Bits: IHG Rewards Club “moving to variable points pricing”, Flybmi routes rescued, Best Western buys WorldHotels

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News in brief:

IHG Rewards Club “moving to variable points pricing”

InterContinental Hotels Group, owner of Holiday Inn, HI Express, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza etc, published its 2018 results on Tuesday.

The summary is here, but I have summarised the summary into news I think is relevant:

A new brand, not named so far, will launch in 2019.  It will be an ‘upper midscale all-suites’ brand.  How this differentiates from Staybridge, which is already ‘upper midscale’ in the UK to my mind, and Candlewood remains to be seen.

The company now has 837,000 rooms globally

The number of UK rooms grew 8% in 2018, helped by the Principal Hotels acquisition 

Room rates are falling in the Middle East (REVPAR down 6% in 2018) due to oversupply

The avid brand has now signed over 170 contracts although only one hotel – in Oklahoma – is actually open.  These will be new build ‘cheap and cheerful’ hotels which will charge noticeably less than an equivalent Holiday Inn Express.

voco, the new conversion brand, has three hotels open with 13 signed.  We are reviewing the Cardiff hotel over the weekend.

Bookings by IHG Rewards Club members rose from 39% to 43% (over 50% in the Americas)

IHG Rewards Club members are 7x more likely to book direct than non-members

Importantly for hotels, revenue from IHG Rewards Club members is 25% higher than from non-members (this is, I imagine, due to the 20%+ commission charged by Expedia, etc and the propensity for loyal guests to book superior room categories)

Here is the key thing that caught my eye:

IHG Rewards Club is “testing new features for 2019 roll-out, designed to increase member engagement with variable point pricing” 

It is not clear what this means.  If we’re lucky, it MAY be a move to a Hilton model whereby redemption rates fall on dates where cash costs are low.  It may also be linked to the current New York promotion whereby certain hotels are currently on special offer for points until 30th April.

Of course, there is also a massive downside scenario whereby IHG Rewards Club moves to 100% variable pricing.  Points prices become uncapped and you get a fixed amount, say 0.5c, per point.  If the InterContinental Times Square pictured below is selling for $600, you would need 120,000 points.

I doubt IHG would do this – it is hardly likely to “increase member engagement” – but we need to keep an eye on it.  The Hilton Honors model has, I think, worked well with hotels having a points cap but members still able to get redemption value on nights where cash rates are low.

InterContinental Times Square

Some Flybmi routes rescued by Loganair

As we covered at the weekend, regional airline Flybmi has slipped into receivership.

Loganair – which shares a parent company with Flybmi – has announced that it is picking up some of the pieces by launching the following routes:

  • Aberdeen to Bristol (commences 4th March)
  • Aberdeen to Oslo (commences 4th March)
  • Aberdeen to Esbjerg (commences 4th March)
  • Newcastle to Stavanger (commences 25th March)
  • Newcastle to Brussels (commences 25th March)

It is NOT honouring existing bookings, however.  Ticket holders need to book (and pay) again and pursue a refund for the original flight from their credit card company.

Royal Garden Hotel joining Best Western

Best Western buys luxury group WorldHotels

We cover WorldHotels occasionally because it partners with Virgin Flying Club and Avios (via Iberia Plus, not BA).  Details of the Virgin miles offer is here and you can learn about the Avios partnership here.

WorldHotels is a marketing group representing 300 high-end hotels across the world.  In a surprising move, WorldHotels has been acquired by Best Western which is not a brand you associate with luxury resorts and city hotels.

The WorldHotels brand will remain.  Whilst Best Western is pleased it can “enhance [it’s] portfolio of offerings to include the upper upscale and luxury segments” I would be surprised to see, for example, the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington – pictured above, it overlooks Kensington Palace – suddenly renaming itself as a Best Western!

There are plans to integrate Best Western Rewards with WorldHotels.  As Best Western Rewards allows you to status match from any other hotel status you have, or even your Virgin Atlantic airline status, there could be some upside for HFP readers from this acquisition.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Review of the new Emirates First Class suite on a Boeing 777-300ER! (Part 2)
Marriott Bonvoy announces a Manchester United partnership - bid for amazing experiences at Old Trafford
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  1. a9504477 says:

    The Hilton model has worked well? For Hilton maybe but not for us trying to make useful redemptions (ie. booking when cash prices are high) at most properties.

  2. I would likely use IHG more if I could use the points for more than just room only guaranteed ie spend some for extra meals/parking or even club access otherwise have to factor this in when comparing to Hilton

    • Agreed. Redemptions start to look pricey when factoring in breakfast for four. Most of mine tend to be for solo HFP trips now.

      • John Matrix says:

        Agreed. Really puts me off bothering with IHG

      • TGLoyalty says:

        We should all fill in the surveys after a stay and when they ask about how you find rewards club remind them it’s the only top tier status that doesn’t automatically give breakfast and lounge access.

        • Been doing that for years, nothing changed except that Amb breakfast for 1.

        • And in China only

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Amazing isn’t it. You’d think they could do it in new brands anyway. Ie Avid/Voco brand new contracts and no long standing contracts to make change their minds.

        • How many of us that moan about IHG Spire benefits have actually earned it ‘properly’ by staying 75 nights a year? I imagine we’ve ‘cheated’ our way there via cc spend. As soon as a loyalty program opens up an avenue like this you’d expect status benefits to diminish?

        • Hilton gives Diamond in the US as a credit card benefit, no spend required. That gets you breakfast, guaranteed lounge access and good upgrades.

        • My record was 236 nights with IHG in one year. I’ve earned the right to complain about no free breakfasts.

  3. Charlieface says:

    “pursue a refund for the original flight from their credit card company”
    No, they need to get a refund for the NEW flight. The credit card is jointly liable under s75 for EC261/2004 rebooking (and compensation, prob not relevant here). It’s a red herring if they just want to pay out a refund for the original flight.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      “IHG Rewards Club members are 7x more likely to book direct than non-members”

      If you don’t book direct you’re not treated as a member.

      Most people booking through a 3rd party would therefore not bother giving their rewards club details, hence would count as a non member anyway.

      • There’s always different ways to read a statistic…

        Across the hotel chains, there must be a considerable number of members, who stay as non-members, as a consequence of corporate booking policies.

        • Chrisasaurus says:


          If you really wanted to know you’d let the stays count as qualifying nights (with Zero points or benefits) so members would associate their number, and you’d get to recognise them in some small but meaningful way.

          Has to be said that even if a customer was booking through kaligo/hotels/Expedia etc, if they actively seek out the same hotel chain for 60nights a year you might want to acknowledge that…

    • Have just received a refund from Amex for Flybmi tickets which have been replaced with Loganair tickets sold at indentical price. These replacement tickets were on sale the day Loganair announced they would take over the routes. Oddly efficient?!

      • Charlieface says:

        Remember they have the same corporate parent plus revenue management will set the same price anyway.
        If It’s the same price, my argument wouldn’t have made a difference to you anyway. It’s only when prices have gone up since booked.

      • The management must have known they were selling tickets that would never get honoured leading up to the collapse.

        So far I’ve had 3 refunds from Lufthansa and 5 from Amex, very efficient. Nothing from Lloyds.

  4. Got a world hotel booking in April – but booked direct with the hotel – hadn’t heard of the group.

    I doubt that my status with Best Western will help at that time though. Currently Platinum (probably did a status match before?) – not sure if they would match me again from Hilton Diamond.

    I assume this will take a while to have any benefits???

  5. OT – got charged to select an aisle seat on BA this morning (CDG – LHR), it was only £12 but I thought seat selection at check-in was free. Did I miss something or should I not have been charged?

    • Is it a HBO fare, I think this may have some bearing on it?

      • It was, inadvertently booked as such via corporate booking. We then added checked bags online before the outbound so I guess this may have been the issue. We had an aisle seat outbound anyway so didn’t need to change anything so it might be the HBO that is causing the issue. thanks

        • Shoestring says:

          Tell your corporate booking people they cost you & your employer money by not booking the standard ticket with checked luggage in the first place

  6. OT, the Marriott £100 off £500 Amex offer, does anyone know if it’ll work for pre-paid reservations but across 2 different transactions? Thanks

  7. OT – Marriott Bonvoy. Has anyone transferred points between accounts? It looks as though you have to call to do this, is it quite straightforward? OH and I both have points but we want to transfer mine to his and make a booking from his account as he is gold and I am only silver.

    • not since they were Bonvoy but it was easy enough beforehand. just a quick call and they were there almost instantly (log out and in again)

      • Did a transfer the day Bonvoy switched on and can confirm it was instantly done. Relatively straightforward, but a bit of a weird process where we had to confirm each others account details separately.

      • Advice sought on a similar theme: Amex MR to my Marriott Bonvoy account. It has been FIVE MONTHS (!!) since I initiated a transfer and still nothing. Amex tells me it’s Marriott’s issue; and I’ve called/emailed Marriott more than 12 times, always being told “we’re looking into it” or “it’s been escalated to a manager”… and yet no points have turned up in my Marriott account. And I’m “Titanium Elite”. Suddenly get concerned about getting points into my Marriott account vis-a-vis a Points Advance booking I have. Could anyone suggest a way around the impasse? I’m genuinely getting quite worried and I feel entirely neglected by both Amex and Marriott. (Just to be clear: my new Marriott number is the one in my Amex MR area.)

        • Have you checked whether the points were refused (see ‘My Redemptions’).
          Mine were but were not re-credited to my Amex points automatically.

    • Done two days ago, no problem, points transferred instantly.

  8. OT: Are we expecting a new marriot bonvoy card at some point? i’m assuming then in due course they’ll close SPG to new applicants and then after that close the card completely?

    • Shoestring says:

      Yep Amex SPG is on borrowed time, USA version already closed to new applicants

    • Current policy, as stated on their site, is that neither card will be rebranded and both continue. I doubt this is a long term strategy.

    • Anyone tried calling to cancel an SPG card recently and been made a retention offer?

      I’m still fighting bonus points from an offer they made last August (pre combined scheme) of “1 additional starpoint per £ spent”, it even appears on the statement as “1 additional starpoint per £ spent” and they’ve instead issued one “bonvoy” point per £ spent.

      They are not acknowledging that a starpoint is 3 bonvoy points despite them upscaling the base spend by 3.

      Escalated to complaint, response to which was a no as offer was not “double points”. I never claimed it was double (even though it effectively was in early august when they made it. I’ve written back, keen to know if anyone else has any feedback on this.

      • Shoestring says:

        life’s too short 🙂

      • Amex seem unusually stubborn in their definition of 1 Bonvoy point = 1 SPG point, the only exception being the one-off tripling of already earnt SPG points when they were sent to Marriott instead. I was promised 10000 SPG points due to the delays during takeover, and confirmed by multiple agents that 10000 SPG = 30000 Marriott but in they end they only gave 10000 Marriott points despite some back and forth and a threat of ombudsman.

      • I cancelled this week and no offer was made. Mind you, an extra point pales into insignificance compared with re-applying in six months time and getting 36,000 + 18,000 MR for referral!

  9. New Card says:

    OT – is anyone able to make a payment using the Virgin Money Credit Card app for iPhone? I keep getting an error message.

    • Call them. It is likely that your postcode has no space in it. I had this issue and was corrected that way.

  10. youngtraveller says:

    Welcome to Cardiff! I’ve only had dinner/lunch at the Admiral so looking forward to your review could put friends there if it’s all positive.

  11. OT Did anyone else receive a random £5 promotional statement credit? I received it on both my cards (BA and Gold)!

  12. OT- I booked FlyBMI tickets using Amex card via Amex Travel. Not sure what’s the best way to get a refund – dispute the Amex charge or claim travel insurance (airline failure protection)? Any suggestion would be appreciated.

  13. OT – just went online chat to cancel Amex gold and was told I had to call Amex as it needed voice identification. So I’ve called them and they couldn’t explain why I was told this but have cancelled the card. When I told the CSA it was because of the Curve debacle she had no idea what I was talking about! Anyone else had this?

  14. OT: Anyone going to the Business Travel Show this year?

    • It’s half term. No one is going, not of any seniority / ‘decision making capacity’. It has been a hot topic in the trade for many months, a lot of people – especially those who paid huge sums for stands without checking the dates – are very annoyed.

      • Indeed, Just returned from it, the venue had a lot of empty stands and most of the conferences seemed filled by exhibitors…nice goodies from Amex and One world though 🙂

  15. Anyone know if Virgin Atlantic vouchers can be used to pay for the taxes/fee’s on a reward redemption flight? (assuming the booking is done online or over the phone?)

    Likewise, can BA gift vouchers be used to pay taxes/fees on an Avios Reward flight? again either online or when booking by phone?

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