Bits: Heathrow fined £1.6m for fixing car parking prices, Al Bustan Palace in Muscat reopens, 20% off LATAM flights

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News in brief:

Heathrow Airport fined £1.6m for fixing car parking pricing at Terminal 5

Heathrow Airport has been hit with a £1.6m fine by the Competition & Markets Authority over price fixing for car parking at Terminal 5.

The case involves the Sofitel Hotel which is attached to Terminal 5 (here is our article on how to get a secret discount at the Sofitel) and run by Arora Group.

As part of their deal to operate the hotel, Arora Group agreed to a request from Heathrow Airport that it would not undercut the official Heathrow car parks when setting parking charges for non-residents.  This is illegal.

Arora Group was not fined as it was given immunity from prosecution under the CMA’s whistle-blower programme.  The airport got a 20% discount on the original £2m fine in return for its full co-operation with the inquiry.

You can read more on the CMA website here.  Thanks to Soran for this.

Sofitel Heathrow Terminal 5

Al Bustan Palace in Muscat re-opens

If you are sitting on a lot of Marriott Rewards points, you might be interested to know that the iconic Al Bustan Palace in Muscat, Oman has re-opened after a major refurbishment.  This is a Ritz-Carlton hotel, although the historic hotel name has been retained.

Improvements include refurbished rooms (see below), a new Ritz Kids area and a new outdoor Family Aqua Land with a zipline, dedicated pool and slides.  A new group of restaurants have also been created.

You can find out more on the hotel website here.  Reward nights are 50,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.  This is an excellent deal considering cash rooms are £500 to £600 per night including tax and service during the October / November peak.

20% off LATAM flights – earning Avios and tier points too

LATAM is offering 20% off many of its routes from Europe to Latin America until 15th October.  These are for travel up to 31st March 2019.  See here for details.

There are small discounts available on domestic flight bookings for Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina.

LATAM is a decent alternative to Iberia if travelling to some of the less common parts of Latin America which British Airways does not reach.  As a member of the oneworld alliance, your LATAM flight will also earn Avios and British Airways Executive Club tier points as you can see on ba.com here.

Bits: Avios confirms you can keep your 2nd Lloyds upgrade voucher, Hyatt drops home rentals but Marriott expands
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Comments

  1. Sam Wardill says:

    Well done the CMA!

  2. This may sound cynical but I don’t think any of the parties emerges with any credit. The Arora Group is engaged in a fight with Heathrow Airport to build the third runway so this “whistleblowing” has to be seen in this context. They entered into an anti-competitive agreement with Heathrow – surely their board or legal team realised that the agreement was blatantly anti-competitive but dthey did not notify the CMA at the time. The least said about HAG the better. As for the CMA, they exist to protect the consumer from anti-competitve practices and yet they had not spotted this flagrant breach of competition law until Arora pointed it out. And the outcome? Arora, who must have benefited handsomely from this arrangement for several years,have got off scot-free; Heathrow Airport have paid a derisory £1.6m fine – derisory because they must have made much more than this thanks to the illegal arrangement; and the consumer continues to be ripped off by airport car parking charges, which ofeten exceed the cost of a short-haul flight. As a goodwill gesture perhaps Arora could halve its parking charges for the next two years. Somehow I don’t think they will!

    • David Ward says:

      All true though you can now seek damages from Arora if you parked there. The immunity deal doesn’t protect them against follow on damages claims.

    • It’s not cynical, it’s accurate. Fines are pointless, director accountability would be far more effective.

      • RussellH says:

        Agreed – it should be the directors that suffer; the company can either absorb the cost and shareholders suffer, or it pushes up prices and users suffer.
        It is the same problem with strike action today – back in the 1800s strikes directly affected the bosses and the owners, who were usually the same people. Today, when cabin crew and / or pilots, for example, strike, it has no direct effect on Alec Cruz or Michael O’Leary. If it were written into their contracts that any losses to the airline would be docked from their pay…

  3. £1.6 million fine. Good I for for one sick to death with rip off Britain. Can’t help thinking that it will just be shrugged off and prices will rise to cover the inconvenience.

    • Parked at Sofitel before for a meeting a few months ago, shocking prices. However, I was at Legoland yesterday, the prices there are even more shocking. How many people walk or get a bus there? Forces everyone to pay £6 to park, then the prices are airport prices or a bit higher.

      • Thats why getting annual pass using Tesco points was one of the best investments I’ve ever done- the pass comes with free parking.

        • Is that only if you pay with Tesco points or does paying the cash price for the annual pass also come with free parking?

          Is it just Legoland or all merlin parks?

      • Imbruce says:

        Park at North Greenwich carpark to use the Jubilee Line or go to the O2 and it’s £11.50 per day.
        There is a rip off if ever there was one

  4. I have used LATAM a few times this year, but I had to fight hard to get the avios credited to my BA Exec Club account. I first claimed on-line and the avios were denied. Then I called customer service and one flight out of three was credited but two refused even though I provided the ticket number and copy of boarding passes. Third time lucky, more than 3 months after the flights, and another round of complaint, I secured the avios. I also used Iberia and the avios/tier points were credited 24 hours after the flights.

  5. Next for CMA… how about doing something about the sales pitch by Heathrow Express (owner: Heathrow Airport) ripping off visitors to Britain before they’ve even left the secure arrivals area?

    Would they give access to TfL (ex-Heathrow Connect) on the same terms as their own staff?

    • Jonathan says:

      Also the ticket machines by the lifts & platforms which don’t let you buy a ticket with railcard discount or a heathrow connect ticket

      • I bought 2 singles last week in the secure area from the “barker” and used my network rail card for a third off no problem.

    • Couldn’t agree more Mike

    • Roger1* says:

      Quite right.

      If one of the HEX barkers in T5 Arrivals offers tickets to ‘Central London’, I ask about a ticket to Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus. They don’t have a script for this. 🙂

    • Richard C says:

      Completely agree Mike. They push a £27 single fare to take tourists to Paddington which is still 20-30 minutes away from ‘central London’. A complete con trick and must give a terrible first impression to tourists arriving here. Reminds me of travelling in a dodgy third world country where you need to be really careful not to be conned by touts at the airport! Sad.

      • Paddington is 20-30 minutes away from Central London?

        • Yup. To the extent that you define Central London as ‘the place you need to be’, which won’t be Paddington.

        • I think it’s a little unfair to say that Paddington isn’t in Central London. It is in the north-west corner of Central London, I grant you, but none of the termini are going to be ideally located for everyone. It’s as convenient as any other if you’re staying on Park Lane, although I guess that demographic may be less likely to use any form of public transport…

    • Shoestring says:

      not in the Competition & Markets Authority’s purlieu

  6. IslandDweller says:

    A discount on latam is a nice idea in theory, but I found their website impossible to use. (Trying to buy domestic flights in colombia for a forthcoming holiday). Refused to process payment, booking failed. Tried three different browsers. Friends hit exactly the same glitch. Awful.
    Ended up going through Amex.

  7. So they get fined but who gets the money? Not the people who got ripped off? Or should I try a claim?

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