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Above & Beyond: Amazing Events Brought To You By British Airways & Chase

Above & Beyond: Amazing Events Brought To You By British Airways & Chase

Old Jul 17, 16, 3:45 pm
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Above & Beyond: Amazing Events Brought To You By British Airways & Chase

Introduction

In early April 2016 I received an email from British Airways inviting us to participate in the Above&Beyond Summertime in London event being run by British Airways and Chase. It almost looked too good to be true at 700,000 Avios for two or 350,000 and a Chase Travel Together ticket. I suspected these would go like hot cakes so set a calendar entry for April 18th at 12pm when the tickets went on sale. My next goal was to convince my wife to come to London for 3 nights. Her first reaction was not overly encouraging but we got there in the end. Here's her summary that she later wrote for family and friends:

I'm not one to write a diary, keep a journal, post a blog but sometimes, I have just discovered, an occasion presents itself. I mixed, mingled and shared an amazing experience with a diverse, intelligent group of fellow travelers had many great conversations, luxurious and truly surreal pinch yourself moments. So much so I wanted to continue that experience in a self indulgent reflective journey back over the period when only the slow scrape of ink on paper and a trawl through photos would give you the perspective to savour all those glorious moments that could otherwise potentially would be lost in the hurly burly of ordinary life.

So here I go throwing my thoughts into the digital computer age to share with whomever can be bothered to labour through, stifle the green eyed monster, humor me and share what was a completely amazing experience that I was lucky enough to have and you can vicariously share.

To begin, anyone who knows my husband knows he undoubtedly works hard, plays golf (golfmad) to an almost mind bending extreme and undisputedly enjoys his creature comforts, unlike me, a tough broad from the north of England who has over time learnt that resistance is futile and endures the comfort and luxury he insists on providing me with (as long as I don't keep him waiting of course!)

Being a purveyor of a good opportunity, he collects his points and shows his loyalty - often to much eye rolling but gracious acceptance and gratuitous benefit from his loving family - and parades his offers (mostly ignored) before us. "So" he says to me one evening, if you can get the time off work "How do you fancy a trip to Wimbledon and 3 nights at the savoy…?" "3 nights", says I, "Seriously, you expect me to travel all that way (no clandestine visits over the border to Scotland or even north of watford) just for 3 nights? You can't be serious!!!!". "But really", says he, "It's an amazing offer, it includes centre court Wimbledon tickets and oh, can you manage carry on only, given that it's only 3 nights?" Not the most illustrious opening gambit, but one of course I enthusiastically (ok not really, but I did warm up to the idea) accepted and was fortunate enough to be given.


The 18th April arrived and I called on the dot of 12pm when the phone lines were supposed to open to be greeted with a message saying that the phone lines would open at 12pm. I persevered for 20 minutes but nothing changed. By this point I had to leave; I had a flight to catch from Tampa to Miami and then overnight to London. As we sat in the car my call was answered and I was placed in a queue. I drove, we waited and waited. We arrived at the airport for my wife to drop me off but as we were a little early we headed for the cell phone lot to wait it out and there, in the space of a couple of minutes, our booking was taken. I had my paws on the 6 character BA PNR and felt very smug all the way to the UK.

Total cost was 350,000 Avios and the Travel Together ticket. I had a couple of those in my account anyway and to be honest I rarely use them. To those who know the normal process of booking with Avios they will be familiar with the concept of paying at least a $grand per person for premium round trip tickets. On this occasion there was no cash component at all. The Avios were debited almost straightaway which gave me confidence that the booking was in the system.

Here's the original email I received and here's the full schedule of events that arrived via courier around the middle of June:

Last edited by golfmad; Jul 19, 16 at 8:52 am
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Old Jul 17, 16, 3:46 pm
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I'd booked us on Delta in First for a direct trip from TPA to JFK around lunchtime. I spent a short time in the Delta lounge at the E gates in TPA as I had to charge my Mac and couldn't find anywhere by the gate itself.



I enjoyed the Salmon salad lunch offering.



The flight was uneventful and early which was a bonus. We only had carry on luggage for this trip which was great so we headed to the BA terminal at JFK on the AirTrain. We were a little early so sat and waited around for 15-20 minutes before someone appeared at the check in. We checked in just prior to the Fast Track security opened so waited for that and headed straight through and into the Concorde Room Lounge (CCR).

For those who don't know it, there's a CCR in LHR and JFK for use by passengers flying in F on BA flights and those in possession of a CCR card. Our flights weren't in F but I had the requisite piece of plastic that also enabled me to guest my wife. I did a couple of hours work while she had a couple of glasses of wine and then we headed for the dining area. This was the menu. I had the Filet which was pretty good.


We knew Chase were holding a reception in the British Airways Galleries lounge so after dinner we headed across to the other lounge and this is where the weekend started to take shape as we were able to meet and chat with the other people on the trip. It was really well done outside on the patio.




A couple of hours flew by and it was time to board BA 4 for London.



There had been a bit of a mix up with the boarding passes which appeared to have been issued almost randomly but given that there were only 16 pairs of people traveling on this 32 seater A318 we all just agreed to sit anywhere we wanted. We boarded almost last and went back to row 7. I'd only sat in row 1 on my previous trips on this flight so it made an interesting change.

That's the last I have to report about the flight as I went to sleep during the early part of the climb and open awoke during the initial descent into LCY.

Last edited by golfmad; May 24, 18 at 11:40 am
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Old Jul 17, 16, 3:46 pm
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BA3 was on time and immigration into the UK was a breeze. We'd been promised luxury transport and to be honest we both thought that would mean a comfy bus so we were really impressed to learn that the whole weekend we'd be driven around in our own black E220 Mercedes. There was a fleet of 16 of them waiting for us outside the LCY arrivals door and anywhere else we traveled during our time in London.



We were driven directly to the Savoy and then escorted to a large suite for an early buffet lunch. While eating, the Head Butler was wheeled in to give us an explanation of his role and those who work for him. Stories of requests for Zebra milk etc...



And then off to our room. No complaints there.







The tray at the foot of the bed was the 'Fairmont Fit' equipment. Fairmont Fit provides Reebok workout gear and footwear all of which was delivered directly to our rooms once we'd signed up prior to the trip thus removing the requirement to lug stuff from home for the occasional workout. The idea is a good one and it was all brand new (including the shoes) but to be honest if I'd wanted to go for a run I would have found the shoes a little uncomfortable.

The marketing materials and brands all matched and were very well put together throughout the entire weekend including these small note pads inside the main folder.





I spent a couple of hours catching up on work and then it was time to get ready for the rooftop garden party at 'Vista' at the Trafalgar Hotel which was a ten minute walk from the Savoy. This was the one part of the trip when we needed the weather to comply and we were lucky. There were clouds but it was mild with no rain. Here are some views:








Here's a copy of the menu, wine and drinks list:





This was the peas and broad beans canapé which was very tasty:



And the Exmoor caviar served with salmon:



We headed back to the Savoy and passed the Coal Hole so had to stop for a decent pint:



...and jolly good it was too.

Last edited by golfmad; May 24, 18 at 12:03 pm
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Old Jul 17, 16, 3:47 pm
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For some reason - probably partly related to only eating canapés the night before - I was up early and really hungry. That made one of us so I headed down for breakfast around 7am. It was all à la carte and I ordered an omelette, toast, juice and a coffee which came to a grand total of £41! I signed the bill to my room and later found out that our breakfasts were also included. Outstanding!



The rest of the morning and early afternoon was ours to spend as we wished. Our hosts had laid on optional historic tours of the Savoy but we decided to head into town and do a bit of shopping.

Next it was traditional afternoon tea at the Savoy. This is really completely over the top and consisted of 4 courses together with champagne. Someone at the Savoy has certainly done a fantastic job of marketing this product. It's extremely expensive and has a waiting list of six weeks. In the words of the Matrix Movie; what a mind job! Sandwiches, scones, pastries and cakes. A steal at £65 per person.









It was quite delicious.

Back in the room we found this had been left for us:



Later on we dressed up again for the Evening at Abbey Road with Jamie Callum.



The fleet of limos were waiting outside the Savoy and off we went for the champagne reception and four course dinner featuring a menu selected by Lee Wescott followed by a live performance by one of England's most successful and award-winning jazz musicians and boy, is he talented!

Outside we had to take the obligatory Abbey Road photo:



The reception was sponsored by British Airways, Chase, Avios, Visa and Avis



During the evening I had an opportunity to chat with a number of people from these various organizations (including some senior marketing folk from BA) which made for interesting conversations. Well, interesting for me anyway

Here's some Abbey Road wall art and a piano used by John Lennon:











Not entirely sure I was ready for dinner so soon following the afternoon tea but we pressed on. Here's the menu:













After the dinner, it was time for the main event. Unlike my wife (who already was) I hadn't expected to be a huge Jamie Callum fan but what a performance. Well done Jamie. With such a small audience it was a true delight and towards the end he encouraged everyone to come up and surround him as he played his heart out. Quite terrific. Then he met everyone, chatted with us all and posed for some photos too.











Back at the American bar in the Savoy we hadn't forgotten to use these either:





And so to bed zzzz

Last edited by golfmad; May 24, 18 at 12:32 pm
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Old Jul 17, 16, 3:47 pm
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What a day yesterday was. And today at Wimbledon topped it.

Our drivers took us to the house used by Stan Smith Events which I'm told is the second closest home to Centre Court bar the grounds keeper's residence. Complete with indoor swimming pool this was some place. Here's the view from an upstairs bedroom overlooking the practice courts:



We expected to meet Stan Smith and to meet a past Wimbledon champion was exciting enough so imagine our delight when this lady walked in? What a lovely lady and what a treat to have a chance to talk with the 1977 ladies champ.

Stan in the background. Sorry Stan!





So outside to the garden party and yet more champagne!



Then time for lunch:



and off to watch Andy Murray (that part was pure luck) on Centre Court. Stan had arranged great tickets for the group. Ours were about 5 rows behind and to the left of the royal box.



Time for some celeb spotting which was pretty easy given we were just behind David Beckham, Sir Bobby Charlton, Bill Beaumont, Cliff Richard, Emile Sande and one or two others. There of the above are in the next one:



A few mere mortals too:



McEnroe and David Beckham shaking hands with a serviceman:




Our seats were pretty comfy but the royal box front row took it to another level:



Summertime in London



It was fantastic to watch Andy Murray win his match and then watch him win the final a week later.



Back to the house for traditional strawberries and cream:



Some folk went back to Centre Court for later matches but we decided to head back to the Savoy.


Last edited by golfmad; May 24, 18 at 12:45 pm
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Old Jul 17, 16, 3:48 pm
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No time for breakfast in the morning. We had to pack which was considerably harder given the things we'd been given along the way. Thankfully one of the gifts was another decent sized bag. The packing was done brilliantly by one of us and it wasn't me.





Very smartly, our hosts had arranged for airportr to collect our luggage from the rooms and have it meet us later on at LCY. Very handy service.



And so, to the last part of our trip. A river cruise along the River Thames from the Savoy Pier to Tower Bridge followed by a farewell brunch served in the North Tower.





The boat had a fully stocked bar but I don't think it had much action.





Up inside the north tower with a glass floor!



Followed by yet another eating opportunity:





Once back at ground level the fleet were waiting for us to take us to LCY to be reunited with G-EUNB for the trip home via Shannon:





This little chum sniffed some money in my laptop bag so a search ensued. We have one like him at home although ours costs us money instead of finding it:



Back on board. The sushi prior to Shannon were tasty.





At JFK we were both through immigration in seconds due to Global Entry. We stayed the night by the airport and headed back in the morning via Delta. We arrived a little late which was a bit of a problem for us both. In my case I had a change of clothes in the car, repacked and headed back into the airport bound for Houston, but that's another story.

Last edited by golfmad; May 24, 18 at 12:57 pm
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Old Jul 17, 16, 4:24 pm
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Looking forward to coming along on the trip. Did you spend 700K Avios? Ultimate Reward points? You got 2 Club World tickets from JFK-LCY plus the ground festivities and hotel. How much do you value the points? I'm trying to wrap my mind around the value of the trip. Or does that take the gloss of it to get wrapped up in valuations?
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Old Jul 17, 16, 5:08 pm
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thank you for doing the report!

Originally Posted by golfmad View Post
rooftop event in the heart of the city.

Join us for private access to the iconic Abbey Road Studios. Enjoy an exquisite dining reception and a music performance from one of Britain's most popular performers.

You'll be spending the day at Wimbledon, whilst enjoying an exclusive garden party in the grounds of a private home, hosted by tennis great Stan Smith.

centre court for the day's matches.
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Old Jul 17, 16, 6:47 pm
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
Looking forward to coming along on the trip. Did you spend 700K Avios? Ultimate Reward points? You got 2 Club World tickets from JFK-LCY plus the ground festivities and hotel. How much do you value the points? I'm trying to wrap my mind around the value of the trip. Or does that take the gloss of it to get wrapped up in valuations?
Hi, we spent 350,000 Avios and a Travel Together ticket which is Chase's version of a 2-4-1. For me, it was a little over 10% of our points and therefore a complete no-brainer.

You ask a very good question though about value. The answer is a little more complicated than normal because Chase and British Airways certainly were not trying to make a profit out of this event from the lucky participants. In fact, I believe we paid a very small contribution towards the overall cost; enough to make sure we were committed but nothing more than a small fraction.

Looking at it from a marketing perspective Chase and British Airways (and the other sponsors of this event that included VISA, Avios and Avis) are looking to make their product 'aspirational' which ultimately may encourage spend from a large group of affluent individuals. We were just fortunate to be part of their marketing spend.
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Old Jul 17, 16, 7:38 pm
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Originally Posted by golfmad View Post
Hi, we spent 350,000 Avios and a Travel Together ticket which is Chase's version of a 2-4-1. For me, it was a little over 10% of our points and therefore a complete no-brainer.

You ask a very good question though about value. The answer is a little more complicated than normal because Chase and British Airways certainly were not trying to make a profit out of this event from the lucky participants. In fact, I believe we paid a very small contribution towards the overall cost; enough to make sure we were committed but nothing more than a small fraction.

Looking at it from a marketing perspective Chase and British Airways (and the other sponsors of this event that included VISA, Avios and Avis) are looking to make their product 'aspirational' which ultimately may encourage spend from a large group of affluent individuals. We were just fortunate to be part of their marketing spend.
Sounds like a good value to me. A roundtrip ticket for 1 is 100K Avios+$1137. Even computing the travel together certificate it's still 100K+$2274. The cheapest room for next year during Wimbledon middle Saturday is 432 GBP (non refundable) per night=$1716.... So you're already at almost 4K without the Wimbledon tickets, without the Stan Smith experience, without the Jamie Cullum as well... and he said that the tickets had no fees/APD or anything... if I had the points, I would definitely do this trip (maybe only if I had a travel together cert- what a value that was!)... This is definitely an aspirational award that won't necessarily appeal to everyone but to those that it appeals to it would seem like a great use of points.. rather Avios, which aren't really all that valuable anyway...

FDW
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Old Jul 18, 16, 5:38 pm
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Wonderful TR and very aspirational. Really enjoyed reading it and loved the pictures. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.
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Old Jul 18, 16, 6:18 pm
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It was lovely to come back to the thread and find all the bits in place. Oh, my. Every event was special. That's a trip you'll never be able to better! It was well worth waiting on line to be sure you were amongst the fortunate participants. Thanks for letting us experience it vicariously.

And for those who have no idea who the 1977 Wimbledon's women's winner was, it was Virginia Wade.
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Old Jul 18, 16, 6:31 pm
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Originally Posted by Flexible preferences View Post
Wonderful TR and very aspirational. Really enjoyed reading it and loved the pictures.
Thanks for the kind words

Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
It was lovely to come back to the thread and find all the bits in place. Oh, my. Every event was special. That's a trip you'll never be able to better!
You're (probably) spot on there!
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Old Jul 18, 16, 10:00 pm
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Looks like a really cool event, and one where the sponsors thought of all the little details to make it memorable, such as the easy airport transfers, etc.
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Old Jul 19, 16, 2:29 am
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
Looking forward to coming along on the trip. Did you spend 700K Avios? Ultimate Reward points? You got 2 Club World tickets from JFK-LCY plus the ground festivities and hotel. How much do you value the points? I'm trying to wrap my mind around the value of the trip. Or does that take the gloss of it to get wrapped up in valuations?
To put some perspective on it - Stan Smith Events buy my Wimbledon Centre Court tickets. I got £2,000 for the pair for that day, Citi will have paid at least £5,000 for the pair given it came with full hospitality.
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