Here's something for those who feel impulsive and like to make travel decisions on the day. Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) are rolling out advance tickets that can be purchased up to 2 hours before departure. Over time advance purchase tickets have moved from being available up to a week before departure, to 18:00 the day before and then 23:59 the day before.
After reviewing a recent Club Europe (short haul business class) flight from Glasgow to London City I thought it would be good to look at the Euro Traveller (economy class) product on a similar length journey. BA CityFlyer is a subsidiary of British Airways and offers short haul flights from London City Airport as well as seasonal holiday flights from UK regional airports such as Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.
British Airways have recently (April 2017) introduced their Club Europe business class product on domestic flights. I had a look at the service offered by their London City subsidiary, BA CityFlyer, which differs to what is offered on BA mainline services from Heathrow and Gatwick.
Glasgow (GLA) - London City Airport (LCY)
BA2215 departure 20:05 operated by BA CityFlyer
Although at first glance Crossrail 1 (the Elizabeth line) won't have any impact on Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) when it opens in 2018, it does have the potential to make air travel more attractive as it will make Heathrow more accessible from Central and East London. It will also make towns in the Thames Valley such as Reading and Maidenhead more accessible from London.
Virgin Trains East Coast are rolling out new ticket machines across the network replacing the FastTicket machines that are commonplace in their stations.
The FastTicket machines were for immediate travel only, most machines only could sell tickets departing from that station. This meant that if you wanted advance tickets you either needed to book online, by phone or from a ticket office. The machines were also used to collect tickets that had been booked online or via Telesales.
One of the things both Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains (East and West Coast) have in common is they compete with British Airways. Flying Club is one of the means that Virgin Atlantic use to encourage frequent flyers to choose their services and create a positive impression of their brand.
The main drawback of Virgin Atlantic is their route network, they're very competitive on the routes they do fly, but their network, even when taking into consideration their partner airlines, is very small compared to what BA can offer.
On Wednesday 11 January 2016 British Airways will be switching from offering complimentary catering to all passengers to offer a buy on board offering for short haul economy passengers. In theory this now brings the product in line with what is offered by Virgin Trains East Coast (trolley/Foodbar for standard class and complimentary for first class). But there's a few points to note:
East Coast Rewards had closed completely on 30 September 2015 which was the final day redemptions could be made. As our guide explained once you redeemed for free travel you had six months to book travel and travel could be three months ahead of booking meaning rewards travel was still available up until the end of June 2016.
Virgin Trains East Coast has been in the press a lot over the last week or so mainly because of so-called 'Traingate' where Richard Branson released CCTV footage of Jeremy Corbyn and to a much lesser extent September's fare rises and changes to off-peak validity.
After posting my previous blog post about Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) posting CCTV footage of Jeremy Corbyn walking past empty seats I have been accused of being a Corbynite. I'd like to now further clarify my position.