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My $360 flight to the Seychelles was canceled during the pandemic: Here's how I'll rebook with points

June 19, 2020
11 min read
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For many TPG staffers, the ultimate points and miles redemption is to the Maldives – and with good reason. From some of the best points hotels ever to crystal clear beaches with white sand, I see why several of my colleagues have visited multiple times.

I’d love to visit the Maldives one day, but I’ve had my eye on another destination for years: beautiful Mahe, Seychelles (SEZ). I figured I’d use points and miles to cover the entire trip, but those plans changed last November when I snagged an unbelievable mistake fare. Kenya Airways had mispriced economy flights from New York (JFK) to Mahe that included a stop at Praslin Island on Air Seychelles. I would spend eight days in late April lounging in Seychelles and spend a day exploring Nairobi (NBO) on the way back to New York.

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(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Because I’d snagged such a great deal, I figured I’d use points to cover my hotel stays in the Seychelles and Kenya. And then the pandemic happened. Kenya Airways canceled some – but not all – of my flight segments, which led to a nightmare of trying to get a refund through Priceline and the airline. After several runarounds, I decided to file a complaint against the airline through the Department of Transportation and file a dispute through my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. I ended up getting a refund about a month later.

Related: You are entitled to a refund for your canceled flight — even if the airline says you aren’t

In any case, it will be some time before I get to visit the Indian Ocean archipelago -- the government’s tourism ministry is only looking for “high-end” visitors for now, with commercial flights to resume in July.

Here’s how I plan to get – and stay – there next year on points and miles.

Plenty of flight options

The original plan was to review Kenya Airways between JFK and Nairobi, as we only had a business class review of the airline. The likelihood of snagging a $400 flight to the island again is pretty slim but lucky for me, there are several ways to get there using miles. Right now, I’m looking at a March or April 2021 departure to avoid the wet months of January – February.

Several airlines fly to Mahe, including Ethiopian, Emirates via Dubai, Etihad via Abu Dhabi, Kenya Airways via Nairobi, Qatar via Doha, KLM via Amsterdam, Air France via Paris and Swiss via Zurich.

Flying Blue

I have a ton of Flying Blue miles from scoring a cheap business class ticket to Rome last year, so the program is the first that comes to mind. Flying Blue miles are also among the easiest to earn because the program partners with all five major transferable points/miles currencies. You can transfer points/miles to Flying Blue at the following rates:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards – 1:1
  • Amex Membership Rewards – 1:1
  • Citi ThankYou Points – 1:1
  • Capital One Miles – 1:1
  • Marriott Bonvoy – 3:1, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred

Related: The ultimate guide to earning and redeeming with Air France/KLM Flying Blue

One-way tickets on Air France from New York (JFK) to Mahe (SEZ) with a stop in Paris (CDG) start at 46,000 miles in economy – but if I booked this option the taxes and fees are no joke at $166.

Aeroplan

Aeroplan is another option. The program partners with a number of transferable points programs, letting you instantly top up your account when you’re ready to book an award. You can transfer points/miles to Aeroplan at the following ratios:

I’ve really built up my Amex Membership Rewards balance over the last few months, as I’ve been earning a ton of points through dining purchases at restaurants using my American Express® Gold Card. If you’re looking to build up your Aeroplan balance quickly, consider applying for one of these credit cards to take advantage of a valuable welcome bonus:

Seychelles is considered part of East, West & South Africa on Aeroplan’s award chart, with round-trip economy flights costing 100,000 Aeroplan miles, while business class prices out at 150,000 miles. There are a plethora of Star Alliance carriers available: Ethiopian, Turkish, Swiss or Lufthansa. Note that if you book on Lufthansa, you’ll get hit with significant surcharges; in this case over $600. I think I’ll avoid booking a flight with a leg on Lufthansa.

Another new option is Etihad. Aeroplan announced earlier this month members can earn and redeem miles for Etihad Airways flights, including Etihad’s fantastic first-class product, The Apartment. Availability is a bit spotty, but I found a couple of flights between Abu Dhabi and Europe on the 777 for 150,000 Aeroplan miles.

To book your own flight, it's best to first confirm award availability on Etihad’s website, which offers a handy (and responsive) calendar tool. Flights that list “Guest” availability are available to partners, though the mileage amounts you see here apply only to bookings made through Etihad Guest.

AAdvantage miles

The final option I want to highlight is Qatar, which is what I’ll probably end up booking. Outside of my Amex Gold, I’ve been spending primarily on my AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard. I love this card because of the easy sign-up bonus (60,000 AAdvantage miles after making your first purchase and paying the $99 annual fee in the first 90 days) and occasional promotions. The information for the AAdvantage Aviator Red has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

A one-way flight from JFK to Mahe on Qatar Qsuite (which won TPG Awards prize for Best International Business Class) is 75,000 AAdvantage miles. I could easily tack on a day-long stopover in Doha (DOH). It is, in my opinion, the best way to get to Seychelles.

Qsuite seat (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Great points hotels

There are a handful of points-friendly options in the over 100 islands that make up the Seychelles. I’m most loyal to the World of Hyatt program, which unfortunately doesn’t have a single property in the country. There’s one IHG property, the Six Senses Zil Pasyon, but it’s not bookable with points yet.

That means I’m left with two Marriott hotels and three Hilton properties.

Photo courtesy of the hotel.

The first option is probably the most exclusive points option out there. The North Island Resort, which joined Marriott’s Luxury Collection brand last fall, is on an exclusive private island accessible only by helicopter from Mahe. If you’re thinking this hotel comes with a hefty price tag, you’re right: the cheapest option costs a whopping $6,000 a night. That doesn’t even include the 21% in VAT and service charges. You can even opt for more expensive package rates that include half or full board, drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) and water activities. The hotel has just 11 villas, perfect for a complete getaway.

Related: Fit for royalty: One of the world’s most exclusive private island resorts just joined Marriott

But points options aren’t cheap, either. It’s considered a Category 8 property, which caps at 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for peak dates – though rooms at this property start at 355,000 points a night. Again, fifth-night free is an option, but even with one night free the entire stay would still cost me nearly 1.7 million Bonvoy points.

A girl can dream.

The next option is more in reach, though less fancy. The Le Méridien Fisherman’s Cove is a Category 6 hotel in the Marriott Bonvoy program, which requires 50,000 points per night for a standard award redemption. Situated on the main island of Mahe, all guest rooms have oceanfront or balcony views. It’s nothing fancy – so no overwater villa here – but I have some Marriott points and could take advantage of Marriott’s fifth-night free perk on award stays.

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

The three Hilton properties are the Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa, the DoubleTree Resort & Spa Seychelles and the Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort & Spa. The properties range between 70,000 and 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night. I was scheduled to review the Northolme before the pandemic, so I’ll likely choose this property.

Again, these aren’t the most luxurious options but still solid properties. I’ll likely book one of these Hilton properties, given how easy it is to earn Hilton points through promos and co-branded credit cards.

Bottom line

I was pretty bummed about not getting to Seychelles this spring but I feel good about my points and miles options for next year. Even better: I likely won’t have to sit in an economy seat for over a day each way and can relax in a Qsuite.

Even though my dream trip was canceled, I’m looking forward to recreating this trip (hopefully) next spring.

Featured image by (Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
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  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
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  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
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Apply for Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card
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Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees