As 2017 draws to a close, I thought it’d be fun to do a recap of the year (see 2016’s recap here) as it unfolded for miles and points enthusiasts, talk about some of my best (and worst) flights and stays and share some statistics about the site.
Remembering the Dearly Departed
Let us pause for a moment’s silence and remember the loss of two of the brightest stars in the miles game this year.
First, the FEVO card had a very bad affair with the DBS WWMC, and in April this year we saw the last tango in Paris as DBS killed off 10X points for FEVO top ups. There went an easy way of maxing out the 10X limit on the WWMC each month. Fortunately, there are still ways to convert your everyday spend into 10X opportunities, provided you’re willing to be a bit more selective about where you shop at…
Second, the HSBC Advance 10X program valiantly hung on for a long while, getting a new lease on life time and time again when expiry seemed all but certain. But finally on 31 May 2017 it succumbed to the darkness of cashback. Uncapped 10X on online spending and dining was a gift too good to last forever, and we should be grateful it lasted as long as it did. Goodnight, sweet prince.
Most confused product launch
At the risk of flogging a dead horse, let’s talk about the product first. It offers “up to” 5.4 mpd, but requires you to park $350K in a 0 interest earning account and caps the bonus component of that (5 mpd) at 5% of your monthly account balance. Which means that if for whatever reason you were willing to park $350K without interest, you’d earn 5.4 mpd on the first $3,500 a month, and then 0.4 mpd on everything after that. Yup. The cap means that the more you spend, the lower your effective miles per dollar. Let that sink in.
And if I squint hard enough, the product could have made sense for retirees (but you could get a secured version of many miles cards by putting a fixed deposit with the bank). or students (that’s still a stretch given the min $500 monthly spending requirement to earn any miles) who didn’t draw a regular income and therefore were cut off from traditional miles earning cards.
So why was it marketed to “millennials” (a horribly vague and overused term, which in this case I think was meant to be “young working professionals who have just joined the workforce”) then, who with a starting income of $30,000 could get access to the much superior DBS Altitude?
Then let’s talk about the way the product was marketed. It’s clearly not a lifestyle product, but rather one that needs a significant amount of thought and analysis. Why then ask these guys to promote it, when there is like an entire Batman rogues gallery of bloggers who could have written solid analysis on it (but maybe I just answered my own question)? And why pay a current affairs site to write about scenarios that make no sense at all, in some convoluted attempt to say “it could work for…”?
It’s like someone at a meeting stood up and said “millennials like to travel and use the instantgram so let’s get influencers lol!” and everyone else nodded and said “lol!”
Best flight of the year
I had many fantastic flights this year. From the irresistible kitsch of EVA Air’s Hello Kitty flight…
If you really pushed me to pick a best flight, I’d lean towards my Qatar Airways A350 flight from Doha to Philadelphia, because of the fantastic crew and service.
I still think SQ’s long haul business class is the market leader from a hard product point of view, and I’m not the biggest fan of Qatar’s catering, but that just goes to show you how much a great set of crew can lead passengers to overlook.
This year was a great one for new airline reviews, as we did a ton of them in the 2017 edition of the RTW trip. Have a poke around there if you’re looking for something new.
Worst flight of the year
Oman Air has to take the cake for the absolute worst airline experience I had to endure this year. Delays, lost luggage, non-existent customer service, incompetent CSOs who couldn’t even draft a letter properly and a company looking to avoid paying compensation at every turn. I mean, they’d easily give Air India a run for the money, and that’s saying something.
Best hotel stay of the year
This is a close one for me. In terms of pure service, it would be difficult to beat the experience I had at the Ritz Carlton Bangalore, where attention to detail was omnipresent and every small task handled with alacrity.
Ritz Carlton BangaloreIn terms of room upgrade jackpot, it’s got to be the St Regis Mumbai. I didn’t do a full post on this, but long story short I was upgraded from the basic room I booked to a Residential Suite. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, suffice to say this was one of the few times my jaw has dropped on entering my hotel room.
In terms of all round awesomeness, however, the Grosvenor House Dubai is in a class of its own. Huge rooms, Bulgari toiletries, amazing facilities and an executive lounge spread that would put many restaurants to shame meant it wins the title of best stay for me.
Worst hotel stay of the year
I didn’t have any out and out awful stays during the year, but for me the biggest letdown was the Westin Vendrome Paris. Although it’s supposed to be one of Starwood’s flagship properties in Paris, the place is dated, the upper floor plumbing didn’t work, the staff took forever to do simple requests and orange juice cost 9 euros. The location is amazing, but take that away and all you have is a run down Norma Desmond type property.
2017 Year in Review
What’s below isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of all the articles we wrote this year. In fact, there are many useful (I hope) articles that don’t feature below because they weren’t tied to a specific date. Some examples include our introductory guide to Asiamiles, examining whether the miles game affects your credit score and a guide to the SQ seats and fleet. Your best bet for finding these is in The Milelion Archives.
- Plaza Premium launched a loyalty program for its lounges that could prove a goldmine for anyone with an unlimited visit Priority Pass
- The Milelion embarked on On the Road Again to Rio
- Leaders Club gave away free hotel memberships that were taken back in March
- Lifemiles increased their award cancellations fees by up to 4X, making speculative bookings that much harder
- Citibank increased the minimum points/miles redemption block to 10,000, up from a mere 500
- Singapore Airlines announced a devaluation of its Krisflyer program. Although this wasn’t the worst devaluation we’d ever seen, award costs still increased by ~15-30% and the 15% online redemption discount was removed. On the plus side, Krisflyer stopped levying fuel surcharges on awards
- EZ-Pay, a service that allowed you to pay ERP charges with your credit card, was extended to POSB/DBS credit cards
- A pilot for Account Based Ticketing (ABT) was launched, which allowed you to use your Masterpass enabled Mastercard to pay for public transport fares
- The Milelion embarked on Miami, no vice
- Budget carrier Norwegian announced plans to fly direct from Singapore to London, from prices as low as $199 one way
- UOB launched the Krisflyer account, a by no means poorly conceived account that was by no means marketed through dubious channels
- Cashback was finally, definitively, forever and ever and ever proven to be inferior to miles
- The Milelion’s RTW 2017 trip started, this time on Oneworld
- Women finally ceased to give fever
- HSBC Advance finally stopped extending its 10X Rewards program on online spending and dining, bringing an end to one of the most amazing credit card bonuses ever seen in Singapore
- Krisflyer announced sweeping changes to its PPS Club program, adding non-expiry of miles, priority redemption of saver awards, complimentary preferred seating in economy and premium economy, priority immigration and PPS rewards. However, the requalification requirement for Solitaire PPS increased from $25K to $50K and PPS Reserve value validity was reduced from 6 years to 3
- Mileslife launched in Singapore, offering more opportunities to earn big on dining spend (plus earn new mileage currencies previously unavailable here)
- DBS added new exclusion categories for its rewards program
- Comfort relaunched its CabRewards program as, er, CabRewards+
- DBS very aggressively excluded Mileslife from earning 10X bonuses on the Woman’s card, for reasons I still don’t understand
- Citibank started a crazy promotion that let you buy miles for only 0.76 cents each, the lowest price I’ve ever seen miles go at in Singapore. The best part? This was for existing cardholders- not one of those sign up bonuses that only new cardholders can take advantage of
- UOB killed 10X earning on Cardup through the PPV, which was weird because Cardup had graduated through their FinTech accelerator
- SQ introduced a Secure My Fare feature that allowed customers to lock in economy fares for up to 72 hours for a nominal fee
- UOB introduced PRVI Pay, the opportunity to buy as many miles as you wanted at 2 cents each. They also cut the income requirement of the PRVI Miles card from $80K to $50K
- Qatar Airways had a totally intentional, deliberately done fare sale where they offered round trip business class tickets to the States for $700
- SQ introduced a 70th anniversary amenities kit across its premium cabins. It remains to be seen if they will offer an amenity kit on a regular basis in business class
- Grab expanded its Grab Rewards program, in a classic lesson of how not to offer rewards
- The evil that is DCC was finally and conclusively slain because of feature in mainstream media
- AMEX Krisflyer cards doubled their sign up bonus to 10K miles, the highest I’ve ever seen them go
- Singapore Airlines and Alaska Air announced a reciprocal earning and burning partnership
- The Milelion embarked on The Tokyo Ramen Run
- Singapore came to a standstill as The Milelion appeared on public access radio. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the BBC
- UOB capped 10X bonus points on dining via the Preferred Platinum AMEX to $6,000 of spend per year
- Citibank added Turkish Airlines as a transfer partner…but forgot to code the right transfer ratio, resulting in an incredible opportunity to transfer points at a 1:1 ratio (normally 5:2)
- Krisflyer released its Alaska Airlines award chart which offers excellent value for domestic US travel between certain zones
- The new and improved Milelion was launched, fulfilling ancient prophecy
- Scoot had, not for the first time, a major customer service meltdown, which goes to show that all the hip branding in the world can’t make up for the lack of a crisis management plan
- SPG and Uber decided to discontinue their partnership, making it even harder for those of us in Singapore to earn hotel points
- SQ finally launched their much anticipated new A380 cabin products. I thought business class was great but Suites was a missed opportunity
- Emirates too launched their new first and business class products. Their business class is light years behind SQ’s new product, but their first class…
- Krisflyer made it two devaluations in a year by also devaluing their Star Alliance partner chart. They did add online partner award redemption but the roll out was…not ideal
- Lifemiles held their biggest ever sale, offering up to a 150% bonus
- The Milelion embarked on the Philly Pho Fare
- The Milecast launched, finally giving people meaning in life
- OCBC announced it was revising the earning rates for its Voyage Cards for 2018, finally bringing its general spending rate in line with the rest of the market
- Amazon Prime launched in Singapore at an introductory price of $2.99 a month
- Aegean Airlines started selling its Miles and Bonus miles for the first time, with a 40% bonus
- Singapore Airlines announced major changes to its revenue ticket buckets, monetized seat selection in economy, tweaked which fare buckets were eligible for upgrades and adjusted mileage accrual rates
Overall Travel Stats
What’s interesting for me is that although I flew more in 2017, I had fewer hotel stays in total. I’m not going to requalify for Platinum 75 and it’s a shame to lose Your24 and 4 points per US$1, but ah well. I’m a bit sad I didn’t have the chance to visit Australia this year, but in March next year I’ll be taking a little flight to Sydney...
Total miles flown: 141,582 (2016: 128,675)
Total hotel nights: 75 (2016: 98)
Overall Webpage Stats
The Milelion had a major facelift in October this year, which also saw a back-end hardware upgrade that enables it to deliver you twice the nonsense, twice as fast. We’re continuing to build out new features for the site, and welcome any suggestions about things you’d like to see.
Stats as of 28 Dec:
Visitors: 1,000,324 (2016: 303,711)
Unique Visitors: 407,450(2016: 115,865)
Articles Read: 1,993,657 (2016: 703,302)
Most interesting search terms: “anyone still hungry after omakase tokyo” “instagram + “triple your money”” “how do you get 40 cents per mile when it cost $40 per 1000 miles” “milelion pasta” (that’s either me, or a man after my own heart)
Gender mix: 72/28 M/F (2016: 54/46)
Top 3 most read posts:
- The UOB Krisflyer Account is Dead on Arrival (43.6K reads)
- An Open Letter to the Influencers who Promoted the UOB Krisflyer Account (42.9K reads)
- SQ has devalued its Krisflyer award chart– here’s what you need to know (22.4K reads)
Looking to 2018
What’s there to look forward to in 2018? Well, I am looking forward to seeing SQ’s new Suites and Business class products expanding throughout the fleet, even if I’m not completely won over by the Suites. I am looking forward to a stable, devaluation free year for Krisflyer as it seeks to properly implement its online booking of partner awards.
God bless, everyone!