2019 proved to be another busy year in the world of miles and points in Singapore and across the region. From frequent flyer programme devaluations to new airport lounges and hotels, not to mention a 100,000 miles credit card sign-up bonus, there’s been plenty to report on.
There was also a fair share of aviation and route news, most notably aircraft groundings affecting the Singapore Airlines group with both the Boeing 737 MAX and Boeing 787 in 2019.
We’ve done our best to cover it all while also managing to write 16 impartial reviews on our travels, covering flights, lounges and hotels.
Let’s kick off by looking at our most viewed articles of 2019.
Most viewed Mainly Miles articles in 2019
Here’s a look at the top 10 general and news articles we wrote in 2019. Most prominently, over 43,000 of you wanted to know why we had decided the value of a KrisFlyer mile was now 1.9 cents.
We hope our extensive analysis justified it!
We also published a total of 16 reviews in 2019, including flights, hotels and airport lounges.
As always, all our reviews are completely impartial. We aren’t invited, no one knows we’re coming, and we pay cash (or redeem our own miles) for all our travel.
Here are the five most popular reviews of the year, with our Singapore Airlines ones naturally coming out as the most popular!
|Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class||13,800|
|The Private Room by Singapore Airlines||11,200|
|Plaza Premium Lounge Singapore Changi T1||9,100|
|KLM 777-300ER Business Class||8,700|
|YOTELAIR Singapore Changi Airport||8,400|
Finally there are our permanent pages and guides, a sort of ‘year-round reference’ for your travel planning and ‘miles maximising’.
Not all of these were first written in 2019, but there’s no guessing where the popularity comes here – by far our First and Business Class seats by route guides went down a treat in 2019 with an average of over 300 views every day.
|Category: Pages & Guides|
|First and Business Class seats by route||115,100 (combined)|
|KrisFlyer miles expiring? 12 ways to save them from the scrap heap||16,200|
|The KrisFlyer $100 Stopover Trick (2019 version)||13,200|
|KrisFlyer College: Part 4 – Upgrade with miles on Singapore Airlines||12,700|
|Can you buy KrisFlyer miles from Singapore Airlines?||12,500|
Highlights from 2019, month by month
Grab a coffee, or your beverage of choice, and maybe some popcorn! Here’s a trip down memory lane to reminisce over what was reported on Mainly Miles during 2019.
- Singapore Airlines ushered in the New Year with the announcement of a KrisFlyer miles devaluation. With three weeks’ notice, Premium Economy, Business and First Class award tickets were to become 3% to 12% more expensive, depending on your redemption zone.
- On the plus side, we also reported that two-class upgrades from Economy to Business Class would become possible on aircraft fitted with a Premium Economy cabin, searching award availability across a seven-day window would become possible (admittedly it’s a bit clunky), and Spontaneous Escapes was set to become a regular monthly offer (after skipping 2019 Chinese New Year month, obviously).
- As news of the devaluation was still settling in, and KrisFlyer members were scrambling to redeem miles at the old rates while they still could, there was good news for those waiting to see the back of some older cabin products. That came as we confirmed the last Boeing 777-300ER with the older 2006 seats had finally started its refit, well over two years after SIA originally promised the project would be completed.
- February kicked off with news that SilkAir had selected the Thompson Vantage seat as its flat-bed Business Class product, ahead of the upcoming merger of the carrier into Singapore Airlines.
- SIA announced that it would fly three times daily to Osaka from April 2019. Unfortunately the A330 with older seats was to be used, though this will be upgraded to the A350 from 1st January 2020.
- The first regular monthly Spontaneous Escapes deal was revealed, for travel in March 2019, allowing you to “pay Economy, fly Business”. The one class down rates meant discounts of 45% to 61% in Business Class. Economy awards were half price. Premium Economy wasn’t offered, making redemptions in that cabin more expensive than Business Class on many routes!
- Having teased selected customers in late 2018, Citi formally rolled out PayAll (to all!), allowing credit card holders to make a variety of payments like rent and education with their credit card from a cost of just 0.94 cents per mile.
- KrisPay finally launched the ability to earn miles using its app at selected merchants. It is essentially the only way to ever use it, since payment with miles remains such poor value.
- After the second fatal crash of a Boeing 737 MAX in the space of five months, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore grounded SilkAir’s six examples and banned foreign airlines from operating them at Changi. There’s still no end in sight to the worldwide grounding, which came two days later.
- British Airways revealed its long-awaited (and long overdue) new Business Class seat, “Club Suite”. Based on the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond model, it also features closing privacy doors. We recently revealed that the new product will make its way to Singapore by 2021.
- Singapore Airlines caught up with the tail end of its January KrisFlyer devaluation by repricing its Star Alliance award chart. A few days later they finished the job, with devaluations to the Star Alliance upgrade chart and some partner award rates.
- It was good news for Citi Rewards cardholders in Singapore, with the news that most online transactions would be eligible for the card’s 4 miles per dollar earn rate, making it much easier to achieve the S$1,000 monthly cap in the enhanced earning category.
- The month got off to a bad start for Singapore Airlines, already assisting with SilkAir’s 737 MAX issues, when it had to ground more than half its Boeing 787 fleet almost overnight. This was due to premature cracking being discovered in some of the engines. Within a few days, and with a few engine swaps, the airline managed to continue 787 operations with only two grounded aircraft. All SIA 787s are now operating again.
- Virgin Atlantic revealed new Business Class seats for its upcoming Airbus A350s. For us, it was a bit of a letdown after seeing what competitor British Airways had come up with the previous month.
- Jewel Changi Airport opened its doors in the middle of April. We took a preview, also spending the night at the newest airport hotel – YOTELAIR Singapore Changi Airport, which is inside the new facility.
- Singapore Airlines launched a new co-brand credit card in cooperation with UOB – the KrisFlyer UOB Mastercard. Headline uncapped earn rates of up to 3 miles per dollar in certain categories all looked fine and dandy, until people realised you might have to wait up to 14 months to see them in your account!
- OCBC expanded its tax payment facility for Voyage cardholders to pay any bill they wanted for a 1.95% fee (1.9% if they had a whopping S$150,000+ bill to pay). The Voyage Payment facility sits alongside the existing income tax payment option, the latter remaining at a 1.9% fee.
- Another First Class redemption option to Europe with Singapore Airlines was withdrawn, with confirmation that the Copenhagen route would switch from Boeing 777-300ER to Airbus A350 operation from October 2019.
- In more positive cabin product news however, Delhi and Mumbai were confirmed to be the next two routes in line for SIA’s latest A380 cabins, including the latest Suites product.
- We finally settled on 1.9 cents per mile as our new valuation (or ‘upper limit to buy’) for KrisFlyer miles, following the early 2019 devaluation.
- DBS partnered with KrisPay to allow instant points to miles transfers, though there’s a hit on the transfer ratio meaning it’s of best use for urgent transfers or small top-ups.
- It was revealed that Singapore Airlines would start flying to Phuket again under its own branding, for the first time since the 1990s. The daily flight is to support SilkAir’s fleet shortage.
- The first refitted Singapore Airlines Airbus A380, 9V-SKS, finally took to the skies again after almost eight months. The second refitted aircraft, 9V-SKT, still hasn’t returned to service at the time of writing.
- Singapore Airlines’ Istanbul flight finally got a date for its new cabin product. It was revealed that from November 2019, the Boeing 777-200ER would be replaced with an Airbus A350 with superior seats, especially in Business Class.
- Singapore Airlines introduced a new waitlist policy. Originally announced earlier in the year, from August 2019 award waitlists would be confirmed or cancelled within 14 days of travel, to give ‘certainty’ to customers.
- It was announced that the dated SilverKris lounges, KrisFlyer Gold lounge and The Private Room at Changi T3 would finally go under the knife for a full S$50m refit, set for completion by mid-2021. The Business Class section is set to benefit from a manned bar and productivity pods.
- Tokyo was confirmed as SIA’s next new A380 Suites route, from January 2020.
- Star Alliance airline ANA revealed stunning new First and Business Class seats on its new Boeing 777-300ERs. Already flying to London and New York at the time of writing, Frankfurt is to be added in 2020 with more US routes anticipated by 2021.
- SIA’s usual seasonal A380 boost on the Osaka route meant 80 saver awards in Suites were up for grabs.
- Standard Chartered wowed us with a 100,000 miles sign-up bonus for its S$695-a-year new X Card. Those who got in early were lucky, in true Standard Chartered fashion the popularity of the offer took them by complete surprise and it was quickly (and confusingly) reduced to a 60,000 miles offer, before being pulled altogether.
- DBS Altitude cardholders had a good start to the month, with news that their cards would earn 4 miles per dollar on bus and train rides for the rest of 2019.
- Singapore Airlines started offering free Wi-Fi for First Class passengers and upped its free allowance for Business Class and PPS Club members from 30MB to 100MB on equipped aircraft. Our full Wi-Fi guide has all the latest details.
- Standard Chartered jumped on the card payments bandwagon for selected customers with SC EasyBill, allowing you to ‘buy’ miles from 1.43 cents each.
- We revealed that by late August, Singapore Airlines’ new Regional Business Class seats outnumbered the old version for the first time.
- It was confirmed that Qatar Airways would open its own Premium Lounge in Changi’s Terminal 1, near the C gates, a great new benefit for oneworld Business Class passengers. The launch date is still unconfirmed, but the airline recently confirmed to Mainly Miles that it is slated for January 2020.
- OCBC launched its new 90°N Mastercard, with bonus earn rates of 4mpd and 8mpd in selected categories until the end of February 2020.
- Singapore Airlines started blocking the coveted ‘solo’ window seats in the rear section of its Airbus A350 ULR aircraft, for preselection only by PPS Club members. We then wrote a full guide on which seats are blocked by aircraft type and route across the airline, and when you can get your hands on them.
- We revealed plans for SilkAir’s grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to be flown to Alice Springs in Australia, where the climate is better suited for long-term storage. All six aircraft have now made the journey there.
- A new Singapore Airlines destination, of sorts, was revealed as Busan in South Korea. The airline took over SilkAir’s services there the following month.
- Qantas started flying its first refitted Airbus A380 through Singapore, with new Business Class seats sporting direct aisle access, an enhanced First Class and a newly designed upper deck lounge. Three of the carrier’s 12 such aircraft have been refitted at the time of writing, with all scheduled to be completed by the end of 2020.
- After a long wait, it finally became possible to redeem Singapore Airlines flights using Alaska miles. The good value zone combinations and (sometimes ridiculous value) stopover capability was soon plugged though, taking with it the much-loved JAL stopover using Alaska miles.
- We published our review of the newly reopened Raffles Hotel Singapore, following its two-and-a-half-year renovation. On a per-night basis it was our most expensive hotel stay of 2019, but it was a unique and memorable experience we’d recommend to anyone for that special occasion.
- We sighted a tender document from Singapore Airlines for a ‘Business Class Unisex Sleeper Suit’, hinting that the airline was finally set to provide pyjamas in this cabin on long-haul flights. No news yet but an IFM on our recent flight told us this is happening in 2020. Fingers crossed!
- Singapore Airlines announced that it would start offering vintage Tattinger Comtes de Champagne in First Class and Suites on selected routes. Rather than being a third option, however, it turns out that the Krug ‘goes missing’ on those flights, so there are only ever two choices.
- In negative news for many of our readers, Singapore Airlines confirmed to Mainly Miles that it had started progressively replacing Charles Heidsieck Champagne in Business Class with the (cheaper) Laurent-Perrier Brut.
- In its analyst briefing, Singapore Airlines said it wasn’t waiting for the 737 MAX grounding to be lifted to get on with its SilkAir – SIA integration plans, and that flat-bed Business Class seats will start being installed on Boeing 737-800s from early 2020.
- We took a media tour around Singapore’s newest hotel – The Barracks Hotel Sentosa. Though we were also invited to stay for free the weekend prior to public opening, we’ve instead booked a paid stay next year for an impartial review.
- As more refitted A380s rejoin the SIA fleet in 2020, Paris was revealed as the latest city to receive the new products. Year-round A380 service on the route will also replace the regular 10x weekly Boeing 777-300ER operation in the winter months.
- We noticed that Singapore Airlines had removed A350 ULR operation completely from the San Francisco route, and cut flights to Los Angeles with the type, from late October 2020. That leaves two of the seven aircraft with nothing to do, paving the way for a new ULR route announcement. We’ve stuck our oar in for Chicago, though nothing has been announced yet.
- Qantas opened its Singapore First Lounge, probably the most anticipated lounge opening at the airport of 2019. We attended the launch event, and stay tuned as it’s set to be our first review of 2020.
- Cathay Pacific joined the ‘free Wi-Fi in First Class’ brigade, though a third of their fleet with a First Class cabin still lack Wi-Fi capability.
- Singapore Airlines allocated an A380 Version 3 to its seasonal third daily London flight during July and August 2020, offering a rare opportunity to grab one of over 80 saver awards in the latest Suites cabin on the airline’s longest superjumbo route. Unfortunately Zurich loses out during those two months next year – the aircraft is simply ‘borrowed’ from that route.
- A few days later Auckland was confirmed as the next A380 Version 3 connection, from late October 2020.
- Asia Miles made a mostly welcome change to its miles expiry policy. Any miles you earn or credit from January 2020 will now not expire provided you earn or redeem at least one mile every 18 months.
- Singapore Airlines made an (unexpected) announcement that it would restart its Brussels route after nearly 16 years, with four times weekly flights using Airbus A350 aircraft from October 2020. We spotted over 140 saver award seats in Business Class to and from the Belgian capital in the first couple of months of operation.
- Despite Copenhagen losing its First Class seats earlier in the year, a schedule change for the winter 2020/21 season confirmed that Amsterdam flights will once again offer the option as they switch to Boeing 777-300ER operation.
As always, thanks for joining us on our 2019 journey through the world of miles, points and more, not least for reading so many of our articles.
Our traffic more than doubled compared with 2018, and we’re enormously grateful for your support in making this happen.
We also tripled our Instagram following this year, well beyond our expectations. We’ve really enjoyed interacting with you all on that platform – so do join in if you haven’t already for regular updates and stories from our travels.
Finally Happy New Year to all our readers, fellow bloggers and travel sites both in Singapore and beyond.
As always, more to come in 2020!
Andrew and Eddie