Bits: Virgin Atlantic’s new A350 routes, Etihad Guest stops expiring miles, ski holiday discount with SNO

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News in brief:

Virgin announces four new A350 routes and an extra daily to Delhi

Virgin Atlantic has now confirmed its Summer 2020 schedule, which will begin on the 29th March.

Virgin has been slowly ramping up its UK-India routes, which suffered a loss when codeshare partner Jet Airways went into administration.

It clearly thinks there is extra flying to be had which hasn’t been mopped up by other airlines, and is introducing a second daily flight to Delhi.  This is in addition to the new Mumbai route which launched a couple of weeks ago.  The new Delhi flight goes on sale on 23rd November.

Next summer Virgin will also start putting its A350s on other routes. Up until now, all the A350s were going on the London-New York route but we will now see a bit of variety in the schedule.

This means that you will still find a variety of Virgin Atlantic aircraft flying to New York, since Virgin will not have enough A350 to run them on all seven daily flights as well as the new destinations.

This is where you will find the A350:

Johannesburg will see the A350 from March, on VS 449/450
Los Angeles gets a daily A350 in April, on VS 23/24
San Francisco gets a daily A350 in May, on VS19/20
Lagos will get a daily A350 in August, on VS 411/412

As a reminder, Virgin Atlantic’s A350 comes with a new Upper Class Suite reviewed here, as well as a redesigned social ‘Loft’ area for business class passengers.  It is a major improvement on the current Upper Class product.

As always, there may be last minute equipment changes or timetable alterations.  These new services will be using aircraft from the 2nd batch of A350 deliveries and the dates may slip.

Virgin Atlantic announces new A350 routes

Etihad Guest removes mileage expiry – which makes it more interesting!

Back in 2017, Gavin Halliday resigned as CEO of Avios Group to move to Abu Dhabi, to run all of Etihad’s loyalty businesses.

He has had a lot on his hands since then.  First there was the collapse of Air Berlin and its Etihad-owned topbonus loyalty programme, and more recently the collapse of India’s Jet Airways and its (still functioning, now renamed) loyalty scheme InterMiles.

Gavin and I had (still have) a good relationship and would meet up to bounce ideas around.  Once of his pet peeves was enforced mileage expiry, which he felt was unfair and which stopped people building up their miles to use in retirement.

Etihad Guest had one of the most extreme enforced mileage expiry policies.   Your miles expired three years after you had earned them, and there was nothing you could do to stop it.

Etihad Guest was relaunched last week, and mileage expiry is no more.  As long as there is activity on your Etihad Guest account every 18 months, your miles are secure.

Spending Etihad Guest miles:

You should take Etihad Guest more seriously nowEtihad’s First Class Apartment on its A380 fleet is an amazing experience as I reviewed here.  The Business Class Studio is also impressive.  Here is our last Business Class Studio review but I have flown it twice more since, most recently last month.  They have funky Aqua di Parma amenity kits now too!  Etihad also has daily flights from Manchester.

Whilst not in an airline alliance, Etihad Guest has its own partnerships.  I recommend Oman Air from London and Manchester – this article looked at how to book it with Etihad Guest miles.

There is also an amazingly cheap (51,000 miles return in Business Class) service between Prague and Seoul on Czech Airlines!

There are plenty of other partners too as you can see here.

Earning Etihad Guest miles:

Etihad has more partner earning airlines than you might think – take a look at their website here.  You’ve got Air New Zealand, Air Serbia, Air Europa, Air Seychelles, Alitalia, ANA, American Airlines, Asiana, Bangkok Airways, Brussels Airlines, Czech Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Hainan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Philippine Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, SAS, Sri Lankan Airlines, Virgin Australia and GOL.

Etihad Guest offers regular bonuses, usually 20% or so, on transfers from hotel loyalty schemes.

Etihad no longer has its own UK credit card.  However, you can earn Etihad Guest miles by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.  These are:

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold – 10,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

The Platinum Card from American Express – 30,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

American Express Rewards credit card – 5,000 Membership Rewards points sign-up bonus

Membership Rewards points convert at 1:1 into Etihad Guest miles.  The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 1 Etihad Guest mile.

Etihad Guest is also a partner with the HSBC Premier Mastercard (0.5 miles per £1 spent, reviewed here) and HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard (1 mile per £1 spent, reviewed here).  You could also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points earned via the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express.

You should obviously look into the programme more carefully before deciding whether it is for you.  However, the ability to build up miles slowly via – say – the HSBC Premier Mastercard is now a realistic option given that you no longer need to watch the clock ticking down on their expiry.

Save 5% on ski holidays with SNO

Finally, I wanted to plug our ski holiday discount with SNO again today.

SNO has agreed to offer Head for Points readers an exclusive 5% off discount code again this winterTheir website has some good half board hotel packages at the moment, including the Hotel San Giovanni (pictured) in Livigno, Italy, which currently comes with a free lift pass.

You can claim a 5% discount from the brochure price of all SNO holidays using the code SNOHFP.  You can find all SNO hotel deals here – you need to book by telephone 020 7770 6888 to claim your 5% discount.

Amex launches a new co-brand cashback card with health and life insurer Vitality
What does Fans of M.O. (Mandarin Oriental’s loyalty programme) offer you when you stay?

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  1. Hi Rob,
    “As long as there is activity on your Etihad Guest account every 18 months, your miles are secure”.
    Does it stipulate what counts as activity, amex/hsbc transfers counted?
    Does the 18 mths count from your last activity or must it be new activity since the announcement?

  2. I regards to Etihad Guest, we still don’t know the date when miles will stop expiring. The email last week just said coming soon. Rob, could you find out when exactly it starts?

    • Didn’t know that. Great way to pee off your members – tell them you’ve stopped expiry but keep expiring miles until it goes live!

      You would hope before month end when the next batch of expiration happens …..

      • Expiring miles is a great way to pee off your members in any case

        By all means write them down on your balance sheet as they become less likely to be redeemed but the act of writing them off is nasty and only serves to alienate previously loyal travellers.

        I lost my entire Enterprise Plus balance this year, they expired it two days before a 16 day hire of an E-Class in Spain which had I been less busy I would have cancelled (as would most I should think)

        Needless to say I dont make an effort to use Enterprise now…

        • To give credit to Enterprise, they do have a long expiry (36 months of no activity), better than some others (e.g. Hertz at 18 months).
          They have also been running the Plus Your Points late last year and again currently. An easy way to pick up a small number of points which reset expiry. I have mentioned it a couple of times in comments, but Rob has not included it in a ‘bits’ article – too niche perhaps?

        • Just received an email from PPB (Lufthansa Business Loyatly programme) that I haven’t logged in a while (since May) and if I don’t log in within next 30 days they’ll wipe my account and points! Don’t have much, but every 3 years I do get something out of it. I think this surely classes as worst pee off!

          • Lady London says:

            I wonder if that requirement was in the terms and conditions? Another reason to get p’d o55 with Lufthansa. Alongside the ridiculous 3 year expiry in LH Miles&More program regardless of activity. Which only benefits fat cats as everyone else loses their miles.

  3. OT: I’ve never purchased points before so just checking my maths here. The Hilton 100% bonus, I can buy 5,000 + the 5,000 bonus points for $50 total right?

    I am eyeing a 10K redemption which is going for $110 after taxes cash rate non-refundable so looks like I can save more than half my money?

    How quickly do the points deposit?

    • Ok scratch that, it’s a 20k redemption my mistake 😥 so you could save taxes and SC.

      • Still worth buying the points versus your rate because the points stay is almost certain to be flexible (there are very few exceptions). Furthermore, if you need 5+ nights, on points the 5th night is free. Points will be in your account immediately. However, you need to factor in points earned if you pay cash, so unless you value flexibility or 5th night free then cash is a better option for the property rate you quote.

  4. I think I may have read someplace that the car transfer is included in premium award flights again too?

    • For status members. I didn’t go into the changes because they are not hugely relevant and if impacted you will have been emailed anyway.

  5. OT – but on topic – New Points Earning Opportunity
    Given the lack of opportunities in the points space at the moment, I thought I’d share something with HFP that I’ve been using pretty successfully for the last 12 months – Ratesetter.

    RISKS – This is not going to be something that will suit everyone – as it is peer-to peer lending, and obviously involves a degree a risk, like some of the investment ideas (i.e wealthify) or robo-advice investments that generate points opportunities that have been discussed here – but I think this can be more lucrative on a points basis over time.
    You have to do your own research to be comfortable with it – Ratesetter is regarded as one of the UK’s biggest and safest peer-to-peer lenders by reputable sites such MSE (which orginally gave me the idea) and WHICH, amoungst others, with good reviews on trustpilot. I like it because there is a compensation fund which looks after the depositors whenever any of the lenders go under or fail to pay back capital or interest – they have been running for 8-9 years and advertise that no-one has lost a penny with them yet – but again YOU have to decide if this works for you.

    The Ratesetter website allows deposit by debit card – and works great with a number of our HFP favourite card providers, the main ones I have been using are:
    1) Curve-multiple underlying cards
    2) Tesco Debit card (Paying out at 1 Clubcard point for every 8 pounds deposited) – which does not use up any allowances.
    as well as others. Revolut and IHG cards are 2 noteable exceptions that do not work with Ratesetter.

    I don’t abuse the current setup, as I think people always should with these types of scenarios, you want to keep the vendor happy with you as a customer- so I always maintain a balance of a couple of thousand in the account at any one time, and the rest of the time I will deposit circa 5,000 at the start of a credit card cycle in the “Access” product (designed for easy access withdrawal), and then withdraw it again after about 35-40 days and repay the card. I get points for each transaction and interest of 3-4% whilst invested – then Repeat again the next cycle.
    I have turned over more than 50,000 thus far after just over a year – I’ll let you do the math on the points that generated.

    There are different incentives to sign up, but if you are nice enough to use my referral link below, you will get a 100 pound bonus for keeping 1000 pounds in the account for a year, which is a good sign-up bonus, and one that has the least conditions attached to it.
    That means you would receive 13-15% on your first 1000 pounds invested, which is a great return from a proven provider that has always paid out over 8-9 years

    I look forward to the comments/feedback with interest – and hope to read some more creative points opportunities in the comments soon!

  6. OT – anyone ever cancelled an AmEx card with a negative membership points balance?

    ie. if you achieve a sign up bonus, then withdraw the points, but then refund something to your card which take you back below the bonus spending threshold (so the bonus is removed and gives a negative balance)

  7. I wish Singapore Airlines would relax their expiry date rules. I could drip feed MR pts and SPG pts in for a future trip to Oz.

    • Why do you want to dripfeed a flexible currency into an inflexible one which expires? Why not just keep in Bonvoy and MR and transfer a lump sum when required? I’ve got a feeling I’m missing something here 🙂 Harsh expiration dates do benefit loyal FF at the expense of members who collect miles mostly or exclusively elsewhere so I’m a bit surprized that airlines don’t go in for them in a bigger way. Probably as most now perceive their loyalty schemes as standalone money making ventures and not really/mainly a scheme to retain and reward FF.

      • I have never met anyone who runs a loyalty scheme who is deliberately trying to make things worse for members. Usually the programme head is fighting the FD and CEO who see cutting the programme as a short term win.

        • That’s good to hear. I wish M&M and FB would relax their rules a bit.

          • FB is quite relaxed tbh. M&M is very restrictive, but then you either focus on that program or you just give it a pass.

          • @marcw, my FB miles have been extended a few times. Unless I get the LH cc I’ll be giving up on M&M.

      • We only have 22k MR pts and not earning too many as spend currently going in to SPG card as I am holding back spend on BAPP as i don’t want to trigger 241 yet. MR pts sitting in free Amex rewards card but early in 2021 I will need to cancel to refer hubby for a new cycle of churns so will need to cancel MR account to reset my clock. So those 22k MR pts will likely go to Hilton instead of Singapore Airlines as we don’t currently have plans for another Oz trip but we will definitely do one in a few years time to visit family. Currently have around 145K SPG pts which I would also love to convert to Singapore but the expiry rule stops me. I’ve checked back my credit card records and we have both done one self refer so if Amex bring in their claw back or shut down accounts rule then these pts are at risk. So a looser expiry rule would let me transfer out now – but that is not to be….

        • We also have enough Avios for 4 big USA trips a Virgin miles for 1 big trip somewhere. We flew SIN-BNE last year in business which was lovely and would like to do this again but it is now increased to 62k miles I think. In the last few years it’s gone from 55k to 58k to 62k for that route.

          • Liz, good to see you are still playing the miles and points game with a double deck of cards 😉

        • rams1981 says:

          Hi Liz, can you remind me of your Aus trip redemption with Singapore Airlines? Was it easy to get seats etc?

          • Yes it was easy but I booked the year before as soon as they came available – had been saving for the points for the 2 years before that. When i first looked it was 55k and by the time we came to book back in jun 2017 i think, they had gone up to 58k. Booked on 2 separate tickets then I phoned to link the 2 bookings.

          • It was just the SIN – BNE leg on Singapore cos we didn’t want to fly in to Sydney as family are near Brisbane. The rest we did on BA with 241.

          • rams1981 says:

            Thanks. I have a pile of hsbc points so may well investigate Singapore airlines further.

  8. Saw on another site that BA are putting the 787-10 on the Atlanta route once deliveries start in January

  9. Surprised at Virgin taking A350s of the JFK route. I think the 350s would have given them a serious competitive advantage over BA. Now it will be pot luck whether you get the new Upper Class or the awful old cabin. But I guess they know what they’re doing.

    If I had booked an A350 and found it deliberately switched to an older plane, I would not be happy.

    • They hadn’t announced what routes they’d be on on the summer timetable so no one would be disappointed!

    • I don’t think they are removing it from JFK so to speak, they just won’t be flooding the market with additional A350s. I presume the handful of services on the A350 to JFK will remain.

      • I checked dates for 6 dates apart, end August early September and A350 not shown at all

        • Interesting – I wonder if the summer aircraft movements have been properly put through the systems yet? Would be very surprising for them to take it off JFK.

  10. OT: Are there any sign-up codes for Gett that still works?

    • You can try my referral code of GTSZFWS. Unhelpfully it says ‘your friend gets a discount on their first ride which varies by city’ which is not hugely helpful.

  11. OT, Sorry posted this yesterday but never got a reply ) :
    I have booked my outbound to LAX 355days out with BA. When my return opens up in a few weeks can I get this added as one booking to lower my taxes?
    I know this can be done with a 2 4 1 voucher but wasn’t sure about a single booking.

    • I doubt it. In recent times I have found its treated as 2 x one ways and if youre going to the US thats more expensive than a return. YMMV.

      • So I guess I would have been better waiting for both legs to become available before I booked?

        • If you make the return booking by phone they may adjust the taxes so you’re not paying more. I have done this, although it was a couple of years ago.

        • If you follow Anna’s advice request them to change it to a return ticket as opposed to asking them to add return sectors. This might just influence thd way they deal with your request. You could also take the risk of cancelling outbound sears in the hope that they return to award inventory.

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