The MileLion’s 2022 Christmas Wishlist

All I want for Christmas in the miles and points game.

At the end of each year, I come up with a list of things I’d love to see happen in the miles and points game. Some of them are fanciful (another mega Apple Pay promo!), others entirely reasonable (an end to the VTLs).

So, in keeping with that tradition, here’s The MileLion’s Christmas wishlist for 2022, in no particular order of preference (or realism)!

(1) Implementation of virtual ABTC in Singapore

Virtual ABTC

Assuming you’re eligible, one of the best Christmas presents you can buy for yourself is an APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC). For just S$100, you can skip those snaking queues at immigration, plus enjoy a waiver on all visa/electronic travel authorisation (ETA) requirements when visiting participating economies.

ABTC Homepage
FAQs
🌎 ABTC-participating Countries
  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Canada*
  • Chile
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • New Zealand
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • United States*
  • Vietnam
*Transitional members offering expedited immigration, but not visa/ETA-free entry

Singapore currently issues a physical ABTC, but I really, really hope we move to the virtual version soon. 

The physical ABTC is rife with limitations. Because there’s so many economies involved, it can take a long time to get an interim card, let alone the final version. The MileLioness applied for an ABTC at the start of the year, and till today is still waiting for approval from Papua New Guinea and Vietnam. 

She only received her interim card two months ago, and even worse, it’s missing Japan (though Japan has since approved her application). I don’t know if that will cause issues down the road, since she’s approved in the system but the physical card doesn’t mention it. 

All this could be avoided with a virtual ABTC, where you can start using your card from the time the very first economy approves you. As the weeks go by, your virtual ABTC gets more and more powerful as the approvals roll in, and it’s less of a problem if some countries take their own sweet time- the bottleneck effect is avoided. Let’s also not forget that with a virtual ABTC there’s no physical card to lose.

 Given our government’s obsession with digitisation, surely this can’t be far away?

(2) Sprucing up The Private Room menu

The Private Room

2022 saw the highly-anticipated opening of The Private Room at Changi Airport. This space, reserved exclusively for Suites and First Class passengers flying on Singapore Airlines, is meant to be the flagship to end all flagships, the best the airline has to offer. 

Review: Singapore Airlines The Private Room, Changi Terminal 3

Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot to the lounge. While it’s certainly a pleasant place to sit and relax, the main attraction is meant to be the restaurant. And that’s where I feel there’s a lot of room for improvement. 

Let’s get one thing straight: the F&B isn’t terrible. It’s competently done, there are “hero dishes” like lobster pasta and a wagyu beef burger, and how can anyone say no to a glass of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne?

But it pales in comparison to some of the lounge meals I’ve had elsewhere. For instance, a boring-looking salad with low-grade supermarket smoked salmon doesn’t exactly get the pulse racing.

Smoked Salmon Salad

Nor does a plate of dim sum with a smear of what looks like Maggi chilli.

Dim Sum Delights

Lobster pasta should be exactly that, not lobster +  pasta (you need to marry the two together by using the lobster to make stock, which the pasta is then finished in).

Sautéed Lobster with Pasta

Classic items like a burger are clumsily plated, more an assembly of items rather than a fusion. And who offers boiled potatoes with a burger?

Wagyu Burger

Compare this with what I believe to be the gold standard for lounge food at Changi Airport: the Qantas First Lounge. Every meal here is a delight, because the dishes feel so much better conceptualised and executed. 

There’s classic Australian favourites like salt and pepper squid, but more than that, there’s an earnest attempt to understand our Singapore food heritage. Some of the dishes read like a love letter to hawker cuisine, whether it’s sambal barramundi (a play on sambal stingray), or what I’d call the best laksa in all of Changi.

Salt and pepper squid
Prawn wontons with black vinegar and chilli
Barramundi with sambal brown butter, capers and spinach
Signatura laksa with crayfish, rice noodles, bean sprouts and egg
Chocolate mousse with raspberries and coca sorbet

As a whole, the flavours come off much more sophisticated than The Private Room, and certainly more “chefy”. Qantas food would be right at home in a fine dining restaurant, while The Private Room feels rather paint-by-numbers. 

(3) A rejuvenation of AMEX Platinum Charge benefits

AMEX needs to show Platinum Charge cardholders some love, and soon

I think I speak for many members of the 1712 Club (soon to be the 1728 Club) when I say that 2022 has been a disappointing year. 

Dining and spa vouchers, which were previously as good as cash, have been replaced by crappier versions laden with onerous T&Cs. The Love Dining and Chillax lists have continued to shrink, COVID-era freebies like supermarket and dining credits have dried up, and new cardholders no longer get an AMEX Platinum Reserve for free (don’t worry existing cardholders, you’re unscathed). Ad-hoc events like watch nights and wine appreciation sessions have vanished, and to top it all off, the highly-anticipated Platinum af’FAIR never materialised in 2022, replaced instead by an underwhelming Platinum Avenue.

The road ahead looks uncertain. In early 2023, American Express will be replacing its S$800 credit for airlines and hotels with a S$1,200 credit for dining, lifestyle and travel, but since the all-important T&Cs are currently not known, it’s up for debate whether this will be an actual improvement or yet another devaluation. 

What’s indisputable is that the AMEX Platinum Charge today is weaker than the card I first signed up for in late 2018, and if something doesn’t change soon, 2023 may see a big exodus.

(4) Reopening the Cathay Pacific Lounge at T4

Cathay Pacific Singapore T4 Lounge

Slowly but surely, Hong Kong is joining the rest of the world in returning travel to pre-COVID conditions. They’re not quite there yet, but it’s only a matter of time. 

I’m sure no one will be happier to hear that than Cathay Pacific, whose network was absolutely decimated by COVID restrictions. Their January schedule calls for up to 4x daily flights from Singapore to Hong Kong- not quite the 9X daily before COVID, though a lot better than the 3x weekly we saw not too long ago!

This surely means a lounge reopening can’t be too far away, and I’m hopeful it happens by the end of Q1 2023. Terminal 4 has a critical shortage of lounges, and no disrespect to the Blossom Lounge, but it can’t hold a candle to what the Cathay Pacific Lounge was. 

I last visited this lounge in 2017, and thoroughly enjoyed the noodle bar, drinks selection (Moet champagne, San Pellegrino water), and Aesop hand wash in the loos. A revisit is high on my to-do list. 

Cathay Pacific noodle bar items

(5) An increase in e-wallet transaction limits

While Grab’s repeated nerfs have made GrabPay next to useless, there’s still one key use case remaining: paying bills via AXS.

This is an opportunity to earn miles or cashback on insurance premiums, income tax, MCST fees, utility bills and more, provided you have a card that earns miles or cashback for GrabPay top-ups (AMEX HighFlyer, AMEX True Cashback Card, UOB Absolute Cashback Card- getting nerfed from 15 January 2023, sadly). 

✔️ AXS- Supported Payments
  • Corporate tax
  • Electricity bills
  • Fines
  • Government agencies
  • Hospital bills
  • Income tax
  • Insurance premiums
  • Loan repayments
  • MCST fees
  • Membership fees
  • School fees
  • Season parking
  • Town council fees
Visit AXS e-station, enter your bill details, then select Credit Card > Other Banks on the payment screen (notwithstanding the fact the GrabPay Card is technically a debit card)

The key limitation is the S$30,000 annual transaction limit. That may sound like a lot, but disappears faster than you think, especially if you’re paying bills for multiple people. 

Thankfully, the MAS is currently studying a proposal that would see the annual limit for GrabPay transactions (and all other e-wallets for that matter) increased to S$100,000. That would be a fantastic development not just for GrabPay users but Revolut and YouTrip as well. The current limits hobble multi-currency cards when trying to compete for share of big-ticket overseas spend, and a higher cap would ensure a more level playing field.

(6) Seats.Aero expanded to support KrisFlyer

Seats.Aero

Seats. Aero is hands down the best website I’ve discovered this year. It periodically polls the following airline websites for award space…

  • AeroMexico Club Premier (SkyTeam)
  • American Airlines (oneworld)
  • Avianca LifeMiles (Star Alliance)
  • Delta SkyMiles
  • Etihad Guest 
  • United MileagePlus (Star Alliance)
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

…and displays the results in an organised list for easy searching.

In other words, instead of poking around in the dark, you get a menu of what’s available. This saves so much search time, not to mention frustration. 

If there’s one limitation, it’s that Seats.Aero does not show the full range of Singapore Airlines award space. That’s because Avianca LifeMiles and United MileagePlus do not get access to the same amount of award space as KrisFlyer members (Mileage Plan and Aeroplan, on the other hand…).

For what it’s worth, I asked the developer about the possibility of adding support for KrisFlyer. He told me that it could happen, but it’d be difficult because of the way the Singapore Airlines website is built. Still, just imagine the quality of life improvements by having a tool like that available. 

(7) A rethink of the Spontaneous Escapes model

As much as I look forward to the release of Spontaneous Escapes each month, it’s been really slim pickings for most of this year. With load factors back to all-time-highs, there’s little willingness to open up seats for awards, much less discounted ones. The few routes that do appear often have extensive blackout dates and a very limited number of seats. 

It makes me wonder whether the time has come for a change in approach. Back in September, we saw Cathay Pacific launching a promotion called Miles Flights, which offers last-seat availability on a limited number of routes. What if Spontaneous Escapes switched to such a model? Maybe only offer a handful of routes, but make all the remaining seats available for redemption? 

Obviously the opportunity cost would be higher, so I’m not optimistic about this coming to fruition. But I can dream at Christmas, can’t I?

(8) An Amaze competitor

An Amaze competitor would help shake things up

While Amaze is still my first choice card whenever I head overseas, regular readers will know it’s become less amazing than before. 

In 2022, we saw big nerfs to the cashback scheme (sometimes with no notice), before it was eventually replaced with less-flexible InstaPoints. Amaze’s FX rates also began to noticeably diverge from Mastercard rates, and though it’s still better than using a card with a 3.25% FCY fee, the margins are getting thinner and thinner. 

Amaze has made inroads into the Revolut and YouTrip space by launching its own multi-currency wallet, but I do wonder why the reverse hasn’t happened. I’d be delighted if we got something like Curve in Singapore, or if one of the incumbents started offering Amaze-like functionality. It’d keep Instarem on their toes, that’s for sure. 

(9) Bidet seats on all airplanes

An elegant weapon for a more civilised age

And finally…bidet seats.

During the pandemic I became a wash-not-wipe person, and once you have, there’s no turning back. If you’ve read my staycation reviews, you’ll know how big an emphasis I place on whether a hotel has bidet seats, or at the very least a hose. Why should flying be any different?

Unfortunately, airborne bidet seats are a rarity indeed. I’ve only seen them on ANA, Japan Airlines and Gulf Air, and I highly doubt there’s much demand from passengers otherwise. Still, a bidet seat would be very much welcomed by the Korean/Japanese crowd, not to mention those who need to cleanse themselves for religious rituals. 

How about it, airlines?

How did previous year’s wishlists go?

For those keeping score, here’s my track record so far with the Christmas wishlists! 

🎄 2015 Christmas Wishlist
  • For banks to provide an itemized statement of points awarded per transaction (granted, for some banks at least)
  • For an app to check MCCs before you buy something (granted)
  • 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 (not quite ground-breaking, but 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 (granted)
  • For new SCB X Card benefits (does a fee waiver count?)
  • For a relaunch of the American Express Platinum Reserve
  • For additional instant conversion options for KrisFlyer (granted)
  • 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
🎄 2021 Christmas Wishlist

Conclusion

So that’s what my hopes are for the miles and points game in 2023, and while I probably won’t get all of these, I’d settle for a handful! I mean, I could have wished for every passenger to get an emotional support corgi, but let’s not get carried away…

What’s on your miles and points wishlist this 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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Alian

Bidet bidet bidet

https://youtu.be/zQx-ZbSQSBM

Dmaz

Only centurion users to use all Amex centurion lounges – oh pls reduce the overcrowding from platinum…
annndddddd pls limit the number of presents at wrapping to also reduce the queue…… basically differentiating card holders as AMEX should have ….. 🤭

TransferBonus

All I ever wanted

Tom

Activity based expiry for Krisflyer miles please!!!!!

Alian

Add PPS$ too. I’ve made to mistake of exceeding 150K PPS$ in my reserve and now about 40K is going to burn which in hindsight I should have spent on Qatar. Makes me wonder why SQ not let TPPS have unlimited expiry on PPS$ as this only makes us not want to fly with them once we hit 150K as there is serious burn here and only 2 silly advance upgrade rewards which are nearly impossible to use

matt

i think no more aesop in cx lounges. visited the pier in hk earlier this month and it’s all bamford now

Leo

Hey Aaron, Has MileLioness received her approval from VN and PPG? I’m quite certain it will cause issue for her JPN approval as it’s not listed on the interim card. The ICA officer told me they can issue me a final card (they can only issue 1 interim and 1 final card) if I’m willing to forgo the remaining countries which have yet to approve but seems so silly!. I’ve VN and Russia pending for almost a year despite this being a renewal which I know is as good as a fresh application. For Russia, I can understand but no idea… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by Leo

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