2021 in review: A year filled with ups and downs; where do we go from here?

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My flights in 2021

For the first time in my life, I’ve spent an entire calendar year away from Singapore. To be honest, I am finally itching to fly home, at least for a few weeks. I haven’t even had the chance to play with those free Razer toys from November 2020!

It’s great to see some of your Instagram travel stories in the past few months. Keep sharing your suite smiles!

Key COVID-19 events in Singapore

It’s been an eventful year to say the least. Here’s a recap of the key COVID-19/travel events that happened in Singapore in 2021.

8 January: Prime Minister Lee received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, kickstarts Singapore’s mass-vaccination campaign
8 May: Start of Phase 2
16 May: Start of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)
13 June: Start of Phase 3 (Heightened Alert)
10 July: The last time Singapore reported zero community case
22 July: Start of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert)
19 August: 50% of employees can return to workplace
29 August: 80% of Singapore residents fully vaccinated
8 September: First Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) launched from Germany and Brunei, daily unlinked cases no longer reported
14 September: Quarantine period reduced to 10 days
27 September: Dining and social gatherings reduced to 2 people
19 October: VTL launched from Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, UK and USA
8 November: VTL launched from Switzerland and Australia
15 November: VTL launched from South Korea
22 November: Dining and social gatherings up to 5 people allowed
27 November: Omicron became variant of concern
29 November: VTL launched from Malaysia (Air), India and Indonesia
14 December: VTL launched from Thailand
16 December: VTL launched from Cambodia, Fiji, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Turkey
20 December: VTL launched from Malaysia (Land)
22 December: VTL ticket sales paused
26 December: Omicron cases allowed to recover at home

Source: CNA

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My highs and lows

Highs

  • Spending 70,000 points in the amazing, all-inclusive Al Maha Desert Resort
  • Leaving Dubai in the inaugural Qatar Airways flight (post-blockade) and Qsuite to Bangkok
  • Spending weekends in Bangkok’s Chatuchak market in February
  • Flying from Bangkok to Jakarta via Tokyo in with the memorable JAL trick
  • Spending over 9 months in Bali, stayed in over 30 hotels at 40 to 60% off and having hotel facilities all to myself
  • Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as a foreigner
Complimentary meals at Al Maha Dubai (read my review)

Lows

  • Getting turned away from COVID-19 vaccination centres in Dubai and Bali as I lacked residency status
  • Wrongfully denied boarding twice (Dubai and Bangkok) due to outdated information on IATA/Timatic
  • Last-minute border closure
  • Delayed PCR test results (successful Chargeback via YouTrip)
  • Missing my sister’s wedding in Singapore
  • Poorly-executed PCR test, resulting in nose-bleed and intense headache in Bangkok
  • Getting kicked out of a hotel that closed down mid-stay

Related article: My stats on 1 year of Pandemic Travelling & ranking my favourite hotels

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My hotel statuses

I’ve always preferred to distribute my stays across multiple hotel loyalty programs, instead of sticking to one tribe. This lack of loyalty opened up a lot of possibilities for me this year and I could take advantage of any deal that came my way.

In my opinion, there is no point in staying loyal to billion-dollar corporations and have any emotional attachment to them.

I am starting 2022 with the following hotel statuses and will only attempt to maintain them naturally (without mattress runs), in this exact order of preference:

ProgramStatusElite
nights
Actual
nights
Good
until
MarriottTitanium235140Feb 2023
HyattGlobalist7048Feb 2023
HiltonDiamond153101Mar 2023
AccorPlatinum6030Sep 2022
GHATitanium5427Dec 2022
IHGGold22Feb 2023
FraserDiamond00?
AscottPlatinum00?
My 2021 hotel stats (From top left: Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton, Accor, GHA, IHG)

Quick notes about each hotel loyalty program

Marriott Bonvoy: With a high rate of expansion, competitive rates and great membership recognition, status from this program is clearly the most beneficial in Asia/Middle East. Mind the upcoming point devaluation though.

World of Hyatt: Consistently great membership recognition, epic milestone bonuses and award sweet spots but needs wayyyy more properties in Asia to be my no. 1.

Hilton Honors: Overly generous in giving out points and elite statuses. Unfortunately, suite upgrades are now rare for Diamond members, even in Asia.

Accor Live Limitless: Very easy to find low-cost properties in almost any city in the world. No Platinum breakfast benefit for hotels outside Asia though.

GHA Discovery: Trying to be overly generous and made it extremely easy to achieve loyalty statuses. At risk of becoming the next Hilton Honors?

IHG: Still a poor loyalty program with hardly any guaranteed benefits. I needed 3 more nights (fast track) to receive Platinum status this year but even that would be a pointless status to have.

Fraser World: Another boring loyalty program with hardly any guaranteed benefits. Did a status match 2 years ago, only spent 4 nights since.

Ascott Star Rewards: Another boring loyalty program with hardly any guaranteed benefits. Did a status match 2 years ago, never spent a night.

Related posts: Hotel reviews by Suitesmile

Junior Suite upgrade at The Apurva Kempinski Bali (read my review)

My airline statuses

I have only earned 1 Frequent Flyer status in my life. I received Alaska Airlines MVP Gold membership in 2019 after only flying Singapore Airlines Premium Economy twice to the USA!

Related article: What is Alaska miles? Why do I value it more than Krisflyer? How to accumulate them? How to use them?

Since then, Alaska has joined oneworld alliance, making me a oneworld Sapphire member. I have also managed to do a status match to Qatar Airways Gold membership!

What makes a good FFP status?
Personally, I see most value in Frequent Flyer statuses that give members bonus mileage accrual on revenue flights, like what I get with Alaska and Qatar. Very few FFPs have this benefit!

On top of that, as a Qatar Gold member, I get 5% miles discount on all Qatar Airways award flights! 💯

Status expiry
Qatar Airways have recently extended membership statuses to Dec 2022. My Alaska status will expire in Apr 2022, if there are no further extensions.

No mileage runs
Like my hotel statuses, I will not go out of my way to maintain these Frequent Flyer statuses with unnecessary spending/flights in 2022.

Redeemed 25,000 Alaska miles for Business Class flight on Japan Airlines (read my review)

My travel plans for 2022

Looking at how different last year’s “plan” turned out, it may well be the same this time round.

For future laughs, here’s my Plan A for 2022:

January: Stay in the new Four Points and Westin in Surabaya, return to Singapore
February: Stay in the new Four Points and Westin in Desaru
March: Use GHA Discovery Dollars in Malaysia, stay in Alila Bangsar for only 2.5k points
April: Etihad Business Studio to Italy, then other parts of Europe to use my free night certs from Marriott, Hyatt and IHG
May: Qatar Airways Business Class to New Zealand (I may delay this till Sep 2022) or 5 nights at Le Meridien Maldives for just 120k points
June: Finnair Business Class to Europe, then Singapore Airlines Suite to Singapore and onward to Jakarta to redeem for a free night at the upcoming Park Hyatt Jakarta
August: Thailand/Vietnam, stay in Hyatt Place Bangkok for only 3.5k points
October: South Korea/Japan, stay in the new Grand Hyatt Jeju for only 12k points
November: Formula 1, stay in Andaz in Abu Dhabi for only 6.5k points
December: FIFA World Cup in Qatar

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To a better year ahead

Let’s hope that Omicron does not turn out to be a serious variant, so that we can continue to bring back general travel without quarantine.

I am going to end this year’s article the same way I did last year and hope that I won’t need to say the same thing this time next year:

Here’s to a great recovery year ahead. 🤞🥂

Happy New Year everyone! Thank you for your readership in the past year. Stay safe and healthy. ❤️

5 thoughts on “2021 in review: A year filled with ups and downs; where do we go from here?”

  1. Hi,

    Are you planning to go to Qatar regardless of whether u got the tickets. Tickets are not yet bookable right? Will you be flying from SG?

    Reply
    • Hi Ken,

      I won’t travel to Qatar during the world cup period if I do not have match tickets. I’ll probably fly from SG, but we’ll see!

      Reply
  2. Quick question about delaying your Qatar Airways flight to New Zealand to Sep 2022: won’t you incur paying the fare difference for the new flight?

    It seems to me that there are two policies at play here: ‘Travel with Confidence (until Sep 2022)’ and ‘Extending our Commitment (until May 2022)’. TwC waives the rebooking fee but charges a fare difference, while EoC waives both fees and fares in the event of a significant delay.

    Is this how you interpreted Qatar Airways’ policies? Regardless, many thanks for your informative posts the past two years, and to many more years ahead!

    Links:
    https://www.qatarairways.com/en/travel-with-confidence.html
    https://www.qatarairways.com/tradeportal/en/policies/Extending-Our-Commitment.html

    Reply
    • Aww man, thanks for this. I didn’t know about “Extending our Commitment”. There has been some rescheduling and cancellation to my existing booking (for travel in May 2022) and I’m not sure if that will help. I’ll try it anyway and will share if it is successful!

      Reply
      • Hey, no worries! I got quite excited for a second because I’m in a similar situation (rescheduled flight in May 2022) and was hoping I could push my travel to a few months later without incurring extra costs.

        Will look out for your updates on this!

        Reply

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