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. TGLoyalty says:

    Out of interest I would have thought you would both be ambs if not just for the value you can get out of the 2-4-1 paid stays and the 10% rebates.

    • My wife just gets AMB when we need it, which isn’t that often. Last time was 2017 when we were in HK. We don’t do weekend breaks outside the UK because, with the kids in school Fri and Mon, the logistics don’t work any longer unless it is to visit friends. This means we’d only use the AMB voucher if it was part of a longer holiday which is rarely the case.

  2. Memesweeper says:

    Hilton Amsterdam is another great hotel just outside the centre. Redeemed there to the delight of the family – top floor lounge is really strange (in a good way).

  3. SimonW says:

    O/T – Any ideas of which lounge at T3 is best to head to before 2pm Miami flight in CW. Cathay better than Qantas?? With my wife and kids.

    • Michael says:

      They say Cathay First lounge is the best in the whole of Heathrow (I’ve not been in). I have been in the Qantas one however and the gin and cocktail bars are worth popping in for a quick drink.

    • Could try both Qantas and Cathay. Assuming you are only getting in through CW ticket then you would only be able to access the Cathay Business lounge rather than their First lounge which has a decent restaurant type service. Qantas only have one lounge which covers first + business so is perhaps a little better than your average Business class lounge.

      Both would be better than the BA Club lounge.

    • SimonW says:

      Thanks chaps

  4. alan d craig says:

    20 minutes to RAI, your a quick walker sir.

  5. Thanks guys. I have Gold Card already. Just looking to find ways to maximise points as I am about to move and will be spending quite a lot over next few weeks. I was originally attracted to BA Premium Plus Amex card for the 2 4 1 voucher but not such a big fan now I know can only be used on BA operated flights.

    • Michael says:

      Depends what you want to redeem for in the end really. Stick with your Gold MR’s if you want a fluid currency.

      • BAPP, on another hand, gives you 1.5 avios/£.

        • I am trying to organise a Qatar Business Class redemption so I think I might still go for the BAPP as I will be able to use the additional points I earn towards from spending and the sign up bonus on other partner airlines flights won’t I?

          I am just about to move house so there are a lot of things i need to purchase. I think ikt makes sense to get 1.5 rather than 1 avios per £ when I buy the big stuff. I’ll get the 2 4 1 voucher that I probably won’t use after a couple of months and then I’ll cancel.

          Thanks again people.


    • bsuije says:

      Yes, you will be able to use the Avios on partner airlines, but that may not always be the best option because partner redemptions are always at “peak” Avios pricing. There is an Avios Redemption University series running at the moment – have a look at that for a quick briefing on all things Avios.

      The value of the BA 2-4-1 voucher varies. I think people use it either for one of the longer Europe routes (where taxes are capped) or for a First redemption (high taxes, but get a First experience and the Avios saving is huge). But if you are going to be spending a lot, then you might as well get it. Plus, the Avios will be useful – I don’t think I’ve paid for a single BA flight within Europe in the last 5 years thanks to Avios!

      Lastly, as you specifically mention Qatar Airways, just be aware that Qatar runs some pretty decent business class offers from time to time (though admittedly these have dried up recently). The only snag is that these fares are, to a very large extent, for departures from outside the UK, e.g. Scandinavia. If you don’t mind the additional travel and transfer time, then buying a cash ticket, which will earn you Avios and tier points, can be a better deal than using Avios to book a redemption.

  6. Gary Morris says:

    I stayed at the Intercontinental in Mendoza, Argentina this week – no ambassador status, but Spire Elite. Stayed there on points and got room upgrade and free breakfast for two, which was pretty good.

  7. Graeme says:

    OT: I’ve got an Amex plat. Do I need to wait for an offer to appear or email to get the bonus points for taking a supplementary card out? Last time I had one, got an email a few days after.


    • fivebobbill says:

      No, I’ve never had to wait. Once my card has been registered and I’ve set up/linked to an online account, just go to “Account Management – Add Someone To Your Account”, and add a supplementary. Assuming it’s your first supplementary it’ll come free and you’ll get the card & bonus points within the week

      • Added my partner to my account, have been charged £45 but have received the 3,000 miles. I haven’t had any supplementary holders before, should this have been free?

        • A £45 charge sounds like its a second supp card on a Gold account. See the ‘important information’ section of the link posted above.

        • Great thanks. I’ll query that then as it was definitely the first supp card. Didn’t receive any additional card or miles otherwise!

        • Must be your second supp as first is free.

          I’d simply cancel it for a pro-rated refund. You’ll keep the bonus points.

          Prob not worth the hassle querying it for a couple of quid.

      • It says you can get 99 complimentary supplementary cards for the SPG card but does anyone know how much it is per card for more? 😉

  8. O/T – on a slightly convoluted BA routing next week:

    DUB-LCY-LHR-MIA (single ticket with 5 hour gap between arriving at LCY and the LHR dep).

    Am flying out on a separate ticket the night before to DUB and staying overnight. Don’t want to take my checked baggage to DUB and then to LCY the next day as will be taking the DLR/Tube to get to LHR and luggage will be a hassle.

    Bearing in mind check-in for LHR-MIA would have opened before I take the LHR-DUB flight the night before, could I check-in bags then? I think I read somewhere this was possible but some agents didn’t know the rules and might refuse check-in luggage overnight at LHR.

    • It’s certainly advertised as something you can do at LGW but not sure at LHR. If not, Left luggage is always an option.. in T5 it’s Excess Baggage Company, Arrivals level (ground floor), UK arrivals end.. 3 – 24 hours £12.50

      • ChrisC says:

        BA does not offer twilight / night before check-in at LHR.

        What some agents get confused about is checking in bags on the SAME day if you have other flights on the same ticket.

        So if your LHR-DUB etc etc MIA were on the same day then they can check them in for just the LHR-MIA flight but you may have to get a supervisor if the desk agent dosen’t know how to do it but it is certainly possible.

        BTW if you have plenty of time before your LHR-DUB I’d put your bags into left Luggage at T3 rather than T5.

    • fivebobbill says:

      Jesus Mikee, you must be saving a fortune to use that route to Miami! I live in Northern Ireland so am fortunate enough to be able to drive to Dublin, but for me, the added hassle of having to transit between LCY and LHR… I’d almost need to be getting the MIA leg for free!
      Safe travels however, and enjoy your trip 🙂

      • £3.10 for tube/dlr off-peak so pretty reasonable price wise. If you are familiar with London underground it’s a pretty easy journey, particularly without any luggage as he’s planning.

        Should crossrail have been live then the journey would have been nicer than the piccadilly line!

      • Thanks, will try left luggage if BA won’t check-in bags the evening before.
        I’m saving a few hundred ££ but I agree it’s extra hassle…..will see if it’s worth it!

        • Honestly it wouldn’t be that difficult to take luggage between LCY and LHR on the tube but I take your point. Depends when you are travelling – outside of rush hour not a problem, particularly as you are planning to take public transport anyway. There are lifts at Canning town. I don’t like the jubilee/piccadilly change but there are escalators etc.

        • ChrisC says:

          The Jubilee / Piccadilly change at Green Park is step free but you need to take the exit route from the Jubilee- so back up to the ticket hall level – then back down to the Piccadilly line. Much easier than the signposted route

        • Personally I’d DLR to West Ham, District to Baron’s Court/Hammersmith then Piccadilly to LHR if trying to get from LCY with luggage

        • Genghis says:

          Yep. I’m a fan of the cross platform change at Hammersmith.

    • You could try the airportr service ( They will collect your luggage in London from 24 hours before your flight and check-in for you. I’ve used it a few times and can’t fault it- it starts around £40 per bag and if you haven’t used them before I can refer you for 25% off.

  9. Frustrating situation where I’m trying to book a hire car with Avis but direct pricing is about 80% more than pricing through the comparison sites… Is there a way around this? Would much rather book direct!

    • Graeme says:

      Have you tried using any AWD codes to bring the price down? Or booking via can often be cheaper.

    • Charlieface says:

      Try and (although often excludes CDW if you need it)

    • Can depend on timing. Twice recently Avis was pricing at double others through Expedia at T-3months, so booked fully cancellable in Expedia, then when priced dropped at T-7weeks cancelled and booked Avis. Timing floats a bit but Avis has gotten near enough each time so far.

  10. RussellH says:

    Would anyone have advice on how long it usually takes to transfer from Marriott to United Airlines?
    Just done a top up of my UA a/c.

    Was surprised to see e-Rewards points transfer to UA within a few minutes!

    • Lyn Hall says:

      I think it should be fairly quick, within a day or two, since United has long been Marriott’s “special” airline transfer partner.

    • We did a recent minimum transfer from Marriott to my husband’s Qantas account to keep his Qantas miles active and that took less than two days. It may have transferred quicker but I only checked it after 2 days. I doubt if United would take any longer than that.

  11. OT – Any reason high end hotels do not include tea / coffee facilities in room or is it just to make more money from room service. I’m seriously considering buying a travel kettle as I not happy paying over $20 each morning so I can have a coffee in my room before breakfast. Is this just me but $100 on coffees over the last 5 days has just tipped me over the edge.

    • You need to find another hotel chain. My only experience of a hotel without tea and coffee in the room was a Swiss private hotel in Davos last year, even Premier Inns have it. And I’m including Corinthia, Pan Pacific, Conrad, Fairmont etc 5 star hotels.

    • Go down to breakfast early and have a coffee there before eating?

    • US$20 for a coffee?!? Does this include $15 of tips, handling charges, tray charges, service charges, sales taxes and all other ancillary charges that American establishments levy on customers?

      I’d choose a hotel that doesn’t rip you off tbh…

    • Darren says:

      High end hotels will (should) provide tea and coffee in a room on request, if they won’t then go somewhere else.

    • I think in some countries it’s just not the custom to have tea and coffee making facilities. It didn’t used to be in Spain, for example, though I don’t know about more recently as I tend to book rooms with at least basic kitchens these days. Even when there is tea and coffee there’s never enough milk for my tastes so I always travel with plenty of supplies, including powdered milk!

      Do they still sell those heating devices which you could plug in and pop in your mug of water to heat it up? I haven’t seen one for years but they would take up less space in your luggage than a kettle.

      • Or an alternative might be something like Rommelsbacher RK501 Automatic Travel Hot Plate. Only 500W though so might take a number of minutes

    • Andrew says:

      It’s happening more often. There’s usually free tea & coffee in the lounges or lobby instead, but not ideal for trekking down in your jim jams at 6am.

      For US trips, I’ve bought a small US kettle (my old travel kettle took 20 minutes to boil on 110V).

      Aren’t Amazon Locker’s great!

      • Looks like its the travel kettle on the next trip. $20 was with all the service charges in a Category 8 Marriott. I just want a simple coffee in bed before i venture out for breakfast

      • Love US Hamptons for that reason -always coffee in the lobby…

      • Posh hotels will bring you a coffee machine on request, in general, in the same way that will bring you pretty much anything else you want on request.

      • illuminatus says:

        I specifically look for Nespresso machines while going through hotel reviews and try to avoid staying in any hotel that does not offer that, certainly any 5* star hotel

        • That’s one of the advantages of IHG Platinum / Spire sometimes. Holiday Inns in France usually upgrade to rooms with Nespresso machines. Not in the high end category of course.

  12. ankomonkey says:

    OT: From Virgin Atlantic Flying Club e-mail:

    “From 31 March 2019, Virgin Atlantic will no longer be flying to Dubai.”

    Did we know this was happening?

  13. Can anyone tell me from experience the average real time it takes for AMEX rewards to go into Radisson accounts? I know the official line is up to ten days but what is reality? Many thanks.

  14. Charlieface says:

    OT: Anyone had random £5 credits on their Amex recently? Wondering if it’s related to Shop Small, can’t think of anything else.

    • Shoestring says:

      quite a few got reported here, some were guessing late credits from Paypal or SS – no such free fivers here!

    • It’s from the Paypal offer before Christmas, I think, where a lot of people found that their £5 cashback didn’t trigger.

      • Charlieface says:

        Didn’t do the paypal offer but it does match SS missing credits which I already got manually!

  15. Shoestring says:

    Good bit of info on FT – the IB 9000 offer – he cancelled by phone a flight paid largely but not wholly with the promo Avios (rest were ordinary Avios) – got all the Avios refunded immediately into his IB a/c – quickly transferred them all to BAEC.

    So there’s no automatic instant process to make you lose the promo Avios if you cancel. I guess it’s a manual process, not that we have seen any evidence yet of promo points getting cancelled if you cancel a flight.

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