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July 2017

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What is the InterContinental Club Experience and what is included?

Three InterContinental hotels, Amsterdam, Marseille and Porto, has been trailing a new product since January 2017 called the InterContinental Club Experience. The packaged is aimed at hotels that doesn’t have a physical club lounge, but want to offer similar benefits to those that have.

Note: In June 2017, InterContinental Estoril (located on the Portuguese Riviera outside of Lisbon) was added to the list of InterContinental hotels offering the InterContinental Club Experience. However, the hotel has not yet been added to InterContinental Club Experience website.

InterContinental is the luxury brand within the IHG Rewards Club portfolio of hotels. You can read more about the loyalty programme here in our Definite Guide to IHG Rewards Club.

InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam

InterContinental Amsterdam Amstel and it's ideal canal-side location

What’s included?
  • Full breakfast in La Rive, between 07.00-10.30 on weekdays and 07.00-11.00 on weekends. Normal price is €36.50 per person.
  • Afternoon tea, served in the Amstel lounge or in your room, between 15.00-17.00.
  • Canapes and a aperitif, including premium sparkling wine, beer and spirits, served in your room, between 18.00-20.00.
  • Pressing of two items of clothing per stay.
  • Priority check-out, complimentary late check-out until 16.00.

InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu

The impressive building of InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu

What’s included?
  • Full Breakfast in Brasserie Les Fenêtres, between 07.00-10.30 on weekdays and 07.00-11.00 on weekends. Normal price is €28.50 per person.
  • Afternoon tea, served in the La Capian bar, between 15.00-17.00.
  • Aperitifs, including premium sparkling wine, beer and spirits, and canapes, served in your room, between 18.00-20.00.
  • Tea and coffee throughout the day, served in the Bar Le Capian.
  • Pressing of two items of clothing per stay.
  • Priority check-out, complimentary late check-out until 16.00.

InterContinental Porto – Palacio das Cardosas

The beautiful neo-classical lobby of the InterContinental Porto - Palacio das Cardosas

What’s included?
  • Full breakfast, served at the restaurant or in your room, between 07.00-10.30 on weekdays and 07.00-11.00 on weekends. Normal price is €23.25 per person for Ambassador members.
  • Afternoon tea, served in Cardosas bar or in your room, between 15.00.17.00.
  • Aperitifs, including premium sparkling wine, beer and spirits, and canapes, served at the bar, between 17.00-19.00.
  • Tea and coffee throughout the day, served in Cardosas bar.
  • Pressing of two items of clothing per stay.
  • Priority check-out, complimentary late check-out until 16.00.

What does it cost?

The Club InterContinental Experience is priced at €84 per room for Friday and Saturday and €76 for all other days for InterContinental Ambassador members . In comparison, the price for non-members are 20% higher at €105 and €95 respectively. According to FlyerTalk, the package is complimentary on paid stays for Royal Ambassador members.

Is it worth it?

I would say that the price is very reasonable for what you get! This is especially true at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam given is luxurious status. For two people on a leisurely trip it’s definitely a good option. However, I’m not sure the package will appeal to business travellers, since they tend to be out during the afternoon. When travelling for business a lot of people prefer to sit in a dedicated, calm lounge area outside the room.

One thing to consider is that if you book in advance, the Club InterContinental Experience package is only available as a Best Flexible Rate plus surcharges. Consequently, if you don’t need a refundable rate it makes more sense to book the Advanced Purchase rate (i. e. the  lowest price) and then add the package when you are at the hotel.

 

 

 

 

Avios Inspiration – Experience Japan, Seoul and Beijing from 62,250 Avios + £413

The two most common questions I get as a frequent flyer and travel enthusiast are ‘what is the easiest way to collect points?‘ followed by ‘what is the best way to use points?‘. The first question I broadly answered in these two articles; ‘A Beginners Guide to Travel Points Collecting’ and ‘A Beginners Guide to Collecting Avios‘.

The second question is a lot more complex and depend on a wide range of factors, but mainly boils down to one’s own preference. What is important to you? To spend the same amount of money as you normally do, but travel better (e.g. upgrade from economy to business) or to save money (e.g. use points to book low-tax options). Anyway, when explaining this to friends I tend to wind up conducting a long monologue with multiple scenarios and assumptions.

So in order to avoid boredom I have made a series of Avios Inspiration posts. Each post is supposed to act as a inspiration or goal for travel points collecting; meaning what can I get for my hard earned Avios? The Avios Inspiration series contain everything from ‘How to Fly Around the World with Avios’ and ‘Using Avios to Experience First Class’.

The Itinerary

This Avios Inspiration post focus on Japan with surroundings. The first example shows how to make the trip with as little Avios and cash as possible. You only need 62,250 Avios and £413 to do the trip in economy class! Even if you don’t make much of an effort collecting points, you should be able to collect 62,250 Avios in one year. To get an understanding of how many Avios you can collect in a year from everyday purchases see our ‘How to Collect Avios Without Making an Effort’ article.

    DepartureArrivalFlight TimeAirlineClassAviosCost
    Total30h 50min62,250£413
    LondonSeoul10h 55minBritish AirwaysEconomy19,500£221
    SeoulTokyo2h 35minJapan AirlinesEconomy7,500£23
    TokyoOsaka1h 05minJapan AirlinesEconomy4,500£2
    OsakaTokyo1h 05minJapan AirlinesEconomy4,500£2
    TokyoBeijing3h 55minJapan AirlinesEconomy10,000£23
    BeijingLondon11h 15minBritish AirwaysEconomy16,250£142

    The Business Class Option

    All of the flights in the above Avios Inspiration example are in economy class, but naturally you can do the same trip in business class as well, because to be honest, it’s a nicer way to travel. Or why not mix and match with business and economy class? Any combination work as long as you have enough Avios. To do the trip mostly in business would set you back 181,500 Avios and £628 in taxes and fees, which is 119,250 Avios and £215 more than the pure economy class suggestion.

    DepartureArrivalFlight TimeAirlineClassAviosCost
    Total30h 50min181,500£628
    LondonSeoul10h 55minBritish AirwaysBusiness75,000£366
    SeoulTokyo2h 35minJapan AirlinesBusiness15,000£23
    TokyoOsaka1h 05minJapan AirlinesEconomy4,500£2
    OsakaTokyo1h 05minJapan AirlinesEconomy4,500£2
    TokyoBeijing3h 55minJapan AirlinesBusiness20,000£23
    BeijingLondon11h 15minBritish AirwaysBusiness62,500£212

     What do I get for my Money?

    So now for the fun part, what do you get for your hard earned Avios?

    • Avios Inspiration - Seoul offers an interesting mix with modern skyscrapers, pop culture, Buddhist temples and street markets
      Seoul have good reward seat availability, making it the perfect stop on the way.
    Destinations

    Well, if we start with the destinations, your first stop would be Seoul, South Korea. You might wonder why I don’t suggest flying directly to Tokyo. You could, but since it’s a more popular destination reward seat availability tend to disappear quickly, especially if you want to travel to Japan in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. Seoul is often overshadowed by Tokyo, but it’s a large city with plenty of skyscrapers, temples, palaces, an excellent subway system and tasty food.

    The next stop would be Tokyo, a massive city that mixes ultramodern and the traditional. You can easily keep yourself entertained for a while here! It’s the perfect hub to explore the Far East from. From Tokyo you can fly everywhere in Japan for as little as 4,500 Avios plus £2 in taxes! Osaka International Airport is about an hour away and from there you can easily get to both Kyoto and Osaka. I would recommend going to Kyoto first, which is known for its classical Buddhist temples, gardens, imperial palaces and traditional wooden houses. Jump on the train for 30 min and you are in Osaka, Japan’s third largest city.

    On the way back from Japan you would not regret a stop-over in Beijing. The city offers visa-free entry for 72 hours. This gives you enough time to explore the main sights and possibly do a day trip to one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China. During peak season, it’s usually easier to find reward availability to Beijing than Tokyo.

    Flights

    From London Heathrow you would be flying out from Terminal 5 to Seoul. Now, if you are flying in business, you would have three lounges to choose from; Galleries Club Lounge in Terminal 5A (North and South) and terminal 5B. Starting the holiday with a couple of glasses of wine and some snacks is never wrong! However, British Airways lounges in T5 tend to be very busy. The one in the satellite terminal tend to be less busy (albeit further away). If you don’t fly business you can try out the Aspire Lounge  for £35 per person. If you have the American Express Platinum card entrance is for free or you can use one of the two complimentary lounge visits from the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card, you can read more about the cards here and here.

    London-Seoul and Beijing-London

    The London-Seoul route is operated by a Boeing 787-8, meaning there is no first class on this flight. For tips on where to sit check out the seat plan on SeatGuru. While British Airways is not known for the best business class product in the industry, it’s perfect for people wanting to try out flying in business as it can be booked with a quite modest amount of Avios. You can read more about British Airways business class here. The return flight from Beijing to London will be on a Boeing 787-9, which include a few first class seats (SeatGuru).

    Seoul-Tokyo, Tokyo-Osaka and Tokyo-Beijing

    All flights to and from Japan will be with oneworld airline alliance member Japan Airlines. Short-haul flights are an excellent use of Avios and can result in notable savings. In addition, regional flights tend to have excellent reward seat availability. When it comes to the domestic flights within Japan you often have several different options to choose from on the same day. The flight from Seoul to Tokyo will arrive at the Tokyo Narita airport. The domestic flight between Tokyo Haneda and Osaka is a pure economy flight, no business class seats are available. If you want to go to Kyoto before Osaka you should choose the Itami airport and not Kansai. To Beijing you have the option to fly from either Tokyo Narita or Tokyo Haneda. The latter option is usually preferred as it’s closer to Tokyo.

    • Relax with some snacks and drinks before flying out at the Club Galleries Lounge.

    Things to Consider

    Similar to all Avios bookings there are a lot of things to consider. Most comments I get on the Avios Inspiration posts are related to ‘I want to make this trip, but don’t have enough Avios‘. So, below I listed were and in what order I would downgrade on the business class example. The minimum amount of Avios needed for this trip is 62,250 if making all flights in economy.

    1. Seoul – Tokyo is a rather short flight and would be my first choice for a downgrade. I myself flew this route in economy as it cost 7,500 Avios instead of 15,000.
    2. London – Seoul would be my second choice for savings. Why? Firstly, if I have to choose I prefer to fly more comfortably on the way back. The main reason for this is the wonderful feeling of avoiding jet lag and arriving relaxed to work. Secondly, this is the most expensive flight in this Avios Inspiration post, both in terms of Avios and cash, meaning the possibility for savings is quite large. Downgrading from business to premium economy would save you 36,000 Avios (39,000 vs. 75,000) and to economy another 19,500 Avios (19,500 vs. 39,000). You would save £145 in taxes and fees by downgrading from business to economy.
    3. Lastly, Tokyo – Beijing is a medium-haul flight and is, as such, very doable in economy class. You would save 10,000 Avios by downgrading from business to economy.

    If you have less than that you can always pay for London-Seoul and Beijing-London and use the Avios you have for the short-haul flights. If you are two people travelling, I would make the British Airway American Express 2-4-1 voucher a priority. You can read why the Amex 2-4-1 voucher is the most beneficial travel perk in the UK here.

    If you have any questions, please drop a comment below! You can amend the Avios Inspiration itinerary based on taste. If you have a lot of time, why not explore more of Japan!

    Avios Airline Redemptions – How to Save on Taxes with AirBerlin

    Since AirBerlin joined the oneworld airline alliance in March 2012, it has become an excellent option for low-tax Avios redemptions. Avios are travel reward points that can be redeemed for flights, hotel stays, upgrades and much more. One of the great things with Avios is that they are very easy to earn via your everyday spending. While most associate Avios with British Airways, you can use Avios to book reward flights on more than 30 different airlines. Click here to see all airlines.

    Note:  In August 2017, Air Berlin filed for insolvency, resulting in several long-haul route being dropped. The German government issued a €150 million loan to Air Berlin, meaning the company will stay afloat until after the German elections. However, I would be cautious about booking any Air Berlin reward flights unless you want to book last minute. There are a lot of availability at the moment.

    AirBerlin is a somewhat strange airline. They market themselves as a low-cost carrier, but serve a number of long-haul routes and offer a business class product. airberlin is the second largest airline in Germany after Lufthansa. While struggling financially for quite some time they have continued keeping faith with its long-haul routes. Ethiad,  the national airline of Abu Dhabi, is a 29% shareholder in the airline.

    • Cheap, low surcharges
    • Good availability
    • Decent business class product
    • Ethiad chauffeur service in Abu Dhabi
    • Can´t use 2-4-1 voucher
    • Priced at peak Avios
    • Flights to Germany needs to be book separately
    • Only two business class seats per flight

    The main reason to redeem Avios for flights on airberlin is to avoid the crazy surcharges British Airways slaps on its flights. A return trip in business from London to New York on British Airways will set you back more than £500. The same from Berlin on AirBerlin will be a modest £72. The surcharges are even lower if you book TO Germany, with New York to Berlin costing just £4 in taxes!

    How many Avios do I need?

    In the table below I have listed all AirBerlin long-haul routes (as of May 2017). I have also included the number of Avios needed for a return trip in economy or business as well as the surcharges. You can of course redeem Avios on short-haul AirBerlin flights as well, but this only makes sense if you live in Germany due to British Airways beneficial short-haul Reward Flight Saver programme.

    Some of the routes in the table below are new and are only available as of the fall of 2017. You can find the full details in this article.

    The number of Avios required for some destinations differ between AirBerlin out of Germany and British Airways flights from the UK. Naturally, this is due to the distance from Berlin and Dusseldorf to the destination will be different to a similar flight from London. In addition, British Airways peak and off-peak pricing also plays a role. All partner airline redemptions booked using Avios are priced at peak day pricing, regardless of when you fly.

    DepartureArrivalMileage One-WayAvios EconomyCost EconomyAvios BusinessCost Business
    BerlinMiami4,96050,000£72150,000£72
    BerlinNew York3,95040,000£72120,000£72
    BerlinChicago4,40050,000£72150,000£72
    BerlinLos Angeles5,79060,000£72180,000£72
    BerlinAbu Dhabi2,90025,000£6475,000£64
    DusseldorfCancun5,24050,000£99150,000£99
    DusseldorfMiami4,72050,000£73150,000£73
    DusseldorfCuracao4,95050,000£56150,000£56
    DusseldorfVaradero, Cuba4,90050,000£75150,000£75
    DusseldorfOrlando4,63050,000£73150,000£73
    DusseldorfSan Francisco5,57060,000£73180,000£73
    DusseldorfDominican Republic4,58050,000£119150,000£119
    DusseldorfFort Myers, Florida4,75050,000£72150,000£72
    DusseldorfLos Angeles5,67060,000£73180,000£73
    DusseldorfNew York3,74040,000£73120,000£73
    DusseldorfBoston3,55040,000£73120,000£73
    BerlinSan Francisco5,66060,000£72180,000£72

    How do I book?

    Redeemptions can be booked on BritishAirways.com. However, pay attention to the fact that British Airways always show their own flights first, so you might need to scowl down a bit. Also, some routes are only flown a couple of times a week, meaning you might have to fiddle around a bit with dates in order to get it to properly display AirBerlin availability.

    Why is redeeming Avios on AirBerlin a great idea?

    It´s cheap! It is as simple as that. The surcharges with AirBerlin are a lot lower than flying from London. This is due to lack of Air Passenger Duty and lower fuel surcharges. Naturally, some of this saving will be offset by the cost of getting to and from Germany. Unless you live there, if so, you lucky duck! Another benefit is that reward availability on airberlin tend to be excellent.

    Which is the best AirBerlin Avios redemption?

    Berlin to Abu Dhabi return in business class for a meagre 75,000 Avios plus £64 in taxes is probably the best redemption. A peak date British Airways Club World (business) flight from London will cost 120,000 Avios plus a staggering £526. In addition, you also get access to the Ethiad chauffeur service to and from Abu Dhabi airport. They are happy to drive you the hour or so to Dubai if you please!

    What is the downside with redeeming Avios on AirBerlin?

    The downside, apart from having to get to and from Germany, is that you cannot use the American Express 2-4-1 voucher on AirBerlin redemptions. In addition, all AirBerlin flights are priced at peak Avios pricing irrespective of day. This mean that you might end up spending more Avios than you would with British Airways.

    Re-routing also tend to be a major concern for redeeming Avios on AirBerlin. In order to avoid Air Passenger Duty, the ticket to and from Germany needs to be booked separately. This mean AirBerlin has no liability to you if your flight is delayed. As such, you most likely need to include an overnight stay in Germany in order to avoid any risk of missing the long flight.

    Lastly, business class redemption seats on AirBerlin are capped at two per flight. More seats occasionally open up later on, but you should not rely on this. This mean that it is not an option for a family wishing to travel in business class.