Ok. No time to keep feeling sorry for myself, because bigger and more important things are now happening. I’d like to claim some special powers of clairvoyance but really, everyone knew this was a long time coming.
Here is the TL; DR summary
- Premium Economy saver award seats can now be redeemed. They’re not cheap though, at ~80% the cost of a business saver award
- The “full” award level has been removed, and anyone holding a “full” award ticket will be rebooked into a standard award and have the miles difference refunded to them. I have yet to meet anyone who has ever booked a full award
- Europe has been combined from 2 award zones into 1. Naturally the higher of the 2 rates has been used, meaning that award prices to Amsterdam, Athens, Copenhagen and Rome will increase
- You can no longer upgrade to business class from a full fare economy ticket on flights with a premium economy cabin. Only upgrades from premium economy to business will be permitted (from 1 Jun).
Guys I totally called it that SQ would market this as an overall improvement because they’re now allowing PY redemptions (yes I know everyone called it as well)
But overall the changes were nowhere as bad as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, it still counts as a devaluation, but with the exception of Amsterdam, Athens, Copenhagen and Rome all other destinations retained their current redemption rates.
Let’s look at this in detail-
Allowing Premium Economy Redemptions
The move to allow premium economy redemptions in and of itself is welcome (the real problem is SQ maintaining its 1 cabin upgrade policy as we’ll touch on in a bit), but the rates are very steep
As you can see from this table, the cost of redeeming a premium economy saver is approximately 80% the cost of a business saver across the board
|Zone (One way redemption rates for saver)||Premium Y||Business||Ratio|
|4: South China, HK & Taiwan||22.5||27.5||82%|
|5: North China (BJ & SH)||30||35||86%|
|6: South Asia (India, Sri Lanka Maldives & Bangladesh)||30||35||86%|
|7: Japan & South Korea||32.5||40||81%|
|9: Australia (ex Perth & Darwin) & NZ||45||55||82%|
|10: Africa, ME and Turkey||35||45||78%|
|12: USA (West Coast)||65||80||81%|
|13: USA (East Coast)||70||85||82%|
|14: South America (Sao Paulo)||72.5||87.5||83%|
So redemption rates for premium economy are closer to business class than economy. Which means that there’s really not much reason to redeem outright for premium economy instead of business, given the small gap in miles and big gap in comfort.
Removing the Full award level
Old unfunny joke on forums goes “they call it full award because only a fool would pay those prices”. But it’s true, you know. I have never understood what the purpose of the full award was, given that it costs an astonishing 315,000 miles to fly one-way to San Francisco in business class.
Random thought: does the removal of the full award level create an opportunity to get an award ticket on certain routes where there is no standard or saver awards available?
Everyone who has a confirmed full award ticket as of 24th May will have that changed to a standard ticket and the miles refunded, so if you’re looking at the infamous SQ25/26 route and there is only full award space available, this might be a way for you to nab a standard award (assuming you have enough KF miles to confirm a full award in the first place!)
One Europe Zone
SQ used to have 2 Europe redemption zones which have now been combined into 1. As you can see, the revised Europe zone uses the higher of the 2 rates
|Europe 1 (Athens, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome)||Europe 2 (All else)||Revised Europe|
The revised European classification means it makes all the more sense to explore using Star Alliance partners to get to cities in Europe not served by SQ. You can read more about that here, suffice to say that the additional 12,000 miles involved in flying with a Star partner may be offset by the need not to buy a connecting ticket or worry about interline baggage issues.
I wonder if this has anything to do with SQ introducing the A350 to Amsterdam. SQ is generally loathe to allow cheap redemptions for their newest aircraft, as we saw from them not allowing saver award redemptions on their 2006 cabin products when they first launched for a few years.
No more upgrading from economy to business
The revised chart means that whenever a flight offers all 4 cabins (including PY), you cannot upgrade from economy to business class directly. You can only upgrade from economy to premium economy, and premium economy to business.
Let’s first see how the premium economy to business upgrade rates compare to the old economy to business upgrade rate. For the sake of space (and because I am pathologically lazy) I am only going to look at long haul routes where this kind of upgrade would make sense
|Zone||Upgrade Y to J||Upgrade PY to J||Difference|
|9: Australia (ex Perth & Darwin) & NZ||45||30||-15|
|10: Africa, Middle East and Turkey||35||25||-10|
|12: USA (West Coast)||65||45||-20|
|13: USA (East Coast)||67.5||47||-20.5|
|14: South America (Sao Paulo)||69.5||50||-19.5|
Turkey looks like a potential sweet spot for upgrading from PY to J, with a 15% discount you’d spend 21,250 miles only. But the bigger savings are to be found in Zones 11-14, where the miles required for an upgrade are reduced by ~20,000.
Sadly the flip side of this is that you cannot upgrade from a full fare Y ticket to a business class seat anymore on the routes that you’ll really need it. Meaning that if your company has an economy-only policy, you’re really going to feel this change.
That is, unless you’re willing to pay the miles to upgrade from economy to premium economy…
|Zone||Upgrade Y to PY|
|Zone 4: South China, Hong Kong & Taiwan||9|
|Zone 5: North China (Beijing & Shanghai)||14|
|Zone 6: South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Maldives & Bangladesh)||14|
|Zone 7: Japan & South Korea||15|
|Zone 9: Australia (ex Perth & Darwin) & NZ||22.5|
|Zone 10: Africa, ME and Turkey||18|
|Zone 11: Europe||32.5|
|Zone 12: USA (West Coast)||32.5|
|Zone 13: USA (East Coast)||34|
|Zone 14: South America (Sao Paulo)||35|
Now unless your company is already paying I struggle to see why anyone would pay for full fare economy only to add on more miles for an otherwise marginal comfort upgrade. Because anyone who is travelling on their own dime would surely either (1) buy the cheapest non-upgradable economy fare there is or (2) outright buy a premium economy ticket.
I also do not understand why SQ doesn’t simply have 2 types of upgrades: from PY to J and Y to J, where you charge a bit of a premium. Other airlines can do that so why not SQ?
Some part of me think this all goes back to SQ’s “cabin protection” policy where they do not upgrade as far as possible to maintain the exclusivity of the premium cabins. It’s a silly policy but what are you going to do?
In the words of a wise and learned sage, “are we out of the woods?” For now, yes. I don’t think even SQ would have the cojones to do 2 devaluations in quick succession. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say the next 12-18 months the award chart will be stable. This is good news if you’re still saving up for a dream suites/first/business redemption.
So all in all, this is a devaluation but we should all be thankful because it could have been much , much worse.
photo credit: georgelau