Bits: the FT on BA wine, £50 Hilton cashback, good Norwegian / Economist deal, Flybe adds Guernsey & Jersey to Newquay

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News in brief:

The Financial Times on British Airways wine

I would normally have let this go by, but I thought it was an interesting addition to my review last Saturday of the drinks offered in Emirates First Class, including a £250 Haut Brion and £790 cognac.

In the FT last weekend, Jancis Robinson went on a bit of rant about British Airways wine.  She worked for the airline for many years as its chief wine consultant.  Whilst the FT article is behind a paywall, you can also read it on her blog here.  Here are a few quotes:

“In 2009 Willie Walsh, then head of BA, decided to abandon the policy of choosing wines on the basis of what they tasted like and instead, to cut costs, appointed a single exclusive supplier for each of the three classes. In 2010 I resigned.”

“Unfortunately, the wine selections on the two major airlines based in the UK, Virgin and British Airways, belie our nation’s standing as a major global force in wine. Virgin appeals much more effectively to the cocktail sipper than to the wine drinker, while the current state of wine buying at British Airways is described by one close trade observer as ‘at rock bottom – there’s only one way for them to go’.

BA’s wine buying is currently in the hands of two young Frenchmen working for the parent company IAG who have no wine-buying experience. The dire state of their budget can be judged from a recent discussion on The Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc then on offer in BA First Class was spotted in Morrisons at £5 a bottle, two for £9. Even more recently an Argentine Malbec that retails for $10 was served in First Class. All submissions in a recent First Class tender for wines over €6 a bottle from the cellar door were rejected. (The budget for forward buying of claret used to be €25.)

The glass of champagne that welcomes anyone who has paid thousands for their seat at the front of a plane is seen as the most important wine served on any plane. Even BA realise this, and have not (yet) pared Laurent Perrier’s Grand Siècle from First Class – although one can only imagine the negotiations that keep it there. And they cunningly also offer a much cheaper champagne and, quite rightly, an English sparkling wine too, which presumably helps to reduce costs. Krug and Dom Pérignon are de rigueur for the Asian airlines, and Emirates have been known to offer the super-special, extra-aged Dom Pérignon P2. If you were really greedy you might even be able to drink the cost of your ticket.”

Hilton’s extends its Amex cashback offer

A week ago we wrote about a new Hilton / American Express cashback deal worth £75 back on a £250 spend at selected European hotels before 15th May.  The details are here.

The offer has now been extended to more people so check back if you missed out last time.  It isn’t as generous – you’ll get £50 back on a £250 spend – but better than nothing.

HIlton American Express cashback

Norwegian launches its own attractive offer for The Economist

Norwegian has jumped on the bandwagon of airlines offering attractive subscription deals to The Economist.  This one is good – if you’re confident Norwegian won’t go bust.

The Norwegian loyalty currency is CashPoints.  1 CashPoint is worth roughly 9p (it is based on the value of 1 NOK).  Importantly, you can redeem CashPoints against ANY Norwegian flight.  You don’t need to look for special reward availability, you simply find a flight for cash and use your CashPoints to get a discount.

Here is the new Economist offer.  For UK subscribers, this is what you pay:

Print or Digital: 1 year £145 with £108 of CashPoints / 2 years £259 with £189 of CashPoints / 3 years £349 with £270 of CashPoints

Print and Digital:  1 year £179 with £135 of CashPoints / 2 years £315 with £216 of CashPoints / 3 years £425 with £297 of CashPoints

It isn’t free money – unless you can write off your Economist subscription against tax – but if you are spending money with Norwegian anyway (and trust them to remain solvent until you’ve booked and flown) this is a very cheap way to get magazine.

Blue Islands Flybe Jersey to Newquay

Flybe adds Guernsey / Jersey to Newquay service

Blue Islands is a Channel Islands-based airline which operates as a Flybe franchise.  It has just announced a new Summer route from Jersey and Guernsey to Newquay.

Flights will operate from 3rd June to 31st August.

There will be three services per week, on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.  The plane will start in Guernsey and make a brief stopover in Jersey before continuing on to Cornwall.

Blue Islands has also recently announced Guernsey to London Southend and Guernsey to Liverpool which commence on 20th May and 21st May respectively, both operating as Flybe franchises and bookable on

Despite being franchised, you can book these Flybe routes with Avios.  A one-way from Guernsey to Newquay is 4,500 Avios plus just £5 of tax, although the costs of flying out of Newquay push up the taxes on a return trip to £39.

(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.)

Bits: £75 of free Wheely rides in London, last call for 75% bonus buying IHG points, last call for 6000 Avios from Accor
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  1. OT 1:

    Aegean offers miles for running 3k, 5k or a half-marathon in Athens on 17 March. Decent chunks of valuable miles. I wish I were there… would be handy to confirm my status

  2. OT 2:

    Did anyone else receive odd emails from Iberia yesterday ‘confirming’ the flights from the past (booked last summer as part of 90K Avios campaign). My partner and I received confirmations for flights scheduled for 6 and 19 February yesterday.

    I sent a full-of-frustration-and-customer-dissatisfaction email to their CS. Hope it might help to convince them to waive my negative balance of -1499 Avios as a gesture of goodwill to make up for the mess with these ‘confirmations’

    • Lady London says:

      I got a load in the past 2 days. Links didn’t work. They were all for flights weeks ago.
      It looks like Iberia is trying to cover its a$$ that they reminded people to take their flights, or something. so it ticks a flag in their system that they did this but it’s all too late.

      Strangely the only flights these erroneous reminders to check in seem to relate to, is the flights booked for last year’s promotion…So clearly Iberia has identified flights booked on those days as needing some sort of special treatment?

      • My partner and I received a few too. Most were for the past ones, but also had one or two for March bookings. Last year I kept getting emails about upgrading flights to business (had some bookings for Sep and Oct).

        • Iberia replied in the following ‘go-away’ fashion:

          “We apologize for the emails you might have received related to past flights. It is a general incidence that has been already reported and our IT team is currently working to solve this issue.

          Regarding the negative Avios balance, as we mentioned, it would be necessary that you transfer the Avios back from your British Airways Executive Club account (as the promotional Avios must have been redeemed on the Iberia Plus program and you decided to transfer them).

          We take this opportunity to send you our warmest greetings.

          Your Iberia Plus Service Center.”

  3. My wife and I treated ourselves to a BA First Class flight to Toronto last year and as you can imagine, looked forward to the facilities at the First Class section of T5. What a disappointment.

    Without being racist, the staff in the lounge (who I can only assume earn the same minimum wage as those working at McDonalds in Hounslow) OBVIOUSLY have no comprehension or understanding whatsoever as to what their First Class customers expect. At 11.30am my wife asked for a coffee and some chocolate cake, to which the reply was “Sorry (with a left-right nod of the head) we don’t serve cake until 12”. Having enjoyed the Champagne for a while I went to the bar and asked what red wine they have to which I was told “Sir (again a left-right not of the head) we have a red from France and a red from Argentina”

    It doesn’t surprise me one bit that BA serve First customers a £5 a bottle of wine on-board. They simply have not got a clue nor a care about their customers.

    • That’s without being racist?

      • Michaelkors says:

        What did I miss? Don’t get it…

        • the_real_a says:

          A left right nod of the head is a typical trait of people from a particular part of the Indian sub continent. I’m still struggling to understand the relevance here…

        • He clearly didn’t like the sideways nodding…

        • Shoestring says:

          I worked in Calcutta for 3 months – 3 brilliant months, I have to say, party every night of the week and we drank pink gin like it was end of the planet coming up, purely to fend off the malaria of course – and I developed a very convincing head nod, just subconsciously to fit in first of all then sort of naturally.

          It sort of means: I’m listening, I get it, you’re possibly right on this point & I respect you & value our friendship/ work relationship, I’m listening, I get it.

        • Hold on, you were served by Pep Guardiola at T5?

    • Michaelkors says:

      I see, but surely that is part of the demographic of the local area?
      And most of London to be honest.

    • I don’t think its racist, like saying Norwegians are tall and South Americans petite. Or that Italians speak with there hands.

      I have never flown First Class but even I would expect a higher than standard service and reputable staff. Manish working for £8.75 could care less.

  4. Received 5000 iPrefer points earlier and I have no idea why. Haven’t stayed or booked anything with them.

  5. Lady London says:

    Even the Arrivals Lounge in T5 has gone right downhill. Staff used to be excellent but it sounds as though we got the same staff in in both. No customer service skills at any level. The Arrivals Lounge felt like a Wimpy when I arrived back at Christmas and visited it for the first time in a long while. I was so disappointed, I’d been looking forward to going back again. British Airways seems to be taking away aspirational things all the time.

  6. Puddicus says:

    T5 Arrivals is all about self-check in now. If you want a BA person to do something, it is difficult indeed.

  7. IanMac says:

    T5 Arrivals Lounge is a disgrace. Service is pathetic (even in Gold / First room) – only reason to go there is to get a shirt ironed !!

    I presume Greg is critiquing the First Class Concorde Lounge.
    With a CCR card I am a frequent visitor – Wednesday this week and will be back again this Sunday afternoon.

    My curiosity has been raised regarding the standard of wine served in the CCR – I will try and check what exactly is on offer (but if its the same style £5 bottle then does it really matter the grape, region, chateau, year, …)
    Having made 90 business trips to the sub-continent in the last 7 years I am very familiar with the cranial movement characteristic.
    However, I have to say that I don’t actually recall personally experiencing that characteristic in the T5 CCR !!
    I have to say that the 4 ladies and all the guys have been great with myself / ourselves over the years – and they make a real mean white Russian (with cream) !!

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