How bad is the Krisflyer waitlist situation, really?

It’s been well documented just how frustrating the SQ waitlist process can be.

You can find an entire thread on FT dedicated to people providing datapoints on their own experiences. You can find people who swear by certain methods of clearing (“oh just show up at the CS center at Ion and make a scene and they’ll clear it”, “oh just send chasers every day and they’ll clear it”, “oh just date someone in the revenue control department and they’ll clear it” [any takers?]). It’s perhaps not surprising that two of the most read articles on The Milelion deal directly with this topic

Experimenting with the SQ Waitlist

Clearing the SQ waitlist

You see, SQ premium cabin saver awards are like productive office meetings. You hear so much about them you’re quite certain they must exist, just that you haven’t had the good fortune of encountering them before.

This award space availability issue came to mind again when I was reading the latest post by Gary Leff at View from the Wing.  Gary Leff is widely acknowledged to be the grand master of the miles and points game. You can read his CV here if you’re interested, but suffice to say this man has forgotten more about the hobby than I’ll ever know.

18 Tricks You Should Know About Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

Gary was writing about the Krisflyer program and pointed out 18 tricks about it (most of them were more factual things rather than tricks but anyway). I agree with most of what he’s got there, namely that Krisflyer can be a great option for redeeming Star Alliance awards and that Krisflyer has some of the most generous cancellation policies and penalties in the market. I also think that mile for mile, Krisflyer has some of the lowest mileage requirements of any frequent flyer program (because, in part, they collect ridiculous amounts of fuel surcharges on awards)

However, there was one point he made that didn’t resonate at all with me based on my own experience.

(5) Singapore Airlines Krisflyer business awards are easy to get and so is Suites class- on certain routes

Wait a minute, I thought. That can’t be right. This just sounded intuitively wrong to me, given how frustrated I (and many others) get about SQ’s super untransparent waitlist process. I suppose if he’s talking about short haul hops then yeah, I know you can easily get business class awards to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Bali. But surely award space elsewhere is severely restricted?

The Analysis

gratuitous stock photo of SQ’s business class to break up the monotony of words

So, like any good consultant, I went to gather data. I looked for Saturday departure slots for two award seats in business and first class (because I imagine that people redeeming miles for leisure travel would look to maximise their leave by flying over as soon as the weekend started).

I tried this at 7 day, 30 day, 90 day, 180 day and 355 day intervals (in reality it will be +/- a few days because I wanted to get the Saturday departure slots) for medium and long-haul routes.

A caveat to the analysis below- this may present a somewhat overgenerous picture of award space, because

  • My herustic was that so long as there was an award flight available in a given bucket (saver/standard) on that day (Saturday), I put the status as “A”. This means that if there were an 8am flight on waitlist and a 11pm flight for immediate confirmation, the overall status would be “A”, notwithstanding the fact that you’d obviously prefer to maximise your vacation time by flying off on Saturday morning than night
  • There may be award flights available with long layovers (>4 hours, sometimes as much as 12 hours) between the first and second leg. This is often the case when you fly with one of SQ’s 5th freedom flights (eg ICN-LAX, HKG-SFO, FRA-JFK) and there’s space on the 5th freedom leg but not the first one. In this case I’d also show the status as “A”, but the flight might not make sense for you to book.
  • Even if you see “A” below, it does not necessarily mean that a seat is available in the aircraft type of your choice. For example, SQ operates both A380s and 77Ws to Sydney. You may want to fly in Suites, but award space may only be available in First (you poor thing)

That said, what I found was very, very surprising.

Business Awards

A= Available, W= Waitlist, N/A= Not Available

I wasn’t surprised to see that there was good Business Saver award space within 7 days of departure. This is when airlines typically try and monetize whatever they can’t sell (that said, I thought SQ was so snobbish about its premium cabin products it would rather let them fly empty than cheapen them through opening up ‘excessive’ redemptions) Although it was disappointing you still couldn’t confirm two seats to LHR or LAX, you’d likely be able to route there through other locations like FRA or SFO.

I was surprised to see that SQ wasn’t releasing as many routes as I thought straight to waitlist for business saver.  With the exception of CDG (which seems to be strictly capacity controlled for all dates) JFK,(which is notoriously hard to redeem premium cabin space) and AKL (which based on the table above is also capacity controlled, albeit not as strictly as CDG), I was able to snag 2X Business Savers for Saturday departures for all the 14 destinations I looked at provided I was willing to book 1 year in advance. I guess that doesn’t serve as much comfort if you’re trying to get on SQ26, but hey, a lot of ways to get to New York.

You can see a summary of the business award situation below (% refer to the number of routes with instant confirmation available in Saver and Standard).

It would also appear that if you’re looking to get Business Saver availability, you’re still good up to 6 months in advance of departure. Once you hit the 3 month window, space dries up. 30 days out, it’s almost impossible to get immediate confirmation for any long haul routes and you need to wait till the 7 day window for availability to pick up again.

Based on this, I’d say that if you’re looking to get 2X Business Saver awards-

  • The best routes would be HKG, BOM, NRT, FRA, SYD and MEL. Unsurprisingly, these are also the routes where SQ operates several flights a day, making your chances much better.
  • The worst routes would be CDG, AKL, JFK, with ZUR and LHR also potentially tricky. With the exception of LHR, SQ operates no more than one flight a day to each of these destinations. Supply and demand again, I suppose.

First/Suites Awards

A= Available, W= Waitlist, N/A= Not Available

Now, this is a very different dynamic altogether. For anything within 90 days, it’s almost impossible to get instant confirmation for First Savers. Even 180 days is very patchy.

Your best bet is to get 2x First Class Savers is to snag these as soon as the award space opens. This unfortunately means having to plan one year in advance, but hey, if it means getting to experience Suites I’d say that’s something to plan a trip around.  I was pleased to note that you could get 2X Suite Savers for instant confirmation on JFK, CDG, LHR, SYD, MEL, BOM, ZUR and HKG if you were willing to go 355 days out.

I’d say that with First Class, the sooner you book the better. Award space doesn’t seem to open up within 7 days the way it does for business. Given how tetchy SQ is about clearing award waitlists, I wouldn’t risk it.

If you’re looking to get 2X First Saver Awards,

  • The best routes are those to Australia (MEL, SYD).  CDG, HKG and BOM are also available a bit further out, and the idea of getting 2x Suites class tickets to Paris might be very attractive to some honeymooning couples (or maybe not, considering the state that France is currently in)
  • The worst routes? Take your pick. If you absolutely want to get 2 First saver tickets you need to plan ahead, don’t try and elope I suppose is the argument here

Further Thoughts

So Gary is sort of right. If you’re not fussy, you can still get saver space on most of SQ’s premium cabin routes. 

If you’re ok with flying later on Saturday and burning more of your holiday time, or if you’re ok with flying an aircraft with older cabin products (or sometimes regional business even in the case of the A330s), or if you’re ok with a long layover, then you should be able to get saver award space for two people at least in business class.

I would love to redo the above analysis given stricter conditions (eg I only want a layover of 3 hours or less, I want to fly out before 12pm on a Saturday to maximise my leave) . Anecdotally, I know that the picture would change quite a bit, but the equation for each person is so different it’d be impossible to create every permutation of factors.

So- the lessons. In general, the earlier you book, the better. For First Class, early booking is almost mandatory for 2 saver awards. For Business, you can get away with very early or very late.

Krisflyer is far from a perfect program, but perhaps the award situation is not as bad as I first thought…

28 thoughts on “How bad is the Krisflyer waitlist situation, really?”

  1. Thank you Aaron for spending the time on this. It is undoubtably the best analysis I have ever seen of SQ award availability, and matches with my anecdotal experience.
    Award space really works if you can be flexible on dates, so rerunning with a +/-3 day acceptability criteria should give even higher scores. Maybe I’ll take that as a project for a wet weekend…

      1. The problem is that you need to be logged in to run reward searches. Any sort of scripted searching might get your account blocked…
        Something like Expertflyer or KVS would be ideal if they have access to KF members inventory – I don’t know if they do.

        1. my kvs expired in july. they do have access to kf member inventory though. but i can’t remember if they distinguish between saver and standard.

            1. yup my bad. used it so long ago I forgot it had that feature. would have saved me a lot of time on this article…

  2. i found it much easier to go from waitlist to confirmed seat when i was krisflyer gold, than when i am krisflyer silver.

    1. i wish i knew how to write a script. it would have saved me a lot of time! I need to learn though. this was all manual

  3. Great insights, thanks for taking the time to do this! Sad to see how difficult it seems to redeem CDG in Business though as this is the one I’m saving up for…

  4. Hi. May I know for AKL, why sometimes it’s A380 and sometimes it’s 777 aircraft? How to know what aircraft is deployed at which period? Thanks

      1. Prob is for the same date, sometimes it shows 380. Sometimes 777 when I search on another day. No definitive period pre-defined on when they will deploy which aircraft?

  5. Hey brother, good article as usual. I’m thinking of doing the double seat biz to NYC on business standard (459k miles). It’s a confirmed deal as compared my waitlisted saver flights. Sigh, EXPENSIVE in miles I know.

    I was thinking if my waitlisted flight comes up I can cancel and do the waitlisted flight instead, like a kind of a hedged bet. What do you think? What are the chances and is this a good idea? We don’t really fly much and we have been squirreling the miles.

    1. sorry didn’t quite get what you’re saying. you’re saying you’ve got standard confirmed and saver on waitlist?

        1. oh yes, definitely. if the saver opens up they’ll refund you the mile difference between saver and standard. which sort of begs the question- if SQ knows the passenger is already willing to shell out the miles for a standard, why would they open the saver and leave miles on the table? I don’t know the answer to that.

  6. Personal experience – I three times redeemed SIN-TYO award tickets last three years and always First was available when Business was on waitlist. Usually it ended up that one leg was in First and return in Business.

    My wife, who have been on these flights said that she was only person in First class cabin.

    1. not really surprised. loads for F are pretty bad, it’s J that is the real money maker for the airlines. F is more like a halo product.

    1. unfortunately not. for that route the only way i know is to book 355 days out (or whatever the maximum window is). suppose you’re looking for 2 tix?

      1. Yup, I am checking like 355 days out, so it doesn’t make sense to me as I check it once a new date is available 🙁 tried 2 tickets and also 1 ticket as well.

  7. Hi Aaron

    Quick question on redeeming a pair of business class tickets to Taipei or Tokyo.

    It seems like it is very hard to get 2 seats but easier to get 1 seat. How does the system work? If I book 1 first.. will SQ open up another one for redemption soon? In other words- how do I ensure that me and my gf are on the same flight? Any ideas?

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