Posts in the “Countries” category...

British Airways Reveals First Class Wing at London Heathrow Terminal 5

by Continental Club on March 22, 2017  |  Leave a comment • Tagged as: , , , , , , ,

British Airways has released the first official details of  ‘The First Wing‘ at its London Heathrow home. The First Wing will encompass and enlarge the existing First Class check in area at the South end of Terminal 5, linking through to new security channels which, for the first time, will allow eligible passengers direct access to the carrier’s Galleries First Lounge.

The First Wing will be open to members of the British Airways Executive Club at the Gold tier and above, as well as to Emerald cardholders of oneworld alliance frequent flyer programmes and, of course, to all those travelling in British Airways’ First Class. The latter will also enjoy direct access to The Concorde Room.

The check-in area is 250% larger than the original First Class zone, and The First Wing is defined by a three metre high and 29 metre long curved wall,  which serves to guide passengers through to the lounge complex.

The First Wing is slated to open in early April 2017. For more information, visit ba.com.

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The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician Relaunched – August 2016

by Continental Club on August 27, 2016  |  Leave a comment • Tagged as: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Luxury Collection NewScottsdale, AZ: It’s not often that we review individual hotels these days; the ever-increasing number of social media platforms and both hoteliers’ and guests’ use of them mean that there’s not much that’s not been written and shown about practically every lodging on the planet.

Today though, we found ourselves back at one of our favourite properties, which we wrote about last in 2008. And today just happened to be the day that Scottsdale’s The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician, the ultra-luxe enclave within The Phoenician AAA Five Diamond resort, reopened to guests following a multi-million dollar makeover.

Part of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, The Canyon Suites is already a Forbes Five Star retreat held in high regard by loyal returning guests, and (often) slack-jawed awe by first-time check-ins. Professional, gracious, engaging Ambassadors are permanently on-hand to assist, advise and make sure that guests make the most of their stay.

At the exclusive poolside, reserved for Canyon guests alone, service is so slickly impressive, you may wonder why all resorts can’t clone the Suites’ superstar server.

And at the front door, bell staff enthusiasm is way more than the Valley of the Sun’s soaring summertime temperatures should permit.

So, when news of a 2016 closure and relaunch was relayed to long-time guests, the common call was for as little change as possible.

Now then, is the moment of truth….

The signs of lavish expenditure are all around, as soon as the shade of the porte cochère is given up for the cool of the marbled lobby. The fountain anchors the front of house, but behind the lobby opens out in a way that’s plusher, lighter and yet more cosily intimate than before, and certainly more-so than any triple-height space could be expected to be.

To the guest corridors, and the carpeting, the wall coverings, the ceiling treatments and the light fittings are all showroom-fresh.

And, once ensconced in a Canyon Suite itself, only the coving, the skirting and the signature louvre-panel internal doors will prove familiar. From sound bar TV systems with online access to Netflix et al, to Nespresso coffee machines, to the furniture, beds, drapery, carpeting, wall decoration and artwork – every bit is new.

Here are definite mid-century cues throughout; solid, comfortable, design-led pieces that arguably echo a time when modernity was enthused over, but traditional standards of craftsmanship prevailed. A time before blue-box retail, Allen Keys and the expectation of imminent collapse defined contemporary design.

Yet, despite the transformation, nothing here will frighten The Canyon Suites‘ most loyal evangelists. It’s a credit to the teams behind the renovation that they’ve so-successfully retained The Canyon‘s unique air, while zephyring the fresh breeze of change throughout the entire building.

Outside, it’s familiar and new, too. Guests will now find an al fresco dining area between the lobby and the waterfalls, ready to welcome them for the launch of The Canyon Suites‘ complimentary breakfast service.

Poolside, there’s barely a shade of change, with eagle-eyed Canyonistas perhaps the only ones who’ll spot a new hue.

Sports fans, in particular, availing of the pool’s private cabanas will doubtless appreciate new 32″ LCDs on which to catch the game, whilst continuing to chill out of the sun.

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But, for many guests the biggest change, and the one that reportedly a significant number have long campaigned-for (we even mentioned it in 2008), is the final arrival of The Canyon Suites‘ own bar, to compliment the lobby’s new lounge.

It’s a haven of craft whiskies, of wines cellared with the latest technology; it’s an open wall where intimate evenings will be accented with small bites, and where sun-flooded mornings will see The Canyon‘s market-fresh breakfasts greeting early-risers.

With The Phoenician’s main hotel building also receiving the first hints of a 2017 full-scale reworking, aimed at establishing the whole estate as the finest resort in whole South West, it’s heartening to see the care and attention that’s gone in to The Canyon Suites, and into reflecting the thoughts, feedback and requests of countless guests.

Indeed, it’s not just the relaunching of The Canyon Suites; it’s definitively the reloving of The Canyon Suites.

For more information, visit canyonsuites.com, or luxurycollection.com.

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British Airways Daytrip Fares – To Madrid For Lunch

by Continental Club on October 27, 2014  |  One comment • Tagged as: , , , , , ,

British AirwaysEarly in 2014, and with great fanfare, British Airways launched its new weekend ‘day trip’ fares, offering passengers the opportunity to make (literally) flying visits to selected European destinations at comparatively bargain fares.

All went quiet from the airline’s marketing machine over the Summer, but the fares haven’t completely gone away; in fact, they’re showing signs of a stealthy comeback.

So, a couple of weeks ago, with fares of £44 each way to Madrid showing on ba.com, and with flight times offering almost twelve hours in the Spanish capital, Continental Club took the opportunity to see how popping to the Iberian peninsula for lunch might work in practice.

Better still, the application of 3,000 Avios to the booking lopped another £20 off the round-trip.

Firstly though, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re going to have to start early. Very early. And secondly, there’s no luggage allowance beyond (BA’s generous) hand luggage limit. So, if you’re going to enjoy an unencumbered day, then your iPhone is going to be your camera, and your pictures aren’t going to trouble Mario Testino.

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Luckily, we were holed-up in the Holiday Inn Ariel at London’s Heathrow Airport, a mere treble-glazing’s thickness away from Runway 27R. Heathrow’s first purpose-built hotel, opening in 1960, the Ariel has gained something of a cult following amongst idolisers of its quirky circular-structure and almost limitless coats of emulsion paint; indeed it’s open to question whether it’s now only the Dulux that’s holding the place together. Friendly, professional service and an almost Disney-esque eagerness to please marks the place out, as do often exceptionally-good weekend rates.

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Given the rates, and the almost hysterically-early hour, it seemed prudent to fire up the Uber app and see whether one of the companies many cars might be circling nearby. Four minutes later, a Mercedes E-Class appeared, and off we set into the still (and still quiet) night for Terminal 5 and our Madrid-bound bird.

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The fare came to £11, which would handily be only a £1 more than the free credit Uber offers when signing up to their service and using Continental Club’s promo code of w98js. Our Uber-virgin travelling companion generously picked up the tab for the ride.

At T5, the day had barely begun, and few fingerprints sullied the shiny screens of the self service check in machines.

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Even Security was a haven of calm, a sight which would surely render a weekday passenger slack-jawed in disbelief.

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While it’s true that part of the fun of the day was keeping the cost down to a level that makes suddenly deciding to pop over the Channel a realistic prospect, and doing it in a way that’s open to all, we couldn’t help but swiftly avail ourselves of the already-open Galleries South Lounge which, after all, is available to frequent flyers with shiny-enough cards, even on these cheapie-cheap-cheap tickets.

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And so it was that we sailed into a lounge even quieter than Security, panicked at the limitless choice of where to sit…….

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….and proceeded to do the only thing sensible so many hours before the first rays of sun would dare to peep over the horizon: inhale the entire contents of a coffee machine.

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It’s the first flight of the day from T5, so it’s very soon time to head to the gate and board the Boeing 767 that’ll take us South. It’s all spick and span on board; a light cabin refresh a while ago (intended to spruce things up owing to the then delayed deliveries of the new 787 Dreamliners) is improved further by the seats all being even more freshly re-hided in the customary dark BA blue.

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It wasn’t long until we were onboard and taxiing; no dilly-dallying at dawn – past the control tower that we’ve been up before – and out to the end of the runway.

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On our way, there’s barely time to wolf down the potentially culinarily-calamitous but actually rather tasty complimentary Cumberland Sausage Croissant, a portion-controlled thimble of coffee and a quick cram of the Lonely Planet.

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Once back on terra firma, Madrid Barajas Airport’s Terminal 4s welcomed us, and with the previous day’s siesta barely over, all was still quiet despite the clock having long-since struck nine.

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A short walk and a lift from arrivals, and we reached the Metro platforms. Barajas has both subway and heavy rail lines, the latter being quicker but not quite matching our planned (and Lonely Planet inspired) itinerary. So, to the Metro it was, at 8 Euros for a tourist day ticket, with one handily awaiting our descent to track level.

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We sat for a few minutes to gather more travellers, before the doors slid shut and we headed off towards the city in our air-conditioned subterranean ferrous worm.

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Two changes later, and we break cover once more at Banco de Espana, about 40 minutes from leaving the airport.

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Emerging from the station it’s a full-on, 360-degree immersion into some of Madrid’s most in-your-face architecture, from the bank itself to the Palace of Communications across the whirling plaza.

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Turning right along the Paseo del Prado, it’s not long before we find ourselves bang in the middle of the stand-off between the city’s two most famous hotels – the Palace and the Ritz facing each other across the street in dignified defiance.

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I see your Palace, and I raise your Ritz.

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And garden.

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This early in proceedings, there’s only one sensible course of action, and that involves additional caffeine. A suitable streetside position was therefore assumed to consider the steely glares of the grand dames across the Paseo.

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Loins girded, it’s all-too-soon time to press on, and no visit to Madrid could ignore the world-famous Museo del Prado. However, as its halls and galleries can provide hours (if not days) of interest, there’s simply not long enough to venture in. Instead, it’s a quick whizz-by the maze-topped main entrance.

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Not that there’s nothing to see by passing-by; just behind the museum at the church of who-knows-what, there’s a mid morning marital going on, with a jolly nice jalopy in attendance.

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Conveniently located just beyond the Prado’s portals, the Botanic Gardens make an enticing prospect as an alternative to walking with the traffic along the main thoroughfare towards Atocha. At 3 Euros for an adult entry, blooming flowerbeds at the gate and an imposing archway above, the gardens present an appealing prospect.

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Be fooled not however, dear readers, for despite the vivacious beds at the gate, and the odd pleasant reflecting pool, a Spanish high-plain Summer does little for the horticultural exotica planted within. Most, it transpires, has been dessicated beyond identification by September.

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Thank goodness for the dahlia display, which injected at least a little colour into the proceedings, before the dawning realisation that the linear gardens in fact have only one entrance and exit, and the pleasantly-pedestrian perambulation has to be retraced back to square one, to walk the road once more to to the South.

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At the end of the Paseo del Prado stands the old station of Atocha, resplendent in its restored glory and fronting its modern successor. It was arguably ahead of its time, leading the way for the restoration of glorious and ancient termini such as Grand Central in New York and St Pancras in London.

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It’s a stunning piece of glazed ironwork too, but unlike its American and British counterparts, its main space no longer directly serves its railway. In fact, in this regard, it’s much more akin to Manchester’s former Central Railway Station, latterly G-Mex and now once again known as Manchester Central – though these days that’s the name for its conference & events venue purpose.

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Indeed, its ‘first of a kind’ status is perhaps betrayed by its slightly-odd contrivance as a hybrid tropical garden, turtle pool and general ‘tat’ market. Architecturally-stunning, but otherwise fairly useless.

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Having been slightly disappointed by what had hitherto been something of a hoped-for highpoint of the day, the time came for the application of some soothing beer. And, thankfully, it being Spain there’s always the opportunity to take the taste away with some moreish morsels. In this case, a short walk along the Paseo Atocha brought us to Cerveceria San Andres, at the corner of Calle del Almendro and Cuesta San Pedro, and its outdoor terrace perfectly-placed for people-watching and a selection of croquetas the like of which neither Captain Birdseye nor Mister Findus could conceive.

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Fortified, we marched onward to the Plaza Mayor, the 16th Century square noted for its nine entrances and 237 balconies.

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For such an historic construction, first-time visitors may be more than a little surprised to discover that much of the square, at its upper levels, is residential.

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In a city like Madrid, there’s only so far that you can go without food though (about 20 minutes, if you’re asking), and the Mercado de San Miguel is hot on the tourist trail for all manner of nourishments (and not a little hydration).

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And, let’s face it; as pig products go, this is a reasonably good show.

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From pork to palaces, and just beyond the Plaza Mayor and the Mercado is the Palacio Real de Madrid – the Royal Palace and official residence of Spain’s royal family. The gardens cascade down to the river and look across to the Casa de Campo to the West. Tours are available (and judging by the rather obvious amount of ‘deferred maintenance’ to the fabric of the building, they could do with your cash), but we have no time for such dalliances, and it’s a whistle-stop pass through the Plaza de Oriente in front for us.

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Some thoughtful shading is welcome as we head towards the Puerta del Sol; madrileño late Summer sun can still be harsh.

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But no amount of shading can provide the refreshment that only a purveyor of fine licensed victuals can; one like the highly-polished operation that is Taberna Ángel Sierra on the Calle de Gravina.

IMG_1403.JPGAnd just when you thought that no more could possibly be packed into the day, there’s still time for one last taste of the best that Madrid has to offer, even if it’s to be found in a building which lacks something of the classical elegance of the Mercado de San Miguel.

Yes, I’m afraid that it isn’t too harsh to compare the exterior (if not the interior) aesthetics of the Mercado San Anton to any common-or-garden gulag.

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It is to the very great credit of the tenants and stallholders of the market that they have attempted to cloak the concrete in as much colour as they can, but when all’s said and done, there’s only so much that Astroturf can do to hide the hideousness of their surroundings.

So it’s just as well that in spite of the forbidding prospect of the place (or perhaps, in fact, because of it) that some of Madrid’s very finest food and drink is to be found cascading from its grey balconies.

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And with the British Airways iPhone App lighting up our screens to push our boarding pass notifications through, we proved that there’s never not enough time for another platter of pork products and a medicinal bottle of Crianza.

Just 20 Euros lighter for the fun of this final flourish of late, late lunch, we rolled gently down the warm evening street to the Metro, and the opportunity for a short subterranean reflection on our thoroughly agreeable day out.

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Once back at Barajas, there’s time for a quick heel-cooling in the Iberia Lounge at T4, a place that does not overburden itself with the provision of fine provender, beyond some darkly-suspicious looking baked goods and pasta which could (respectively) have easily been mistaken for ice hockey pucks and tripe-coloured shrapnel. Much better to stick to the safety of some crisps if a final exposure to pre-flight food is essential.

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At least the views of the runway are pleasant – better than many an airport departure lounge bunker. And, lest we forget, it’s all still included in the day trip fare for holders of the requisite shiny airline card.

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A dash down the jetty and we’re on board our white, red and blue bird ready for departure back to Blighty.

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It’s a narrow-body Airbus A320 this time, unlike the twin-aisled Boeing 767 that operated our outbound, and it’s still flying the soon-to-be history ‘convertor’ seats which are being replaced at the rate of three ‘planes a week. It gives us a last chance to bag the first row of port side of the Economy cabin which, for reasons of aisle-kinking, trolley-pushing, knee-bashing avoidance, is also configured with Club Europe-style seating two-abreast.

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Once airborne, there’s plenty of opportunity for (what some may consider the unnecessary) further application of solid and liquid swallowables, but since this whole venture was designed to scientifically test the full range of inclusions in an £88 escapade, we felt it our duty to indulge.

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Truth be told, that flatbread was far better than it had any right to be for free, too.

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There’s not a lot arriving at 22:20 on a Saturday, so we trickled quickly through T5 and, in the spirit of continued travel frugality, across to Bus Stand 6 for the imminent departure of the 423 to Hounslow via Harlington Corner.

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Which, happily, is just where the Holiday Inn London Heathrow Ariel happened to find itself built and, even more handily, Transport for London included in its Heathrow Freeflow zone – making the bus ride completely complimentary.

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And that, then, was that – home. One day, two flights, terrific food and still time for a nightcap back at the Ariel.

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Continental Club paid £44 per person each way for a hand baggage only, day trip fare with British Airways, bookable online at ba.com.

We paid with a debit card to avoid the £5 per person credit card fee, and used 3,000 Avios to reduce the fare by an additional £20 roundtrip, making the net cost £68 each.

One of us signed up to car service Uber using the code w98js to gain £1o fare credit, so the journey to Heathrow cost £1.

In Madrid, we each bought a one day Zone A Tourist Travel Pass for EUR8.40, which included Metro travel from and to the airport, and around the centre of the city on the Metro, buses and suburban trains if we’d wanted to.

We used London Bus service 423 within the Heathrow Freeflow zone to return to the hotel at no cost.

To search for day trip fares with British Airways when they’re not being actively marketed, check the Low Fare Finder at ba.com – remembering that you must select the same day for your outward and return flights for the special fares to show.

Flights offering day trip fares must be ‘combinable’ too, ie your outbound and inbound flights must arrive and depart with an interval greater than the minimum connection time at the destination airport. Which, of course, you’d be expecting anyway if you’re going for the day. Sometimes though, the tab at the top of the schedule and fares matrix on the results pages of ba.com may show a lower ‘lowest’ fare than any of those listed against specific flights below the tab. This occurs when there’s technically outbound fare availability, but no inbound flight which departs later enough the same day to be able to return on.

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15% Off British Airways Flights From Sydney, 10% Off From Middle East

by Continental Club on April 18, 2013  |  Leave a comment • Tagged as: , ,

British Airways LogoBritish Airways is offering Australian Gourmet Traveller readers a 15% discount when booking a British Airways airfare from Sydney to the UK and Europe at ba.com.

BA has recently relaunched its Sydney route, with the service now operating to and from the airline’s Terminal 5 home at London Heathrow. British Airways’ newest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft are rostered onto the flights, offering their latest World Traveller & World Traveller Plus, Club World & First Class cabins.

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The Australian Gourmet Traveller offer is valid in all cabins with the exception of First Class, and the ‘GOURMETBA’ code reduces the price of the lowest Club World return fare by over $1000 to $6158.92.

Australian Gourmet

The offer is valid for tickets purchased at ba.com from 1st April to 30th May 2013 and applies to travel from 1st April to 30th November 2013. Enter the promotional code ‘GOURMETBA’ into the promotion code box on ba.com to receive the discount.

Meanwhile, American Express Cardmembers can benefit from 10% off British Airways World Traveller, World Traveller Plus and Club World fares, for journeys originating from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Bahrain, Muscat, Kuwait, and KSA routes to selected destinations in the UK, USA, Canada and Europe. Bookings must be made and travel must commence by 30th September 2013:

BA Amex Table

To book, click the special ba.com/BA_Offer.AxCMS link and enter the password ‘amexme2011’ when prompted.

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Hurricane Sandy: New York Hotels Update From Tablet

by Continental Club on November 2, 2012  |  Leave a comment

Hotel website Tablet has published a useful list of popular New York City hotels on its online magazine, detailing whether the hotels are open, closed, or partially affected.

Tablet themselves are based in the city and are promising to keep the listing updated as and when they can contact more properties.

For those visiting Manhattan in the coming days and as the clean-up operation continues, the listing could prove to be a useful resource.

Continental Club extends our very best wishes to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy, from the Caribbean to Canada and around the world through family and friends, during this challenging time.

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British Airways: Be Part Of The London 2012 Social Symphony

by Continental Club on July 30, 2012  |  Leave a comment

There may be five million bicycles in Beijing but, in 2008, there were only one million more Twitter users than that worldwide. As London 2012 gets into full-swing though, 140 million people are now registered to tweet, and 100 million Facebook users in 2008 have ‘liked’ another 800 million of their ‘friends’ into joining.

London 2012 airline partner British Airways is hoping to get as many Team GB supporters as possible posting their support across all their favourite social media platforms, building on the age-old concept of ‘Home Advantage’.

And, to see just how loud those cheers from the virtual stands are, BA is converting every message with the #HomeAdvantage hashtag into a note in a constantly-changing piece of music – the Social Symphony.

To listen to today’s, and every day of the Olympic’s composition, click here.

You can then post your own message of support to your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google+ or other account, followed by #HomeAdvantage and mentioning @TeamGB, @ParalympicsGB and @London2012.

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East Coast Trains Partners With M&S

by Continental Club on June 25, 2012  |  Leave a comment

East Coast Trains have announced an additional option for its East Coast Rewards loyalty programme members to redeem points.

500 Rewards Points can now be exchanged for a £10 Marks & Spencer eCode, which can then be spent online at the high street retailer’s website.

East Coast Rewards members earn 1 point for every £1 spent on Standard Class rail tickets online at www.eastcoast.co.uk, with the rate increased by 50% for First Class ticket purchases.

So, £333 of First Class tickets purchased on the East Coast website would be enough for a £10 Marks & Spencer code – effectively rewarding members at 3% of expenditure. Up to 5 eCodes may be requested per account per month.

Customers of other rail companies can also benefit, as all rail tickets purchased online from East Coast, not just those for East Coast services, are eligible for points-earning.

Other existing Rewards redemption options include complimentary First Class tickets on East Coast services, which may remain better value for regular East Coast users who are able to book reward travel in advance. An any East Coast destination First Class Return For Two is priced at 1400 Reward Points – the result of a £933 spend on First Class tickets. An example Newcastle to London return starts at £89 per person return in First Class, so the reward could be worth almost 20% of spend. The value of the free ticket reward depends on route redeemed and also availability, which is restricted.

For further details on East Coast Rewards, click here.

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Fly Home For London 2012 With British Airways & See A Boeing 777 Taxi Down Your Street

by Continental Club on June 19, 2012  |  Leave a comment

Now live on UK television is British Airways‘ London 2012 #HomeAdvantage Olympic advert, which explains why a Boeing 777 was seen taxiing through Richmond Park last week:

And here’s the story behind the ad:

And here’s probably the niftiest bit:

See A British Airways Boeing 777 Taxi Down Your Street

Enter a United Kingdom postcode and see what your home looks like from on board a British Airways aircraft.

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