Why I’m holding off spending my miles until 2021

Jul 3, 2020

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Thanks to the cancellation of a trip to Australia and several others because of coronavirus, I’ve found myself sitting on a pretty pile of Avios, Virgin Atlantic miles and American Express Membership Reward points.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve gotten caught up in the excitement of normalcy coming back into the world of aviation, and I considered pooling all my miles together and splurging on a trip to somewhere like the Philippines or Indonesia for my 30th birthday later in the year. What’s even more tempting is that many airlines have wide-open availability in their best cabins, which during pre-COVID times, was not usually the case.

Then I got to thinking that now probably isn’t the best time to spend those hard-earned miles for several reasons. While I really miss flying and going away, there are a number of reasons I’m biding my time.

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Reduced inflight service

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world in many ways, particularly in the aviation and airline industry. And as a result, airlines have flown to and from airports where they wouldn’t normally as well as operating record-breaking flights.

Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy
These days are over — for now. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

However, for the most part, COVID has brought widespread devastation for those working in the industry and airlines having to make drastic changes in the way they serve their passengers. So much so that many airlines opted to completely remove inflight food and drink services to limit the contact between passengers and crew. While some airlines are slowly introducing improvements to onboard catering, the likes of Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet are still currently not serving alcohol on board flights — and it’s unclear as to how long that may last.

For now, the idea of spending all my miles on flights where the experience is going to be far inferior to what I’m used to really doesn’t inspire me to start planning a trip. Who knows if inflight meals and service will ever return to normal — or when — but I certainly won’t get excited about flying in premium cabins again until I can be sure that my meals aren’t being served in a pre-packed cardboard box with no Champagne.

Related: Is COVID threatening the future of international first class?

Lounges

Most airport lounges, including Centurion Lounges run by Amex, still remain closed. Some airlines, like Emirates, are slowly starting to reopen their lounges but offering a very different service to what you would expect when flying in business or first class. Additionally, BA announced on Friday that it would begin reopening some lounges in Heathrow starting 4 July.

When I’m going on a long-haul flight and flying in premium cabins, spending time in an airport lounge is a huge part of that experience. Unlike some TPG staffers who skip the lounge altogether, for me, the lounge is where I like to relax, have a bite to eat (and likely a drink or two) while watching the planes go by outside and let the excitement build for the trip that lies ahead. Two of my favourite places to do just that are in the Qantas and Cathay Pacific lounges in Heathrow’s Terminal 3.

Multi-tasking in the Cathay Pacific lounge at LHR Terminal 3. (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

With most lounges still closed, the relaxing pre-flight experience I’m used to has been swapped out with uncomfortable, socially-distanced seating in mostly deserted airport terminals instead.

Related: Amex delays opening of new Centurion Lounges in London and New York

Companion Voucher extension

The British Airways Companion Voucher is arguably one of the best airline credit card perks out there. Now that the expiration date on all Vouchers has been extended until 2021, I’m less in a hurry to spend it. By waiting until next year, I’ll have earned more Avios, meaning I’ll be able to get more value out of the Voucher as I’ll be able to afford to fly farther — and in first class. I just have to be sure to use it and fly before that expiration date.

Holidaying won’t be the same for a while

Many holiday activities that we usually take for granted like lazing by the pool or going to a restaurant are now severely restricted in many countries across the world. On top of that, tight entry requirements and a potential quarantine don’t scream “rest and relaxation”. If I’m going to spend my miles on a trip to the other side of the world, I’d like to do so knowing that I’ll at least be able to enjoy myself while I’m there.

Related: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Bottom line

Other than maybe spending a few Avios on a 2021 ski trip, I think I’ll be sitting on my stash of miles until I can be a little more certain that I’ll be getting as much value out of them as possible. Until then, I’ll keep on collecting them from home.

Featured image by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy

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