Airlines Guestwriter

Experimenting with the SQ Waitlist

Since discovering the Miles and Points game 3 years ago, Jeriel has now spent a disproportionate amount of time reading the T&Cs of credit cards and frequent flyer programs. His grand plans for round-the-world premium travel has taken a hit since the arrival of his daughter, but he is still determined to fly as far, frequently and luxuriously as possible on Miles and Points. Expect more family-orientated trip reports and travel tips from him!


Clearing the KrisFlyer Waitlist – My Personal Experience

So you have spent the past year painstakingly building up your points and finally have enough for a Saver award for the trip you’ve been wanting to make. You go to the SQ website, key in your dates, wait with bated breath, and you see this:

waitlist1
A scene from a horror movie – what you will see almost 80% of the time

600000 miles for a return ticket in Business to LHR? SQ is good, but not that good. 240000 isn’t much better; with that amount you can redeem a saver award on suites on the same route to LHR and still have some change left over.

In case you haven’t realized, please do not waste your miles on a Standard or Full award. The only scenario which I think it may make some sense to do so is if all your miles are going to expire in the next couple of days.

But wait! You scroll down to the bottom of the page and you see this:

waitlist2
A glimmer of hope

A saver award is available on the 1:15am flight, but it is only on the waitlist.

As a general rule, award availability is best either when the booking window opens (~350 days in advance) or <3 weeks before date of travel. If your workplace is like mine and only accepts leave applications 6 months in advance, then you may find yourself looking at a page very similar to the pictures above; at best the saver awards are on waitlist, or at worse, not available at all.

Many view the ability to waitlist as one of the good points of the Krisflyer program. After all, you are getting a chance at snagging the award rather than there not being availability period, right? This is probably true if you have a truly flexible travel schedule, and can fly off on a 2 week holiday with a 1 day notice. However, for the bulk of us who are subject to the vagaries of work, leave may not be so easy to come by, and travel can neither be planned too early or too late in advance.


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I personally hate the waitlist. I just cannot stand the ambiguity when planning for long haul travel. You get 1 or 2 opportunities for a good long holiday and make plans to fly somewhere exciting, but you have no way of knowing for sure when and what class you’ll be flying for an indefinite period of time? It drives me crazy.

Even if it’s for regional travel like over a long weekend to BKK or HKG, where flying premium is a bonus and you really don’t mind putting up for a few hours in cattle class, most restricted (offer price) economy tickets prohibit or charge exorbitant amounts for cancellations. It doesn’t make financial sense to book a revenue Y ticket, wait for the waitlisted flights to clear, and then cancel.

To the conspiracy theorist in me, the waitlist is just a ploy to get people to redeem an award economy ticket or standard award business ticket (at a significantly lower cents per mile value) while waiting for the saver award to clear the waitlist (which it is unlikely to).

On related online forums, one of the most frequent questions you will find is from hopeful (desperate?) travellers-to-be asking:

  • What are the chances of me clearing the SQ waitlist on ____ flight?
  • What can I do to increase my chances of clearing the waitlist?

I don’t think anyone can predict whether an award will clear the waitlist with the limited information available to the public. Of course, if you see that there are still a large number of revenue seats available in your desired class, then the chances are obviously higher. However, when booking F or R there aren’t that many seats to begin with. On Business, if the saver level award is already waitlisted, chances are the cabin is already about half full.

Common tips to increase your chances of clearing the waitlist include;

  • Having a higher frequent flyer status
  • Calling the Krisflyer hotline to ask (politely) for a ‘chaser’ to be sent
  • Checking back regularly on the award inventory online (it has been reported that saver awards have opened up for booking with no notice given to the person already on the waitlist)

Well, how did I fare in my recent tussle with the waitlist then? I already had my SIN PER outbound leg in the bag, but availability on the inbound PER SIN leg was looking abysmal. SQ flies 4 flights daily from Perth to Singapore, and there was not even a single revenue economy ticket available in the 4 day window I had. Yeah, you read that right, economy was sold out. It wasn’t looking good; it just shows how popular these flights were, and even if I wanted to pay for a 1-way economy ticket inbound, I couldn’t.

On the bright side, every single one of those 16 flights (4 flights daily in a 4 day window) had Business saver awards available for waitlisting. If you are a kiasu Singaporean like me, you won’t get a prize for guessing what I did next!

waitlist3
Heh heh heh…

Okay, I did set out wanting to waitlist my wife and I on all 16 flights. But after going through the whole booking process (typing name, passport number, expiry, etc.) about 7 times, it was late, and I got lazy…

In the end, this was what I had waitlisted for:

Flight / Date 26 Dec 27 Dec 28 Dec
SQ 216
SQ 224
SQ 226
SQ 214

As you can see, this was all done on the 16th of November, which was about 6+ weeks from the date of travel. After that, I sat back and waited… and waited… and waited…

I did everything according to the textbook. 3 weeks before the date of travel (which is when some of the waitlist may start to clear), I started calling the Krisflyer hotline every other day (for about a week). I got the numerous CSOs to send multiple ‘chasers’ to the ‘relevant department’. One of the reservations was placed through my dad’s Krisflyer account (he has a higher Krisflyer status than me) and I even got him to call the hotline for that particular reservation. I checked award availability online 3 times a day. All to no avail.

(I don’t get how this chaser thing works though; in my mind a poor intern is sent running to the ticketing department and starts following a hapless manager around but I’m quite sure that is not what happens.)

It was all too much for me and I booked my inbound leg with another carrier eventually, but what eventually happened to those 7 reservations?

Well, I didn’t bother cancelling them (sorry if you were trying to book those flights as well!). I also stopped calling the hotline. Here’s the final result:

Flight / Date 26 Dec 27 Dec 28 Dec
SQ 216
SQ 224 √ (cleared 23/12 5am)
SQ 226 √ (1 tix cleared 23/12 5am) √ (cleared 24/12 5am)
SQ 214 √ (cleared 24/12 5pm)

waitlist4

Out of 7 flights, 4 cleared eventually. That is an impressive 57% success rate! However, the one with the greatest ‘lead time’ cleared only 4 days prior to the date of travel, and SQ214 on the 26th of December only cleared literally 48 hours before departure!

Also, on SQ226 departing 26th December, only 1 out of 2 tickets were cleared. This was the reservation where I had booked one ticket under my account, and the other under my dad’s account (who has a higher Krisflyer status). Not surprisingly, the ticket booked under his account was the one which cleared the waitlist.

What do I conclude from this little exercise? Firstly, If you are waitlisted on several flights over a few days, then I would say there is a pretty good chance you won’t be stranded at your holiday destination (that may not be that bad a thing though – ‘Hi Boss, there has been some issue with my return flight so I won’t be able to make it back to office for the next couple of days…’:)). That being said, would you fly off somewhere without having confirmed return tickets? Perhaps some of you may enjoy the thrill of it, but I know I couldn’t. (Ed note: And, some immigration officers might not let you into the country without a confirmed return ticket. Silly rule, because the return ticket can be cancellable, but still)

Secondly, a higher Krisflyer status does make a difference, but that goes without saying I suppose.

Lastly, chasers do not work, at least not for me. The flight I was sending chasers for (the CSOs advised me to only focus on 1 or 2 flights) was on the 27th of December, and none of those cleared eventually.

What has your experience been waitlisting on SQ award flights? Any success stories, tips and/or tricks to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

cover photo by prayitno

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10 Comments on "Experimenting with the SQ Waitlist"

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There was once when I waitlisted for several flights from Tokyo. The only flight which cleared the waitlist, had cleared about 8-9 hours before the actual flight ! (Yes it cleared during the morning of the same evening flight). by then, I had already made separate arrangements on Scoot…

8-9 hours! There’s no way to pick that up unless you’ve already confirmed an award flight at a higher redemption level.. How many flights were you waitlisted on?

Great article on this topic. I love the experimentation approach. I am wondering what are the difference of KF status with your Dad and you: PPS+ vs Gold, I suppose?

Thanks!
Actually it was just KF Gold vs no status (I only fly award flights lol). probably no PPS on the waitlist then!

[…] far out, if you’re looking at anything beyond say, March, you may have to waitlist and start sending chasers immediately. I’m waitlisted one way from HND to SIN in April in economy so I’ll […]

What i have done before is to redeem a Business Standard ticket (i know the miles cost more but i think it still worth it as a last resort) and then waitlist a Business Saver ticket and hope it clears. If it does, then cancel the Standard ticket and pay the USD30 penalty (previously the penalty was 3000 miles but now its cash). I’ve done this a number of times and guestimate that slightly over 50% of the time the Saver seat has cleared, often within days (literally hours) before the flight leaves. As a strategy, its served me well… Read more »

thanks TJ! The question you’d have to ask yourself in your case is whether or not you’re willing to pay business standard prices, worse come to worse. it’s really hard for me to justify that in my mind, especially when it prices at 1.5X+ the cost of saver. more annoying is when they dont even open the business saver waitlist when there are 4+ business seats available. of course this is revenue management, and all things equal SQ would rather you pay 2x the miles for a standard ticket.

so what you’re proposing can definitely work, but those standard prices…painful.

it’s interesting that you only have to pay $30 to change. twice it’s happened that i’ve been confirmed on first saver, waitlisted on business saver, and business came through the day before travel. i had to pay $150 to cancel the first saver because it was less than 48 hours before travel. wondering what i did wrong …

SQ Awards suck massive balls. First, they have the least amount of available ‘award’ seats out of any Star Alliance airline (probably any airline in general). Then they actually treat it like it’s some kind of favor they’re doing you and that you should be begging them to receive it. I’ve had a waitlisted miles seat (in business) cleared 3 hours before a flight! only after I fought them online and on the phone and gave them so much crap that they had to give it to me. And guess what? That flight was more than half empty in ALL… Read more »

[…] the milelion page if you haven't before, he has a few articles on the waitlist in the directory. Experimenting with the SQ Waitlist | The MileLion Reply With […]

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