Members of the South African Airways Voyager loyalty programme will not be able to redeem miles earned for rewards until 31 July 2020.
This is because of the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which has led to a lockdown and flight bans in South Africa, according to a letter received by Voyager members, dated Friday 7 May.
The moratorium period may be extended if need be. Members can, however, continue to earn miles with certain other programme partners during this time, the letter states.
Furhtermore, the expiry date of all qualified companion tickets will be extended with an additional one year, due to current global travel restrictions. The future fulfilment of the companion tickets will be communicated upon finalisation of Voyager’s future."
Fin24 reported earlier that Minister of Tourism Mmamaloko Kubayi-Ngubanet expects domestic flights will likely only be able to resume by September this year, and international flights possibly only next year.
According to the letter to Voyager loyalty members, the aim of the temporary moratorium on redeeming rewards, is to assess various options for the programme's future "in the best interest of businesses partnering with the loyalty programme and of its members".
SAA went into voluntary business rescue in December, with the aim to see if the airline could be saved. The future of the airline is as yet unclear.
In the absence of a business rescue plan, the issuing of Section 189 notices commencing a consultation process over proposed retrenchments at SAA was procedurally unfair, the Labour Court found on Friday.
The Department of Public Enterprises last week said it had roped in an international aviation firm to assist with the formation of a new airline to replace SAA. Up to now, however, no announcement has been made of any further funding that has been obtained.
"Input into the way forward for SAA’s business rescue are being deliberated at length by all relevant stakeholders," states the letter to Voyager members.
"The ongoing travel restrictions and reduced flights have limited the options for members to use their miles. As a result, there has been a significant increase in redeeming miles for essential goods and e-hailing services," states the letter.
This unexpected demand has made it difficult for the airline to sustain the operations of Voyager with limited availability for all members to redeem their miles.
A concerned Voyager member and frequent flyer told Fin24 on Saturday that the Voyager announcement could lead to, not only alienating existing members, but future consumers who might sign up for a co-branded Voyager credit card after lockdown and who might now choose another option.
"Banks might see a decline in people choosing a card on which they can earn Voyager miles for on-card spend. They might now favour a card with some other benefit, because they don't know whether they will get to enjoy the benefit of spending Voyager points," said the consumer, who prefers to remain anonymous.