Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The HfP chat thread – Sunday 18th April

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We are running this daily chat thread on Head for Points during the coronavirus outbreak.

Historically, the daily ‘Bits’ articles were the de facto repository for random comments and questions.  With the news flow being lighter, we are running fewer ‘Bits’ articles.

The comments under this article are where you should post questions about travel and, indeed, anything else on your mind.  At this tricky time, and given that many of you are at home, we want the HfP community to have a place to chat.

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Comments (318)

  • John Caribbean says:

    IHG hotels aren’t available for points bookings due to maintenance

    • Andrew says:

      Let’s hope they are reversing the devaluation!

      • BP says:

        If anything I’ve seen hotels jump back up AGAIN. They done a partial reversal then further devalued some properties.

    • r* says:

      Is that a description of current functionality due to a current maintenance window or a prediction of what will happen once ihg IT have been involved and the maintenance window has ended 😀

    • ChrisC says:

      Back available.

      But I regularly see messages like that when doing searches. Just click the search button again and it usually works.

  • Reeferman says:

    Am looking at fares to AKL next Feb/Mar (who knows!) and see that Qatar no-longer flies direct from Doha. Did I miss this news?

    • Lady London says:

      Will be only temp then they will re-establish

      • Reeferman says:

        I’m sure you’re right. It just seemed odd that Qatar is still selling AKL via other stop off points – just not direct.

  • Saiz says:

    I know I will seek formal advice and have also been looking at .gov website too but I wanted to check personal experiences of anyone who has traveled to the USA recently from the UK. I would like to visit my parents in Atlanta (east coast) as they are quite poorly. I know there is a form I can fill in here in the UK and I will get their reports/doctor’s letter to travel with too. Has anyone done that and if yes, what is the process in the USA? That is what I am not too clear about. I don’t see quarantine hotels etc. Will I be able to quarantine at home? I know the situation is ever changing and US is likely to get on green list in May but it would help if someone shares their experience of how it worked. Both my parents have had their two vaccine doses.

    • MattB says:

      Are you a US citizen or do you have a visa of some kind? I

    • Yorkie Aid says:

      Assuming you are travelling on an ESTA or B1/B2 visa, the problem will be having been in the UK or EU for 14 days prior to entering USA. The only option when I investigated this last year was to fly and stay somewhere for at least 15 days that the USA is then allowing entry from. I have friends who did this, flying to Aruba and staying there for 3 weeks. They then flew straight into Miami without any issues. Coming back to UK is not a problem subject to testing, etc. The biggest risk is that if you go down this route that the rules might change while you’re waiting it out in the third country. Plus of course it adds an absolute minimum of two weeks on top of the planned stay in USA and a lot of costs.

      • Jonny O says:

        I would add that you need to count your 15 days prior to arriving in the US carefully. You need to have been out of the UK/EU at least a full 15 days prior to entering the US. the day you leave the UK is day 0. The day you travel to the US is day 16 +. I know people who have been denied boarding for travel to the US on day 15

      • Saiz says:

        Thank you. I thought if you filled in an exemption form you’d be allowed to go to countries on the yellow list. I know USA is not allowing visitors but does that exclude people who are visiting ill relatives too? That’s the part I am not sure about. I see flights going to Atlanta and they can’t all be US citizens. The idea of going to some other country for 15 days is just not possible. Am a teacher so even a short visit would mean unpaid leave and not many days approved.

        • Blair says:

          There’s definitely exemptions for such cases, they’re just not being publicised. The experience in our extended family was to work via the embassy.

    • Princess says:

      not sure if its the same, but I had a colleague that in February went in the USA on a compassionate visa (I also asked suggestion in here). Her ex husband was very hill in hospital with covid. She got a letter stating the situation. She had to quarantine at home when arrived there

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    Off the wall a bit but any experience staying at the hotel football In Manchester?(it’s a tribute so in Marriott network)

    Need to be in the area for a few days and it’s that or the AC by the look of it, and AC looks to be pretty minimalist for a week, but the HF looks rather more theme-hotel so anyone know if underneath the football guff there’s a decent hotel?

    • Blair says:

      Does it have to be Marriott? Neither are great IMO. Right now traffic is so light you can get from the west side of the city to the Quays for small change in an Uber. Marriott V&A in the city centre is open.

      • Chrisasaurus says:

        V&A an option – might be decent but IIRC has crazy parking rates?

        Will consider that – no doesn’t have to be Marriott and the garden inn at the cricket ground is ok, been there before, but looking to maximise the double elite night promo…

    • Ming the Merciless says:

      It’s pretty average.

      • Ming the Merciless says:

        Think ideal hotel for a 16 yo to save up for to treat their football loving partner to a night away.

        I staid regularly in lockdown 1 as it was £36 a night. Parking is £6 or you can park for free up non the main road, which is a similar walk to the paid car park.

        Free sweets (wam bar and pooping candy).

        Probably 100’s on a match day but as I hate football I don’t really care.

        • Ming the Merciless says:

          From re reading my reply it looks like I may be that 16yo who failed their GCSE English.

          • Peter K says:

            I especially loved the “pooping candy” 😂

          • ankomonkey says:

            I thought pooping candy wasn’t a typo and wondered what I’d missed out on all my life!

  • JohnT says:

    Just had our June BA flight to Toronto “consolidated” onto later flight. Obviously doing tidying up. Unfortunately to only 4 hours later – as were planning to cancel anyway! BA disruption page says only can canx if 5 hours or more?
    Note Virgin is only 3 hours and processed a full refund in about 10 days recently.

    • JohnT says:

      BA disruption page – shame a lot of agents haven’t always seen it?

    • Matt says:

      If the flight you booked has been cancelled it doesn’t matter what the time difference is, you can still get a refund. A change in flight number is enough.

    • ChrisC says:

      Had the flight number changed?

      If so then it’s a cancellation and you can have a refund.

      If it’s still the same flight number then to get a refund the schedule change policy comes into play as to whether you can have a refund or not.

      If that doesn’t apply then you can have a voucher.

    • Lady London says:

      if flight number is different than you had before then EU261 states specifically it is a cancellation not a reschedule. There is no argument that’s a statute so overrides any t’s and c’s of the airline or other rules or incapacities the airline has.

      You therefore have the right to choose to do the whole travel on the ticket at a later date convenient to you not the airline, at zero extra cost, or to choose to receive a full refund (which you should chase if not received in 14-30 days [you’re entitled to it in 7 but be reasonable in covid times]).

      If you get stuck either come back here or skim this daily thread for about past 10 days. How to handle this is covered here almost constantly so there’d be enough times this has been covered in that period. See previous days by clicking on the blue in last paragraph of the article above

      • Nick says:

        If it’s a cancellation then BA doesn’t even try arguing the case. The agent (or robot, if you use the webform) looks for one of two triggers in the booking and if they see one, it gets paid. As above, only if it’s the same flight does the ‘change’ rule come into effect.

        • JohnT says:

          Excellent – many thanks as always! I did wonder after I posted if there was a difference. We need new open jaw flights 375 days later so a bit more difficult.

      • Jody says:

        I will definitely be looking back at the forum (wish I’d copied and pasted info as I’d gone along, but hey ho).

        I’m in a similar situation, just had notification that my BA flights to Seattle in June are cancelled. This is good, as we had booked them for an Alaskan cruise, and obviously they’re not running this year, so we have re-booked the cruise for next year.

        BA have automatically put us on new flights the same days (both outbound and inbound have been cancelled). These flights were booked back in October with the good old 50% off avios deal plus a 2 for 1, so obviously I would really really like to get them rebooked for my new cruise next year, but that is way over the 1 year ticket validity think so am expecting a no from BA and happy to take all the previous advice given on here and fight for that to happen.

        However, obviously those flights aren’t even out yet (cruise is 6th May next year, will probably fly out around a week before), so won’t be too long before they’re out. Do I do nothing until the flights are out, then contact BA? Or is it worth contacting them now to tell them the replacement flights they’ve given aren’t suitable, and I will be requesting dates next year?

        • Sharon says:

          We were due to fly to New York this Thursday (booked with 2 for 1 in 50 % off sale last October ). Phoned this morning and changed to next April 2-6 th with no issues

          • Jody says:

            That’s great news Sharon, glad you didn’t have a fight over it. Gives me some hope!

        • JohnT says:

          Suggest you wait till flights there, then contact. If you get the runaround register not happy and thinking about it and try again later (and again..). Good luck.

  • n_g says:

    Are there any useful resources for trying to maximise usage of an Amex Platinum for holidaying in the UK with a toddler?

    As restrictions ease I’m looking at organising our first getaway as a family and having just paid my renewal fee I’m eager to leverage the benefits as much as possible.

    I guess I’ve no idea how best to identify family friendly hotels going forward and this wasn’t something that I needed to think about in the past.

    • Kevin C says:

      You should have the luxuryfamilyhotels group on your radar. Don’t think Platinum gets you anything there right now but they are good for young families. One of them has just added a bunch of glamping tents.

      • Rob says:

        It’s a toddler. Toddlers are easily entertained.

        In my experience, you can happily avoid ‘family’ hotels – just find somewhere that has a kids club which takes toddlers and where they don’t insist you are present. It’s all you need. Drop the baby off, go for a swim / spa / walk, and pop back to pick up happy toddler a few hours later.

        You don’t need to worry about bedding (all hotels have cots and they fit in even the smallest rooms) or kids food menus.

        The hotel that took best care of our youngest when a toddler was Sandy Lane in Barbados, which would never promote itself as a kids hotel. They got us a nanny for the time we were there and cooked him freshly made ‘mush’ for every meal.

        Four Seasons Hampshire is very good and very used to toddlers, and has a kids club which takes toddlers.

    • Harry T says:

      Any decent hotel should be family friendly! There are a fair few UK luxury hotels available for booking through FHR.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      There isn’t an easy way to identify family friendly hotels. Most effective is to dig around a hotel’s website. If it has child activities in the amenities or has “family getaway” type offers it tends to be a good start. If you look at an individual hotel’s reviews in Tripadvisor you will see there is a search bar. If you search for keywords such as “family”, “children”, “baby” or whatever to pick out what’s relevant then you will get a good sense of how younger guests are treated at any given property.
      As far as Amex Plat with attached statuses goes; I’d say Hilton Gold with free brekkie has real and excellent value as you now definitely want a hassle-free on-property breakfast (99.99% of the time any kids get it free too even if there are two adults present, even though strictly it should just apply to two of you). Amex MR points transfer at a nice rate to Radisson who – in contrast to most chains – do some good family rooms at reasonable points rates. As you will have to book very specific room types (family/connecting/whatever) to ensure you all fit – and Email the hotel to set up cots or rollaway beds in advance – then there is much less flexibility with room choices and moves so the chance of random upgrades becomes very small compared to travelling as one or two people; so don’t pay any attention to that (although the odd nice surprise can still happen).

      • Freddy says:

        I’d personally struggle to use the plat benefits UK only with the inclusion of a little person in tow. Most of the UK major chains have scant regard for kids and occasionally put on ‘family deals’ which at best includes a kid pack in a room. Best advice is figure out where you want to go and find somewhere that fits your needs. If it allows you to use plat benefits then treat as a bonus

    • n_g says:

      Thanks for all the responses

      Luxury family hotels was on my radar.

      Right now I’ve just been looking at whether a hotels listed amenities includes any reference to children.

      I guess I’m a little surprised I couldn’t find an obvious online resource that assists with this. Not sure if it’s because it’s too niche or the opposite as most hotels are actually toddler friendly by default.

      • Rob says:

        Have a look at Family Traveller website, and indeed magazine.

        However, let me reiterate – you don’t need it with a toddler. All you need is a kids club where you can leave your kids. Any luxury hotel can get you babysitters etc on request.

        Four Seasons Hampshire has a kids pool complex now which it never had when we were little –

        Worth noting, though, that we also used to go to Crowne Plaza Marlow (80% cheaper) when our kids were tiny because there is a limit to how often you can drop Four Seasons money. No kids facilities but a pool with a very shallow area for toddlers and pleasant walks down the riverbank into Marlow itself. No kids club though. We used to pay £99 for a suite at weekends, post the 2007 crash.

        The real question is this – do YOU want to be at a family hotel? A hotel which is literally overrun with kids everywhere, never a moment of peace? Just because you have a toddler doesn’t mean you want to spend literally every second of your waking hours in the hotel surrounded by screaming 4-12 year olds. This is why FS Hampshire works.

        • TicknBash says:

          We’ve never particularly looked for child friendly hotels but rather weed out the irresponsible ones. We get enough cardio with our toddler. Don’t really want to be facing other sugar high extremists on holiday 6am the corridors / breakfast / swimming pool / failed afternoon naps / sit down protests……

          As mentioned above any reputable or luxury hotel would be happy to accommodate a family’s needs. 🤞

        • Kevin C says:

          Luxury Family Hotels has a listening service and do early kids’ teas. It is true you will meet other little ones but some kids like that. My kids really liked Ickworth even though they always refused to do kids clubs.

          Of course you can stay other places just do your research. We stayed in a place in Tobago that didn’t start dinner until seven which was a problem with a toddler and in Nice they snatched my son’s book from him at the dinner table.

          • Crafty says:

            Sounds par for the course for the French…

            Disclaimer – I’m french.

      • The Savage Squirrel says:

        Most broadsheets do a family friendly segment to their hotels list that should provide some inspiration; for example (sorry if links not appropriate – please delete)

    • Babyg says:

      The chatter on the previous page (Grand Suite @ the Sheraton) would be an amazing family option, if youre wanting to stay in London this deal is unbeatable for a family

    • n_g says:

      That’s all really useful info.

      I assume when booking for a couple and a child under two, if a property doesn’t allow you to differentiate between <2 and 8+ one can assume the the cost would be that of a standard room for two with the crib at no extra cost?

    • Princess says:

      I have 5 years old twins and I always tried to stay away from hotel that brand them-self as family/kids friendly. My kids are usually much better behaved when in places not crowded with kids. Of course it depends what you like to do, we like to book nice hotel but most of our trips are spent exploring. It is always good to have a kids club where you can leave them to take a break for a couple of hours, but a part of that any good hotel should have facilities to help a family with basics.

  • s879 says:

    Did anyone who availed the £250 off £500 Etihad Amex offer and took the Etihad credit as refund answer this please? I took the refund as Etihad credit and they topped up with Etihad bonus too. The deadline for using the bonus is end of October (Refund credit is valid for much longer). Does anyone know if I book a flight for December 21 or Feb 22, how they would distinguish between Etihad credit and Etihad bonus as right now it is all classed as Etihad credit on my account. Do I really need to fly by 30th October?

    • Nick says:

      If you took credit from EY then Amex won’t know it’s been ‘refunded’ and can’t try to claim the credit back. EY won’t know or care you got the Amex credit, so no worries there either.

      • s879 says:

        Thank Nick. The credit (instead of a refund) is fine and valid for 2 years I think. Since I didn’t ask for a refund Etihad added $300 on top as a ‘bonus’. That bonus needs to be used before 30th October as per original. Everything on Etihad looks very expensive for October at the moment hence I asked if someone knows for sure that the bonus credit would be treated like the refund credit.

  • Chris says:

    I want to try my luck and see if I can get a retention offer from my Amex. Is it best to call during the week or can I call on a Sunday to get an answer?

    • Lady London says:

      week, core hours are always safest for any query that really matters with anyone. Just a rule of thumb but finance industry is still quite cushy for those working in it plus you have an outsourced call centre and huge numbers of those are generally worth avoiding in many businesses.

    • Harry T says:

      Probably best to call during normal working hours on Monday to Friday.

    • AlanC says:

      Called last week and got 35k MR to retain Plat. Midweek morning.

      • Simon says:

        Called at 12:50pm last Saturday, i.e. 10 minutes before Brighton closes — said “Cancel Card” when asked for the reason for my call. 30 seconds later I was speaking to a human in Brighton. 60 seconds later I was offered 35K. I wasn’t impolite enough to decline such generosity.

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