Do you have to use up airline miles before the end of the year? Here’s how to spend it … on a trip into space!
- You can enter a drawing for a seat on Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic service
- However, you must have at least two million Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points
- Emirates or Etihad points can be redeemed through the airlines’ online shops
Each week, our vacation hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant vacation theme and does all the work so you don’t have to. This week: spend unused airline miles.
Earning new airline miles this year hasn’t been easy, but there are plenty of ways to spend your existing points before they expire – including splashing into space at three times the speed of sound.
If you have a real sense of adventure – and at least two million Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points – you can be raffled for a coveted spot on Sir Richard Branson’s long-awaited Virgin Galactic service when it finally goes to heaven.
To win: Take part in a drawing for a coveted spot on Sir Richard Branson’s long-awaited Virgin Galactic service when it finally goes to heaven
Back on earth, if you have earned Emirates or Etihad points that fly to the sun in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, you can redeem them through the airlines’ online shops.
Etihad focuses on high-end brands like Versace perfumes and Ray-Ban sunglasses, as well as devices like Fitbits and Beats headphones. When you don’t have enough miles to claim an item directly, you can pay for most things with a mixture of miles and money.
Emirates adds a touch of humor to its “If it’s not Boeing, I won’t go” baseball caps and jet engine coffee mugs.
Singapore Airlines has a similar website for those who have earned miles on their flights from the UK to the Far East and on to Australia. In addition to fashion and fragrance, the focus is on household goods with Bodum coffee pots, Banyan tree candles, Villeroy & Boch porcelain and much more. There are shipping costs, but the goods are free with enough points.
Frequent flyers who earn points with British Airways and Virgin will have to work harder to spend loyalty points as none of the airlines have a large online store for program members. But BA’s wine shop is worth a look, with offers like six bottles of Prosecco from 14,000 points – called Avios.
Loyalty points experts at the travel company The Points Guy say it’s also worth focusing on the main benefits of air miles programs: getting free flights or upgrades. They say that combining multiple smaller collections into one larger account is a great first step towards free travel.
Families enjoying Virgin Atlantic flights can transfer points to a single household account before looking for free economy class flights (taxes still apply in most cases) or upgrades to fancy upper class seats
With BA, there is no cost to switch any number of points, called Avios, between accounts at the same address. You can also transfer Avios to other people for a small fee. You can see how far your miles can go (and how well you can buy a seat) in the “Book a Flight with Avios” section of the BA website.
When you book a flight or vacation with the airline, you often have the option of using points to deduct 50, 100 or more pounds from the price. Book in advance by next fall and Avios bookings will operate like normal bookings for flexible change policies.
Families enjoying Virgin Atlantic flights can transfer points to a single household account before looking for free economy class flights (taxes still apply in most cases) or upgrades to fancy upper class seats.
Virgin’s points can also be used to pay for a chauffeur to take you to the airport in style.
You can handle excess points from most loyalty programs well by donating airline miles to your airline’s charity (which also helps offset this year’s collapse in on-board change collections).
Details can be found on the website of the respective airline.