Travel was virtually impossible last year, and that’s why this year you should spend all of your frequent flyer miles. All of them.
If you are considering booking travel or signing up for a new credit card please click here. Both support LiveAndLetsFly.com.
If you haven’t followed us on Facebook or Instagram, add us today.
That Was A Very Long Year
No one is saying we are out of the woods. Daily COVID-19 results continue to hover around 50-60,000 positive cases, but there is reason to be hopeful. Positive results had been as high as 240,000/day in January in the US alone. Cruiselines are putting dates back on the calendar, countries are opening up to receiving tourists that have been vaccinated (though they should still include those with antibodies.)
We have all spent a year teaching our children about social distancing and operating from distracting home offices with Zoom calls that make us long for unnecessary meetings in person that could have been an email.
Some lost loved ones and 2020 will never be forgotten for the personal toll it took on the lives of their families and themselves. For those that didn’t get sick this year with COVID-19, the mental strain and exhaustion was significant as well. And it was an election year that saw everything race riots in the street to the storming of the Capitol building.
We have never needed a vacation more than we do right now.
Too Much Opportunity
I found myself sitting on millions of frequent flyer miles and hotel points with no ability to use them and an unabated desire to just get away. For those of us who have whined about the difficulty of using upgrade certificates or the ever-moving goalposts of earning elite status in our favorite loyalty programs, the amount of points members earn – here’s our perfect year. There’s never been an easier time to score an upgrade, and there’s never been an easier time (in the modern era) to earn or maintain status with an airline or hotel chain.
Have you wanted to try switching carriers? Maybe American Airlines flyers will finally give Delta’s Medallion status a try. This year is your chance with just about every airline offering a status match. If you’re one of the few who have a chance to earn status in 2021, bonus miles will be so plentiful that you may not have to pay for a cash ticket for a long time.
Alaska Airlines has one of the best loyalty programs in the world with some of the cheapest award ticket rates on incredible airlines like Cathay Pacific. Spend them. Spend them all, and spend them right now. Airlines couldn’t possibly change the game in the current environment, and we have all spent a year realizing how useless those points are if we can’t get on a plane.
I’m reminded of Germans using Deutsch Marks as wallpaper in the 1920s because the currency had fallen so drastically that it was cheaper to attach the currency to the wall than it was to use it to buy purpose-built wallpaper. Money is just paper if you can’t use it to deliver value, and miles and just a number on a screen if they can’t be spent.
There’s never been a time in history where this many employees could work remotely. There’s also never been a time where this many employees have had so much unused paid time off.
It Could Happen Again
Europe is experiencing another wave, and we may in the US again too. But if we finally beat COVID-19, or at least down to a manageable level whereby life can resume, it should remind us all that nothing is guaranteed. If not COVID-19 or its variants then something else, something worse may come along. If it does, we will all regret sitting on our mountains of points and the things we didn’t see, or do, taste, or experience.
For a traveler’s soul, the last year was a dark glimpse of hell. But like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, perhaps this view will be enough to remind us all that it could happen again and if it does we shouldn’t have regrets because this was our great warning.
Go out, spend your miles. Spend them all. There will be time to earn more from co-branded credit card offers and “limited time promotions.” Spend them like you’ve never spent them before because we almost saw what it would like to never be able to spend them again and that’s not a world I want to live in.
What do you think? Will you spend all of your miles in 2021? Do you have a reason to hold on to them instead?
Note: While LiveAndLetsFly.com may receive compensation for affiliate linked credit card offers, no bank has reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed this post.
If you’re based in the US, you won’t be having a chance to experience Lufthansa or Cathay first class anytime soon- it’s all A350s with business as the top cabin for those airlines. Right now, for obtainable F cabins on award. it’s basically Emirates and British Airways flying F to the USA.
I strongly suspect this is the future; there’s going to be less premium cabin demand now that corporations have realized that you can get away with spending a lot less on business travel. Some of it will come back, but not all of it, and that will completely change the calculus of longhaul premium travel.
I may become Cattle elite or Riff Raff status when my elite status extensions end. That will also be an incentive to burn miles, even on domestic economy class. I still won’t burn miles on non-flight redemption because those are extremely poor use of miles.
I am glad I burned my IHG and Hilton and Hertz points by accident before the pandemic with the exception of one car day left and one hotel stay left unredeemed.
Spent millions of points/miles in 2020, traveling in J and F all over the world. Loved it.
Some of my best travel memories of my life happened last year – while everyone was cowering inside.
Spending as fast as I can in 2021 for 12 months of pure travel – but, earn them faster than I can spend them on two people.
Love the CC companies who are handing this all. I’ll end up having visited ~50 countries in 2.5 years of steady travel, in nice hotels, lie flat seats and etc. All on their dime.
Also, 2020, I wish we could have that every year. Everyone hides at home while the rest of us enjoy the world and remember we’re all humans, not enemies.
@Kyle, this is not true in April 2021: “There’s never been an easier time to score an upgrade”. Both the quantity and quality of J seats available for upgrades are down.
I have flown every week during Covid. Over the last several weeks I only get complimentary upgrades @30% of the time compared to @100% of the time early on in Covid. 0% of my PlusPoints upgrades have gone through recently.
I am 1K with United and received complimentary upgrades to lie-flat J seats on widebodies every week from March to November 2020.
Now very few widebodies are flying those routes. So, even if I get an upgrade, it is on a 737 or a 757-300 without lie-flats.
I am Platinum with both Delta and American and have flights with both in April. I see the same thing happening on AL and DL as with UA.
Your statement about upgrade availability was correct for April 2020.
@DC not in DC – Maybe I should have clarified when I said, “There’s never been an easier time to score an upgrade” that I was referring to future award bookings and cash bookings. You can score multiple seats in business class cabins on just about every route later in the year. Maybe not today for bookings right away on domestic flights. I can see how that should have been clearer, but it remains true in April 2021 for future bookings as early as August.
This should be the case every year. Burn em as fast as you earn em. I really never understand anyone who hordes Hotel or Airline points. It’s like cash dripping out of the faucet. Even if you can’t get time to use them for vacations, burn em on business.
I was also sitting on a massive chunk due to Covid and not happy about it. So I booked a wild one month trip in August through the Middle East and Mauritius. I was able to book all F seats in Etihad and Emirates throughout and using points at luxury Hyatt and Bonvoy properties. Essentially doing a big purge on my accounts while the getting is good and before the next devaluations.
Agreed, but we were both sitting on a pile of points because sometimes we forget to take our own advice. This is the year to fix that.
I don’t understand this. I want to redeem for F on ANA or JAL. Can’t use them, because even if I could transiting is hard. I want to pay for first on KAL… but I don’t want a 14-day government quarantine. I want to redeem for F on LH – heck, the product doesn’t officially exist from the US, let alone whether I could go there. Air France or KLM… are also excluding US travelers. I have a s* ton of transferrable bank points that I could send to Qantas or Singapore, but I also can’t use them.
There’s even a micro economic bubble of places that permit US travelers to go post-vaccine or with Covid testing: Emirates has no solid F award availability, Iceland has hotel prices through the roof, etc.
So burn like it’s going out of style? How, exactly? Domestic first to Miami? Hyatt Denver Convention Center? Marriott Fremont?
Lufthansa do offer first class to North America. You can use your miles to buy 2 seats on the 747 flying MEX-FRA tomorrow evening. Not sure why you would want to do that and end up either in a country that’s still pretty much in lockdown or changing planes at an airport where lounges are not even permitted to serve food (and the takeaway option last week was a cold sandwich with red cabbage- full-on Ostalgie).
Personally, I am super keen to travel ASAP but the restrictions in most places don’t make it easy. I do have a reservation to Brazil (paid ticket, insanely cheap J offer by TAP) for late May, but I am not very optimistic about it. Looks like I won’t be burning any miles before October or so.
Fully vaxxed by end of May. Three domestic award flights/trips booked for second half of 2021, will probably do one more weekend trip that doesn’t require flying. Chomping at the bit to lock in summer 2022 flights when airline schedules open, praying for good award availability.
I am also sitting on a ton of CC miles, even after using them for the handful of domestic F flights I have done or have coming up. The question is whether there will be business class or upgrade space on international flights once it opens up and it is practical to to to the places I want to go. There is plenty now, but it is not practical to go now.