Bits: Air Belgium to operate BA Toronto flights, Monaco Grand Prix with Marriott, InterCon Amstel as a Spire Elite

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News in brief:

Air Belgium to operate Toronto flights for British Airways

As British Airways continues to struggle with the reliability of Boeing 787 fleet, Air Belgium has been called up to take on additional routes.

At present Air Belgium is operating certain Dubai services for BA.  In April and May it will operate one of the Newark services.  From 9th June to 17th August, Air Belgium will operate one of BA’s two daily flights to Toronto.

Flights BA92 and BA93 will be operated by Air Belgium’s ex-Finnair A340.  There are differences of opinion about this aircraft in Business Class – some people complain that it is worn out, but others like the ex-Finnair seating which is seen as preferable to Club World, as the photo below shows.

First Class passengers will be downgraded, although they will retain Concorde Room access and receive First Class Avios and tier points.  No compensation is due except for any fare difference.  Alternatively you can switch to the 2nd daily service.

The same goes for Premium Economy / World Traveller Plus passengers who will be downgraded to Economy / World Traveller or can switch aircraft.

Air Belgium flying Toronto flights for British Airways

See Monaco Grand Prix with Marriott Bonvoy

Marriott Bonvoy has launched its annual packages to see the Monaco Grand Prix on points.

The dream package is watching the race for the Mercedes yacht in the harbour, but this will go for a silly amount of points.  However, there are tickets for the race on 26th May available for a direct redemption, at just 70,000 points per pair.

There were three pairs left as at 9pm last night but they won’t last long – check here.

You can find all of the grand prix packages by visiting the main auctions site here and filtering by Monte Carlo as venue.

Intercontinental Amstel

Spire Elite benefits at the InterContinental Amstel in Amsterdam

I was at the InterContinental Amstel on Tuesday night whilst attending a conference in Amsterdam.  I reviewed the Amstel back in 2014 and nothing has changed, which is good!

From the photo – see above and below, click to enlarge – it looks a bit like your grandma’s bedroom, I admit.  You need to trust me, however, that this is a real luxury hotel and well above your average InterContinental.  From the Michelin-starred restaurant to the formal breakfast to the beautiful swimming pool to the lovely lobby, this is a classy place.

The prices are also far higher than your average InterContinental – €500 per night on a cheap day – so I used a free night voucher from my wife’s IHG Rewards Club Premium Mastercard which was about to expire.

InterContinental Amstel

She is Spire Elite but not Ambassador, so those are the benefits I got.  It turns out, like InterContinental Paris Le Grand, Amstel does offer special benefits to Spire Elite members.  We normally say that IHG status is ignored by InterContinental hotels but that is not always the case.

This is what the hotel offers to Spire Elite members, even on reward stays:

Early check-in at 10am, subject to availability

Late check-out to 2pm, on request and subject to availability

Room upgrade, subject to availability (I got upgraded from a street-side room to a riverside room)

These benefits were in a letter I was given at check-in so they are ‘official’.

Do note that the InterContinental Amstel is not in the city centre but on the edge, although nowhere is that far away in Amsterdam.  I walked up from Dam Square and it was only around 15 minutes.

The hotel is convenient for the Van Gogh Museum, Rijkmuseum and the luxury shopping district, and a metro station is just seconds away.  You are guaranteed to be a long way away from your nearest drunken tourist in the evenings, which possibly makes it worth the detour.  It worked well for me as it was a 20 minute walk to the RAI conference and exhibition centre.

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  1. Jimbob says:

    OT – anyone else notice Curve starting to clamp down on money recycling?

    • Doug M says:

      In what way?

    • Genghis says:

      What type of money recycling? I was given notice of their terms changes which I’ll have deemed to have accepted in two weeks’ time.

      • Jimbob says:

        Used to be able to top up my isa, savings account and Revolut. But all seem blocked now

        • Genghis says:

          I’m ok

        • Thomas Howard says:

          Are you sure its not the underlying card? I couldn’t top up my II ISA with a IHG card, I called Creation and they said they were declining the transactions as the MCC was associated with bitcoin. I switched to Lloyds and the transaction went straight through.

  2. Darren says:

    I’m looking ot boost my avios balance by a significant amount, 300,000ish as I seem to always earn and burn and leave myself with too small a balance.

    There was a discussion last month about the merits, or otherwise, of this when BA had a bonus offer on of £3k for 300k avios. I was wondering whether to wait for the next BA offer or go via another route (maybe groupon). Is it possible to build that amount instantly with avios purchase other than BA?

    • Shoestring says:

      yes – Iberia!

      dates of bonus Avios promos don’t mirror BA’s

      and IB was slightly cheaper last time

    • IMO earn & burn is the optimum strategy as avios are an inflexible currency and subject to devaluation, which many think may not be far off. If you are going to buy avios at about 1.1p each in a sale you need to exercise caution to ensure that you will get value in return. Given the tax and fees on longhaul this can often be difficult unless you value flexibility, redeem in First, at peak season, in conjunction with a 241 and/or in cerain markets where excelkent cash deals ard as rare as hen’s teeth. Absent those circumstances, a better steategy would be to buy great value avios-earning revenue flights and rebuild your avios balance more gradually at much less than 1ppa. At the moment I’m using the Tesco mobile offer which is at the upper end of what I am prepared to pay per avios ever, most of those I havd collected cost much closer to 0ppa.

      • Darren says:

        I understand the need for caution, but my usage is always with a 241 and I’d prefer First when available as I don’t have status which makes seat selection a bit of a pain. I suppose Amex MR would be a safer bet for redemption options, is this possible as a cash purchase?

        The cushion of a larger balance would make this mad game a little easier.

        • 241, F and no status makes buying avios at 1.1ppa worthwhile. Consider SPG card as opposed to an MR card. However, next time the buy avios offer comes along you could self refer for platinum giving you 9k + 35k +300k avios plus hotel and car status, and tgen cancel the card.

        • 241, F and no status makes buying avios at 1.1ppa worthwhile. Consider SPG card as opposed to an MR card. However, next time the buy avios offer comes along you could self refer for platinum giving you 9k + 35k +300k avios plus hotel and car status, and then cancel the card.

      • Shoestring says:

        Depends how much money you have tied up in Avios/ how much you paid for them/ how this relates to your other assets etc

        Plus how realistic you think it is that a destructive devaluation will come along.

        I guess we have close to 2 million Avios/ Virgin miles now. If somebody offered me £20K for them, I’d take it like a shot. But that offer’s not on the table. And I didn’t pay £20K – I guess at most we paid about £3K, so that’s what I stand to lose in a 100% wipe-out. 100% wipe-out is not too likely, more like 10% tops if a nasty devaluation comes along, so £300 downside. Plus a few travelling dreams shattered!

        My view is that you need a not too hot, not too cold solution on the size of your points stash. If you earn & burn constantly, you’re not too likely to ever get your stash big enough to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. So a quick 300K stash generated as Darren is contemplating is not madness but just a pragmatic way to generate an overnight stash that could save you twice as much very easily, think 2-4-1s etc.

        • In the right hands that would be a steal so you may get some offers…400 cases of cheap but drinkable… 🙂

  3. Seems like Marriott refer a friend is back working

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