Need air miles? Here’s How To Spend Them … On A Journey To Space!


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Every week, our vacation hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at a brilliant vacation topic and does all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: spend unused air miles.

Collecting new flying miles this year wasn’t easy, but there are plenty of ways to spend your existing points before they expire – including flying into space three times faster than sound.

If you’re in the mood for adventure – and have at least two million Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points – you can enter a draw for a coveted seat on Sir Richard Branson’s highly anticipated Virgin Galactic service when it finally takes off.

Up for grabs: Enter a draw for a coveted place on Sir Richard Branson's highly anticipated Virgin Galactic service when it finally takes to the air

Up for grabs: Enter a draw for a coveted place on Sir Richard Branson’s highly anticipated Virgin Galactic service when it finally takes to the air

Back on Earth, if you’ve built up Emirates or Etihad points flying to the sun in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, you can redeem them through the airlines’ online stores.

Etihad focuses on high-end brands, including Versace perfumes and Ray-Ban sunglasses, as well as gadgets such as Fitbits and Beats headphones. If you don’t have enough Miles to claim an item directly, you can pay for most things with a combination of Miles and cash.

Emirates adds a touch of humor to the store with ‘If it’s not Boeing I’m not going’ baseball caps and jet coffee mugs.

Singapore Airlines has a similar website for those who have accumulated miles on flights from the UK to the Far East and on to Australia. In addition to fashion and fragrance, there is a focus on homeware with Bodum coffee pots, Banyan Tree candles, Villeroy & Boch china, and more. Delivery charges apply, but the goods are free with sufficient points.

Frequent fliers who collect points with British Airways and Virgin should do their best to spend loyalty points as neither airline has a major online store for scheme participants. But BA’s wine shop is worth a look, with offerings like six bottles of 14,000-point prosecco – called Avios.

Loyalty points experts at The Points Guy travel agency say it also pays to focus on the main benefits of air miles: free flights or upgrades. They say combining several smaller collections into one larger account is a great first step to free travel.

Families enjoying Virgin Atlantic flights can transfer points to a single family account before looking for free economy flights (taxes still apply in most cases) or upgrades to the upscale Upper Class seats

At BA, there is no charge to exchange any number of points called Avios between accounts at the same address. For a small fee, you can also transfer Avios to people who live elsewhere. You can see how far you can go (and how good a seat you can buy) with your miles in the Book a Flight with Avios section of BA’s website.

Or when you book a flight or vacation with the airline you often get the chance to get £ 50, £ 100 or more off the price by using points. Book ahead until next fall and Avios bookings are eligible for flexible change policies, just like regular bookings.

Families enjoying Virgin Atlantic flights can transfer points to a single family account before looking for free economy flights (taxes still apply in most cases) or upgrades to the chic Upper Class seats.

Virgin points can also be used to pay for a driver to take you to the airport in style.

You can do well with excess points from most loyalty programs by donating air miles to your airline’s charity partner (which also helps offset the collapse in change on board this year).

You can find the details on the website of each airline’s loyalty program.

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