Virgin Atlantic: London Heathrow Clubhouse Review

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow is famous for showcasing the style of Virgin Atlantic and when I knew I was going to be visiting this lounge I decided to film a short video to show you inside as well as showing you the main features in this article! Enjoy!

Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse is positioned with the other airline lounges in Terminal 3. It is lounge H if you are following the signs and above the American Airlines lounge. I’m a big fan of T3 as security tends to be very quick and the lounges are all in one place which helps if you’re hopping between them with your priority pass through AMEX.

As soon as you enter the lounge you know it is special. The entrance area is staffed with friendly Virgin Atlantic faces who check your ticket, walk you in and even show you around if this is your first visit.

The view on entering the beautiful lounge

My first impression of the lounge was amazing. I was shocked by just how big it was. The high ceilings and large windows looking out to the airport improve the lighting and make it a really welcoming environment.

As soon as you take a seat in the lounge, one of the staff will attend you and ask what drink you would like. The length of the drinks menu was so long that I asked what they recommended and two minutes later, a glass of the ‘Virgin Redhead Cocktail’ turned up.

The flagship ‘Virgin Redhead’ cocktail

The drink was lovely and I opted for one more before heading to the Champagne. Virgin offers three champagnes: Lanson, Follador and Jenkyn. I opted for the Lanson and wasn’t disappointed.

My Lanson champagne

The bar area is nice and big which allows people to work but also sit and chat with friends over a drink. It was very well staffed and everyone was happy to help as much as they could.

The bar area!

Once your drink is finished, the staff come and ask if you would like something to eat from the ‘bar snacks’ area of the menu. All the options looked great but I opted for the baked chicken wings with hot sauce. The wings were very nice and left me with very dirty fingers. They gave me a knife and fork but who in their right mind eats chicken wings with cutlery?!

These chicken wings tasted unbelievable!

After I had eaten my bar snacks I went for a quick visit to the other food area. Just to the left of the entrance is an area where you can get salads, breads, meats, cheeses and fruits. There was a fantastic selection but I decided to save my appetite for the flight which turned out to fail as you’ll see later on!

A lovely food selection!

Another fantastic area in the lounge is the mezzanine which has a pool table, lots of TV screens showing the news and sports matches and a long sofa on which two people lay fast asleep (we can only hope they made their flight!).

Floor two. Pool anyone?

The upstairs area then leads up some stairs to the third level which is the outside terrace. The terrace is amazing if you’re into aviation as you can sit outside on the sofas with a drink and watch the planes taxi infront of the famous LHR tower. Do note that it can get pretty noisy out there!

Time for some planespotting!

The area below mezzanine has more tables of which a few had a ‘reserved’ tag on them. I’m not 100% how you go about booking a table and if it costs much but this was cool to see and gave this area of the lounge a restaurant feel.

Can you spot me?;)

After I’d been outside I came in to do something I was very excited about – get a haircut. I’d seen many people do this and so was very excited to actually get a trim in an airline lounge! I headed up to the spa desk and inquired.  She said that there was a relatively long wait for the haircuts but that I was welcome to have one of their complimentary treatments instead. This was a shame but I was totally happy she mentioned the complimentary treatments as mine turned out to be absolute heaven.

I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures but here is a shot from my GoPro

The complimentary treatment I opted for was the ‘head and scalp massage’. The complimentary treatments may only last 15 minutes but once you’re in there you can relax into it amazingly and 15 minutes is plenty to relax before your flight. The woman at the desk asked me to listen to the loud speaker in the lounge as she would announce when it was my time to return to the spa and low and behold as I was sitting down with another glass of champagne I heard ‘Could Mr Stevenson please make his way to the Clubhouse spa for his treatment!’ so off I went!

The spa is located where I am standing, in the far right corner of the lounge

The spa area is kept cool by a fan and kept dark to help you relax during your treatments. You are asked to fill in a small form stating if you have any illnesses or diseases and once you’re done, you’re led into the spa and fully taken care of. After the treatment, you are offered a glass of water and led back into the lounge feeling fully refreshed. I have to say this was my absolute favourite part of the lounge experience.

After my spa treatment I still had about 30 minutes until boarding began so I treated myself to one of the meals on the menu. After deciding that I couldn’t be bothered to save my appetite for the plane, I opted for the ‘southern fried chicken burger’ – lots of chicken today, I know – and couldn’t have been happier that I did so.

What a burger…

The burger was packed full and served with chips (or fries as it said on the menu), BBQ sauce and pickle slaw, spicy mayonnaise and lettuce inside.

After (partially) destroying the burger and chips, I sat down to sweat off the huge meal I had just almost finished and before long my flight was called and I headed on the 20 minute walk to gate 21 where my Boeing 787 to JFK was boarding Upper Class passengers.

Conclusion

I still can’t decide whether this lounge is more of a hotel, bar, spa, viewing terrace or restaurant but one thing is clear, it has elements of them all.

Just look at those chairs!

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse has to be one of the best lounges I have ever visited and almost certainly the best LHR lounge (I still haven’t visited the Concorde room but when I do it will be very interesting to compare).

I was very impressed with the level of service, the space, the whacky hanging chairs, the dine-on-demand service, the drinks and above all the ability to relax into a massage chair for 15 minutes while getting a relaxing head massage.

If this doesn’t do it for you, I’m not sure what will!

If flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class isn’t on your bucket list then you’re doing something wrong – flying Upper Class is an incredible experience in itself and being able to come to the Clubhouse beforehand makes it even more special.

Tip: Booking Upper Class

If you want to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class then what are your options? Revenue fares can be quite high, especially at peak times of the year, so I advise to use miles and points. If travelling at peak times, Virgin will charge you £371 and 57,500 miles to book this flight. At off peak times, you can get it for as low as 47,500 miles and £371. However, those fuel surcharges are still very high.

The flight is also bookable through Delta SkyMiles who are an American Express partner with a 1:1 transfer ratio which can help to reduce the surcharge.

If however, you don’t have points to spend then revenue is what to go for. I would advise booking through SkyScanner as they have great prices.

The Latest New York Airport: Stewart Rebrands

Stewart Airport, a mixed civil and military airport in Orange County has taken a major step in its rebranding programme to become New York Stewart International Airport. The move comes just over one year after Norwegian started their direct flights from Europe on the 737MAX aircraft.

I visited Stewart in August 2017, just two months after Norwegian started operating and whilst talking to the staff there, I got a huge sense of excitement for what the future could hold for Stewart. One year on, I arrived at Stewart keen to see just how well they were doing.

I had the opportunity to talk to Ed Harrison once again who is General Manager at Stewart. On this wonderful occasion, Ed stressed how important this was for the airport but also for the surrounding location. As I mentioned in last year’s article, the surrounding area in Orange County has much to offer including a new Legoland which will be completed in 2020. I was told that the management team there expect 30% of all customers to come from Europe which could be a total game changer for Stewart. Coinciding with this opening, a new arrivals hall will be opening in 2020 which is part of their major development plan. The arrivals hall will be costing Stewart $30 million to build but with passenger numbers increasing in the 100s of thousands every year and predictions showing Stewart exceeding 1 million passengers by 2020, it isn’t surprising that they have begun to expand.

I told Ed that I had a special place in my heart for Stewart airport but he simply assumed I say that to every airport I talk to – the truth is, I really do. When I visited Stewart for the first time, it was one of my first ever press trips and I had the incredible opportunity of flying over the airport and into Manhattan with the Stewart based company Independent Helicopters. Who could forget an experience like that? Independent are just one of the many companies based out of Stewart and since my last visit, two new companies have invested in Stewart to be the location for their new hangars.

It is important to stress that the fact that load factors are increasing rapidly isn’t just down to Norwegian. Domestic load factors are also up and Ed Harrison believes this is due to people using Stewart to get to Europe from all across America. With airlines such as Allegiant and American offering routes out of Stewart, people can easily use it as a connection point onto Norwegian’s network. In terms of airline expansion however, Norwegian’s rough financial situation could threaten the airport’s future. With the Edinburgh network already being reduced in size, could the prospect of Norwegian being bought out impact small-aircraft routes such as these? Ed stressed that there is high level of interest from other airlines but I will remain slightly worried until these new routes are announced. On the other hand, Norwegian now operate 28 flights a week compared to 21 last year. Dublin has become a real success and now offers a 2x daily service.

The huge Woodbury Commons – photo by Coach USA

What I loved about Stewart last time and found had been bettered this time is the Stewart Airport Express bus service. The journey can take as little as one hour but often takes longer and only costs $20. It has been improved since last year and a stop has been added – the shopping outlet of Woodbury Commons. Travelers can now land, be picked up by the bus, ferried to Woodbury Commons, shop and then be picked up and finish their journey into New York – cool right?

Stewart is definitely growing and the name change will do much to help it as it starts to be recognised as a New York Airport, the area’s local economy is ‘humming’ and Stewart have proved they can handle larger aircraft. During the winter snow that shut down JFK airport, Stewart successfully handled a Singapore Airlines A380 jet and took all the passengers into New York without trouble. While financial issues may be holding the expansion of Norwegian back, new airlines and routes need to be welcomed into Stewart so that the new developments can be utilised.

The New York airport of the future? I certainly think it’s possible.

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Virgin Atlantic B787 Upper Class Review

When I knew that I was going to be flying onboard Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class product, I knew that writing a review wasn’t going to convey just how cool this experience was going to be. So, in order to really show you just how awesome this experience is, below you can see my very first video flight review! I hope you like it and I hope it complements the written review well.

Background: Virgin Atlantic

Living in London, I always had the urge to fly Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class product. In London, it is hard to go a day without seeing an advertising board showing the incredible service or luxury lounge. Last year, as James went to San Francisco, he had the privilege of flying Virgin Atlantic’s economy product and the review is still one of our most read reviews ever! With that in mind, I thought that you guys must LOVE Virgin Atlantic so on my trip to JFK, I tried the famous Upper Class product and fell in love.

G-VOOH awaiting me at gate 21 in London

Virgin Atlantic flies six times daily between London Heathrow and New York JFK while partner airline Delta flies two times daily. This means that flights depart at pretty much all times of day which gives flyers fantastic flexibility when booking. The first five flights of the day are on Virgin Atlantic’s A330-300 aircraft but seeing as I wanted to fly onboard the Boeing 787, I was happy to takeoff in the afternoon so booked a ticket on VS9.

Booking This Flight

If you want to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class then what are your options? Revenue fares can be quite high, especially at peak times of the year, so I advise to use miles and points. If travelling at peak times, Virgin will charge you £371 and 57,500 miles to book this flight. At off peak times, you can get it for as low as 47,500 miles and £371. However, those fuel surcharges are still very high.

For a seat at peak times

The flight is also bookable through Delta SkyMiles who are an American Express partner with a 1:1 transfer ratio which can help to reduce the surcharge.

Pre-Flight

Living in the south of England makes getting to Heathrow pretty convenient by train but seeing as my family were flying from LHR about an hour before me, we opted to get a taxi together. The taxi arrived at 11.00am and the traffic was absolutely miserable meaning that we didn’t arrive at Heathrow until around 13.00pm. I headed straight to the check-in desks to drop my bag.

Checking-in for VS9

Virgin Atlantic’s check-in desks occupy the left side of Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and the entrance hall is buzzing with red-dressed staff eager to help. I walked straight into the Upper Class section which had no queue, checked-in, chose my seat, dropped my back and went on my way to security. Upper Class customers have a separate security lane just next to the check in desks but as my family were waiting for me at the normal security, I headed upstairs and was through within minutes.

Once through security, Upper Class passengers should follow signs to ‘airline lounges’ and head through the departure lounge to the lounge area. Here, you will see the lounges of British Airways, Qantas and many more airlines.

The Lounge

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is world famous for its style. As soon as you get near the lounge, you can tell you’re in for a treat. The stairs are beautifully decorated with marble which is just a teaser of what is to come.

Virgin’s STUNNING Clubhouse lounge

Once you get to the top, you are greeted by friendly Virgin staff who take you inside and explain the different features of the lounge to you in detail. This was a really lovely touch and made me feel very welcome.

Because this lounge was just SO incredible, I will actually be writing a separate article on it to go into more detail. Below are some pictures of the lounge for you to get an idea of what it is like.

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Boarding

Gate 21 was to be the setting for today’s flight to JFK so I made my way out of the lounge and started my walk.

15:45 to New York… That’s me!

The screens said it could take 20 minutes to reach the gates but I arrived after about 10 minutes. As I arrived, boarding had already started so I dropped into the speedy Upper Class line and entered the gate area. Soon after, Upper Class passengers and Virgin Atlantic gold members were called forward and within a few minutes of arriving, I was finally onboard.

Boarding takes place behind the Upper Class cabin and into the bar. This allows passengers who aren’t flying Upper Class to see the bar and instantly regret not buying a ticket!!

I was greeted by the Flight Service Manager (FSM) who directed me straight to my seat, 5K.

The Aircraft

Virgin Atlantic have 47 aircraft in their fleet including 17 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. These state of the art jets were first delivered to Virgin towards the end of 2014 and have steadily continued to be delivered since then with the most recent delivery (G-VNYL) arriving in April 2018. My aircraft (G-VOOH) was actually one of the first to be delivered and arrived in February 2015.

G-VOOH was born in early 2015

The 787s are configured in a three-class configuration with 31 Upper Class seats leading onto 35 Premium Economy seats and 198 Economy seats at the rear. Today’s flight had only one free seat in Upper Class and a handful in Premium Economy.

The Seat

The Upper Class seat is different to any business class product I have flown before. It is set up in a 1-1-1 configuration with the seats angled to face into the cabin.

Here you can see the layout with the seats angled inwards

This means that if you want to look out of the window, you have to uncomfortably turn your body to face backwards. My first impression of the seat was that it was actually rather narrow but as I sat down I found that it was very comfortable and easy to relax into.

The seat once I had boarded

There is a foot stall to put your feet on which is a fantastic edition to the seat. It has a mini belt to strap your feet in and a nice storage area underneath.

The features of this seat are really nice. To your right, you have a personal monitor and remote control.

Screens are on the small side but very responsive

Both the remote and the screen are fantastically responsive which I loved.

Remote was very responsive which I liked

It almost felt like I was swiping on an iPad. While the screen wasn’t the largest, it was perfect for watching something while eating or lying in bed. The screen tilts to make it easy to watch in all positions and moves out of its right-hand side position very easily.

Next to the seat you have a storage compartment which has noise cancelling, single-pinned headphones, a safety card, a help sheet explaining how to connect to the WiFi and two inflight magazines. The headphones are absolutely fantastic as they are noise cancelling. I also loved how they were only single-pinned!!

Above the storage space is one of my favourite little areas. The small tray table can be released with a simple push and is the perfect size to store your drink or phone. It can also stay down when converting the seat into a bed.

A nifty little table

Above this is one of two lights. They emerge with a simple push and are very bright. I would have liked to see an option to dim the light a little bit.

The little light

Behind the seat is a small storage area. It is where the crew store your pillow before the flight but I also used it to store my camera, amenity kit and chargers throughout the flight.

To the left of the seat are the seat controls. The seat controls are on the basic side but certainly get the job done.

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You have the option to move the seat while in the seated position to suit your desire and also to eject the tray table. On the right side, near the aisle, are the controls used by the crew to put the seat into a lie-flat position.

One of the main selling points in this cabin is that each seat has direct aisle access. What makes it even better is that you can leave your seat even while you’re eating. The tray table is designed so that you can push it back far enough to sneak out next to it but you can also pull it close enough to you to eat in an upright position while watching something. The table is very large and sturdy which I really liked.

Very large tray table – like it

The Flight

After taking my seat, I was immediately offered a welcome drink but having drunk more than enough I went non-alcoholic and chose water. This stint of not drinking alcohol lasted for approximately 15 minutes as we taxied out of terminal 3 and took off from runway 27R for JFK.

Taking off out of LHR

After we hit the skies and the seatbelt sign turned off, the crew came around with the offer of champagne and crisps! This is trademark Virgin Atlantic and they compliment each other really nicely.

Alongside the welcome drink we were also given today’s menu. The menu lists all the drinks onboard and the options for the meal service. You can see the full menu in the slideshow below.

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Not long after the crew had taken our orders, it was already time to eat. The meal service began just as I started watching a film but I was already getting hungry by this point so put the monitor away. What was great was that I could continue watching my film as the food was brought to me.

Meal Service

Firstly, my table was set by one of the crew. The layout is lovely and it was lovely to see the famous salt and pepper shakers.

The cute little salt and pepper shakers

Very soon after my table had been set, the starter arrived. I opted for the Tomato and Mozarella carpaccio starter and it didn’t disappoint. The dish was excellent with my favourite part being the rich dressing.

As soon as I was finished, the starter was cleared away and cutlery arrived for my main course. There were lots of options for the main course and I went for the lemon and thyme roasted chicken. The layout was fantastic and the taste didn’t disappoint either. The chicken had been cooked to a perfect texture and was fantastically complimented by the sides it came with.

After my main course I was stuffed but it would be wrong to not eat dessert, right? There were two options for pudding and I opted for the burnt sugar custard tart. The flavour was overwhelming and very sweet! I ate half of it but couldn’t finish it off.

Overall, the meal service had been a phenomenal success. The starter and main went together incredibly, the layout was fantastic and the myth of airplane food being inedible was completely debunked!

After I had eaten and my meal had been cleared away, I decided to go and do some work in the Upper Class bar.

The bar was probably my favourite feature of this aircraft as it so nicely laid out. There are for fixed stools set up around the table area which mean you can sit around with friends and share your meal or do some work. In my case, I did both!

After lunch and before I had a sleep I spent a good hour working up at the bar and was fantastically looked after by the crew. They offered me drink refills, snacks and when I was ready to go to sleep they brought me pyjamas and offered to change my seat into a bed as I was getting changed. I was eager to see how the seat could be transformed so watched them. In an interesting process, the seat actually tips forward and essentially lies flat so that you lie on the back of the seat.

After my bed had been made I went and got changed into my pyjamas which were nice and soft.

I was sceptical about how comfortable this would be but after getting changed into my pyjamas, putting on my warm socks and lying down I was very surprised. The bed is made with a soft, padded layer which really adds to the comfort. The only problem is, you’re limited once your bed is made as you can’t then adjust the recline or lift yourself up a little higher which was slightly annoying as if I didn’t push myself all the way up to the top of the bed, my feet stuck off the end by an inch or so. I guess most of you aren’t 6’2 though!

Off to bed

Probably due to the large amounts of alcohol I had been consuming that day, I fell straight asleep while watching ‘The Death of Stalin’ and woke up a couple of hours later to watch a documentary on my favourite cricket player, Sachin Tendulkar, which was very interesting. As soon as the crew saw that I was awake, I was offered a cup of tea and shortbread which was a really nice touch. The tea comes in the most fantastic mugs which makes you feel like you’re in bed at home!

Good morning!

With around two hours to go until landing I went back to the bar area to get my clothes which the crew had hung up for me. It was then that I met three guys who were interested in why I was taking so many photos and videos during the flight. I explained to them what I was doing and we ended up chatting for the next hour about using credit cards, miles and points and all else flying! It was really awesome to see how enthusiastic they all were and we shared details so as to stay in touch!

As we were chatting, the crew proved themselves once again! They had begun serving scones to Upper Class passengers and instead of simply seeing we weren’t at our seats and ignoring us, they came to the bar, asked us if we would like some and then brought them to us there.

Scones!

Once we were done, they even sprung some Victoria sponge cake on us! What a treat.

I got changed, headed back to my seat and started packing up as we began our descent into New York. We landed on runway 04R and taxied to our stand before disembarking and heading into JFK.

Conclusion

While judging this flight it is important to state that Virgin Atlantic’s seat is out of date and in no way comparable to business class seats like the Q-Suite. The privacy is ok, the IFE very responsive but limited in choice and the seat is only convertible into a bed by a crew member and limited in options once you’re down. This immediately limits how good this product this.

However, this flight was probably one of my favourite business class flights ever. Let me explain why.

Firstly, Virgin Atlantic’s crew are some of the most genuine and attentive I have ever had. Cabin crew are supposed to be attentive, especially in business class. On many airlines, however, that attentiveness is forced and the connection with the passengers seems a little fake. With Virgin, that is totally different. The crew were able to see which passengers to be formal with and which to show off Virgin’s sassy and cheeky side to. Virgin Atlantic is always presented as a slightly different airline and I could really see that. The flights are more fun and less formal which I absolutely loved. It takes well trained and energetic crew members to carry this out and that’s exactly what I had on my flight.

Secondly, the food was fantastic. Presentation was immense and the flavour was incredibly strong. The layout of the table boomed with ‘Virgin style’ from the tiny airplane salt and pepper shakers to the classily branded cutlery and champagne glass.

Overall, I have to say I was really impressed with Virgin Atlantic and had fantastic fun onboard. If I were to choose between BA and Virgin for flying between London and New York, I would have to choose Virgin. The lounge product is undoubtedly better than the galleries lounges at Terminal 5 and while the seat probably isn’t  more superior in terms of privacy, I would rate the soft product and service a lot higher. With an onboard bar, also, Virgin has my money.

 

disclaimer: an economy class ticket was booked and then upgraded on a space-available basis by Virgin Atlantic. I was under NO pressure to give any opinions and all opinions are strictly my own. The crew were not told I was going to be onboard so as to make this review fair.

 

 

 

 

Miles and Points Lesson One: Generating

This blog is part of my miles and points series where I will be teaching you how to generate miles, use miles and ultimately travel for free around the world sitting in the world’s best business class cabins.

Lesson One: Generating Miles and Points

Welcome to lesson one of this airmiles series. Firstly, I’d love to start off by introducing this series to you all and laying out what it’s going to look like. I’m going to be writing about the basics of points and miles, namely: how to generate miles and how to spend them. I will then be writing weekly reports on deals and tips for redeeming on different airlines as well as updates on the world of miles for all my readers. My goal: teach all of you to travel the world for ridiculous prices.

Generating Miles: Method #1 – Flying

Arguably the easiest way to generate airmiles is by flying. Unless you’re flying a low cost carrier who isn’t part of an airline alliance or have a miles program of their own then you will receive miles for every flight you take which you can then use on flight with that airline and their partners.

Example: If I were to fly from London to New York with British Airways in business class then I would use the British Airways Avios Calculator site to work out how many miles I would earn. It looks like this:

 

This is how it will look for a British Airways Blue Executive Club Member when flying one-way on the LHR-JFK route. In business class I will earn 5187 avios points which will be credited to my account after I take the flight.

Throwing in a Curve Ball: Crediting to Different Airlines

Now, you are not only allowed to credit miles to the airline you are flying but also partner airlines. Airlines usually have lots of partners in this respect and the best way to find out who you can credit to is by going to my favourite website – wheretocredit.com

Not only does the website tell you who the airlines’ partners are but they also tell you how many miles you will earn for this flight. So if I were to credit this flight to Alaska Airlines instead of British Airways I would essentially earn 2.5x the miles which would be 2.5 x 5187 = 12,967 – a big difference.

Now, this is only a brief explanation of a very complicated and multi-faceted concept. Other the next few weeks, months, years and who knows, maybe even decades, I will be sharing with you, through my weekly blog posts, different ways of mastering the art.

Generating Points: Method #2 – Credit Cards

Flying in business and first class can be expensive and is definitely not the option for a lot of people. What may seem more attractive, is the concept of earning miles while spending the amount you would have usually spent anyway on a debit card.

There are many different credit cards floating around the market. Some are from companies such as American Express and others are directly from airlines such as Virgin Atlantic.

In this article I will explain how credit cards work and what you can do with the points. In other articles I will go deeper into each card and look at the benefits of signing up.

Photo: AMEX

Credit cards are fantastic and although they may seem complicated to many people, they honestly are very simple. The basic deal is, you spend money as normal and for every £1 you spend you get a certain benefit such as an airmile or point. Now, these points can be converted into lots of things depending on the company. In the example of American Express, you earn Membership Rewards Points – these are basically AMEX’s currency and you can spend them on hotel stays, airfares, upgrades and products. AMEX has a huge range of partners so are definitely a good company to get in with.

My favourite (and most probably the best) credit card on the UK market has to be the American Express Gold Rewards Card which has the crazy sign up incentive of being free in the first year of membership. To read more about how to get involved with that card click here. 

At the end of this post, you should know about the two main ways of earning airmiles – by using credit cards and by flying and crediting. You can return to our miles and points page here to keep reading blogs.

If you’re looking for more specific help on an upcoming trip, best cards or airlines for a certain scenario or anything else that I haven’t mentioned then drop me a message in the contact box. I’ll be happy to help.

Miles and Points Lesson Two: Spending

This blog is part of my miles and points series where I will be teaching you how to generate miles, use miles and ultimately travel for free around the world sitting in the world’s best business class cabins.

Lesson Two: Spending Miles and Points

Welcome to lesson two of this series. In my first lesson, I wrote about the two main ways in which you can generate miles and points- flying and credit carding. Today, I’m going to talk about what you can do once you have those points in your account.

Spending Miles: Method #1 – Award Tickets

Award seats are the cheap way to fly. Effectively, you pay for the flight with miles + taxes and fuel surcharges laid on by the airline and government of that country. Award seats are easy to find on many websites but on most, you will need to be a member of their frequent flyer programme. All of these are free to sign up to and are a great way of starting your miles journey. I remember signing up to about 25 different airline sites on the day I turned 18, it was awesome!

If you read my first lesson on miles then you will remember that if you fly with one airline you can credit the miles you earn on that flight to a partner airline. The example I used was flying British Airways and crediting to Alaska Airlines. It is a great way of increasing the number of miles you earn. Anyway, it is a similar story with spending miles. You can generally book flights on one airline through many other airlines so for instance you can book award flights on Cathay Pacific on British Airways but also on Alaska Airlines (for incredible rates but that is a story for another time).

The booking of award seats is an incredible way of flying business class or first class for next to nothing and there are some incredible ways of doing it through different airlines which I will be exploring in the future.

Spending Miles: Method #2 – Upgrades

Spending your miles on an upgrade is a great way of flying in business class for cheap but also earn the airmiles for the cabin you have upgraded from. For example, if I were to book a flight on British Airways in Premium Economy and then upgrade to business class with airmiles, I would still receive the airmiles for flying premium economy with the added comfort of actually flying in business class!

Spending Miles: Method #3 – Hotels

If you have generated your points with American Express then you can also transfer your stash to hotel partners such as Hilton and redeem them for free nights. As this series is mainly about airlines, however, I won’t go into too much detail on this.

Spending Miles: Method #4 – Products

Again, on American Express you can redeem your points for any product in their catalog such as gadgets.

At the end of this post, you should know about the ways in which you can use your miles and points – award seats, upgrades, hotels and products. You can return to our miles and points page here to keep reading blogs.

If you’re looking for more specific help on an upcoming trip, best cards or airlines for a certain scenario or anything else that I haven’t mentioned then drop me a message in the contact box. I’ll be happy to help.

AMEX Preferred Gold Credit Card – Why This Should be Your First Card

Over the last few months I have found that once you start using American Express credit cards it becomes pretty hard to stop. Last month I explained how you could book Cathay Pacific’s A350 Business Class for £30.10 with an American Express card that cost £195 – today I am going to explain how you can do it with a card which is free.

While explaining the benefits of my new American Express Preferred Gold Credit Card to a friend a few days ago it actually dawned on me that there is quite simply no good reason to say no to this card.

I bet you’ve never pulled a gold credit card out before!

I’m going to make this article very brief and start explaining why you cannot say no to having this card in your wallet.

1.  As I mentioned above – THIS CARD IS FREE – now although this is only true for the first year of membership, American Express allows you to cancel your card at any time which means if you are clever, you won’t pay a single penny. Every year after this will cost you £140.

2. The second reason you have to get this card is flexibility, the miles you earn on this card are available to transfer to a whopping 17 airline partners and three hotel partners. This means that you can keep your points in your AMEX account and when you have decided who you want to fly with, you can transfer your miles to the necessary partner airline.

3. The third reason is the solid sign-up bonus. You will receive 20,000 miles FOR FREE if you spend £2,000 in the first 3 months of having the card.

4. Having this card will allow you FREE LOUNGE ACCESS at any Lounge Club partner lounges around the world 2 times a year and after you have used these two passes you’ll be able to enter these lounges for only £15.

5. If you’re staying in one of AMEX’s 500 hotel partner chains then you will receive $75 room credit to spend on food, drink and more as well as FREE UPGRADES where available at check in.

6. Finally having this card will enable you to earn 1 American Express Membership point for every £1 you spend as well as 2 points for every £1 spent with airlines or in foreign currencies. Furthermore, you can earn yourself 3 points for every £1 spent on AMEX’s official travel agency site.

7. If you’re a big spender who will spend £15,000 in a year then it is worth holding on to your card as you’ll receive an extra 10,000 points as a bonus.

On top of all of these benefits you are also subject to lots of travel protection, be eligible for American Express Invites events and more.

Photo: AMEX

So, after I’ve listed all of those perks of having the American Express Gold Card – what reason could you possibly have to say no? Feel free to drop me a message and explain your reasoning to me as I am yet to hear a good answer! 

If you’re still hesitant then let me give you one more perk: If you sign up using the link below then you will receive a bonus 2,000 membership points on sign up meaning your bonus is 22,000 instead of the ordinary 20,000!

To sign up for the American Express Gold Preferred Credit Card then click here!

Happy Spending and Happy Flying!

featured image found on Luxury Travel Diary – source unknown.

I Am Flying Cathay Pacific’s A350 Business Class for £30.10 – Here is How I Did It.

I’m always looking for the best flight deals around and while I usually book revenue fares, I also try and look for some good deals that can be redeemed with air miles.

While looking at airlines that I wanted to review this summer, it struck me that while I have flown many times on a Boeing 787, I have hardly ever flown on an Airbus A350 so I decided to have a hunt for Cathay Pacific A350 flights to review.

Photo by Zach Honig from thepointsguy.com

Now many of you will know that my newest credit card is the American Express British Airways Premium Plus card which I want to talk to you about today and show you how you can use it to get some incredible deals like the one I just booked.

What is great about this card is the sign-up bonus it will give you. Now although the sign-up bonus is lower than lots of cards you will see advertised for the US market, its the best you’re going to get for British Airways cards in the UK.

Anyway, now onto the perks:

1.  If you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months, you will be awarded a generous 25,000 Avios points.

2. Every time you make a purchase you will receive 1.5 Avios points for every £1 you spend.

3. Every time you buy a flight on BA.com, you will get 3 Avios points per £1 you spend.

4. If you spend £10,000 in your first year, you will receive a companion voucher which enables you to buy one flight and receive a second ticket on the same flight in the same cabin for free!

5. If you refer a friend you will receive an extra 9,000 Avios points and they will receive a welcome 1,000.

So, with that said, here is how I made use of my new card. As I said above, I knew that I wanted a new business class product on an A350 to review for you guys so while browsing on Kayak I found that Cathay Pacific operates the Hong Kong – Taipei leg on one of their new Airbus A350-900 series so I looked to buy a revenue ticket but prices were pretty expensive.

Now, Cathay Pacific are part of the OneWorld alliance which means I can use Avios (which I got as part of my American Express deal) to book flights with them through partner airline British Airways and to my surprise it was incredibly cheap.

And just like that I am paying £30.10 to sit in the business class of one of the best airlines in the world and only making a dent of 9,000 Avios into my 25,000 start-up bonus. On this occasion I actually went a bit further and purchased a Cathay Dragon A321 business class flight and then a return flight on the Cathay Pacific A350-900 in Premium Economy which meant that I paid a total of 24,000 Avios and £57 – a huge saving from the £1,000+ I would have paid as a normal revenue passenger.

So, if you haven’t already then sign up for the American Express Card here (plus if you use my link you’ll get a bonus 1,000 after signing up), spend £3,000 in the first three months (far easier than you’d originally think if you get a supplementary card for family members) and spend those Avios on awesome flights like me!

Make sure you subscribe to me below for more travel hacks and on YouTube too!

featured image by Zach Honig from thepointsguy.com

IAG Take Step Towards Norwegian Takeover

British Airways’ parent-company IAG has bought a near 5% stake in low-cost airline Norwegian Air with a view to buy the airline outright. 

The 4.61% stake acquired by IAG, who are the parent-company to British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level, seems to be the first step in a possible takeover.

“The minority investment is intended to establish a position from which to initiate discussions with Norwegian, including the possibility of a full offer for Norwegian,” IAG

The move shows how Norwegian’s entrance into the long-haul market has ruffled feathers in recent years. In the last few years Norwegian have begun offering long-haul flights across the Atlantic for as little as £99 – something IAG just couldn’t compete with.

I reviewed Norwegian’s premium offering last year-check it out.

Norwegian are able to offer these low fares because of the ‘pick and choose’ business model they have established. While no-frills travel has become the norm in short-haul flying over the past 10 years, this model has only recently taken to long-haul flights. While passengers flying with British Airways would be given extras such as checked baggage and food included in the ticket, Norwegian would make passengers pay extra.

National carriers have been battling with the issue of being priced out by low-cost carriers a lot recently with Air France launching ‘JOON‘, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic launching basic fares without checked baggage and BA going 10-abreast out of Gatwick. This move certainly shows how Norwegian are a large threat to the industry as we know it.

737MAX

With Norwegian’s large route network it is easy to assume they are doing very well but their results suggest otherwise. While a profit was made in 2016, Norwegian posted results for 2017 which showed they had made a net $38.5m loss. In March, Norwegian announced plans to raise more money by selling aircraft and its frequent flyer scheme.

Whether this takeover is finalised or not, it shows the impact that low-cost carriers are having on the aviation market.

Will this bid develop into a Norwegian takeover? Get involved by using the hashtag #londonspotter on all platforms.

March 2018: Delivery Report – Boeing Boom



In February’s Delivery Report we began a new feature: Delivery of the Month. In February, the award went to Airbus as they delivered a bigger, better version of the A350 to Qatar Airways. This time, however, the award goes to Boeing as they delivered a bigger and better version of the Boeing 787.

Delivery of the Month: Singapore Airlines Boeing 787-10

The delivery of 9V-SCA to Singapore Airlines on March 26th was one that made history. Singapore are the first airline to receive this aircraft and will be flying it to Bangkok, Osaka and Kuala Lumpur. Reservations for this beautiful aircraft can be made here. 

This delivery was a major success for Boeing and highlighted how the month would pan out for the US based manufacturer. Boeing had an amazing month in March as they delivered 16 787 models, seven 777s and 20 737MAX aircraft.

Singapore 787-10 by Singapore Airlines

While this was the only -10 model to be delivered, Boeing also three 787s to Norwegian Air, two to both Xiamen and TUI, and one to El Al IsraelVirgin Atlantic, Air Europa, Saudia, ANA, British Airways and KLM. Another notable delivery was that of LOT‘s first ever B787-9 aircraft.

LOT picked a lovely day for the delivery! Photo by LOT

Boeing’s MAX project also boomed in March as they delivered three MAX aircraft to Air Canada, two to Westjet, American and Shanghai Airlines and one to Oman Air, Thai Lion Air, China Southern, TUI, Hainan, Southwest and Smartwings.

Notable MAX deliveries included the first 737MAX aircraft to Icelandair and one to SCAT. The delivery to SCAT was initially meant for Monarch Airlines but as they went bust, they had to give up the order.

This livery really suits the MAX in my opinion. Photo by Boeing

At the 777 plant in Seattle, Boeing handed over the keys for seven aircraft. These included two to both United and Korean Air and one to both Qatar and Air India.

The most notable 777 delivery was to SWISS Airlines who received their 10th and final 777 on order.

Photo by Swiss

Over at Airbus, the month wasn’t as successful. They continued to struggle with engine problems on the NEO and thus only delivered nine models and only handed over four A350s, five A330s and one A380.

The NEO delivers went to returning customers. Two were delivered to both Frontier and Air Asia and Vistara, Avianca, LATAM, Easyjet and Pegasus all received one.

The A350 project delivered four models with one each going to Delta, China Airlines, Thai and Vietnam Airlines.

Photo by Airbus

Airbus did make one headline in March as they delivered the first A380 of 2018. The model went to Emirates who have the largest number of super-jumbos.

The Bombardier C-Series project delivered four CS300 models with two each going to SWISS and Korean.

Want to know what being on a delivery flight is like? Click here.

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Qantas Launches First Aus-UK Non-Stop Flight



Today, Qantas made aviation history as the first ever non-stop flight linking Australia and Europe touched down at London Heathrow. Only 70 years ago, people that traveled to Australia went by ship over a period of 5-6 weeks. Now, for the first time in history, passengers can travel between the two countries without stopping in as little as 17 hours. This truly is a remarkable development in the world of travel. Since launching, this flight has jumped to one of the top spots on my bucket list. If you want to do it too I found the best prices here.

QF9, carrying more than 200 passengers and 16 crew departed Perth at 6.50pm and landed in London at 5.03am UK time – a whopping 17 hours and three minutes after lifting off. On arrival, passengers were met by Australian and British flags, chocolates and loud applause by Qantas staff.

The flight marks a huge step in aviation history. In 1947, the iconic ‘kangaroo’ route joined Australia and Britain by air with seven stops in between. However, due to modern aircraft such as the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the flight can now be made in one giant leap across the globe.

The Boeing 787 aircraft that operated this route has only recently been delivered to Qantas. The jet is so fuel efficient that it will burn approximately 20% less fuel than traditional aircraft of the same size. This makes the flight both economically viable for Qantas and cheaper for passengers. Alan Joyce, Qantas Group CEO, mentioned to me how he is expecting the new flight to ‘stimulate business traffic’ because of this.

The service from Perth to London is the third longest commercial flight in the world by distance. It covers 14,498km and is the world’s longest Dreamliner flight. The flight may have only just begun but preparation for this route has been in development for over ten years already. Qantas have been studying weather patterns over the last decade in order to work out which route is the most fuel efficient. Last October I flew from Tokyo to London on the same aircraft and I was surprised at how little jet-lag I felt after landing. Many people think it is a myth but the 787 really is better for your health. You can read more on Qantas’ expansion plans here.

The plane is configured very lightly in comparison to other airlines. Whilst I was chatting with Alan Joyce he stated that the product onboard is ‘the best they’ve had on any aircraft’. The aircraft is split into three cabins – business class, premium economy and economy.

The business class seats cover rows 1-12 in a 1-2-1 configuration over two cabins, the premium seating covers rows 20-23 in a spacious 2-3-2 layout while economy fills the rear two cabins in a 3-3-3 setup.

Photo by airliners.net

Would you be able to sit in an economy class seat for 17+ hours? Get in touch via social media by using #londonspotter on your posts.

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photos provided by Qantas and taken by James Morgan.