Bits: “IAG to bid for Flybe”, Norwegian launches Rio, No 1 Lounges opens Birmingham Clubrooms

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News in brief:

“IAG to bid for Flybe”

Following the news last week that Virgin Atlantic was in discussions with Flybe over a takeover bid, IAG – the owner of British Airways – is also now believed to have opened talks.

This is an interesting one.  Much of Flybe is what was previously known as BA Connect, the ex-British Airways regional network.  British Airways always struggled to make this work and was happy to sell it to Flybe in 2007.

Why would BA buy it back?

it probably isn’t because of the Heathrow slots operated by Flybe, because these were taken away from British Airways when it bought BMI British Midland and BA cannot keep them (IIRC) if other airlines want them to operate specific domestic services

it is unlikely to be because of Flybe’s very modest Gatwick presence

as British Airways has no long haul departures from the regions – unlike Virgin Atlantic – it isn’t about ‘feed’

it isn’t because it would be a material aquisition – Flybe is tiny in IAG terms

it isn’t about rolling out the LEVEL short-haul brand because Flybe operates a different sort of business model to a different sort of customer base

it COULD be a way of beefing up the BA CityFlyer operation which runs the Embraer 190 fleet from London City Airport, although Flybe’s fleet is 75% Bombardier Dash 8 Q400

it COULD be a way of stopping Virgin Atlantic gaining additional UK market share, even if it means doing a deal IAG doesn’t want to do

it COULD be a cheap way of ensuring that Flybe remains within Avios, which would certainly end if Virgin Atlantic acquired the airline 

Of course, many of the arguments above also apply to Virgin Atlantic.  Its Little Red operation showed that it didn’t know how to make money on UK domestic flights, and that the Virgin brand itself was simply not enough.  Flybe cannot provide it with much ‘feed’ outside Manchester, and Virgin Atlantic already codeshares on those routes anyway – but perhaps Virgin has a lot to lose if those codeshares go?

Virgin, unlike BA, has no day-to-day experience operating smaller jets.  The Heathrow services cannot move to join Virgin in T3 because the terminal is not designed to segregate arriving domestic passengers.

There is a small bit of upside from stopping payments to Avios Group and using Virgin Flying Club as the loyalty currency, but this may be offset by some customers moving back to BA at London City. Is there value in protecting ‘feed’ to Virgin’s new shareholder Air France KLM?

Perhaps Stobart Group will win the day after all?

Will IAG buy Flybe?

Norwegian launches Rio de Janeiro

Norwegian announced yesterday that it is launching flights to Brazil.  

From 31st March, Norwegian will fly four times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) from London Gatwick.  The flights will use a Boeing 787-9 with both Economy and Premium.

Lead-in pricing is £240 one-way in Economy and £550 one-way in Premium.

Anika’s review of Norwegian Premium is here – it is a substantial step-up from British Airways or Virgin Atlantic and the only PE seat which I would genuinely say is halfway between traditional Economy and Business.  Norwegian even gives you lounge access.

No 1 Lounges Clubrooms Birmingham Airport

No 1 Lounges opens Birmingham Clubrooms

No 1 Lounges has opened its 2nd lounge at Birmingham International, by Gate 54.  As we exclusively revealed back in June, the group has opened a second site to cope with demand.

(Aspire has also just opened a second lounge in Birmingham which we reviewed here.)

The new No 1 facility is part of the Clubrooms brand.  This means that it is NOT available on Priority Pass, Lounge Club etc.  It is designed as a more exclusive space, designed in the style of a private club, with table service and a la carte dining.  The lounge offers runway views.  The only picture on the website is the one above, which doesn’t show much.

It will be interesting to see if Emirates decides to close its own lounge and use this instead, given its location near the Emirates gate.  It must be expensive to run its own lounge for just two flights per day, seven hours apart.

You can book online here.  It costs £35 per person booked in advance (£40 on the door) with inclusive champagne packages costing extra.  Children under 12 are banned and there is a dress code.

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  1. Nigel the pensioner says:

    IAG vs Virgin for flybe is simply a tit for tat extension to the hate hate relationship between Branson and Walsh. As Rob rightly says, BA gave two fingers to UK domestic passengers and then sheepishly brought a few routes back exemplifying the fact that WW may not be the aviation passenger industry’s best decision maker. I see no reason why they should fare any better now with the Cruz (overseen by WW) stewardship BUT I would love to see all the routes brought back under BA if they could fibd someone who would stick to their plans and recognise true quality at the points of Customer experience!

    • Flybe is losing money, BA is highly profitable…. Pretend you’re objective and rational – who do you really think was right about regional flights?

      Why so many people on here regularly view purely business decisions as personal insults I have no idea!

      • Flybe has caused its own problems – if they had just got on with the knitting, instead of losing a fortune on their Finnish adventure and then losing another slug thinking they could fight Loganair in Scotland and then losing some more taking some over-expensive leases on the Embraer fleet they can’t fill and then writing off another massive sum because the IT is not up to scratch etc etc.

        Would a debt-free Flybe which stuck to its core route network make money? Yes.

      • Thomas Howard says:

        1. If IAG can make Iberia Express work why can’t they make “BA Connect” work?
        2. Would there be a large enough saving from the closure of Flybes Exeter HO and any other economies of scale to make the routes profitable?
        3. High risk, but could BA reconfigure their network to feed a northern hub at MAN with a few select transatlantic routes and ME connection?

        • 1. IB Express is often (not entirely) routes where Iberia mainline won’t fly – a lot still go to Madrid, just with cheaper crew
          2. You’d save some costs – just being a PLC isn’t cheap in itself, you could lose a few head office staff – but I doubt they are living the high life in Exeter
          3. Virgin and Thomas Cook have North America sewn up from Manchester, the Middle East doesn’t work because you don’t have the connecting traffic – Etihad, Emirates and Qatar don’t actually take that many people to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, most go on elsewhere.

  2. Some more news about Norwegian:
    San Francisco Airport (SFO) replaces Oakland (OAK) from Gatwick.
    Miami Airport (MIA) replaces Fort Lauderdale (FLL) from Gatwick.

    • It’s Ryanair all over again – start with obscure airports because you can save £5 on landing charges then realise that customers don’t want to save £5 to be forced to land a £20 bus ride from where they want to be ….

      • Michael C says:

        Exactly – and my worry with Rio (which would be handy for me) is that,IF anything goes wrong, it’s a big wrong, i.e. 6-7 hour delay instead of BA, say, changing a plane in 45 mins…

      • It’s not only that… the money is where primary airports are. This way, they can increase prices… look at Ryanair when they moved from Girona to Barcelona the majority of their operations (prices jumped considerably).

        • Norwegian’s reliability has improved, and these flights are basically a Singapore replacement which had no major issues, so I wouldn’t blink on flying them to Rio, with the exception that it may well be that genuine long haul services they simply can’t cut enough costs to be competitive with traditional airlines. At least Rio has a higher lead-in price and few competitors whereas it’s easy to get Singapore for £450-£500 most of the year on a decent full service carrier.

      • According to Business Traveler, cargo opportunities was also a consideration in the switch of airports.

    • Fort Lauderdale was a useful route. I’ve flown to MIA a couple of times when my destination was FL. I’ve even flown into Orlando and driven down. Lauderdale is only about 30 minutes from Miami. Its a nice destination in itself as well as being a major cruise terminal. I flew AA (US Airways) to FLL via PHL a few years ago to join a cruise. Very useful as the hotels and cruise port were a $10 taxi ride from the airport, so I didn’t need to rent a car. It’s fun to explore Lauderdale and Hollywood by Water Taxi, and I would have been in no fit state to drive after taking full advantage of facilities on the J and F flights and in the lounges.

      I hope BA continue their direct flights to FLL. They fly to Tampa as well, so I think they can see that not everyone wants to go to MCO or MIA.

  3. OT – Have got a question about Amex Platinum Travel Insurance. I’m off on holiday next month for 3 weeks to Thailand. I have a current Amex travel policy that expires on the 2nd January and I fly back on the 5th. I recently got an Amex Platinum card, does the insurance policy that comes with the card cover my upcoming holiday? I booked the flights with Opodo using my BA Amex card so I did use an Amex card but not sure if it’s invalid if I didn’t use an Amex Platinum?
    Obviously don’t want to be uninsured for the end of my holiday, but also don’t want to have to buy a new policy if I don’t need to!

    • Any personal Amex is OK – and in any event, all the ‘big stuff’ is covered irrespective. Only little stuff, like £200 if your flight is delayed, requires you to have paid for your flight with a personal Amex card.

      Amex Plat will insist that you claim on your ‘proper’ policy up to 2nd but their coverage will kick in afterwards.

  4. OT – we need to fly to Sydney in early Feb 2018. I’ve been holding out for a decent Qatar sale and would be willing to position for a sub £1800 fare. Unfortunately, the Air China sale excluded our dates. OSL-SYD_ARN is £2000-ish on QR and a straight OSL-SYD return is £1900ish on EY. Would prefer to try the QSuites if there is a sale. Do you think it’s worth holding out for a Christmas / NY sale on Qatar / other airline or should I book the EY tickets?

    • Those EY fares have been around for a while so there is a fair chance they stick around into the new year, but who knows for certain? A key consideration for me would be whether you want the BA tier points from Qatar – you’d almost have a BA Silver card, and you’d get a lot of Avios too.

      • Thanks Rob. Don’t need the extra tier points as already BA Gold until mid 2020 but prefer the Qatar soft product to EY. Last year managed to bag excellent fares on Qatar to JNB but feel like sales this year have been almost non-existent. I was waiting to see if there would be any decent Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals but was again disappointed. I assume you haven’t heard anything about an end of the year / new year sale on Qatar or any other airline.

        • Since Qatar agreed to be externally audited… there haven’t been juicy Qatar sales. Personally, I’m not expecting anything interesting from Qatar Airways in the future.

        • Lady London says:

          @marcw I too have been watching for a decent longhaul QR sale. If you converted the prices at the rate the UK pound used to be worth, though, against the Euro, actually the few QR sales we’ve seen in the past year are not that much more highly priced than the previous excellent sales. Sadly we’ll have to muddle our way through Brexit and get to a stable solution on that before the UK Pound value is likely to increase again.

          There is also the recent increases in the price of aviation fuel to consider, that may mean we never get the same prices back.

  5. Tom Cook says:

    Has anyone got any experience of the F lounge for BA passengers at Newark, NY?

    • Flew EWR – LHR in F couple years ago. Lounge was so so. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great, standard business lounge… But it’s all one lounge with some booths that separate First dining. Not the Concorde Room experience.

  6. OT. My Creation IHG points for the November statement have now posted. Still waiting for my wife’s.

    • Mine have posted now too – weren’t there last night.
      Also have a line from yesterday saying “Deposit for the award AHMR2 (0 pts)” – anyone else seen that or know what it is? It’s not my free night cert as that was added months ago (and still is only showing 1 free night).

      • PS am guessing may be related to AMB free night cert (as recently renewed that and received cert in the post), but didn’t have this line last year.

        • I had that line too. Tried a google and couldn’t really work it out. I got my AMB BOFOF certificate a few months ago now…

        • Mine still not posted yet! Although finally got my 1750 Avios for a Viator tour back in May – gee that was hard getting those points. Also received 1659 Avios each for our outbound flight to Tallinn on a reward booking – shouldn’t have received anything. Just need my IHG points to post and I will be very happy cos I’ll hit Spire for 2019 and get my bonus 25k! Maybe tomorrow!

        • Nice result on the Tallinn flight points!

        • Mine have just posted!!! 😀

        • Yipee!

    • Mrs W’s points still missing.

    • OT to your post Genghis / all, ignoring the free nights element for hitting bonuses, do you prefer IHG Creation or SPG Amex in terms of reward per £1 spent?

      I have never collect hotel points so at zero on all of them bar the £10k on my IHG Creation, and £1k on SPG Amex. Deciding what route to go down? IHG Creation (+Curve) might be an easy winner though….


      • For me, SPG Amex is what I churn (or did, although I plan on keeping it in the new year for the ongoing spend 3/£ = 1.5% return).
        IHG Creation is a solid hotel non-Amex card. Both my wife and I have one for the £10k annual spend.

      • I’ve found Marriott to be pretty appalling post merger so have been pushing a lot more spend through IHG. Amex SPG decent for sign-up bonus though.

    • And wife’s points now in account – the joys of award wallet. It’s like they’re manually added one by one, which given Creation and IHG wouldn’t surprise me.

    • Mine and OH’s too, still waiting on Hilton though…..

  7. OT…. Hilton Credit card Points.
    Mine have failed to appear this month. Normally they are in pretty much after the statement rum but 10 days later I still don’t have them.. Any one else in the same boat or is it just me???

    • My statement date is 10th of the month but my points have always posted around 22/23/24 of the month. I thought that was normal…

    • Now that you mention this…

      Like Genghis my points usually post on the 22nd (unless that falls on a weekend then it happens on the following Monday, which could be 23rd or 24th) but for November they haven’t posted and its way past due.

      • I am also missing 2000 HH points from erewards.

        • @Liz same boat here regarding e-rewards, result of Hilton IT “upgrade” works potentially at the end of October

        • Wife and I both missing e-rewards points. I’m missing credit card points.

        • RussellH says:

          Yes, still missing both 7000 from e-Rewards and 2440 from Barclaycard. e-Rewards tell me to wait three weeks ie until tomorrow, while Hilton tell me to wait for 30 days for points from e-Rewards.
          Barclaycard points have always posted 22/23/24 or the month, which is a max of 2 days from the card statement date. Also should be due an upgrade to Hilton Gold, haveing spent the requisite 10K – no sign of that yet either.

      • Mine to
        Statement dated 10th and points normally on 22/23. Needed them book something soon as well.

    • New Card says:

      Mine are missing too!

      • Mine missing too. Looks like there will be another round of fighting for points after SPG drama.
        Although won’t expect same results as bagged extra 60k points after 3 months delay.

    • Could this be related to the recent IT updates I wonder 🤔

    • I thought mine were taking a long time to post! I checked and it does say it can take 4-6 weeks so it’s probably not worth trying to chase it up just yet as they’ll just tell us to wait that amount of time if they’re anything like Amex.

  8. OT – AMEX to Hilton bonus points
    I never got the email but webchat “confirmed” I was eligible as open to plat charge users, phone call to amex also “confirmed” this. Did the transfer and only got 2x and not 3x, Amex say it is an ongoing issue and the bonus points will take up to 8 weeks to credit, now the waiting game…

    • I was told by Marketing dept last week that it is targeted so if no email received then no points will post despite what you are being told. I was also initially told it was open to all but had it confirmed by the marketing dept. Also it will take up to 8 wks. I plan on transferring some of mine anyway so will see what happens.

  9. OT: Trying to add Radisson as Amex transfer partner. It keeps telling me “Sorry, there has been an error!”, which is not much use. Is there anything I have to do with the account number (e.g. leading zeroes)?

  10. OT: recently updated awardwallet Android app, anyone else having major issues updating accounts?

  11. Nick Reynolds says:

    Very OT: Audio at AMEX call centre

    Is it just me finds the audio quality at the AMEX Platinum call centre really bad and very quiet so difficult to hear what the adviser says? The audio is fine when calling the number on back of the BA card which I assume is a different call centre as I’m always put through to someone with an American accent.

    • I’ve occasionally spoken to the office in Brighton and the quality is always fine; I’ve also been called by staff who are clearly overseas and reception is usually very “tinny”, worse than on a Skype call!

  12. OT – how long should I wait before following up a complaint with BA? They have an automated message on their phone system asking people not to chase (after which it cuts off), but three weeks after registering a case, I’d expect to have been contacted. I have a case reference.

    What are others doing in this situation? How long should I give it? Is there another contact number that doesn’t simply cut off?!

    • Shoestring says:

      Have you submitted a formal complaint on BA’s online complaint system? They are normally very prompt to come back with a reply and often a suggestion for service recovery (ie some compensatory Avios). You get a case reference number and can follow up quickly if you think their offer is acceptable or too low.

      I’m just guessing, but given you’ve had no reply to your complaint, then my guess is you phoned in a complaint to Customer Service? If so, start again from scratch with an online complaint using BA’s complaint system.

      If you did that already with no reply after 3 weeks, then just file the online complaint again.

      You wouldn’t need to phone at all.

      • Thanks for the reply and advice.

        I submitted via email, and got a confirmation with a reference number telling me they’d be in touch. I thought I’d follow up via phone (0344 4930747 – option 3, option 3) but after a recorded message about their backlog, it simply cuts off.

        Given that it sounds like they’re usually prompt, and it’s now been 3 weeks, I should perhaps submit a follow-up via the online form with my reference number. I’d rather not phone if I can avoid…

        • Shoestring says:

          yep sounds like you did it right but I wouldn’t phone now

          3 weeks would be much longer than usual to get a compo reply for your complaint

          keep it online wd be my advice

        • Might be worth trying Twitter team, they certainly used to be decent.

      • I used their online complaint system, took 3-4 weeks to get a reply which just empathised with my concerns but did little else – replied to this and eventually got 5k Avios. Pretty rubbish given all the issues raised, BA CS pretty atrocious recently IME.

  13. OT: LHR T4 parking for a week, any suggestions / discount codes anyone can share.
    Flying this Saturday

    • The Original Nick says:


    • Shoestring says:

      google and use use the [MSE airport parking] discounts

    • Lady London says:

      Hotel park and stay packages? some work out very good and require only 1 night stay then leave car for up to two weeks – IHG has them. Didn;t Rob also do a recent-ish article on here, on parking at LHR?

  14. rams1981 says:

    OT missing spg points on my wife’s account. Getting there. They’ve posted the 20k but not the 2k for referral. Will phone and ask and maybe someone will add it without much hasssle…

  15. OT: I recently completed the Hilton diamond challenge/have it till March 2020. Am I right in thinking that any stays between now and March 2019 won’t count towards the status being continued from March 2020?

  16. OT We were the last to be fed on our recent CE trip to Tallinn and 2 of the 3 breakfast choices were gone so I ended up with only fruit and yoghurt as I didn’t want what was left. The lovely stewardess, who acknowledged us by name, was very apologetic and said it happens all the time and offered to submit a complaint for me. She confirmed as we left the plane that she had submitted it. I know this is happening all the time but am I likely to receive anything? I haven’t received anything confirming that any complaint was submitted. Not really expecting anything but wondered what others have done/received.

    • Shoestring says:

      Judging by FT thread on service recovery, something like 2000 Avios? LH would be more.

    • On my CE holiday trip to Rome in May there were no breakfast options left by the time they served me (ended up with a bit of bread and a drink). The purser said he’s going to put a note. Maybe an hour or so later got a phone call from BA to apologise and say they’re going to put 3000 Avios in my account. I have to admit I was shocked that they responded so quickly. Made me actually move some of my regular short-haul flights for 2019 to BA after 2 years on *A.

      • Shoestring says:

        Champagne & a crust to chew on – breakfast of champions!

        • Love it! Here’s hoping for something anyway. Got Avios and tier points awarded on a reward flight so someone made a mistake there. This trip was paid for by Lloyd’s compensation from earlier in the year. 2 upgrade vouchers, double Avios awarded and hundreds of £££ in cash so these additional extras are all very welcome too!

    • Shoestring says:

      @Liz – stick in an online service recovery compo complaint (& let us know how you get on)

    • 2 recent experiences.
      AA SXM-MIA business seat not reclining 4000 miles instantly credited to account.

      IB MIA-MAD business got a few bites a couple of hours into flight, cabin manager brought insecticides for skin and seat fabric plus some lotion. Sent in complaint received 10,000 avios within 24 hours apologising that the IFE was not working.

  17. TonTonT3 says:


    Have an upcoming trip to Johannesburg. Any recommendations on the best Priority Pass lounges there? There are quite a few and don’t know which one to focus on!



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