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Bits: BA pilot strike update, IHG losing its two new Manchester hotels to Hyatt, Reward Flight Finder trouble

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News in brief:

An update on the British Airways pilot strike

I don’t want to spend too much time on the British Airways pilot strike, because it is being covered enough by the mainstream media.

Interestingly, British Airways did not make an effort yesterday to run even a skeleton service with non-BALPA pilots.  The only flights from Terminal 5 yesterday were:

Tokyo (due to Rugby World Cup commitments – this was the sole BA departure)

Cairo (which Air Belgium is currently flying on behalf of BA due to a shortage of operational Boeing 787 aircraft)

Madrid (the Iberia flights, not the BA ones)

I’m not sure what, if anything, departed from Gatwick or Terminal 3.  I doubt that Tuesday will be any different.

If your flight was cancelled and you accepted a refund or were moved to a non-oneworld carrier, remember to request the Avios and tier points you would have earned from British Airways.

Nothing stops you also earning miles from the carrier to whom you were moved – as long as you didn’t credit the flight to British Airways Executive Club – so you could double dip with a handful of Star Alliance, SkyTeam, Emirates, Etihad etc miles on top.

British Airways must announce cancellations for the 2nd wave of strikes on 27th September by Friday 13th September.  If not, British Airways will have to pay EC261 compensation on top of the costs of moving you to another carrier.  Once those cancellation emails have been sent, it is highly likely that the strike on the 27th September will happen regardless of whether discussions restart, as passengers will already have been moved.

You can find the latest official strike updates on this page of ba.com.

British Airways 2019 strike update

Hyatt to take over IHG’s new Manchester hotels

In a surprise announcement yesterday, Hyatt announced that it is opening two hotels in Manchester next year.

What it DIDN’T say is that these are NOT new hotels.  They are the brand new Crowne Plaza Manchester Oxford Road and the brand new Staybridge Suites.

The Crowne Plaza Manchester Oxford Road, which we reviewed here, will become a 212-room Hyatt Regency hotel.  Staybridge Suites Manchester Oxford Road, which we reviewed here, will become a 116-room Hyatt House extended stay property.

The hotels are located in the University Quarter, a 10-minute walk from the city center and close to Manchester Oxford Road station.

It is not uncommon for hotels to rebrand.  It IS uncommon for hotels to rebrand so soon after opening – the hotels have only been open for a year.  Something odd is going on – especially as the Hyatt brand is a lot weaker than Crowne Plaza in the UK.  It is possible that Manchester has reached IHG overload and the owners felt that the brand was not delivering, with IHG loyalists having many other options open to them.

Hyatt’s presence outside London is currently woeful, if you exclude the ‘Small Luxury Hotels’ affiliates, with their only hotel being the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham.   This is a welcome expansion.

Shorter term, I am looking forward to the opening of Great Scotland Yard.  Due to open in mid October, this hotel will be part of Hyatt’s Unbound Collection of unbranded independent hotels.  It it based in the original Victorian Scotland Yard complex, very close to Embankment tube and the super-luxury Corinthia hotel.  (The replacement Scotland Yard, next to Conrad London St James, has been demolished and is currently being redeveloped at luxury apartments.)

Crowne Plaza Manchester to become a Hyatt Regency

Reward Flight Finder loses Virgin Flying Club access

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of the rewardflightfinder.com tool.  It is, by far, the best way of searching for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic reward flight availability.

Even better, the site will email you when seats open up on flights you are targeting.  Even better, the service is free – although there is an option to pay £3 per month for more frequent checking.  Frankly, you should pay the £3 and do Tim Rogers, who runs the service, a favour.

Unfortunately, Reward Flight Finder has lost access to Virgin Atlantic flight data.  This has been done deliberately by the airline.

I have been trying to help Tim to get this fixed but, whilst there are many people in Virgin Atlantic who love the tool (and indeed use it themselves) it seems some of the IT people were determined to close off external access to their API data feed.  Reward Flight Finder will now revert to being a purely British Airways product, at least for the time being.

Bits: SWISS, Lufthansa and Etihad launch UK sales, register for new Hyatt promo, 25% off suites at Radisson Hotels
Bits: Virgin confirms Sao Paulo dates, get FREE Luxury Travel Fair tickets, £100 off Virgin 'flight and hotel' deals
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Comments

  1. I contacted Virgin about the loss of access for RFF.

    Told them I’d switched my CC spend to them and racked up 400,000 miles, but have now moved that back to BA.

    Tools like this are invaluable. I know of a travel agent that uses it to keep on top of thing and make offers to her clients, now she just offers with BA. Virigin really are loosing out!

  2. O/T Could anybody give me a very rough/ballpark figure for the price BA/Virgin would be likely to offer an economy return from LHR to SFO/LAX during peak school holidays (early August) in their January sales?

  3. Shame about the CP Oxford road moving from IHG. Its club lounge is one of the best of any UK CP that I’ve visited – granted a club room upgrade on a points booking there a couple of times. As well as being 10 minutes from the city centre its only about 15 minutes walk to the curry mile.

    • Lady London says:

      They should be able to charge a higher top end price if they are a Hyatt Regency. Unless the location trips them up for the usual sort of Hyatt Regency customer.

      I’m a bit disappointed as, as a Crowne Plaza, the hotel would have been accessible to me. I don’;t expect to be able to pay Hyatt Regency prices. Hyatt Place/ Hyatt House is a bit more my cost level.

  4. Weird, dumb move by Virgin. If you’re going to do that; why not wait until you’ve built something at least half as useful yourselves. Otherwise, all you’re doing is making things harder and worse for your frequent customers. Baffling.

    • Shoestring says:

      [some of the IT people were determined to close off external access to their API data feed]

      seek to understand – if you were Virgin and seeing the class actions facing BA for the data breaches & other IT failures, I think you’d be wanting to cover your backside as well

      doesn’t Tim actually work for BA now?

      however, you’d have thought that after some checking, and given this is only Tim’s side hustle & pretty useful to all concerned incl Virgin, they would re-instate his API feed after clearance

      • Appalling. IT doesn’t run the airline, unless they have Cyber security issues and are covering their derriere. That could be the argument they used to make senior management sign off on the move.

      • Sorry but that comment makes no sense.
        Not from a technical or legal stand point.

        It is more likely to be simply about resource use.

        • Comment in reply to shoestring not Dev.

          To follow from Devs comment, if I was senior management at Virgin and I was presented with that as a reasoning, I’d be asking a lot more questions about my IT department.

          I’m sure this is resource use and cost.

      • No, Tim has now left.

        I wouldn’t give up hope of this getting sorted, I have escalated it very high at Virgin.

    • Lady London says:

      I’m not even sure it’s legal to close off access to your API.

      Isn’t there some recent-ish law that software providers have to provide API’s to external software that wants to connect to them, and can’t block it off?

      Do you remember that other marvellous software that always alerted us to seat moves or flight changes and equipment changes long before British Airways and other airlines ever did? Another sad loss.

      • Lady London says:

        Actually, thinking about it, Virgin is dominated by Delta now, isn’t it? I do recall Delta was the first to remove its flights from an engine in the US that used to be able to look at them from outside, too.

        This set off a wave of everyone else doing the same in the US case – Delta being the forerunner.
        However I think the situation is different in Europe and that systems are legally obliged to provide API’s and to let external (even competitive) systems connect if they want to.

        I do so hope Virgin gets st*ffed on this and am pretty sure a legal challenge can be made. It doesn’t fit the image of a “cool” airline.

        • I’m almost certain you are mixing with the “open banking” rules that do indeed require financial institutions to grant access to certain portions of their APIs. But those rules are not economy wide. Without leaving the aviation sector, Ryanair always shows much concern about unauthorized access to their API (and they have – or at least used to – have one of the most sophisticated APIs around, light years ahead of most competition), e.g., by meta-search engines (they have to either get into an agreement with Ryanair to show its flights or resort to screen scrapping).

          • Lady London says:

            Rui the API thing also applies to systems that do other things like the ones run by SAP can access what they like using API;s as far as I know. The software I work on most, which is a procurement system, had to provide API’s and let outside systems access information from within their system. this was a US-owned piece of software and the access I know was in Europe. Not sure if it’s just in Europe that systems have to provide API’s and allow external sites to use them to access information in their system, or if it also applies in the US too.

            It may well be that the “accessed” system can put in place qualification requirements and a process to request API access but I am certain that API’s now have to be provided by law, and that access via API cannot just be denied.

  5. OT – I’m due to fly to Germany on Friday evening with BA and obviously slightly concerned about the drone protest. I booked it using my Amex Platinum through Amex travel.
    If the flight is cancelled by BA should I contact Amex Travel to rebook? Would i be covered by my Amex Platinum travel insurance and could book myself say an Easyjet flight from Luton.

    My key priorities are: Getting to Germany on Friday and not being out of pocket as having a few money issues at the moment!

    Any advice would be gratefully received!

    • Shoestring says:

      you’ll only get a refund if the flight *is* actually cancelled, so you’ll have to wait & see

      no insurance co will pay out now if you cancel on ‘fear of possible drone action’

      there is such a thing as an EasyJet flexi ticket but they are more expensive, ie if you want, you could book a reserve ticket then shift it to a later date if you don’t need to use it on Friday

      • Thanks, yeah I’ll hold on until Friday I guess. If my flight is cancelled would amex platinum insurance cover me if i rebooked on easyjet? Can just imagine it will be a nightmare trying to get through to BA on the day for rebooking…

        • Shoestring says:

          if the flight is cancelled you can definitely get a refund (it’s the law) – and you already know the value of that, call it £200

          if you qualified for insurance, you wouldn’t get the full cost of the flight – you’d get the difference between your BA refund and the EasyJet flight – call it £50 on the day? (in any case, you can quantify the difference)

          so you could go ahead & book EJ without delay once you’ve been cancelled as you know your downside risk (the difference in cost between the flights) which is quite limited I presume

    • Do any insurance policies cover for strike action?

  6. Very sad about losing the Manchester CP and Staybridge. I stayed at each last month and was VERY impressed with both. The CP gave me lounge access with my Spire membership and both were about 60 quid (admittedly it’s a quiet time of year for them).

    Will they be honouring points bookings for November or should I book a backup?

  7. happeemonkee says:

    Response from Virgin

    I am very sorry for any disappointment caused with recent updates to our system.

    Reward Flight Finder is not affiliated with Virgin Atlantic in anyway, and so we would not design our systems to correlate with their own.

    I appreciate that this is not the response that you were hoping for, however we would not be able to update our systems to work with a third party website.

    I am very sorry to disappoint you on this occasion.

    If you enter your search requirements in the ‘Book flights’ area on the homepage, and then select the ‘Pay with your miles’ option for the cabin you want, this will show you any reward seats we have available on a calendar view.

    You can also send a text to our SMS team, who will be more than happy to check reward seat availability for any dates and destinations that you have in mind. This service is excellent if you’re on the go, and the team are available 24/7!

    • This sentence made me chuckle: “..however we would not be able to update our systems to work with a third party website.”

      That’s exactly what they did in reverse, by removing the API access!

      Perhaps all VFC customers should inundate the team with multiple SMS daily to check reward seat availability, rather than let the customers self serve using Tim’s tool. Not that Rob would condone such behaviour 😉

  8. Double Dee says:

    The virgin site for booking rewards is beyond awful, half the time it doesn’t show anything and then resets your search, if you try to book delta flights its a complete pain

  9. Am I the only person who is not saddened by the RFF news? I find Virgin’s reward search easier to use than BA’s – the calendar you get is straightforward and it’s easy to navigate to other dates. Also they have very limited destinations so I don’t think the “I don’t know where I want to go” function is very useful. Maybe it’s just because I don’t fly Virgin much at all.

    • But the point is RFF negated the need to “navigate to other dates”. I’ve spent a long time trying to find flights on the Virgin website when RFF found everything I needed in seconds.

  10. we need to urgently rebook a cancelled BA first flight from JFK to LHR.

    We’ve been offered BA first from Newark to LCY or an AA first flight.

    Are either of these as good offerings as the BA JFK experience?

    Currently on the phone with BA trying to sort it so any urgent tips would be very much appreciated!

  11. I heard from someone the other day and they said when the staff decides to strike they lose their staff flight benefits for 3 years. Don’t know how true that is, but I’m sure that’s a big loss for staff and a win for BA.

    • Lady London says:

      There was coverage in the press on BA possibly threatening this. (possibly leaked deliberately from BA, I suppose).

      However I believe this might count as victimization which is a bit dodgy legally.
      BA would have to be very careful if they are seriously contemplating this.

      • BA did this before for previous cabin crew strikes both the original Worldwide crew strike when Mixed Fleet were introduced & the more recent Mixed Fleet strikes. I know they reinstated flight privileges for Mixed Fleet as part of the settlement but can’t remember if & when they did so for the Worldwide crew.

        They also withheld bonuses from those who went on strike.

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