The Milelion’s 2021 Christmas Wishlist

All I want for Christmas, is...

Merry Christmas in advance to all Milelion readers! I’m working on putting together my reflections on 2021, but first, here’s my annual Christmas wishlist for your consideration. 

For the uninitiated, I’ve a little tradition of putting together a list of things I’d love to see happen in the world of miles and points. Some may be silly, others a little out there, but when I look through previous years’ lists, a surprising number have come to fruition.

🎄 Join our Christmas fundraiser!

A big thank you to everyone who’s chipped in to The Milelion’s Christmas Fundraiser, which this year supports the work of Care Corner Singapore. We’re now at 50% of our S$20,000 target. If this is a cause that resonates with you, do consider contributing in any big or small way you can!

So, in no order of preference, here’s my wishlist for 2022…

(1) An end to VTLs

Inaugural VTL flight from Frankfurt | Photo: Frankfurt Airport

I’m hoping that 2022 will see the end of VTLs. 

No, not in the way you think.

I’m talking about being free to take whatever non-stop flight you wish back to Singapore, without having to worry about specific days or flight numbers.

I get that the idea behind VTL flights is to have vaccinated passengers only, but it feels somewhat arbitrary when they’ll be mixing with unvaccinated individuals all the time before the flight- when walking through the airport, queueing at security, or at the airline lounge. 

I mean, even if you’re arguing that prolonged contact is the issue, a traveller who just stepped off a crowded Paris to Frankfurt flight mixed with vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers would be perfectly at liberty to connect to a Frankfurt to Singapore VTL flight. Let’s not forget that VTL flights may also have unvaccinated passengers anyway, in the form of children aged 12 and below who are exempt from the requirement. 

If there are still concerns, adjustments could be made to require unvaccinated passengers to take pre-departure PCR tests, while vaccinated passengers could continue doing ARTs instead.  Of course, the simplest solution would be to make vaccinations mandatory for flying (like what Qantas and AirAsia will do), and frankly, I’m all on board with that (with exceptions for those who are medically ineligible, obviously).

Long queues to check in for a VTL flight

The VTL process is complicated as it is, and allowing passengers to take any non-stop flight would greatly help. 

(2) ART swabbing on arrival in Singapore

Swabbing tent at Changi Terminal 3

VTL travellers to Singapore currently do a PCR test on arrival at Changi, after which they head directly to their self-isolation premises and wait 6-8 hours for the results to come out. 

While that’s an acceptable inconvenience for quarantine-free travel, my hope is that Singapore will make the switch to on-arrival ARTs in 2022. 

It’s not as far out as it sounds. Just a few weeks ago it was reported that Singapore scientists had developed a saliva ART which is just as accurate as PCR tests, yet takes only 15 minutes to detect COVID-19.

This could be a gamechanger if it hits commercial production. Imagine touching down at Changi, taking a saliva ART, and getting a result in the time it takes for your bag to pop out on the belt. You wouldn’t need to worry about self-isolation arrangements; you could plan to head back to work or school that same morning. It’d make the VTL process that much more seamless.

(3) Negative test = fly

I’m going to sound like a broken record about this, but ICA really needs to relook at its positive test = no fly to Singapore for 14 days policy.

People who are holding off on VTL travel tell me it isn’t the virus they’re scared of; it’s the operation of this rule. A fully vaccinated individual could test positive for COVID-19 and be otherwise clinically well, clear a PCR test a week later but still not be allowed to return to Singapore. 

Unless we’re saying we don’t trust the results of testing, there’s no reason to have this rule.

(4) New Book The Cook menu items

The new Lobster Thermidor

Earlier this month, Singapore Airlines brought lobster thermidor back to the menu– but not quite how you remember it. This lighter version represents the first in a wave of new Book The Cook options that will come online in January 2022, a welcome expansion from the current pared back menu. 

I’m very excited to see the updated options, and hope they’ll bring some upscale local flavors to the menu. I’d love a good lobster laksa, or king prawn noodles.

(5) Rollout of live TV across the SIA fleet

In July this year, Singapore Airlines announced a trial of live TV service onboard its seven A350-900ULR aircraft. Passengers can choose from four channels: BBC World News, CNN, CNBC and Sport 24.

I’ve yet to experience this inflight (although the icon appears in KrisWorld, I always get the message “live TV unavailable” when I try to access it), but I already know I want it. 

Live TV- coming soon

Why? Sport 24. Imagine being able to catch all these events in real time, from 35,000 ft in the air:

🎾 Sport 24 Events
  • AFC Champions League
  • AFL
  • America’s Cup
  • ATP 1000 Tennis
  • Augusta Masters
  • Australian Open
  • Big Bash League
  • Copa Libertadores
  • EuroLeague Basketball
  • European Tour Golf
  • Horse Racing
  • HSBC World Rugby Sevens
  • Hyundai A-League
  • International Football
  • MotoGP
  • National Rugby League
  • NBA
  • NBA Finals
  • NBA Playoffs
  • NFL
  • NFL Super Bowl
  • NHL
  • OLYMPICS
  • PGA CHAMPIONSHIP
  • PGA Tour®
  • Premier League
  • Roland Garros
  • Ryder Cup
  • SailGP
  • Ski Jumping
  • Skiing
  • Stanley Cup final
  • Stanley Cup playoffs
  • State of Origin
  • The Open
  • Tokyo 2020 Olympics
  • UEFA Champions League
  • UEFA Euro 2020
  • UEFA Europa League
  • UEFA European Qualifiers
  • UEFA Nations League
  • UEFA Super Cup
  • US Open Tennis
  • Wimbledon

I’m really hoping this trial leads to a fleetwide rollout, and since the vast majority of SIA’s fleet uses Panasonic Avionics equipment anyway (Panasonic Avionics holds the rights to the Sport 24 channel), it shouldn’t be technically difficult to do.

(6) Reopening the SilverKris Lounge network

The SilverKris Lounge at London Heathrow has reopened, but others remain closed

This is a wish I’m sure will be fulfilled sooner or later (though sooner would be nice), but as of today, the only SilverKris Lounges open worldwide are:

The following lounges have yet to reopen:

  • Bangkok
  • Brisbane
  • Hong Kong
  • Manila
  • Perth
  • Seoul
  • Taipei

and the following were permanently closed during COVID:

  • Adelaide
  • Delhi
  • Kuala Lumpur

With VTL flights from Bangkok and Seoul, you’d think the lounges here would be prime candidates for a reopening. That said, SIA can still piggyback on Star Alliance partners THAI and Asiana in these airports, which may reduce the incentive to operate their own facilities.

SilverKris Lounge Bangkok | Photo: Ong&Ong

I have fond memories of visiting the new SilverKris Lounge at Bangkok Airport back in 2017. There was a full service bar, a very good buffet selection, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and productivity pods. It lacked showers, but you don’t really need those for a short-haul station like this. 

I’ll be visiting Bangkok in January, so fingers crossed. 

(7) An excellent new SilverKris First Class lounge

SilverKris Lounge seating
New SilverKris Business Class Lounge

After more than two years of COVID-disrupted renovations, Singapore Airlines finally took the wraps off its new SilverKris Business Class lounge at Changi. This marks the first phase of a S$50 million overhaul of its flagship lounges, with 30% more capacity, new facilities, more open spaces and a wider selection of F&B options.

Review: Singapore Airlines’ new SilverKris Lounge at Changi Airport Terminal 3

I really like what I’m seeing so far with the new Business Class Lounge, but the true test will come in February 2022 when the new First Class Lounge and Private Room launch. The temporary First Class section, while functional, isn’t meant to be anything other than a placeholder.

So far, all we know about the new First Class lounge is that it’ll have a separate entrance, unlike the old layout where it was nestled within the Business Class lounge. We also know it won’t enjoy tarmac views (or natural lighting for that matter) owing to its location, so we’ll need to see how designers HBA work their magic with that. 

Concept for new First Class Lounge
Concept for new Private Room

When I first penned the header for this subsection, I wrote “a game-changing new SilverKris Lounge”, then realised if I expected something game-changing, I’d probably be disappointed. As the new SilverKris Business Class Lounge reminds us, SIA has always been conservative in its approach to lounges, preferring dignified elegance over (what it sees as) flashy gimmicks.

It’s safe to say we shouldn’t expect things like spas or private bedrooms, but I’d be very happy to see a thoughtfully-designed space with an excellent preflight dining experience.

(8) Free breakfast added as a DISCOVERY Titanium perk

Breakfast at Capitol Kempinski Singapore

As any DISCOVERY elite should know by now, GHA recently announced the biggest shakeup to the programme since its inception in 2010. 

Among the changes are revised tiers and benefits, new elite qualification criteria, and a completely revamped rewards scheme. I’ve analysed the changes in full detail, plus held a Q&A with GHA’s CEO about the reason behind the changes and the way forward. 

One thing that’s yet to be revealed are the “Brand Benefits” for Titanium members. These are additional perks that Titaniums can expect to receive when staying at specific brands, and may or may not include:

  • Free breakfast
  • Free airport transfers
  • Free laundry

If DISCOVERY really wants to be generous, they’ll make breakfast a Titanium perk. All the other major benefits, such as early check-in/late check-out and room upgrades are “subject to availability”- and who knows what availability will be when hotels are flooded with Titaniums? Adding a guaranteed benefit in the form of breakfast would certainly make me more inclined to book stays with GHA. 

(9) Another Visa Supplier Locator

At the start of this year, I wrote about a game-changing development for the miles game in Singapore: the Visa Supplier Locator. This online tool allowed you to look up the MCC of any Visa-accepting merchant, removing guesswork and enabling informed decisions about what credit card to use.

Unfortunately, the Visa Supplier Locator went MIA in October, following a decision by Visa to tighten access and make it available as a subscriber-only B2B service. This means we’re back to the stone age, in a big setback for information transparency. 

My hope is that 2022 will see a viable alternative coming on the scene.

(10) Japan VTL. Japan VTL. Japan VTL.

Nuff said.

How did previous year’s wishlists go?

On the off chance you’re feeling nostalgic, here’s the things I wished for in previous year.

🎄 2015 Christmas Wishlist
  • For banks to provide an itemized statement of points awarded per transaction (granted, for some at least)
  • For an app to check MCCs before you buy something (granted…then taken away)
  • For DBS and UOB to introduce more airline and hotel partners (granted…at least for DBS)
  • For banks to introduce credit cards without foreign transaction fees (granted…but not by a bank!)
  • For Singapore Airlines to introduce more tiers within KrisFlyer (granted…sort of)
  • For KrisFlyer to introduce online bookings for partner awards (granted)
  • For all SIA Economy tickets to be upgradable, not just full fare (granted…sort of)
  • For a proper functioning SIA site that, you know, lets you do useful stuff (getting there slowly…)
  • For Global Entry for Singapore passport holders (granted)
🎄 2016 Christmas Wishlist
  • For Singapore Airlines to introduce a truly revolutionary new cabin product…(granted)
  • …and actually allow redemptions on said product (granted…sort of)
  • For KrisFlyer to extend its discount redemption promotions to cover premium cabins (granted)
  • For Marriott to keep the best parts of the SPG program post 2017 (granted…sort of)
  • For Uber to start a loyalty program (jinxed it)
  • For Uber to bring back some measure of transparency to their pricing (ditto)
  • For a bank to break the 1.4 mpd barrier (granted)
  • For banks to introduce equitable ways of handling foreign currency refunds
🎄 2018 Christmas Wishlist
  • For more hotel points transfer promotions
  • For Marriott points to go back on sale at reasonable rates (granted)
  • For another bank to enter the miles game with a bang (granted)
  • For another mega Apple Pay-esque promotion
  • For the quick and painless death of the 2009 Regional J seat (granted)
  • For a groundbreaking, full-flat seat for SilkAir aircraft (granted)
  • For new SilverKris lounges at Changi Airport (granted)
  • For more travel insurance options to cover miles and points


🎄 2019 Christmas Wishlist
  • For more “no questions asked” miles purchase facilities
  • For a $120K card from DBS
  • For new SCB X Card benefits (they did waive the second and third year’s fee, so that’s something?)
  • For a relaunch of the American Express Platinum Reserve
  • For additional instant conversion options for KrisFlyer (DBS/UOB were added as Kris+ partners, but with a 15% haircut)
  • For the removal of conversion fees (granted…by some)
🎄 2020 Christmas Wishlist
  • For leisure travel bubbles to open up (granted)
  • For more ground experiences from SIA
  • For more KrisFlyer Experiences (granted)
  • For premium credit cards to justify their annual fees (you be the judge)
  • For more generous hotel points sales (does this count?)
  • For expanded COVID-19 coverage for travel insurance (granted)
  • For less tricks, more treats from hotels
  • For KrisFlyer to adopt activity-based expiry

Conclusion

So that’s the list of things I’m hoping to find in my stocking come 2022! Stay tuned for more reflections on a very strange year. 

What are you hoping to see in the miles and points game next year?

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Anon

Japan VTL yes

anon

Q2 would have been possible if not for Omicron…

Japan just closed its borders to long-term pass holders again..

Q3 looks more likely now..

Also, if Japan does launch VTL with SG, I think it will be similar arrangements to korea

Last edited 9 months ago by anon
Susanne

Hoping to see Singapore Airlines remove the 3 year validity of miles and switch to the same as nearly all other airlines that you can keep the points alive by earning or redeeming points.

anon

yes.. Hope to see this too.. even tho the other side of the room will say keeping miles = devaluation galore..

some people just don’t spend enough to get enough for a flight after 3 years..

msflyer

Wish: long live Amaze for converting to online

Unconverted Cashback Guy

[ Long live Amaze + extending support to Visa & Amex ] – there is strong case for this to become #11 on your list!

James Quek

VTL with NZ from Q2?

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