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News: Virgin Atlantic boosts Israel services, IHG Spire extensions, a Concorde nose moves to T5

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News in brief:

Virgin Atlantic boosts its Tel Aviv services sharply

Virgin Atlantic has seen the Green List-ing of Israel as an opportunity to finally get some passengers back on its aircraft, even though it is currently only accepting tourists on organised tours.

The current ‘four flights per week’ service to Tel Aviv will increase to daily from late May.

From 1st August, based on what is currently bookable, it will increase to double daily.

Flights are currently scheduled with Boeing 787-9 aircraft, which means that you won’t be getting the new Upper Class suite which is installed on the A350 fleet.

Tel Aviv beach

IHG Rewards extends Spire Elite status for some to 12/22

If you have IHG Rewards Spire Elite status, you may want to take a look at your account.

Some people are reporting that their status has been pushed out to December 2022. More importantly, another 25,000 bonus points were waiting to be claimed.

You can check your expiry date by clicking on ‘View Member Materials’ at the top of your account home page.

It isn’t clear why this happened. It seems to be a gift to people who managed to requalify for Spire Elite in 2020 but found that IHG Rewards had extended their status anyway due to covid.

IHG may have decided that these people had been treated a little unfairly compared to other Spire Elite members like me who were rolled over anyway. If you fall into this category, check your account.

Concorde nose cone

A Concorde nose moves to the Concorde Room

As you can see from the photograph above, a Concorde nose cone has appeared on the terrace of the Concorde Room.

The Concorde Room is the Heathrow Terminal 5 lounge used by ticketed First Class passengers. Confusingly, the Galleries First lounge is – effectively – the Gold Card lounge, and not for First Class passengers at all.

The nose cone previously sat at the Waterside head office. It isn’t clear if this is the start of a running down of Waterside in advance of permanent closure or sale.

The Concorde Room remains closed at present, so it won’t be seen by anyone for a few weeks at least.

Getting airport lounge access for free from a credit card

How to get FREE airport lounge access via UK credit cards (June 2021)

As a reminder, here are the three options to get FREE airport lounge access via a credit or charge card:

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

30,000 points and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express comes with two free Priority Pass cards, one for you and one for a supplementary cardholder. Each card admits two so a family of four gets in free. You get access to all 1,300 lounges in the Priority Pass network – search it here

You also get access to Plaza Premium, Delta and Eurostar lounges. The card has a sign-up bonus of 30,000 points.  Our American Express Platinum review is here. You can apply here.

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for the first year. It comes with a Priority Pass card loaded with two free visits to any Priority Pass lounge – see the list here

Additional lounge visits are charged at £20.  You get two more free visits for every year you keep the card.  

There is no annual fee for Amex Gold in Year 1 and a 20,000 points sign-up bonus.  Full details are in our American Express Preferred Rewards Gold review here.

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard

A huge bonus, but only available to HSBC Premier clients Read our full review

HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard gets you get a free LoungeKey card, allowing you access to the LoungeKey network.  Guests are charged at £20 although it may be cheaper to pay £60 for a supplementary credit card for your partner.

The card has a fee of £195 and there are strict financial requirements to become a HSBC Premier customer.  Full details are in my HSBC Premier World Elite Mastercard review.

PS. You can find all of HfP’s UK airport lounge reviews – and we’ve been to most of them – indexed here.

Comments (84)

  • SammyJ says:

    I’ve got 4 Avios seats in First in July to Miami which I can’t see happening again in a hurry! If we get to fly, which lounges are at our disposal and what lounge should I be aiming for, if all are open? The kids are 16/13, so not looking for play areas, just the best experience – only every used basic paid airport lounges in the past. Can we visit one for an hour and then pop out to another?

    • Andrew says:

      If you’re at T5 in First then the Concorde Room is your lounge (which should be open by July if USA opens up). The First Lounge you can go to as well (you walk through it from the First Wing to get to Concorde) but not really any point sitting in there as it’s just a downgraded version of Concorde. T5 doesn’t have the circuit of lounges that T3 used to have so just head to Concorde and settle in.

  • gareth says:

    Nothing for me on IHG- I wonder if it’s because I requalified last month for this coming year. I might pop them an email across and request it

    • Magarathea says:

      Let us know how you get on. Nothing for me or my wife either. We also requalified earlier this year and still only showing Spire status until Jan 22.

      • Jamie says:

        Have either of you read the article?
        The suggestion is uts a gift for people who qualified through stays LAST year, not this year, and so saw no benefit from the automatic extension that was offered.
        But by all means contact them and whine away.

        • Magarathea says:

          “If you cant say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Hope you get out of the right side of the bed tomorrow.

        • Rob says:

          Look on the bright side. If IHG rolls over status again this year into 2022, you should get a 2nd bonus this time next year.

        • Reney says:

          I qualified through spend, no stays at all last year and got the 25k extra. So not only stay. My reading of the article just indicate people who actually qualified not specifying how.

          Will requalify through spend this year in 2 weeks.

          • Sandra says:

            Maybe the points bonus also depends how long you have held status too – mine is just about 20 years Spire with Ambassador most years up to when it expired last June. I didn’t requalify last year with either stays or card spend and I’m not renewing Ambassador until I can get some decent overseas use out of it, but I still got the extra points bonus.

          • kitten says:

            Sandra so far as I know Spire status was only created very few years ago by IHG. You mention you’ve been Spire for 20 years?

          • Sandra says:

            Kitten, you’ve a better memory than me I can’t really remember when Spire/Spire Elite started but whatever highest level with IHG was before then – Platinum? Just wondered if length of membership counted too as I got points bonus last year and earlier this year but definitely didn’t requalify via stays or card spend last year as concentrating on Amex spend. This year will be different as already got several stays booked from June onwards that will hopefully now be ok.

  • Craig says:

    How on earth do I view my expiry date, my ambassador runs out on the 31/07 and I can see that? The virtual Spire card on the site has no expiry date and when I tilt to landscape on the phone the app only shows the ambassador card.

    • Craig says:

      Found it under Earning Summary in the app, expiry 12/22. Wonder what will happen in a few weeks when I hit 55 nights having already had 25k points?

      • Joints&Piles says:


        My card was showing Jan 22 expiry but that was for Ambassador.

        In the app, click on “2021 Track to Elite Status” and the earning summary shows the Spire end date as end Dec.

        Also got the 25k points again. Just a shame the value of an IHG point fluctuates even more wildly than Bitcoin

      • Anna says:

        Craig – with me the system didn’t award me the 25k for requalifying. IHG tried to argue that as I’d had 25k as a goodwill gesture earlier I couldn’t have it again. I argued back that it couldn’t be a goodwill gesture if they were then going to claw them back by not giving me the points for requalifying and they eventually gave in!

        • David says:

          Imagine they do that quite a lot with keyboard warriors

          • Anna says:

            You’re clearly on the wrong site – this is for people who like to maximise miles and points …

  • Kevin says:

    Received the 25k bonus points but can’t see the spire status extension till Dec 2022, even clicked view member materials.

  • Andrew says:

    Does renewing AMB still renew Spire status – I know it’s only supposed to give you Platinum but I think I read that if you have Spire already, they just extend that by a year instead?

    • John says:

      This only happened because of a programming error so it’s not guaranteed to work for everyone

  • Alan says:

    Well I’ve checked and found I’ve got an ‘Elite choice member benefit’ with 0 points showing for 30/4/21. I’d already re qualified for Spire and received my 25k each year so nothing extra here.

  • Johnny5a says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the Spire Extension. I found the Choice benefit in my account on 21 April I looked through all my emails related to IHG but can’t find any notification

  • Doug M says:

    Maybe the terrace was the only easily separated part of F lounge. But it’s always so hot there because of inadequate air con in T5.

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