It’s finally here…the end of 2020. Time to look back on the year and maybe muster some optimism for what 2021 holds in store. What follows are just my own reflections on a few of the happenings over the last twelve months in the world of points and travel.
To get the worst bits over with first, I’ll start with the “ugly” and go right to the most unpleasant travel-related consequence for so many people, including myself…
I had only one trip booked by the time COVID-19 turned life upside down. At the start of 2020 I never would have imagined that Disneyland would close in March and stay shuttered for the remainder of the year. My other trip ideas were only in the very early planning stages with nothing yet booked but it was still a downer to have to shelve my research indefinitely. Thankfully there were no cancellation issues with the California trip. I know lots of people had to cancel major trips and endured a lot of headache and hassle seeking refunds on bookings.
Everything else in the negative category was disappointing but not all that devastating. So, following the theme of this post, here are a couple of the “bad” things…
Devalued WestJet Member Exclusive Fares
WestJet Rewards really let us down with this one. Long-haul domestic flight redemptions of only 125 WSD + taxes and fees one-way was the hands-down sweet spot of the program for many members. After the devaluation, Member Exclusive fares now only provide a modest discount. There are still good things about the program but this was the prize.
No US Travel Association Daily Getaways Sale
Although the website said to check back for an update on the postponed 2020 Daily Getaways sale, it never did materialize. This annual promotion is the cheapest way to acquire Choice Privileges points along with various other interesting travel deals. Hopefully we’ll see it back in spring of 2021.
And the remaining items on my list may or may not be entirely “good”, but I’ll still put them into the win column…
The New Aeroplan
The long awaited transformation of the Aeroplan program after its reacquisition by Air Canada was finally revealed on November 8th. The move toward dynamic pricing of reward flights follows a general trend in loyalty programs. I’ve shared my initial thoughts on the changes previously and what stands out to me as the biggest downside is the elimination of the fixed long-haul redemption in continental North America with free stopover. On the plus side, being able to book Air Canada flights with no more nasty fuel/carrier surcharges is long overdue. Once I have actually booked a trip my view on the new program will be more clear, but for now, it looks okay.
New IHG Dynamic Reward Rates
I was very disappointed at the demise of my beloved PointBreaks, but the new dynamic reward structure has actually turned out to be a boon for the budget traveller. I just hope the redemption rates remain reasonable if and when travel ramps up as the year goes on. I’m also hoping that IHG comes through with a really great points-earning promo, even if it’s the luck-of-the-draw targeted kind like the old Big Win/Accelerate offers.
Return of Air Miles Promotions
When Air Miles postponed Mega Miles back in March and it didn’t get underway until August, I didn’t really expect to see Shop The Block appear before the end of the year. However, it did indeed come around at its usual time in mid-November. These promos provided excellent opportunities to earn miles in 2020. (Unfortunately, the pandemic made it challenging for some people to complete the 5 or 7 maximum number of offers) Along with good Sobeys flyer promos like Max-A-Miles and Blue Friday, these were bright spots for Air Miles enthusiasts in the Maritimes. And the recent promotion allowing collectors to redeem Cash miles at a discount ended the year on high note.
Stackable Marriott Bonvoy Promotions
Random Marriott Bonvoy members are currently receiving various targeted promos (check your account). A family member of mine was lucky to receive one of the better ones back in August. When combined with the systemwide promo on at the time and a reasonable 2500 point package rate, she earned over 47,000 points in 3 one night stays. After adding the points earned on the Marriott Bonvoy Amex, it’s enough for a free 5 night stay at a Category 2 hotel at standard reward rates.
Travel Incentive for New Brunswickers
I don’t live in New Brunswick but I was pleased to see some fellow Maritimers get a nice rebate on travel in their province this year. It went over so well there is talk of extending the program. Sadly the Nova Scotia government did not follow suit and offer a similar incentive for travel within the province. (They made a TV ad instead.) Maybe they’ll reconsider in 2021?
Well, I spent only one night away from home in 2020 after several wonderful trips in 2019 and 2018. I’m trying to keep a positive outlook about the resumption of travel next year but I’ve got no predictions. We’re in unknown territory as the battle against COVID-19 continues and vaccines are gradually distributed.
For the most part, loyalty programs acted appropriately in extending free night certificates and elite status, pausing expiration of points, and offering some promos and discounts for those willing and able to travel within Canada. Here in the Atlantic bubble, deals like Aeroplan’s 50% Miles Back were annoyingly inaccessible but there were at least some special accommodation rates available to locals for close to home travel.
I sure hope we emerge from this ordeal relatively soon and get back to something close to normalcy by the end of 2021. In the meantime, we can keep daydreaming about future travels and continue stockpiling our points and miles.
One More Final Thought
I checked my email just now and discovered that a $25 Restaurant.com certificate I purchased several years ago and had totally forgotten about can now be exchanged for one to be used at a different eating establishment. That’s because the Vantage Point restaurant recently imploded and thus my opportunity to dine there has also been destroyed. Perhaps that could be a metaphor of sorts for 2020 – it all fell apart but good times await us sometime and somewhere in the future.