British Airways

Get Bonus Miles When Transferring Membership Rewards to Avios

British Airways logo

Avios are the currency of the British Airways Executive Club that can be useful in different ways. Since Avios pricing is distance-based, they’re super-useful on non-stop shorthaul flights as the shortest flights cost only 7500 Avios.  Since each leg of a flight is priced separately, the more connections required, the more Avios required.  For this reason, and the fact that on international flights BA passes along the fuel surcharges, they’re not as useful for international flights.  There are exceptions to this general rule however: BA’s booking window opens up a couple of weeks before American’s does, giving those with Avios first crack at award seats on certain carriers.  For example, I was able to use Avios to book a first class seat on a Qantas flight to Australia before it was available to AA members.  I had to pay the fuel surcharges but since premium cabin seats are so scarce on Qantas, I thought it was worth the cash required to obtain that seat.

Normally you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points to Avios at the rate of 250 MRs to 200 Avios.  But from now through October 10, 2016 you’ll earn a 50% bonus when transferring MRs to Avios. So transfer 250 MRs and get 300 Avios.  To make the transfer, log into your Amex account and indicate the number of MR points you want to transfer.  The website will show you how many Avios you’ll receive.

All transfers are final so if you’re transferring for a specific flight, be sure there is award space available.  If you’re planning to use the Avios on a BA partner flight you’ll need to be sure the available award space is at the saver (cheapest) level.

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Earn Up To 125,000 Bonus Miles on American

From now through the end of January you can earn up to 125,000 bonus American Airlines AAdvantage miles on flights to Europe when you fly with American, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, OpenSkies or US Airways. Registration prior to travel is required. You can register HERE.

2015-09-25 AA 125K Promo

The number of bonus miles you get depends on your class of service. To earn the full 125,000 bonus miles you’d have to fly in Business or First Class on five round-trip flights. For each Premium Economy or Full Fare Economy (fare classes Y, B, H) flight you can earn 7,000 bonus miles. And for all other Economy fares you’ll earn 2,000 bonus miles per flight.

2015-09-25 AA 125K Promo Chart

Note that those mileage figures are for each round-trip flight.

The registration page has full information on which classes from the other airlines qualify for each of the bonuses.

Even though I currently have no plans to visit Europe, I’ll still register because – why not, it’s free!

Categories: American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, OneWorld, US Airways | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Changes to Membership Rewards

Membership Rewards LogoMembership Rewards (MR) is the points program from American Express.  MR points can be accumulated via a number of their credit cards including the Premier Rewards Gold Card, Platinum Card®, American Express® Green Card, Blue Sky from American Express®, Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card and Amex EveryDaySM Preferred Credit Card. Some of these cards ean bonus points when shopping at certain merchants.

One of the great things about MR points is that they can be transferred to a number of travel partners including:

  • Aeroplan (Air Canada)
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Alitalia (1000:750)
  • Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific) (1000:750)
  • Delta (1000:750)
  • Etihad (1000:750)
  • Hilton
  • SPG (1000:500)

One of my favorite uses for MRs is transferring them to British Airways as BA Avios are great for short haul trips on American Airlines as they transfer at a 1:1 ratio vs. some of the other ratios we see above.

Unfortunately that’s changing on October 1. Starting on that date the transfer ratio to British Airways (and Iberia, which also uses Avios) will be 250 MRs to 200 Avios, which is a 25% devaluation. While that won’t be a huge hit for short haul trips, it would make a big difference when using Avios for long haul trips, like my upcoming trip to Australia. I didn’t have enough Avios in my account and topped it off with MRs so I’d have enough to make the reservation.

I suppose this is to be expected as we’ve learned that nothing stays the same in the world of points and miles but it’s still disappointing.

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Missing Avios Restored

It appears that the Avios that disappeared from people’s British Airways accounts over the weekend are being restored.  I checked my account and they’re all back – all 193 of them.   ;)

Did your Avios go missing and have they been restored?

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British Airways Data Breach

British Airways logoEarlier today I started seeing reports where people at first could not log into their British Airways Executive Club (BAEC) accounts. Once these users changed their password, they were finally able to log in, only to find all their Avios were gone.

Initially I was not worried, knowing how small my Avios balance was. But late this afternoon I decided to check it out and attempted to log into my account. I got the same error others reported, where the ba.com site indicated it did not recognize my BAEC number. Knowing I had entered the correct number, I clicked on the Forgot Password link and reset my password. Once I updated my password I was able to log into my account and found I’d been a victim too.

Can't think of any BA redemption for 193 points!

Can’t think of any BA redemption for 193 points!

Fortunately my Avios balance was extremely small – less than 200 points – and I do not have an immediate need to book a trip with Avios, so I’m not hurting. I’d have been extremely distressed had this happened a few months ago when I used Avios to book an international first class ticket.

While some reports I read indicated that British Airways had reached out to impacted accounts, I did not receive such an email. While I fully expect BA will restore everyones’ Avios eventually I went ahead and filled out the form on ba.com to be sure my account did not get overlooked.

If you’ve not logged into your BA account lately, I would do so ASAP and see if you’ve been a victim or not. Even if you have not, now is a great time to change your password.

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Change to British Airways HBO Fares

British Airways logoWhen I received my monthly mileage statement from British Airways, there was a note regarding their Hand Baggage Only (HBO) fares:

We would like to advise you of the following change to our Hand Baggage Only (HBO) fare.

Please note that for bookings made from 26 March 2015 British Airways will allocate a seat for all customers booking an HBO low fare on a short haul flight with us.

When travelling on these great value fares, your seat will be allocated when check-in opens. Should you wish to change your seat you can pay to do so at that time or alternatively pay to reserve a seat when you book your flight. If you are travelling with an infant on an HBO fare your seat will continue to be allocated at the time of booking. The changes apply to all Executive Club Members booking HBO fares. For all other fares, Bronze Members can continue to select their seat for free 7 days before departure and Silver and Gold Members at the time of booking for free.

We would like to remind customers travelling on HBO fares that only one piece of hand baggage plus a laptop bag or handbag is permitted. Your main piece of hand baggage can be up to 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 18in x 10in), including the handle, pockets or wheels at a maximum weight of 23kgs (51lbs). Families travelling with small children or infants can also take a collapsible pushchair and one car seat.

If you need any further information regarding our seating policies, please click here.

I’ve never used an HBO fare as all my dealings with British Airways have been for longhaul flights.  But HBO fares seem like a nice deal if they apply to you – only now you won’t get to select your seat before check-in time.

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Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

 

As I alluded to in a brief post previously, I’d heard horror stories about Heathrow but didn’t fully understand them. But then, my one experience with the airport was when London was my destination. Transiting was a whole ‘nother animal.

After leaving the aircraft, then returning to pick up my jacket, I once again set off through the maze of hallways. They were SO empty I couldn’t figure out why so many bloggers detested this airport. That is, until all of a sudden we came to a screetching halt. THEN I saw the lines. Wow, I couldn’t believe the backup! Fortunately I soon saw the Fast Track signs and wandered down that way. At one point I got a little confused and showed my boarding pass to an airport representative who indicated I should get in one of the very long lines. That just didn’t seem right to me and shortly afterwards I showed it to a different rep who escorted me and a couple of other folks to the express line. Even then there were probably a 10-20 people in front of me but we had a dedicated agent helping us and it was a far faster process than waiting behind hundreds of people.

After getting cleared by Passport Control I took the escalator up and found myself in yet another line, this one the security clearance. I hadn’t realized I’d have to clear security again and thus had to leave my water bottle behind. Not a big deal in the scheme of things but had I known in time I’d have dumped it out and kept the empty bottle for a refill.

Finally I was through security and now it was time to find my friends. Ha! My friend from Los Angeles had already landed while my friend from Chicago would be landing about 30 minutes after me. I wandered the concourse trying to find my LA friend, to no avail. I was having issues connecting to the wi-fi and was missing her texts. We’d said we’d meet up at the Galleries lounge, one of the two business class lounges, so I camped myself outside the Galleries North lounge and hoped I’d see them sooner or later.

Finally, finally I saw my two friends headed into the lounge and I caught up with them at the front desk. My Chicago friend had a business class ticket which entitled her to entry and my first class ticket allowed me to bring a guest so we were glad to get inside and collapse.

I’m sorry to says I did not take any photos of the lounge. I hadn’t seen my friends since March so we had a good bit of catching up to do. But we did enjoy having food and drink at our disposal, even if it wasn’t amazing. I took the opportunity to have a shower and that really helped. It was nice to be able to sit and relax and enjoy the free wi-fi vs. the limited 30 minutes we were given on the main concourse. About 45 minutes before our flight we decided to head toward our gate – which, naturally, was at the complete opposite end of the concourse.

Our flight to Istanbul was on a tired A320. The business class seats were the standard intra-Europe variety: meaning they were coach seats with the middle seat blocked off. Through some miracle my friend from Chicago and I managed to get assigned seats on the same row. We were served dinner which was not memorable but was edible so that must mean it was OK.

We landed a little bit early but it was still after 11:30 pm and we were dead tired at this point. After exiting the plane we headed toward Passport Control, desperately seeking a restroom. We did not see a single one until we reached Passport Control when we saw it on the other side of the hallway, where passengers coming from the other end of the concourse were coming our way. Thus refreshed we made our way through Passport Control with relatively little waiting and down to baggage claim.

After picking up our luggage the next challenge was to find where to pick up our hotel shuttle. Finally we did locate the spot, only to note that we’d just missed the midnight pickup and had to wait for the 00:30 van. Fortunately the driver was right on time, even a little early and we were soon on our way to the Marriott Courtyard Istanbul.

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British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

 

We began the boarding process on time and soon enough I was down the jetway and through door 2L.

BA 196 IAH-LHR
Departs: 20:40
Arrives: 11:45 + 1
Boeing 777
Seat: 3K (First Class)

Waiting at my seat was an amenity kit, a blanket and headphones and very soon the flight attendant stopped by to ask about what size pajamas I needed. The seat came with its own small closet and I used it to hang up my windbreaker and store my shoes. I noticed no slippers were included but when I asked, the FA was able to find some for me. I was glad because I’d intended to use those for the rest of my trip! I changed into my pajamas as soon as the FA brought them as I figured I’d rather chance spilling my food on them than on my street clothes.

BA 196 First Class Blanket and Headphones

BA 196 First Class Blanket and Headphones

 

 

BA 196 First Class Amenity Kit

BA 196 First Class Amenity Kit

BA First Class Pajamas

BA First Class Pajamas

I found the seat very comfortable and the controls intuitive. I actually had two windows at my seat but the downside of the cabin design meant I couldn’t see out the window during takeoff and landing. Even while flying I had to sit very far forward to be able to see outside. But you know, if that’s the trade-off for flying in first class – I’ll take it!

BA 196 Seat 3K

BA 196 Seat 3K

BA 196 Seat 3K

BA 196 Seat 3K

BA 196 Seat 3K Footrest

BA 196 Seat 3K Footrest

BA 196 Seat 3K Windows

BA 196 Seat 3K Windows

The menu had what seems to me to be a reasonably expansive wine list. But then, I don’t drink so what do I know?! Here it is:

BA 196 First Class Menu 1BA 196 First Class Menu 2BA 196 First Class Menu 2BA 196 First Class Menu 3BA 196 First Class Menu 4BA 196 First Class Menu 5

And here’s the menu:

BA 196 First Class Menu 6

Since the flight is only nine hours, I wanted to eat dinner as quickly as possible so that I could maximize my sleep time. I had the tomato soup as a starter:

BA 196 First Class Soup

And the braised beef as my entree:

BA 196 Braised Beef Entree

BA 196 Braised Beef Entree

BA 196 First Class Condiments

BA 196 First Class Condiments

As none of the desserts struck my fancy (no chocolate!) and I’m not much of a cheese eater (I love it on/in things, just not by itself) I skipped both.

Here are the dessert and cheese selections:

BA 196 First Class Menu 7
After dinner the FA made up my bed which consisted of a nice matress pad and a thicker comforter. The pillow was a bit small but did the job. I got about 4-5 hours of sleep, which is not bad. It was definitely a better quality sleep than I got in business class on the flight from Houston to Amsterdam on my trip in April.

Breakfast menu:

BA 196 First Class Menu 8 BA 196 First Class Menu 9

For breakfast I picked a few things from the a la carte menu and then topped it off with the lemon pancake with wild berry compote. Unfortunately my early-morning fuzzy brain forgot to remind me to take photos of what I had. But it was good and it was filling, just what I needed to help me wake up.

All too soon it was time to change back into street clothes for landing at Heathrow. The whole time we were on final approach I kept reminding myself not to forget my windbreaker in my closet. Somehow by the time we landed I managed to do just that. I was off the plane and a couple of minutes down the concourse before I remembered it. Fortunately people were still deplaning and the gate agent was able to retrieve it for me.

I had a lovely flight and a wonderful FA (and I wish I’d caught her name) and would fly this route again in a heartbeat. Would dearly love to do it without the fuel surcharges though!

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British Airways First Class Lounge IAH

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

My flight from Memphis to Dallas was on one of the year-old A319s. These replaced the old MD-80s American used to fly on this route. While there’s no doubt the plane is in much better shape than the MD-80s, I was very glad to be in First. Last year I flew this same plane in economy and just happened to shell out the extra cash for exit row seating since I was on an award ticket. I was extremely glad I did! While AA says that there’s just as much legroom on these planes, the back of the seat in front of you is much closer. It can make for a tight squeeze in coach.

Once in Dallas I picked up one of those tired old MD-80s for the flight to Houston. Since it was such a short flight it wasn’t a problem but it will be nice to see these birds retired for something better.

Once Houston I made my way to the International Terminal and began looking for the British Airways lounge. I found the door and went in where I was helped by a very nice (American) lady who processed my ticket and then said I’d come to the business class lounge and she wanted to direct me to the first class lounge. She could have easily just told me “go out the door, turn left and you’ll see the lounge on your right” but she didn’t. She came out from behind the counter, walked out to the concourse with me and made sure I could see the entrance to the first class lounge before sending me on my way. Great service!

Arriving at the first class lounge I showed my paperwork to the attendant and was waved inside. I was a little surprised at how small it was but considering BA only has one or two flights per day I guess I should be grateful they have one specifically for BA and oneworld and not just some generic lounge.

There was a small buffet with a little bit of food offered. I assume the food offerings were so small since we would be served dinner on the plane. But there were cheese and crackers, cookies, vegetables with dip, etc. and different kinds of self-serve beverages. The alcohol was at the far end of the lounge from the food and I did not venture down there but it looked to have a decent selection.

BA First Class Lounge IAH Buffet

BA First Class Lounge IAH Buffet

BA First Class Lounge IAH Buffet

BA First Class Lounge IAH Buffet

There was a large-screen TV with the BBC channel on and a fair amount of seating. I wouldn’t say the lounge filled up as boarding time approached but the crowd was definitely heavier than when I arrived.

BA First Class Lounge IAH

BA First Class Lounge IAH

If originating a flight in Houston this is not a lounge I’d come hours early to visit but it served its purpose well and was an enjoyable spot to wait quietly between flights.

Next up: my first first class flight!

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Booking Flights To Turkey

Turkey Trip Overview
Booking Flights To Turkey
British Airways First Class Lounge IAH
British Airways 777 First Class IAH-LHR
Transiting Heathrow and British Airways A320 Business Class LHR-IST
Marriott Courtyard Istanbul Airport
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul to Izmir and Back
Ephesus, Mary’s House and Basilica of St. John
Swissotel Efes
Pamukkale Bus and Preiene
Ritz-Carlton Istanbul
Major Sites to see in Istanbul
Radisson Blu Bosphorus
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines 777 Business Class IST-IAH

 

I live in Memphis and my two traveling companions live in the Chicago area and in Southern California. With access to large, hub airports it’s easy for them to be able to get flights anywhere. Flying from my midsize airport sometimes means an extra stop along the way.

Though I’ve only been in the miles and points “game” for a couple of years, already I’d heard about the wonders of the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul and put it on my mental list of places I wanted to check out. When my friend announced he was taking the apartment in Turkey in August and September I realized here was my chance. I’d saved up a bunch of United Airlines miles and planned to use them to fly Turkish Airlines. But last winter we started hearing about how United was devaluing their miles and how many more miles it was going to cost to fly on partner airlines. So on the very last weekend before the devaluation hit, my friends and I got together on the phone and got our dates in order.

My original plan had been to fly to Turkey on Turkish and back on another airline. But as I got to thinking about it, I realized that if I wanted to enjoy the lounge at the Istanbul airport, I’d need to fly back on Turkish. This actually worked out very well because we really wanted to arrive at the same time and go through Customs together. While I’d had a couple of ports of call in Turkey while on a cruise several years ago, my friends had never visited. So I was aware of how western much of Turkey is – though it certainly has a much more Islamic influence than what we’re accustomed to here – but my friends were being a little more cautious and wanted to be sure we were all on the same flight into Istanbul.

As it turned out I’d recently acquired one of the American Airlines Executive MasterCards when they were giving out the 100,000 mile bonuses, so I had plenty of miles to spare. I was able to find two premium award tickets, a business class seat on American from Chicago and a first class seat on British Airways from Houston. Since my Chicago friend was also using miles, she took the business class seat and I flew to Houston (via Dallas) on American and then to London. My friend in SoCal purchased an economy ticket on BA/AA non-stop to London.

I used 62,500 American AAdvantage miles and just over $500 cash for my first class ticket. This is because both my flight from Houston to London and the flight from London to Istanbul were on British Airways and BA passes along fuel surcharges (which are distance-based). Still, for a first class seat that retails for over $11000, I’m ok with the fuel surcharges. My friend from Chicago flew her trans-Atlantic segment on AA metal and thus her fuel surcharges were only about $250.

In the end, here is our flight map as we all met up at Heathrow:

Map drawn with gcmap.com

Map drawn with gcmap.com

Categories: American Airlines, Award Travel, British Airways, Turkey | Leave a comment

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