In 2003 I achieved Gold – not in an airline Frequent Flyer programme, but in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. This week I was invited to attend a ceremony at the beginning of May to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the award in the north of Scotland and decided that I would go to meet up with some old school friends.
Sadly, this is the day before BA restarts the LHR-INV link so I will not be able to take advantage. This would have been ideal, as Inverness is the closest airport, and I would be able to borrow a car rather than hiring one.
The celebration is on Sunday evening, so MummyAirmiles suggested I “just get a cheapo easyJet fair to Inverness”. I could fly up to INV from LGW with easyJet on Saturday night and back first thing on Monday morning for about £50. This is the cheapest, but doesn’t give me much time up in Scotland and I would also have to get to LGW which is a pain from where I live.
The other easyJet alternative would mean getting from school near Heathrow on Friday night across to Gatwick, and returning on Monday afternoon for £220.
The closest BA airport is Aberdeen, so I looked at flights there. As it is close to work, it is easy to get to, either door to door on the bus, which takes an about an hour but costs £1.50, or the train which involves a walk and 2 trains, but is quicker.
I tend not to choose the Hand Bag Only fares as I don’t like the idea of being unable to select a seat as I would prefer a window or aisle. I also am not sure if I will want or need to take a bag, so I usually price flights up with a checked bag. The base fare was £140, leaving on the last flight from Heathrow with an inbound in the afternoon.
As I will be unable to borrow a car, and will have to get home from ABZ, I will need to hire a car. Avis is my first port of call through BA, and the package came out at £186 for the car and flights together. I chose to spend an extra £7 on a slightly bigger car.
It is worth remembering that car and flight packages are almost always cheaper than booking separately, and this was on different. Separately, the car would have been £51 and £140 for the flights.
I have decided that I will stay over at Aberdeen Airport on the Friday night as it will be late when I arrive, and it will give me some flexibility on the Saturday. There has been a lot of development at Aberdeen Airport which give me lots of options. IHG have two properties, a Holiday Inn Express and a Crowne Plaza which, oddly, are almost the same price.
I obviously chose the Crowne Plaza as it is a better quality hotel, with more facilities and will earn me more IHG points. I noticed that there was also an ‘Opening Rate’ which included a late check out and free breakfast – a no-brainer!
So, my option will cost me £186 for the car and flights, £40 for the hotel and probably about £30 in fuel – £256 all in, earning about 1500 Avios, 10TP and about 1200 IHG Points including the bonuses for spending on BA and IHG Credit cards, as well as another Avis Preferred rental. I will be able to have dinner in the lounge at LHR on the Friday night, drinks and snack on board and free seat selection to exit rows and a checked bag.
Going back to the equivalent easyJet option, I would also have to factor in a bag and seat selection if I wanted the equivalent fare. This totals £276 which does not include lounge access, dinner or snacks, or any loyalty kickbacks.
It always pays to do the maths, as sticking with MummyAirmiles suggestion could have cost me dear. Saying that, if I was on a tighter budget, then I could have gone for the short-stay £50 easyJet fare with no extra leg-room seats and no bags, but in this case, I think that I have a good deal that will also give me some flexibility to see other friends and family when I am up in Scotland.