My $360 flight to the Seychelles was canceled during the pandemic: Here’s how I’ll rebook with points
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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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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.
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.
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 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 – 2:1.5
- Marriott Bonvoy – 3:1, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred
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 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 to Aeroplan at the following ratios:
- American Express Membership Rewards: 1:1
- Capital One miles: 2:1.5
- Marriott Bonvoy: 3:1 (with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred)
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:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening. Plus, Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms apply.
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 125,000 bonus points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy
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