More thoughts on whether air miles should be banned to reduce climate change

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There was a big reaction to my piece on Tuesday about whether frequent flyer schemes should be banned because they encourage additional flying which exacerbates climate change.

Here are four interesting asides – three of which you should NOT take too seriously – from the last 24 hours:

I apologise to any HFP readers who live in Continental Europe and who watch Sky News.  As Shoestring posted in our comments yesterday:

“Sky News don’t fill the ad breaks with ads out here in Europe – you get some ads but also filler pieces and snips of ‘international’ news interest.  Twice an hour I’m getting Rob’s 5 second analysis of Frequent Flyer programs, it’s unrelenting.”

We can only hope that the reader who posted:

“You really need to work on your delivery when speaking. You sound like a chav. And surely your office is big enough for the camera to actually be in it?!?!”

isn’t in Continental Europe …. (and, no, our office is not big enough to take a full size TV camera, a lighting rig and leave the required gap between the lens and my face!)

I moderated a panel discussion at the Flybe leadership conference in Exeter on Tuesday.  During the Q&A, one member of the audience – who introduced herself as a 23-year old graduate trainee – asked myself and Flybe’s head of loyalty, who was on stage with me, whether we thought a loyalty scheme was the right thing to do given the environmental concerns.  The genie is out of the bottle.

The best comment I saw on this topic, which I repeated on stage at Flybe, came in an email from a reader.  He claimed that Avios and BAEC were a force for good against climate change.  British Airways business class is so dreadful that everyone would be taking more harmful indirect flights on Emirates, Etihad etc if it wasn’t for the lure of the tier points …..!

The report that kicked off this debate was written by academics at Imperial College.  A comment posted on HFP on Tuesday said that Imperial College staff are not allowed to collect frequent flyer miles or hotel points when travelling on university business.  I have absolutely no confirmation if this is true or not, or whether it may have influenced their report 🙂  (EDIT: we now have the actual policy in the comments below. Miles collected whilst travelling on Imperial College business are “not for personal use” and should therefore be redeemed for future business travel.)

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  1. I’ve worked at a university (which shall remain nameless, but was not nearly as good as Imperial College) whose travel policy had the same language. As you probably won’t be surprised to hear, this went completely unenforced. Indeed, I don’t see how one *could* enforce it given the terms and conditions of most frequent flyer programmes.

    • It would make sense to not allow miles and points to influence the choice of travel provider though.

      I attended IC** although I never got to travel anywhere. My supervisor only flew Ryanair, even when it was stupid to spend 2 hours extra getting to/from his home and his actual destination, but he seemed to have this mental block when seeing the £20 headline fare like some of my friends still do.

      **The branding consultants constantly told us to call it ICL, but it hadn’t caught on in my time.

      • Would come down to how much cash your supervisor had available for travel and conferences. That they were using Ryanair and not sending research students and staff suggests not much.

        • Yes partially, but he didn’t mind splashing funds on the Christmas party (even though it wasn’t strictly allowed)

          • Really, when was this? I cannot imagine I would have got away with that, even in my day.

          • 2008, basically he lied about a few things but we were a small lab and I don’t want to say any more than that!

      • It would be totally unenforceable/impossible to check if someone collected miles. Our policy is that it can’t influence the decision on which airline to take if that means it would be more expensive.

        • AFAIK, the ban on personal use of air miles was one of the key action points of the decade-old expenses scandal at the UK parliament (for MPs and their employees)

    • Lady London says:

      The University can achieve the same aims – and even better – by signing up for BA On Business or it’s equivalent with other Airlines.

      Thé benefits will then end up harvested by thé most influential people within the University, which will stop the squawking.

  2. Spaghetti Town says:

    OT: i’m staying at a hilton tonight for the first time as Gold, do i have to ask for a potential free upgrade or if i’m eligible, will it be done automatically?

    • Depends on the hotel. Check app/website in a few hours to see if you were upgraded, which doesn’t stop you asking for further upgrade if you want to.

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        It’s a conrad. Thanks!

        • Michael says:

          We reserved a twin room as it was cheaper, even though we are a couple. Possibly reduced our chances of an upgrade?

          • Again it depends on the hotel!

            I usually reserve the cheapest room. If it’s a twin, sometimes I get upgraded to a room with one bed, and sometimes with two beds. Sometimes I need to argue with reception that I booked two beds for a reason (once they even tried to claim that I had to pay extra)

          • guesswho2000 says:

            Shouldn’t be an issue. A while back I booked a single (as I was originally on my own, and just wanted cheap as), before a friend said they’d join me. I didn’t bother changing the reso, figuring it’d be upgraded, and if not I’d deal with it at the time. Sure enough, I was upgraded to a King, mobile check in allowed me to select a Twin, problem solved.

            Booked a second night as a twin though, knowing I’d have a guest. Didn’t bother with an upgrade, just asked if I could keep the same room to avoid moving my stuff, so I guess we’re (hotel and I) even!

        • You should really just check the flyertalk thread for every middle to upper end chain hotel you (intend to) stay in and that will tell you what to expect. If it doesn’t, make a report after you stay.

          • Spaghetti Town says:

            Didnt know that was a thing. Thanks

          • +1 on booking cheapest rooms, even if twin. If you set room preferences to one bed I have found they always ask at reception if I want one bed if such a room is still available.

        • Personally, I tend to avoid asking for upgrades. As diamond I get them almost every time. Even as hold treatment was good. Always been convinced most staff respond positively if we are just friendly and undemanding at check in so I just take what I’m given. If I am not happy with the room once I get there then I will call to ask if they can change it for me. In recent years, I’ve done this twice at HGI Glasgow and Hilton Milton Keynes. Since this is your first stay, be sure to log into your MyWay preferences and tick option for free breakfast as opposed to free points before you check in.

          • Lady London says:

            +1 BJ. Pleasantness always the first approach. Look at the room first ideally. At a couple of hôtels where I’m known i did ask to change, was given other rooms to look at and concluded actually they’d looked after me as best they could before i arrivés!

        • Spaghetti – which Conrad? I sometimes find contacting the front desk a few days before hand helps to establish if an upgrade is likely.

    • Shouldn’t really expect too much – if it is a hotel where an upgrade would be valuable, I’d specifically ask at check-in if you’ve been upgraded and potentially even look on the website for the room you want (eg “do you have any of the superior rooms overlooking the beach available?”).

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        I’m in the Conrad Bali – just checked in and upgraded to a room overlooking the beach on a higher floor. I think the top upgrade would have had executive lounge access (probably would of got it if i was higher than gold). Thanks all anyway for the tips, the girlfriend is pretty pleased and I’ve learnt a bit more for next time!

        • If you are happy that’s the main thing. Anything much better would probably be a suite and they will go to fiamond, and not even them if there are paying guests in them. Enjoy Bali. Smoke all gone?

          • Spaghetti Town says:

            Thanks BJ. Bali’s been great, we started off in a fantastic little airbnb villa out in the countryside (Ubud) before moving to the gilli islands for 2 nights for some snorkelling. Now in the Conrad for the final few days of the trip and have loved everything so far. No smoke here!

          • All sounds good, Bali is great so long as it doesn’t get unbearably hot.

        • Genghis says:

          We got suite upgrade with lounge access, free happy hour, use of Japanese restaurant for breakfast, suites pool and v private spa pool access as diamonds a couple of years ago. Enjoy.

          • Genghis says:

            I recommend Bumbu Bali and the ribs (only) at Mr bobs. No idea if they are still around. You better have had Babi guling already from a local shack.

  3. So what was the response to the question from the “graduate trainee”??

    • “You don’t need to worry about the new Flybe loyalty scheme being so generous that people will be taking extra flights for the sake of it.” 🙂

      • Chris D says:


        Seriously though, I think that is the (moral and logical) future of FFPs. Airlines need to remove the incentives to take extra flights or unnecessary connections, starting with BA removing the tier point distance bandings and instad awarding a linear amount of TPs based on distance – or even spend.

  4. I’m happy the UK is a liberal country that gives a voice opportunity to pressure groups. But on the environment, many of the issues are international not domestic. The UK should be pushing for intergovernmental coordination but not shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s not just the environment but other issues such as tax. One way to address it in the short term is overhaul the definition of a charity. Oxfam, for example, should not be classed as a charity.

    • Pushing for intergovernmental cooperation is simply a goverments much-loved ‘get out of jail free’ card.

      • Exactly. The problem with that approach is you get people like Trump, Putin (and Johnson) who don’t care about anyone but themselves. They aren’t going to coordinate anything unless it benefits their own agenda. Inevitably some countries have to take a hit while others carry on regardless.

    • Lady London says:

      @Jane OT are there other charities you would also say the same about? Such as Save the Children?

    • guesswho2000 says:

      Agree re the definition of charity, the professional org I’m a member of is a registered charity, for example…ha.

  5. I’m all for freedom of speech too and it’s vital we can speak up but those bunch of biffs XR are just anarchists out to cause as much trouble for the public and economy as they feel they have a right to. I think the aviation industry like the car industry has more recently, be given incentives so so that we can get new fuel efficient aircraft flying.

    It’s not just flying that is damaging the climate.

  6. Imperial Travel Policy says

    “In general air miles (or credit card points) acquired by a member of staff as a result of official travel are not taxable and are not for personal use.

    Under the BA Executive Card holder scheme, staff are advised not to book more expensive flights/booking classes purely to gain more air miles.”

    So no, there is no ban on collecting points at all!

    • Genghis says:

      But pretty much if “not for personal use“.

      • Indeed, but I note the careful use of the word ‘generally’ , like ‘should’ in the Highway Code compared to ‘must’, doesn’t mean much!

    • That has changed from my day then, more relaxed. Probably because RS is long gone.

  7. OT – Hilton’s Double / Triple points promo..

    Wondering if anyone knows yet whether part paying at checkout on the Hilton credit card triggers triple points for the whole bill?

  8. It has been the policy at IC for many years that staff were supposed to reserve travel through the corporate TA for any work-related business. As I understand it avios (air miles) were still earned but went into a pot for the Rector and a few other senior staff to travel in (BA) style. Back in my day, most staff still arranged their own travels and collected their own points and miles despite the official policy. Comments from Alex are highly suggestive that this remains the case today, but I guess he couldn’t possibly comment 🙂

    • That sounds like the OnBusiness Points?
      Unauthorised use of those by junior administrators has been mentioned previously.
      Perhaps the ICL author is peeved at the top people using the OBPs?
      I thought the most appropriate use of them was for raffles among all staff.

      • It was way back in mid 2000s before I left. I cannot recall the details clearly but what I do remember was that it made no sense to go through the corporate agent. I know some of my colleagues did but many didn’t. There was never any enforcement as far as I know. Doubt it was a reference to On Business points, I don’t know if they were around back then. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t really into miles and points at the time. I was flying to northern SFO or SMF twice a month with United at the time. I thought earning 300% MP miles was great only to realise later when I took the hobby seriously what might have been had I credited those flights to BMI DC.

        • I should add that I was not using those miles for personal purposes but to enable research staff and students to attend conferences or work with research groups overseas.

          • Secret Squirrel says:

            I’m sure a Countryfile presenter got suspended for collecting & spending large amounts of avios which were collected as part of her job.

    • David P says:

      I’m also an IC employee. Most staff these days do book through Egencia (our corporate TA) because Finance get pretty grumpy if staff make their own bookings and try to claim the money back. However, Egencia don’t input any FF number into the bookings that they make.

      What staff then do in their own time with the booking is their own business…

  9. Shoestring says:

    Furious commuters drag Extinction Rebellion protesters from the roof of a London Underground train after they converged on stations to bring chaos to the network (beardie gets told what’s what – video)

    • Shoestring says:

      The eco-activist group has now said its members will protest ‘mischievously’ at Gatwick airport from 11am, promising ‘musicians, clowns and singers.’

  10. I want to buy 45,000 or so Marriott Bonvoy points to spend on a five day holiday in Valencia next March during their Fire Festival of Fallas. Its a big event so all the city centre hotel prices are sky high, but with points the AC Hotel is reasonable.

    My question is about when the +30% bonus offer expires. The website says “… through October 18th ..” does this mean I can buy up to midnight on 17th or up to midnight on 18th.
    Can any American speaker translate?

    (In case you are wondering, I am anxiously waiting for my Virgin MC card to arrive)

    • 23.59 on 18th and probably US West Coast time zone unless rules say something else.

    • Have you looked at Melia hotels? Might be a lot cheaper.

      • Yes indeed Melia is quoting good prices, but their city centre hotel is full in Feria week, and the other TRYP hotels are some way out. Also, the Marriott 5th night free makes a big difference.
        I need 80,000 points to buy 4 nights, I already have 30,000 on hand so need to spend £350 to buy 50,000 in the sale (probably less actually as I will earn a few thousand points on my SPG card in the next month)
        Various ways to cost this out, but just say my Marriott points are worth .4p and the 5 nights are costing me £470 or £94 per night.
        The quoted cash price is £984 for 5 nights . . . . .

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