Two major airlines have already entered a bankruptcy/restructuring procedure. Although both Virgin Australia and South African Airways are bullish about their perspectives to survive that process. After witnessing a “run on the bank”, the first thing both programs did was to suspend redemptions in their Frequent Flyer Programs Velocity and Voyager. There is no reliable schedule when such redemptions may resume and under what conditions. While it might be too late for these two programs, make sure to apply one valuable piece of advice for any other program: If you have the slightest doubt about the survival of your program operator, cash in your points as quickly as possible – and ideally on more stable partner airlines. There is no guarantee that such bookings would be honoured in case of a bankruptcy, but it is probably the best you can try. Avianca has filed for bankruptcy as well, but its LifeMiles program (still) allows redemptions.
While the current crisis might only accerelate the fate of certain airlines, such as South African (see above), which were in an unstable situation before, certain state aids will represent an unexpected chance for survival. This is certainly the case of Alitalia, which has been looking in vain for a buyer for several years and which will now be renationalised. For that relaunch of a much smaller Alitalia, which will focus on long-haul flights, the Italian government will provide a 3-billion Euro injection – yet an irrational sum compared to the some 10 billions the Lufthansa Group or Air France KLM get while being 6-7 times larger. But to go from there to come up with a conspiracy theory that the Covid-19 virus was created by Alitalia might be a bit too far-fetched nevertheless… The Italian government is also considering switching Alitalia from SkyTeam to Star Alliance although it is unclear what benefit Alitalia will gain: Lufthansa will certainly not accept a strong long-haul presence of Alitalia, but would rather like to see it downgrade to a more regional role.
The doors of most hotels were hardly open when Accor was already there with an aggressive promotion to accompany the return to business: Quadruple ALL points in all their properties in Greater China, including in Taiwan and Mongolia, which were comparably little affected by the Covid outbreak. This concerns some 400 out of their 5,000 properties. The promotion is valid for stays of at least two nights until 31 August and registration is required. Excluding the brands of Ibis and below, this corresponds to an earn rate of 100 points per 10 EUR spent for base members. 100 points have a cash value of 2 EUR when redeemed in-house again, corresponding to a saving of 20%. You understand what to expect in the months to come from loyalty programs, fighting aggressively for market shares.
Back in 2017, Air Canada announced the launch of its own loyalty program for June 2020 and promised to provide detailed information well in advance. This information was due long before any pandemic, but now we are a few weeks ahead of the launch date and nobody has the slightest clue what will be happening. Let’s hope that they are busy working on the redesign of the program since a far more competitive program will now be required than what anyone could have imagined until recently. In the meantime, Air Canada launched an interesting promotion called “Travel at Home”, which allows achieving elite status or moving up with any non-air activities until May 31, including the transfer of credit card points. Nice initiative, but why should somebody take the gamble and shift 50,000 miles into the Aeroplan program without having any idea what they will still be worth under the new program? It is fair to assume that the elite program, which has always been managed by Air Canada, won’t be subject to dramatic changes – although any member outside of Canada would certainly hope to be able to qualify for elite statuses without the current requirement for a high share of activity on Air Canada itself, but nothing is clear for the reward side once which will be assumed by Air Canada as well. A pity and missed opportunity for this nice carrier since nobody needs such additional uncertainity around loyalty programs in these times.
If you are not yet ready to travel again, earnings from credit cards are likely to be your most important source to increase your point balances. And from that perspective, you can basically only hope that you are a resident of the UAE, since Emirates is now catching up with the previous lead Etihad took by introducing some of the most fantastic credit card offers for high spenders. As such, Skywards has recently introduced yet another high-profile offer in form of a MasterCard issued by RAKBANK, characterised by a high earning rate, Silver membership in the Skywards program (with a possibility to upgrade to Gold purely on a spend basis), complimentary membership in the LoungeKey program and a range of lifestyle benefits. But depending on your exact profile, there are various other products by Skywards and Etihad Guest, which might be even more attractive to you!