(Facebook, SAA)
(Facebook, SAA)
  • SAA has put a temporary stop to the redemption of Voyager miles for Uber vouchers, car rentals and all other goods. 
  • Amid a travel ban and uncertainty about SAA's future, there has been a surge in demand from Voyager members looking to cash in miles with any available partner.
  • The ban will be in place until the end of July - but may be extended.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South African Airways has put an immediate stop to the spending of all Voyager Miles - even for non-air rewards. 

Although flight rewards and upgrades have essentially stalled due to South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown - members were still using miles to purchase non-air awards like Uber vouchers and essential goods. 

This decision, made without any prior warning, means that Voyager members are no longer able to redeem miles under the Miles for Awards programme for any items - until at least August this year.

Previously, it was possible to spend Voyager miles on a range of non-air benefits, including car rentals, spa vouchers, and essential items from various retail outlets. 

In March last year, Voyager and Uber announced that members could also convert air miles into Uber vouchers - but this too has been suspended with immediate effect.

The suspension of airline travel owing to Covid-19, and SAA’s worsening financial situation under business rescue, resulted in a surge of interest from Voyager members looking to cash in miles with any available partner.

"This unexpected demand has made it difficult for us to sustain the operations of Voyager with limited availability for all members to redeem their Miles and restricted resources for fulfilment." SAA Voyager said in a statement.

It says it made the “difficult decision” to pause all points redemptions immediately. Although the company is calling this a “temporary suspension”, set to last until July 31, they say this period may be extended if necessary.

SAA Voyager has not, however, suspended the ability to earn miles - and members are free to continue accruing points with their programme partners during this time.

Despite some frustrations with the Voyager programme, it has consistently been one of one of the most popular reward programmes of its kind in South Africa - and many members had stockpiled miles to spend on large rewards like flight upgrades and retail vouchers.

Since the 2006 launch of the Nedbank Voyager card, holders have accrued more than 13 billion miles - and many members were concerned about the safety of these.

Nedbank, which issues the co-branded credit and cheque cards, said earlier this year thatit had noticed increased concern amongst Nedbank SAA Voyager members.

At the time, Nedbank's card issuing and payments executive Chris Wood, urged Voyager members not to panic-spend their miles. 

”Nedbank would like to assure members that the SAA Voyager loyalty programme will remain in place while the [business rescue] process unfolds," Wood said in January.

This, however, was when members could disperse their spending across various channels - and not focus them in on a small pool of reward partners as dictated to by coronavirus lockdown conditions.

Lisa-Marie Bowes, a partner at Schindlers Attorneys, says that because Voyager miles have a rand value (according to the Voyager terms and conditions, you can buy 1,000 miles for R250), the miles can easily be tied up in business rescue and liquidation proceedings.

"This essentially means that it is possible that the holders of miles may not be able to use them during the business rescue process."

Bowes said that if SAA goes into liquidation, the rewards points will likely be immediately unavailable to members - and points holders will have to join the queue behind other creditors that take preference in bankruptcy cases.

The future of SAA is still uncertain. Government says it wants to restructure it into a new airline, while attacking its business rescue practitioners. Meanwhile the Labour Court ruled on Friday that the retrenchment process at the airline was unfair.

SAA Voyager miles will remain valid until 31 March 2021. And in light of the global travel restrictions, Voyager is also extending members’ tier statuses until the end of this year.

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