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.
- The transit passenger experience at Changi was revealed, including wrist bands and ‘holding pens’ for those connecting between SIA Group services at the airport.
- Not unexpectedly, Singapore Airlines cancelled its only planned route launch of 2020 to Brussels in Belgium. The service was to operate four times weekly using an Airbus A350.
- By the end of the first half of the year SIA’s low-cost joint venture in Thailand NokScoot had sadly collapsed into administration. Its seven aircraft were returned to SIA and are now stored in Alice Springs, along with two more A380s.
- The second half of 2020 came with the news many of our readers had been waiting for – selected Singapore hotels would finally reopen for staycation guests, having had to close since the country went into ‘circuit breaker’ measures in early April.
- The staycation experience itself was then revealed, with precautions ranging from staggered check-in times and temperature checks to swimming pool capacity limits.
- The first hotels were approved to receive staycation guests on 9th July, including the W Sentosa.
- By the end of the month, 139 hotels were open for staycations, a total that has risen to 267 in the latest list.
- Amidst staycation fever, Singapore Airlines reminded us of its woes at the end of July, recording its worst ever quarterly loss of S$1.1 billion.
- As Singapore hotel staycation approvals passed the 200 mark, the government announced it was exploring tourist travel ‘green lanes’ without quarantine, raising hopes for limited leisure travel by the end of the year.
- Increased transit approvals through Changi lifted the airport to its highest passenger throughput since April, with 86,000 using the airport in July 2020, still a far cry from the 5.9 million usually passing through.
- For those stuck working from home with noisy pets, screaming kids and many other distractions, ‘Work From Hotel’ became the latest trend, with properties across Singapore offering day rooms and facilities use at competitive rates to prop up their mid-week occupancy rates.
- Singapore announced it would unilaterally open its borders to New Zealand and Brunei from September, though the arrangement was (and still is) a one-way street, despite additional countries since being added to the list.
- 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.
- Days later, the carrier confirmed it would not be returning to Canberra, Dusseldorf, Stockholm or Wellington, even after COVID-19.
- Singapore Airlines confirmed to us that its SilverKris lounges in Adelaide, Delhi and Kuala Lumpur would be permanently closing, with alternative third-party facilities provided for eligible customers at those airports.
- Simplified meal services finally made their way back to SIA’s regional flights, including those to and from mainland China, replacing the unpopular ‘snack bag’.
- With flights to nowhere off the cards, “Discover your Singapore Airlines” was launched, including opportunities to dine on an Airbus A380, tour the airline’s training centre and have a First or Business Class meal delivered to your home, along with amenity kits, wine, Champagne and even tableware if you wished (to pay more).
- October started with the unfortunate confirmation that the first ex-SilkAir Boeing 737-800s joining the Singapore Airlines fleet in 2021 would not feature the previously-promised flat-bed seats in Business Class.
- In a sign of the times, a digital drive and effort to reduce waste meant that Singapore Airlines announced it would no longer provide printed menus in any cabin class, even after COVID-19. Instead, a digital menu system has been developed.
- British Airways offered an impressive 50% off all redemption rates until 30th June 2021, in all four cabin classes. We took advantage using 34,000 Avios each to fly First Class to Sydney on BA, a flight that has now been cancelled but moved free of charge to November 2021, with no additional miles required!
- We got our hands on one of the first Singapore Airlines Business Class amenity kits as part of the SIA@Home and took the opportunity to review it for you so you can see what to expect once travel resumes.
- The first leisure ‘air travel bubble’ in the region was announced, between Singapore and Hong Kong.
- Singapore Airlines announced a new non-stop route from Changi to New York’s JFK airport would start in November 2020. A 3-class Airbus A350 was to be used, however this will shift to an Airbus A350 ULR next year.
- We reviewed our experience in Suites on board the Singapore Airlines Restaurant A380@Changi.
- Kris+, a rehash of the KrisPay app, was launched with a 3X miles earning offer, meaning up to 9 mpd on top of your regular credit card points for spend at over 45 merchants until early November.
- SIA’s transit passengers originating in countries Singapore has unilaterally opened its borders with were finally freed from the ‘transit holding pen’ at Changi during their connection, and can now roam the shops and restaurants in the departure area. SilverKris lounge access is also available for those eligible.
- Singapore Airlines confirmed it would retire 19 aircraft across its group carriers, including 7 of its Airbus A380s, shrinking its post-pandemic fleet, while also reporting a S$3.5 billion half-year loss.
- Credit card payments company ipaymy launched a special offer for Mainly Miles readers, with S$22.50 discount on the usual fee for new customers or those yet to make their first payment. This offer is still running, until 28th February 2021.
- Details of the Singapore – Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble were released, set to start on 22nd November.
- In some rare good news, Singapore Airlines revealed to Mainly Miles that all 12 of its remaining Airbus A380s rejoining the fleet after COVID-19 would feature the latest cabin products. Nine aircraft have now been refitted.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!
Andrew and Eddie
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)