Analysis Changi Airport Singapore Airlines

Farewell 2020: The weirdest year for miles, points and travel

A round-up of the year you couldn't really use your miles and points... by a miles and points website.

It’s probably fair to say that 2020 is a year most of us want to forget, with COVID-19 throwing many of our day-to-day lives into at least some form of disarray, but perhaps most importantly for our readers almost completely removing the opportunity to travel for the last nine months.

Well the good news is by the time you’re reading this article there are only a maximum of 5 hours of 2020 left to endure, with the New Year on the horizon and thankfully much optimism that with effective vaccines starting to be rolled out the whole situation should slowly but steadily improve in 2021.

What travel did we manage in 2020?

We had a lot of travel planned for 2020 and by mid-February we had locked in a number of redemptions on SIA and other carriers, including a Christmas and New Year trip to Europe that we’re basically still supposed to be on at the time of writing!

Almost all these plans were shelved, like they were for so many of our readers, now reflected in some ridiculous KrisFlyer balances from all the refunds!

Nonetheless we did manage to have a great 10-day trip to Vietnam in late January and early February this year, including a stop in one of our favourite hotels – The Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi.

We continued to Four Seasons The Nam Hai in Hoi An, which we’d been told was wonderful. It didn’t disappoint and we’re so glad to have had a week of relaxation, good food and good wine in early 2020, despite it being far from wallet-friendly!

Our one-bedroom private pool villa at Four Seasons The Nam Hai. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

In early March 2020 we managed to get across to Cempedak Island in Indonesia, which as you may know doesn’t involve any flying at all since you arrive courtesy of two boats from Tanah Merah ferry terminal, via Bintan Island!

Soon after we returned from that trip, however, border restrictions started to become stricter and SHN periods were enforced for those arriving in Singapore.

The rest, as you all know, is history.

Even our most realistic overseas trip to Hong Kong on the Air Travel Bubble in November ended up being cancelled, with a new COVID-19 wave in the city nixing the arrangement just hours before the first flights were due to take off.

Most viewed Mainly Miles articles in 2020

Here’s a look at the most read articles we wrote in 2020. With so much route news and so many SIA updates, which dominated the views, we’ve split the list between three categories, outlining the ‘top 5’ in each.

Category:    Singapore Airlines
Rank Article Views
1. Singapore Airlines schedule updates (12 articles) 335,000
2. Four Singapore Airlines A380s heading to Alice Springs for long-term storage 72,800
3. Goodbye Singapore Airlines First Class… for now 28,800
4. Singapore Airlines to retire 7 A380s, 19 other aircraft following S$3.5 billion loss 25,000
5. Singapore Airlines reveals new Economy Class meal concept 23,200

SIA’s regular schedule updates were the big deal in 2020, with 12 articles (2.6% of the annual total) making up around 11% of our annual views!

With Airbus A380 news and the lack of First Class and Suites on the network making up an understandably popular share, the strange new Economy Class meal concept in sustainable take-away-style boxes (an article we weren’t even going to write!) pipped in as the 5th most read in this category for 2020!

Category:    Staycations
Rank Article Views
1. Singapore hotels will soon be able to accept staycations 102,700
2. Revealed: Singapore’s first staycation-approved hotels 59,900
3. Your Phase 2 Singapore hotel staycation experience 15,000
4. Review: Raffles Hotel staycation during COVID-19 10,300
5. Five Singapore hotels reopening in time for Christmas 8,100

If you had any doubt about how much travel demand had pent-up among Singapore residents by mid-2020, look no further than July’s news that Phase 2 staycations were coming!

We beat most major news outlets to this one, including CNA and Straits Times, and Google then did its ‘black magic’ in the background making this our most viewed standalone article of 2020.

Once the initial hotel list itself was published, despite it being only five-long, that understandably attracted a lot of interest too.

Category:    Everything else
Rank Article Views
1. Which airlines are flying from Changi (4 articles) 118,900
2. Grab devalues rewards programme from March 2020 47,500
3. British Airways axes Kuala Lumpur, suspends Sydney and Bangkok till November 13,700
4. Andaz Bali opening on 1 April 2021 12,200
5. The bubble bursts: Singapore – Hong Kong ATB postponed 11,500

A bit of a mixed bag in the ‘everything else’ category, with most wanting to know how they could (or couldn’t) still fly to or from Singapore.

News of the latest GrabRewards devaluation was well read (if not well received).

In an unusual one that cropped up on a slow news day just this month – many of you seem to have your eyes set on the Andaz Bali for an upcoming vacation, even though we have no idea exactly when we will be able to return to the island!

Highlights from 2020, 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 a year we’ll probably never forget – 2020.

January 2020

  • The year kicked off with a regular 10% bonus when you converted credit card points to Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles programme, a promotion running again this year, alongside a rare KrisFlyer bonus too.
  • Having attended the launch event in November, we took the opportunity to review the passenger experience at the brand new Qantas Singapore First Lounge, a fantastic new oneworld option at Changi’s Terminal 1, now sadly shuttered until further notice. It cost us over 160,000 miles to review this one independently, with Eddie taking a 24-hour return trip to Melbourne in First Class and me tagging along with my Malaysia Airlines boarding card!
The Qantas Singapore First Lounge. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
  • In what now seems an almost forgotten promotion, Singapore Airlines offered a 51% discount in its monthly KrisFlyer Spontaneous Escapes deal for travel in February 2020. Options included the new A380 2017 Business Class seat to Tokyo for 23,000 miles plus a host of 2013 Business Class options to Europe for 45,000 miles.
Fun fact: Our monthly Spontaneous Escapes articles generated over 50,000 views in 2019. No such luck in 2020, there was only one more offer in February before the promotion was suspended (total 2020 views: 15,000!).
  • By mid-January we learned that the famous flip board displays at Changi Airport Terminal 2 weren’t going to survive a revamp of the facility.
  • Grab took another axe to its GrabRewards programme in January 2020, with earning rates slashed and rewards becoming more expensive. One thing they did get right this time though was giving customers some advance notice – changes would only take effect from early March.
  • At the end of January we reviewed the newest (and as it turned out, we think the best) new Business Class lounge at Changi Airport – the Qatar Airways Singapore Premium Lounge. As if showers and à la carte dining weren’t enough, the Martini Bar poured two different Champagnes alongside a curated cocktail list.

February 2020

  • Citi saw some sense by reducing the quarterly minimum spend on its Prestige card to unlock a pair of airport limo transfers from S$20,000 to S$12,000, though that still left it as the least competitive in the market.
  • An unexpected new option to fly Business Class with closed-door suites was announced, with Aeroflot planning a return to Singapore using its new Airbus A350 from October 2020. This would have made the carrier only the second to offer closed-door suites in Business Class from Changi, but for obvious reasons the flights did not go ahead.
Aeroflot’s new A350 Business Class looked like an interesting addition to Changi’s options from late 2020, but it wasn’t meant to be… (Image: Aeroflot)

March 2020

The ‘solo’ seats in Premium Economy on SIA’s A350 ULR flights screamed “extra charge” the day they were revealed. In 2020, the airline finally did so. (Photo: The Points Guy)

April 2020

May 2020

  • We still couldn’t travel, but that didn’t mean 2020 was a year to forget earning miles paying your income tax. Many of our readers took advantage of a range of valuable opportunities to generate a large stash for future travel at the most competitive rates we have seen, starting at less than 1.1 cents per mile.
  • The inevitable closure of Changi Airport’s newest (and smallest) Terminal 4 came in mid-May, with the airport operating using T1 and T3 to this day.
  • More bad credit card points news, this time from BOC, who significantly devalued their Elite Miles card by adjusting the transfer ratio of points to KrisFlyer miles and Asia Miles. With the card soon set to earn 1 mpd instead of 1.5 mpd (on all the spend you had made already and in the future), customers rushed to transfer out and cancel their cards before the change came into effect in mid-June.
  • Singapore Airlines posted its first ever full-year loss, with COVID-19 wiping out more than three preceding good quarters, also revealing that it carried only 300 passengers a day in April 2020.
  • Many of our readers took advantage of a status match being offered by oneworld carrier Qatar Airways, with a year of oneworld Ruby, Sapphire or Emerald membership equivalent on offer, depending on your KrisFlyer status level.
  • As the month drew to a close, some positive signs were starting to emerge with Scoot ramping up its schedule for June and Changi Airport announcing it would accept transit passengers again.

June 2020

First Class and Suites are not planned for SIA flights until October 2021. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

July 2020

August 2020

September 2020

  • Even though travel remained off the cards, Singapore Airlines revealed the welcome news that once we are back on board, KrisFlyer members in Economy and Premium Economy will get a small 30MB free Wi-Fi allowance, designed for text messaging services.
  • We wrote about rumours for a Singapore Airlines ‘flight to nowhere’, allowing us to potentially fix our flying bug with a Changi – Changi flight. In the end the option was sadly abandoned, despite several other airlines around the world like Qantas and EVA Air running similar flights.
  • In mid-September, Singapore Airlines made the difficult decision to cut its workforce by 4,300 to help it survive COVID-19, which would involve 2,400 retrenchments across the business.
Thousands of SIA Group employees learned they would not be keeping their jobs in September 2020. (Photo: Olaf Schuelke / Alamy)

October 2020

SIA’s new Penhaligon’s Business Class amenity kit. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
Restaurant A380@Changi was a rare annual highlight. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

November 2020

The latest 2017 cabin products will be fitted to all future Airbus A380s serving the SIA fleet. (Image: JPA)
  • It continued to be a good news week, with SIA launching a rare 15% bonus for credit card points converted to KrisFlyer miles. The offer has since been extended.
  • Qatar Airways reversed its highly unpopular Privilege Club devaluation of May 2018, restoring previous award rates including 70,000 miles in the Qsuite from Singapore to Europe, with no fuel surcharges.
  • Singapore Airlines revealed a new Economy Class meal concept, served in lightweight sustainable packaging.
  • The Singapore – Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble burst just hours before the first flights were due to depart, due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong. The arrangement remains ‘on ice’ and looks unlikely to start before February 2021 given current case numbers in the city.

December 2020

  • Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles programme joined KrisFlyer in offering a credit card points to miles transfer bonus of 10% to 15%, currently running from now until the end of January 2021.
Asia Miles opens up oneworld redemption options, like BA’s new Club Suite, with a 10-15% bonus for credit card point transfers currently on offer. (Photo: British Airways)
  • Singapore Airlines announced its busiest schedule yet since the COVID-19 pandemic decimated flight schedules earlier in the year, increasing to 25% capacity by March 2021 despite continued border restrictions.
  • Rounding off the year with some positive news, the first SilkAir Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has returned to Changi from storage in Alice Springs, in anticipation of a global return to service for the fleet. We expect the aircraft to move across to SIA’s mainline division in due course, though this hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Looking forward to 2021

Right now we only have one overseas trip planned for 2021 – to Sydney and Perth in November. That doesn’t seem too unrealistic at this stage, though there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then to ensure even that one happens.

Of course we hope to be travelling overseas long before that, probably in a limited manner to specific countries.

As for vaccines, well they won’t be a ‘silver bullet’ against COVID-19 and it will take much of 2021 for them to be widely administered in many countries. Nonetheless they are a great start in the fight back towards normality in our lives and hopefully leisure travel to an increasing number of countries.

“Vaccines have brought pandemics to their knees in the past”, said Dr Kalisvar Marimuthu, a senior consultant at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, and one of the first in Singapore to receive the Pfizer vaccine himself earlier this week.

Let’s hope that holds true this time too.

Summary

An almost totally different and unexpected year, 2020 certainly tested our resilience. For many of our readers that went far beyond miles and points or the inability to travel since April, with sad tales of job losses and family separation.

It might be hard to look back and find positive things about 2020, but looking ahead to next year we think there’s plenty to be positive about.

The Singapore government is rolling out free COVID-19 vaccines for all residents and continuing to support its aviation industry, which the country recognises is vital to maintaining its place in the world.

Singapore Airlines is ramping up its schedules to 25% of usual levels by March, partly on the back of government support and in a similar show of strength for the future.

We can hopefully look forward to getting back in the skies during 2021. (Photo: Thiago B Trevisan / Shutterstock)

While it’s not the year any of us chose, it’s been good to be on the journey with you, our readers, and keep you abreast of what we’ve felt is important to the best of our ability!

We’ve grown our following on the website and across our social media platforms significantly in 2020, which is more than we could have hoped for in a year of little travel and few redemption opportunities.

On thing it shows for sure is that the miles and points game is far from dead, and will continue to thrive in future, even if COVID-19 keeps us grounded a little longer.

Finally, Happy New Year to all our readers, fellow bloggers and travel sites both in Singapore and beyond.

As always, more to come in (a hopefully much better) 2021!

Cheers,
Andrew and Eddie

(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)

1 comment

  1. A great recap of the year Andrew. Well done and thank you to both you and Eddie for such a wonderfully written and well informed site. Keep up the great work and have a wonderful 2021 in which we all hope to return to the skies.

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