‘Summer is cancelled’, health secretary Matt Hancock suggested last week, and it is likely most will be looking to recoup their money from cancelled flights rather than spend it on new ones.
But those with thousands of air miles might be considering alternate uses for them rather than wait for life to return to normality.
This might be especially the case for holders of substantial sums of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.
Grounded: Virgin Atlantic is cutting more than 3,000 staff and will no longer operate from London Gatwick
Although the airline looks a little more secure after Virgin founder Richard Branson sold £400million in Virgin Galactic stock to help shore up its balance sheet, and is taking bookings to 24 destinations for next summer, it has still quit Gatwick airport and announced it will make a third of its staff redundant.
It might be no surprise that some holders of Virgin miles might be looking for an alternative.
Much like with British Airways Avios points, although the primary goal is to turn what you’ve accrued into reward flights, you can turn them into wine, or other beers and spirits.
The system works differently to BA, however. While that lets you buy wine directly using Avios, with Virgin Wines you must ring up and redeem your Flying Club miles for a gift voucher.
Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson launching Virgin Wines in 2000
You can swap 12,500 miles for a £50 voucher, although delivery costs another £7.99, or 25,000 for a £100 voucher.
You can also earn more miles on top the points you get from Virgin Atlantic credit card spending if you buy wine from Virgin using cash.
You receive 3,000 miles on your first order, plus a £50 discount on the price of a case of wine which is 12 bottles or more.
Following that, you get 750 miles for any order you place or 350 miles for a gift order.
Is that good value?
But while you can literally liquidate your air miles this way, it is not necessarily particularly good value.
25,000 miles for a £100 voucher gets you 0.4p per mile, when the golden rule of converting air miles is to try and get as close to 1p per mile as you can.
On top of that, 25,000 miles is the same number as it takes to book an economy class flight off-peak, i.e. outside of the Easter, summer or Christmas holidays, to Hong Kong, Johannesburg or Miami, not including charges or taxes.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles can be swapped for £50 or £100 gift vouchers which can be spent on bottles or cases of wine, beer or spirits, like the above
While it might be a while before a plane to one of those destinations actually takes off, it’s hard to argue that represents worse value than cashing it in for a crate of Chianti.
But as long as you’re aware it isn’t the best value, there might still be a reason to do it, as Rob Burgess editor of go-to frequent flier website Head for Points.
The 25,000 points required for a £100 gift voucher with Virgin Wines would be enough points for an off-peak economy class round trip to Hong Kong, Johannesburg or Miami
He said: ‘With Avios, it is easy to get good value if you only have a small balance by using them for European flights.
Virgin relaunches air mile credit cards
Virgin Money has reopened its Atlantic Reward and Reward+ credit cards to new applicants.
The air mile earning cards, one free and one with a £160 annual fee, had previously been closed to new applicants due to the widespread grounding of flights.
‘Because Virgin Atlantic doesn’t do any short-haul flights, your miles don’t really have any value at all until you’ve got enough for a long-haul flight, and the real value only comes when you have enough for a long-haul business class flight.’
An upper class flight to Miami during off-peak times would cost around 95,000 points, while Hong Kong and Johannesburg would cost 115,000.
Bailing out, he said, is a slightly easier decision compared to bailing out of Avios points, ‘because people with smaller Virgin balances are a long way away from a good value flight redemption anyway.
‘Cashing out has less downside.
‘Whilst I tend to value Virgin Flying Club miles at 1p, this only kicks in if you have around 100,000 miles and can book an upper (business) class flight.
‘Until you hit that level it is difficult to justify them being worth anything like that.’
Can you use them for anything else?
There are one or two other non-Virgin uses for Flying Club miles, but they are also not brilliant value.
They can also be converted at a 1:1 ratio into International Hotels Group or Hilton points, which both deliver around 0.4p per point according to Burgess, but anyone not planning a trip away probably wouldn’t want to turn their airline points into hotel points.
Virgin at the moment is also allowing holders of substantial amounts of miles to donate them to a good cause, partnering with the charity WE, which is focusing on raising money to help children out of school and help provide medical supplies to vulnerable people in developing countries.
Holders of miles can donate them to the charity 2,000 miles or more at a time.
Are my points safe?
Flying Club miles, like Avios, expire if they are inactive for 36 months or more.
However, keeping them active can be done simply by earning or spending them, so if you book a flight, buy wine or even use a Virgin Atlantic credit card to purchase anything that all keeps your points alive.
One of the reasons why people may be looking to liquidate their points or transfer them into something tangible is a concern over the future of the airline industry.
If Virgin Atlantic went bust, it is likely your points would disappear, although they aren’t owned by the airline but by Virgin Group Loyalty Company, a business jointly owned by Virgin Group and Delta Airlines, its minority shareholder.
And unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be possible to turn those miles into a flight in a bid to ‘save’ them, by getting your money back if the airline goes bust and the flight is cancelled as a result.
Burgess said: ‘If you book a flight using miles, whether on Virgin Atlantic or on a partner like Delta or KLM, it is highly likely the flight will be cancelled if Virgin Atlantic fails.
‘The airline isn’t paid until after the flight so, if Delta or KLM hasn’t seen any money, they are free to cancel.
‘There is some debate about whether, if you pay the taxes on a credit card, the card company must “make you whole” under Section 75.
‘It is possible to read the legislation that way, but realistically you would probably have to take your card issuer to court before they agreed to refund your business class flights to make up for your lost air miles ticket, even if you had paid the taxes on a credit card.’
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