I was quite surprised to be invited to an event hosted by Virgin Trains East Coast on Friday 18th March. It was going to be a major event as the invite mentioned Virgin Trains East Coast's MD David Horne and Richard Branson would be present. It also turned out that Stagecoach owner Brian Souter was present as well as representatives from Hitachi, the UK Government and many members of the press both from the UK and Japan.
Sorry for the lack of updates but I (^DH) had my laptop and phone stolen at the beginning of the month and the other person with access to the site (^EM) has been on holiday. This has meant things such as updating the site had been delayed. We announced the winner on Twitter of the competition as @pjdscott and we plan to run yet another competition by the end of the month.
If you shop at Tesco you may be aware of the long running promotion where you earn 150 Clubcard points on every £50 worth of giftcards purchased instore or online. This includes all third party giftcards (i.e. those for retailers that are not Tesco), Tesco's own giftcards don't count as you earn the Clubcard points when you redeem them.
The first class lounges on the Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) network have been a bit of a mixed bag. The lounge at Kings Cross is relatively new having opened in 2012 in time for the Olympics alongside the new departures concourse. This lounge also received a small refurbishment over the weekend of the start of the new franchise in 2015 so it was looking at its best for passengers and the press during the Virgin Trains East Coast launch events.
Today the results of the annual Which? survey are revealed and Virgin Trains East Coast (also including the last few months of East Coast) rank in 6th place. They rank below the two East Coast open access operators (Grand Central and Hull Trains), Merseyrail, Virgin Trains (west coast) and c2c.
If you've ever had to contact East Coast by post since 2011 you will have noticed their customer relations address is based in Plymouth which seems odd for a company based in York that doesn't go anywhere near Devon. This was due to East Coast outsourcing the contact centre to reduce costs. Previously the contact centre was based in Newcastle and had been since at least the GNER days.
We've started a competition we called #BetterRewards the first competition was to win £20 worth of Foodbar vouchers (great if you like Hop on Board) and the current competition is to win a first class return anywhere on the East Coast Mainline (a link to the most recent competition can always be found here).
Both Virgin Trains East Coast and West Coast are running a promotion called 'Love the North'. Given the name of the promotion you might be surprised to see that key cities such as Newcastle and Durham are missing. The reason for this is because the promotion is to show that flood affected areas such as Yorkshire and Northhumberland are still open for business and welcoming visitors. The promotion has been run in association with Visit England.
I know similar has been said by the other contributors before but the big problem with Nectar is there's no way for customers to grow attached to it, the benefits are so small that people just hand over their card because it's better than nothing but they don't feel a sense of loyalty to any of the brands that partner with Nectar. People have a Nectar card because they shop at Sainsbury's (or BP, etc) they don't shop at these places because of Nectar. This was shown particularly well last April when Sainsbury's halved the earning on the Nectar scheme and it hardly had any impact on sales.
When Virgin Trains East Coast announced they were scrapping East Coast Rewards and replacing it with Nectar they also mentioned that earning Flying Club miles was another option. They have made the ability to earn Flying Club miles more prominent as they realised no one was particularly happy with Nectar and although Flying Club wouldn't suit everybody it provides more intresting redemption offers (we really need to write an article about making the most of Flying Club).