin with a stranger on any of the GWR sleeper tickets.

          As for whether GWR first class is worth it you have to remember that traditionally the benefit of first class is a more comfortable seat. Complimentary food and drink (except for tea, coffee, water, biscuits) were never part of a first class product until Virgin Trains introduced it and then East Coast followed in 2011. The first class seats are significantly more comfortable than the standard class seats, so if comfort is what you want then first class is worth it. If you want free food and drink then it’s not worth paying extra for.

          Personally I think GNER nailed it. The catering wasn’t complimentary but they had restaurants on most services so you could get a good meal, they had proper glassware and cups for the drinks and snacks, unlike GWR that gives you a disposable cup when not in the restaurant. VT East Coast does a decent complimentary offering (if you get the advertised catering and there’s not a staff shortage or dodgy kitchen)

      • Lady London says:

        @Jonely could you name which sites you view as useful for this please? I’m just about to enter into a new era of train travel…

    • Ruth4325 says:

      I’ve looked at that train before but it doesn’t seem possible to book a private compartment for 4? Only 4-6, where you might end up with two other people with you. How did Rob manage to guarantee a 4berth compartment?

      • Dunno, my wife booked it! Perhaps if you book with kids they guarantee it.

      • Andrew says:

        Quote:- “There are three compartment alternatives to choose between: ladies, gentlemen and mixed. If your party comprises 4 people or more, you can book an own compartment and pay our child fare for any unused berths.”

    • I don’t understand how you could possibly do that. So far this year I’ve bought TWO return tickets from Reading to Bristol for a touch over £50 each, all offering complete (off-peak) flexibility. I didn’t even reserve seats because I knew they were flexible.

  2. Michael C says:

    Can’t wait for the report on the Swedish train, sounds fabulous!
    My UK shocker was last summer: for 3 second-class Oxford-HuddersfielD returns, I was quoted…GBP510.

    • Andrew says:

      Oxford to Edinburgh £322 before 9am – Priced by Cross Country
      Oxford to Glasgow £148.50 before 9am – Priced by Virgin

      Guess which route I use to head to Scotland this Easter?

      (That’s right, I drive to Heathrow, pay £18.50 to park for 6 nights and £30+Avios to Fly).

      • Intentionally Blank says:

        Living in Kingston and having family in Manchester, all my family and friends think I’m decadent, as I fly instead of driving / getting the train, until I point out a bunch of avois and £18 is much cheaper than getting the train.

        • Same for me and Newcastle! When service is at its best Virgin Trains East Coast 1st class is my favourite way to travel to Newcastle. However, last year rota changes meant catering was becoming something of a lottery so it was hard to justify paying for Virgin 1st class when I could fly for much cheaper, eat for free in the F lounge all for between £35 and £50 return depending on whether I wanted to travel in Club Europe on-board.

          From always getting the train under GNER, to mostly flying under VTEC…
          https://saveecrewards.co.uk/blog/plane-v-train-figures

      • Lady London says:

        That’s shocking. Aren’t there books about that talk about Britain having been sold to venture capitalists, who are now collecting huge rents off the public for all essential services?

  3. Genghis says:

    OT. Interesting FT article on ultra-long-haul travel and QF’s Project Sunrise: “Qantas pushes boundaries with 17-hour ‘kangaroo route’”

    • (Geek alert)
      Seems Qantas is struggling with range performance on the 787 PER-LHR and it hasn’t even begun yet! They have blocked some seats from sale to reduce the pax load, and fully embargoed the flight for staff travel (both other airline staff and their own) until at least the summer because of ‘performance limitations’. Could get interesting if it has to stop for petrol!

      • JamesB says:

        They bought the wrong metal.

        • Isn’t this just the effect of removing economy and adding business seats? This service will never compete on price with standard hub-based routes. Economy passengers aren’t going to pay too much of a price premium to go non-stop whereas business passengers might, so I guess the service will only make sense if skewed heavily towards premium passengers.

        • Absolutely correct, but that’s to do with the config (fit-out) of the aircraft. Once they’ve chosen that they should be able to sell all the seats they’ve chosen to put on it. But they can’t, they think it’ll hit performance limits sooner than expected. Can’t complain though, rather safe than sorry.

  4. Rob – I would love an article on the train trip

  5. JamesB says:

    Hope you and your family have a great time Rob. Just run the articles and largely leave HFP to take care of itself.

  6. GrondAir says:

    OT. I’ve managed to grab 2x reward flights with VS to HKG for a week in November in Upper Class. It will be our first time in Hong Kong. I recently upgraded my Amex PRG to Platinum and am keen to benefit from the hotel statuses. Currently thinking of the JW Mariott – SPG matched to Mariott Gold so should get executive lounge access or Shangri-La Kowloon – Jade status provides free breakfast. I’ve also looked at Amex FHR but seems much more expensive. Does anyone have any recommendations?

    • JamesB says:

      You don’t need to keep the platinum card for the hotel status, once they come through they are fixed, you can cancel the card. Hotel status will last for remainder of this scheme year and all of next. Always best to trigger hotel status on 1 April or soon after to maximise benefit period.

    • Andrew* says:

      I’m guessing you’ll want to book before then but I’ll be staying at the SL-Kowloon for a week in July…

      What swayed our decision making? Yes, we have Jade through platinum card too; we’ve had good experiences at the Shard in London (2 adults & 2 children getting free breakfast); although we didn’t consider the JW Marriott, the SL was happy to allow a family of 4 in one room…

      A quick Google search (I wanted to see where the JW Marriott was based) suggests you pay the traditional premium for being based on the island… What’s important to you? For the price of a Marriott room you could probably book a good SL room with club access included… it’s very easy to get from Kowloon to Island and back again (MTR, Star Ferry… TBF, for the price difference even taxis although I wouldn’t like to say how much it would cost…) There is also an island SL, but again it’s much dearer than the Kowloon version…

      I have stayed at the Novotel on Nathan Road for work; it is perfectly acceptable – small club lounge and good, helpful concierge staff…

      There are HFP reviews on the IHG IC property… and various things to consider re points/cash/ambassador certificates

      • Genghis says:

        We’ve a week booked at the JWM in Oct using the travel package. We stayed next door at the Conrad 18 months or so ago and had a great time there (suite upgrade). While there visited the JWM’s Fish bar – excellent food – and pool area. True you certainly pay a premium for that location. Isn’t there a decent Renaissance in Causeway Bay?

        • JamesB says:

          What category is that, a serious upgrade I guess? We need 4 nights late late this year but I think I will look for something a bit different than the usual in Kowloon or the UK bay side.

        • Genghis says:

          JWM is Cat 9.

      • GrondAir says:

        Thanks for the advice. Sounds like the SL Kowloon is much better value and it should be easy to get the Island. Just need to decide if it’s worth going for the Harbour views or Club access!

        Not so keen on the IC given it’s imminently being closed for an extensive refurb.

    • Relaxo says:

      We stayed at the Renaissance last november. Really generous exec lounge & the biggest hotel swimming pool Ive ever seen. Great views across the harbour, but there is some construction work happening. Didnt bother us though. I think its a good compromise between luxury & cost if paying out of pocket. Also heard the new Kerry hotel is really good – dont know what the Jade benefits there are though.

    • roberto says:

      I stayed in the Kowloon Shangri La a few weeks back and can 100% reccomend the Horizon level. The hotel is well positioned and very comfortable with an amazing staff ethos. Its not the cheapest hotel ever but its Hong Kong.

      I dont know if youre Jade and book a basic room then you are entitled to breakfast and Horizon privileges – I thought no… Prehaps others could chime in with that.

      Book via Robs contact Emyr for fully cancellable deal with upgrade options and $100 hotel credit.

      As a side note I got UberX to the airport and back for a fraction on the Hotels limo prices.

  7. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    Good lord East Midlands first class! It’s only very marginally superior to standard class (unless you get one of the breakfast services, then drop the ‘very’). Makes Club Europe look like a real step up from economy.

    • Genghis says:

      Depends how much value people place on the “I’m travelling First” factor I guess

      • Priced up tickets for Sheffield to London last night. Only £7 more for first class. Would value it at about that if I can get one of the single seats when travelling alonr but not much more than that

    • Similar travelling trans-pennine. I valued 1st as worth about £3 extra (as you got a coffee and a cake). However still use it quite a bit as advance fares (which are fine for my purposes) are frequently almost identical to standard class, and sometimes cheaper!

  8. martin says:

    I’m already flying MAD-LHR on July 29th, but annoyingly the shiny new plane will get us back to London too late. (The outbound is on a 777 though, so the CW bed will be a nice wee treat)

  9. ankomonkey says:

    Rob, what’s your Lapland itinerary? We visited Santa in Levi – far more authentic than Rovaniemi… These are both Finnish Lapland.

    • Dunno, ask my wife 🙂

      I wanted to go to Oman, the 10 year old wanted Barbados. After the recent snow and cold snap here, plus the bug I picked up skking six weeks ago (which I am not yet fully over), I’m not sure anyone except my wife remains keen!

      • Darren says:

        Barbados is lovely this time of year ????

        Have a great time.

      • When you go to Oman you can do review of Shangri La or Chedi hotel. Went to Chedi for dinner and it was stunning.

        • roberto says:

          The SL Al Husn is lovely. Did that in January. They dont have a traditional Horizon Club as such but I really enjoyed my time there.

          The beach area (s) were so perfect and the pool almost under used. No kids allowed in the Al Husn..

          The food and drink is expensive but with breakfast and afternoon tea included its bearable. The fish resturant in the sister hotel next door is supposedly the best in Oman ( but they would say that ).

          We booked a SL car as the landed at 7am from LHR and where in our room and down to breakfast by 9am.

      • Lady London says:

        Er…. and you went to Lapland instead? bit of a temperature change..

  10. Frankie says:

    OT. I took advantage of the IHG 100% bonus on points offer that Anika posted about a couple of days ago. I bought the full 120k as this allowed me to book the Intercontinental in ljubljana (because Anika recommended it a few months ago) for 3 nights in July for 120k points which is cheap for the hotel with this 100% bonus. I have no status apart from IHG free credit card. If I buy the Ambassador card will I get the benefits on my reward booking in Ljubljana. I read here that I might not as my booking is a reward booking? Or might I be lucky? Also if I book future rooms with points and cash is that still seen as a pure reward booking so I’m in the same boat of not getting Ambassador benefits? I just don’t know if it now worth spending $200 on the Ambassador card. Thanks in advance for any replies.

    • Strictly speaking IC hotels can not give benefits on reward stays BUT 95% do. That said, Ambassador only really makes sense if you will use the free weekend night voucher (which is actually buy one, get one free) during the next 12 months. Otherwise all you are getting is a 1 category upgrade and 4pm check out which probably isn’t worth it.

      • Genghis says:

        Officially:
        “When staying on Reward Nights and on Best Price Guaranteed Free Nights, all Ambassador and Royal Ambassador Privileges apply with the exception of upgrades, Club Lounge access (Royal Ambassadors), Mini bar beverages (Royal Ambassadors), free Pay-TV film per stay, 24-hour guaranteed room availability (Royal Ambassador) and 8:00 am early check-in (Royal Ambassador – where a cost is applicable)”
        https://www.ihg.com/intercontinental/content/gb/en/ambassador/terms-conditions

        So officially 4pm check out is still valid on all reward nights. In practice, agreed. I’ve had decent “recognition”. Decent upgrade at Amstel to a larger river view room, free breakfast and Opera view at Le Grand…

        • Any idea if a BOGOF AMB stay is classed as a Reward stay for these purposes? Technically one night is a Reward, and one is paid, so not sure how it is considered.

          Also, if you part-pay with points, do you know if they class this as a reward night?

        • Genghis says:

          @KevMc. An AMB booking officially counts as one night paid stay and one night free (i.e. one night stay credit, but may come through as two nights). Can’t part pay with points I’m afraid.

    • Jeremy says:

      I’m in a similar boat. 3 nights at the IHG Aqaba for 75,000 (bought in the points sale last night – bargain), and wondering whether Ambassador Card is worth it.

    • I’d take issue with Rob’s comment that 95% of ICs provide usual Ambassador benefits on redemptions. Some do, some don’t, I don’t think it’s stronger than that. Ambassador had a bit of an overhaul in October 2016 and maybe they’ve been stricter from then on. I actually had to stand my ground in Paris at Le Grand in the summer about the 4pm check out – they told me I was not entitled as on a reward night (no other rewards unlike Genghis). They did cave in eventually on the 4pm check out. In San Francisco last week we got no Ambassador recognition aside from a few bananas and an apple but I was asked if I’d like a 4pm checkout when I checked in. Interestingly they did comp 2 breakfasts but I think that was more to do with the fact that they woke me up with a 5.30am phone call by mistake. So the bottom line is – don’t bank on anything above and beyond what Genghis has just pasted above.

      • Oh and I haven’t used my BOGOF AMB night this year either. I’m planning a paid stay in the IC Hong Kong later in the year – if I wasn’t I’d query renewing Ambassador now that the points renewal option has increased.

  11. If you fly economy on one of these widebody planes to Madrid is it still buy on board? Are they full or would there be loads of space?

    • Last time I dd it, it was not full, certainly down the back. Business passengers tend to skew their itineries to get on the long haul, for obvious reasons, but it makes little difference down the back so the loading is standard.

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