Bits: Nashville gains BA First Class, 15% off UK Aspire lounges, BBC documentary on in-flight air quality

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News in brief:

Nashville gains First Class

Back in October we reported that British Airways was moving the Nashville service, launched in May 2018, to daily operation from the Summer 2019 timetable.  There are presently five flights per week, increasing to seven from 19th April.

The service has now been switched to a Boeing 787-9 from a Boeing 787-8.  This means that Nashville is getting First Class from 31st March.

If you have Avios seats booked for Nashville after 31st March, you might want to consider upgrading one or both legs to First Class if seats are showing.  As well as additional Avios, you will need to pay the £35 per person change fee and any extra taxes.  The taxes difference could be noticeable given that BA hiked its surcharges late last year.

Nashville gets First Class

15% off UK Aspire and Club Aspire lounges

The Aspire lounge network is offering 15% off your next visit to one of its UK sites.  If you don’t have a Priority Pass then this is one way of saving money on your next trip.

Aspire lounges we have reviewed include – click for the review:

You must use this link to book to receive your 15% discount, which will show automatically at check-out.  The offer closes on 13th January but you can book for a future date.

15% discount on Aspire airport lounges

BBC documentary on in-flight air quality

One of our readers, Mike Powell, works at the BBC and recently produced a documentary for Radio 4 and the World Service on ‘aerotoxicity’, investigating air quality in-flight.

If you missed it, the 53-minute Radio 4 version can be heard here.  An edited 27-minute version for the World Service can be heard here.  To quote:

We hear from whistleblowers from the aviation industry who allege that many pilots, crews and passengers are becoming ill – or even dying – because of these possibly toxic fumes.

We hear the guidance issued to coroners after the sudden death of pilots and crew – and talk to the father of one of the flight attendants who died who claims there is a cover up in the airline industry. Politicians and campaigners say the subject has been ignored for decades and that with hundreds of cases going through the courts, so called ‘Aerotoxicity’ could be designated an industrial disease like Asbestosis – with all the implications that brings.

The aviation industry tells us that any ‘rare’ events are dealt with; while we speak to the scientists working on biological solutions and engineers who are developing new aircraft with cleaner air.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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  1. OT one to kick things off… What are readers/hivemind experiences of Chile? Heading for two weeks – things to do, places to stay, food too eat, etc?

    • Was in Santiago in a November. Fantastic city, but would only stay 2/3 days and then move on.

      In Santiago, you could take a walk up Cerro Santa Lucía for some great views and an easy walk. For even better views over the city, there’s a slightly longer (1 hour) walk up Cerro San Cristóbal. There’s also a cable car which you can take one or both ways.

      If you like touristy stuff there’s a changing of the guard most days at La Moneda Palace. If you like trendy/hipster then a wander down Av Italia from Santa Isabel metro station is worth the train ride.

      I was only there for a weekend, so just a few tips!

      • Daftboy says:

        Agree Santiago is a nice city, worth a day or two – definitely consider Patagonia and Torres Del Paine, if you have the budget we stayed at the Singular which was exceptionally good (but not cheap)

    • I would highly recommend a couple of days in San Pedro de Atacama in the northern desert. There you will find the El Tatio geysers, Valle de la Luna, etc. Nice village and surprisingly good nightlife for the middle of a desert. Short flight from Santiago – airport is at Calama. ‘SKY’ is a very good, local, low cost airline for such a trip.

    • I’d recommend Bocanáriz (José Victorino Lastarria 276) – wine bar that serves really good food. A bit pricey for local standards but cheaper than what you’d pay for in the UK.

      +1 on Patagonia, Torres del Paine and San Pedro de Atacama. If it’s SPdA I’d recommend bringing altitude sickness medicine.

    • I can also recommend Hotel Ismael in Santiago, lovely accomodation, park view room, and great staff
      i also use a guide there who is taking us to Atacama in June, if anyone wants details let me know

      Bocanáriz is a great recommendation, largest selection of Malbec i have ever seen, hic.

      2-3 days enough in Santiago, also Holiday Inn is a very convenient airport hotel if travelling around Chile

    • thank you all! working on an itinerary in the next week. very exciting country all round by the looks of things

      • e.thomas says:

        Chile my fav country – because it’s such varied scenery, being long and thin. Have travelled the length
        +1 for Atacama, Torres del Paine ( borders argentina) , lake district and “fly” over the Andes ( puerto varas to bariloche boat/bus combo) , osorno area and EASTER ISLAND.
        Dont spend much time in santiago, it’s the least interesting of areas you can visit.

  2. Regarding infight air quality I suddenly begin to wonder if this is why I feel miserable (flu?) after 8 out of 10 flights, including short intra-european sectors. And it seems worse after flying in A318/319/320/321 aircraft.
    I never suffer from this when flying light aircraft / general aviation, which I also do quite a bit.

    • Erico1875 says:

      My 81 year old father was hospitalised after each of his last 2 flights. Doctors have advised him never to fly again as his immune system can’t cope with the inflight germs.

    • Not listed to the article yet but I never feel particularly great after a long flight.
      It could be “germs” but I doubt this is the main reason.

      I suspect generally lower air pressure has all sorts of effects on the human body and lung blood boundary and am not entirely convinced that the air isn’t tainted with burnt hydrocarbons.

      A350 seems to me better, it could be placebo though.

      Also my partner suffers far less than I do which would suggest different bodies can cope at different levels.

      It’s a subject that fascinates me, I’d have thought with the quality of cabin crew that have served for years and are now retired the data set available should be very big.

      • Lady London says:

        On everything except A350 A380 A787 I’ve found I always feel a lot worse if seated anywhere further back than the wing.

    • It’s mainly to do with the way air is fed into the aircraft to lower the cabin altitude from thirty odd thousand feet to below eight thousand. Older aircraft use bleed air from the engine which is prone to problems with faulty oil seals affecting air quality. More modern aircraft use filters to reduce this, also the cabin is kept at a lower altitude closer to six thousand feet which is bound to have some health benefits. In fact the 787 doesn’t use engine bleed air at all, it uses an electric compressor which brings air from outside the aircraft and bypasses the engine, I’m not sure whether it goes through a heat exchanger or is electrically heated though, the air outside is usually below -50C!

    • There are just so many different interactions for travel, the opportunity to pick up something is considerable.

      I currently have a “very contagious” eye infection and a consequantial shocking sore throat. It’s clearing up now, but on NYD it was like drawing dirty yellow string cheese out of my eye continously. I’d flown from EDI to LHR on Hogmanay.

      I could blame the flight. Or I could blame the ticket machine at Stirling Station, lift buttons at Stirling, train buttons and seats, lifts at Edinburgh Park, tram to EDI, self check-in at EDI, luggage trays (now that’s something a BBC documentary should swab!) at security, my saunter through WDF or nosey around the shops. I washed my hands at this point after a loo visit.

      Flight to LHR, overhead locker touch, hand cleaning wipe, BOB on flight, again overhead locker, lots of headrest holding on the slow disembark, hand wash and loo visit at Heathrow.

      Collect luggage, lifts to HeX, door buttons, HeX to 2-3, lift, walk to T2, lift, NCP shuttle bus, drive home.

      It just too one hand touch to the wrong surface, then touch around my eye area to pick this up.

      • Absolutely – good summary of potential places!!

        Have downloaded the episode to have a listen to, suspect poor seals and bleed air much more to blame for many issues than an infection from the cabin air itself.

    • The last 2 years I’ve been on 12 hour flights 5-6 weeks after having immunosuppressive treatment, both for holidays and work (my doctor told me to wait a minimum 4 weeks before travelling but some people on forums who had the same thing say they won’t go on a plane for 6 months as that’s roughly how long it takes the immune system to recover!). First time I tried wearing one of those face masks but fell asleep and woke up with a very sweaty face feeling like I was suffocating so didn’t try that again!! After reading that I feel quite lucky I haven’t picked up anything major, but to be honest it can’t be much worse than going on the tube to work every day and as mentioned above there are so many places that you can pick up germs, even going to the supermarket! I am sensible and use antibacterial hand gel and wipes etc when travelling, and won’t let a period of ill health stop me from doing so when I’m only in my early 30s! Good data point that I’m still alive though!

  3. There is no difference in taxes from J to F!

    Any difference is due to BA greed and their hike in spuriously charges which they alone keep.

    Please stop referring to these as taxes. In the main the only tax is APD which represents less than a 1/3rd of the charges made.

    Calling BAs fees taxes just let them off the hook and suggest that society (NHS, Education,etc ) benefits. It does not!

    • This a getting a tad boring. I’m not defending BA, but it is a free market and if you don’t want to pay the “taxes” for a reward flight, don’t book with BA. If everybody did this they would have to change the reward seat model. They are not going to do it because a few people moan on a travel blog.

      • You are correct on the commercials and free market situation, but missed the point on referring to them as taxes. Even in parentheses it is still misleading.

        • I think anyone that reads these articles regularly knows that Rob is referring to taxes AND fees, it is just boring to have to have the discussion about what the fees actually are regularly.

        • I’m with Craig on this. Yawn.

        • Evan – While I also don’t care (I care about the price, not what components make up that price), I don’t think it’s that ridiculous to want things accurately described. They categorically are not taxes.

      • Thomas Howard says:

        The problem being there isn’t an airline loyalty programme that offers flights without fees and has a UK credit card earning route. The MBNA changes mean the vast majority of global schemes aren’t available here and even if there was a programme without exhorbitant fees somewhere in the world, chances are they wouldn’t have asufficiently large UK centric route network to make it interesting.

        In airline loyalty terms, we’re a captive market.

        • Yes a captive market…another way of describing this is that it is an abuse of a monopoly.

          The usual claim that you simply don’t buy will stop these charges is ridiculous. You don’t have a choice. BA charges these fees even when the operating carrier does not have them. To then refer to them as taxes…as there sales staff do on calls, is misleading and duplicitous .

  4. Has anyone made Nashville work with BA Redemption Finder, all I get is route not available?

  5. OT just noticed Amex and lounge club have increased fee for subsequent visits following the freebies to £20 per person…. apologies if this is old news!

    • Peter K says:

      Rob covered it a while back. Don’t use it at the grain store at Gatwick South to pay £20 and only get £15 benefits!

  6. Rob, for the first time in ages, I’m getting thr desktop version of this article on Android using Chrome. I’ve tried refreshing and clicking back and retrying but no luck.

  7. “If you have Avios seats booked for Nashville after 31st March, you might want to consider upgrading one or both legs to First Class if seats are showing. As well as additional Avios, you will need to pay the £35 per person change fee and any extra taxes. The taxes difference could be noticeable given that BA hiked its surcharges late last year.”

    surprised that CIS/YQ are being collectively called taxes by Rob.

    Let’s be specific.

    This increase in “Carrier Imposed Surcharges” is a Devaluation of Avios.

    They are not Taxes.

    • Rob please lead the way on this and update your style guide to refer to these carrier charges as what they are,which is definitely NOT taxes.

      • +1. Having just booked a redemption and paid £693.85 per person in taxes, fees and charges, I think journalists should be highlighting this.

        BA have presented this as £690.25 of “government, authority and airport charges” and £3.60 BA fees and surcharges. The former includes “YQ” of £400. The explanation doesn’t clarify what “YQ” is and lumping it into the first bucket would imply it’s a non-BA charge. In reality about £403 are BA charges and £290 true “taxes and fees”.

        I find this presentation at best opaque and at worst deliberately misleading.

        In my industry (financial services) we would end up in a lot of hot water from the FCA for this sort of opacity. Surely this should be clarified?

        • Genghis says:

          “I think journalists should be highlighting this”

          Middle class people have to pay a bit more for their business class flights.

          Doesn’t make much of a story.

        • I could place this with a national paper but I’d need exact data. Which I could get via the readers. Let’s see. Genghis is right though, outside of the Mail, Sunday Times or Telegraph it wouldn’t get much traction.

        • Thomas Howard says:

          As someone that leans a little to the left I still feel its disengenious to blame the government or taxman for what is a business decision. The angle that wouldn’t work (I doubt) in the Mail and Telegraph is that sometimes the problems caused by the taxation system or government in general are overstated.

          I don’t know if the Guardian or the Indy would run an article that big business is ripping you off in the name of the always benevolent government. I doubt it would whip up enough hysteria to change anything though.

        • Rob – I’ll send you a screen grab from a booking made this week.

          My “journalists should be highlighting this” was not really aimed at national press and I’m not sure you’d get much traction or sympathy there.

          I do think specialist sites like HfP and the wider travel press should in my view make it clear that what the airlines like to call “taxes, fees and charges” are often primarily carrier charges, with some airport/ govt fees and APD added on.

        • How about a crowd-sourced spreadsheet (e.g. Google sheets)
          I’m sure many readers would be willing to contribute

        • I don’t think anyone is asking to go to The Sun/Mail/Times with this, but one small way to shout louder about this is to not normalise calling them ‘taxes’ on the blog, and potentially encourage other bloggers in this little weird world of ours to start doing so too.

  8. As it happened I booked F to Nashville earlier this week. For the first and probably only time we decided not to redeem avios and paid cash. £1,750 ex. LHR, plus saved an extra £200 on top of this by incorporating car hire. Spending 170k avios and £650ish fees p.p didn’t feel like a great return even if using a 241.

    Fares do seem to be soft at the moment, F was only £400 more than J for most dates in August.

    • That’s an excellent price Lloyd. Coincidentally my booking was Nashville too. For the dates we could do cash fares were a bit higher ex London and we had a domestic connection as well so redemption just about made sense. We are getting 1.5p per Avios – in isolation that’s marginal with a 241 (F out and J back) but we have a decent pipeline of Avios and the flexibility of a redemption ticket is potentially useful too.

      • Same here, def worth our while paying those taxes and BA imposed! fees, with avios rolling in monthly…mind you, that’s a jump since we booked our F 241 this time last year..BA need to be more clear, they are carrier imposed charges….

  9. Has anyone mentioned yet that the ba charges are not taxes? 🙂

  10. Wally1976 says:

    OT – I know this has been asked before but can anyone recommend any Hilton or Marriott hotels in London (central-ish) where it is possible to book a redemption room for a family of 4? Thanks.

    • +1 The only option I can find is CP @ kings x at 35k points pre devaluation. Note that the hotel claims will charge £36 pp from the 3rd guest

    • Booked the Metropole for Sis and offspring in feb, so you should be okay there

    • Marriott Maida Vale has good sized 2x double bed rooms.

    • Steve-B says:

      I’ve just booked the Crowne Plaza – City, using my Creation earned voucher with a room for 4.

  11. Kayleigh says:

    OT Cathay Pacific and Asia Miles Waitlist (sorry in advance for long post)
    Hi everyone, thanks so much for all your help with my previous questions, and all the articles so far which has helped me learn so much about travel redemptions. I’m planning and booking my first trip with points – Australia for Christmas 2019.
    We’ve got a 2-4-1 BA voucher which I have successfully booked in for an open jaw flight NCL->LHR->HKG in First and then BKK->LHR->NCL in Business (I know everyone says terrible things about the business offering on BKK->LHR route but it was the flight that made most sense to us.)
    Before anyone asks, we don’t have enough points to get all the way to Australia, which is why we only used the 2-4-1 to Asia!
    To make the leg to Australia, we had waitlisted 3 flights (hedging our bets) through Cathay Pacific using AsiaMiles (have already transferred some from Amex Gold MR but need to do another churn to get all the miles required) We were expecting the waitlist to clear much nearer the time, giving us enough time to earn the necessary points. However we have just received notification that one of our waitlist flights has become available, and “to ensure your booking, please issue ticket before 22:00 Fri 29 Nov 2019”. Does this really mean we have almost a year to gather all the necessary points?!?! If so, that’s crazy, and I’d be surprised why the system doesn’t get abused more if that really is the case! Everything I had read online said you generally have 10days-ish to pay up but that doesn’t seem to be what notification is suggesting. Anyone have any experience or insight with this?
    Many thanks

    • I will be interested to hear how this pans out! I didn’t even know waitlisting was possible until I read this!

      • JamesLHR says:

        Having worked at Cathay, waitlisting is extremely common with the locals in HKG and Asia when booking flights, especially reward flights.

        You would quite often go into the records at check-in and there would be scores of different flights listed in their PNR as waitlist with only 1 flight ticketed which had cleared to HK from WL.

        AM is quite nice to it’s users, we never charged for changing bookings at the airport either. You could book for one flight, miss it and transfer onto the next one free of charge!

      • Kayleigh says:

        I’ll let you know what happens! Also posted in Flyer Talk today and someone said you usually get an email the next day with your payment deadline. We shall see…

  12. OT: Does anyone have a generic Iberia customer service email address that works? They are refusing to reply to my email to the clasica account because my query doesn’t concern the loyalty programme!

    • The Original Nick says:

      I’m pretty sure Harry left one in comments somewhere a while back but finding that might be a task. He’s not around at the moment AFAIK.

  13. (“I think journalists should be highlighting this”

    Middle class people have to pay a bit more for their business class flights.

    Doesn’t make much of a story.)

    As someone who also works in financial services I can categorically state that Middle Class people with money to invest or save will get lots of press and coverage if the charges are too high or even worse hidden!

  14. funkypigeon says:

    OT: Some inspiration needed.

    I have a BA 2-4-1 voucher and 193,000 Avios in my household account.
    Really want to go to Tokyo but noticed this is around 444,000 Avios return First Class (no issue with the 2-4-1 voucher) but around £1100 in taxes.

    I don’t know if there is another place that’s excellent to visit but would cost less Avios and less taxes? It might be an option to go FC and return CW. Is there a massive difference between the two?

    Some advice and inspiration as to how you would spend the above would be appreciated.

    • Go Tokyo and don’t fly First? Fly business. Unless you are of course adamant in wanting to try 1st?

      Fwiw – i flew 1st to Tokyo on a 241 back in 2015. Would i do it again in 1st? No. I personally do not think 1st is worth the amount of avios required. CW is sufficient in my opinion but that’s just me.

      • funkypigeon says:

        I have never flown first class before, so it’s a dream. I would very much like to do it!

        • Genghis says:

          Whereas I think F is worth the difference. I sleep much better.

        • Having never flown first, or even, business class, I would feel like I am wasting eth experience by sleeping through it!
          Obviously, if you are a regular traveller in the higher classes this wouldn’t be an issue

        • If that’s the case then, I would fly out in 1st and back in CW. If you can fly offpeak, you can save a few more miles.

          This should help you find suitable peak/offpeak dates:

        • Genghis says:

          If you want to fly F on that route as a first F experience, fly to NRT (uses 789) and not HND (uses 77W), even though HND generally much more convenient.

      • I don’t think the taxes (and charges) are much different between F and CW? Have you priced the taxes in both? Sadly after the recent hike the charges for a reward seat are considerable but you are paying £550 per person for a F return (i know you have to figure out the cost of avois and the 241) but in my mind, even taking that all into account I think thats a good price. Also sounds like you are going over the peak period, could you move these to off peak and reduce the avoid to 200k using a 241?

        If you are really put off by the taxes, you could book Hong Kong as 2 single and the taxes will drop due to the restrictions on the return taxes from HK.

      • In part replying to RTS’s comment on don’t fly first. I think this is poor advice. To start with you have to find availability but that’s another issue. The extra Avios required are minor vs CW and the taxes (only teasing, YQ charges) are the same! If it were the case that you could book CW and save Avios and £300-400 in YQ then that would make sense.
        The charges BA level now are eye-watering £1333.64 for 2 to ATL in F. With some of the flash sales we’ve seen this week and generally lower cash prices (especially if you’re willing to travel EX-EU or INV etc.) even with a 2-4-1 sometimes the numbers don’t add up. As Rob highlighted a few days ago BA have done a brilliant job of already de-valuing Avios even before they announce any actual changes to BAEC and largely no-one has twigged this.

      • Lady London says:

        My same feeling about SEA. Even though done on A380

      • I flew out to NRT in F last month, back in CW. 192000 Avios with a 241. (Outbound was off peak, return was peak. ) Was only 27000 extra to fly out in F.

        Was my first time in F, and I would recommend it outbound so you can use the First Wing and CCR at LHR. But also because you get a fast track card to use on arrival at NRT.

        On our way to the Immigration Desks, we showed our cards to a lady who took us to a desk that was immediately opened especially for us. Was nice for the VIP treatment to continue after landing.

        F was a good use of Avios as well as I don’t have status so don’t get free seat reservations in CW.

        Returning in CW, the JAL lounge at NRT was the best I’ve been to (although Prosecco, no Champagne)

    • Fly on off peak dates. Fly in CW for one of the flights, just depends on availability of cabins. Are they different? Yes. Does it matter, no not really, the quality of the champagne is lower (although on recent flight in F they had to serve the CW champagne as they had ran out of LPGS on the outbound flight), but it hardly matters to me. Fly out in F so you can try the Concorde Lounge.

      Not much to be saved on the taxes/carriers imposed charges etc etc. by going to other destinations as on a 2-4-1 you need to book a return flight, not unless you can start your flight in Inverness or Jersey.

      • The Original Nick says:

        @CV3V. Thanks for the help with the Caesars total rewards matching to Diamond a few days ago. I’ve managed to get my Mum up to Diamond so resort fees waived etc. Hilton Gold to Wyndham Diamond to Total rewards Diamond. She’ll be staying at Caesars Palace with her friend. All booked. Thanks.

        • Great result, that was quick. As mentioned in one of my replies, they dont add the $100 dinner credit until you show up at the Total Rewards desk, then it start the process (email) and it doesnt load until Thursdays, so would be worth a phone call advising they are booked in and coming. The free show tickets are available without issue, if you search internet you will find a list of the free shows (only those at Caesars properties).

        • Make sure your mum goes to the Total Rewards desk on her arrival, and ask for a physical card (or use the app), she can then do a fair bit of queue jumping for restaurants and shows.

        • I actually think it expires on the 31st January as that is when they check to see if you have enough tier points to remain diamond. You may have been better off waiting til after..unless the stay is before then

    • “£1100 in Taxes” lol.

      Have you not read the comments above? 🙂

    • Benilyn says:

      I’ve never booked a BA reward flight (my caveat lol), but is it not 240,000 avios return on First London to Tokyo during peak? (source: BA redemption finder)

  15. re First flights on Nashville route – I’ve flight booked in June 241 business. Ive looked online around my dates, no 1st seats are showing available anywhere, could it be that the plane switch has not been implemented on the BA avios booking site yet? or have they just all been taken?

    • Scallder says:

      First seats are never guaranteed by BA for redemption – only 2 business and 4 economy. It might be that they aren’t offering any for that date, however keep an eye on it as it can change between now and then

      • Amazed by how many F seats were available when we were booking out HKG in F and back from KUL…think they must release them if they don’t sell…

        In Dublin airport lounge, scraps being served, wish they would up the standards here, but the prosecco is good!

    • I was in a very similar position – I’d booked for late April, but due to availability (partly) I took flights to ATL, then going to tour via Nashville. I just found BA website showing 4 seats in F available for the same date.

      I just called BA and changed my booking from ATL to BNA – additional taxes and charges of £54.68 per seat in addition to the £35 change fee (increase from £614.14 to £668.82). BNA is 31 fewer miles than ATL!!

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