Bits: BA improves On Business, Virgin pilots strike, Hilton Mallorca and Hotel des Indes leaving

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News in brief:

A change to British Airways On Business

On Business is the small business loyalty scheme run by British Airways.  Whilst hugely devalued a couple of years ago, there is no reason NOT to sign-up if you are a VAT-registered company as you still earn Avios and tier points as usual.  My full review of British Airways On Business is here.

The following announcement appeared on the On Business website this week:

Programme enhancement: Previously, upgrading a booking using On Business Points could only be done if the booking was made direct with British Airways.  As of 3 December 2018, bookings made by your Travel Agent can also be upgraded using your On Business Points.  To upgrade a booking call your On Business Service Centre.

This is good news, and brings the upgrade rules for On Business points in line with the rules for Avios upgrades.  Thanks to Alan for this.

Virgin Atlantic pilots vote for Christmas strike action

One of the Virgin Atlantic pilot unions, the Professional Pilots Union which represents around 1/3rd of Virgin pilots, has announced a series of one day strikes over the holiday period.

The strike is not, oddly, over money.  It is over the fact that Virgin Atlantic will not, for unspecified reasons, allow it to join the other main staff unions in discussions over employment issues.

The planned strike dates are:

  • 22nd – 25th December
  • 30th December – 2nd January
  • 4th January – 7th January

Virgin Atlantic does not believe that the strikes will cause any significant disruption, although without knowing how the PPU pilots are dispersed across the fleet it is hard to get a clear view.

If all of the A330 pilots were PPU members, for example, then it would clearly be a major issue.  If the PPU members were equally split across all aircraft types then smart rostering should allow non-striking pilots to be allocated trips on the affected days.

Review Hotel des Indes The Hague Den Haag

Hilton Sa Torre Mallorca and Hotel des Indes going independent

Two interesting branded hotels which we have reviewed in the last couple of years have both announced that they are leaving their respective brands.

This is probably not a total coincidence.  When we review an existing hotel – as opposed to a new opening – it is usually because it offers something ‘different’ from the usual chain experience and we want to share it with you.   Such hotels often end up deciding that it is too hard trying to be a square peg in a round ‘branded’ hole and that it is easier to do their own thing.

We reviewed Hilton Sa Torre in Mallorca here.  It is fair to say that not many Hilton hotels have their own 15th century windmill and 19th century chapel.  The history of the Sa Torre estate dates back even further to the end of the 14th century.  Hilton Sa Torre (click here for the hotel website) is leaving Hilton on 31st December.  I don’t know what will happen to it in January.

PS. Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Hilton Honors points.  That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.

Hilton Sa Torre Mallorca review windmill

In the Netherlands, Hotel des Indes in The Hague – part of Marriott’s The Luxury Collection – is leaving Marriott tomorrowWe reviewed the Hotel des Indes here after I bought a night in the Presidential Suite in a charity raffle!  The hotel, which has also been an InterContinental and a Le Meridien in the recent past, is apparently joining Leading Hotels of the World.   The hotel is the yellow building in the picture above, and the interior design is equally eclectic.

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Comments

  1. iamfugly says:

    O/T. Has anyone had experience of Curve closing their account, as its allegedly against their terms of use for customers to create a new account to get around spending limits. Basically, I reached my limit on my original card and rather than wait another 6 months for the £50k annual limit to reset I cancelled the card and set up a new one about a month later. I have now been threatened with having my second account closed and reinstating the first. Just wondering if anyone else has had similar experience and if so what did they do?
    Many thanks in advance

    • Sorry no experience of doing so but given their T&Cs I doubt you’ve got any grounds to challenge it I’m afraid.

      • iamfugly says:

        I have scanned through the Terms of Service and Fair use policy. I am no legal expert but I cannot see any point which states it is a breach of their service to cancel an account and to re-apply at a later date. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to reply. I will update with any further news if interesting.

        • Agree can’t see anything specific but the wording around limits, etc gives them such leeway I guess they’ll say the annual limits were for you rather than the card…

  2. Chris L says:

    OT Avios redemption – I booked some BA reward flights via Iberia a few months ago. I noticed today when checking MMB that the flight times have been changed and are less convenient. Do I have any rights (e.g. change flights/free cancellation etc) or is it just ‘tough luck’? Would appreciate any insight.
    Thanks.

    • Depends upon extent of change to an extent – if over 2h then free rebooking/cancellation, if under that then can vary a bit by agent. In general AA are very good with this, I find BA a bit more variable.

    • Shoestring says:

      BA’s published time parameter (to get a refund) in this situation is 2 hours’ difference. I think the operating airline is important here, ie BA not IB.

      Changing flights is easier & if you have an alternative flight you’d prefer, BA can be quite helpful.

    • Chris L says:

      Thanks, it is well over 2 hours. My only hesitation with cancellation is that the flight was booked with the special expiring Avios from the Iberia promotion. If I get a refund would the Avios ‘vanish’? Or am I being overly paranoid?

      • Hmm – definitely a potential risk! No chance of finding an alternative date rather than cancelling?

        • Chris L says:

          There certainly are other flights that might work better, but none with redemption availability – or should that not matter?

        • Shoestring says:

          Sorry should have rolled that into 1 answer – no, redemption availability should not matter if you are rescheduling & it’s BA’s fault.

      • Shoestring says:

        Quite likely the IB 90K Avios will vanish though nobody on FT has actually reported that yet

        • Lady London says:

          I can confirm they will disappear if nothing special is done by Iberia.
          Mine did.
          For reasons caused by Iberia I had to transfer the 90,000 across to BA. (Yes, really. This had not been my plan at all.)

          As a test I left exactly 2 avios in my Iberia account. I moved 89,998 across to BA.
          On 3rd Decenber I noticed my Iberia avios balance had become 89,998. Er… sorry, it had become -89,998.

          This proves that any of the 90,000 promotional avios left in the account were taken away from me, and were the amount taken away less than the full amount of avios I’d earned in the promotion, Iberia would put the account into negative for the rest.

  3. Planning my next year of cards, I thought I would share my thinking so some experts can make some suggestions also!

    I think I can make 4 Amex referrals a year to friends and family. Looking at Amex referral bonuses, the Plat at 18k/£180 is by far the best, then Gold CC at 9k/£90 so I will look at holding one of those for the whole year.

    To decide which one I will take (i.e. £450 fee vs £0 fee) I valued the benefits each card gives as follows, assuming I only use the card to hit the sign up bonus (£2k on each card):-
    (Rob I am sure did an article, but everyone values points differently I think)

    Amex Plat Charge Card:-
    Annual Fee -£450
    35k MR signup bonus +£350
    2k MR for £2k spend +£20
    72k MR for 4 referrals +£720
    Travel Insurance +£80
    Lounge access (when not travelling in biz), 6 visits x £15 = £90
    Car hire excess insurance £25
    Opportunity cost of not getting another Gold signup bonus of 22k MR next year -£220
    Net Value +£615
    Amex MR generated: 109k

    Amex Gold Credit Card
    Annual Fee £0
    22k MR signup bonus +£220
    2k MR for £2k spend +£20
    36k MR for 4 referrals +£360
    2x Lounge pass x £15 = £30
    Net Value +£630
    Amex MR generated: 60k

    So on the face of it, it looks quite balanced. If I only make 3 referrals, it swings toward Gold, make 5 and Plat is the clear winner.
    The big benefit I am missing is the hotel status that comes with platinum, but I find it hard to value because I’m not sure where I will stay, and therefore what benefit I will get. This biggest ones are likely to be free breakfast at Hilton (genuine value), non-guaranteed room upgrades at various brands (nice to have) and enhanced earning rates. Having said that, I could probably get Hilton via a status match from IHG etc.

    So I think my decision is that I go for Plat -always nice not to have to worry about lounge passes, insurance etc etc.

    I would be interested in your thoughts,

    • Shoestring says:

      You can get max 90K of MR points for referrals (calendar year), so that might be 5x 18K or it might be different multiple.

    • Shoestring says:

      Don’t forget you’d get a pro rata refund of the £450 Plat fee. Ie you hold it for 6 months, it’ll be £225-ish.

      • Thanks for all the comments!

        I’m working on the basis the referrals would be evenly spread over the year – so maybe I could cancel in the last few months of the year once the last referral has taken place. but then the insurance, lounge passes etc lapse. But it would start the 6 month clock ticking.

    • Shoestring says:

      Lounge passes – not £15 but £20 these days would be a reasonable assumption.

      • True – my assumption here was what I would spend in a bar if I didn’t have lounge access.

    • Shoestring says:

      You can refer yourself as well, so don’t go thinking it just has to be friends & family.

      • 😉

        • Shoestring says:

          Nectar Amex seems an easy win, I now need to burn 50,000 Nectar points I never thought I’d have 🙂

          • Yeah I’m still working through them – have ended up using quite a chunk on buying fuel as their prices at one of the stores are pretty competitive. Have to do with the cashier rather than at pump, in 500pt/£2.50 chunks.

        • Shoestring says:

          Can you just give the cashier your Nectar card to pay or do you need to get £2.50 vouchers somehow?

        • Shoestring says:

          So on a £72.50 tank-up, the cashier would have to do 29x £2.50 Nectar point transactions?

          • Nope they just take them of all in one go – can only be in £2.50/500pt multiples but they’ll take off as much/little as you want – just tell them if you want a specific amount or maximum possible. Can then pay balance on card.

    • You should hopefully be able to hit 5 referrals if self-referral keeps working…

      • Shoestring says:

        I have an ‘old’ Gold card still going (waiting for my annual bonus right now) so hoping for various things to keep going 🙂

      • Care needed here now, I believe amex may no longer be giving people a third cobranded card if they are already holding two. With the six month rule it is possible but requires carefull attention to the dates. Considering the frequently ignored platinum everyday card helps, even if only applied to trigger a referral bonus.

  4. Benylin says:

    OT: Pegasus flight from STN to SAW. Seat selection costs money, do you know if it ever becomes free? (E.g. 24hrs before flight?) Or is it just decided upon check-in.

    • Shoestring says:

      Doubt it. With Ryanair it pays to check in last minute, when you stand the best chance of not getting a middle.

      • Shoestring says:

        Big Brother Google Ad is watching – so we mention Pegasus & immediately one of the HfP ads changes to Pegasus – Cyprus £93.99, Tel Aviv & Dubai £110.99!

  5. OT as Bits.

    Currently stuck in the Eurostar lounge in Brussels as the whole service is suspended! Thank goodness for platinum Amex… Apparently some problem with a broken down TGV near Lille. Originally the 1856 was delayed 45 to 60 minutes by this. Now they’ve just announced the entire service is suspended. No further information, ridiculous really.

    Obviously can’t be the first time this has happened. Would appreciate any advice from wise HFPers (not really expecting any timely advice, just posting this as I don’t have anything better to do whilst waiting!).

    I guess it’s a hotel in Brussels for the night and try to get home tomorrow, send the bill to Eurostar. Shame I needed to be in work tomorrow morning at 0800 but hey ho.

    Can’t remember for the life of me which credit card I booked this on. Platinum insurance not good for delays IIRC in any case. Guess that will give me something to occupy myself with 🙄

    • Yes sadly if not booked on Plat then no delay cover – it can be quite decent if it is though.

  6. Re: Shop Small.
    Has anyone found a small merchant selling things like theatre vouchers?
    I’ve found some more unusual places this year (garden centre for Xmas tree, plenty of butchers) and hoping to find a few more gems.

    Quite surprised there isn’t a forum about it somewhere given what a deal it is.

  7. OT. Just heard from BA re a MAN/LHR/AUS/AUS/LHR/MAN itinerary that from April 1st they are cancelling the BA1388 12.10 flight. This means there is a 4 hour gap from around 10.00am till 2pm for a MAN connection. I flew the 1388 10days ago and it was rammed. This flight collects a lot of long haul connection passengers (as witnessed by the numbers around the carousel at Manchesters ‘delightful’ T3). Poor show BA!

    • Every time we connect to or from LHR it’s rammed! They just don’t seem bothered about getting business from northerners at all. My long haul flight next August has now been moved to a departure time 75 mins later than it was originally, but due to the pitiful number of connecting flights we’re still going to have to leave MAN on the first shuttle at 7 am.

      Waiting at the luggage carousel at T3 is like jostling for space in someone’s garage!

  8. OT – I booked the Ritz Carlton Geneva with Marriott points, it says “your reward certificate will be sent to the hotel’

    What does this mean?

    • It just means you successfully have a reward certificate attached to the reservation (they’ll electronically send it to the hotel). Marriott alllows for ‘points advance’ bookings, so you can have a reservation that is unpaid – nearer the time the hotel would be chasing you for payment! If you pay for it with points this generates a reward certificate that gets attached to the reservation. I think other chains (eg. Hilton) have a similar system but don’t allow reservations without attached certificates.

      It has proved useful with the travel package fiasco when trying to work out if the call centre have done things correctly or not!

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