Are you a frequent flyer? Let’s put the bad news aside for a second and talk avgeeky.
With the current coronavirus crisis, airlines are almost shutting down. Many of them said they’ll go bankrupt soon, and others will be bailed out by governments. Many of us had to re-schedule flights, either get them reimbursed or push them to a later (uncertain) date.
Now, looking beyond the immediate burden of re-booking flights and postponing trips, one question many of us have is what will happen with our frequent flyer miles after COVID-19?
It is clear that things will never go back to ‘normal.’ Normal will mean something different from now on, and I wonder how it will impact flyers and the way we know miles and points today.
We already see some airlines taking action, for example, postponing elite qualification deadlines for a few months, and offering more flexibility to issued tickets. However, there are a few big uncertainties.
- What happens with my miles if an airline goes bankrupt?
- If the airline is still operating, will my miles be worth the same?
- When will I be able to book again?
- Is it better if I have a ticket booked than accumulated miles?
What to do with my miles as a frequent flyer?
In my case, I have about 500k SAS EuroBonus points in my account (yes, half a million). Suddenly, Scandinavian Airlines stopped all operations, including the ability to book tickets with EuroBonus points, both in SAS and Star Alliance. It also stopped point earning through several channels (luckily not credit cards yet).
I also have a significant amount of miles with American Airlines (200k), Delta (100k), AirFrance (80k), and a few other points here and there.
Here’s my take on the previous questions:
- What happens with my miles if an airline goes bankrupt? Most likely, your miles will be gone. In many cases, you can file for compensation (it happened to me with AirBerlin), and you might get some cash, but it is a long process and takes a long time.
- If the airline is still operating, will my miles be worth the same? My guess is the value of miles and points will change. It could be that they remain the same, but there are fewer seats available (since these are not profitable seats for airlines). If airlines lower ticket prices, then, indirectly, miles are also getting devalued.
- When will I be able to book again? Most likely, when airlines re-start operations
- Is it better if I have a ticket booked than accumulated miles? In some cases, it is better to have a ticket booked since you have pretty much “secured” the value of your miles when it was high. Particularly in premium cabins. However, I wouldn’t book now if you don’t have a ticket already.
In my humble opinion, the best thing to do right now is to stay put. Just wait and see what happens. I’m quite confident that, while things will never back to the same ‘normal’ we were used to, things will reactivate, and travel will resume at some point in 2020.
That said, let’s hope for the best and meanwhile talk about different strategies to “secure” our miles and their value.