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Chris West

Lost bags & luggage delays

Lost bags & luggage delays 2560 1707 Chris West

In my previous article, I covered round-the-world tickets. And in my case, they were too expensive for the travel plans I’ve talked about in this run of articles. The way I booked my tickets eventually ended up causing me issues with my luggage too…

I booked my trip to South America and my trip to Asia as two completely separate trips. But the timing was tight, I needed to get from Bogota to Singapore quickly. The Bogota to London trip was a completely separate booking and different airline to my London to Singapore trip. If I had any major delays on my first flights it could have seriously impacted the rest of my trip. I allowed 6 hours at London Heathrow for my turnaround. As it happened that was almost not enough!


London to Bogata trip

For this part of my trip, I was flying Air France in Business class from Bogota to London. I’d be stopping in Paris (this was the return leg of my KLM trip out to Bogota mentioned before). I was then flying from London to Singapore in Premium Economy on British Airways. As mentioned previously I was very impressed with the Air France Business class product.

What I didn’t mention is that we were late departing Bogota because a tropical thunderstorm was passing over. It wasn’t a huge delay. If I remember rightly around 45 minutes. But I had a very short connection in Paris for my short hop over to London. When we arrived in Paris, I had no time to sample the Air France lounge. I had to run straight from one flight to the next.

Upon arriving at the gate I realised that my short turnaround time might have been ok for me, but not for my bags. I asked the member of staff at the gate if they knew if my bags were coming across. They did some checking and seemed to think it would be fine. So, I boarded the A320 for my short flight across to London.

Upon arrival, I waited at the baggage belt and nothing appeared. When I went to check with baggage services, the bag had not made my flight. But it shouldn’t be too much of a problem as it would be on the next flight which was only an hour behind. When I asked what I should do, I was told I should leave the area go landside, and wait until the next flight landed.

When it did land there is a telephone I could use on the wall right next to the exit. I could use that to request permission to re-enter the baggage collection area and collect my bag. The airline had offered to post it to my final destination, even though that was going to be Singapore.

Generally speaking, airlines have a policy that if they lose your bag they will post it to any address anywhere in the world. But as I was going on another trip I really wanted my bag with me. So I left the area and waited.


Waiting for the luggage

My upcoming trip to Asia was going to be a long one, plus I was visiting friends while there. So I’d stored an additional bag in the excess luggage company at Terminal 4.

I had the bright idea to go and remove this bag whilst waiting for me other bags to arrive. I thought this would save me some time. This turned out to not be such a good idea.

I collected my bag and waited for the flight from Paris to land with my other bag.

When the flight did land, I went to the phone, rang through and asked for permission to go back to the luggage area. I was then escorted to a security checkpoint, who of course wanted to scan all my bags. The bag I had been storing in T4 had a bottle of gin in it. This was a gift for my friend in Malaysia. Of course, I was not allowed to take that through security and they wouldn’t watch it for me even for a few minutes.

I had to leave the area go back to excess luggage, check it back in again, and then head back to security to go through with my hand luggage to finally collect my bag.

After a few minutes, I was reunited with both sets of luggage. Now I was ready to make my way to Terminal 5 and catch my flight to Singapore. Thankfully I still had a few hours to spare, but not the luxurious 5 or 6 hours I was hoping for.


Changing terminals

One thing Heathrow doesn’t do particularly well is help you transit between other terminals particularly terminal 4 to Terminal 5 when you are landside.

In hindsight, I now know I should have stepped outside and found the direct bus that goes there. But at the time I was tired, jet lagged and feeling a little rushed as my time had been clipped. So I went and found the trains instead. It took me ages to get one train back to Heathrow terminals 2 and 3, and then another train up Terminal 5.

Eventually, I arrived, checked in my 2 bags and made my way to the BA First class lounge to have a little bit of relaxing time before my flight to Singapore.


Heading to Singapore (finally!)

I booked myself in for a free shower to freshen up before getting on my second long haul, and 3rd flight of the day.

Eventually, it was time to board the A380 for my long 13-hour flight to Singapore. In London time it was an evening flight, however, I had just flown a night flight from South America and was on a completely different time zone. I knew I was going to land evening time in Singapore, it made sense for me to stay awake for the majority of the flight.

This did seem to confuse the crew somewhat as I was the only person wide awake, but I watched a lot of films and they kept bringing me regular drinks and snacks to keep me awake.

I eventually landed in Singapore after over 24 hours of flying to go around the world the long way. Whilst it is definitely an affordable approach compared to the round the world ticket, I’m not sure I’d recommend this particular route to someone else. As a fan of flying however I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Closing words

The moral of the story here is twofold. Firstly, flying around the world on multiple tickets is hard and arduous even for a very seasoned flyer. Secondly, always have a backup plan for what to do if your luggage gets lost.

I recommend carrying some essentials in your hand luggage specifically to cover you for this eventuality.

I would also caution you in trying to manage two different sets of luggage on two back-to-back trips.


Let’s plan your next trip…

Round the world tickets

Round the world tickets 1707 2560 Chris West

In my last article, I mentioned that I had a really good reason for wanting to be in business class for my trip to Bogota.

Well, the reason was I had to be in Singapore immediately after this trip and I was going to fly the long way around!

In the space of 4 weeks, I took 11 flights:

  • London to Amsterdam
  • Amsterdam to Panama
  • Panama to Bogota
  • Bogota to Paris
  • Paris to London
  • London to Singapore
  • Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
  • Kuala Lumpur to Singapore
  • Singapore to Tokyo
  • Tokyo to Singapore
  • Singapore to London


Investigating a round the world ticket

To do all of these flights, I did investigate the “Round the World” ticket option.

This ticket allows you to fly around the world, stopping in many locations, as long as you are constantly travelling in the same direction. This ticket is not cheap!

Unfortunately, whilst they would have sold me a ticket, it was prohibitively expensive. For this trip, the ticket would have looked like this:

London, Madrid, Bogota, San Francisco, Singapore, London. It would have only used One World Airlines.

This was in 2017 and flight pricing was quite different then. If I remember correctly, booking 2 return trips was cheaper than booking the round-the-world trip by around £1000.

However, I want to give you up-to-date information, so I did some research for a similar trip to go in March 2023, (the time of getting quotes was July 2022), flying in economy only this time, not Premium Economy, here’s my results:

Round the World Trip: London, Bogota, San Francisco, Singapore, London. £2732
Two return trips, London – Bogota and London to Singapore. £2067

I think the price gap has reduced a little since 2017, but flight prices currently are fluctuating all over the place, so it’s always worth doing your research.


Booking a round the world ticket

How do I book a round-the-world ticket?

Since you will be relying on multiple airlines, the best way to research your trip is to use the alliance websites, rather than the airlines:

Both One World and Star Alliance have dedicated round-the-world booking tools where you put in your chosen cities, and it proposes possible routes for you and gives you an option to book from the most suitable airline.


Closing words

Ultimately, round-the-world tickets are usually quite expensive. The reason for this is simple – they’re not targeted at people doing multiple stops on a business trip. Rather, they are designed for people who really are doing a round-the-world experience and want a simplified booking experience.

That being said, checking round-the-world ticket prices when doing a complex, multi-stop trip is recommended.


Let’s plan your next trip…

Finding deals

Finding deals 1438 2560 Chris West

Earlier this week, I talked about Open Jaw tickets. They’re a great way of finding a deal when you want to hit multiple destinations on the same trip. In today’s article, I am going to cover some more tips for the next time you’re deal hunting.

As my work continued and I flew more regularly, I learned A lot of tricks for flying all over the place. I came to the point where I was in demand in all sorts of locations. We had a Singapore office that looked after the whole Asia region. I would go out there for 4 to 5 weeks at a time and based out of Singapore I would fly to China, South Korea or Japan to visit customers there.

At the same time as expanding our Asia operation, we were looking to open up a new market in Latin America. We found a partner in Colombia, based in the capital city of Bogota. This meant a whole new region to fly to for me.


Economy you say!?

I was by far the most frequent flyer in the company. But since it was just me there weren’t really many formal policies on flying.

I mentioned previously that they liked me to fly in Economy or Premium Economy but allowed me to stay extra nights if I wanted to. That saved them money over flying me Business Class. After a while, I established a system of setting the budget for a trip based on the most suitable direct Economy ticket to a location.

My second trip to Colombia was coming up and I found that the Colombian national airline, Avianca, operated the only direct flight to London.

So, I got their price for a return Economy trip, and it was huge. This set my budget for the trip. I then went out to see if I could fly for less with another airline. Of course, that would mean an indirect flight, but I was ok with that. In the end, I found a trip with KLM, in Business class, that was cheaper than the direct flight in Economy. So that’s what I did.

I know that a few of you might be saying, hang on, if it was cheaper in business class on KLM, how much was the Economy on KLM? Well yes, I could have saved the company some money by going on a multi-stop flight on KLM in Economy. But there’s a very good reason why I didn’t, which I will come back to later.

Suffice to say, the agreement I had with the person who signed my expenses was; find the direct flight cost and if I could find it cheaper another way he didn’t care as long as it was for less.


An unusual route

The route I found was very interesting from a flying enthusiast’s point of view.

Outbound on KLM:

  • London to Amsterdam on an Embraer 190.
  • Amsterdam to Panama City on a 777.
  • Panama City to Bogota on a 737 operated by local company Copa Airlines.

Inbound with Air France, which partners with KLM:

  • Bogota to Paris on a 787
  • Paris to London on an A320


The flight

All of these flights were in Business class, which meant I got to compare KLM and Air France’s long-haul options.

KLM had a lovely big seat, slightly offset with the person next to you, so you didn’t feel like they were right beside you. The food, drink and service were excellent. And I did get KLM’s signature miniature bottle shaped like a Dutch house, containing a Dutch speciality drink.

Air France had a rather unusual lie flat, but not horizontal bed option. While the seat did go flat, it was at a slight angle so your feet were essentially under the head of the person in front of you. I was worried that this would be uncomfortable, but I slept very well. The food was amazing, I couldn’t stop eating the miniature French baguettes they kept bringing me.

The flight was delayed which caused some issues at the other end, I’ll come back to that later.


Why didn’t I fly One World?

By now you know I am a British Airways flyer, living in the One World alliance. KLM/Air France are both Sky Team members. So why would I fly outside my alliance?

Obviously, there are times when you have to fly with a different airline or alliance. Sometimes your airline or alliance doesn’t go to where you want.

There was a One World option open for me to Bogota. I could have flown LATAM (who are no longer One World), via another Latin American country. It was also possible to use Iberia and travel via Spain. I had done the Iberia route before and I hated it, it was an old A340, no option for Premium Economy and really didn’t enjoy the service. So that was a straight up – no.

Another reason why people sometimes try other airlines is simply because they can. When you have achieved enough tier points to get to the level you want to get to, earning more tier points becomes pointless. Tier points, qualifying sectors or whatever other name your airline has for them, reset each year.

As it turned out I was in an even better situation than this. On a previous trip BA had had a huge computer fault meaning a lot of luggage had been lost and it had all been checked manually, meaning huge delays at the airport. I had only been minorly affected, but since I was flying on the weekend of the computer fault, they had offered me compensation. What they did was gave me a 1-year extension on my Gold status, which meant that the tier points I earned for every flight during that time was completely useless, yes I’d get Avios, but nothing that would help me with my status. So I decided during this time to experiment with other airlines. It was then that I used status matching to try the Star Alliance, and I flew other airlines that I’d heard good reports about, such as KLM.


Closing words

If you’ve reached the maximum tier on your current airline and you’re looking for a deal, try an indirect route with another airline. This way you can find some amazing prices. And you get to experience life outside your usual alliance.


Let’s plan your next trip…

Why having airline status matters

Why having airline status matters 2560 1680 Chris West

In my first post this week explaining how I became a frequent flyer, I mentioned a trip to South Africa. This trip was a great example of what happens when you start building your airline status.

I’d booked London to Johannesburg and Cape Town to London. Next, I needed to sort the internal flights. At the time there was a British Airways franchise in South Africa operated by Comair. This meant it looked like you were flying BA, but it was actually another company operating the flight.

Unfortunately, as of the time of writing, this service was suspended during the pandemic with no sign of it returning.


Turning bronze

I booked Johannesburg to Durban and Durban to Cape Town, all with BA. This was the first time I realised that my frequent flying was going to become a thing for me.

South Africa was my third major trip and I had progressed from Blue to Bronze with BA. Bronze doesn’t give you very many perks, but you do get priority check-in, early seat choice and priority boarding. It’s just enough to tease you into wanting to earn more to get to the next level. That is what happened to me.

I was standing in the queue at the gate for my first internal flight from Johannesburg when a member of staff walked down the queue asking for Gold, Silver or Bronze members. I put my hand up. He then ushered me to a much shorter queue for priority boarding. I mentioned I was travelling with a colleague, and he pointed out that everyone travelling with me also benefited from my status.

This is a trick I’ve used many times since, it mostly applies to check-in and boarding. If you have people with you on the same flight, even if they are on separate bookings, you can usually extend some of your status perks to them.

It doesn’t always work on fast-track security, but that is usually because security staff don’t work for your airlines. And don’t forget, if you have lounge access, you can usually take one guest with you, as long as they are flying on a flight in the same alliance as you. It doesn’t even have to be the same flight! (Each airline has its own rules around this process).


Going for gold!

This experience made me look up in more detail what the different levels gave you and certainly gave me the drive to progress.

After South Africa, my flying continued, even more intensely. I jumped very quickly from Bronze, through Silver to Gold. In fact, I jumped so fast that I reached Gold status before my Silver card arrived in the post.

In total it took me six months of continuous flying to go from no points in Blue to a lot of points in Gold. After that, I was hooked.


Closing words

Chasing airline status is a dangerous game. But if you are going to travel very regularly, it’s worthwhile. The extra perks you get make it more than worth it. On leisure trips, status allows you to elevate other members of your party to the perks you enjoy.

If you have status on one airline and are considering moving to another, check out my article on status matching.


Let’s plan your next trip…

What is an open jaw ticket?

What is an open jaw ticket? 2560 1920 Chris West

An open jaw is a return ticket where you book from one starting point out to a destination and fly home a different location to the same starting point.

You will have noticed that return flights are always cheaper than buying singles. Well, open jaw tickets allow you to buy single tickets, but at return pricing. They only work if you are flying out and back from the same zone of the world. Like my trip in part one, where I flew to and from South Africa.

You couldn’t, for example, book a ticket from London to New York as your outbound and Hong Kong to London as your return.

I’ve used open jaw tickets many times to travel around Asia and the Americas.


Example

Here is a working example, let’s say you need to do a trip to Singapore and Tokyo, back-to-back. In this example, I’ve found prices in Premium Economy with British Airways for March 2023.

The return trip from London to Singapore is £2039.

The return trip from London to Tokyo is £1400.

The open jaw ticket for London to Singapore and then returning from Tokyo to London is £1600.

Note the ticket does not include getting from Singapore to Tokyo, more about that later.


How to book

For most airlines when you go to their booking page you have the option to book single, return or multi-city tickets, select this last option to begin.

On BA it’s called a “Multi-City & Round the World” ticket.

Once you are in here you can book many flights from any starting point to any finishing point. The BA website currently has a very dated-looking form to fill in:

Once you have completed the form it will take you to a more up-to-date-looking page. On that page, you choose your specific flights.

The good thing about the second page is you can mix and match cabins. So if you want to go out in Business but return in Premium Economy, that’s entirely possible.

Just make sure you start by selecting the lowest cabin you want to use on the first form.


Why not do a single booking?

I mentioned earlier that on this fictional Singapore/Tokyo trip I wouldn’t book the middle flight between the two. Whilst this is possible using the multi-flight booking, it will put your price through the roof. It is always best to book your main outbound and return legs as one booking. Then any interim trips as totally separate bookings.

But there are some risks with this method.

One of the reasons that the ticket price increases when you do a single book is the risk factor. If there is an issue with one of the flights, on a single ticket, the airline still has to get you to your final destination. When you book open-jaw tickets with a separate leg involved – even if you book on the same airline as the other ticket – you are taking the risk on yourself. If you miss your flight or get stuck somewhere (even if it’s the airline’s fault), then you have to sort things out yourself. Whenever I do open jaw flights like this, I make sure I have at least 24 hours of buffer time. This extra time gives you breathing room to make your final flight in the event something goes wrong.

As I always like to make sure I get my points and use my frequent flying benefits, I will always look for a One World airline in the region I am working in to fly with.


Choosing an airline for your connecting flight

For this example trip the obvious choice would be Japan Airlines, who are a One World member. I would get all my benefits, lounge access etc.  I would also collect tier points and Avios for flying with them, as long as I declared my BA member number when booking. You can always add your membership number at check-in if you forget to add during the booking too.

It is possible to collect points after flying, but it’s slow and of course you’d miss out on all the benefits when actually flying!

There are other tricks you can use when you do trips like this, which can also help you get more points. Instead of flying JAL for my trip from Singapore to Tokyo, what if I used Cathay Pacific, another One World airline? Cathey are based in Hong Kong, so to do the trip I would need to stop over in Hong Kong, probably on a connecting flight. It would take longer, but it would give me more tier points and Avios as it’s two flights, plus I get to stop in Hong Kong which has a great airport with some very nice lounges.

On longer trips in the past I’ve used this technique to stop over in Hong Kong whole weekends, meaning I get to visit friends and pop into a certain Disney park on my weekends, but that’s a whole different blog.


Closing words

Open-jaw tickets are extremely powerful tools to use when you need to visit multiple destinations.

Oh, and you can usually do them with points too!


Let’s plan your next trip…

How I became a (really) frequent flyer

How I became a (really) frequent flyer 2560 1920 Chris West

In today’s article, I discuss how I became a really frequent flyer. Through this journey is how I’ve picked up dozens of tips & tricks for travel. Many of which I intend to share with you.

I used to work as the Global Training Manager for a company that whilst relatively small, was at the top of its field.

My job was to create training material and teach all of our distributors how to use it, which meant going to visit them occasionally. We had over 60 distributors in countries all over the world. This allowed me a certain amount of travel, but it was in 2015 when it really kicked off. That year we launched a brand-new product line, and the company chose a colleague to be “the face” of the new product, his job was to travel the world and launch the product in each country.

However, as he was about to embark on this, he had a very unfortunate accident and shattered his knee, meaning no travel for him for many months. The company turned to the only other employee who was well versed in the new product, me. On Monday, I had a call asking if I could be in Warsaw for a demo that coming Wednesday. I booked a last-minute flight with Norwegian Air, flying from London Gatwick to Warsaw the next day. I have to say, I’ve not often had to book a flight last minute, and at the time I was very impressed with Norwegian as their pricing was very low and I had a very pleasant flight with them. I’m not sure that still applies in the post covid flying era though.


Leaving blue behind (forever)

When I got back from Poland I was presented with the original schedule for the product launch. It included India, South Korea and South Africa as the first three locations.

At this point, I was a basic “blue” member of the British Airways Executive Club. Since BA flew to all of these locations, I decided to stick with that for the time being. To keep up with the schedule, I booked return trips from London to Mumbai and then London to Seoul.

I learned some lessons pretty quickly.

First, my employer didn’t really have a formal policy on flying. However, they did say “try to fly economy, no business class and if it’s long haul we don’t mind you arriving a day early”.

This meant they knew it was cheaper to pay for an extra day in a hotel than it was to fly business, which was completely true. I did work out that they had no objection to me flying Premium Economy. So I generally stuck with that for the long-haul flights. On my India trip, I was shocked to find that Premium Economy was actually cheaper than Economy! This is a quirk of the algorithms that airlines use to price tickets.

The price of a ticket usually increases when more seats are sold in that cabin. If they sell lots of seats in Economy and none in Premium Economy, then the Economy price goes up while the latter stays down. It’s a nice trick if you can find it.


Last minute upgrade

On this trip to India, I also discovered another flying offer, the discounted upgrade. About a week before coming home from Mumbai, my BA app lit up with an offer to upgrade. The cost was £200 to upgrade to Business. This was an exceptionally good deal and I took it straight away, paying with my own money. This gave me a lie-flat bed and of course a large number of tier points and Avios. Having the bed on an overnight flight is a novelty that never wears off.

When I arrived at the airport, they were offering people in the check-in queue an upgrade from Business to First. This upgrade only cost £300. I didn’t take it as I’d already spent £200, but in hindsight, I wish I had!

The next lesson was the Saturday night trick, one Joe has written about before. To recap, if your trip includes a Saturday night then the return flight prices tend to be lower. Flying Sunday to Saturday is considered to be most popular with business travellers, so is priced higher.

With my company’s policy of “we’d rather you stay a day longer than fly business”, I often took a Saturday or a Friday evening flight for a work trip that involved a Monday start. This would both lower the price of the flight and give me a day off in the country I was visiting.

Using this method, I have been to the Great Wall in China, the Taj Mahal in India and the Pyramids of Mexico, all on my extra days in those countries.


Closing words

Becoming a knowledgeable traveller takes time. Each trip presents a chance to learn something new.

My third major trip that year was to South Africa, and that’s where I learnt about open jaw tickets, watch out for part 2 (coming soon) to learn more.


Let’s plan your next trip…

What is a status match

What is a status match 510 345 Chris West

Ever wondered how points hackers gain Gold status on multiple airlines in a year? Sometimes they legitimately get it by flying, but getting top-tier status on one airline is hard, multiple means A LOT of travel. What most people do is status match.

This is the process of going to an airline that you don’t have frequent flyer status with, and asking them to match the frequent flyer status you have with your regular airline. This is also possible with hotel status. For example, I was a British Airways Gold member, which gave me the equivalent of One World Emerald status. I went to Turkish Airlines, which is a member of Star Alliance, and asked them to match my status with them.


When can you do it?

Airlines do not always do status matching. It is usually something they open for short periods of time to encourage people to switch from their regular airline.

Basically, it’s a way of gaining new customers. So, you have to know when the offers are on and also what conditions the airlines might put in place for you to gain the status match with them. Many airlines will ask you to meet certain requirements before they give you the full status.

For example, they might offer you a short period of time with them which can be exchanged for a full year if you take at least one flight with them in that time period.


How does it work?

As I said there must be an offer for it to work at all. So you need to check that the airline is accepting status match applications.

Next, you’ll need to find out how to apply for the application and what the requirements are for the application. Then you’ll need to send in proof of your existing status along with any other requirements they may have. For example, they might ask to see your flying history for the past year to prove that you are a regular flyer.

Once you’ve applied, they’ll consider your application and then either reward you with status for one year or set you a challenge which you must complete within a certain time period to get your flight status for a year.

I’ve done this process twice, once with Turkish Airlines and then again with Virgin Atlantic. I’ll take you through the process with both. As a reminder, I had One World Emerald status. This is the highest status on One World. I had that thanks to my British Airways Executive Club Gold membership.

So immediately there was no real point in applying to any One World airline unless I was looking to switch to using a different airline within One World as my regular airline in the future.


Example – Turkish Airlines, Star Alliance

The process here was quite simple, there was a dedicated e-mail address to apply for status matching. I wrote them an email and they asked me to send them a copy of my British Airways Executive Club membership card and a record of the flights I had taken in the past year. All of which was easily downloadable from the British Airways website.

A few weeks later I had a reply where they said they were awarding me Elite status, which is the equivalent to Star Alliance Gold membership. The only catch was this was limited to three months, but they would extend it to a full year if I took at least one flight with Turkish Airlines within that first three months.

Unfortunately, at this particular time of year my work was slowing down and there was not much travel for me to do, so I didn’t have an opportunity for a work trip. However, I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity, so I did a day trip from London to Istanbul. I used my BA Avios to buy myself a flight from London to Istanbul, and then I bought the cheapest economy ticket from Istanbul back to London again, all on the same day.

The reason I didn’t do a return ticket with Turkish Airlines was it might have raised a few eyebrows for me to do a return trip on the same day, and I had lots of Avios to use, so it saved me money in the end.


Meeting their requirements

I went to the British Airways lounge early in the morning, had breakfast and enjoyed a few glasses of champagne. Then I flew over to Istanbul.

Upon arrival, I already had my boarding pass for my trip with Turkish Airlines on my phone. So, I headed straight to the transfer area, passing through a security check. Then I was back airside in Istanbul airport. Turkey do a visa-on-arrival scheme which I managed to skip as I didn’t even enter the country.

The second reason why I wanted to make sure I came back on Turkish Airlines was their lounge. I’d allowed about a four-hour gap between flights, just in case of delays, so I had plenty of time to sample their lounge. This trip was many years ago in the old Istanbul airport. I understand the new airport is amazing and has a fantastic lounge. But this lounge was stunning, probably one of the biggest lounges I’ve seen and it had amazing facilities. There was a cinema, a golf simulator, a Scalextric track, plenty of different styles of seating areas. As is the norm with lounges, there were drinks everywhere, and lots of food choices.

I thoroughly enjoyed my lounge visit. After eating and drinking so much throughout the day I slept all the way home on the Turkish Airlines flight. The end result was I was awarded my status and I held it for her for one year.


Example – Virgin Atlantic

In 2019 I changed jobs and I ended up working at the same company as a certain Mr Joe Bleasdale. He is quite the fan of Virgin Atlantic and very keen for me to fly them with him.

I noticed at the time that Virgin Atlantic were offering status matching, so I applied using my Gold status with British Airways. I was given a challenge to fly with them within three months to get a year’s worth of gold membership.

Joe and I conveniently needed to visit New York almost immediately upon me starting the job. So we booked a return trip to New York, on Virgin Atlantic in Premium Economy.

One of the requirements of the Virgin Atlantic requirements was to fly in Premium Economy or above. This was not an issue as the company policy allowed for us to book in Premium for long-haul trips. This was my first taste of Virgin Atlantic, and I was massively impressed. To get a taste of what Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is like, check out Joe’s Austin trip report.

The lounge at Heathrow airport, called The Clubhouse, was wonderful. My new status allowed me access, so I went in enjoyed a gin & tonic. I had a head massage in the spa, and then met up with Joe for drinks and nibbles. Much to Joe’s annoyance, not only had I been given Gold status straight away, but I was also upgraded on my very first flight to Upper Class. I got a notification on my app whilst we were in the lounge that my seat had changed. Joe was seething until he realised he was also upgraded. We both managed to enjoy dinner together sitting at the bar on the flight to New York.

Needless to say, my gold status was confirmed for the next year, but it didn’t end there. One year later COVID came along, and Virgin decided to extend everyone status’s. I managed to hold my Gold status without significant flying right up to March 2022. In that time, I took three different trips with Virgin. Those trips were all made easier by having access to the Gold benefits.


What about hotels?

As mentioned before this system also works with hotel chains and their loyalty programmes too. However it is very rare to get status matching between hotels and airlines. But airlines to airlines is common and hotels to hotels does work quite often.

How do I find out which airlines are offering status matching?

This one is quite simple, there is a website entirely dedicated status matching. It will tell you which airlines are offering it and gives you a record of people have successfully managed to achieve it. You’ll see there’s more failures than successes. But if you follow the successes you will see who managed to achieve a status match. It will also provide information about things like which email address to apply to.

www.statusmatcher.com


Why bother status matching?

If you want to switch to a different airline alliance without losing your hard earned status that you’ve got in your current alliance. Status matching will give you the opportunity to have both without doing all the work again. If you’re flying enough to maintain status in two different alliances then it’s a great way to get into the second alliance.

Or it might be that you need to move within alliance to another airline. For example, if you were a Cathay Pacific frequent flyer and you are moving to London, you might want to switch to British Airways so that you can book and pay for flights with points directly with British Airways.

Also, it’s fun! If you have a decent frequent flyer status and you’ve earned all your points you need for your coming year and you don’t need to earn any more points, why not switch and try a different airline or try some different lounges?


Let’s plan your next trip…

The tale of a short runway at Florence

The tale of a short runway at Florence 800 540 Chris West

London Gatwick to Florence, on Vueling. The tale of a short runway.


The trip

I was sent to attend a conference in Florence by my company, and since I knew plenty of other people that we’re going to the same conference we all agreed to get the same flight.

The flight we chose was from London Gatwick to Florence on Vueling, a Spanish budget airline that is part of the same group as British Airways and Iberia. Being a budget airline this was a no frills trip, I had to leave all my fast track, priority boarding and lounge access perks behind.


Departure

All was going well until we reached the gate. This particular gate was one where you get placed in a holding area until boarding. Naturally, the gate was not big enough to seat everyone on the aircraft. My friends and I gathered in one corner thinking it wouldn’t be too long until we board. Time ticked by and nothing happened. Eventually, an announcement came stating that “there has been rain in Florence and as it is a short runway, larger aircraft cannot land when fully laden”.

Our aircraft was an Airbus A319. This is not a big plane. But apparently too big for this runway, or at least when it’s wet and fully loaded. Therefore they were asking for 12 passengers to leave the flight, to make it lighter. Of course, nobody volunteered.

The next time they asked they made an offer of €250 to anyone who would agree to leave the flight. This is where I made my big mistake, I had already checked and direct flight from London City airport to Florence, on BA, which would have cost me less than €250, and with my refund from Vueling, I would have made money. Also, the subsequent disasters that happened to my luggage would not have happened. However, I was with my friends, we were having a good time, so we decided to stick together.

I noticed the captain coming up the jet bridge, looking quite irate. He proceeded to have strong words with the ground crew. It turned out he was starting to run out of hours and we needed to get going. Next, they announced that they will be forcing the last twelve people to check in to offload, which they did, much to those people’s disappointment. Eventually, enough people were removed and we boarded the plane.


The flight

The next step would have been for the baggage handlers to go through all that luggage and find the 12 bags that they had to offload. For safety reasons, they can’t fly bags without their passengers. This process of course would have delayed the flight even further and the captain was running out of time… so we left… without any bags.

I was so relieved to finally be on my way, that I hadn’t really noticed what was happening.

The flight was perfectly pleasant, I bought an overpriced G&T and relaxed totally unaware of the luggage situation that would present itself when we arrived. 


Arriving in Florence

Upon landing in Florence we walked into the building expecting the conveyor belt to fire up and give us our bags. It was at this point a member of staff stood in front of us and announced that every single bag had been left in London. So we would all have to go to the complaints counter to fill out a form.

The somewhat overwhelmed employee working at the counter started issuing out forms to every passenger. Needless to say, everyone was pretty annoyed that every single bag had been left behind. As this was a work trip, I of course did need to make sure I found clothes and toiletries so that I could perform my job. We had flown on a Saturday with the idea of having Sunday off to view Florence, and the conference began on Monday. Instead, I spent Sunday in day-old clothes touring the shopping malls of Florence. I found Italian clothes aren’t particularly well designed for the slightly larger guy like myself.

The Vueling website informed me that the lost luggage allowance was €90. I spent that on underwear, socks, shorts, t-shirts and of course toiletries. My friends and I showed up to the first day of the conference in slightly more stylish Italian clothing than we’d normally wear, rather than the usual company polo shirts. Duly the bag did arrive at the hotel on Monday and life returned to normal.


Bottom line

Ever since then I’ve never left home without a pair of underpants, a pair of socks under fresh t-shirt in my hand luggage.

What’s the lesson?

  • If they offer you cash to take another flight and there’s any way you can make that work – do it.
  • Always carry something in your hand luggage so that you can survive the next 24 hours if your luggage doesn’t arrive.
  • Don’t expect budget airlines to look after you properly, you get what you pay for. With Vueling, they didn’t plan for the circumstances of rain at the destination very well. 


Let’s plan your next trip…

Lounge hopping

Lounge hopping 2560 1920 Chris West

Let’s talk about lounge hopping, so what is lounge hopping?

When you get to a large airport that has multiple airline lounges, if your ticket or status allows, you can hop between them. This neat trick allows you to sample multiple lounges on a single trip.


Where can I do this?

It tends to be at the larger airports where either one airline has multiple lounges, or one airline alliance has lots of small lounges with different airlines.

Here are some of my favourite examples:

Hong Kong

Hong Kong airport is the home of Cathay Pacific. I think Cathay Pacific has some of the best lounges in the world. Naturally, at their home airport, they have multiple lounges. If you’re lucky enough to have lounge access then you can visit more than one lounge during your trip. If you have a long stay in the airport, it’s a nice way of getting different types of seating and service options.

London Heathrow Terminal 5

London Heathrow Terminal 5, the home of British Airways. Just like Cathay Pacific, British Airways have multiple lounges in their Terminal 5 facility. This is simply to deal with capacity as Terminal 5 only has British Airways flights. There are North and South lounges at each end of the main terminal building. Additionally, there is a lounge in their B gates satellite building. Note you can only visit the B gates lounge if you’re flying from B or C gates. If you are flying from A gates in the main building you will not be able to take the transit train back. If you want to return to the main terminal, you will have to take the tunnel that runs between A. B and C gates – we’ll write an article about that lesser-known route.

London Heathrow Terminal 3

London Heathrow Terminal 3, is the home of all the other One World Alliance airlines, including some British Airways flights. As this terminal is a little older and smaller in design, each One World alliance airline has its own lounge here. To deal with capacity issues, most of them allow any One World passenger to enter.

So, if you’re on a One World flight from Terminal 3 you have the choice of:

  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Qantas
  • American Airlines

All of these lounges have a policy of allowing any One World customer who is flying on a One World airline flight to enter. This is where lounge hopping becomes really good fun, each lounge has its own unique facilities, food and drink offerings, and views of the airfield.


Is there a limit to how many lounges I can visit?

In short, no. The only limit you have is how much time you’re allowed to spend in a lounge, some airlines restrict you to 3 or 4 hours others don’t seem to care. At busy times one lounge might become full and refuse you entry as they are at capacity, but if that happens just go and pick a different lounge.


Final word

Do some research into what lounges are available at your airport terminal before you fly, check the access eligibility for yourself and if there are multiple lounges you can try, have some fun and go lounge hopping!


Let’s plan your next trip…

London to Singapore trip report

London to Singapore trip report 2048 1536 Chris West

Guest article by Chris West, One World frequent flyer. 

London to Singapore, via Helsinki on Finnair, a One World member airline, in Business Class, June 2022.


The route

Before I tell you about the trip, I need to tell you about the route. Why did I choose this route?

It simply came down to cost. I was originally booked to fly with British Airways in March 2021, which was cancelled due to COVID. I spent about £2000 on that ticket. I requested a refund and decided to look again at the start of 2022 and found a dramatic change in pricing. Every route to Singapore I looked at, in Business Class, was over £5000. However, the Finnair Business Light ticket was less than £2000, so I went for that. Additionally, I’d always wanted to try Finnair and with their new seat to try out, I was sold.


The ticket

Finnair offers 3 grades of tickets within each of the ticket types, in Business they have; Classic, Light and Flex. Most airlines offer a standard and a flexible option, but the Light option is something quite unique. The Light option allows you to travel in a business class seat, with all the trimmings onboard, but not benefit from all the business perks before boarding. 

This means no: luggage, lounge access, priority check-in, fast track security or priority boarding. I added luggage which was quite a cheap option – £60 for 35kg. This ticket has two great uses. First, if you’re going on holiday, it’s a very economical way to get a nice seat on a long-haul flight, as long as you don’t mind not having all the perks before flying. Secondly, if you have One World Sapphire or Emerald status, you can get most of those perks back with your status anyway. I am a Sapphire member so I got the whole lot, priority check-in, free luggage, fast track through security, lounge access and priority boarding. 

I saved money on my ticket and still had the same experience as someone paying for the Classic ticket. If you travel on a cash ticket, it’s always worth comparing the options and checking what your status (if you have any) includes.


Departure & lounge hopping

Now to the trip itself. It was a 6pm departure from Heathrow to Helsinki, with a reasonably short turn around in Helsinki to the Singapore flight.

At Heathrow I went straight to the Finnair priority check-in, no queue at all, checked my bag and was given an invite to the No. 1 Lounge. I proceeded straight to fast-track security where, after a short wait, I was airside. Terminal 3 at Heathrow is great for One World flights as there are many One World airline lounges, most of which you can visit if you are either flying in Business or First, or you are a One World Sapphire or Emerald member. Check out the One World website for more detail, look for the statement “Access for eligible customers travelling on any One World member airline.” The key word there being “Any”.

I started in the Qantas lounge as they have a great gin bar, and got myself a nice g&t. After that I headed to Cathay Pacific, as they do great food. Finally, I stopped into the BA lounge for snacks and champagne before heading to my gate. I didn’t even try the No.1 Lounge as I know they’re not as good as the airline lounges. I’ll write a separate piece one day on the concept of lounge hopping.

I had specifically chosen my flights as I wanted to experience the old and the new A350’s on this trip. Finnair fly an A350 to London a couple of times a day, on most days, the rest of the time it tends to be A321’s. Their new A350 is on the main, long haul routes from Helsinki, Singapore being one of them.


Onboard experience

I chose the same seat for both flights as well (another frequent flyer perk by the way), so I could compare them. My seat on this “older” A350 was what you’d typically find on most airlines with a long-haul business seat. Big comfy chair, with reclining options, a cubby hole to put up your feet and to stretch out in when lying down, a pop out tv and some storage. Nothing special for Business Class anymore given that most airlines have started to standardise on the same Business Class seat. Also, when I say an old A350, this was only 3 years old. The seat was comfortable, the tv had some good entertainment on it and as this was a 3-hour flight, a meal was served. I was very pleased that this is the first flight I had taken since COVID with a return to full service. I was given the choice of a pre-flight drink, which included Champagne, it was even topped up pre-flight as loading was taking time. As soon as we were airborne there were hot towels and the bar trolly came down. Dinner was a simple choice of chicken or veg, I took the chicken option. It came with a starter, dessert, bread and the chicken itself which had spicy rice and veg. All very tasty as well. After that the bar trolley was never far away, you could probably get quite drunk if you wanted.


Helsinki transfer & lounge

When we landed in Helsinki, the international gates were all in the same place, with the Finnair lounge right in the middle. After heading to the transfer desk to collect my next boarding pass (they had to verify my Singapore COVID docs were correct) I headed straight to their lounge.

The lounge was elegant and well laid out. There were showers that you could book on a simple pad by each door, lots of seating, including a lot of private seating pods you could sit in to relax or do some work. Plenty of food and drink options, including a nice-looking bar in the middle.


Singapore sector (new A350)

All too soon it was time to head out to my gate to board the brand new A350 with the infamous “non-reclining” business class seat.

One thing that is always a nice treat is when they attach two air bridges to the aircraft, meaning the cabins board separately. This means you can be a little more relaxed in sorting yourself out and settling into your seat without the entire rest of the plane squeezing past you to board. Yes, I know that sounds a little snobbish, but it’s one of those things that makes spending all the extra money on business class worthwhile. I headed down the business air bridge and turned immediately right to see my seat. I was in 2A, (there’s no 1A on these as row 1 is only in the middle 1D and 1H).

My first impression was “wow”, it looked great, very appealing, it was huge. Like having a little pod to yourself. As soon as I sat down the seat cushion was soft and comfy and I immediately found out how private these “pods” were. From sitting down, you cannot see anyone else and you can’t even see other people’s screens, nice touch. My screen was huge, fixed in position on the bulkhead in front of me. Below and slightly offset to the left was the cubby hole for my feet, it was big and roomy.

The curved wall of my pod was padded all the way round, meaning I could sit or lean against any part of it, there seemed to be no right way to sit. Next to me at shoulder height was a panel that opened to reveal a nice little storage space. Inside were USB ports, both old A type and new C type. Next to that was the remote control. Above was the headphone socket, and I noticed the door had been well designed to close and still allow room for cables to pass under it. The headphone socket is designed to create a hook to hang your headphones nicely away when not in use. 

When flying, I always swear by my own Bose noise cancelling headphones, but no need on this trip as Finnair provides you with Bose noise cancelling headphones, my own headphones didn’t even come out of their case for the whole trip. Next to me was a large table area (this is covering the footwell for the person sitting behind me) with plenty of space to put things out the way or have a drink and it had a built-in pad with rubber grips on it for wireless charging, I just left my phone there permanently on charge for the flight. Underneath this was a slide out table which would fold in half, so it’s nice to hold an iPad or a drink, or unfolded it made a full size fairly solid wooden table. In the front footwell is a small storage area underneath a padded door, meaning that when it’s closed is just another part of the bed. Inside was a bottle of water and plenty of space to store my headphones, iPad and the amenity kit. 

There are two movable functions to this seat, one is a wide and narrow padded bar about 5 centimetres thick that folds up on the front edge of my foot well. It fills a gap when you go into bed mode and it provides a nice comfy soft surface to put your feet up onto if you want to. Underneath my seat was a larger padded panel that was motorised, and would fold up to provide leg support or would go up all the way to make a fully flat bed. I was also provided with two cushions, one quite soft and fluffy, the other was quite firm. I found that by using these in different combinations and different places you could sit, curl up, lie, semi lie down, squat or position yourself in many different positions and be very comfortable. Think of it like your armchair at home, you don’t always sit just straight facing forwards you quite often sit in many different positions, it was just like that. This made for a very comfortable flight as I could regularly change my position so I didn’t get too stiff or uncomfortable sitting in the same position all the time. 

I should mention the meal, which was served following the drinks service. There was a good choice of options, I chose the beef rib. It came with a starter, salad, bread and a choice of desserts. The food was top class and very tasty. The entertainment was good too, I watched 2 films before going to sleep. The crew were all very friendly and helpful. If you had a question about a drink or the food they were more than happy to take time out to talk to you and help you make a choice. 

Later on, when it came to sleeping, I had been provided with bedding which included a mattress topper and a huge duvet like blanket. As the pod is so much bigger than normal business class seats, because they removed all the mechanics to make the seat recline, this makes for a very large single bed sleeping. I could sleep on my side, I could tuck my knees up and I could turn over without discomfort. The seat belts are also interesting, there’s the seat belt for when you’re sitting up, which includes a shoulder harness for take-off and landing. But there is a second seat belt that’s placed lower down designed to go over your waist when you’re lying down flat. This seat belt is spring loaded, like a car seat belt, so it wasn’t fixed like normal airline belts are. It meant that when moving around in the night you weren’t clamped to your bed, you could move around, and the spring would let you move as much as you like.

The flight from Helsinki to Singapore would not normally be 13 hours, but with the Ukraine conflict and airlines not flying over Russia, we had to go the long way round. So I had plenty of time for a nice long sleep, I think I got over 7 hours. The larger bed space certainly made a difference. Just before they turned the lights out for sleep, they put an announcement on the screens that as they dim the lights there will be a light display on the ceiling simulating the northern lights, which was a very nice touch.

I woke up naturally about 2 hours before landing and we were served with a light meal and drink options. More hot towels were issued, and we were ready for landing, which you could watch on screen via the 2 external cameras on the plane.


Bottom line

I’ve travelled all over the world on many different airlines, in many different classes, and I can honestly say I’ve never come off a long-haul flight feeling quite as relaxed, rested and fresh as I did on this flight. The only thing missing that I think they could add to this is flight pyjamas. It would have been nice to sleep in something other than my clothes for 13 hours, plus the 3 from London was quite a long time. But that aside, the value of the Light Business ticket, combined with my frequent flyer status made for an amazing trip, next time I’d happily choose this over a direct flight just for the comfort of that seat.


Let’s plan your next trip…

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