Qatar Airways hoping to launch Belfast flights, says the CEO

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I was in Cardiff yesterday to watch the First Minister of Wales and the Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive inaugurate the new service from Cardiff to Doha.  It is currently operating five days per week but will increase to daily from June.

All services will use a new Boeing 787 in a 22 Business / 232 Economy configuration.

The Qatar Airways CEO gave another of his famously unscripted speeches.  One of his plans is to build a five-star hotel in Cardiff – there are no five-star hotels at present – as part of the airline’s nascent hotel arm.  This would, as he said clearly, be dependent on ‘support’ from the First Minister.

The most interesting item of note was the stated wish to launch services from Belfast as the next UK departure point.  Given that the airline is about to start flying to Malaga, Luxembourg, Valletta, Antalya and Tallinn, Belfast doesn’t seem that crazy.

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  1. BA and EI services switched from Belfast International (BFS near Antrim) to George Best City (BHD on harbour) ages ago, so surprised there are still issues.

    Runway much larger at BFS and plenty of spare capacity.

    But can’t see Qatar making a success of things – even with lavish tax payer funded “incentives.”

    Issue is Dublin just down motorway, which competes for Northern Ireland long haul traffic.

    • Michael says:

      EI moves from BFS (Belfast International) to BHD (BELFAST City) around 2012 (after 5 years there) and BFS took them to court for alleged breach of contract. BA left BFS back in 2002 when they canned the route in the post 9/11 downturn. They took over the BHD route from BD in their takeover in 2012. Both operate from BHD on a rationalised schedule with BA codeshares on EI services.

      BFS is potentially a good market with lots of BA traffic transiting LHR currently. Yes, DUB is just down the road with EK, EY and TK all established. However there’s no APD on non-stop long haul flights from NI and the weak pound makes BFS originating flights more interesting to ROI passengers.

      • If United couldn’t make BFS-Newark work (which also had the benefit of no APD)
        , then there isn’t a chance in hell of BFS-Doha being viable. Dub is 90 mins down the road and relatively recently started serving the route with Qatar, and for many in NI outside of Belfast, DUB is only a 30-40mins longer journey than BFS.

        Although i’d welcome any route expansion within Ireland, I think both the Belfast airports are destined to remain primarily LLC airports. The uncertainty over the impact of brexit is just one more reason why it doesn’t make sense.

        • Londonbus says:

          I’d observe that certainly point-to-point it makes no sense. However. QR is all about connecting feed – and the network would give Belfast good opportunities. Maybe this is one of those routes which will work with A350/A787?

  2. Aeronaut says:

    Was this your first ever visit to Cymru, Rob?

    • First time in Cardiff, yes.

      • Andrew Harrison says:

        Probably why you wouldn’t know that the St Davids Hotel in Cardiff is 5 star.

        • It can have five stars on the door, doesn’t mean it is a five star hotel.

          It was VERY amusing watching Al Baker announce (in the St David’s, where he had stayed the night before) that Cardiff doesn’t have any good hotels and he would like to build one.

        • Lady London says:

          Just as well he probably wouldn’t have been staying the following night as well, then.

  3. There’s currently a 10% discount on QR flights from MAN with promo code MANQR15.

  4. Jimbo says:

    On the Harrods offer – I see that it’s limited to the first 12,000 amex holders who make use of not. Will amex tell us when that threshold is reached / withdraw the offer or so you just have to incur the spend and cross your fingers?

    • Anna says:

      When you register for the offer it tells you if it’s saved to your card.

      • Stu N says:

        The offer will disappear when they have hit 12,000 registrations – it then sits there until either you use it or it expires.

        • Stu N says:

          Sorry – that’s not clear at all. The offer will sits in the available offers list until you register it to your card. Once 12,000 people have registered it, it stops being available.

          If you’ve registered it, it sits in “my offers” and will stay there until you use it or it expires.

  5. Javgil says:

    ‘in Cardiff – there are no five-star hotels at present‘

    Either you or Al Baker is wrong here, there’s been at least one since the 90’s

    • We met at The Principal St David’s and Al Baker was staying there. He clearly hates it.

  6. Kipto says:

    St David’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay is a five star hotel.

    • We were in that hotel. Al Baker says it is 4 star. Based on what I saw I would agree.

      • The only time I was there I was nearly overcome by the smell of chlorine from the pool, even in the huge reception area. The room was on the ground floor and almost the entire view was blocked by a ramp of some sort. Staff very unhelpful.

      • Waribai says:

        Interesting. I remember on here a few years ago someone claiming there was no point at staying at the international chains since in Turkey since you could stay at a particular independent 5 star hotel for a few quid a night.
        A quick look at the photos on tripadvisor showed that although the hotel may have claimed it was 5 star, it was nowhere near the standards of the international 5 star establishments.

        Is there any organisation which decides whether a hotel is 5 star or not?

        • No.

        • James says:

          Hotels in the UK star ratings are awarded and managed by four Hotel rating boards: The AA, Visit Britain, Visit Scotland and Visit Wales
          Both the AA and Visit Britain give St David’s 5 stars, which is what counts, not Al Baker’s, or anyone else’s made up star rating.

          • Not really. His point is that, irrespective of the star rating, St David’s is simply not of the sort of quality that guests at – say – a Four Seasons would expect. This impacts the willingness of some people to visit Cardiff if they do not believe there is accommodation of a suitable standard.

  7. Will says:

    I’m confused. Hasn’t the glorious leader of the free state of Qatar’s airline just hinted at some pretty gloriously bad financials for last year. How come the expansion drive to obscure places continues?

    • Genghis says:

      Is profit the only motive?

    • John says:

      The losses came from the Saudi problem and having to rebook everyone while losing some lucrative income streams, expanding is a way to mitigate that.

    • eBungle says:

      I guess the question is, how much is the Welsh tax payer “supporting” to let their first minister prance about on stage?

      The real question is, with Welsh public finances struggling is supporting a Qatar long haul route realy the best use of tax money?

      • It isn’t a bad use of money. Not directly, but there is a lot of indirect benefit if it works.

        It is certainly a great deal for travel bloggers who can now apply to Qatar Airways for a free trip to the UK, funded from the ‘marketing support’ fund. That’s how I got my business class trip to Ras Al Khaimah two years ago.

  8. Anonymous user no 554 says:

    Any recent experience of self- referring for a new Amex? Is it worth the risk of referring from my own Platinum instead of partner’s card? 18,000 MRs vs 9,000 Avios with risk of nothing…?

    • Laineyling says:

      My husband and I tried this in Jan 208 and it didn’t work. We used his plat card to try and refer me for a BAPP. I followed the link and selected other cards. We didn’t get the referral , amex said I didn’t go through the link, followed up with calls but nothing.

      Not sure if anyone else has had success recently.

      • Crafty says:

        That isn’t a self referral, that’s a normal referral. It should have worked so sounds like a link tracking problem.

        Anonymous user is referring to one referring oneself (to exploit poor programming in Amex IT).

      • Anna says:

        I got the Platinum about 2 months ago, done 4 MR referrals where the points have appeared in a week or less, one BA where the referral points still haven’t appeared 4 weeks on. Queried it and they said it takes up to 10 weeks!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      2 weeks ago

    • Harpreet says:

      We did this last month and it appeared to work fine. Got the 18k bonus.

      • I self- referred from Plat to SPG about a month ago. No problems receiving 18k MR.

        • Barry says:

          How exactly do you self refer? Do you just send the referral link to yourself? Do you have to use a different email address for it to work?

          Planning on upgrading to the Platinum next month and then self referring to the BAPP once I’ve qualified for the bonus before cancelling.

  9. Alan says:

    Re: Tesco>Virgin.
    If you already have CC points and select “Autoconvert” willit automatically conevrt existing points? (The article suggests otherwise but just checking – never converted points before as I don’t think its good value).
    Assuming it doesn’t autoconvert exisitng points, can you swap back to not autoconvert once the 1000 bonus points drop in your account? Do you need to autoconvert a certain number of points before the bonus is applied?

  10. JohnT says:

    Tesco to Avios is back showing 800 for auto convert for me. Manual only got me 600 last time.Wonder if they will do a prize draw. Last day to decide.

    • BA is going to do a prize draw. There is no incentive AFAIK.

      • Delbert says:

        Will there be much incentive for BA to run prize draws once Avios disappear, Rob?

        • Yes, they will still do it. It is a) an incentive not to convert to Virgin and b) an incentive not to convert to Uber etc.

  11. OT: Is there anyway I can track when a ET/CE seat opens up on BA for avios? I’m looking for a particular flight on 12 June LHR-FCO and I would like to snap it as soon as someone cancels or they open up more seats. Thanks!

    • Kipto says:

      I would subscribe to ba redemption finder and pay £3 per month. They check every hour for you and are supposed to email you when a flight becomes available. I have subscribed but haven’t had an email as yet. I don’t know what others’ experiences are. ?

    • Geoff says:
      does exactly this for specific days but not specific flights.

      • Yes I do use that site for redemptions but I want to track a specific flight…there is availability on that day but I want a particular flight which gets to FCO around the same time my parents arrive from NBO

    • KevMc says:

      Use – you can set an alert for a specific route/date and will get an email if more award seats are added

    • Lady London says:

      Expertflyer dot com. I haven’t used it but it’s apparently the thing for this.

  12. Nigel Williams says:

    £100 Harrods spend?

    That will be two coffees then 😉

    • Spend a couple of grand and your Harrods Rewards status increases and you get unlimited free tea and coffee in the restaurants.

      Harrods sells expensive things but is not overpriced, if that makes sense. Your bottle of EDT costs the same as it does in Debenhams if you buy the same brand.

    • Lady London says:

      That was why I used to get my lunch in Fortnum & Mason when I worked in Mayfair. It was cheaper than most of the sandwich bars around. Far nicer too.

  13. Combat Johnny says:

    Damn, i work 5 minutes walk from harrods but no offer

  14. Bonglim says:

    O/T but interesting regarding Marriott/ SPG changes.
    I have recently signed up for Amex platinum and applied for all the hotel schemes. I have been given SPG gold as expected – that came through really quickly!

    I expected that to be matched to Marriott Gold – part of the reason I took Amex platinum now rather than waiting for August. Instead I have been matched to Marriott Elite Silver.

    This is the paragraph from an earlier article:
    “The Marriott team did not know, but went away to consult. When we reconvened at a Rag’n’Bone Man private gig last night (as you do) Marriott’s European VP of loyalty confirmed that any Amex Platinum member who has matched their SPG Gold to Marriott Gold will become ‘Merged Scheme’ Platinum until the end of 2018. Tom is my witness to this!”

    Do we think that new SPG Golds are now only going to be matched to Marriott Silver (so they do not have to go to new scheme platinum in August)- or perhaps special rules for those who have newly achieved status from amex platinum?
    Or have I just got something completely wrong?
    Thanks for your advice.

    • No, SPG Gold should match to Marriott Gold. Nothing has changed in that respect AFAIK.

  15. mike says:

    hi Rob

    curious to know whether you decided to request the Marriott Platinum challenge you asked readers about couple of weeks ago?

    what was your thinking/maths in the end?

    asking as I am thinking of doing the same


    • Yes I did, and indeed stayed at the Marriott in Bristol this week. I also have Zurich and Atlanta nights booked in and can swing at least one more work trip. That leaves me 5 stays short. I’ve got some Moxy Excel bookings in for £45-50, although rates start going up after the end of May.

      So … I reckon I’m looking at £250 maximum marginal cost for the 5 Moxy nights, offsetting the points earned. Given that I have 1 million+ Marriott points to spend and that the cost of (for eg) breakfast for 4 adds up quickly, I don’t see any problem getting value from that. If I get a soft landing to Platinum for 2020 then I will be substantially ‘up’.

  16. Roger says:
  17. rash says:

    I know others have, I am due my 3rd booking next week to hit the spend

    • rash says:

      BTW Jovanna and other regular renters… have found that Hertz Australia and CDP 211762 (Amex Plat code) still the cheapest method for booking car hires in the UK?

      • Louie says:

        I usually find Hertz USA (+ the Amex Plat code) cheaper than Australia though the last booking was cheaper through Oz.

      • Jovanna says:

        I use 633306 as the Amex Plat code for the CDP and WOW in the Rate Code. Changing to Australia doesn’t always work for me, particularly when renting in mainland Europe. Just had a good one-way price from Heathrow, using the above and Australia as the country. Unfortunately, I’m very pressed for time following my next couple of flights and, for speed, it’s quicker to rent Avis from T5 rather than trek around to Hertz.

        I’ll make a note of 211762 and give it a go soon.

  18. Chris says:

    How on earth would Amex know if you bought a Harrods gift card? Surely it would be only if you paid through a different merchant account.

    Is it possible that the Harrods tills can utilise different merchant accounts through the same chip&pin device, and send to a different account for gift cards?

    Or Rob, was your gift card purchase done at the Harrods Rewards concierge? (who may well use a different merchant account).

    • No, I bought it in the toy department, on its own. Absolutely no idea why it failed to track.

      • Paul says:

        I managed to successfully put it through on three different Amex cards last time. Let me see how I get on tomorrow

  19. totaltool says:

    O/T but Virgin miles related. Just found out that 8k points for opening a Virgin Money ISA last June have never posted. The site to claim back miles has a link to everyone possible partner apart from Virgin Money. Any advice welcome on the best way to claim back these miles. Thanks

    • wally1976 says:

      Contact Virgin Money itself via their secure messaging facility.

  20. Anna says:

    OT – which Amex-accepting retailers sell B & Q vouchers, have some decorating planned? No joy in my local Boots and Smith’s.

  21. OT:
    Hubby upgraded from PRG to platinum. Prior to this he had cancelled my supplementary card ( about 3 weeks before upgrade). Ticked no supp during application. Annoyingly they have sent me a supp card even though I was no longer a supp on his gold. This messed our plan to add one later for bonus.
    Anyone had same experience? Options?

    • brenda says:

      More or less the same experience here.
      I only found out the supp was still current when they charged me £170 for a second supp.
      Open a CHAT and cancel the supp.
      Wait until letter arrives, or contact chat again to confirm it’s gone.
      Then apply again.
      Worked for me.

  22. Kinkell says:

    OT: clarification please. I have booked a city break with BA holidays for 3 of us, travelling ET from ABZ-LHR-VIE. I have BAEC Silver status, the other 2 are Bronze. The BA itinerary ( with all our names) tells me each pax. is allowed 2×23 kgs ( very generous, not that we need it for 4 nights away!) and also gives info on where to access Lounges. Do I take it that all 3 of us get into the lounges as it is my booking, or is it just me + guest.? If that’s the case , do you think the Lounge Ladies would let 3rd person in ….if I ask nicely? ( hubby just recently soft landed to bronze at end of April).

  23. I priced a one way flight using miles from London to Belfast and it shows a price of £27.30 + 4000 Miles in economy. However when I price it as a return it’s £35 + 8000 as I expected. Anytime I’ve booked a one way fare in the Uk before it’s priced as £17.50. Has something changed?

    • Weird. If you’ve earned 1 Avios in the past year it should be £17.50.

      • Definitely earned some plus big amex transfers. Going to run it through another family account and see if that works

        • Same on the other account although there the only activity has been Amex transfers. Is it a rolling 12 months activity, calendar or something else?

  24. Graham Walsh says:

    OT Has a new Plat always been 35k points?
    Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® points when you spend £2,000 within the first three months of Cardmembership

  25. Billy says:

    Doesn’t the IAG dispute relate to EI moving from BFS to BHD?

    BFS claims it was a breach of contract. Not sure if it was resolved.

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