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.

How to earn Marriott Bonvoy points via UK credit cards

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Marriott Bonvoy points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Marriott Bonvoy 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.

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.

(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.)

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  1. OT: Quick question – I currently have the inbound leg only of a direct journey booked as an avios redemption (for 2 people). If I spot the outbound leg appear, can I quickly cancel the inbound leg (for no penalty?) and book both legs using a 2 for 1 voucher (i.e. does the availability remain after I cancel?)

    • No guarantees that the cancelled seats will lead to Avios availability. If you cancel the Avios booking you’ll pay a cancellation charge which is lower of £35pp and actual taxes, fees and charges.

    • It might be worth trying to change the booking over the phone – if you get a good agent you stand some chance of adding the outbound and applying the 2-4-1 to the revised booking without cancelling the original booking.

      • Thank you!

      • Jonathan says:

        Usual advice is book the missing leg separately online for 2 (assuming you have the Avios available) then call up to get bookings combined. They will refund half the Avios for the outbound so as if you had booked it as a return 241. What they won’t do is do a recalculation of the taxes/fees/charges so you may pay less or more depending on route. If your current inbound is from the states you will pay more, from Japan/HK you’ll come out better off.

        One point of clarification though, if you have booked inbound already then presumably not on a 241 as this has to originate from UK?

        • Destination is Canada (Vancouver) + no 2-for-1 currently used for the reasons you say!
          Will try your method & hope they’re helpful…

    • It’s just one data point but I cancelled two award seats on a very busy flight (LGW-SZG, start of half term) to move to the earlier flight. The seats were released back into award inventory, as it went from 2 seats to 4, then back to 2 again later in the day.

      • Good to know – hopefully the outbound appears at some point…!

        • Where are you going? Is it somewhere that would indicate that extra seats are released through the year (Reward Flight Finder would show you this)?

    • ChrisC says:

      DO NOT CANCEL your existing booking!

      You need to phone BA when your return flights are available and they will do the necessary to make this all one booking. They are used to this.

      There is no guarantee your ‘old’ reward seats will be re-released and even if they are when they will get put back into inventory..

  2. I did use the Air Belgium service to Dubai over Christmas In Economy and the staff were very polite.Rest better avoided for discussion.All the parents with kids under 2 were complaining of having not a single bassinet on the plane all through the journey wanting to speak to Captain,Co Pilot and Cabin Crew boss.I was annoyed at the beginning over the arguments but felt bad at the end when the kids were made to sleep on the floor over blankets and pillows.I did buy the over priced ticket with BA even after factoring the voucher from BA for cancelling error fares to Dubai(June 12 2018) and was given a voucher 125GBP. Not again with Air Belgium.

    • Bizarre – surely a child under 2 can sleep on a parent’s lap?! Any older and they have to have their own seat, and over 12 months they are very unlikely to fit in a bassinet anyway.

  3. Barry cutters says:

    I wouldn’t ever pay the money for a cash booking as it’s just super pointlessly expensive for a European City in my experience. But we have stayed here 4 times on reward bookings . (Once from the 2x accelerate free nights years ago, once from 2x MasterCard free nights and couple times on points) One time was mrs cutters bday and we were presented with a large cake and a half bottle of veuve. the wallpaper is interesting but it’s top class for service and grandeur. Met George clooney in the lobby on a stay a couple years ago.
    The pool is one of the best features – swimming at river height. The walk to the centre is not too far and nice all the way.

    • Genghis says:

      +1 we’ve stayed once a year for the last few years. Going again in Sep for a relaxing 4 night break. Rob must have quick legs though. Takes us more like 25 mins to walk to the Dam.

  4. Any ideas when any Amex travel offers might appear back on the cards?

    • seasonal is October and February for Amex Travel.
      There are currently offers on Emirates and Eurowings ending soon.
      Also some independent travel agents.

  5. Robert F says:

    Judging by the photo I fail to see how anyone could consider that better than CW.

    • If you have a thing for aisle access because of the 2 or 3 occasions on the whole flight that you want to get out of your seat, then obviously it has that. But yes, I’d far rather be tucked away in a CW window seat than in that open plan cabin.

    • Forward facing, far more personal space.

      • Doug M says:

        Never understand the forward facing bit. Going backwards is so much better, especially when sleeping. Plane’s slightly nose up attitude means elevated head, much better for sleep. I suspect new CW is not going to be as good, especially if status mostly allows you an upstairs window.

  6. OT: I am trying to get status with Hyatt the long way round and currently encountering difficulties with matching to M Life (the penultimate step).

    M Life say they will only match if you ask in person. Does anyone have a workaround?

    • Care to share the rest of the steps please? Hyatt stay coming up and would like to match Hilton if possible, but can’t find anywhere.

      • Hilton to La Quinta
        La Quinta to Wyndham
        Wyndham to total rewards
        Total rewards to Mlife gold

        Based on Hilton status from Amex plat.

        • “Total Rewards to Mlife”

          I didn’t think this was possible. Just checked statusmatcher and it seems to concur. How did you manage to get this?

        • Matt B says:

          I just went hilton to Wyndham to Caesars rewards, no need for extra step

        • I did manage to skip La Quinta too.

          I haven’t got M Life yet but their customer service will match, but only in person.

  7. Jovanna says:

    OT – and just an observation – collected a car from Avis yesterday. I’d booked a Group E. Avis description says Hyundai i30 or similar.

    Shortly before I arrive at the Avis counter, I get an email saying I had a Vauxhall Crossland. I’d had one of those a couple of weeks back. It was Group C.

    It turns out that the Crossland had Sat Nav and that, in fact, was an upgrade. Paperwork said Group M. It had Apple CarPlay anyway, so didn’t bother with it.

    • Booked a Class C car ‘Lancy Y or similar’ with Hertz Bologna last year as Gold Plus rewards from either Amex or IHG and they gave me a brand new Abarth 595 instead. Although think would have to reject it next time as now have a baby to fit in also.

  8. KBuffett says:

    OT – Are AMEX signup bonuses still available six months after cancelling, or have they shifted to lifetime in the UK?
    My wife had gold, is there a bonus for referal to platinum? If so, I would like to refer her to plat and then cancel her account. Any recommendations on where/how to move the 40000 MR points she has before cancelling?

    • 7+ months is fine. Sounds like you read HFP once a year 🙂

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Still 6 months gap to get a new bonus.

      Confused about if she has or had a gold card as the 40k points would have gone somewhere 6 months ago? If she had a gold credit card there is no sign up bonus for plat unless she waits 6 months but there would be for a BA or SPG card, and those can be referred from any AMEX. If she has a gold charge card upgrade to platinum for 20k points.

      Where to send then depends on your plans to burn them and what you already collect.

  9. O/T – Can anyone recommend a good seat on a Boeing 747 in First Class?

    • roberto says:

      1A or 1K is nice in the nose but you need status to snag it and buddy dining is tight at the front. 2A and 2K are the second choice especially for a couple.

      To be honest its not the best plane to experience First but there are no bad seats in this iconic old bird.

      • Agreed, used to love 1A/K when I flew ANZ 747 regularly to LAX for work. So much so that I did connecting flights whenever I could to avoid UA 777s direct to SFO. I rate ANZ Business First 747 second only to ancient Thai First on a 747 as my favourite flying experience. Unless I choose a route just to facilitate it then I doubt I will get to fly a 747 again, I think the last time was way back in 2008/9 🙁

      • Matt B says:

        We’re flying in F on the 747 next month, no status so had to make do with 2a and 2k which seems to be the best other than row 1

        • I assume, like me, you’ll be checking at T-72 to see if Row 1 is available?!

      • 1A and 1K are reserved for Gold status

        • And that means all passengers are Gold – you can’t take 1A/1K if you are Gold but your partner isn’t.

        • But if there are no Gold status F passengers interested, you can still grab row 1…

          I got 1A as a lowly silver last year – apparently Paul McCartney’s seat but he wasn’t flying that day 😂

        • ..until 72-hours before flight. Not sure if they bump you if you book them when not Gold and then a Gold member shows up and wants them..?

      • My second award booking back in 2008 was on this flight and also managed to snag 1A and 1K with no status that was back in the BMI days first ever award booking was JFK-FRA on SQ

    • Thanks! I’ll check back on that row one then. First time first for me so should be good anyway

  10. Shoestring says:

    Iberia is discounting giftcards

    eg a EUR500 giftcard costs EUR375

    • Can you use the gift card to pay for taxes on redemptions with Iberia? That would be useful.

      • Shoestring says:

        sure, with the caveat:
        Gift cards cannot be combined with other special offers or promotions, and neither can they be used to buy tickets for Air Shuttle flights, tickets with Avios or where a discount in Avios applies, or tickets with a discount for residents or large families.

    • Andrew says:

      Is there potential for them to be used to buy UK domestic flights?

      I’ve just tried, but there seems to be a problem with the Iberia website and it’s reallocated all London airports to Leeds Bradford.

    • You can only used the card on flights departing Spain and need to be IB Group operated. Reading their T&Cs answers (usually) your questions.

  11. O/T – I am closing in on £10,000 spending limit under my BA Amex. Will the 241 voucher be valid from the date it is earned or from my year end date (which is July)? Additionally does any “excess” spending before the end of my year count towards another voucher or not?

    • Lev441 says:

      It will start from a few days after you reach the £10k limit…
      and spend over and above that won’t count until your new card year starts

    • From the date earned, and no.

    • Gin and Tonic Please says:

      From the date you earned it.

      Sadly no

    • Darren says:

      Excess spending, no. But if you spend to trigger the voucher and then get a refund on an item the voucher will still be active, you will need to spend £10000 plus the refunded amount on your next voucher.

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