Is AsiaMiles the answer to SQ’s ridiculous award surcharges?

I love tennis and have made plans to watch the 2016 US Open in New York in September.

usopen

The issue now: how to get there?

When researching possible routings I came to a stunning realisation: SQ’s award surcharges are a rip-off.

Ok it wasn’t that stunning.

Option 1: Singapore Airlines Krisflyer (Business- 144,500 miles + S$980)

SQ’s A380 business class. Old and worn product, but reliably good

The most obvious option would be to get a business/first class award on SQ26 for SIN-FRA-JFK. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

SQ25/26 is one of the hardest routes to redeem Krisflyer miles for. I can’t even waitlist at the saver level for business/first right now. So unless something opens up in the 2 weeks before departure, this won’t be an option anyway.

And even if it were, there’s the surcharges- S$980 is a ridiculous amount of surcharges to pay on an award ticket. The breakdown-

  • Airport/government taxes- S$205.60
  • Carrier surcharges- S$773.20

SQ pockets S$773.20 on a “free” ticket.  With oil prices at an all-time low, that’s almost criminal.

Option 2: Lifemiles (Business- 156,000 miles + S$88)

Evaair’s business class- hello kitty edition

If I wanted to avoid SQ’s ridiculous surcharges, Lifemiles would be the next way to go.

Lifemiles offers me a good variety of Star Alliance carriers to experiment with. I know for a fact that ANA, EVA and Asiana (less preferred than ANA and EVA because the SIN-ICN leg will be on their angled-flat business A330s) offer award space to JFK, but those typically open up 2 weeks before departure.

lifemiles1
EVA award space on Lifemiles. I know the date is wrong, but I wouldn’t be able to search for Sept award space on EVA at this point in time

My Lifemiles cost me 1.375 US cents each, so the imputed cost here including surcharges about S$2,960.

Not a bad option, but suppose I don’t fancy paying out of pocket?

Option 3: Cathay Asiamiles (Business- 145,000 miles + S$128 in taxes)

Cathay’s business class seat is inferior to SQ’s in my opinion, but it’s still an excellent lie flat product. And you don’t need to flip it over to go to bed mode

Until this afternoon I knew close to nothing about Asiamiles, so don’t take this as a primer on the subject. But since I have quite a fair amount of unconverted points in my DBS/UOB rewards account, I decided to sniff around and see if I could make this work. And I’m glad I did.

asiamiles2

The mileage required with Asiamiles to go from SIN-JFK is virtually the same as Krisflyer, but check out how low the surcharges are!

S$128 with Asiamiles, versus S$980 on SQ! 

This makes SQ’s surcharges even more of a jaw-dropping ripoff, and I’m seriously exploring other ways of routing to the States via Cathay, even if it means flying Cathay to Boston instead and taking a budget flight to NYC.

asiamiles

Immediate confirmation was not available so I had to waitlist. You can waitlist even if you do not have the required miles in your account. I am told that for my flight departing on 2 Sept, the ticketing deadline is 23 Aug, and based on what I’ve read on FT the waitlist can clear anytime between now and 23 Aug. Fingers crossed

Note: I know another option to redeem Cathay award tickets exists through Alaska’s Mileageplan, but I don’t want to spend money out of pocket buying Mileageplan miles given that I’ve not even finished using my purchased Lifemiles. In any case, the cost of redeeming a ticket through Mileageplan would be ~S$2,800, or about the same as buying through Lifemiles

For those of you interested in Asiamiles, here’s the award chart. Note that unlike Krisflyer, Cathay does not price one-way awards at 50% of the round trip cost

asiamiles2 asiamiles3

It is true that the one-way business class price is higher than SQ’s (85,000 vs 72,250), but consider

  • the differences in surcharges
  • the fact that a round trip business class ticket to JFK at 145,000 miles is practically the same cost of a round trip Krisflyer ticket
  • Cathay services other cities in the USA that SQ doesn’t (Boston and Chicago), so if you need to fly there it would be cheaper than redeeming a Star Alliance partner ticket with Krisflyer miles

Conclusion

If nothing else, this should serve as a reminder of how high surcharges can be a form of stealth devaluation. There is no reason why SQ should be charging close to $1K on an award ticket

I always knew that SQ’s surcharges were high, but I never envisioned them being so much higher than Cathay’s. Now that I think about it, I would recommend people give Asiamiles a serious look when deciding which FFP to transfer their DBS Points / UOB Uni$ to.

I really wish we had a strong regulator in Singapore who would speak up for consumer rights regarding airline surcharges. Look at Hong Kong-

scmp

The Civil Aviation Department said that the tumble in oil prices had made the surcharges “not warranted”. And they’re right. SQ isn’t even calling it fuel surcharge anymore, they’re using the nebulously defined “carrier surcharges”

But how fair is it that SQ’s customers scrimp and save their miles for a chance to try their business/first class product, only to be hit by surcharges that bring the cost close to that of a discounted economy class ticket?

Of course SQ can charge whatever the hell they want and you’re not obliged to redeem your miles with them, but you’d think that they’d demonstrate a basic appreciation for their customers (even when you redeem miles you earned from your credit card as opposed to flying, the banks paid SQ good money for those miles).

To quote Charlie Brown:

 

PS: If anyone fancies playing tennis do reach out to me to set up something. I’m about an NTRP 4.0-4.5, depending how much I ate the night before.

cover photo by kiefer

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19 thoughts on “Is AsiaMiles the answer to SQ’s ridiculous award surcharges?”

  1. Perhaps then ur worries of miles devaluation is unfounded… They can just keep the redemption rate but jack up the surcharges

  2. I booked a Kalibo, Ph to Sin award ticket on SQ at 0 surcharges! 2 governments in the world that have banned these surcharges for all flights originating from the country- Philippines and Brazil. Interesting ah!

  3. For what it’s worth, the SIN HKG leg (albeit only 4 hours) will be in CX regional business, which is no where near as nice as the SQ A380 J you’ll be flying all the way.
    Agreed that still not worth paying $900 more in fees though..
    For me at least it’s unfamilarity with the redemption that prevents me from using Asiamiles.. You need to run the flight details thru the site to get the miles required on a round trip, whereas on KF the chart is pretty clear cut. Also, haven’t done any research on CX award waitlisting.. How does it compare to SQ?

    1. are you sure about that point? SIN-HKG sometimes uses A343’s which are all lie flat business. similarly, for my outbound flight cx 716, seatguru tells me the aircraft used is the all lie flat business version too – http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/Cathay_Pacific_Airways/Cathay_Pacific_Airways_A330_D.php?flightno=716&date=

      I think the regional a333 is only used for the shorter hops from HK to china (i got put on that once when I was flying hong kong to shanghai). that’s why SQ feels like it needs to deploy its a380 + 77ws on this hkg route, to compete with cathay’s product (it’s also why they would occasionally substitute an ancient spacebed equipped 772 on the SIN-JNB route because they knew that south africa’s product was even shittier)

      as for waitlisting, what i’ve read online is pretty much a crapshoot haha. i’ll report back on the outcome if/when it clears. fingers crossed, like i said. i agree the award chart could be clearer, but if you figure out the distances for some of your favourite destinations that’s a one time exercise. maybe i should do a quick conversion of the cathay chart in a subsequent article, ie translate the zones into actual destinations

      1. hm.. I have not done any in depth search into that to be honest. When I was considering buying Alaskan miles, I was looking at this http://flyerguide.com/Cathay_Pacific_(CX)_Fleet#Current_Longhaul_Cabin_Configurations which shows that HKG SIN only operates the short-haul 73Z which has the regional product.
        There IS a disclaimer at the bottom which does say there are frequent aircraft changes with long-haul config, but I didn’t bother checking out whether it will be frequent enough to represent a good chance of getting on it.
        If CX mostly flies 1-2-1 lie flat to SIN (and Japan and Korea which according to the flyerguide link also operates the 73Z) , then Alaskan miles will definitely be worth looking into.. Round trip intra-asia on CX is only 45k miles (or about US$950 if you bought miles in the latest promo).

  4. One of Asiamiles’ advantage over KF is its number of stopovers and open-jaws that one can make with one redemption.

    You can do the following RTW trip with AM’s Oneworld multi-partner redemption (160k AM in J):-

    SIN – DOH – LHR (QR) – Stopover in London
    LHR – JFK (AA or BA) – Destination: New York
    JFK – YVR (CX) – Stopover in Vancouver
    YVR – NRT (JL) – Stopover in Tokyo
    NRT – HKG (CX) – Stopover in Hong Kong
    HKG – SIN (CX)

    In comparison, KF wants 240,000 for its RTW award.

    On an another note, while CX’s YQ is relatively low, QR’s one is relatively high. SIN-DOH-CDG has a fuel surcharge of around 250 SGD!

    1. 160K for a RTW is much lower than KF. thanks for pointing that out, i wasn’t aware of it. are you referring to this–> https://www.asiamiles.com/am/en/redeem/charts#4

      if so it seems that the 160k J option gets you 20-25K miles of travel, whereas SQ’s 240k J option gets 35k miles maximum. not sure if that in and of itself justifies the extra 80k miles, but to put things in perspective SIN-SFO is 8,440 miles and retails at 80k miles one way (less 15%)…

      1. Yes, I am referring to the one-world multi-carrier award chart.

        The same chart also shows that AM only wants 220k miles for up to 50k miles of J travel. That’s a lot of flying!

  5. You’re also a tennis fan! And you play! *mind blown* It’s been a dream of me to watch a GS, but I’ve never been to one (I’ve visited and toured RLA, but that was not during AO).

    Rajiv’s point is correct – I’m actually planning my SQ 25 F dream to route from MNL to significantly push down the surcharges (same miles, plus one more F ride on the 777-300ER). The thing is you have to position yourself from MNL, which will still set you back a bit.

    1. always good to find someone who loves tennis! I’ve only seen an atp 250 event in sao paulo before, plus the WTA world finals in SG, so i’m excited at the prospect of seeing a real GS live. do you play often?

      i wrote about the MNL “loophole” (it’s not really a loophole given that it’s publicly known) a while back here- http://milelion.com/2015/04/30/how-to-minimise-cash-payments-on-award-tickets/

      I think my point was that this is a good idea in theory, but the amount of extra time you need to make to position yourself in Manila, the probability of you finding MNL-SIN-FRA-JFK availability and the fact that any baggage you check on the JFK-FRA-SIN-MNL return leg will be checked through to Manila makes this a bit too troublesome for anyone but those with a lot of time and are willing to turn that time into some extra cash

      1. I’ve watched in Dubai when I was still based there – got a booklet signed by both Fed and Djoker 🙂 but Rafa doesn’t play there so I hated it at the time 😛 and while I’m a huge fan, my actual game play still sucks as I just started playing.

        For a return ticket, you get a stopover right? Maybe a SIN “stopver” on the way back could do the trick and then just forget about the SIN-MNL leg? But true, not sure about the SQ 25 availability. SIN-MNL-SIN on F is wide open I suppose.

  6. I have been spending wisely on my Credit cards and built up enough points for a Business SIN-LHR for a wedding I need to attend in October.

    I was originally planning to book on SQ however just going in now all the flights are on Waitlist for the dates I need. With the above I just joined Asia miles and logged in and can find SIN-DOH-LHR on QR business for 20,000 less points and about $200 less.

    As this will literally be a 3 day visit I really want to fly direct, my question is do you think there is high chance the waitlist will clear or just get the QR flight that I can guarantee now?

    1. assuming that cancelling the QR flight won’t have ridiculous cancellation fees, i’d rather lock in the sure thing. SQ’s waitlist clearing is…erratic. it’s very very hard for me sitting here to be able to tell you if the waitlist has a good chance of clearing, but (1) you can check how many revenue seats are left in J via dummy booking 4 seats on the website (2) you can call in to send a chaser and while you’re at it ask the agent how many seats are left

  7. If my understanding is correct, SQ can’t/won’t charge YQ on flights arriving/departing from HKG, there was a discussion on FT recently about it.

    So if this is the case, that cheap revenue ticket SIN-HKG (even on budget airline, assuming one does not need checked luggage) and then HKG-US would be a better alternative.

  8. Hey Aaron… perhaps u can help. Saw that a round trip to Aussie and back is 80k AM. However, there was a note that said actual number of miles will be shown on the redemption page. Trouble is I can’t move to the redemption page as I dun have enough AM. I dun Wan to redeem, find out i have not enough, then need to redeem another round of charges. Any idea is 80k really all u need round trip to Aussie?

  9. I’m not sure how you got the availability. I’m search for HK-Milan business tickets for June 2017 and 3/4 of them are waitlisted!

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