More implications of the Krisflyer devaluation

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless”. What do people gain from all their labors  at which they toil under the sun?

You’d forgive many a Krisflyer member for feeling like Solomon on a Thursday morning as we take stock of the sudden Krisflyer carnage visited upon us last night.

Here’s a link to my initial take on the changes. After sleeping it over I’ve thought of some additional pointers raised by this devaluation. There will no doubt be more analysis in the days to come.

You should chase your waitlist to clear

I’m intrigued to see what SQ’s revenue management team will be doing in the 3 weeks we have before the devaluation takes place. We all know that the Krisflyer waitlist is cleared manually. But does the revenue management team

(A) Clear as many awards as possible between now and 23 March so as to maximise the money SQ collects from fuel surcharges or

(B) Deliberately hold up clearing the waitlist till 23 March so as to maximise the miles SQ clears off its balance sheet

It’s certainly an interesting thought exercise and I’m sure SQ management must have considered this already. The “fair” approach to take would be for SQ revenue management to follow exactly the same heuristics as they do now when clearing waitlists, but there’s nothing obliging them to do it.

Remember: it doesn’t matter when you waitlisted your award booking. All that matters is when it is ticketed. If you ticket before 23 March, you enjoy the old rates. If you ticket on 23 March or later, you pay the new rates (but no fuel surcharges).

I’ve established in my first article that the savings on fuel surcharges do not offset the higher mile requirements, so I’d recommend you pick up the phone and start chasing SQ.

SQ’s new cabin products will cost you more

Image result for singapore airlines suites
soon to be replaced

Part of me wonders whether the timing of this devaluation has anything to do with the fact that SQ is intending to launch new cabin products for its A380 aircraft some time this year.

If so, this would suggest that SQ will not prevent KF members from redeeming its new cabin products at saver rates, a tactic it has used before when unveiling the 2006 new First and Business Class seats and the 2007 Suites product.

Of course there’s nothing stopping you from locking in award tickets at the current rates for 2018 now and hoping your aircraft gets switched to a new one, which brings me to my next point…

Your existing awards are protected even if your dates change

In theory, any ticket you redeem now will be protected against the future price increase so long as whatever changes you make do not require a reissuance of a ticket. 

Date changes do not trigger a reissuance. So if I lock in a round trip first class ticket to SFO today at 182,750 miles and subsequently change my dates in August, I will not be required to pay anything new.

That’s the theory at least. Whether front line SQ phone agents will be bright enough to see this logic remains to be seen, and I fully anticipate we’ll see more than a few complaints about this. If the agents refuse to honor the old rates, ask to speak to a supervisor. Let’s see how this goes.

You should now be channel agnostic when buying SQ tickets

Airlines do not discriminate among channels when awarding miles for air tickets. A Y fare class bought from Expedia enjoys the same accrual rates as a Y fare class bought from Priceline as a Y fare class bought directly from Singaporeair.com.

However, if you want to upgrade your full fare economy/premium economy/business class ticket to the next highest fare class using miles, you’d traditionally need to buy direct from SQ in order to enjoy the 15% miles discount.

I learned this the hard way after buying a premium economy ticket from SIN-FRA via Expedia in order to take advantage of the UOB PRVI 6mpd promotion.

I went online to try and upgrade my ticket to business class, but found that SQ was unwilling to offer the 15% online redemption upgrade discount because I’d bought the ticket through a 3rd party.

The additional 15% I had to spend ended up offsetting the additional 2mpd I earned through paying with my UOB PRVI Miles AMEX as opposed to my HSBC Advance.

UOB PRVI 6mpd promotion

With the removal of the 15% discount, however, there’s really no incentive to buy your tickets directly from SQ. This might be one of the unintended consequences of the Krisflyer devaluation (although Krisflyer might very well make a new rule that only tickets bought directly from SQ can be upgraded using miles. We shall see)

There are some loopholes in the Star Alliance award chart

I pointed out in my first article on the devaluation that it was now cheaper to redeem Star Alliance first class. It seems I’m not the only one who has noticed this, as the US blogs have picked it up. Their examples are US centric, so let’s take this from a Singapore point of view.

click to enlarge- the % in the last 6 columns refer to the premium you are paying to redeem via *A as opposed to via SQ

Suppose I wanted to fly to a destination in the US that’s unserved by SQ. Think Miami, Seattle, Portland, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Boston etc. All awesome cities, but not served by SQ.

If I wanted to use Krisflyer miles what I’d traditionally do is book an award ticket to the closest SQ-served destination and buy a cheap economy ticket for the rest of the way. This is because the additional Krisflyer miles I’d need to spend to redeem a Star Alliance award would more than offset whatever savings I’d have by not having to buy a separate revenue ticket.

In other words, a one way itinerary like SIN-HKG-SFO-PDX in First Class would price (before the devaluation) at

  • 112,500 miles with *A
  • 91,375 miles with Krisflyer (and I need to buy an additional ticket to get from SFO-PDX)

After the devaluation

  • 112,500 miles with *A
  • 118,000 miles with Krisflyer (and I need to buy an additional ticket to get from SFO-PDX)

What I’d do in this case is call up Krisflyer membership services and ask to book a Star Alliance award from SIN-PDX in First. Assuming award space is available, they’ll give me SIN-HKG-SFO in First and a connection on UA from SFO-PDX, also in First. So it costs me less to get to where I need to go!

This is certainly an interesting opportunity for any Krisflyer member who wants to explore more of the US and it remains to be seen how long this loophole will exist.

Your valuation of a mile needs to change

Let’s talk theoretical value as opposed to actual value, because, as I mentioned in my iPayMy webinar presentation on airlines, actual value is the product of some complex considerations including how much you value certainty, how available saver space is, how much you would really have been willing to pay for a ticket etc.

sample revenue prices and miles prices for selected destinations. click to enlarge

The theoretical value of a mile  has traditionally been 1-2 cents for economy, 4-5 for business and 7-8 for first.

With the devaluation, it comes down ever so slightly.  1-2 cents is still the threshold for economy class (in the example above I’ve used SQ’s lowest possible economy fares, which strictly speaking will not be a fair comparison because award tickets can be changed or refunded with minimal to no charges, whereas these cheap economy fares will not be), 3-4.5 cents for business and 4.5-7.5 for first.

Keep in mind that I’ve also not considered airport taxes on award tickets as part of the equation because they should be minimal, but that will bring down the valuation ever so slightly.

Conclusion

I’m sure this is only the tip of the iceberg. I know a lot of people are asking about Asia Miles now and whether they should transfer their DBS/UOB points there instead of to Krisflyer. I promise you we’re looking at that and will publish something shortly.

Guestwriters, help.

32 thoughts on “More implications of the Krisflyer devaluation”

  1. Devaluation is part of the game and this round of devaluation will not have a huge impact on me. I probably will not transfer my credit card miles to other airlines. What this means is that perhaps it is time to consider buying premium cabin revenue tickets more, expanding the selection of carriers, and not be limited to flying with SQ. Prices for business class tickets with other carriers are getting lower and it appears that SQ is offering more discounts on premium cabins . If the redemption is available and makes sense at the time I am planning to travel, then I will redeem my SQ miles.

    1. what you are saying is completely rational.

      but it’s more fun to put on goth kid clothing and sit in the dark.

  2. Damn….i converted all my DBS & Citibank miles into KF not too long ago. Now I’m just praying my Suites flight to SYD in Nov (praying for new suites) can be cleared before the deadline.

    1. do let me know if you have any success chasing them to clear the waitlist. i shall be most interested to see which of the two approaches I mentioned they’ll be following.

      1. I managed to get my suites confirmed.. but now I’m worried that if I do change the dates of my ticketed redemption booking post Mar 23, I will be charged the new redemption rate. First world problems.

        1. guys. this will not happen. relax. on hwz someone called up krisflyer already and asked your exact same qn. got told that if it involves no reissuance then you’re ok.

  3. I hope this is not a silly question but what will prompt the reissuance of tickets? If I have to renew my passport in June and I redeem my miles now, will that be a problem for me later on?

  4. Are you sure they will continue to honour the old rate if you book now and change your dates post 23 March?

    When you change your dates, the system re-looks at the prevailing rates on the new dates, so I fully expect them to say that because the new dates costs more in miles that they will charge you the difference to change.

    AND because they have this policy of not refunding any excess, I don’t expect them to refund the fuel and insurance surcharges either…

    1. the only way to know for sure is wait till post 23 march. but i don’t see any reason why it would not be honored. remember that date changes can be done online (provided the first leg has not been flown) and you dont actually need to deal with a CSO. unless of course they change their back end or something

    2. Spotted on a post on HWZ

      “1. Date change. If the change only involves a change of date, there will be no further charges/recalculations for as long as the ticket is valid (1 year from issuance). If there is a date change after 1 year from issuance date, it has to be re-issued. In this case, the ticket will follow the new TNCs, any YQ paid will be refunded, and you are required to top up any miles difference.”

      Though if I were personally affected by this, I’d probably try to get that in email from SQ.

  5. I think you are underestimating the savings in the fuel surcharge. A point is technically free, and while you need more points and their value has gone down it is not costing you anything to earn those extra points. While the savings on the fuel surcharges is cold hard cash! I regularly use my UA points to redeem on SQ as would use more points but pay just a $25 booking fee.

    I have right now on hold return flights to Male as they cleared the wait list. I have until 2nd April to confirm- so now it is 5 people economy saver so total 157,000 points plus $2000 in charges- what would it be under the new scheme?

    1. well technically a point isn’t free, because you need to think of it in terms of what you gave up to get it. for people who buy miles via annual fees, it’s definitely not free. for people who gave up earning cashback to earn miles, that mile isn’t free. for people who opted to use Bank X card for a meal rather than bank Y card when bank Y has a dining discount it’s not free. they all involve opportunity cost or explicit out of pocket cost.

  6. Great analysis Aaron. I am amazed by how quickly you can write these reports. I think Asia Miles (CX) is looking much better now. Their redemption rates is comparable to Krisflyer with the 15% discount, and they have no fuel surcharge. I hope they do not devalue the miles this year following SQ.

  7. These are amazing insights Aaron. Though this is a day of panic/mourning for us all, just want to take a moment to say great great work you’ve put together on this site. Thanks for being so quick to inform and analyze.

  8. From the FAQs, this is what concerns me.
    I’m currently sitting on a couple of speculative SYD suites reservations, also in hope of getting the new A380s. Does this mean that if I cancel one of them after March 23, I’m $200 (taxes) out of pocket??

    ==========
    Q12: I have booked and ticketed my redemption on Singapore Airlines/SilkAir before 23 March 2017, can I get a refund on the fuel and insurance surcharges amount paid?

    We are unable to provide you with a refund on the fuel and insurance surcharges portion alone. However, you may opt to refund your existing ticket, with the applicable service fees.
    =============

    1. nah i dont read it that way. that FAQ is for people who hold confirmed tickets and want to get back just the fuel surcharge but keep their award. ie. have the best of both worlds. won’t happen.

      1. Oh I see what you mean! Phew that’s a relief.
        With lifemiles increasing their cancellation fees, I thought the days of “speculative bookings” are numbered.
        But since SQ is mostly on eternal waitlist this wouldn’t be too much of a problem either.

  9. you are so smart. thank you for doing all this thinking for us. i look forward to reading all your posts. i don’t know anything about asia miles so am waiting to hear what you have to say.

  10. You are right to compare saver awards to classes V & K but this is now a past practice. With falling air fares, SQ is likely forced to compare to Q & N instead, these classes are not used previously.
    Don’t worry about backend system as they have a lot more problems to fix than to add an additional rule to redemption tix change module.
    Like you, I feel this devaluation is not welcome at all. Typical of SQ management where decisions are taken for the sake of believing it should. The team running the numbers are pretty green and clueless.
    Peace out.

  11. Correct me if I’m wrong but the cost for a Y Class redemption ticket to Taiwan is now 25.5k miles (inclusive of the 15% online discount) + $363.70.

    From 23 March, it will be 30k miles + $56.90.

    So in essence, you spend 4.5k more miles, but save $306.80 in airline fuel and insurance surchage. Working this out, every 1 extra mile would have saved you about 6.8c. Not too bad a deal, would you say?

    1. in this case that you’ve mentioned, yes, you’d be better off waiting till post 23 march to book. however, on a broader level, the question you might want to ask is am I ok spending 30,000 miles for economy class tickets when I could get there for ~S$390 all in? no doubt there will be some routes where the savings on fuel surcharges make up for the increase in miles needed. but those routes tend to be the short haul routes where you have a lot of alternative, budget options.

  12. Hi all, I’ve got a couple of Suites tickets for SIN-PEK that I booked pre-devaluation. But now with no YQ there’s a big saving to be made ($227 vs. $32/ticket) by paying a few extra miles (42,500 vs. 50,000/ticket). I called up SQ and they said that if I wanted to get the award ticket at post-devaluation rates they would need to re-issue the ticket (incurring a USD20 charge) and then the difference in taxes will be refunded as well. Has anyone tried changing their pre-devaluation award ticket for post-devaluation rates and not paid the USD 20 fee? Thanks.

  13. Noob question here, but what’s the best way to find out Star Alliance award availability for a route that I need? Is there an online way to do this short of calling up on the phone?

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