Award Travel In The Pandemic Era

Air travel around the world has only just recently started to rebound albeit at levels that were probably unheard of in modern times. IATA has warned that it may be the year 2024 before we see air travel capacity return to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. With less than 10% of planes in the air today, some may wondering what frequent flyer award seat availability is like today. I have recently looked into this and found that surprisingly, it is still quite widely available. There is one big caveat though – they are generally available as long as it does not involve flights going into Australia.

In case you have not heard, Australia has imposed inbound caps to alleviate pressure on their hotel quarantine programme since July 2020. Several airlines such as Qatar, Emirates, Singapore and Cathay Pacific have continued flying into the country, but only with 50 or so passengers on board each flight! This has caused havoc for people trying to return to Australia and most economy class travellers have been bumped from one flight to another, as airline prioritise their premium passengers.

Back to our discussion about award travel, I have looked into Business Class availability for flights from Asia into London and Sydney for travel in November 2020. Here are the results:

It is almost impossible to get an award seat into Australia but there are plenty going out of the country, through Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer.

On the other hand, there is wide availability from Singapore into and out of London.

It is the same story for Qantas Frequent Flyer members. One can easily use their points to fly to London on any class of service, but award travel into Australia is non-existent.

If you are trying to use your Malaysia Airlines’ Enrich points, you will most likely be out of luck. I have tried searching for flights from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney, London and Tokyo – nothing appeared!

Finally, I have also tried looking for Business Class flights using American AAdvantage points from Los Angeles to Sydney . There were none for the same dates.

As I had expected, there were definitely more options for one to fly from Singapore to London using their American AAdvantage points.

Long and medium haul flights are generally more costly across the board today therefore I do find greater value in using frequent flyer points to fly now. This is especially the case for those with a lot of points stashed because I personally find it more palatable to have my points stuck instead of cash. Getting a seat is only one challenge of international air travel today. You have to remember that flights are cancelled and rescheduled almost every day. Don’t forget border regulations changes constantly too so you may not be allowed into the country you are travelling to. Therefore, you risk having points and/or cash being held by the airline for months while they process a refund.

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Andrew is a self-confessed guru when it comes to frequent flyer programmes. He claims that he is more familiar of the terms & conditions than the one who came up with the terms & conditions. His dream is to be able to feast on cookies day and night without getting fat.