News

Written by Ravindra Bhagwanani on . Posted in Archives

While it is safe to assume that the new state-owned Italian carrier ITA, which will become operational on October 15, will basically be a resurrection of Alitalia, but debt-free, there will be one major difference: The company won’t be allowed to continue Alitalia’s MilleMiglia program. This means on one hand that the new airline is likely to start without any loyalty program as it will technically be impossible to introduce a program from scratch in so little time. As ITA is expected to remain in SkyTeam, you should though still be able to earn miles through any SkyTeam programs. But even more importantly, all MilleMiglia miles will simply become worthless on October 15. There is no other way than trying to redeem them immediately – preferably on partner airlines – and hoping that the old Alitalia doesn’t care about its debts anymore and will let you redeem them without any restrictions. However, even redeeming on a partner airline might not be a full guarantee if you travel beyond October 15 since you will be holding a ticket of an airline, that won’t exist anymore.

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Miles & More has introduced MilesPay, which basically turns miles into cash. While the feature is a small technology revolution, however the value proposition makes this a no-go: Similar to its non-air redemptions, Miles & More offers only a redemption value of 0.3 EUR cents per mile. Even with the fairly poor program proposition for flight awards, a considerably higher value per mile can be achieved with traditional awards. Should you nevertheless be interested in this feature, you should note that each transaction you wish to pay by miles needs to be manually activated upfront in the Miles & More app and such activation will remain valid for 15 minutes only – which is probably the best compromise that could have been found between security aspects and customer friendliness. Initially, this feature is limited to holders of a co-branded MasterCard in Germany, but the plan is to roll it out to other cards and to other markets in the future.

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Emirates has just rolled out globally the Skywards+ packages, a paid annual subscription add-on in its Skywards program. The packages are offered at three different price tags and offer, in a nutshell, a 20% bonus on miles on Emirates flights earned, a 20% discount on award flights with Emirates, increased baggage allowance and a certain number of passes for lounge access. The lowest package comes at an annual price of 399 USD. As the price might be a bit high, members should make an annual calculation whether the package will really pay off for them. For instance, if you value miles at 1 US cent per mile, the base package should allow you saving at least 40,000 miles. This would hence be the case if you plan to redeem at least 200,000 miles in the year, but this threshold comes down by taking into account the bonus miles earned on paid flights and the monetary value of the other benefits. But it seems clear that these packages make only sense when you redeem a high number of points. And as the 20% discount remains the same for the higher-priced packages (but is extended here to upgrade awards), the business case for them becomes much more difficult. You should note that all benefits apply to Emirates flights only and exclude most notably FlyDubai.

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If you exclude South and North Africa, one could almost gain the impression that Covid doesn’t exist anymore on the African continent. Airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines prove that and are, as a matter of fact, in pretty good shape. Ethiopian even continues its expansion and has just launched flights to Bosaso, the third largest city in Somalia. By taking Ethiopian to get there by September 03, members of its ShebaMiles program earn double base miles as well. Like in the good old days.

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If you live outside of the UAE and plan to visit Dubai between 01 October and 31 March, you should consider choosing Emirates for your trip: In addition to the normal Skywards miles you earn, Emirates will grant external visitors 1 mile per minute of their stay in Dubai if they travel into town on Emirates. This is to celebrate the fact that the (postponed) Expo 2020 will take place in Dubai during that time, but you don’t need to actually visit the Expo to earn the miles. The bonus can only be earned during the first trip exceeding 24 hours, but is capped at 5,000 miles. And no need to apply any tactics to delay the departure of your outbound flight since the bonus is calculated on the basis of the scheduled arrival and departure times, not the actual ones…

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The good thing about Covid was that most airlines were preoccupied by other things than looking at hidden ways to devalue their programs, for instance by moving to a revenue basis. However, after a short break, Oman Air will become the next carrier to switch to such a scheme for its Sindbad program in August. Full details are not yet known, but the base earn rate will be only 4 miles per USD spent. This means that while you’d earn today 19,344 miles for a roundtrip at the “Business” fare category for a roundtrip between London and Bangkok, the applied price would result in a mileage earning of only 17,184 miles – or 11% less – under the future revenue-based model. Flying in Economy Class between Muscat and Mumbai at an Economy Lite fare earns today 494 miles. However, this amount would almost triple to 1,312 miles. It might be nice if such system benefits certain customer groups – but the question should be allowed what the exact reasoning is if high-yield business customers are punished while unprofitable low yield customers benefit…

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RwandAir was one of the fastest growing airlines in the world before the crisis, with big ambitions. Although it had launched its Dream Miles program a few years ago, it has always been challenged to gain traction outside of its limited home market. This might change now thanks to its first mutual airline partnership with Qatar Airways and its Privilege Club program. But this is probably only a first step towards a bright future at RwandAir as Qatar Airways intends to purchase 49% of the carrier.

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A long and interesting story will come to an end on 02 August when airBaltic will merge the coalition program PINS into its own loyalty program airBaltic Club. While the PINS program started off with a great vision, things might have turned out to be one number too big for the small carrier and things got fully confusing for customers when airBaltic itself – PINS was run by a subsidiary – launched a parallel loyalty program for its own flights a few years ago. Based on the early announcement, not much of PINS’ coalition spirit will survive as the renewed airBaltic Club will refocus on travel-related partners. Current PINS members need to actively agree to transfer their points to the airBaltic Club or risk otherwise losing them.

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To put it mildly, Canada might not be the best place to be when you desperataly wait the return to a “normal.” Travel is still much more restrictive than in many other places, especially when it comes to international travel. So what is the best option to earn miles in Canada this summer? The somewhat surprising answer is to travel by train! Air Canada’s Aeroplan program has partnered with Rocky Mountaineer, a luxuxry train operator in the Rocky Mountains. While the normal earning rate will only be 1 mile per CAD spent (2 miles in their GoldLeaf Service class), a launch promotion until the end of the year allows members earning 10,000 miles per trip in SilverLeaf Service and even 20,000 miles in GoldLeaf Service. And one day, you might even be able to redeem these miles again for air travel.

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Accor has just launched its long-awaited co-branded Visa card linked to its ALL program. Although, currently only available in France, but the card is quickly being rolled out to other major European markets. While the card is state-of-the-art from a technology perspective and offers some nice gimmicks, the problem is the underlying earn rate. The base card (Pulse), which can be considered as free for the first year thanks to a launch bonus available until July 27, offers an earn rate of only 2.5 points per 10 EUR spent – which translates into a cashback of 0.5% if points are redeemed with Accor. The rate increases to 0.8% and 2.0% respectively for the Explorer and Ultimate card. These two cards come with higher annual fees, which might be hard to justify even when taking into account all the associated (insurance) benefits, unless you are a real big spender and single source the card. After their first paid night, cardholders receive immediate Silver status in the ALL program (Gold status with the Ultimate card).