Impressed by Gatwick Airport

I flew into Gatwick Airport on an Emirates A380 a couple of days ago and was impressed by the experience.

From landing to being on a train to our final destination in 30 minutes.

Much less than the hour that I typically estimate to get out of an airport after an international flight.

We did WIN the carousel Lotto with our checked bags* being among the first few bags down the chute

Automatic Gates

The new automatic gates, with facial recognition technology, for those of us who have a chip passport were really slick.

Much better than the clunky two stage system installed at Australian Airports.

Automated Shuttle

The shuttle from the North Terminal to the South terminal was also very convenient .

It drops you a few steps away from the station which has frequent trains to London as well as the south coast, where we were heading.

Bad Point

The only criticism was that as you arrive in the baggage hall there is no visible message board telling you which carousel to go to.

We had to fight our way through a stream of passengers from another flight to find a board; which then told us to retrace our steps!

*Yes I did check in a bag, but we are travelling for five weeks, and I like to avoid wearing shirts too often.

Using Points for International Upgrades

I don’t consider using frequent flyer points for domestic flight upgrades as I can put up with an economy seat for 4 hours.

Long haul is a different matter and I have upgraded several times.

When Do You Get Upgraded?

Your request will only be processed in the day or two prior prior to the flight as they are hoping that there will be a late full fare booking to fill any vacant seats.

Often I have only found out I have been approved at check in.

Status Matters

Often there are more people wanting an upgrade with points than there are seats available.

Qantas along with every other airline gives first opportunity to higher status members.

So its first chance to Chairman’s Lounge members ; followed by Platinum One members, Platinum members, Gold members, then Silver and finally Bronze.

Other Factors

It is not really clear; but I believe that your fare class can influence your chances, with a budget fare booked months in advance being less likely to be allowed to upgraded than an expensive fare booked within a short time of the flight..

I’ve also found its often easier to get an upgrade for a single cabin level improvement so going from Economy to Premium Economy is easier than going from Economy to Business.

What Are Your Points Worth

As I know a fair bit about One World Awards, through QANTAS Frequent Flyer points I will concentrate on those.

Based on my experience from other airlines including Star Alliance and Sky Team however I have found most loyalty schemes are very similar.

The points value depends on what you want to buy.

N.B.Values updated to reflect announced changes in June 2019

Worst Value

Buying gifts or gift vouchers is the worst value.

I would get an email every week with offers from the Qantas gift shop to buy luggage, cameras, electrical goods,etc; using my points.

When I check the points against local discount store prices it looks like its around one cent (AU$0.01) for every 2 points.

About the only time I would look at buying something from an airline ‘shop’ would be if the points were set to expire, and I was unable to book a flight,

Better Value

Buying an economy flight with ‘Classic Awards’ is much better value.

Although you will still have to pay Taxes and ‘Carrier Charges’ each point is worth between 1.5 – 2 cents (AU$0.015 – 0.02)

N.B. The points value if using ‘Points plus Pay’ is generally around half the ‘Classic’ award rates (not much better that gifts) although there is better availability of flights.

Best Value

The best value on a strictly points for cash basis is either, buying Higher Class tickets, or asking for an upgrade after buying an economy fare.

The cash equivalent of a point when spent like this can be around 5 cents (AU$0.05)

The problem is that very few Business Class seats are released for Frequent Flyers which makes them fairly hard to get.

When I had higher (Gold Status) it was easier to get upgraded tickets.

Conclusion

Understanding the value of points means you can better compare collecting points compared with other discounts you may be offered.

Collecting Points

There are a huge range of ways of collecting frequent flyer points.

With flying a lot less now I am retired a very small proportion that I collect are actually earned flying.

Qantas

As Australians we find it more useful to concentrate on collecting Qantas points, as they more useful to us.

Here are the the ways my wife and I collected 217,453 Qantas Points in the past year:

  • Credit cards and banking 175,605 (81%) – Including changing credit card with a 100,000 bonus.
  • Flights 20,750 (9%) – Of the 29 flights we took only 6 earned us Qantas points.
  • Shopping 16,530 (7%) – Mainly Woolworth supermarket and fuel.
  • Surveys 4,568 (3%) – I am registered with a Qantas survey site which pays me in points to do marketing surveys.

Even though we are keen points collectors we didn’t earn anything on restaurant meals, car hire, hotels, travel money, or insurance.

To give you an idea of what those points are worth we used them, with some points previously collected, for 2 Business Class single tickets to London in May this year (128,000 points each)

Other Airlines

I also collected 14,125 Emirates points and 3,400 Lufthansa points from trips to Iran and Bangkok .

No Additional Spending

None of the points we have gained have resulted us in any additional expenditure over what we would otherwise have spent.

We did get a new premium credit card but I have previously explained there are offsetting savings with that card.

Why not look to finance some of your holidays with Frequent flyer points?

Disclaimer I haven’t been paid or received any benefit from this post.

Are Window Seats Overrated?

Advantages

Its great to be able to get views like the one in the photo.

Some people like to lean against the side of the plane to sleep. (Although I have never found that much benefit)

You won’t have people asking you if they can get passed.

Disadvantages

On lots of trans ocean flights there is not a lot to see for the majority of the flight.

For long haul the flight attendants want the window blinds closed for the majority of the flight. (They say its so people can see the video screens better. . . . I think they just want everyone to either sleep, or be absorbed in the movies, so there is less for them to do)

If you want to go to the toilet, or just stretch your legs you have to get someone else to move.

My Travel Hacks

  • Well I always go for an aisle seat when travelling long haul, but aim for a window seat for flights less than about 3 hours.
  • If you want the clearest view its best to avoid the side of the airplane that will be in the sun.
  • Use Seat Guru to avoid a seat directly over the wing.

Lost Luggage

I hear that Airlines performance with checked luggage is getting better.

According to a SITA Baggage Report for 2017 about one bag for every 170 passengers fails to arrive at the carousel.

Only a small proportion of those cases are permanently lost, around 1 case per 2,500 customers.

Reason for loss

Almost half of all cases of lost checked in luggage is due to the case going missing when changing planes, particularly when there is a tight connection.

I would say my experience tends to back up the figures in the last ten years and a couple of hundred flights my checked in bags have got missing 3 times.

Twice with transfer times of much less than an hour.

The other time it got held up in immigration at Los Angeles even though the transfer time was 6 hours.

Every time the bags have turned up within 24 hours.

My Travel Hacks

After 3 occurrences I now rarely check in luggage, even if I am travelling for a couple of weeks.

Even when I check in luggage I still have my carry-on with 4-5 days of clothes.

Flying to the US I aim to stay at least one night at the place where I go through immigration.