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. Virgin Bits…

    If you have access to Corporate Perks, powered by NextJump, you may have an 8% offer on Virgin flights until this Sunday.

    Just booked a Upper Class Flex return for my boss. 😉

  2. No

  3. Shoestring says:
  4. Made an app to alert me as soon as reward availability opened up on specific flights on Virgin Atlantic. – Got to experience A350 Upper Class last week! Would anyone else here want to use this if it were publicly available?

    • Certainly but recall that reward flight finder was blocked from doing this and that might well happen to you if you get noticed…

    • Has anyone seen seatspy? This seems to have Virgin availability?

      • Looks like RFF in disguise.

        • It is, but I’m finding certain aspects of it more user-friendly. Being able to see reward availability in all classes is really handy.

          It lags behind in other aspects though, so I’m signed up to both at the moment for the flight I’m after.

      • It does, but don’t expect it to last once Virgin notice…

        • Which I find odd; the Virgin system is so clunky they should either put it right or allow 3rd party access.

          • We agree!

          • Lady London says:

            I thought legally every app has to provide api access? I am not sure how airlines operating in the UK can get away with blocking access to retrieve data. I work with a commercial application that has had to provide access via api’s. For sure they would not have wanted to allow access, but had to.

          • @Lady London do you have a source for the claim that every company has to publish an API? I’ve heard it on this site more than once, but never outside of here. I know banks have recently been required to… as far as I know that’s the extent of it.

          • Lady London says:

            Its been the case for a while and I do remember reading a paper on it about 18 months ago but I don’t know what the legislation is called. It didn’t just apply to finance systems. Perhaps a legal eagle on here will know which piece of legislation it is.

          • There is no law for a commercial business to expose access mechanisms to its data (or access to its API)

  5. Regular readers may recall that I posted about an issue i ran into during a travel claim with axa (via amex platinum). I submitted a travel inconvenience claim for disruption during our journey home. the missed flight was a uk domestic easyjet flight part-purchased with a voucher and the remainder using my amex platinum. axa said it wasnt eligible since it wasnt paid for using the card. they cited avios plus card as being ok. I explained that easyjet flight club dont issue points but they had given me a voucher that had a monetary value and that i hadnt used any other credit card (only used amex platinum). i’m happy to report that following a review axa have paid my claim for the domestic uk replacement flights that we purchased to get us home. (the joys of living in the uk regions !).

  6. Shoestring says:

    Just been checking the £1 car rentals:
    – Europcar direct/ Hertz direct plenty available but only until end Dec (it wasn’t an exhaustive check)
    – Driiveme – some/ limited available (I only saw Hertz) but you could book up until 31/3 – though cancellation is £25 so I thought I might wait a bit in case my preference Europcar direct comes up later for Easter outward (no cancellation fee) or Hertz direct (no cancellation fee)

  7. Steinberg says:

    What’s interesting about the VS expansion is that as things stand the UK would be up to it’s 56 bilateral agreed flights and could potentially stop BA from increasing service as it had hoped to DEL/BOM… nothing stoping them increasing capacity through aircraft type though.

  8. Nate1309 says:

    @Rob @Rhys is there any chance of a detailed article on using the Virgin Atlantic CC voucher? I have one and will trigger another soon and don’t really know what to do with it. TIA

    • If it was a physical paper voucher I could think of a use for it …

    • aDifferentSimon says:

      I have one of these but don’t know how to use it – is it phone only?
      Let a Lloyds upgrade voucher expire last month which is much more valuable. rats.

  9. BTW Virgin have dropped their second daily flight to JNB from the end of March. It was removed just over a week ago – annoying because award availability vanished overnight on the flight I was going to book 🙁

  10. Etihad news is most welcome. Now if they could take a view on the high numbers of points needed to redeem on their own flights I’m sure more people would use them. But agree with others here we need confirmation from Etihad on this and, what classes as qualifying spend. Nice little job for someone this afternoon 😉

    • It’s OK for Abu Dhabi runs – 124,000 return vs 120,000 Avios on peak date. Problem is the taxes which, for connecting itineraries, are huge because you pay per leg.

      • Yes that doesn’t sound bad at all. Plus I note further on you suggest more award availability than BA. Thank you.

  11. Shoestring says:

    cheap Hilton for a mattress run?
    code WELCOME at checkout (new customers – 20% off – £51.20) or alternatively apply the code GALAXY for existing accounts (15% off – £54.40).

    • Not sure it would count for status/mattress run as it isn’t booked directly?

    • For readers in the NW I anticipate that the new Hampton just off the M65 in Blackburn might be a very cheap mattress run when it opens (and being brand new, presumably a fairly pleasant stay). It’s not the kind of place anyone visits for business or leisure so the rationale behind it is a bit mystifying.

      • RussellH says:

        Anna, have you never headed into the Forest of Bowland, not that far north of the M65? There are some nice walks, some great pubs and restaurants.
        True, the finest bits are between Lancaster and Clitheroe, but Blackburn would not be a bad base at all, especially if cheap.
        I suspect that the land might have been cheap to buy, too!

        • Regularly, Russell, and I’m sure you’re aware as I am that it has numerous pleasant B & B’s plus the odd country house-type hotels! I can’t see many people wanting to base themselves on the side of a 4 lane roundabout 20 miles away!

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