BA Sale

Bits: visit Necker for 1.5 million Virgin miles, Hyatt’s Great Scotland Yard hotel opens, Caledonian Sleeper video

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News in brief:

Stay at Necker Island for 1.5 million Virgin Atlantic miles

Few people know that you can redeem Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles for holidays on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island retreat.

Necker Island was badly damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017.  After substantial rebuilding, the resort has reopened and this means you can now book it with miles.

Necker is usually booked by private groups and only a handful of weeks per year are available for individual travellers.  You are restricted to booking on those weeks.

This is one of the best value Virgin redemptions you can get.  A week on Necker Island during those weeks where the island is not let on an exclusive basis will cost you $35,000 for a couple as you can here.  That is £27,320.  Flights are not included in this price but it is all inclusive.

The bad news is the cost has crept up.  It has jumped from 1.2 million to 1.5 million miles for a one week stay for a couple.  This does still represent good value if you were prepared to pay the cash price, of course, as you are getting 1.8p per mile.

You might think that 1.5 million miles is a lot, and of course it is.  However, it would ‘only’ require £1 million of spend on the Virgin Reward Plus credit card and I know there are a fair number of HFP readers, mainly business owners, who spend six figures per month on their cards.  You must now have Virgin Flying Club Silver or Gold status to book this award.

Information on Necker Island has been removed from the Virgin Atlantic website.  The current points price list is on this US blog here but I can’t find the original source document.

Great Scotland Yard hotel

Hyatt’s Great Scotland Yard hotel opens in London

The Great Scotland Yard Hotel finally opened this week after delays.

Great Scotland Yard is a luxury five star hotel in Central London, situated just around the corner from the Corinthia.  If you imagine leaving Embankment tube station towards the Strand and turning immediately left under the railway bridge, you are heading in the right direction.

The building is, unsurprisingly, the original Scotland Yard headquarters from the 1820s.  Scotland Yard later moved to Victoria Street, next to what is now Conrad St James, but that building was demolished earlier this year to make way for apartments.  Scotland Yard is now based on Victoria Embankment.

The hotel has 152 rooms.  It is part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, which allows it to operate at arms-length and without any overt Hyatt branding.  There is an impressive food and drink line-up, led by chef Robin Gill, including signature restaurant The Yard and a tearoom called The Parlour.

(The tearoom is “inspired by The Imperial New Delhi hotel for its opulence and sense of tradition”.  I’ve stayed at The Imperial and I am intrigued as to how this looks!)

Full details are on the Hyatt website here.  You will earn a bonus 500 World of Hyatt points per stay until 31st March 2020 – no registration needed.

As a redemption, the hotel is currently 25,000 points per night.  This is good value given that cash rates are around £300 – £400 midweek.

Great Scotland Yard hotel opens

A good Caledonian Sleeper video

I was planning to give the new Caledonian Sleeper trains a go when they launched earlier this year, offering hotel-style accommodation between London and Scotland.

The trains have been plagued with service and reliability issues and I moved the idea back into 2020.  The risk of spending £400 and ending up with the old trains, a cancelled train or a severely reduced service was too high.

However, my friend Roger recently did the trip and made a (very professional) 7-minute video which is worth a look if you want to see what the service is like.

His trip was not entirely glitch free as you will see at the end, but the video is a fair reflection of what is on offer on a good day.

I look forward to trying the service myself next year.

What is the best use of American Express Membership Rewards points?
Bits: 3000 bonus Hyatt points with SLH, Finnair business Oslo-Singapore for £1100, good Etihad deals from Scandi

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  1. Caledonian sleeper is a good example of why rail franchises have to go, not that we are short of good examples.

    • Shoestring says:

      you can’t just choose a tiny number of incompetent managers and conclude: this proves why privately owned xyz is ineffective in private hands

      • I was referring to railway franchises, not companies in general. Quite obvious that customer satisfaction across most of them has been poor if we go on basis of media reports which, admittedly, leaves a lot to be desired. Obviously depends how high (or low) we set the bar, and a frequent traveller will have a different perspective from the occasional leisure traveller. Personally I don’t see much point of privatisation without competition.

        • Shoestring says:

          on the last point: sure, gas & elec privatisation has been quite successful for anybody prepared to put 5 mins’ work into switching supplier (highly competitive, low prices) – whereas (say) water is an abject failure in the private sector —> no competition, sky high prices, money that should be used to invest in efficient & cheap water supply paid out as dividends instead – as a ‘natural’ state-owned industry, all water needed was good mgt (and if govt wanted, it could take ‘dividends’ out for other general taxation purposes)

          • Gas and Elec privatisation, as the MSE is often fond of saying, means that you and I pay less to boil a kettle than my 90 year-old next door neighbour.

            Some say that’s just healthy market economy and she should get off her backside and change supplier, but I don’t think it’s working for the most vulnerable.

          • Lady London says:

            + 1.

    • Spaghetti Town says:

      That’s the last thing that should ever be privatised, if there ever is rail privatisation.

      • Shoestring says:

        I think BJ is pointing to the ‘year of woe’ that Caledonian Sleeper has suffered – with staff who ‘voted for strike action, claiming “intolerable” and “appalling” working conditions after the botched rollout of its £150m fleet of sleek trains.’

        • Shoestring says:
        • Yes, all of that. It should have been something to look forward to and celebrate but instead it’s a shambles. The fares are a real problem too.

        • Is anyone here old enough to remember when the UK’s railways were any good (on average), regardless of the ownership structure?

          • The difference now is that if Caledonian Sleeper staff are unhappy only Caledonian Sleeper staff strike. In ‘the good old days’ of British Rail the entire country’s railway staff would been on strike.

          • As long as you’re not commuting on them, they are – generally – good. I went up to Manchester the other week, First Class, for around £40 one-way. Got the shoulder train where you stil get full food and drink but pay off-peak pricing. Absolutely no complaints.

          • I used to commute from Swindon to Paddington daily and was satisfied.
            It is rarely mentioned that the tracks and signalling where most of the problems (apart from strikes) occur was re-nationalised in 2004. Apparently a Labour government would re-nationalise them again!

          • RussellH says:

            Sure I (and no doubt many others) am old enough. Rail fragmentation only started in the late 1980s under John Major’s administration, with the privatisation of Railtrack.
            Both the idea and the implementation were bad. The infrastructure was always going to remain as a monopoly, and it has, of course, been nationalised once again now for many years.The implementation was appalling. Almost everyone who actually knew anything about running rail infrastructure was made redundant. They brought in assest-strippers who sold off whatb they could, and delivered what looked like impressive figures for a few years by ignoring a lot of the maintenance.
            Everything came to a head when the poor maintenance resulted in several serious accidents and the whole business was brought back into the public sector.

            Ownership of rolling stock (under BR it was owned, these days it is mostly leased) is a separate matter, and operation of passenger and freight services are different matters again.

            Most of the complaints in the press come from commuter operations, which are difficult to make money out of, because you cannot use your assets efficiently – you need huge amounts of capacity during peak periods, while the rest of the day these assets are either sitting around doing nothing, or are running around less than half empty. Privatisation has resulted in making things more efficient by squeezing many more passengers into highly reduced amounts of space – much more efficient, but also much more unpleasant. Hence the complaints!

          • Not even I am old enough to remember that, @SteveD! Was that sometime before Beeching?

            I meet a lot of people from other countries and some of them have told me how much they are looking forward to making a trip in the UK and will travel by train.

            That is when I always apologise to them in advance for the conditions and poor operations standards they are likely to find! In comparison to other countries’ rail systems it seems we have even fallen behind Italy, whose rail system used to be a well-known joke. It’s a national embarrassment for the UK.

            Thanks to the poster who mentioned the Cardiff and Chester routes though, that has cheered me up.

      • Network Rail is already public sector and they are a shambles. The Germans seem to do alright with a mixture of private and public ownership across the network. Our problem is poor management and sky high wages. You won’t fix them with nationalisation.

    • RussellH says:

      I never understood why the Scottish Government agreed to Serco as operator of CS.

      But then perhaps no one else with more experience and understanding of rail operation would have taken on CS. It is a very niche operation, and very seasonal, which makes a purely commercial operation very difficult.

      As to the new rolling stock, how much of the problems have been down to CAF (the builder) and how much to Serco/CS I do not know, but what has become clear is that all of CAF’s new trains for TPE and Northern have also been significantly delayed, with various teething troubles still to be sorted out.
      AFAIK, CAF had not supplied rolling stock to the UK before this, so they may well have been over-optimistic about what they could achieve. UK trains have to be significantly smaller than what they will have been building before.
      [And Hitachi, also pretty new to the UK market, have had significant problems with their new trains too. The Scots here in particular will mostly be very familiar with the problems of their new Hitachi trains, where the original windscreens distorted the driver’s view of the signals…]

  2. NigelthePensioner says:

    We did the sleeper from Euston to Aberdeen last Friday night. It was superb in every way! We had the double bedded suite and the mattress was superbly comfortable. It was all in all a great experience with lovely food and a comfortable Club Car. I would do it again but for the cost £470 single for two with a two together rail card……breakfast included. Flybe back to BHX on Sunday £45 each!!

  3. I can’t see the link to the video? Please could someone tell me what it is? thanks 🙂

  4. O/T – Shangri-La points. Wondered if anyone/Shoestring could advise?

    The missus has USD $150.00 vouchers (generated via her Shangri-La account) for Ting restaurant at the Shangri-La hotel in the Shard – we have a reservation on Tuesday. I also have 250 Shangri-La points from that app download promotion ages ago. Am I able to use my 250 points in concert with my missus’ vouchers to settle a restaurant bill? I remember “Instant dining” being mentioned once or twice on HFP over the months, but I can’t recall the mechanics of this. I can see that I can create a QR code for my Shangri-La account, but I don’t see how that helps me settle any bill in practice? I don’t have a physical card that is in date any more, you see, but perhaps there’s a virtual one within the app itself and maybe that helps me to part-settle the bill? Any pointers would be welcomed, especially regarding how in practice I might be able to use these 250 points at the restaurant table. 250 points are insufficient to generate a voucher at the Shard, unfortunately. MANY THANKS! 🙂

  5. OT: Time to exercise my suffrage and what an apt name that sounds for this particular election. Thanks to HFP for keeping me distracted from both the insufferable public servants and media over the past month!

    • A general reminder that, apart from social media sites (which we are not) it is a criminal offence until 10pm tonight to publish how you voted or to speculate on the result of the election.

      • Scallder says:

        Rob whilst I don’t want this site to descend into this, I don’t think that’s right.

        “Rules around photography and publishing in elections are covered by the 1983 Representation of the People Act, which states that:

        No person shall, in the case of an election to which this section applies, publish before the poll is closed

        (a) any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted, or

        (b) any forecast as to the result of the election which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given. ”

        and per the Electoral Commission:

        “A voter may volunteer information about how they voted, provided no undue influence is exerted on them to do so.”

        So you won’t get into any trouble if someone did post on here (which as I started off by saying, I hope they don’t)

        • The Guardian does not agree with your interpretation and has imposed a similar ban.

          • I’m sure it only applies to official media publications, no-one’s going to be prosecuted for saying how they voted on Facebook or whatever. It would be virtually impossible to prove who had actually posted the comment, to start with, given the difficulties in getting social media companies to part with this kind of information. Not that I’m encouraging any more coverage of the subject!

          • Social media is excluded. We are not social media.

          • Shoestring says:

            nothing controversial from me on election day! I haven’t voted yet – I’m waiting until my second vote gets back from college 😼

          • Voted, nothing more to add.

  6. OT:

    Anyone know how refunds on items bought with a shopping centre gift card are treated?

    Example – If I buy a coat from John Lewis Westfield using a Westfield Gift Card- and then need to return it to another John Lewis on the high street… will I be forced to accept JL vouchers as my return method? Or can it go back on a credit or debit card of my choice?

  7. I am about 9 months into my BA premium plus and have already earned the 2-4-1

    Due to new amex bonus rules – whats a better option?

    a) Just downgrade to the free blue version? (How is this best done? over the phone) = then get close to £10k spend and then upgrade again to Premium?

    b) Just cancel completely- and sign up in circa 6-8 months for the premium again? Thereby saving card fees and getting a potential referral bonus

    • Both work, both save you the fee. Very little chance of getting the bonus for a new application but you may get a 6000 Avios bonus when you re-upgrade from free to paid BA. Downgrade involves a fresh application, your old card is automatically shut and the transasctions moved across.

      • Could I ask how to get the 6000 (potential) Avios points when upgrading (BA Free to BA Premium)? Is best to do the upgrade by phone or just apply for a new Premium card?

        • For literally 10 years, Amex has randomly given people 6000 Avios when upgrading to BAPP. The staff don’t know anything about it. It just randomly appears. My bet is that this is from a promo from 2005ish and someone forgot to remove the algorithm from the system. It doesn’t all the time, but most of the time.

      • Wow, so a downgrade from Premium to Blue counts as entirely fresh application with accompanying credit checkj?

        More minded to simply cancel then..

    • If you cancel completely then get referred for a new one, the referrer should get a bonus regardless of the length of time you wait, however you wouldn’t get a sign up bonus unless you wait 2 years.

    • Earlier this year I downgraded online via a referral link. I didn’t get the referral bonus but I did get the 5000 for spending £1000.

      • That’s interesting, I wonder if it’s an IT glitch similar to the SPG one…

        • I did it hoping to get the referral bonus but disappointment with that was soon replaced with surprise.

      • Could you explain this process?

        U had a Premium Card, logged in to Amex and Made a new application for the Blue Card?

        It then automatically cancelled your premium and issued you the Blue Card?

        • I applied via a referral link. The application is just done in the usual way, if successful then the blue soon changes to black online and the new card arrives in the post in usual way. Highly unlikely you will get either referral or sign up bonus though. Refund on the BAPP will go into your account in a few days. If you are nit automatically approved you will be on manual reviews as they know what you are trying to do. I only ever saw comment ftom one person who got rejected and I think it was fixed after calling CS.

  8. Re Necker… I seem to recal that you had to be VS gold too – the miles alone might not be enough.. But its 1:20 in vegas and I just about remembered my room number so I could be well off base..

  9. OT – The new business class cabin on Aeroflot’s A350’s looks very good!

  10. Only 100,000 miles and a status away from that necker island redemption…!

    • memesweeper says:

      Lucky you …. I’m earning Virgin miles so slowly the price increases are moving the redemption further away from me!

  11. OT: Avanti West Coast already appearing on Nectar. A miserly 500 bonus point launch offer, however, no minimum spend stipulated. There is also 25 free points for watching an LNER video; don’t all rush to spend them in one shop shop.

    • Shoestring says:

      Esso – just today (as one of the offers expires tonight) – you could triple dip – £5 off £50 (Amex) + 10x Nectar points filling up with Synergy + 250 Nectar points >20 litres

      • Can they tell what spend is on? I was going to try handing over my Nectar card with amex to pah council tax bug unfortunately I forgot.

        • Shoestring says:

          put a Mars bar in and pay both bills together?

          • Too late for me, my last visit was final CT payment and I don’t have room for £50 gas.

          • Shoestring says:

            just overpay if you need to

          • RussellH says:

            Just visit our nearby Esso garage (it is on the Amex list). Has to be the most expensive non-Motorway place on the UK mainland!

          • Shoestring says:

            same here! + even if it were just Pricepoint, it’s £5 there & back 🚮

          • Went in to try a £200 Monese topup with amex and nectar, promttly informed by annoyed woman that it was cash only and that she would not accept Nectar on such transactions…cannot win them all 🙂

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