Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Are you a mug to pay £3,700 for ‘Red List’ hotel quarantine if you have miles and points?

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If you are returning to the UK from one of the 10 Southern African countries on the UK Government ‘Red List’, you are facing 10 days of hotel quarantine before you are allowed to return home.

The cost of this is now £2,285 for one person and an additional £1,430 for a second guest.

This assumes you can even get a quarantine spot, since many people are being told that there are no rooms currently available and that they must remain outside the UK for longer.

Frankly, if you pay this, and you have Avios, you’re possibly a mug.

Cancun via Unsplash

Reader Colin dropped me a note to explain what happened when he found himself stuck in South Africa. Frustratingly, he and his wife had only gone there for a 4-night short break. Spending 10 days in quarantine on his return was obviously not part of his plan.

Colin’s original strategy to avoid quarantine was to travel from Cape Town to another African country for 10 days. This would allow him to fly back to the UK with no quarantine required. Unfortunately, there were no suitable options. Those which did exist were thwarted by visa issues, innoculation requirements, bans on incoming South African travellers, an inability to get a flight back to Europe or, ahem, civil war.

Then he discovered some good news.

The ‘Red List’ quarantine requirements do not apply to anyone who is in transit in the UK.

Colin realised that he and his wife had a choice:

  • pay £3,700 for 10 days of hotel quarantine at Heathrow (which wasn’t even possible due to lack of capacity unless they remained in Cape Town for a few more days), or
  • book a luxury 10 day holiday somewhere, with a flight departing within 24 hours of when they arrived in London from South Africa

Unsurprisingly, he went with Plan B.

Cancun via Unsplash

Colin booked two flights on British Airways to Cancun, departing from Gatwick yesterday, using Avios.

The transit rules allowed him to land at Terminal 5, spend the night in transit at a Heathrow hotel (he booked into the Hilton Garden Inn at Hatton Cross) and then make his way to Gatwick the following morning.

Instead of spending £3,700 to stay at a mid-range Heathrow hotel, they are spending their time at a 5-star all-inclusive Hilton beach resort.

This would have cost $600 per night for cash – roughly the same price for a couple as UK hotel quarantine – but Colin booked five nights via Hilton Honors for 80,000 points per night, with the ‘five for four’ discount on top. They will follow this by paying cash for additional nights in a mid-range downtown hotel to see a bit more of Cancun before heading home.

His total cost, including the flights, is £600 plus 120,000 Avios plus 320,000 Hilton Honors points.

This compares to £3,700 for the UK hotel quarantine package for two people.

He will arrive back in the UK on the same day that he would otherwise have left his hotel quarantine at Heathrow. The only risk is if Mexico is placed on the UK ‘Red List’ whilst they are away.

Colin and his wife will still be away for a lot longer than their originally planned four day break. They are, however, enjoying themselves in Cancun rather than spending 10 days in a 25 sq m hotel room at Heathrow.

The moral of the story is that if you have any friends or family who are currently in Southern Africa and are planning to pay for UK hotel quarantine, try to talk them out of it. For potentially less money, they can enjoy a foreign holiday somewhere for 10 days instead.

Comments (266)

  • Tracey says:

    I’m quite amazed that you can arrive from a red list into Heathrow be allowed to stay at a local hotel overnight then take an Uber to Gatwick for your onward journey, the risk that less honourable people would just disappear once out of the airport is too great.

    • andyT says:

      @Tracey – yes, I’m quite surprised at this arrive Heathrow from a red list country and depart Gatwick on separate tickets. Makes me wonder if what has been reported in the article is actually correct.

  • John says:

    Why do people just always look to flout the rules. The intention of the rules is clear. Utterly selfish behaviour and irresponsible of this site to be giving it credence as click bait

    • Peter says:

      This also follows the rules. Having fake transfer Ryanair flight for £5 and not taking it is wrong, but leaving country and flying out for 10 days is fine, as long as Mexico accepts you, you follow UK rules, Mexico rules..

    • Fraser says:

      Perhaps because the government don’t follow their own rules

    • Anna says:

      It’s not flouting the rules, though, it’s perfectly legal!

    • David says:

      It may not br flouting the rules, but it’s clearly against the spirit of them.

      • Rich says:

        Disagree. The spirit of the rules is to prevent infection spreading in the UK. Disappearing off to Mexico achieves this, as long as Mexico is happy to welcome you.

        I think you do have to search within yourself before doing it though. Ask if it’s really the right thing to do. If the shoe were on the other foot, would we want people coming to the UK to launder their quarantine status?

        • John says:

          I think the rule should be that you have to stay airside. But I think baggage reclaim should be airside so you could use separate tickets

          • _nate says:

            The rules have never been sensible or well thought-out. They have always been full of loopholes. And the government has mixed the issues of law, rules and advice and changed things so many times that it is a wonder anyone knows what to do any more.

            If, as has been pointed out, it is not against the rules, then it is by definition not flouting them. If the intention of the rules is different from the rules themselves then the rules ought to be different – that really is all there is to it.

    • Shaw West says:

      They are legally allowed to do so. So they were not flouting any rules.
      Whether morally right is whole together another matter. On the same note, so are the No vaccinators

  • Alastair says:

    Surely anyone with the means and motivation should have figured this out. It’s a interesting article because it’s nice to see how practical it really is. It’s a form of arbitrage like any other.

    We almost did similar when the EUDCC wasn’t recognised yet.

    Most importantly we need a catchy name for this practice, ‘cleansing retreat’? ‘White wine and vinegar?’ (Playing on the removing your red ‘stain’)

  • Diana says:

    I’m not impressed at all by this guy or anyone else outsmarting the UK system. The red list and subsequent quarantining have been introduced for a reason. He’s knowingly potentially infecting a plane load of people going to Mexico, and all those with whom he comes into contact over there, in his selfish wish to avoid a hotel in London. I’m also not impressed by you reporting this devious ploy in the first place, Rob. I’ve followed your blog daily for ten years and it’s the first time I’ve actually considered one of your articles to be irresponsible.

    • Polly says:


      If you have been following this blog for years, you will have noted this cleansing form of travel is not new. It’s happening all year with red category rules. Colin obviously has a negative fit to fly certificate. He would not have been allowed to fly otherwise. He was re routed via Europe. Yes, a small risk others on the plane may even infect him and his partner. And hope he does LFTs when he’s there.
      Colin would have written about it anyway on their return. This way, others are warned ahead of time.

      Updates on the variant indicate, whilst more transmissible, it will be mainly the vulnerable and non vaccers who may succumb. More spike mutations than Delta. So harder to contain. But, it’s out there, sadly. Colleagues of the doc who announced it are furious, as she jumped the gun. They were actually preparing an advisory statement. Plus, the WHO has been urging caution re shutting countries down.

    • David says:

      Quite right Diana. This article sums up what can be very wrong about this site, both from commentators and ‘journalists’.

      • Aliks says:

        I get very tired of people who say “the rules are there for a reason . .”

        Have they really not been watching the government policy shifts and twists over the last 2 years?

        Rules designed by committee in haste? Rules overruled by politicians? Do people really think there is a grand COVID strategy and everything is for the best even if we peasants can’t really see it clearly?

        • Alex Sm says:

          And also, where to look for a reason that your own govt rips you off by charging you triple the price of a hotel rooom?

    • Shaw West says:

      Do you have the same opinion about the people who refuse to vaccinate themselves and end up being super carriers and clog up a struggling NHS?

      • kitten says:

        I’m fine with people that don’t vaccinate. Just so long as they’re not running around and don’t expect a hospital bed when they catch it

        • Polly says:

          Did you read last Sunday Times articles from the icu docs, beginning to lose patience with the in vaccinated ones. Seriously impacts the other ill people needing icu beds post op.

          • Lady London says:

            Exactly Polly.

            As other poaters have said, the UK’s excess deaths are swinging to more from all the people needing nursing for other conditions that Covid unvaccinated bedblockers are denying treatment to.

            I am actually pretty much anti-vacc, my lifestyle means my personal risk is low. But I had the vaccinations for collective social responsibility because it costs me less to have a vacc than be one more person that could keep this disease going or mutating. I am not blind to problems with vaccs. But that’s the tradeoff.

  • Alex Sm says:

    The word “mug” has quite a few meanings…

    noun: mug; plural noun: mugs

    a large cup, typically cylindrical with a handle and used without a saucer.

    a person’s face.

    a stupid or gullible person.

    a violent criminal or troublemaker.

  • Dominic says:

    People criticising Colin/Rob for this are bonkers.

    UK hotel quarantine is ridiculously expensive. Would people also brand Colin irresponsible if he *lived* in Mexico? He still wouldn’t be quarantining in a hotel if he did; thus he isn’t bringing any more risk to the country than a local that has travelled.

    You’d be mad to stay 10 days in a UK quarantine hotel if you have the option not to.

    • Anna says:

      +1, presumably if Mexico (or anywhere else) has issues with it, they’ll do something about it!

      • Neil says:

        +1 too. I did this last time around and did a ‘cleansing’ run to Mexico after Ethiopia was red-listed. Throughly enjoyed it even though it wasn’t part of the plan. The UK’s quarantine policy is daft, doesn’t work and wrecks lives/families/businesses. The sooner the bed-wetters and virtue signallers learn to get on with life, the better.

    • David D says:

      100% agree – UK hotel quarantine is extortionate and from speaking to people who have gone through it, it’s akin to being in prison. Hoping this madness ends soon. But in the interim, the route that Colin took was the most sensible.

      • Lady London says:

        Yes. Government purchasing power should have meant prices of £25-£70 a night depending on quality of hotel. Instead people in difficult family situations, perhaps coming to see a dying relative or family emergency, are being ripped off quite deliberately by the UK government. Of, they can’t come at all because of the extortionate charge.

  • Lbc says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how this UK government loves ripping off its own citizens.

    And yet people keep voting them in.

    • 1ATL says:

      I can but only shudder at what the alternative would have looked like. Please let’s not make HfP a political divider…. we’re all friends here

    • JDB says:

      The opposition (notably Keir and Yvette) is currently pressing hard to increase the travel restrictions and tests, as they have done throughout. They say it is irresponsible to have removed pre-departure tests and want home or hotel (for red list) quarantine and day 5 and 8 tests.

    • Shaw West says:

      DO you think Labour will do any different

  • 1ATL says:

    Reader Colin sounds like a hypothetical character invented to get a point across.
    If I were writing for reader Colin I’d have just booked him on locally paid rate in Cancun with a flexible cancellation policy and gone AWOL between LHR and LGW. As the UK PLF isn’t tracked on departing passengers nor takes into consideration the fact people might have more than one passport number, reader Colin could have just gone home and nobody would have been any the wiser….. but I appreciate that wouldn’t have got the points angle in that HfP.

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