Clearing the SQ waitlist


Ah, the fabled SQ waitlist. I don’t think any other airline has such a perfect mechanism for torturing its loyal members as does SQ.

When there are award seats available in a particular award class (saver, standard, full) but revenue management has not decided to release them yet, the status shows as “waitlist”. Provided you have sufficient miles to redeem the ticket should the waitlist clear, you can fill in your details and add your name to the list. You’ll then receive a confirmation (but the miles will not be deducted yet).


Now you wait. Should the gods (SQ revenue management) look favorably on your request, you’ll receive an SMS anywhere from a few weeks to a day (typically 2 weeks out, although I’ve heard reports of people clearing the waitlist when they got to the airport (!)) before your flight telling you the waitlist has cleared and asking you to call the customer centre to confirm your seat .

How fast you clear the waitlist depends on 3 factors

  1. The route you’re flying on
  2. The cabin you’ve requested
  3. What status you have with SQ

With regards to (1), different routes have different popularity and capacity. Popular routes like SIN-FRA-JFK with good loads and relatively lower frequency have a lower chance of clearing than others. Regional routes which SQ services often (eg BKK, HKG) are popular, but because SQ runs so many flights to these destinations demand is spread out over more flights, increasing your chances of getting a seat. In reality this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation- popular routes have more flights but also more competition, less popular routes have fewer flights but less competition.

Suffice to say that some of the legendarily difficult routes to redeem miles for include

  • SIN-FRA-JFK in premium cabins
  • SIN-LHR in premium cabins
  • SIN-SYD in premium cabins
  • Silkair award flights to locations like USM (for some strange reason)

With regards to (2), award seats are all about opportunity cost. Yes, SQ has an internal metric that values the miles it has outstanding with members, and allowing a redemption will clear some of that liability from its balance sheet. But SQ also controls the value of that liability directly through its award pricing chart. What the American airlines are known for doing is that when they need to shore up the balance sheet, they just announce a devaluation and just like that, a mile which was previously worth 2 cents liability is now 1 cent. Brilliant.

SQ is generally willing to let the economy class seats get filled up with award passengers because their opportunity cost is lower. But business and first class seats represent a much larger opportunity cost, so SQ will wait until the absolute last minute before releasing these to ensure that they couldn’t otherwise have sold them

Another thing to consider is the type of aircraft- SQ has announced that on its new 777-300ERs, first class seats will be cut from 8 to 4 (they will however be increasing business class from 42 to 48 seats).

old configuration with 8 F seats
new configuration with 4 F seats

This will obviously have implications for award seats too. Given that the 777 is the backbone of the SQ fleet, this means there will be far fewer F award seats available in the future.

(3) is a black box, because I honestly don’t know how this plays into the equation, other than it is relevant. As I’m sure you know, the pecking order is-

Solitaire Life PPS >Solitaire PPS>PPS>KF EG>KF ES> KF

The higher you are on this rung, the more priority you have in terms of waitlist. It’s even a published benefit that Solitaire PPS members and their redemption nominees get priority access to Economy class saver awards (whee). But does it apply to business/first waitlists? Observation suggests yes. Ever since I’ve become a KF EG member I’ve noticed my business/first awards clearing about a week earlier than before. Of course, that’s from a grand total n of 1. But reading online suggests the same priority exists.

How to get your waitlist cleared?

I’d like to caveat this with the disclaimer that only SQ revenue management knows what their formula is for clearing the waitlist. Online forums are filled with speculation and heresay- some people swear by one method which others say doesn’t make a difference.

Everything below is anecdotal- stuff that has helped me or others I know. YMMV, but if you’re desperate, why not?

Call, call call

SQ really makes you work for your award tickets.  Obviously it’s too early to call them 6 months before you fly, but what I generally do is I start calling them at the T+21 day mark before departure. And then I call them daily. Each time they will say the same thing, that they will send a chaser to the relevant department. Whether or not they do that, I don’t know, but the way SQ’s system works is that award seats are not automatically released. This is a manual trigger process initiated by SQ’s revenue management team . So it doesn’t hurt to have someone bugging them about it.

Link to a revenue ticket, if one exists

If you’re flying with someone on the same flight who has a confirmed revenue ticket, you can ask the CSR to make a comment in your waitlist that your partner is flying on the same flight as well. Giving the PNR enables them to “link” the two (I say “link” because it’s more like a note than an official computer linkage).

Paying SQ a visit


Of all the methods, I’m the most skeptical about this. The story goes that visiting SQ’s office in Ion and sitting down with a CSR will help your waitlist clear faster. I can see why people would say that, but the actual clearing takes place in a different department. So all the CSRs there would be doing is what a CSR on the phone would do- to send the same chaser along. Nonetheless, there are people online who swear this worked for them.

If booking for multiple people, use separate reservations

This is good for a few reasons. First, if one of you for whatever reason needs to change his or her plans, it’s easier to change the booking. Second, if they’re only willing to clear the waitlist for 1 passenger at a time, you won’t get skipped over the list (if they’re wiling to clear for 2, and if you waitlist both simultaneously they’ll clear you then your partner so you don’t lose out anyway).

To recap

  1. Only SQ revenue management knows the exact rules behind opening up award seats. 
  2. Waitlists generally start to clear 2 weeks before departure
  3. Accept that waitlists are a sad fact of SQ redemptions, and you should have backup handy in case the waitlist doesn’t clear

Happy waiting!

cover photo by xiaojun

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38 thoughts on “Clearing the SQ waitlist”

  1. “if they’re wiling to clear for 2, and if you waitlist both simultaneously they’ll clear you then your partner so you don’t lose out anyway”. How to do this? U mean using two krisflyer accounts on two computers, set up and then click reserve simultaneously at the same time ?

    1. Imagine there are 3 people, A, B and C. A and B are travelling together. C is a stranger.

      Scenario 1: A and B waitlist together on a 2 person booking using A’s Krisflyer account. C waitlists separately. SQ revenue controller decides there is 1 space to open up. Because A and B’s booking shows 2, C gets the ticket. Later on, SQ revenue controller decides to open a second slot. Once again, A and B booking gets passed over

      Scenario 2: A waitlists himself, then waitlists B on his account as well. C waitlists separately. SQ revenue controller opens up 1 space. A gets it. SQ revenue controller opens a 2nd space. B gets it.

      what I mean is you use your krisflyer account and book 2 separate tickets, 1 for yourself and 1 for your companion immediately after

      1. Oh I see. That’s on account that A has all the miles and nominate B. If A and B have sufficient amount just for themself respectively, I supposed it will then all depends on lucks ? I’m asking because in my scenario, we are accumulating sufficient miles based on individual krisflyer account by using individual CCs (both have same CCs) to maximize miles accumulation per month. Still a novice as we are just at accumulation stage, haven’t made a maiden award booking yet …

        1. I see- so in your case, you could waitlist one after the other, and then hopefully you’d clear together. But that assumes that (1) both of you have the same status with SQ and 2) no one sway sway book inbetween the two of you (unlikely if you book one after another). But if one of you clears but not the other I suppose you could call up SQ and tell them your situation and see if they can help…

      2. Sorry to rehash an old thread, but I’m new to this and just wondering about your scenario above.

        If I A and B waitlist separately, and B doesn’t get a flight in the end, are there any penalties for cancelling A’s confirmed flight?

        1. yeah, really minimal fees. US$30 if you cancel more than 24 hours before departure (US$15 if you’re a silver or above member), US$75 if you cancel within 24 hours.

          1. Thanks! I’m trying to book for 2 on Suites on the notorious SIN-JFK route (anniversary trip) and it’s been a pain. I honestly thought earning the miles would be the most difficult part, but turns out booking a return trip for 2 is going to be so much harder.

            Even on the one date I’ve found availability for SIN-JFK for 2, I can’t seem to find a return JFK-SIN flight within a reasonable time frame… argh!

            1. i’m sorry to be a downer (and i really really hope it works out for you) but you need to think of alternative options as well because that route is one of the hardest to redeem. if you’ve not transferred your points yet to krisflyer, do consider holding off and keeping the option of transferring to asiamiles. i know CX first isn’t the same as suites, but it’s still first class. plus CX doesnt have outrageous surcharges. remember that you can waitlist on asiamiles without having ANY miles in your account, so no reason to waitlist on cathay as well to JFK and if it clear, transfer your points and book.

              also consider lifemiles!

              1. Thank you for the tip! I’ve been stalking the Milelion page for a few months now – thank you so much for setting up such a useful website btw.

                We are pretty flexible wrt to dates in 2017 so I’m gonna keep trying for Suites until maybe Sept 2016. I’ve expanded the return flight to J class so hopefully that helps.

                Unfortunately we aren’t the kind of travelers who can wait till 2 weeks before the trip to start confirming hotels, itinerary etc! So I’ll probably have to start looking into that CX option (sigh…)

                1. Thank you- let me know how I can help. 2017 is a long way away so time is still on your side. Come on, chin up. CX first is still a world class product (i haven’t flown it but i’ve read plenty of trip reports).

                2. hope you’re booking two one-ways rather than one round trip … better chance of getting something in my opinion, especially since you can fly one way on another star alliance airline if it’s two one-ways.

                3. Just an update for Aaron and Summer – successfully managed to redeem my air tickets! Flying 2 pax to JFK by Suites and returning via business (which was what I wanted) in Sept 2017.

                  My SIN-JFK suites tickets were waitlisted but cleared approximately 4 hours after waitlisting. I waitlisted on the same day that it opened for waitlisting.

                  My JFK-SIN business class tickets were also waitlisted and cleared 21 days after waitlisting. I waitlisted the day after it opened for waitlisting.

                  I had waitlisted about 9 days of tickets for the return leg (in both suites and business). 3 of them cleared on the same day, all business class.

                  So excited about the upcoming trip! Thanks again, Aaron, for your invaluable help.

                4. congratulations! i assume you got saver- if so you’ve caught the ultimate rare pokemon. enjoy the trip- this is probably one of the best routes to experience suites.

  2. Btw, wait list clear two weeks before departure. I would be so panicked if I’m in that circumstances because hotels etc would have been booked. What would be the strategy ? Because on one hand, if want better valued tickets, need to buy promo fare well in advanced. If wait list and don’t get cleared say 1 week before departure, and be forced to buy whatever available revenue ticket then, we would be spending a lot more won’t we? This really stirs up a lot of thinking because I thought with enough miles, booking would be easy as abc. How wrong was I ….

    1. yup, I understand exactly what you mean. The only “solution” (if you can call it that) is to try and book your award tickets 9+ months in advance. But you’re also right in that the closer you get, the more expensive fares you get, and the promo fares which you buy far out will not be refundable. I can’t think of a way around this either sadly…

      1. Oh, but will booking 9 months in advance still count down to 2 weeks before departure ? How did u plan and book your last suite experience please ?

        1. No what i mean is booking 9 months out there is more likely to be saver availability and no waitlist.

          i flew suites in august 2015, booked in dec 2014 when I saw there were 2 suite savers available. I’m not sure if that was luck or design, but typically they only release 1 suite saver and 1 more waitlist slot per flight.

  3. Oh understand. We should have enough miles next year to make first booking. Add 9 months on top, will be looking at almost 1.5 to 2 years. Guess we need to manage our expections and patiently wait for the chance

  4. Hey,

    Once again I have messed this one up. I am wanting to fly award business from SIN-ZRH from June 30th to August 6th and I am on the waitlist now for both. If I have to wait for such a long time now, I am not able to do so…. I can’t afford not to get a ticket and Lufthansa’s premium economy is not all that expensive.

    Real shame as I could have easily booked the ticket when there was no waitlist.

    No chance they’ll give me the ticket with plenty of time to go….right?


    1. Any status with SQ? have you tried calling (it’s really the best way of making things happen). How many seats are left in business (do a dummy booking, try for 4 seats and see what it tells you

  5. Hey,

    No status with SQ (only gold with A3). I just tried for 4 seats…not even an indication for “only a few seats left”.
    I will try and call them….see what happens..Fingers crossed.

  6. BTW, is it worth re-checking flights everyday that are listed as waiting list or does this not really change from day-to-day this much in advance?

  7. The rep said he’s send a message for requesting a release of a ticket….I sort of feel that’s the SQ polite way of saying: Leave us alone.

    I checked all other possible airports with same result (best result was one available and one waitlisted….)… Bummer…this redemption is a lot harder than the mile collection 😉

    1. have you considered what i mentioned in the latest post- going with a star alliance partner award? they’re generally not good value but western europe is an exception… even if you want to go to Zurich paying a 12,000 mile premium and flying Swiss/Lufthansa to get there might make sense. Mind you, it makes even more sense if Zurich is not your final destination (Eg you want to go to Geneva or something)

      1. Actually, a partner award would be even better, seeing Lufthansa has a great flight to Toulouse (my final destination). Would you recommend calling for this or sending in the form?

  8. Hi, this KF redemption thing is very nerve wrecking, having to wait till the “last minute” to know the outcome.
    I planned a trip to London this year (travelled in October) and wanted to redeem seats for saver business one way, and was waitlisted for saver although there were standard seats for redemption. I did this in December 2014! But these are a lot more expensive in terms of miles! And of course this is a very popular route too, and my chances were really slim.
    So I checked for suite saver redemption and viola these seats were available! And with the discount for on line redemption, this worked out cheaper than business standard! So of course I confirmed the suite saver, not just one but for 2 pax! (2 separate acc, done simultaneously on 2 computers).
    Hope this helps!

    1. awesome stuff man. i’d personally never pay for standard level awards, because it’s just so painful to see those miles go. hope you have an amazing suites experience (first time?)

  9. Thank you, this is helpful! I’m waitlisted with my daughter (6yo) on a redemption Saver award, first SIN-CDG on 26 June, then LHR-SIN-CHC 30/31 July (both dates to increase chances). I am keeping an eye on fares on ALL airlines and counting down to that magical 2-week mark that you mention…
    My mother is PPS club and has tried to help since we are using her miles on the first leg – but SQ have told her that the status that matters is the one of the person who will be flying (Silver for us). She’s been to the office at Ion and on the phone. I’ve been on the phone as well. Always the same answer.
    There is no way to do separate redemption bookings with a child, so our chances aren’t great, but I’m still going to take my chances. I don’t have hotel bookings and our dates are a little bit flexible, so it will be a little adventure for us if the waiting lists don’t clear and we need to find a solution!

  10. Hi everyone, just to share my experience. Flew to USA with my wife and waitlisted for the return flights on Suites from LAX. (waitlisted for thurs and fri flights, 2nd and 3rd June). We were in US for about 3 weeks and i called every few days to ask them to clear the waitlist. Everytime i called, i would only chase them to clear the friday flight, though i wait listed for both thurs and friday. Interestingly, one week before the thurs and fri flights, it cleared the wait listed flights for both days for myself and my wife (we have no pps status, not even silver).

    So it seems that my calls to them didn’t really work, since they clear the thurs flights without us even asking. In the end, we chose the friday flights, Suites was a nice experience but not as good as I expected.

  11. Hi Aaron

    If you waitlist on a flight with Asia Miles, even though no miles are deducted, would you still need to pay the relevant taxes?

  12. Hi Aaron ,

    i already hold the confirmed booking for date 23 Jun but i still waitlisted for 24 Jun then If the wait list clear can i change for free for flight 24 Jun ? or i must pay online change fee ?

  13. Hi,
    First of all, thank you Aaron for setting up such wonderful site.
    I have been reading the Milelion pages since someone introduced it to me beginning of this year.
    I am very new to this. Have a few questions please.
    1. Do I convert my CC points to KF miles before I waitlist ?
    2. I hope to fly Sin- SF in Dec, is it too late to waitlist now ? Should I plan Sin-SF for Dec 2018 instead please ?

    1. hi there dyna

      1. you need to have sufficient kf miles in your account before you can get on the waitlist. so if, for example, an award cost 100,000 miles, you need 100,000 miles to waitlist. that said, you can waitlist for 1,2,3,4, however many 100,000 miles awards as you want, so long as you have 100,000 miles in your account
      2. you can only waitlist ~1 year in advance, so you wouldn’t be able to get dec 2018. i mean you can try looking at dec 2017 now, it doesn’t hurt and i think SFO isn’t as bad as some other routes. again depends if you want F/J/PY/Y. really depends on how many tix you want and how flexible you are

      1. Aaron,
        Thanks for the reply. Really appreciate it.
        I will start converting my CC points now to KF miles, and waitlist myself for Dec Sin-SF or Auckland/Christchurch, whichever I can get seats. Looking at 2 seats on F/J
        Destination is flexible, but must be Dec/early Jan, school holidays 🙁

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