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We meet James Hillier, and other tales from BAEC’s ‘After Hours Club’ party

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Back in 2015, British Airways Executive Club launched the ‘After Hours Club’.  We thought it was about time we checked it out ….

The ‘After Hours Club’ is a series of social events promoted via The Club magazine, which is BAEC’s online publication.  Whilst promoted by BAEC, the events are arranged by Cedar Communications who oversee the High Life and Business Life in-flight magazines.

It is worth noting that these events are not free – the cost for Anika and myself, including VAT and booking fee, was a reassuringly expensive £130.54 for two.  It puts the £10 ticket cost for the Head for Points Summer Party next week into perspective!

I was intrigued as to what sort of person would pay £65 for a British Airways Executive Club party so we booked ourselves in to the event they ran on Monday night.  As it turns out, Tom and Julian who run Business Traveller (and who are launching a similar series of events) had the same idea.

What you get at an ‘After Hours Club’ party

The event had a Nashville theme to coincide with BA’s new American route.  It was at the Ham Yard hotel in Soho, which is a fairly new and classy property, a sister Firmdale site to The Soho Hotel, The Covent Garden Hotel, The Haymarket Hotel etc.

Ham Yard has a lovely basement with an original 1950’s bowling alley, a large bar and a lot of circulation space.  This is an ‘official’ picture with the lights on!

About 75 people turned up.  I was pleasantly impressed by the numbers, given the price tag and the fact it wasn’t promoted so heavily.  There was definitely a skew to an older demographic – guests were more likely to be 55 than 25.

The evening kicked off at 6pm with bourbon-based cocktails.  Given the chunky ticket cost, I was a little surprised to be told that “you will be served a couple of glasses of wine during the evening, and … a paid-for bar will be open for additional and other beverages.” 

As it turned out, the cocktails carried on until the huge pre-mixed supply of base elements ran out.  Anika and I got through three each, plus two free glasses of wine (you got a token to exchange for a drink).

From 7pm, a buffet was also available, consisting of:

  • Mini BBQ beef sliders (vegetarian option of falafel sliders)
  • Cajun spiced prawn and sweet potato brioche roll
  • Hot and spicy buttermilk chicken
  • Bacon, mac and cheese bowls (vegetarian option of classic mac and cheese)
  • Cob salad
  • Sweet potato fries

This was actually quite good, although we ate whilst bowling so it wasn’t very formal. 

There were three speeches at 7pm – one from the Tennessee Tourist Board, one from the hotel and one from James Hillier himself.

There are some people who believe that James Hillier does not exist 🙂  This is because his name has appeared on BAEC emails since what feels like the dawn of time.  Anika and I can confirm, however, that he is real – although he politely declined a request to pose for a HFP photo shoot – and a very charming bloke.

We just chatted about life and stuff, so anyone hoping for exclusive BAEC gossip will be disappointed.

After the speeches it was time for our allocated bowling session.  Three of the six players in our game had disappeared, which meant that we got to play twice per round.  My alter-ego Ray had a terrible game but ‘official Rob’ did better.  We were both trounced by the 3rd player Andrew, we must admit – but Andrew had brought his own bowling shoes with him …..

There was a raffle during the evening to raise money for Flying Start.  The prizes were …. eclectic.  First prize was five nights in a hotel in Nashville, but no flights!  The other prizes were basically Deep South booze-based and most of us were hoping for one of those.

Do I recommend the ‘After Hours Club’?

This is a tricky one.  For a start, a key highlight for us was catching up with James Hillier and the Business Traveller team whereas it is unlikely that a general HFP reader would know anyone else there.

In terms of the quality of the venue, the quality of the food and the drinks on offer – which turned out to be enough without needing to pay for more – yes, it was a good night and well organised.  No-one who went will have any complaints.  That said, the bowling provided much of the fun and not all of these events presumably have an activity attached.

The issue is the £65 per head cost.  To be fair, there are few five-star places in the West End where you can get 3 cocktails, 2 glasses of wine and a decent buffet for a lot less than £65, but it still felt steep.  (You could have recouped some by reselling the goodie bag contents, as mine contained a Liberty First Class BA washbag – although Anika only got a White Company Club World one.)

If you are price insensitive, however, I do recommend keeping an eye out for the next one via the online ‘The Club’ magazine.

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Comments

  1. Tariq says:

    Was it easy to get tickets, or do these things set out as quickly as HFP events?

    • Wasn’t clear because we got ours on the day I received the magazine email and I never checked back to see if they were still selling.

  2. Oh to be price insensitive!

  3. What you didn’t say Rob was that the ticket was only £1 with the rest of the cost made up of
    Taxes Fees and carrier surcharges.

    I cant say I ever open the email from BAEC. If there is anything worthwhile in it it will be published here.

  4. Dave Barron says:

    Surprised they didn’t allow you to Part Pay with Avios for cheaper tickets ????

  5. Michael Jennings says:

    That’s an awful lot to pay to go bowling. It’s much cheaper on the top floor of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre, and at least as much fun…

  6. Mike L says:

    So he politely declined a HFP photo – why ?

    • Because he doesn’t really exist. They get some random bloke to each one of these that claims to be James Hillier.

      • Also possible, although I did test him out with some questions – although, in retrospect, I’m not sure he said anything in reply which a stooge would not have known 🙂

        • Robin H says:

          I definitely agree that the evidence here is inconclusive about the existence of James Hillier. On balance, I doubt he is real. 🙂

    • He prefers to walk around Heathrow unmolested. I do get his point, given that I tend to be approached by readers when out and about (which I don’t mind, if only because it impresses my wife and kids!, but it is a bit weird when you are – say – in a swimming pool abroad, as opposed to in a BA lounge.)

      Would have been a rubbish picture anyway given how the others turned out ????

      • Lady London says:

        I’m not surprised he prefers to walk round Heathrow unmolested with all the junk mail he sends out.

        It’s got to the point where as soon as I see James Hillier as the signatory at the bottom of an email I just ignore it.

  7. Peter K says:

    Iberia do an event like this where you get a prize just for booking, there’s no need to even turn up.

  8. Peter K says:

    I can’t believe no flights were offered by BA with the Nashville hotel raffle first prize. Perhaps BA feared it would constitute a package holiday and thus be bound by ATOL regulations!

  9. Steve R says:

    BAEC & Iberia could do a combined party, could you transfer tickets!

  10. pauldb says:

    We went to the previous event but never again. I don’t drink alcohol so was going to transfer my cocktails to my wife, but was told if I didn’t consume them myself they would be taken back. My booze balance would be -2 and it was clear if I would be allowed to leave the club.
    I’m never flying BA again!

    • That’s just odd. If you are coming to the HFP party on Monday feel free to transfer your free drink coupon buying alcohol, and pay cash for a cheaper soft drink!

    • the real harry1 says:

      🙂

    • Couldn’t you just swap glasses after she’d knocked hers back? Or did they insist on watching you drink the cocktail?

    • Gavin says:

      Lol, very droll

    • pauldb says:

      Somebody from HFP explained I could swap my cocktails for a soft drink instead, or there were apparently even options for extra rides on the bucking bronco instead. But Mrs pauldb loves her cinzano & pineapple and they never put anything about no transfers in the T&Cs so we stuck to our ground – she drank them anyway. No invoice from BA yet, I have my arguments ready re: the nominal value of a free drink.

      • Jeremy I says:

        Still keen if anyone has a spare ticket for monday as i missed the rush when they were released? In case anyone can no longer attend.

    • Lady London says:

      I had a soft drink at the first one. Now I feel silly because I missed an arbitrage oportunity.

  11. OverTheHorizon says:

    Selling the Liberty First Class BA washbag ? Do these actually have a monetary value ???

    I have been throwing them away or, latterly, declining them all together. Perhaps I should start building a stock 🙂

    • OverTheHorizon says:

      Blimey, people are flogging on eBay for a tenner each !!!

      • I wonder if there are “price insensitive” people who pay cash for First Class but still sell their washbag on eBay?

    • Throwing them away! Clearly you are very new to this “maximising” lark!

      • Because of their size and because I am usually just on hand baggage, I always strip down any bags I get outbound, keep the stuff I know I will use and ditch the rest. Bit more flexible inbound.

    • beingveryanonymoustoday says:

      Not any longer. Used to get £20 a time but now cant flog them for a fiver. Oddly the 1st pens often sell for £10 each alone (I donate the proceeds to charity)

  12. Graeme says:

    I could have done with the hotel prize. I booked flights to Nashville before looking at hotel prices – sadly I’m a little price-sensitive!

    • AndyGWP says:

      Currently staying in Nashville in an airbnb just over the river from downtown (still recovering from last night) – good viable alternative to hotels and Lyft (with a $5 off first 10 rides promo code) is proving to be decent value too!

  13. Tilly71 says:

    OT:
    Roughly how long these days for the Amex Gold 10k MR anniversary points to take to hit accounts after the start of year 2 of the account?

    • Last one in our house, admittedly last year, was 30 days give or take.

      • Joseph Heenan says:

        Mine hit last month, close enough to Rob’s 30 days give or take – I think it was the statement after the renewal, plus a day or tow.

  14. imbruce says:

    A Charity called notdressedaslamb.com collect unwanted toiletries and unused make up for vulnerable women, carolinehirons.com give and make up also lists other items that they need,

    • Anika says:

      Are you sure the first link is the correct one? As far as I can tell it’s just a fashion blogger and there is no word of charity work…

    • Bsuije says:

      Similarly, Beauty Banks (@thebeautybanks on Instagram, I think) will also gladly accept any unopened and unused toiletries, etc., which they then redistribute to food banks and charities.

  15. PhilW says:

    O/T Trying to use some of my Iberia avios to book a car rental in Naples whilst I’m away for the summer. I’m using the Iberia part pay with avios and cash website, when I get to the final booking page and on clicking book it tells me they’re having problems contacting the supplier and to try again later. It’s been like that since last night. Anyone has problems with this before?

  16. Lady London says:

    Try a different browser. And delete all previous cookies in that browser.

  17. Toby Stevens says:

    Hi all. Talking of baec. Has anyone else had a wierd email from the baec tonight with a new pin. Seems strange as not my tier status. But correct name and email.

    Are we being spammed?

    • David says:

      That’s Avios making a complete hash of closing your Avios.com account and helpfully setting up a new BAEC account. Is there anyone in the world who would have created an avios.com account before a BAEC one?

      • Toby Stevens says:

        Ah ha. Okay thanks David.

        • Premier01 says:

          Yes I got that E-mail and was a little concerned so E-mailed BAEC- good to hear it’s explained as Avios error as not sure will get reply!

  18. Mark Simpson says:

    I’m surprised to see BA appear to be good at entertaining on the ground because they are rubbish at it in the air.

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