Hilton

Bits: BA to USA in First from £1700 (ex-INV!), GWR to run Heathrow Express, new Amex lounge in Melbourne

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News in brief:

BA to North America in First from £1,700

EDIT:  These fares seem to have been pulled this evening, sorry!

British Airways has released a large number of seats from the UK to North America in First from £1,700.  It looks like you have to travel to Inverness in order to pay this little, however!

There is no Air Passenger Duty from Inverness, which saves £150 or so.  That doesn’t account for the entire fare difference as I show below.

A flight on 21st June from Inverness via London Heathrow to New York returning on 27th June costs just £1,796 (click to enlarge).

However, if you leave out the Inverness – Heathrow leg, you will pay almost twice as must.

The good news, if you are willing to travel to Inverness, is that you will earn 500 tier points for the whole trip (40 + 210 + 210 + 40).

A few other First Class fares I found include:

Inverness to Chicago at £1,696

Inverness to Boston at £1,746

Inverness to Philadelphia at £1,696

Availability for the cheap fares is pretty good.  The only rule seems to be that you stay away for a Saturday night.  The fare rules are not available via ITA Matrix so I can’t get the full details.  You may want to try pricing it up from your nearest BA regional departure to see what is available.

If you do want to fly direct from Heathrow to the U.S., it’s worth checking the BA low fare finder as you can find flights from Heathrow to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia or Boston in First from around £2,500.  Is it worth a £700 saving (and the sacrifice of 80 tier points from Inverness – Heathrow and back) to fly to Inverness first though ….?

You can find out more about BA’s Inverness service and local attractions on ba.com here.

GWR to manage Heathrow Express for 10 years

Heathrow Express has agreed a 10 year management contract with GWR to operate its train services.  This guarantees the future of the service until at least 2028.

Heathrow Express will retain a large amount of control.  It will oversee marketing and ticket pricing as well as continuing to manage the stations at the airport.  The company is also spared the cost of building a new train depot, as the existing facility has to be closed next year to facilitate HS2 construction.

The existing trains are to be used for other services.  GWR will manage the introduction of a new dedicated fleet of Class 387 trains by December 2019 which will be maintained at existing GWR facilities.  These will be improved from the standard specification to include first-class carriages, Wi-Fi, additional luggage racks and onboard entertainment.

Heathrow Express will become an official part of the GWR franchise and will be transferred to any new operator should it change control over the period of the contract.

GWR to manage Heathrow Express

New Amex lounge at Melbourne Airport

American Express has opened a new lounge for Platinum cardholders at Melbourne Airport.

Located in Terminal 2 at the Satellite Level Departures the lounge shares some facilities with the new Plaza Premium lounge next door (Plaza Premium is running both).  It is the 2nd American Express lounge in Australia following the original Sydney facility.

The lounge is open daily between 6 am and 11 pm.

Access rules are VERY generous – you can brings two adult guests plus unlimited children between 2-17 years, all free of charge.

American Express Platinum cardholders already receive free access to the Virgin Australia lounge in the same terminal.  We wrote about the ability to access Virgin Australia lounges with an Amex Plat in this article.

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Comments

  1. PR for BA not looking good, BBC News (Victoria Derbyshire) Live now with this story.
    https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/2393597/rachael-monk-disabled-british-airways-forced-to-pay-800-to-change-name-ticket/

    • Thomas Howard says:

      And less than a week after they left a BBC reporter on a plane for 100mins after losing his wheelchair http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43526222

      • They made a bit of a mess up with my wife’s wheelchair when we came back from Barcelona a couple of years back. Couldn’t get it to the plane, we had to collect it at a meeting point inside the terminal building. Fortunately, my wife could walk a little so we eventually got to the meeting point. Still had a further 20 minute wait for her chair to arrive though.

      • Anthony Dunn says:

        Err, is it not the responsibility of the airport to ensure wheelchair access to/from aircraft using their airport?

        • BA staff took the wheelchair at aircraft door in BCN and returned it at LHR. Whether it’s the airline or airports responsibility I couldn’t say.

          BA staff took it, BA flew it to LHR, and BA staff returned it (eventually) so I blamed BA.

    • Yes, this was first posted on the Facebook BA complaints page (started by disgruntled customers, not BA!). It’s rightly caused a lot of outrage, though it’s full of stories about passengers of all nationalities being treated badly, there is some real hostility to BA out there!

  2. Here’s the link to the live TV programme, see from 10:08am, pretty ugly for BA IMHO. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/live/bbctwo

  3. BA downgraded in quality rating by US Airline Quality firm Avirate as a result of this case, a further poor performance could see them slip to 2*.

    I have to say, Rachel comes across as an incredibly determined character, more power to her for fighting BA on this.

    https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/equality-watchdog-calls-for-court-action-over-bas-pa-ticket-discrimination/

    • sunguy says:

      There are 2 problems here….

      The first is that Rachel bought basic non-changable/non-refundable “cheap” tickets and unfortunately, its not BAs fault that one of her carers decided to leave the job before taking the flight.

      The second is that BA have quite a number of front line agents (on the non exec lines) who are extremely dismissive of any request and very much of a “computer says no” mentality.

      Realistically, I very much would have hoped that an escalation to a manager would have produced some sence in this issue, however, I think that it all probably went too far in the wrong direction for someone to “over rule” other managers and now its got to this point.

      I completely agree with the problems of name changes creating a secondary ticketing market, however, BA should look on a case-by-case basis and something like this should pretty much be a no-brainer.

      But the problem is that once you start, where do you stop ? What about the honeymoon couple that never make it to the altar and the bride to be and her maid of honour want to go instead?

      This opens up a whole can of worms……if you arent careful, you will endup with folks booking flights in a sale in January, “officially unable to use them”, selling them (for a profit) on ebay a few weeks before the flights are due to takeoff…..and the excuse – “my employer wont let me take the time off”…. if BA then refuse, they turn out with some sob story like “I work in the NHS and its just too busy to let me go and BA refuse to let me change the flights or change the name so that my friends can go instead”….

      Therein lies the whole problem…….except in this case, they REALLY should have just done it once proof of her care requirements was established.

      • Disabled people are protected by the Equality Act – honeymoon couples aren’t. I’m sure Rachel could provide medical evidence that she needs two companions to travel with her and that should surely be sufficient to allay BA’s concerns about the secondary ticket market.

        • She should have called up immediately after booking and had the PNR annotated to reflect the fact it’s for her and a carer. There’s no official policy but that way at least when this became necessary later it would have been clearer what was going on.

        • Surely everyone is covered by he equality act. That is the point of it right?!

      • william merrett says:

        As far as a secondary ticket market is concerned surely if you limit name changes to bookings consiting of a min of 2 people and max 1 name change per booking then you at least ensure that one of the people who originally booked travels, I’d personally also make it a requirement that you are an exec club member (no status required) in order to do this as if someone was doing something silly you could easily flag persistent behaviour.

        I think it’s reasonable to allow someone who booked a flight with a partner and they subsequently separated to be allowed to change the person they travel with once per booking.

  4. Here’s BA’s overall rating, its already 2* for quality…
    https://www.avirate.us/airlines/airlines1/b/british-airways

    • Who does the actual rating? Is it feedback from travellers or Avirate themselves?

      • Prins Polo says:

        and the TripRep website (blog?) has an impressive total of two trip reports, both reviews of the Conrad Maldives…

        • Your point? He’s an established and likeable member of the community here and has contributed quite a lot over the last few years. If he’s chosen to share two reviews of his favourite hotel, then so what?

        • We all know our rights on involuntary downgrading thanks to TripRep!

      • Tyler says:

        I’ve been watching AviRate for quite a while now and have figured out 2 things: 1. They do reviews themselves, which are obviously stricter than skytrax. 2. It appears to be a very young company that is slowly growing and being publicly noticed.
        What stands out the most are the differences in the results compared to skytrax. And it is well known that skytrax cuddles with the airlines rather than rating airlines from the passengers point of view.

    • sunguy says:

      Interestingly odd….

      Both Ryanair and Easyjet appear on their list of “Not Reccommended” carriers!

      https://www.avirate.us/airlines/airlines1/e/easyjet

      Easyjet’s safety rating is BBB
      Easyjet has been downgraded due to a reccently increasing number of safety incidents and now reaches 31 out of 55 possible points of our safety assessment. We advise against flights with this airline.
      Despite a 5 year fatality free period, the lack of an IOSA certification is a significant factor of our safety assessment.

      https://www.avirate.us/airlines/airlines4/r/ryanair

      Ryanair’s safety rating is A+
      Ryanair reaches 40 out of 55 possible points of our safety assessment but is classified as not recommenden due to uncertainties regarding compliance with the flight plan, we advise against flights with this airline.
      The lack of an IOSA certification is also a significant factor of our safety assessment.

      They promote themselves here:

      https://www.avirate.us/about/

      AviRate International is the first and only aviation classification agency to monitor and continuously evaluate the safety and quality of each airline worldwide in real time.

      So, it looks like they do the ratings…..

      They seem to be based in Delaware and their CEO & President is Umut Celik.

      However, the website is rather badly programmed; their contact details rather sketchy and I cannot find anything much about them online after doing a few quick searches….

      Does anyone know much about them ?

      • Manuel says:

        Who in his right mind would fly with EayJet or Ryanair anyways?

        As far as I understand it, EasyJet had several minor but relevant security breaches and there are upcoming strikes on Ryanair, so adherence to the itinerary is not guaranteed and passengers can get stranded. Therefore, the two are currently rated as not recommended. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

        I’m following them on twitter (@avirate_aero) and Instagram (avirate.aero) and it turns out that they do the ratings from the point of view of the passengers, what I think is great, especially compared to sugarcoating skytrax…

        I’ve looked at their contact informations and can’t find nothing sketchy there. Office hours, address, telephone number, email, everything available and I couldn’t care less who their boss is, as long as they do a good job.

        The website could be spiced up a bit and seems quite pragmatic, but basically everything what you need to know is there and that’s what counts.

        I also had to search around first, and it’s probably because they’re still a new company, but if you Search “avirate ~ aviation” in google, there is already a lot to find.

        Hope my point of view helps.

    • Cate ⛱️ says:

      *checks calendar to see if April 1st yet*

    • Anthony Dunn says:

      As an aside: can you explain the fixation, fascination, determination to see BA downgraded? This has now taken on the self-same shoulder-chipped posture as those who denigrated the UK automotive industry for decades before contributing to its demise.

      Ask yourselves, with Brex**it heading towards us and the ability to compete internationally of CRITICAL importance, just what is it that the knockers wish to achieve here? Personally, I use BA, CX, AY, QF, QR and AA (all One World carriers) and find BA not to be the best but far from being the worst. It is interesting that there are just about no other cultures that I am aware of that appears to take such immense delight in tearing down its own companies and institutions as is found in what, for a short while longer, is the UK.

      Quite astonishing.

      • Anthony – my focus is to promote excellence and damn shoddiness.

        I don’t own BA or its parent company IAG, its therefore not mine to denigrate. BA have though behaved poorly with myself in the past, so there could be bias there. Maybe its just possible the majority of people use BA on here hence why you see more comments about them.

        I am against poor customer services, regardless of the company. I tend to give balanced reviews, promote great service and be critical when appropriate. Personally my recent trip to Singapore and returning from KL with BA was very good, particularly the level of service given to me by on CE domestic connections. As I mentioned at the time, I alsoeven got to sit on the flight deck of a 787 thanks to the fantastic pilots.

        I posted because I was reading this article on a BA promo, whilst seeing them mentioned on UK news channel and in my view they should be shamed for how they responded, only offering something substantial when it was going to be on TV.

        I feel this is constitent with my experience with BA, excellent front line crew, poor management practices.

      • Lady London says:

        Err…yes we can explain @Anthony Dunn why there might be an interest in seeing British Airways downgraded. Perhaps it’s because a number of us have ourselves been treated badly by them?

      • The British car industry was not “talked down” – it produced sub-standard cars for years. It was miles behind the Japanese and German manufacturers and was probably on a par with the Italians in terms of build quality (but was way behind them on styling and driveability).

        I see no problem with calling out a company that takes its customers for granted and thinks it can get away with shoddy product “because its British”.

        Hopefully, with Brexit and the “ability to compete internationally of CRITICAL importance” the British companies will actually raise their game, not just expect to compete because no-one wants to criticize them

  5. Richard Thomas says:

    I very much hope the first class carriages on the new GWR trains are as pleasant as the current Heathrow Express – having experienced other GWR first class offerings I am not so optimistic!

    • Lady London says:

      +1 . err should that be -1

    • Obviously you’re referring to GWR local trains as GWR InterCity service have lovely first class seats. HEX was unique that its first class seats would have been excellent on a long distance train too.

      Unfortunately at my guess, at best we’ll have a Thameslink situation – ironing board seats in standard class (this is what these trains have now) and slightly better, but not amazing seats in first class. Worst case we could have ironing board seats in both classes with a bit of cloth indicating first class (this is the Gatwick Express now).

  6. OT – Has anyone ever had problems with Amex MR Melia voucher redemptions? I called Melia central reservations and asked about using vouchers, they said I had to contact the hotel directly, who then said I couldnt use the vouchers for a reservation. How are you supposed to know where/when you can use Amex Melia vouchers? Do you actually have to ask each hotel until you find one that says yes and only then make the booking via reservations number?

    Additionally, its taken 3 months and 3 CS tickets to get the 20% discount vouchers added to my Melia account (they still havent been – someone on their phone line said they have an IT problem.. for 3 months?) They seem a complete shambles.

    • The Melia question has come up before, never seen an answer though ……

    • Word from melia is you now have to phone to get access to the vouchers until the IT is fixed.

      If you have a relative, with a birthday within the next few days, and they register a new melia account they’ll be given an option to choose a 20% voucher on their birthday – it’s in the form of a code 😉

    • Nick Burch says:

      Every time I’ve used one, I’ve rung up Melia to check availability (which varies quite a lot!), then ordered the voucher from Amex while on the phone, then completed the booking with Melia. Finally, on arrival at the hotel, bring the voucher and expect to spend an extra 5 minutes on checkin and checkout as they figure out where to record the details of it!

    • Mark1980 says:

      I’ve had loads of issues with the Amex Amex vouchers and several of the Melia call centre operators have no idea about the vouchers. However I have found the following to be true:
      1. Ring Melia reservations to check availability and then book.
      2. You don’t need to order the vouchers from Amex until you book.
      3. They seem to be only able to search availability / book in batches of 3 days, so if you ask them to check 4 days or more it will show no availability.
      4. The code on their system which they book into is XS so you need to ask them to search availability under that.

      Hope that helps.
      Cheers,
      Mark

  7. If you get chance, the FB BA Complaints page makes interesting reading, mainly because so many people haven’t got a clue about their passenger rights (or lack of). There’s one poster who had exactly the same downgrading experience as TripRep but chose not to travel at all and genuinely thought she would get all her money back.

    • What did happen to the compensation in the end or was it kept quiet.
      If I had been in triprep’s position I’m niot sure I would have gone on the trip. I wouldn’t fancy 10 hours in WTP, although to be fair I would try to avoid CW as well.

      • But you would only have been entitled to 75% of the downgraded leg and would probably lose everything else, including your accommodation.

        TripRep got a settlement, the details were not disclosed but he has produced a guide on how to proceed if you suffer the same fate. There’s a link somewhere…!

      • Believe me, I was glad I took the downgrade and enjoyed my first 2 days in the Maldives (no further BA flights for 2 days and no guarantee of CW on that either). But yes I suppose I could of asked to fly me with Qatar.

    • That is not an unreasonable assumption and actually would almost certainly win at arbitration.

      • What, a downgraded person who chose not to fly at all would be entitled to a full cash refund of their ticket? CAA regulations allow for 75% refund of the downgraded leg only.

        • Cate ⛱️ says:

          Being downgraded is something that hasn’t happened to us so would be interested what the position is. Take it overbooking (F/biz?) or under booking in F/biz would are main drivers for this?

        • That is compensation, which is different. If you buy a business class seat and the airline cannot offer that then surely you are due a refund.

          If you order a Mercedes S Class and you get an A Class because the garage oversold the S, are you suggesting you have no rights?!

        • I would think the conditions of purchase are somewhat different – if you buy a car you have the right to a full refund within a certain period of time, surely when you agree to buy a “non-refundable” ticket that’s exactly what it
          is, non-refundable? I hate to defend BA but I would argue that your choice would be to accept the downgrade and statutory compensation, or request your preferred class of seat on an alternative flight. I can’t see that you’d be entitled to a complete cash refund of what you’ve paid. Though I’m happy to stand corrected!

        • TGLoyalty says:

          I disagree

          The traveller has purchased “business class travel” to a destination not “travel and possibly in a business class seat”. If the airline can’t provide you with what you purchased then I’d expect a full refund. The offer of a downgrade and compensation is their way of trying to salvage the situation and not lose the full fair.

          Now in most cases the 75% compensation and lower class of seat to still get you to your destination might be a fair trade but I don’t think that offer stops them being obliged to refund you if that’s not to your liking.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Also when it says “non-refundable” that’s if you wish to cancel of your own free will not if the airline stops flying there/oversells/makes significant flight time changes etc

    • Lady London says:

      And I don’t blame her for thinking that. J and F are marketed as completely different experiences and so I would think it perfectly reasonable to be able to cancel and get all your money back. I think the advertising makes it material to travel in the class booked and paid. Even if an airline such as British Airways seems to be getting away with insisting someone travel when downgraded. It seems that despite their marketing British Airways does not find what was bought and sold as J or F as technically essential.

      It’s shoddy. If I’m taking my loved one for a romantic break in the Maldives then a downgrade ruins the whole experience.
      A downgrade on the plane even makes other money spent for the hotel etc of lesser value. Because a downgrade such as British Airways has been doing, would cloud the whole experience.

      I think it’s quite reasonable for someone to be able to get all their money back plus a sweetener and travel on another airline or not at all, in the case of a downgrade.

      • I agree with your last paragraph and that’s what I would expect to receive.
        If I had the choice to fly business with Qatar and a sweetener for the inconvenience or wtp and a sweetener I’d take the Qatar option, no question!
        😉

  8. Sorry, very off topic. Trying to book the premium security at Gatwick North for £1, but that offer seems to have gone? The article on here said it was available to book until 31st March. Have I just been unlucky and it has been pulled early?

    • A handful of people had trouble seeing it even when logged in to MyGatwick. No logic I’m afraid.

    • Kinkell says:

      I went through Gatwick north bog standard security. 3 weeks ago……it was as slick as I’ve ever encountered. No queue, straight onto a belt, very polite staff. Done and dusted in what felt like seconds. Absolutely no complaints at all from me. Save your £1 !

      • Genghis says:

        And I went through Premium at South week before last and was as long as the standard queues. Save your money.

    • Jody,

      I did it a few days ago and just done a couple of dummy runs for both terminals okay so you might find it okay if you try again.

  9. Hey, OT and slightly odd question – can the account holder on a BA AMEX 241 booking board the return flight without their companion there? I know it doesn’t work in reverse. I’m flying out with my sister, but she wants to take a different plane back – will this create problems for me?

    • IIRC I think someone on here has done that before, Rob may remember..

    • Genghis says:

      If saying using the 241 for a return but the people fly on different flights back to the UK, I don’t believe so. But you can use the 241 for a single ex-British Isles excl ROI.

      • Genghis, that’s what I meant. My sister wants to travel back with her OH to help look after my niece on a Ryanair flight.

    • Darren says:

      Could you not 241 outbound only and return using avios only?

      • I already booked it 5 months ago – my sister doesn’t want to leave her OH holding the baby (well, toddler) alone on Ryanair for both legs of the journey.

  10. Is anyone still seeing these flights as available? Have tried BA.com, Google Flights, Kayak, Opodo – all coming in at £3k+ from INV…

    • Yes, they seem to have been pulled today.

      • Ah, damn! At least have managed to find EDI-LHR-SFO in biz for £1,500 which although not nearly as good isn’t bad at all – trying to work out if I can tweak routing at all though.

  11. BBC has just announced that BA have refunded the £780 Rachel Monk was charged for her replacement ticket, just before she was due to appear on TV to be interviewed.

    • Funny that.

    • Lady London says:

      Did she go on TV anyway? I do hope so.

      When British Airways realises someone’s going to go public it seems their typical pattern is to make a gag order a condition of the deal. So they get away with it.

  12. *The Virgin Lounge in Melbourne is in Terminal 3 (domestic flights) not Termnal 2 which is international.

  13. Lostantipod says:

    GWR are not fit to run a bath, let alone a train service. See the flak their helpdesk cops on a twitter on a daily basis this year : cancelled peak hour trains (“shortage of drivers”) , late trains, skipped stations, and chronic overcrowding (yet they crow in their PR about all the (hard as rocks) seats they added by purchasing new electro star rolling stock.

    I fear for the HEX as a reliable service going forward, I really do.

    • Billy says:

      Weird. GWR are rapidly becoming my favourite operator.

      Bizarrely though, South West Trains has gone down the pan since First took over. And fares have gone through the roof.

      One company controlling all trains FROM London to the South West and fares shoot up. Who would have thought?

    • Billy says:

      Weird. GWR are rapidly becoming my favourite operator. Mind you, look at the Twitter feed of ANY rail company…!

      Bizarrely though, South West Trains has gone down the pan since First took over. And fares have gone through the roof.

      One company controlling all trains FROM London to the South West and fares shoot up. Who would have thought?

  14. Flights still available on BA website!!! Example date was 9-16 June

  15. Billy says:

    The BA exINV F fares have been around for at least six months. Mentioned on HfP and they’re pulled. Well done.

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