Earlier this month, we told you how IAG Loyalty, the people who run Avios, were looking to start a new retail business to take over the Avios wine delivery service from Laithwaites.
It is now official, with The Wine Flyer launching next Tuesday.
This is good timing, because you will no longer be able to collect Avios with Laithwaites from 30th September.
Intriguingly, this appears to be a totally in-house operation and not a white-label deal with one of the many existing wine subscription services.
Inspector Clouseau strikes again
British Airways and Avios appear to have retained ownership of ‘The Wine Flyer’ brand, which helps smooth the transition.
The Wine Flyer website is already live under www.thewineflyer.co.uk, albeit with all information password protected. However, this was easy to hack so we can share details of the pricing and delivery details.
What brands does The Wine Flyer feature?
Here is how British Airways is describing the products available:
“Every wine chosen for the range has been produced by a country on British Airways’ global network, with a focus on both accessibility and quality. Prices start from less than £10 per bottle and the range includes premium brands such as Whispering Angel, Penfolds and Moët & Chandon. Beers, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages will also be available.
A proportion of the wines have been selected due to their legacy or future pour on British Airways’ flights, such as the Teusner’s ‘The Riebke’ Shiraz which has been served in the premium cabins.”
By and large it seems that you will have access to a fairly standard range of branded wines and spirits. This may diversify down the line as IAG gets more established in the wine-selling business and customers start to trust its recommendations.
Here is a selection of the champagne on offer:
- Castlenau Brut NV, £34.99
- Castelnau Brut Rose NV, £37.99
- Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut NV, £39.99
- Moët & Chandon Imperial Rose NV, £49.99
- Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage Blanc 2013, £59.49
- Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Exclusive NV, £36.99
- Nicholas Feuillatte Brut Exclusive Rose NV, £39.99
- Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label NV, £47.99
English sparkling wine is also available, with Chapel Down Brut NV available at £26.99.
There are also a selection of spirits, for example:
- Sipsmith Dry Gin, £28.50
- Grey Goose, £40
You can also buy the exclusive BA Brewdog beer, Jet Stream Pale Ale, for £45.60 for 24 330ml cans.
The good news is that pricing seems broadly in line with what you’d expect to pay on the high street. A bottle of Veuve Clicquot, for example, is £45 at Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s etc. A bottle of Chapel Down Brut NV is between £25 and £28 at the major supermarkets, whilst Grey Goose is between £35 and £39. You are on the hook for a delivery charge with BA, unless you spend a decent amount.
Earn up to 15 Avios per £1 with The Wine Flyer
The big draw from The Wine Flyer over its supermarket competitors comes from the ability to earn and burn Avios points (although that’s also true at Sainsbury’s thanks to the Nectar partnership).
Jack Smith, the newly installed CEO of IAG Loyalty Retail, said:
“By launching The Wine Flyer, we have introduced one of the most generous Avios earning platforms available.”
British Airways revealed the Avios earning rates for The Wine Flyer in its press release. It is offering tiered earning rates, depending on what you purchase. You will earn:
- 5 Avios per £1 spent for one-off purchases
- 10 Avios per £1 spent on subscriptions
A special introductory offer will be available until 31st December 2022, significantly boosting the Avios earning rates. In total, you’ll earn:
- 10 Avios per £1 on one-off purchases
- 15 Avios per £1 on subscriptions
Will The Wine Flyer offer good value Avios redemptions?
Exact Avios pricing for individual bottles was not online when I was sleuthing, but British Airways did give us an insight to what we can expect by noting that:
“Wine can be purchased from as little as 8,000 Avios per case of six, and there will be options to purchase with a combination of cash and Avios.”
Here is the cash pricing for cases of six:
- Wine Flyer Rose Selection Six £59.99
- Wine Flyer Red Selection Six £64.99
- Wine Flyer White Selection Six £64.99
…. which works out at between £10 and £11 per bottle.
Assuming the Rose case is the one available for 8,000 Avios, it means you are getting 0.75p per Avios.
That is substantially better value than you got from redeeming Avios at Laithwaites (0.5p per point) but lower than you would get using your Avios at Sainsbury’s at 0.8p per Avios.
We don’t have full details yet of how redemption pricing will work, so we will reserve final judgement for now. We also know that a trip to Sainsbury’s isn’t convenient for many readers.
The website currently says that redemptions are “coming soon” so it may not be possible to redeem from next Tuesday.
What about postage?
Your wine will arrive promptly, with The Wine Flyer committing to delivery on the next working day in the majority of cases.
Delivery costs are tiered, depending on how much you spend:
- Free shipping for any orders above £125
- £7.99 for everything else
What is IAG’s endgame?
I’m still unsure about the endgame for IAG and British Airways. Does it really make sense to launch your own retail company, outside of your key expertise, for what is likely to be a fairly low-margin business? Direct Wines Holdings, the parent of Laithwaite’s, only made £2m operating profit in its last ‘normal’ year pre-covid (to June 2019) on sales of £314m.
That said, pretty much anything, including running an airline, is low margin compared to selling frequent flyer miles ….
We can think of a few reasons why it could potentially be worth pursuing, although none of them seem to be slam-dunks:
- Selling to the general public gives IAG more purchasing power to negotiate bigger bulk discounts for wines used on board and in lounges, although it is hard to see The Wine Flyer moving the neeedle much
- The ability to sell end-of-line stock from flights and lounges
- IAG Loyalty believes that its ability to bulk buy alongside the airlines in the group gives it economies of scale that will allow it to compete with Laithwaites et al
- IAG Loyalty wants a comprehensive retail offering like Lufthansa’s WorldShop and The Wine Flyer is simply the first step
Lufthansa has even opened shops in some German airports where you can buy products from the WorldShop catalogue for Miles & More miles. Coming soon to Terminal 5?
British Airways and IAG have made an interesting choice in launching their own wine delivery service.
Whilst cash prices are on par with those on the high street, it is still unclear with redemptions if you would be better off versus converting your Avios to Nectar points and heading to Sainsbury’s. On the upside, it looks like a better deal for Executive Club members than the Laithwaites redemption options.
Earning rates are fairly good, especially with the launch promotion, although it remains to be seen if the subscription sign-up offers are as generous as those from Laithwaites.
We’ll take a look next week when The Wine Flyer is officially launched.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (December 2022)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.