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PART 2: Who won ‘Best Travel Innovation 2019’ at the Head for Points Awards?

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Today we are announcing our final winners in the Head for Points Travel & Loyalty Awards.

We are looking today at ‘Best Travel Innovation 2019’.  We split this article into two parts.  The first part – click here – talks you through what impressed us about each of the items on our 11-strong shortlist.

This second part announces the two winners.

Each winner will receive a trophy which we will be presenting at a special dinner in January.

We decided to give an additional ‘Editor’s Choice’ award in this category.  Let’s start, as we should, with the reader vote.

Your vote for ‘Best Travel Innovation 2019’ went to:

Reward Flight Finder

Reward Flight Finder was shortlisted this year for a radical new feature added in 2019.  This is the new ‘where can I go on these particular dates’ search.  Put simply, it reverse engineers the whole reward process.

You plug in the dates you want to travel and Reward Flight Finder shows you the British Airways destinations that are still available to book with Avios.  This is a fantastic innovation if you’re looking for some travel inspiration, and it is rather sad that the airlines don’t offer something similar themselves.

Reward Flight Finder managed to bag the lion’s share of the votes.  Many of you, I think, simply wanted to thank Tim Rogers for his work in putting this tool together, and potentially support him after Virgin Atlantic pulled its support in the Autumn.  Reward Flight Finder has transformed the way to search for Avios redemption by displaying availability for a full year  in one click.

Congratulations are also in order for the winners of the Editor’s Choice Award in this category.

The Editor’s Choice award goes to:

Virgin Atlantic’s ‘The Loft’

Virgin Atlantic made a big splash earlier this year when it announced that its new A350 fleet was not getting the usual Virgin Atlantic bar.  Instead, it has created a social space called ‘The Loft’.

Virgin Atlantic The Loft A350

Virgin Atlantic has always been known for its social spaces.  It was, I think, the first airline of the modern era to have a bar on its aircraft.  Over the years the Middle Eastern airlines, primarily Emirates but also Etihad and Qatar on their A380 fleets, have taken this idea and run with it.  On the most recent Virgin Atlantic arrival – the Boeing 787 fleet – the bar almost appears as an afterthought and doesn’t add as much as before.

The Loft is an impressive attempt to introduce something which is closer to a casual WeWork hot desking area and living space than a bar.  Virgin found that many people using the bar were using it to work or discuss business issues with colleagues.  The only time I ever use the bar on Emirates is when one of my kids gets restless and I want somewhere for us to sit side by side.

The Loft is a lovely looking area that accommodates eight people.  It will be the first thing that every passenger will see on boarding the aircraft, and the last thing they see when they leave, and Virgin is hoping that it will encourage other passengers to trade up over time.

There are five seats with seat belts in case of turbulence.  These are made up of a sofa, facing the 32 inch wall-mounted TV, a table where two people can sit face to face and a solo seat.  There is also an area where two people can stand, with a high surface for a laptop.  The lighting system – which you can just see in the photo above – is gold plated for effect.

The Loft has bluetooth capabilities for up to eight devices.  You can bring your own bluetooth headphones or borrow a pair from the crew.

I haven’t seen The Loft in the air yet, only in a crew-training version at the Crawley head office.  However, I asked Rhys to pen a few lines:

“Whilst this was met with scepticism at first, I found The Loft to be excellent and a feature that actually improved this space. Having tested it out on a flight to New York I was surprised how much more social it is. Whereas at the bar you are sat in a row facing the bartender, the social space allows for a range of seating that is far more natural and conducive to conversation.

If you are travelling as a pair or group it can be hard to chat when seated in Upper Class due to the size of the seats. The Loft, however, means that you always have somewhere to retreat to should you want to spend more time together rather than plugged into your own respective IFE. The Loft may not sound as sexy as the previous Virgin bar but it is very, very useful!”

The Loft is, genuinely, different and it is very rare that you can say that about anything on a commercial aircraft.  Virgin Atlantic has put a lot of money into this concept, and even they don’t yet know how regular Upper Class passengers will end up using it in practice.   This is innovation in its purest form.

Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes

‘The Loft’ and ‘Reward Flight Finder’ show the two extremes of innovation in the business travel and travel loyalty space.

One of these products is a multi-million pound investment which is hoped will be a vital part in justifying the $300m cost of an A350 …..

…. whilst the other was, literally, developed by a guy in his bedroom in his spare time, for virtually no cost.

Both have made a big impact with the Head for Points team and with our readers.  I look forward to giving Tim Rogers from Reward Flight Finder and Daniel Kerzner, VP Customer Experience at Virgin Atlantic, their awards at our winner’s dinner on 13th January.

This was the final award category to be announced.  We’d like to thank all 4,500 of you who voted.  We enjoyed the process, and I know that the recipients of the awards take them seriously because they know the quality and size of our audience.

Comments (97)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Spurs Debs says:

    I also love RFF I used it to upgrade my club tickets to Tokyo to first class. Best £3 a month I’ve spent. You have to be patient my flights out came available quite quickly I had to wait a while for return.

    • Anna says:

      I also look at it just for fun and to refute people who come on here and moan that there’s no CW availability any time, anywhere 😂

      • Spurs Debs says:

        I love those people Anna, leaves more availability for you and me!

  • Lev441 says:

    Rob – any idea any idea why rewardflightfinder can’t access the virgin availability for points seats but seatspy.com can? I’m a big fan of tims work and I ph the £3 a month which has saved me numerous times but it seems like seatspy has a number of advantages such as the virgin availability and also the fact that you can see all classes on one screen

  • BlueThroughCrimp says:

    Well done RFF.
    I was patiently waiting for a third CW seat to appear, and after a few months one did. Well worth the £3 a month.

  • TripRep says:

    As we are talking Virgin winning awards….

    Useful data point for other HFPers making VS redemptions as soon as seats get released.

    Here’s my worst CS experience of the year (so far lol)

    Wasted over 2 hours of my life I won’t get back.

    All for what should be a relatively simple query.

    ie booking the outbound of a redemption return when the return date has yet to be released as> 331 days.

    Seriously the staff in Swansea deserve investment in customer service training. Misinformation, incorrect assumptions and my favourite gripe misleading definition of “taxes” (deliberate?)

    Told I would have to be billed and ticketed as separate PNRs meaning what should be a £640 UC rtn would therefore be £260 more expensive as treated as 2x o/w’s.

    Thankfully my persistence and BS detector paid off. Finally, after being told “we have 95 other people on hold so we need to resolve your query soon” (like I give a F, irrelevant information for my particular issue)

    I eventually got a supervisor on the line to confidently process the booking with a guarantee it will be treated as a rtn (subject to availability, not going to be a problem)

    I’ll stop ranting now as I’m giving Jules a run for his money. Fingers crossed for much better CS experience when I phone back for the rtn leg in a week or so.

    • Harry T says:

      That’s awful. Must be said, BA seem to be much better when it comes to handling redemptions.

      • TripRep says:

        Agreed, and it’s v rare I rate BA > VS

        It’s totally standard to do it with BA, all the staff know how to handle such a straight forward situation.

        • Tom1 says:

          To the contrary, I’ve always found virgin staff more helpful/knowledgable than BA and more friendly too. That includes using the credit card vouchers and combining points from more than one account.

          • TripRep says:

            To be fair I think that’s why I was so surprised/ disappointed. It felt like they have a bunch of inexperienced staff that have recently joined. Again not their fault, they just need investing in.

    • GRIMZ says:

      I thought you couldn’t book a return on Virgin unless both legs were available?

      • TripRep says:

        Not true, find an experienced agent/supervisor

        They will allow either

        1). Book and pay for a rtn up front with a dummy rtn leg (out of date range), you still need to phone to confirm when availability opens up and they offer a no charge fee promise if your rtn date is not available.

        2) pay for outbound as a o/w and then when you book the rtn leg they will recalculate the rtn leg to cope with the difference so that the out/rtn are treated and priced as a full rtn booking on a single ticket/PNR

        I elected for option 2, noting time/date and name of supervisor should I need to refer back to the call/booking.

  • BlueThroughCrimp says:

    Check out the average carbon emissions per child per year, and then worry about flying.

    • Anna says:

      Indeed, air travel pales into insignificance compared with the footprint left by each new human being on the planet.

      While I don’t doubt that the Earth is getting warmer than it has been in recent history, it’s hard to accept that it’s totally driven by human activity when we know, for example, that Britain was so warm during the Roman period, the Roman colonisers were able to cultivate vines and make wine. And they didn’t fly here!

      • Henry says:

        Exactly… More people live in the circle around China and India than the whole of the globe put together those nations alone are estimated to grow 30% in the next 20 years.
        But it’s those pesky business class seats that us in the west take that are the issue. 🙄

      • Lady London says:

        Like you, Anna, I think it’s very long weather cycles that some of our actions are not necessarily influencing. And some of it has a scam-like air too. There is even the modern-day “purchasing of indulgences” just like the Catholic Church encouraged from rich sinners, that can be done by those who wish to donate.

        As well as wanting world peace, I also hope we can keep talking with China and India as their economies and populations and wealth massively expand, to do our best so that we can all work together on many issues including the environmental ones where massive pressure must also be arising there.

        • G-bit says:

          It is categorically not long term weather patterns. All the evidence and all the scientific research tells us that current global heating is primarily caused by humanity.

          You mention population growth. This is an issue but not in any way the main problem. One vegan Indian who does not fly is responsible for a sustainable amount of emissions. One American or Australian flying and eating red meat is responsible for more then 20 times the emissions of the vegan Indian and is defiantly not sustainable.

        • Cat says:

          Lady London – this is worth a read, and pulls together year of research and a number of studies:
          https://www.bas.ac.uk/data/our-data/publication/ice-cores-and-climate-change/

          • BJ says:

            @Cat, @Tom1 and others, it is heartening to read sensible debate that has clearly been informed by a passion for life-long learning 🙂 Were others to share that passion and shape their views based science and engineering as opposed to soft science, political persuasion and personal convenience we might get some way towards meaningful mitigation that much quicker. @Lady London, the points you made had legitimacy (and still do amongst a small number of scientists) but they are by and large yesterdays arguments as @G-bit indicates..I think part of the reason that you and many others remain understandably sceptical is vecause most if what you hear from the media is about CO2 and methane. As greenhouse gasses these are the most difficult to understand and distinguish and attribute significance to when comparing the contribution of natural as opposed to man made contributions to warming. This is all a bit unfortunate because much of the warming effect is caused by other factors for which the evidence demonstrating the the significance of hunan activities is unquestionably much clearer. For example, if you search out a table of gases with the greatest gwp and most significant contributions to warming overall, then you will find that the majority of them are man made substances that have never occurred naturally. Other signuficant contributions is the deposition of particulate pollution in the colder latitudes causing changes in albedo and hence warming. While some of this can be attributed to natural sources such as ash from volcanic events and forest/grass fires, it us indisputable most comes from human activity. So while you are correct in your assertion that climate cycles and warning effects are occurring naturally, the evidence is now clear that both the speed and extent of this warming is being exacerbated by human activity. Whether theese effects are considered significant or not obviously varies according to different stakeholders.

          • Crafty says:

            BJ, what an excellent summary.

      • Charlieface says:

        I’m generally far more worried about local air and water pollution than about global CO2, tbh

  • Unsavage gerbil says:

    Reward Flight finder worth the three quid, Congratulations Well deserved.

    The Loft is rubbish, IMHO a marketing gimmick, been on three A350 flights to JFK never seen anyone in there, bring back the bar!

    The Gerbil

    • TripRep says:

      Gerbil, surely they could bring out a wee cocktail trolley for the best of both worlds.

      And for the record I always use the bar in UC, I’ve even played bar tender (with crew approval / overseeing). It’s great fun on the appropriate flight and being respectful of all UC pax.

  • Henry says:

    Air travel isn’t one of the biggest contributing factors though?
    Its miniscule in comparison to the major contributors.
    A new coal powered power station is due to open every single week in Asia in 2020
    What’s ironic is these power plants in Asia get the coal from Australia 🤔

  • Unsavage gerbil says:

    Agree, a trolley is an excellent idea, with a bowl of assorted nuts of course.
    The Gerbil

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