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Bits: Lufthansa / ITA deal approved, use points at Virgin Hotels London, use Virgin Points at Merlin

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News in brief:

European Commission approves Lufthansa’s investment in ITA

The long-running saga of Lufthansa’s investment in Italy’s ITA, the 96 aircraft airline that arose from the ashes of Alitalia, is over.

Lufthansa Group has been given approval to acquire 41% of the airline, with options to buy the remainder over time, which will create a fifth national hub to operate alongside Lufthansa, Austrian, SWISS and Brussels.

The key concessions made by Lufthansa are:

  • a slot transfer at Milan Linate to a short haul competitor (Lufthansa is in talks with easyJet and budget Spanish carrier Volotea)
  • all ITA flights at Milan Linate to Lufthansa Group hubs to be surrendered to a third party
  • a commitment to offer additional flights from Rome to IAG and Air France KLM hub cities to improve long haul competition to North America

The deal with complete in Quarter 4 of this year. Until then, the airlines will continue to compete.

It isn’t clear what happens to Air Dolomiti, the small Italian carrier which is already owned by Lufthansa.

From a loyalty perspective:

  • it’s not clear if ITA will leave SkyTeam now or in December when the deal closes
  • we are told that Volare members will be able to collect or spend miles via Miles & More, and top tier members will receive Lufthansa Group lounge access, from Day 1 in December
  • Star Alliance membership will take longer due to IT integration

This isn’t necessarily good news for people with Volare elite status via the British Airways status match a couple of years ago, as those cards will expire before the Star Alliance integration occurs. Lufthansa may choose to extend status, of course.

European Commission approves Lufthansa's investment in ITA Airways

Virgin Hotels London to be bookable with Virgin Points

Cash bookings are now open for Virgin Hotels London, which is taking over the old Mondrian / Curtain site in Shoreditch. You can book for stays from 1st August, although it is remaining a Mondrian until 31st July. It will take a few months for Virgin Hotels to add their own touches to the rooms and public areas.

If you book via the Virgin Hotels website for a stay by 31st December you will receive a £75 credit to spent at selected on-site bars and restaurants. Rates start at £300 per night.

You will earn 7 Virgin Points per £1 spent if you book direct and sign up for the ‘The Know’ membership scheme. You need to add your Virgin Red membership number to your ‘The Know’ profile.

Virgin Hotels has confirmed that Virgin Hotels London will be bookable on Virgin Points from October. At present, the only Virgin Hotels site which can be booked with Virgin Points is Dallas, oddly.

We’ll let you know in October when points bookings are available. I believe that there are medium term plans to allow redemption bookings for all Virgin Hotels via Virgin Red. As Virgin Hotels is wholly owned by Virgin Group there should be flexibility to offer decent deals.

Virgin Hotels London

Use Virgin Points for Merlin attraction tickets

Speaking of Virgin Points, Virgin Red has teamed up with Merlin to offer family tickets to some of its key attractions this summer.

This is a limited time offer – you need to redeem your points by 31st July. You have plenty of time to use your voucher however.

This is what you can redeem for via the Virgin Red app:

LEGOLAND Windsor Resort

  • 25,000 Virgin Points for four people
  • Voucher valid until 3rd November 2024 

Thorpe Park

  • 22,500 Virgin Points for four people
  • Voucher valid until 25th October 2024, excluding Fright Nights 

Alton Towers Resort

  • 22,500 Virgin Points for four people
  • Voucher valid until 10th November 2024

Comments (16)

  • lcylocal says:

    Do the additional flights to IAG and AF-KLM hubs from Rome require through ticketing to be made available?

  • Jetset Boyz says:

    “Lufthansa and the MEF can only implement the transaction following the Commission’s approval of suitable remedy takers for each of the short-haul, long-haul and Milan Linate commitments.”

    My understanding there’s still this ‘hurdle’ they need to overcome – and nothing customer-facing will be implemented until they’ve received those approvals.

    “a commitment to offer additional flights from Rome to IAG and Air France KLM hub cities”

    So in the UK that’s London Heathrow… Alitalia gave most of their slots to Etihad so we’ll probably see Lufthansa transferring som theirs – they added to their stash of slots when they sold bmi to British Airways.

    • daveinitalia says:

      I can’t see the point in this. Why would you fly ITA to connect to BA or IB in LHR or MAD? Presumably the BA/IB websites won’t offer this option even if there’s through ticketing and interlining available.

      • JDB says:

        GDS will offer connections with mixed carriers/alliance, so the purpose of this remedy is not only to stop LH starving competing hubs of flights, but actually to enhance connectivity.

    • Nick says:

      It says city not airport, so could be Gatwick/City if they don’t want to give up Heathrow slots.

      I suspect the Lon/Par/Mad remedy was the competition authorities calling LH’s bluff in response to their assertion of an ‘increase in competition’ as a result, but in reality few people will actually go via Italy to the US. Might give cheaper fares to Rome for a while though to fill the space.

  • William Avery says:

    Merlin offer a decent deal?

    • RYAN says:

      Up to you to decide that, can 99% of the time get a 2-4-1 voucher for a pound which makes it c. £70-£80 for 4 people. So less than 0.5p a point

      • ed_fly says:

        I think 2-4-1’s can only be applied against on the day gate prices. so £130-140 for 4 people.

  • Richie says:

    Would BACF be interested in slots at LIN?

  • stevenhp1987 says:

    “This isn’t necessarily good news for people with Volare elite status via the British Airways status match a couple of years ago, as those cards will expire before the Star Alliance integration occurs. Lufthansa may choose to extend status, of course.”

    Both me and my wifes status ends end of January 2025…

  • George K says:

    Bought x3 Legoland tickets at full online price so kicking myself about this Merlin deal. I was too late for the National Rail 2-4-1 deal as it was sold out for our dates, and couldn’t find another way to take some money off. Tesco vouchers are long gone, and couldn’t remember if Costco did Merlin passes for a decent price.

    We’ll never know now…

  • Olly says:

    Does M&M allow you to transfer between the schemes? I have c.60k in both Volare and M&M so being able to combine them together would be very handy.

    • Rob says:

      I expect this to happen, yes.

      Whether it happens before Star Alliance membership is confirmed is a different question. Can Lufty gift Volare members Star Alliance elite status even though the airline itself is not in Star Alliance?

  • AL says:

    Would be interesting if V Hols allow Virgin Hotel in London to be bookable via them…

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