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!
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|
|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!
|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|
|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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- By mid-February, the COVID-19 outbreak was becoming a serious concern. Cathay Pacific started to close some of its Hong Kong lounges, and SIA cut capacity on a swathe of worldwide routes, soon cancelling thousands of flights.
- Even though near-term travel was starting to look unlikely, Standard Chartered offered a 100% bonus for X Card and Visa Infinite customers transferring miles to the Emirates Skywards programme, followed the next day by a 3 mpd offer on overseas spend for X cardholders.
- We were surprised it took them so long, but in late February Singapore Airlines started to charge a US$140 selection fee for its Premium Economy ‘solo’ seats on Airbus A350 ULR flights to and from the USA, though PPS Club members could continue to select them for free. The move followed a 5-15% discount on seat selection fees for KrisFlyer members.
- The COVID-19 situation continued to deteriorate, with SIA axing 23% of its flights in March and Qantas culling its Singapore – London flights and closing its new First Class lounge at Changi.
- Scoot got inventive in mid-March by launching cargo-only flights to China using its passenger aircraft, before cutting 99% of its schedule later in the month, while Qantas-owned competitor Jetstar Asia went 1% further and grounded its entire fleet for at least three weeks.
- By April 2020, with Singapore Airlines operating only 4% of its usual schedule, The Private Room and the T2 First Class lounge became the first Singapore Airlines lounges at Changi to shut their doors.
- SIA also extended KrisFlyer and PPS Club membership tiers for a year.
- Within days, the SIA Group started flying aircraft to Alice Springs in Australia for long-term storage.
- Facility closures continued, with Changi Airport’s Terminal 2 shuttered for 18 months, all but one of SIA’s lounges shutting, and the airline’s ION Orchard service centre also closing.
- Refunds, travel waivers and KrisFlyer miles validity extensions all followed, with Airbus A380s being the next aircraft sent to the Alice Springs storage facility later in the month.
- At the end of the month OCBC shook up its Voyage card benefits, cutting most earning rates, increasing minimum spend for free limo rides and adding category exclusions. An annoying S$5 spending block policy for miles earning, once a concern only with UOB, was also rolled out across all its credit cards, including the Titanium Rewards product.
- 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.
- Emirates started flying its new fully-enclosed First Class suites to Singapore, though with travel restrictions in place almost none of us could get on them! Thankfully the airline is continuing to fly the product on its Dubai route, so let’s hope it sticks! See our full review of the product.
- In a taste of the ‘new normal’ Singapore Airlines revealed the COVID-19 passenger journey, including à la carte meals in lounges, enhanced cleaning measures and on board service adjustments.
- Singapore Airlines operated its last passenger flight with a First Class cabin on 7th June 2020, removing the option from its flights for the foreseeable future while it concentrated expanding its schedule with the most efficient aircraft in its fleet – Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s.