British Airways Concorde Room at LHR Review

The Concorde Room is notoriously hard to enter. Either rack up 5,000 tier points a year to receive a membership card to the room or spend £5,000 and fly first class out of London Heathrow and you will be able to enjoy the elite room of Terminal 5.

On a recent day-trip to Berlin, I was lucky enough to be accompanied by someone who had racked up enough tier points to have that card. Luckily for me, members can take in one guest with them so when Paul rocked up with me, not a single eyebrow was raised and we walked into T5 paradise. See my full video review below!

There is no other way to describe the CCR than luxurious. The moment you walk in, luggage is taken from you for storage, your coat is hung up and you are personally welcomed to your seat. Paul passes through the lounge so often that Mo (the lounge manager) knew him by name and had a lengthy chat with him as we walked to our seat.

Once seated, he brought us two glasses of cold Laurent Perrier Vintage champagne which retails at a whopping £110 a bottle. It was the perfect way to sit down at 8am.

The lounge isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination but it also doesn’t need to be. There were probably 10 people inside when we got there but that number did increase over the three hours we were inside. Once you walk in past the storage area, there is a piano sitting there waiting to be played.

To the right of the piano is the large seating area which occupies most of the room. To one side of the seating area is the bar.

To the other side is the Concorde dining room.

The dining area has a handful of small booths where passengers can dine in ones or twos.

We opted to dine outside the dining area which the staff were completely ok about.

Outside the main room is the terrace. As Mo explained to me, the terrace is filled with ‘Moroccan style furniture’.

It was extremely colorful and the seats were as comfortable as inside.

Finally, in the corner of the lounge is a corridor which takes you to the cabanas and washrooms.

There are four cabanas. The cabanas are available for up to four hours and give passengers the opportunity to sit back and relax during their layover.

Each cabana is fit with a sofa/bed and TV

A table for eating on.

And a bathroom fit with a shower. There would be no need to leave the cabana as each one has a button for calling a member of staff.

In terms of food options, the meals are fantastic. Seeing as we were there so early, it was the breakfast menu we could use. You are given two breakfast menus, one for the lounge and one for the dining area.

The lounge menu included croissants, cereal and yogurts while the dining menu had hot food options such as a full English which I tried.

The English was good but wasn’t served with toast which I’m sure I could have requested. During breakfast, the staff made sure to keep refilling our glasses so that we never ran out.

After seeing me filming the menus, a member of staff asked if I would like to see the lunch menu too. When I agreed he came back with every single menu they had and talked us through each one. What it showed was that you’d struggle to go hungry in a lounge like this.

The Concorde staff were really what made the lounge stand out to me. They were welcoming and friendly throughout and knew the regulars by name. This really helped to show me how exclusive this lounge is. Once we had finished eating, snacks were brought to us which tasted fantastic. My personal favourite was the stuffed red peppers.

Once we were ready to leave, Paul asked the staff for two of his favourite drink. I had no idea what was coming but suddenly two Espresso Martini’s arrived and I was over the moon! The drink is amazingly presented and tasted just how it should.

After knocking back the Martini we were ready to go and left the lounge feeling slightly less sober than when we had entered it.

Conclusion

The Concorde room is exclusive and very hard to access. It is probably the most luxurious lounge I have ever been to even though the food and drink were no better than some business class lounges (ie: the Clubhouse). The staff were the best I have ever seen and I can’t wait to come back here in the future.

Virgin Atlantic’s Outdated A340-600 Review

After flying on Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Upper Class only five days earlier, I was very excited to fly home from New York on the Airbus A340 and see just how they compared. Alongside this written review, I also uploaded a video review to my YouTube which you can watch below this paragraph.

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

If you have read my previous reviews extensively, you’ll know that sleeping before morning flights has never suited me all that well. After returning from watching the New York Yankees at midnight, I wasn’t too keen on going to bed for a few short hours before making my way to JFK so instead, I packed, showered shaved and did some work and before I knew it, it was 3am and I decided to head to the airport to see what was going on at this ungodly hour.

I arrived at around 4am to find it dead. There were people already in the Virgin Atlantic queue who had been there all night having missed their flight the night before and I listened as they told me how cold the airport had been all night… I wasn’t jealous at all.

To my annoyance, I realised that check-in didn’t open until 5am so I found a coffee shop and joined the other half asleep passengers while sipping a terrible flat white.

At 5am, check-in opened and I made my way to the Upper Class line which was empty. I ventured through Fast Track security and by 5.10am I was in the quietest airport departures hall I have ever seen. There were barely any passengers around and those that were there looked half dead from lack of sleep.

The signposting at JFK’s terminal 4 was noticeably poor and after walking around the terminal for a good 10 minutes, I finally found the sign for airline lounges. The lounge at JFK is actually really nice and I arrived to find that I was the first customer of the day! You can read my review of the JFK clubhouse here.

See my full lounge review for more

With boarding already in full swing, I headed down to the gate which is around about a 10 minute walk from the lounge. The queue was very large which was surprising as the lounge had still been pretty full when I left it, this shows why Virgin use the A340 on this route which has two Upper Class (business class) cabins instead of just the one on the B787.

I was in the rear cabin. You can see the front cabin infront of the curtains

As I explained thoroughly in my 787 review, the seating configuration is very different from many of the newer business class products on the market today. The seats are set up in a 1-1-1 configuration with each of the seats facing inwards. I found the cabin nice but at times a little claustrophobic. For a more in-depth review of the cabin, see my 787 review.

What makes the A340 different from the 787 is that the cabin is noticeably outdated. While the seats could be said to be comfier, the technology is outdated to say the least. The screen is not touch-screen but controlled by an annoying, hard to use control that lives under the screen. This was a major downside and it became so fiddly and hard to use that I simply stuck the screen on map and left it for the whole flight.

The ancient control

Another annoyance is that the headphones are  double pinned. This means that you can’t use your own without an adapter. This isn’t too much of a problem as the headphones given are noise cancelling and work perfectly well.

Headphones were great but double pronged

The last thing that made this aircraft noticeably old was the lack of power ports. To charge your laptop, you had to ask the crew for an adaptor which went into a plug socket (not a normal plug) under the remote control. Unfortunately, this adaptor was only for a US plug. This meant I couldn’t charge any electronics on the flight.

As soon as I got to my seat I was offered a welcome drink. Breaking with tradition and because I was so tired, I went for an orange juice and a cup of tea and before I knew it I had fallen asleep to be woken by the crew for my first meal service.

Around an hour after takeoff, the crew brought round a bacon baguette and offer of a second drink. The baguette was nothing special but a nice breakfast dish for those who hadn’t visited the lounge beforehand for breakfast.

My breakfast baguette

After eating this, I got changed into my pyjamas and and fell back to sleep for another three hours before being woken again for my main meal service. Being woken up isn’t normally what happens on flights but seeing as I was reviewing this flight, I made sure the crew woke me up for every service.

The second meal service exceeded my expectations and started with a lovely salmon poke. To see the full review, see below.

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The dish was served with tortilla style crisps and avocado and was an excellent dish to start with. I somehow failed to take a picture of this dish so check the video out to see it.

For my main course i opted for the ‘charred steak’.  The dish was served with vegetables and was cooked very nicely.

My steak main course

I decided to skip dessert as I was ready to burst. To finish the meal I went for a cup of tea and headed back into the lie flat position for a couple of hours.

Upper Class passengers are given amenity kits by Herschel. Herschel are an awesome brand that Virgin have teamed up with and the amenity kits definitely didn’t disappoint. See the full contents below.

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We came into land on time and I changed out of my comfortable pyjamas just in time before the cabin was set up for landing.

Conclusion

Overall, I had a great flight with Virgin once again but couldn’t help feeling that the aircraft was highly outdated. The technology onboard is simply embarrassing compared to that on the B787 and the bar is nowhere near as nice. I love Virgin Atlantic but if you are trying to fly this product, avoid the Airbus A340-600.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK Review

Virgin Atlantic is known for its super stylish lounge product at London Heathrow. I reviewed this lounge early last summer and found it simply amazing. You can read all about it here.

Having spent a week in New York, it was time to fly home and as an Upper Class passenger, I was allowed access to the clubhouse at New York JFK. I have made a video review of this lounge which you can see below.

I arrived at JFK bright and early with the hope of properly checking out the lounge before my flight to LHR but found that security didn’t open until 5am so had to kill around 30 minutes in the departures hall before heading through.

At 5am, I checked in my bag and headed through security before hunting for a sign for airline lounges. It wasn’t for 10 minutes that I found signs to the lounges and found that I had walked in the completely wrong direction.

I eventually made it to the lounge and was greeted by a very friendly woman on the door who apologised for the closure of the spa. She said that as this was the only morning flight out of JFK, the lounge was only running at half capacity and then would close again once we departed.

I entered the lounge to find that I was the first passenger inside which was an awesome feeling.

The lounge is set up in a really nice way. It has a central bar area which acts as a division between the restaurant/sit down area and the more social, relaxed area.

As soon as you walk in you can see the pool table that is also in the Virgin Atlantic lounge at LHR. I love a game of pool and thus far haven’t played with anyone inside a lounge so I look forward to ticking that off my list shortly!

The middle area is filled with comfy seating, each seat has a table with a menu on it. The menu being displayed was the breakfast menu which I sat down with to have a read.

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I chose the eggs royale from the menu and as I was still the only person in the lounge, it came within minutes along with my orange juice and latte.

I re-positioned from the middle area to a more relaxed area in front of the window. From my position I could see the ATC tower, an El Al B747-400 and it allowed lots of natural light in.

Just around the corner from my new position was some more funky seating and two Apple computers for those who needed to work.

Toward the back of the lounge are the toilets and showers. The little bathrooms are fantastic if you want to shower and come equipped with all the amenities you would need. I didn’t shower this time around but I’m sure I will next time I visit.

The food and drink in the lounge were spectacular. My eggs royale was made to perfection as was my latte. Seeing as it was so early in the morning, I opted to stay away from the alcohol and instead buckled down to do some work on my laptop.

The staff came around to clear my plate and mug and often asked if I wanted refills of any drink or more food.

Conclusion

The lounge at JFK may not be quite as good as the one at LHR and I definitely didn’t visit when it was operating at full capacity but it has the same stylish vibe as the LHR clubhouse. The food and drink were excellent and the staff were polite and friendly.

I would love to see what the lounge is like in the evening and next time I fly Virgin Atlantic out of JFK, I will be sure to take the night flight to see just that.

China Southern A380 Economy Class Review

I love the A380. It is as simple as that. So when I saw that China Southern operated the Airbus A380 between the two Chinese cities of Beijing and Guangzhou, i decided to jump on the opportunity immediately. Below is my video review on YouTube which you can watch instead of reading the review.

Having flown the Airbus A380 with Qatar Airways and Emirates before, I was eager to see what China Southern had done with the aircraft and how it compared to the 5* offerings onboard the Middle Eastern carriers. I was also keen to see how it compared to Qantas and Etihad who have been reviewed on LondonSpotter by an ex-contributor, James, and as a guest review respectively.

Booking

Seeing as China Southern are based in Guangzhou, I decided to use this trip as a way of getting to Vietnam, my next stop on my Asia trip. I booked Beijing – Guangzhou – Hanoi as well as Guangzhou – Shanghai all in one booking for a total cost of £330 in economy.

This is a pretty good price for the three flights and I was lucky to find it. My go-to website for cheaper airfares is SkyScanner – have a go yourself and see just how low you can get the fares of your next trip. Remember to click all the way through to the booking agent as prices often go down from what is advertised on SkyScanner’s site.

The Flight

I arrived at Beijing Capital Airport with around 2 hours until takeoff and was pleasantly surprised at the small queues and relative ease of getting through the airport. I checked my bag all the way through to Hanoi and walked through security which was right next to the bag drop desks.

To my annoyance, I had packed my bags in a bit of a hurry that morning and put my toiletries in my carry-on case. This resulted in me losing my shampoo and other bottles over 100ml – stupid mistake.

The gate was a two minute walk from the security exit and as soon as I was through, I noticed the huge A380 being loaded up at the gate.

Our A380 loading up in Beijing

The gate was directly infront of the China Southern lounge so business class passengers could simply walk from the lounge onto the aircraft in a matter of minutes.

People were seated but seeing as i wanted to get on the aircraft early, I started the queue for economy passengers. As is normal on Chinese flights, as soon as one person queued, everyone followed the herd and suddenly I was at the front of a 100 strong line!

Boarding began on-time and I boarded the aircraft as the first economy passenger.

The lower deck economy cabin

I arrived at what I thought was my seat and sat down until a passenger came and showed me his boarding pass and it turned out I was sitting in 53A when in fact my seat was 53K. I politely moved to the other side of the aircraft.

As I was sitting in 53A, I noticed something very surprising. In the seat pocket was a safety card for a Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The A380 bares absolutely NO resemblance to a 787 so this posed a serious safety threat if the aircraft were to be evacuated in an emergency.

Our safety card… hang on…. this is no 787!

China Southern’s A380 is set up in a three-cabin configuration with economy taking up the majority of the bottom deck and backward eight rows of the upper deck. The lower deck is configured in a 3-4-3 setup which is an immediate setback from their A330 product which sits in a 2-4-2 configuration.

The seats were comfy yet small

The upper deck, however, sports the 2-4-2 setup so if you get an opportunity to sit there, take it. The A380 can seat 428 passengers and by walking through the cabin I could estimate that it was around 75-80% full.

The upper deck in a nicer 2-4-2 configuration

The seat is relatively large and comfortable although my legs were pushed up against the seat infront of me for the majority of the flight which was very uncomfortable.

Legroom…poor

The seats pitch is 32″ and the width is 17.2″. This compares to airlines like Qatar Airways who offer 18.5″ of width in economy – a much comfier option.

Boarding was completed about 25 minutes before departure and the jetbridge was removed from the aircraft giving me the impression that we were heading for an on-time departure.

How wrong I was…

After around 30 minutes of sitting on the ground, the cabin manager came over the loudspeaker to announce that we were delayed because of ATC restrictions but gave no time estimation on how long we would be stranded for. As this was only 30 minutes, I wasn’t massively fussed.

After about 40 minutes on the ground, the crew came around with the drinks trolley and began to serve drinks. I went for coffee which came in a plastic cup but tasted pretty good.

Coffee in a plastic cup? Why not. It tasted good nonetheless

After this drinks service I pulled out my laptop to crack on with some work when I noticed the next serious failure of this aircraft. Above my head, towels had been stuffed into the ceiling to stop a leaking air-conditioner. While the towels were doing an ok job, drips were still coming through and the seat next to me began getting pretty damp – maybe this explains why it was empty.

The towel above still let the aircon drip on me

I considered telling the cabin crew but I thought they had enough to worry about with the delays so put my headphones on and continued to work.

After around 2 hours on the ground, the crew emerged once again from hiding with breakfast. The option was chicken or pork and I went for the chicken.

My celery infused meal

The meal came with a side salad or celery, vanilla yogurt, a bread roll and some pickled vegetable in a packet.

The meal was piping hot when I opened it up but to my surprise the chicken dish was packed with celery… I’m not a huge fan of celery so the dish really wasn’t that pleasant for me. The yogurt and bread roll, however, were fine. Although I didn’t like it all that much, it was nice to have a hot meal unlike on Vietnam Airlines.

Our meals were cleared away and around 10 minutes later, we were on the move and finally ready to depart for Guangzhou.

Finally on the move

We taxied out and departed out of Beijing for the 2 hour 40 minute flight south.

Takeoff!

Having already eaten on the ground, I wasn’t expecting too much from this flight and in fact all we had in the way of service was another drinks service.

Each seat on the A380 is fitted with a personal monitor and remote control. There are also headphones waiting in the seat pocket. While the headphones are better than those given on China Southern’s A330, they were still poor quality and only worked when half way in and halfway out of the plug. This meant that I couldn’t watch the IFE and to be honest, after looking at the film options, I wasn’t fussed. I took my own headphones out and listened to music for the rest of the flight.

The screen was small and not very responsive

Something I found very annoying was the lack of power on this aircraft. I had heard that the A380s had power ports but I couldn’t find a USB or AC port at all.

Lastly, I found the crew on this flight to be very unwelcoming and borderline rude. Apart from one lovely crew member who served the food and drink, I found the others to be quite stand-offish. For the majority of the flight they all stood in the galley chatting with each other as the services had already been carried out on the ground.

We came into land in Guangzhou 2 hours late and the aircraft was empty soon after as everyone finally remembered how it felt to stretch their legs!

Deboarding the huge A380

Conclusion

While I totally understand that China Southern had nothing to do with the delays, I think the way in which it was handled wasn’t great. We were given very little information and the crew seemed rude throughout the flight. The food may have been nice if you LOVE celery but to me it wasn’t very nice at all.

Having a leaking air conditioning system above a seat is VERY BAD. During the flight I had bits of ice falling down on me from above which was definitely not included in my ticket.

A bit of ice that fell from the ceiling – it had almost melted away before I got this picture.

Finally, having a 787 safety card in the seat pocket posed a serious security threat and should not be tolerated on any airline.

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Vietnam Airlines A350-900 Economy Review

I have reviewed this flight both in writing and video format! Be sure to see my video review below.

Vietnam Airlines fly more than five times a day between the two major Vietnamese cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (yes, I refer to it as Saigon too!). They are in direct competition with Vietnamese budget carrier VietJet who operate a fleet of modern A321neo aircraft. I originally booked a ticket with VietJet for August 5th, but once I got to Hanoi I decided I really wanted to stay an extra night so I phoned up VietJet and they said I would have to cancel and rebook if I wanted to change my date of travel.

Not wanting to book another full revenue ticket, I looked into other options. I could see that Vietnam Airlines operated the route with widebody aircraft such as the B787, A350 and A330 so checked out prices. Being so late in advance, however, I decided to skip this option due to it being too expensive. Just as I was about to give up, I remembered that Vietnam Airlines are, of course, partners with Air France! I fired up my Flying Blue account and searched for availability and right there was a stack of award flights for 11,500 Flying Blue miles and £8.

I originally wanted to book the flight in business class but Air France had no availability so seeing as I didn’t would have had to cancel and rebook on VietJet anyway, I decided to choose Vietnam’s A350.

The A350 during boarding

The Flight

I arrived at Hanoi International Airport two days after arriving on my China Southern flight. The Vietnam Airlines’ domestic departures level at Hanoi is relatively small but was split between destinations instead of just having one big set of queues for everyone. Seeing as their were so many flights to Ho Chi Minh that day, I ended up in a long queue and after 20 minutes of waiting, I was finally able to check-in and drop my bag.

Hanoi’s domestic terminal

I asked the woman at check in for a window seat which she was happy to give but the only seat she said was available was 36A. I checked the seat map online and saw that the aircraft had a premium economy cabin. Knowing that no premium economy product was sold on this route, I asked if I could sit there but I was told that the cabin was reserved for SkyTeam elites.

A little disappointed that I was SO far back, I headed through security to find that FlightRadar24 was showing my flight as a B787 instead of an A350 – another setback. I had already missed Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 product on my flight to Taipei because of an aircraft change to a Cathay Dragon A330 so was eager to make this one.

After walking around the small domestic area after security I ended up taking a seat and booking some more award flights!

Boarding started on time and still not knowing which aircraft I was on, I headed down to gate 10 where we boarded a bus which took us to the international stands to board our aircraft.

Bus boarding

By the name of this review I’m sure you have guessed what’s coming next: I stepped out of the bus to see the stunning Airbus A350 boarding for my flight to Saigon.

I walked around the aircraft for a while seeing as I would have had to wait on the stairs anyway. It was fun being able to freely take pictures of the aircraft from the tarmac!

I was very happy being able to take pictures freely

I boarded as one of the last passengers through the front door and walked all the way through the aircraft to find my seat.

Is that huge or HUGE?

Unfortunately, the aviation gods dealt me a bad hand and the seats 36 B and C were both nabbed. We pushed back soon after I got onboard and took off straight away to an amazing rainbow which appeared soon after we hit the skies.

A beautiful takeoff from Hanoi

Vietnam Airlines’ A350 economy class is set up in a 3-3-3 configuration.

The 3-3-3 configuration with noticeably large IFE screens

Economy class is set up in two cabins from rows 16-43.

Seat width was good – 18 inches

Each seat offers 32 inches of pitch and 18 inches of width.

Legroom ok but note that I am 6″2

The aircraft feels super modern and you can definitely tell the plane is new. Each seat is equipped with a personal IFE screen which was overwhelmingly large.

Loved the screens

Below the screen is a USB plug which was great as I love to see USB plugs on long-haul aircraft.

USB plug…tick

The IFE system has a selection of films, TV shows, games, maps and music. I wasn’t able to try any of the video or audio out because headphones aren’t given out on this short flight.

Film selection was ok

I ended up put the map on the screen and watched as we made our way to Saigon.

Map feature is always my favourite

Around 30 minutes after departure, the cabin crew made their way through the cabin offering out breakfast. I was expecting a hot breakfast option but the crew simply gave out boxes of crackers.

The breakfast box was terrible

The drinks trolley followed and I asked for a coffee which they said they didn’t have. I then asked for some orange juice and was told that all they had was coke and water. This was a weird choice seeing as it was very early in the morning and I ended the breakfast still feeling very hungry.

For the rest of the flight I sat back and watched the views as we approached Saigon. The approach is simply stunning as you go over an enormous area of densely packed housing! You can watch the whole takeoff and landing below.

We landed in Saigon on-time and taxied to stand to complete my first flight with Vietnam Airlines.

Overall, I thought the flight’s service offering was poor. For such a busy route, I would have hoped Vietnam Airlines could offer more in the way of food and drink. In terms of the aircraft, I was super impressed. The A350 is super modern and the cabin is more spacious than on other Asian carriers. I hope to try out the business class product next!

British Airways American Express Credit Card | Full Review

British Airways and American Express currently have two credit cards available. The ‘blue‘ and the ‘black‘ or more specifically, the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card and the British Airways American Express Credit Card which I will be talking to you about today.


Brief Review:

Card: British Airways American Express Credit Card

Cost: £0

Sign-up Bonus: 5,000 Avios (+1,000 bonus Avios if you apply using our link)

Favourite Perk: It’s free


The American Express British Airways Credit Card is one of AMEX’s lower end cards and sister of the Premium Plus card. The card’s main selling point is that it is completely free so even if you’re undecided if it is worth signing up, you should just do it.

Seeing as the card is free, the perks are limited in comparison to its older sister which offers a 25,000 Avios sign-on bonus and a 2-4-1 voucher. It is important to note that this card also gives users the ability to earn a 2-4-1 ‘companion voucher’ but only after £20,000 of spend… If somebody spends that much in a year, why the heck do they have this card and not the Premium Plus?

With that said, this card is definitely not a bad one. The 6,000 Avios sign on bonus comes after only spending £1,000 in the first three months of membership and you earn 1 Avios point for every £1 spent. That means after spending £1,000 you will have accumulated 7,000 Avios points which is 1,500 points short of a return to Europe and more than enough for a one-way flight.

Where will you be going with these points? China?

From this article, I think you’ll see that while this card is no way near as good as its sister card it seems that because it is free, it is definitely worth applying for to start earning those Avios points.

To sign up and gain the bonus 1,000 Avios click here.

The only thing to hold back on and consider is timing. I will go into this more in an upcoming article where I compare these cards but in my opinion, this card should be applied for after the Premium Plus card.

The £195 fee is actually refunded on a pro-rata basis which means that if you only use the card for three months, get your sign-on bonus of 26,000 points then call them up and downgrade to the basic ‘blue’ card, you will be refunded £146. You won’t be entitled to a sign up bonus for the blue card but you will have 26,000 Avios in your account which will get you a lot further than 7,000 off this card.


Other Cards to Consider:

The American Express Gold Card (NOW FREE FOR ONE YEAR)

British Airways Premium Plus American Express Credit Card | Full Review

For all of you looking at building up your Avios which can be spent with British Airways then the American Express British Airways Premium Plus card which I want to talk to you about today should definitely be considered.


Brief Review:

Card: American Express British Airways Premium Plus

Cost: £195 per year (worth it, I would argue)

Sign-up Bonus: 25,000 Avios (bonus 1,000 if you use our link)

Favourite Perk: A 2-4-1 voucher on British Airways flights


The British Airways Premium Plus card is an American Express credit card aimed at higher-end spenders who fly British Airways. The card has a hefty annual fee of £195 which its sister card (the British Airways American Express Credit Card) does not have. In this article I will review the card and say exactly why I believe this card is worth that money.

Applying for this card is just like any other American Express card – very simple. It isn’t in the same category of cards as the ‘Membership Rewards’ cards which means you can have this card and receive the large sign-on bonus as well as holding my favourite AMEX card, the American Express Gold Credit Card, and receiving the sign-on bonus for that, too. The sign on bonus for this card is set at 25,000 Avios if you spend £3,000 in the first three months (see what I mean about high-end spenders). For those that fly a lot of British Airways, this target will probably be met.

That brings me on to another aspect I love which is that if you spend that money on BA.com, you’ll receive 3 Avios for every £1 spent instead of the usual 1.5 Avios (still very good). This means that you could rack up 35,000 Avios (9,000 + 26,000) just by booking one family trip! Be sure to check out the ‘LondonSpotter Tip’ below to see how you can get this and save £146 too!

The main thing that makes this card worth the £195, however, is the ability to earn a 2-4-1 ‘companion voucher’ to use on British Airways flights. The companion voucher is added to your BA account when you spend £10,000 in your first year of card membership. The voucher essentially lets you purchase one reward flight and receive a ticket in the same cabin for someone else. If you want to learn more about BA reward flights, click here for my recent guide.

As with all AMEX cards, a nice and easy way to generate points is by referring friends and family. That’s right, I taught my family all about using miles and points and they now have more credit cards than they ever have done before! In fact, my parents are going on a huge trip this September all thanks to these amazing miles credit cards.

So, what do I think? Personally I think the £195 is justified. If you generate enough Avios you could jet off in First Class and take someone with you for free. Alone, that is worth at least a couple of thousand pounds. If you can’t see yourself being that big of a spender then have a look at the free BA AMEX card (full review coming soon) and go for that one instead. Just remember that if you choose the free card then want to upgrade to the premium card, you will not be eligible for the sign-on bonus. 

Ready to sign up for this card? I suggest checking out ALL of the benefits here on American Express’s website before making your final decision. Be aware that if you sign up through links on LondonSpotter, you will earn a bonus 1,000 Avios welcome bonus.

To sign up and take full advantage of my bonus 1,000 Avios offer, click here

LondonSpotter’s Tip:

Something to consider is that the £195 is actually refunded on a pro-rata basis if you cancel before the year is up. This means that you can sign up for three months, get your huge sign on bonus, call up AMEX and downgrade to the blue card. They’ll refund you £146 and you’ll have 27,000 Avios to play with. This is definitely what you should do if you think you won’t spend enough to get the companion voucher.


Other Cards to Consider:

The American Express Gold Card (NOW FREE FOR ONE YEAR)

The British Airways American Express Credit Card (FREE)

British Airways Reward Flights: A Beginner’s Guide

Today’s blog post in the LondonSpotter Miles and Points series has been requested a huge amount of times by my UK readers who still find lots of complicated posts online about cashing in miles for reward flights on British Airways but no simple guide which lays out the basics – look no further as here is your A-Z guide with everything you need to know.

Still not 100% sure what miles and points really are and how to generate them? No problem, I have you covered. Go to Miles and Points and click on the lessons for dummies then come back here for your exclusive lesson in British Airways award flights.

The British Airways executive club is a great place to cash in all those hard earned points you’ve generated through flying or on your British Airways credit cards in return for cheap travel.

To start your search for award bookings and flights, go to BA.com and log into your executive club account. Once you’re logged in, go to ‘Spending Avios’ and select ‘Reward Flights’ to pull up the search page.

The search page will give you two options. You can either book a revenue flight (a full fare ticket) and upgrade using your miles (this option is more expensive as you still have to shell out for the flight but makes sense if you still want to generate airmiles on the flight as you will earn miles based on the cabin you purchased) or you can simply search for award flights under ‘Book with Avios’. Let’s go ahead and look at booking a flight with avios.

How many Avios do I need?

The amount of Avios you will need to pay for a British Airways Reward ticket is based on two things: The region you’re flying to (based on miles) and the cabin you’re flying in. Here is the British Airways chart which should be your go-to table when booking award flights.

Examples: So if you’re flying from London to Amsterdam you are obviously still in zone 1 so you’ll pay 4,500 avios (4,000 in off-peak times) and 9,000 in business class (7,750 in off-peak times). Next week, I will be flying to Athens in Greece in business class which falls into zone 3. I, therefore, paid 20,000 miles as it is peak season. Simple.

Booking process:

While booking revenue tickets with airlines, I’m sure you will have noticed that buying a return ticket drastically brings prices down. This is not the case with reward flights. Reward flights are one way tickets and buying a return is simply double the price of a one-way. This is great as it gives you much more flexibility when booking trips.

As an example booking, I’m going to search for London – Moscow on a one-way ticket on March 8th in economy class.

Straight away you can see that it says ‘off-peak’ so we know that we will be paying the reduced number of avios on the above chart. Seeing as Moscow falls into zone 3, that number is 8,500 avios. In the below picture, you will see that their is also an amount to be paid in cash – these fees are taxes, airline charges and government charges which are thrown into every ticket and HAVE to be paid. While flying within Europe, these fees are not huge. As you can see, we only have to pay £17.50 for this flight to Moscow but as soon as we start to book other tickets to further destinations, prices begin to ROCKET.

For example, if you book a business class flight to New York, you’ll be set back £372 in fees. I’ll come on to how to avoid these charges later on in the article.

Once you have selected your flight, you will then be given the option to reduce the amount of Avios you use in favour of using more money. Once you select the ratio you want to use, continue like you would with any other ticket, confirm your details, pay the necessary charges (I suggest paying using the British Airways Premium Plus Card as it gives you 3x bonus for transactions on BA.com) and submit.

So there is your brief overview on HOW to book British Airways flights on BA.com but what makes the system with executive club worthwhile is the fact that you can book flights with other airlines too and what is even better is that the charges on those flights are rarely as high.

Booking tickets on other airlines through BA:

If you’re a keen reader, you’ll know that I booked to fly on Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 for £27 and 9,000 Avios. Unfortunately the aircraft was swapped to a Cathay Dragon A330-300 but nonetheless, I was very happy with the deal.

I have booked several tickets on American Airlines using BA.com, too. Zone 1 fares have no been scrapped within the USA but you can still get some amazing deals. My favourite redemption has to be West Coast to Hawaii for 12,500 Avios and a killing $5.60.

Zone 1 fares may not be available within American anymore, but they are within Japan with Japan Airlines.

Avios can be used to book flights on any of BA’s oneworld partners as well as their non-alliance partners such as Alaska and Aer Lingus.

Avoiding hefty fees on British Airways flights:

As I mentioned above, booking flights with British Airways may not seem worth it because of the hefty charges they lay on. There are a couple of ways to reduce these costs such as: avoid flying British Airways and use your executive club to book flights on other carriers or don’t fly out of London. By routing your flight out of Dublin you can reduce the fees of that £372 New York flight to £163. Now obviously you have to start your trip from Dublin but it is easy enough to position there on a Ryanair flight eh?

I will make a much more in depth article on avoiding hefty BA fees soon but for now, play around with avoiding London and see just how big of a discount you can get yourself!


Which credit card will you be getting?

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LondonSpotter 2018 Giveaway

Hello everyone from home!! I’m so happy to be back home after such a long time travelling and want to thank you all for three years of amazing support on here with a HUGE GIVEAWAY!

All of us here at LondonSpotter are so happy with all the amazing support we get and it makes me so happy to read all the messages I receive every day saying how much we have helped people.

The Giveaway:

To see all the details of the giveaway just watch the video below but if you’re confused about how to enter, you can read the section below the video.

How to Enter:

Entering this giveaway is super simple.

1. First off, you need to subscribe to me on YouTube. You can visit my YouTube page here  and simply click the red subscribe button.

2. Secondly, I need you to subscribe to my website. You can do that very simply by scrolling to the bottom of this page and entering your email address.

3. The third part is on Instagram. You will need to follow me and also find the giveaway post on my feed. Once you find the post, tag 5 friends, check you have done all the steps and then simply screenshot the post, put it on your story and do not forget to TAG ME to finalise your entry.

It is so simple to do and I can’t wait to find a winner for all these incredible prizes. Be sure to check you have done all the steps as when I choose the winner, I will be checking and if the winner has not completed all the steps, a new winner will be chosen.

Cathay Dragon A320 Business Class Review

Dragonair officially became known as Cathay Dragon in November 2016 and since the original takeover in 2007, the Dragonair brand has become more and more similar to that of Cathay Pacific. Cathay Dragon now operate many of the short haul routes on Cathay Pacific’s network and one of those routes is Changsha.

I have made a video of this flight which gives you the opportunity to see first hand what the experience was like – watch it below.

Having flown into Changsha just two days previously, I arrived back at the airport bright and early and very excited to see just how Cathay Dragon’s business class product compared to that of fellow OneWorld airline British Airways. You can see their regional business class reviews which I wrote for the Boeing 767 and Airbus A319.

The British Airways A319 Business Class. Will Cathay’s be any better?

Booking

I booked this flight using my British Airways Avios which I generated by using my American Express British Airways Premium Plus card. The one-way flight cost 9,000 Avios and around £20 in tax. This flight can be bought revenue but I advise to go via comparison sites such as SkyScanner to get the best prices. I found some very good prices on all of Cathay’s network on SkyScanner last night so be sure to have a browse.

Pre-Flight

I arrived at Changsha airport three hours before my flight departure as I didn’t know what to expect in terms of waiting times. The airport was pretty quiet at this time but check-in desks for Cathay were not open. I asked some people but it seemed nobody who knew spoke English. After about 20 minutes I googled it and found that Cathay’s desks only open 2 hours before the departure time. This meant I had to kill an hour in the departure hall before going through security.

Once check-in opened I took my place in the tiny queue

Business class passengers are really taken care of here at Changsha – you get a red carpet all to yourself!

Today I was travelling with my AeroLite case. I have to say its an incredible suitcase to use as a carry on bag.

At check-in we encountered some issues with my bags. To cut a long story short, I was flying the route Changsha – Hong Kong – Taipei – Hong Kong but the girls at check-in wouldn’t allow me to check my bags all the way through as they were scared it wouldn’t make the connecting flight in Taipei in time. Anyway, after 40 minutes of standing around, they decided to tell me the best option was to abandon my bag in Hong Kong and hope that I found it later that night… You can watch the video below which highlights exactly what happened and shows you if I found my bag or not!

As I was heading through passport control, another setback occurred. The Chinese border guard spoke very little English. He made me stand aside for several minutes and then repeatedly asked me the same question in Mandarin which I made very clear I didn’t understand. After he finally called an English speaker, I could finally get to security. Security had no fast-track line and a huge queue so when I asked the lady for a business class line she simply walked me to the front, opened the entrance and pushed me into the queue that was more like a jostling mass of fanboys trying to get the front of the crowd at a concert.

I finally made it airside with around 20 minutes until boarding began and hit one more setback. The lounge at Changsha was under construction so there was a makeshift lounge in use. This lounge was called ‘No.16: First and Business VIP Lounge’. As I walked in, I realised there was nothing less VIP than this lounge and after a quick coke and a glass of champagne which turned out to be simple white wine, I was out and moved down to gate 44 for boarding.

The Flight

Priority boarding was strictly enforced and as a business class passenger I was one of the first people to board.

Cathay strictly enforce priority boarding

As I entered the cabin I was instantly impressed. Without even needing to see any food or amenities, the 2-2 configuration was enough to reassure me that this was going to be an excellent flight. There are only two rows of business class seats which makes the cabin ultra private.

Loved the 2-2 configuration a lot

Because of this 4 abreast setup, the space next to the seats is great. There is room enough to store anything you brought onboard as well as the blanket and pillow that greeted you as you got onboard.

The seat has a small area at the front for your drinks, a storage area underneath the armrest, a table which folds inside the armrest and seat controls to adjust the recline and foot rest. I thought it was amazing that the A320 seats were fitted with a recliner. The seat recline didn’t take you to a lie flat position but a 3/4 position which was very comfortable.

Mega comfort

Cathay’s own brand headphones are also waiting for you as you board the plane. These headphones were really good and were to be used when watching films on the iPad that was handed out to business class passengers before takeoff.

Cathay’s headphones and comfy pillow

The iPad was equipped with Cathay’s own IFE programme and had an OK selection of media. I found this to be of very little use on a 1 hour 20 minute flight but did like the magazines that were loaded onto the iPad. I ended up reading Business Traveller during the cruise.

Such a cool novelty being given an iPad

Alongside the iPad I was also given a menu. I was very impressed with this and Cathay Dragan once again showed British Airways up in this department. Food orders were taken on the ground and I chose the Sauteed Pork with Osmanthus lychee sauce, steamed jasmine rice and sugar peas. To drink I went for the Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne which I was very happy to see on the menu. You can see the full menu in the slideshow below.

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As soon as I was comfortably seated, the offer of a welcome drink came around. On the tray was water, orange juice and a gin & orange juice cocktail. I chose the cocktail and was impressed. It had a strong gin kick which was excellently complemented by the orange juice.

My gin welcome drink

Once boarding was complete we taxied out and departed Changsha, waving goodbye to the first stop on my China trip.

Ciao Changsha

As soon as we hit our cruising altitude the crew made no mistake in getting our food out promptly. My Pork dish came around and was really nicely presented. The tray had my meal, a fruit salad, butter for bread that I assumed would come later, salt and pepper shakers, cutlery and two glasses.

Nice layout

After the meal was delivered, the crew came back to fill my glasses with the Taittinger I had decided on.

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Next came the bread. Alongside the normal rolls, there was an option of hot garlic bread which I jumped straight on. I couldn’t help laughing as I remembered the joke my mum always makes when I eat garlic bread. It generally involves her saying I better not kiss anyone after eating it. I don’t think there was any danger of that on this flight, anyway.

Garlic bread?!! YESSS

After I had cleaned up my really excellent meal, I was offered tea or coffee and opted for a coffee.

That’s what you’re meant to drink in the morning, not champagne

Overall, I was left mega impressed by the food offering. My pork dish was amazingly presented and tasted fantastic too. The fruit salad was accompanied it well and the hot garlic bread was a nice treat.

The whole dish
Cheers!

Before I knew it, we were already making our descent into Hong Kong and out of the window were some of the best views I have ever seen from an aircraft. We approached Hong Kong and then banked over it as we began our approach into Hong Kong International.

These views were UNREAL

As we came onto our final approach, headphones, ipads and drinks were all collected and we landed about 30 minutes late. I was first to exit the aircraft and was warmly sent on my way by the crew.

Hello Hong Kong!!

To conclude, I had an amazing flight in Cathay Dragan’s business class on this 1 hour 20 minute hop. The crew were fantastic, the food service excellent, the champagne great and the amenities even better. To be given an iPad and a menu really helps give business class passengers that elite feeling which so many other carriers fail to do.

Flying a 2-2 configuration is a real positive as it gives heaps of storage space and a very spacious cabin. If you have the opportunity to fly Cathay Dragon’s business class then do, it’s a really amazing product and one I can’t wait to do again in the future.

Like this review? See my latest 787 business class review here

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