Our Holiday Hero reveals the hacks to maximise airline loyalty schemes

Make your air miles go even further! The hacks to maximise airline loyalty schemes

  • Neil Simpson puts airline loyalty schemes under the microscope
  • He says along with flying, air miles can also be used to pay for car rental 
  • With Virgin, 30,000 miles gets customers a trip in a hot-air balloon

Neil Simpson For The Mail On Sunday

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week he puts airline loyalty schemes under the microscope.

Collect enough frequent flyer points and you can fly for free – that’s what airlines promise in their adverts. 

But travellers say free seats are difficult to find and often carry ‘hidden’ fees. Here are six ways to avoid the pitfalls and make the most of your air miles.

City of light: The magnificent Notre Dame illuminated at night. In June, BA miles can be used to stay at more than 1,300 hotels on a Saturday night in Paris

City of light: The magnificent Notre Dame illuminated at night. In June, BA miles can be used to stay at more than 1,300 hotels on a Saturday night in Paris

Hack one: Always collect. Most loyalty schemes are free to join and you should sign up as soon as you book a flight. Don’t hold back because you may not fly with that airline again. Most schemes let you collect on a variety of carriers. With Virgin, you can also earn miles when you use Delta, South African or Air New Zealand. BA’s family includes American and Qantas.

Hack two: Turbocharge your miles. Serious collectors pick up more miles on the ground than in the air. Most airlines have credit cards where you earn miles or points for every pound spent. The most popular fee-free cards are the BA Amex and Virgin Mastercard, which gives you an extra 5,000 miles on its first use.

Use your airline like a cashback site to get more miles. Shop at MS or Next through BA’s e-store to get an extra three points (called Avios) per pound. Collect with Emirates and get miles when you use booking.com.

Hack three: Book early. Finding free flight availability is a challenge, and as most flights are offered about a year in advance, the sooner you search the better. But prepare for extra costs. A ‘free’ BA economy flight from London to Los Angeles next January costs about £370 in taxes and fees. If you can’t get a free flight, most schemes let you use miles to cut the cost of standard tickets. Emirates offers £75 off economy fares for 10,000 miles.

Holiday Hero Neil Simpson says the most popular fee-free cards are the BA Amex and Virgin Mastercard, which gives you an extra 5,000 miles on its first use

Holiday Hero Neil Simpson says the most popular fee-free cards are the BA Amex and Virgin Mastercard, which gives you an extra 5,000 miles on its first use

Hack four: Get a room. If you can’t fly for free, you can at least pay for hotels with miles when you arrive. Virgin miles can get you free nights at Hilton, Hyatt, Best Western and other chains. BA miles can be used even more widely. In June, it offers more than 1,300 hotels for a Saturday night in Paris – ranging from three-star establishments for 6,000 miles to a night at the Ritz for 212,000 miles.

Hack five: Forget flying. Air miles can also be used to pay for car rental. Find deals on the ‘spend miles’ section of your loyalty scheme’s website. Travel experts like car deals as there’s almost always availability and rentals include insurance.

Hack six: Have fun. Collect miles with Lufthansa or Etihad and you can shop in their Amazon-style catalogues. Bose headphones worth about £280 cost 98,000 Lufthansa miles, while Fossil aviator sunglasses (about £60) cost 21,300 Etihad miles. BA offers occasions such as an eight-hour chauffeured shopping day in London from 11,000 miles.

If you’re determined to use air miles to fly, then 30,000 Virgin miles get you a trip in a hot-air balloon.

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Naomi Scott Covers The April Issue Of British Vogue

One of the most joyful aspects of my work here at Vogue involves dealing in the art of prophesy, intuiting the mood of the season ahead so as to alert readers to the fashion and culture moments that truly matter, as well as to the faces – both familiar and brand new – who are set to define our times. It is a privilege that I take very seriously indeed; if a person appears in these pages, they are someone of real note, someone who is lighting up their field in important and meaningful ways. So it pleases me greatly to make the following prediction: this month’s cover star, Naomi Scott, will soon be one of Britain’s brightest cultural exports.

Everything You Need To Know About Vogue’s April Cover Star Naomi Scott

A first Vogue cover is a major landmark in any career, and not often one that an actress who has taken only her very first steps to success is ready for. It requires the aligning of stars: an intriguing back story and captivating personal style, to say nothing of a professional CV that is white hot. Naomi is well covered on the latter. In the coming weeks she will become globally famous thanks to her role as Princess Jasmine in Disney’s much anticipated live-action retelling of Aladdin, before taking up duty as one-third of the new Charlie’s Angels this autumn.

But Naomi is more than the sum of her successful auditions. A young Gujarati Indian-Brit from Essex, she is a committed Christian who married at 21, and is balancing a booming career with a set of personal priorities that many unsung women today share. What she has to say about faith and young love is timely and insightful. Of course, I look forward to seeing Naomi dazzle in Aladdin and kick ass in Charlie’s Angels, but I’m also excited to see how she is going to energise a whole generation of British girls and young women, who will look at her story, her religion, her style and work ethic, and see a different sort of ingénue from the sort that Hollywood used to fall for. Reading her cover story, the message is crystal clear: everyone can dream big.

A First Look At Will Smith As The Genie In Aladdin

There’s always a thrill to celebrating the new, especially as spring kicks off in earnest. This moment in fashion is
all about beautiful lines, popping colours, the chicest contemporary designers and the crispest, most covetable looks. Whether it is four of the trailblazing actresses who are starring in the grand finale of Game of Thrones, or model Anna Ewers channelling the power moves of the 1980s, the mood is all about confidence. I am pleased to be able to include work from some of my star fashion editors, too, from Grace Coddington to Joe McKenna. Like all of the magazine’s top guard, Grace and Joe understand the true nuances of styling; that it is an art that goes further than clothes.

People often ask me what makes Vogue shoots so special, and it is this: they have a fundamental link to the world we are living in. It may not always be immediately obvious, but it’s always there.

#SuzyPFW: Stella McCartney: Two Decades Of Activism

Stella McCartney does not let the grass grow under her feet. At least, not when clearing the way provides another opportunity to plant a tree. Or when she sees a chance to persuade every person in her vast network of personal connections to plant the roots as signs of help and hope in the struggle to save rain forests.

In her Autumn/Winter 2019 show, she celebrated social action openly and joyously. At the feet of every guest and across each runway were written notes of thanks to friends – some as famous as Oprah Winfrey – and a posse of models. Other supporters were family, friends or unknown benefactors.

The runway at Stella McCartney’s show was lined with messages of thanks to people who’d contributed to the cause of saving rain forests

Painstakingly, after facing a lot of derision – not least from the fashion crowd – Stella has seen her dream come true. There is now a more thoughtful approach to nature in the widest sense.

“My first show was in 1995 at Saint Martins [school of art and design],” she said. “My degree show had vegan sandals! I’m happy that people are now open to the conversation and I’m no longer a freak of nature and ridiculed.

McCartney is trying to prove that simulated leather can fill in for the real thing

“But leather is a big conversation,” she continued. “People’s businesses are based on leather and I’m going to try and show everyone that you can have a business in fashion, and you don’t have to associate luxury with leather or kill animals anymore.”

Fake fur was one of the many ‘green’ codes applied by Stella McCartney

Stella does seem to have hit the sweet spot where everything she has tried to achieve is moving in the right direction. The show opened with coats that were threaded through the presentation, in plain colours, simulated leather or Prince-of-Wales checks in a mix of pink, grey and green.

Flowers decorate a piece in the McCartney show, which aims to protect a rain forest

All the ‘green’ codes were there, including a man’s coat that was puffed up like fur, but without any. Stella also showed her quirky sense of fun with earrings that looked like dangling paper clips and rubber bands. Decoration went further with handcraft stitching, as fabrics were upscaled by artist Sheila Hicks who created them using indigenous weaving techniques, to create wearable works of art.

Dangling rubber bands were a jocular touch in the adornment of the collection

With so much opposition currently to wearing fur, Stella has spent two decades proving that, for people to follow codes that protect sea and land, offering fine clothes built without hurt are the best way to put fashion on the right side of the issue.

Buckle Up, Strap In: This Season’s Most-Coveted Footwear Is Taking Us Back To School

The shoes you fussed over, moaned about, “accidentally” ruined, rolled your eyes every time you were forced to wear them are finally chic. This season, sensible school-appropriate footwear deserves to be worn way passed 3pm. No detention involved.

Don’t Hate On School Uniform, It Matters So Much More Than You Think

It all started at the Burberry show in September. In Riccardo Tisci’s take on British classicism was the beige trench, the signature check, sharp tailoring and then traditional T-bar buckle-up flats. In keeping with the spirit of these Startrite-inspired shoes, the Italian designer had them styled with sweet cotton socks and looks that hinted at the ironic anarchy shoes like these can offer.

They’re not teacher’s-pet sweet, they’re more of a Pink Floyd ’80s punkish attitude-packed approach. She’s the girls that’s bunked off school, enjoys their practicality, but totally rejects the usual insistence of how and when they should be worn. Jourdan Dunn’s look – comprised of a studded trench and buttoned-up shirt – was the one that made this message loud and clear.

Over in Milan, Queen of (everything tbh) a chunky shoe, Miuccia Prada had the shoes storming down the Prada catwalk paired with silky baby doll dresses and those collect-them-all hairbands. Here, knee-high socks only added to the school-ish appeal of these chunky-soled shoes but note how the rest of the ensemble is miles away from Monday to Friday uniforms. Instead, a blazer is replaced with a satin bowed-at-the-neck jacket and a kilt swapped in for a tie-dye printed and embellished baby doll party dress. Gigi Hadid and Anok Yai have already taken the look out on the town, sticking true to the catwalk origins. Miuccia always knows best, students.

And so, with these shoes not really being anything new – just a classic style with a fresh purpose – there are plenty of options available to buy now. While the catwalk versions by Burberry and Prada are ready to snap up for three figures (in shoes like these you’ll find your best cost-per-wear argument), the high street has plenty of options and then so do brands like Dr Martens who have this chunky style in their DNA.

From left to right…
Lace-up flats, £32 at Topshop.com, buckle-up shoes, £120 at DrMartens.com, platform loafers, £58 at UrbanOutfitters.com, CAT hi-rise lace-ups, £85 at UrbanOutfitters.com, embossed T-bar shoes, £490 at Burberry.com, Prada Oxford shoes, £640 at MatchesFashion.com, patent T-bar flats, £59 at Office.co.uk, chunky lace-up flats, £59 at Office.co.uk.

From festivals to parties, job interviews to easy Saturdays, shoes have never been so sorted. We give this trend an A+.

This Season’s Biggest Street-Style Trend Is Actually For Everyone

Solange’s Stylist Dissects The Style In When I Get Home

By now, you’ll have digested the myriad, disparate themes of Solange’s fourth album When I Get Home. Or perhaps you haven’t – and that’s the point. The younger Knowles sister dropped a 19-track tribute to her home town of Houston, Texas, on February 28, and then, two days later, she released a video that is just shy of the album’s 39-minute runtime. To say the film is as ambitious as the audio output, which features the likes of Pharrell, Sampha, Dev Hynes, Tyler the Creator and Playboi Carti, is an understatement. The footage comprises sumptuous slow-motion outdoor dance sequences, selfie videos, snapshots of rodeo riders, computer animation and street scenes – all in homage to Solange’s roots, as a nuanced depiction of black womanhood and, quite simply, art for art’s sake. It’s sometimes raw, always stylistically beautiful and a true insight into Solange’s imagination and that of her inner circle. Central to this is the fashion.

Kyle Luu, who has been Solange’s stylist since the Met Gala 2017, is at the heart of her team of collaborators. The performer found him via Instagram when he was working as Travis Scott’s dresser (he racked up four years with Kylie Jenner’s partner) and this meeting is symbolic of the way they work. They are both Insta obsessives. Rather than compile a moodboard for When I Get Home, they direct messaged each other references. “We pretty much have the same taste,” Luu tells Vogue over the phone from New York. “It’s an easy working relationship, as she kind of lets us [Luu, plus Solange’s make-up and hair stylists] do our own thing.”

Solange’s Surprise Album Proves She’s On Another Level From The Rest Of Us

The team began working on the visuals six months ago without hearing any of the music. The back-and-forth messaging then became more rapid after tracks filtered down to them over the course of three months. Many of the references are not shareable as they relate directly to Solange’s family lineage, and indeed, it’s not necessary to share most of the visual aids because the project was really all about conjuring up a feeling, says Luu.

“We wanted the looks to feel like elements versus garments,” he expands. “They appear like a second skin, rather than a piece of clothing.” Take, for example, the jewellery. The futuristic eyelid bar that features on the album cover was created by Israeli accessories designer Keren Wolf, who realised the pieces on Lady Gaga’s Joanne tour and counts Kylie Jenner and Nicki Minaj as clients. The sparkly silver headpiece and bikini was fashioned by Yeha Leung, who is in Luu’s creative circle and predominantly makes bondage wear under the guise Creepy Yeha.

“We always want to work within our community,” says Luu. “We hang out in the same pool of people, and Yeha is just one of those downtown New York girls that so happens to create amazing work.”

Other designers, such as Eric Javits, who is the man behind some of the hats, were sourced during Luu’s extensive social media scrolling. “I spend too much time on there. Solange is the same,” he giggles. “We can find any designer you can possibly imagine via Instagram.” Brands like Telfar, Gareth Pugh and Helmut Lang, whom Solange regularly looks to for public-facing looks, were the bread-and-butter brands that supported the whole aesthetic.

“I wasn’t afraid,” Solange wrote via Instagram of unleashing her new project into the ether – albeit by a carefully curated roll-out plan. “My body wasn’t either, even at times of uncertainty. [My fans] make me feel safe and held even in this big big strange world.” And there lies the secret to Solange’s uniquely captivating style: it’s propped up by the community standing behind her, much like her album.

Why We March: 3 Inspiring Women On The Power Of Protest

The Women’s March on 21 January 2017 made history as the largest single-day demonstration ever recorded in the US, with more than three million attendees across the nation. Sister protests were held in more than 50 countries, and worldwide participation was estimated at seven million. There was a rally in Barcelona, a gathering in London’s Trafalgar Square, slogans chanted outside the US embassy in Accra in Ghana and a nighttime march through the streets of Tokyo. The campaign even reached Antarctica, where one placard declared: “Penguins march for peace”.

While the election of President Trump had been the initial catalyst for the Women’s March, its organisers wanted it to be part of a larger movement, encompassing issues of equality, tolerance, reproductive rights and immigration reform. It was undeniably a watershed moment, but women had marched before – and will continue to march long after. From the suffragettes who traipsed across Hyde Park for the 1907 Mud March to the 1977 Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo protests in Argentina and last year’s demonstrations against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, these movements have always acted as a rallying cry for women around the world, promoting solidarity and propelling change.

The Duchess Of Sussex Will Join Adwoa Aboah And Annie Lennox On International Women’s Day Panel

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, three women share with Vogue their most memorable marches, and the profound impact they had on their lives.

Rose McGowan

Actress and author

“The march I remember best is one I attended when I was 14 years old. I marched in a Seattle, Washington, Gay Pride parade. It was 1988 and things back then were not as they are now. Gay marriage was not even on the distant horizon. As long as I can remember, gay rights were a huge part of the agenda for me. Discrimination of those with whom I most identified was unacceptable. The march was packed and loud and fun but had an urgency to it. My voice was hoarse from yelling. The day before, I had sat with my friend Tom at the hospice that was caring for him. AIDS was terrorising so many of my friends. I carried a sign during the march that said, “Silence Equals Death”. And it does, so that is why I marched.

“The march made me feel like I was doing something in a time when discrimination ruled. Things were not as they are now. It really felt like life and death because it was life and death. It is so important to engage, to fight, to dissent and to cure the sickness in our world. We must fight for each other and be unafraid to do so. We all count. We all matter. Rise up.”

Rose McGowan’s memoir Brave is out in paperback on 5 March

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Executive director of UN Women

“On 18 November 2015, I joined black women in Brasilia, Brazil, at the March of Black Women against racism and violence and for ‘good living’. It was a chance to draw attention to the double discrimination faced by women of African descent in Brazil on account of their gender and the colour of their skin, and to call for an end to gender-based violence. I marched with mothers, grandmothers and daughters from diverse backgrounds – the riverbank dwellers of the Amazon, the Babassu domestic workers, prayer women, midwives from Brazil’s countryside and women of the Quilombola people. I marched with activists and academic researchers, ministers and public officials, and my fellow UN Women staff. The energy and sisterhood that they brought to the streets that day was palpable.

“Women have long occupied an important place in the struggle against injustice and in the search for dignity and equality. In 1956, in my own country of South Africa, more than 20,000 women and girls from all corners of the country and all walks of life marched against apartheid, positioning women as a force to be reckoned with in the struggle for freedom. As a result, 9 August is now an official holiday for National Women’s Day in South Africa, celebrating both the historic and current contributions of women and girls in the country.

Oprah Winfrey Set To Lead Women In The World Summit 2019

“Today, around the world, we are seeing the power that marches of solidarity have to counter silence, to demand change and to hold leaders to account – from the women’s marches that have sprung up in cities around the world over the past two years, to the recent climate justice marches led by inspiring young activists in Europe and beyond. They remind us all that this is a time for women and girls to band together and to act, together with men and boys, on the issues that will determine a lived equality for all. That is why we march. And most importantly, why we must continue to grow and scale these movements for gender equality, human rights and sustainable development together.”

The 2019 Commission on the Status of Women will take place at the UN Headquarters in New York from 11 to 22 March

Amika George

Activist and founder of the #FreePeriods campaign to end period poverty

“A march that had an impact on my life was the #FreePeriods march, which we organised in December 2017. We organised it entirely on social media and asked everyone to come to Downing Street, to wear red and bring banners. We had absolutely no idea how many people would turn up, but in the end we had over 2,000 people, every single one of them enraged about period poverty and demanding the government take action.

The UK Government Is Finally Taking Positive Steps To Eradicate Period Poverty

“#FreePeriods is calling on the government to provide free menstrual products to those who need them so that no child misses school because they can’t afford to buy pads and tampons, and it was really humbling to see how many people came to be part of the #FreePeriods movement. We had some incredible speeches from Adwoa Aboah, Suki Waterhouse, Daisy Lowe, Jess Phillips MP and Tanya Burr. We had such a diverse range of people who turned up, from Dizzee Rascal to Martin Sheen, and it was so inspirational.

“I started #FreePeriods from my bedroom and this march showed me that it had turned into a movement of people who were willing to stand out in the cold, five days before Christmas, to protest about a cause they felt really passionately about. It was galvanising and we felt mobilised to keep fighting.”

Find out more at freeperiods.org