SQ has devalued its Krisflyer award chart. Here’s what you need to know

(EDIT: In addition to this article you might want to check out some additional thoughts on the devaluation I published here)

Wow. Back when I wrote about the Krisflyer devaluation that took place in May of 2016 I confidently said the program was safe for at least another year, since no one would devalue a program twice in quick succession (To be fair, the May 2016 devaluation wasn’t really much of a devaluation; award prices largely remained the same (with the exception of the consolidating Europe into one zone))

Shows what I know. Here’s SQ’s 70th anniversary present to you, a surprise email announcing a devaluation effective 23 March 2017. The old award chart is here. The new award chart is here. To summarize-

The Good

  • SQ has removed its much maligned fuel surcharges from award redemptions. I nearly fell off my seat when I read this, because the cynic in me has always seen that as an easy money maker for SQ.

The Bad

  • Award prices are going up across the board (we’ll look at how much in the detailed analysis) and there is no longer any 15% discount for online redemptions

Detailed Analysis

What you need to realise is that this devaluation changes everything.

That sounds dramatic, but the fact is that the underlying math has changed, and now we need to reconsider a lot of the conclusions I’ve come to in other articles on this site. They’ll be updated gradually, but let’s do some analysis here first.

How much have award prices increased?

Standard awards, saver/standard upgrade awards and premium economy saver awards have not been touched in one sense, but in another they now all cost 15% more because of the removal of the online redemption discount. 

I’ve put together the new and old saver redemption rates for comparison-

click to enlarge

Observations-

  • Surprisingly, the awards that have gone up the most (in % terms) are Economy Savers to Japan/South Korea and Australia (ex Perth and Darwin) + NZ. These awards go up by ~30%.
  • But premium cabin awards to medium and long haul destinations have also been hit hard. Business and First Class to Japan/South Korea/Australia (ex Perth and Darwin)/ New Zealand/ Europe and the USA have all gone up by 25-30%
  • Short haul and China routes see the smallest increases- Business and First Class to South East Asia and China have gone up by 18%

A 30% increase is certainly not to be sniffed at, and it’s going to hurt those people who have been trying to save up for an award only to see the goalposts moved 30% further.

Why would SQ remove the online redemption discount? I’m sure the original reason for introducing it was because it costs less (in terms of customer service time and overheads) to issue an online award ticket than one issued over the phone. However, SQ’s crappy website meant that people had to call in to book the following types of awards

  • Upgrades that required waitlisting
  • Upgrading one leg after the first leg had been flown
  • Mixed cabin awards

In practice these would all receive 15% redemption discounts too because they couldn’t be done online. So perhaps SQ felt it was time to face that reality and simply stop discounting. Or perhaps the creation of a channel through which 15% discounts could be obtained created the idea in peoples’ minds that they should never be paying full price, even when they used the call centre for an award that could be easily ticketed online. It was probably easier for SQ to eliminate this altogether than have to deal with (admittedly unreasonable) customers like this.

That said, it would be unfair to straight away conclude that all Krisflyer award tickets are now “worse value” because we need to first consider the carrot that SQ has thrown us…

What are the implications of removing fuel surcharges?

Image result for Airplane refuelling

This has the potential to be a silver lining. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that fuel surcharges are the junkiest of all charges. They make absolutely no sense. It’s like a restaurant charging you separately for ingredients and saying your base price only includes the cooking.

I applaud SQ for removing fuel surcharges (the conspiracy theorist in me is now wondering if Singapore is going to introduce legislation ala HK, the Philippines and Brazil that outlaws fuel surcharges in the next few months…) because that’s the right thing to do.

The question then is- does the absence of fuel surcharges make up for higher redemption rates?

I’ve pulled out a few award bookings I made in the past few months to check the YQ (Fuel surcharge) component. Here’s what I found (fuel surcharges in SGD)

It seems that on long haul flights (SYD, JFK, IAH), the savings in terms of fuel surcharges do not offset the additional miles you need to pay. 

Take SIN-SYD for example. I now need to pay 16,250 more miles, for which i save S$195.30 in fuel surcharges. This values one of my miles at 1.2 cents, which is way below the 2 cent threshold. Same goes for JFK and IAH.

It’s interesting to note that for my Bali and Bangkok redemptions, I do get a bit more in the way of value per mile. I wouldn’t call this enough to make the increase less painful however, given that I don’t advise people to redeem miles for short haul routes.

Long story short- no. Fuel surcharges are annoying, but you don’t come out on top with their removal because the number of miles needed has increased.

Are premium economy redemptions now worth it?

IMG_20160123_144830

When SQ made premium economy saver redemptions available in May 2016, I said that they weren’t worth it because they cost ~80% the price of a business class award. Given the huge gap in comfort and the small gap in miles, I advised people to save up just a bit more.

Here’s what the ratio between premium economy and business saver awards is before and after the devaluation.

As you can see, it’s still not a good deal. Premium Economy awards still require 75-85% the miles of a Business award. I’d stay clear of these.

Are Star Alliance awards better value now?

Star Alliance awards were not touched by this devaluation, and they never had a 15% discount for online redemptions, thereby leaving the effective price the same.

I wrote an article not too long ago comparing the cost of Star Alliance awards to Krisflyer awards. That obviously needs to be reworked, and the revised working is very interesting

click to enlarge. The % in the last 6 columns refer to the premium (in miles) that you are paying for redeeming via *A as opposed as to via SQ

It is now cheaper to redeem Star Alliance partner awards than Krisflyer awards for certain locations.  Ignoring fuel surcharges for a moment (some partner airlines will charge them, others will not)

  • Singapore to North America in F: 112,500 miles with *A vs 118-120,000 with SQ
  • Singapore to Europe in F: 107,500 miles with *A vs 115,000 with SQ
  • Singapore to Europe in J: 80,000 miles with *A vs 85,000 with SQ
  • Singapore to Australia in F: 75,000 miles with *A vs 80,000 with SQ
  • Singapore to Australia in J: 55,000 miles with *A vs 58,000 with SQ
  • Singapore to Japan/S Korea in F: 60,000 miles with *A vs 65,000 with SQ
  • Singapore to Japan/S Korea in J: 40,000 miles with *A vs 43,000 with SQ

That’s a really, really interesting dynamic change, because I always assumed SQ was actively trying to encourage people to redeem awards on SQ metal rather than *A metal (to avoid having to pay *A partners a reimbursement fee). And now that SQ doesn’t even collect fuel surcharges on award tickets, does the elimination of more miles from their balance sheet outweigh the potential higher volume of cash outflow to *A partners for award redemptions?

More thoughts on this later. In the meantime I’d strongly consider you to think about a Star Alliance award if you cannot find saver space with SQ. It’ll be a good time to try some different products. 

Conclusion

I’ve always felt SQ’s award chart was much “better” compared to those of competitors because award costs were much lower. That evidently needs a rethink. SQ rightly pointed out that the last devaluation took place in 2012 and to their credit they didn’t try to spin this as an enhancement, but it does seem a bit on the nose to do this in the year they’re celebrating their 70th anniversary.

I will have a lot more to write about this in the days and weeks to come, I’m sure. How does this affect the valuation of a mile? Should you start looking at alternative programs like Asia Miles?

If you have an existing award ticket, my advice to you would be to hold on to it, because I don’t think when you factor in the additional miles required you don’t come out on top by saving fuel surcharges.

Breathe people. Breathe.

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35 thoughts on “SQ has devalued its Krisflyer award chart. Here’s what you need to know”

  1. Thanks for putting together such a comprehensive analysis so quickly. We’ll make a management consultant out of you yet. 😉

    So, we have 3 weeks to transfer in our CC points and make bookings under the old prices… Pressure!

  2. Saw this, immediately booked a J redemption to Dusseldorf on the A350. Difference of 68000 + SGD$272 vs 85000 + $0 OW. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Today is an extremely sad day. Literally got the shock of my life when I checked my email and saw the huge increases. Mileage increment is more than my pay increment, sadly.

  4. How about a comparison with Asian Miles, now that the surcharge has been removed for KF? It’s the most direct competitor for KF, since DBS redemptions either go to KF or AM. Thanks for your quick updates!

  5. Thanks for putting your analysis on the redemption hike so quickly!
    Just booked a ticket to Japan tonight (no, not because of the revision) but so glad to beat the hike anyway! In all fairness, I quite like the new system. I have miles to burn, not enough cash to burn. 😜 #firstworldproblem

  6. Any thoughts on whether this makes LifeMiles a more attractive prospect? (Was dithering over the latest promotion which ended Feb 28 and had this KF announcement come earlier, I think that would certainly have forced my hand….)

  7. Great summary of the sad sad changes. It’s a pretty big devaluation and will surely mean *A partners will get more redemptions from KF programme. I wonder if SQ factored that into the equation since *A redemptions can also only be made by phone…

    1. indeed! i wonder if that’s been properly thought through, most noticeably with the fact that F awards on *A are cheaper than F awards on SQ now…

  8. I have booked a first class sq flight to Europe to beat this increase… my final sq redemption… sayonara krisflyer… hello Asia miles!

  9. The big loss for redemption first/business class to HK to TYO, since their fuel charge is so low now. The increment of miles cannot offset the cutoff of low fuel charge!

  10. Even Citibank TY Points tnc are changing 🙁

    From 30 March 2017, the number of Citi Points or Miles that can be transferred to a Participating Travel Loyalty Program must be in blocks of 10,000 partner points/miles.

      1. It is annoying, can’t clear the account with one fee. Need to clear to the lowest 10k.
        Also can’t remember how they do points expiry – is it 5 years from earning the points, or do they do the silly ‘at the end of the 5th year, your points balance will become zero’.

  11. Is there a list of which partner airlines KF will charge surcharges on? That has not changed from the announcements, but now that partner redemptions are in play I am paying more attention.

  12. just redeemed business saver to mel and realised fuel surcharge is more than $400!!! kinda… like in this case, isnt giving up the 15% for no fuel surcharge kinda worth it?!…. darn i’m ticketed -_-….

    1. Actually, only $339.60 are carrier surcharge for SIN-MEL-SIN. With the new pricing, not only will the 15% discount disappear, the new redemption miles for MEL is 58k each way. Therefore you need 116k miles come post March 23.

  13. Thanks Aaron. Would be awesome if you could elaborate more on redeeming on Star Alliance metal. ANA to TYO and USA in Biz class does sound more attractive now.

    Would be helpful if a table for popular destinations like the US (BR, NH, OZ) and Europe (TG) are compared to see which airline saves us more miles or cash.

  14. Ok…. I have a question. Hopefully someone can answer. My wife and I are traveling LAX-NAR-SIN on late October in business on KF points at the standard rate since we are taking a cruise and can’t take a chance with the waitlist. Already ticketed. However, I’m saving more miles to rebook in F. Will I get refunded my fuel surcharges from when I first booked if I rebook in F?

  15. Thanks for the analysis! Now I have gone ahead to redeem a flight to Japan (in Dec!) but am currently waitlisted. Assuming it does get confirmed down the road, SQ will honour it at pre-23 March quoted miles + taxes right? Any views?

  16. i have given up collecting their mileage long long time ago. the fuel surcharge is not worth it for me to redeem. I might as well wait for promo price. Few years back redeem to melbourne and cost me 400+ fuel surcharge and their promo air ticket is around 500 to 600. Even cheaper with E* or Q*. felt disgusted with their fuel surcharge. recently booked promo ticket to shanghai at 528 (170 is price of airticket and the rest is fuel surcharge and airport charge) can you imagine that!!!.

    1. hi woo, redeeming for economy tickets has never been a good value proposition. And i dont think the situation has changed much with zero fuel surcharge. We are better off finding the cheapest flights online. Or at best, something like Scootbiz.

  17. One question.
    In light of the impending Mar 23 deadline, I would like to ask:
    For a return flight to BKK on J class for Songkran, should I book:

    1) 34k miles + S$206.70 (before Mar 23)
    2) 40k miles + S$66.10 (after Mar 23)

    $140.60 saving for 6k miles. That works out to be 2.34 cents per mile. Hmm…which option would you choose?

  18. I suspect one reason for the increase in redemption miles required was many people accrued miles on their credit card spending unrelated to air travels. It has always been difficult to earn krisflyer miles on SQ promotional or cheaper fares so logically SQ should not be making it so difficult for those who paid higher fares to use their miles. Now that they are also penalising those who spend more they are giving these customers another reason to look at other FPP.

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