Redeeming Krisflyer Miles for Star Alliance Partner Awards

I’ve written a fair bit about Krisflyer’s Star Alliance partner award chart, but the most recent article was from before SQ’s devaluation in March this year.

As you know, the devaluation raised prices for Singapore Airlines award tickets across the board, but didn’t touch the Star Alliance partner chart. This means there’s a new calculus in play when weighing up redeeming your miles on SQ versus Star Alliance partners, and in this article we’ll examine how you should approach the Star Alliance partner chart.

Krisflyer Star Alliance Award Chart- round trip prices. One way prices are 50% of the values shown here. Click to enlarge

For those of you new to the topic of Star Alliance partner awards, have a read of this article to find out how you can look for partner award space on other Star Alliance airlines (SQ does not show this online, and you’ll need to call up Krisflyer membership services to book)

For trips starting from Singapore

If you can’t find SQ saver space, look at the Star Alliance partner chart before considering standard awards
Click to enlarge. SQ Standard Awards vs Krisflyer Star Alliance Partner Chart and cost ratio. Negative figures in last three columns mean Standard Awards more expensive

Look at the chart above (click on it to enlarge). SQ Standard Awards are a heck of a lot more expensive than Star Alliance partner awards. This means that if, for example, I can’t find business saver space on the elusive SQ25/26 route from SIN-FRA-JFK, I’d be much better off considering flying with EVA Air or ANA (97,500 miles OW) than shelling out the Standard award price (120,000 miles OW).

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EVA Air Long Haul J product
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ANA long haul J product

[I get that a lot of people have a “SQ or bust” mentality, but I’d like to encourage those of you who do to consider flying with other airlines too. EVA and ANA have two of the best business class products out there, and I’d put their long haul business class product in the same category as SQ for sure (EVA even has things SQ doesn’t have in J like Rimowa amenities kits, PJs and vintage champagne)]

Even if some saver space is available, remember that there may be a situation where you’re trying to redeem 2 or more tickets for your spouse/family and SQ only has one saver seat. In such cases it’s certainly worth seeing if other airlines have instantly confirmable award space in the cabin you want for the number of tickets you want before looking at SQ Standard awards (you could book a saver and standard award on SQ, of course, averaging out the price towards the middle, but the question again is how many seats you need)

Star Alliance partner awards are cheaper than SQ Saver awards on certain routes
Click to enlarge. SQ saver awards vs Star Alliance partner awards

One quirk that the Krisflyer devaluation brought about (intentionally or otherwise) is that it is now cheaper to redeem Star Alliance partner awards than SQ saver awards for certain destinations.

Look at the last 3 columns- where the values are in red, it means that Star Alliance partner awards cost less than an SQ saver award for a particular ticket class. Oh fine, I’ll spell it out

  • 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 (ex Perth) in F: 75,000 miles with *A vs 80,000 with SQ
  • Singapore to Australia (ex Perth) 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

The analysis above does not take into consideration fuel surcharges, which are no longer levied for SQ awards but may still be present on some Star Alliance partner awards (depends from airline to airline). Those are hard to make general statements about, and I’d advise you to call up SQ to see the final prices in terms of miles and surcharges for your particular routing and airlines before deciding.

But there’s more to this- even if you’re an SQ until I die person,  you can still fly on SQ while paying fewer miles.

Here’s an example: suppose I want to fly business class from Singapore to Frankfurt. I can find a saver award available on SQ326 on 2 October 2017 that gets me to FRA at 2040. This will cost me 85,000 Krisflyer miles if I booked it straight.

(my understanding is that you cannot combine SQ standard awards with Star Alliance partner awards, but anyone with experience feel free to say something)

But…I also see via Aeroplan (refer to my article on searching for Star Alliance partner space to learn more) that there is award space on Lufthansa for FRA-VIE on 3 October 2017.

What I can do is call up Krisflyer membership services and tell them that I want to fly from Singapore to Vienna on 2 October 2017. Then tell them that I see SQ326 and OS126 available, and ask them to book me on both. This will cost 80,000 Krisflyer miles on business class as per the Star Alliance award chart.

OS126 departs at 1950 on 3 October, so that’s still below the 24 hour threshold needed for it to be a layover not a stopover, yet long enough for me to ask the ground staff in SIN to short check my bags to Frankfurt. In FRA, all I do is exit the airport and don’t take the Vienna flight.

I get that this is some additional work for saving only 5,000 miles, and there is the possibility that fuel surcharges (if any) on FRA-VIE will further eat into the miles I save.  I just wanted to point out that it’s possible. (EDIT: there is some discussion below on the comments regarding this practice, and I want to point out that it shouldn’t be something you do week in week out. But as an occasional practice I don’t see the harm)

Image result for nice beach france
Beach in Nice, France

Furthermore, if nothing else this should be a reminder that there’s so much more to explore of Europe than just the gateway cities that SQ flies to. Why not fly to Nice, or Brussels, or Prague? Star Alliance is strong in Europe, with TAP, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, Aegean, ADRIA, Croatia, and Brussels, odds are good you can find a new place to explore.

Star Alliance partner awards cost the same as SQ saver awards for Zones 2, 3 and 4

Assuming you’re product agnostic, you can explore the possibility of booking Thai/EVA when you want to travel to Thailand or Taipei.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say you SHOULD fly with EVA between Singapore and Taipei over SQ. SQ operates A330s on this route with an awful angle flat product in J

Image result for sq a330 business class

EVA operates its 77Ws with full flat business class seats

There’s also a case to be argued for opting for TG over SQ if you want to redeem SIN-BKK (although I’d say in general it makes no sense to redeem miles for short haul business), depending on the type of TG aircraft you get. SQ operates regional J seats on these routes (unless you’re lucky enough to get the Ultimo seat…) but TG operates an eclectic mix of cabin products including the B787 and A350.

Yes, it’s a short flight, but it’s still fun to fly with this on a 2 hour hop

Again, this doesn’t take into account the possibility of fuel surcharges, so you’ll need to call up and find out whether they’re substantial- but on short haul flights they shouldn’t be substantial.

For trips between other regions

The Star Alliance partner chart remains useful when you’ve got travel planned that’s outside of Singapore. Here are two sweet spots I picked up, but feel free to chip in if you’ve spotted others.

USA domestic flights/ flights between USA and Canada

Let’s say you’re touring the USA and want to fly from SFO to EWR (I’d say JFK but United doesn’t operate there anymore…noobcakes) so you can trade In N Out for Shake Shack.

That’s a flight that clocks in just over 5 hours, which is a lot of time to spend in basic economy. But for just 20,000 miles you could fly first class instead. Keep in mind domestic first class in the US is nothing to get excited about (still better than coach though)

In the US, business AND first class awards book into first class. So a First Class ticket can be redeemed for 20,000 Krisflyer miles one way.

You may even occasionally luck out and see award space on a direct flight, which means you’ll enjoy a lie flat seat on the flight (United offers premium seating on commercially important routes such as SFO and EWR, SFO and BOS, LAX and EWR etc)

Image result for united sfo ewr business

Europe to Middle East flights
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Lufthansa First Class Terminal Cabana

I discussed this in my review of the Lufthansa First Class Terminal, but it bears repeating. If experiencing the FCT is on your bucket list, one of the cheapest ways of doing it is by getting a one-way first class award redemption from FRA-the Middle East. This will set you back only 35,000 Krisflyer miles . I think that’s a fantastic opportunity to try the FCT plus a Lufthansa first class experience.

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The issue is that Lufthansa only releases award space in F in general 2 weeks before departure, so you’re going to need flexibility. Here’s an example of LH F space from FRA-BAH, for a flight on 12 Sept 2017.

Conclusion

Sadly, a lot of Krisflyer members will never book a Star Alliance partner award. It’s their loss, really, because they’re missing out on the chance to overcome some of SQ’s restrictions on saver space, try new destinations and new cabin products.

I’m not sure how long SQ will retain its current Star Alliance partner chart given the quirk it now has where some partner awards are cheaper. It’s no secret that SQ doesn’t want you to book partner awards because it costs them reimbursement money, but maybe the volume of people taking advantage of this loophole is small and therefore not worth bothering with.

32 comments

  1. Hey there,

    I want to fly business from SIN to either Munich or Toulouse (latter being preferred) from June 29t 2016 until August 7th 2016. Do you have any magic fares lurking around? I will soon have 155k KrisFlyer miles and also still have 100k Aegean Miles&More miles. What would you suggest? I personally do not need any miles for keeping gold for next year as I am flying business at Christmas….my wife, who will only fly from the 29th of June until July 15th, will need miles though. Anyway, any help would be awesome.

    Cheers,

    Wolfgang

    1. sorry- totally missed this post. i would strongly suggest you don’t burn KF miles for star alliance redmeptions. Lifemiles is the answer! were you able to get in on the latest lifemiles sale? there should be another one around christmas

  2. Hi Aaron

    I am trying to redeem miles for a business class ticket to Europe in May, but am having no luck on available tickets. Am surprised as its more than 6 months later and it’s already on wait list. Care to share your tips on how to snag the business class tickets?

    Thanks

    1. hi cindy!

      need more details- what route? business saver is almost impossible to get for periods <9 months and >2 weeks to departure. it’s just like that sadly.
      i would suggest you look at cathay. you can waitlist without any miles in your account, if it clears transfer miles and book. have this as your backup option (hopefully you kept your miles in your dbs/uob account in point form so you can transfer to asiamiles at 1:1 ratio too). in fact you should count yourself lucky that business saver waitlist is open…for a lot of US flights business saver wont even be available. otherwise…lifemiles?

        1. I haven’t exactly fixed my routes yet as I really want to fly business with my mum as a surprise so it’s kind of dependent on which routes are available. London is a must and preferably Barcelona. I currently have 89k krisflyer points (22k which expires in nov) , 110k in Citibank, 50k in DBS (think it’s only krisflyer redeemable?) and $13k with Amex. Think I have just enough to scrap 2 business class on krisflyer. Appreciate your help!

  3. I wouldn’t say its not worth while in terms of mileage required but the surcharges they charge is atrocious. I have redeemed a flight on Turkish Airlines to Europe on business and they charge a whopping $300 for surcharges even though if you redeem the same ticket on United or with Turkish, surcharges are less than $50. I have written a feedback letter to them but I have not heard from them yet. Obviously the surcharges is going to them and not to Turkish and there is no justification for that. Interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    1. let me know what they say because i’m not clear on that too. i mean, lifemiles doesn’t charge any fuel surcharges on any award tickets but SQ does. does this mean that lifemiles eats the surcharges when customers redeem sq tickets? and similarly, for UA/ other ffps that don’t levy surcharges, who eats that? Unless the surcharges are really low and a good amount of that is a disguised fee to sq, which i wouldn’t put past them actually

  4. Hi Aaron,

    Would you happen to know how redemption can be done for Star Alliance flights, using Krisflyer miles?

    I happen to want to travel from Singapore to Sapporo, and SIA doesn’t serve the route, except during a niche period in the December.

    However, I can make a redemption with ANA, transiting in Tokyo, and be able to enjoy ANA Business/First Class, albeit at the cost of some miles.

    I found the routing using United Airlines search tool, and it states the number of miles and the taxes, however, is that indicative, or does Krisflyer charge an extra “fuel surcharge” or “tax for using other airlines”?

    It all seems to be a big black box…

  5. Hi Aaron

    Have u taken a domestic flight in US by redeeming ur miles on a star alliance flight?
    If so can u recommend a star alliance carrier with an acceptable business class product?
    Also, how do you go about redeeming with that carrier using Kris flyer miles?

    Thanks a bundle!!!

    1. yes i have. are you taking about domestic US? then you’re out of luck. unless you’re flying one of United’s PS routes (SFO/LAX-EWR), you can forget about a decent product. you’ll have recliner style first class seats (see my trip report from the RTW trip). if you’re able to get PS routes you’ll have a full flat seat. all aircraft are narrow body (some exceptions though, they may fly wide body now and then but is exception not the rule)
      on the plus side, KF has very good star alliance partner rates for domestic US (see this article)
      you need to call KF membership svcs to book.

  6. Any idea wat about air Canada from SFO/lax to any Canadian state? Read they got decent business class but unable to confirm the kind of seating for these particular routes

  7. Hi Aaron… I take it you visited the Virgin Atlantic JFK clubhouse before? The services like head massage and haircut is stated as complimentary or $20 if taken as an additional service? any idea what that means?
    Also, if flying out from JFK on business are SIA passengers allowed to access these services too? Thanks again! ?

  8. Hi Aaron!

    Planning a trip to Japan in April / May and would like to experience the first class suites (prob can afford only 1 leg!). The trip plan is roughly to entire fly in to Tokyo and out Osaka or vice versa is also fine. My miles are mostly in Krisflyer at the moment but can transfer to Asiamiles via credit cards too.

    Are you able to recommend which flights are best to experience the first class suites? I recall one of your articles mentioning to be selective on redemption in case the hard earned miles get redeemed on a dud product.

    Btw, is there any websites to check what which are the “good” flights to redeem business and first class suites on? Loathe to keep asking you on this!

    1. sorry Cindy I totally missed your post.
      generally you might want to look for a daytime flight that features lunch or dinner service. supper services (I think these are the ones departing after 9pm although I’m sure there’s a proper cutoff time) don’t have the full meal service (i.e no caviar). I believe the A380 is operated both to KIX and NRT right now, so there’s no issue there.

      didn’t understand the second part of your question about good” flights, explain again?

      1. Thanks Aaron! Sorry… got to explain “Good” flights better. I was trying to ask which are the better planes to take business or first class flights on so as to get a better flight experience. For example, your recent Bkk trip was on an old model. How do we find this out especially if we are not as savvy as you are on plane models.

      2. Hi aaron, just saw your post regarding booking of daytime flights. Im booked on a 0130am flight Suites A380 to Auckland on A380. The original thought was that arriving in the morning in Auckland would save me one day of leave. (and hopefully eat some lobster thermidor). Should I reschedule in light of your advice (but I booked on the old system too….)

  9. Was thinking of flying biz to Montreal next year, anyone know if I redeem SA partner awards, can the 1st leg be by SQ, eg. SIN-Frankfurt by SQ biz and Frankfurt-Montreal by Air Canada?

  10. Hi Aaron, very interesting site with lots of great info thank you! We are long time residents of Singapore, since 1996. We will be repatriating to the US soon, and we have a large # of points from our citibank visa card that we need to transfer to one of their partners for future travel. The primary choices seem to be Kris Flyer or AsiaMiles. I am trying to research which choice would give us the most flexibility going forward, with US domestic travel and occasional overseas travel, but with the easiest logistics to execute the redemptions. Asia Miles and Star Alliance both have US carriers as partners, but I am n ot sure of the ongoing hassle-factor of redemption process through each of the programs with partner airlines, fees comparisons, mileage ‘cost’ of flights, etc. I would love any insight you can provide!

  11. Hey Aaron,
    Since SQ’s changes to the KF program to get rid of surcharge (while also getting rid of the online discount), would the analysis change? Would love to see a more updated assessment of where the sweet spots lie.

    Cheers
    AK

  12. Hi Aaron,

    Thank you so much for this website and telling us all the travel hacks.
    I made my mileage strategies/priorities clear to get award business class long haul flights with mileage thanks to many of your posts. Let me know your thoughts, if possible. I might be in the same situations as many of your readers who start realizing the potential of mileages.

    1, Krisflyer – Without thinking anything, I collected mileages to be qualified as a silver member. I will keep collecting the mileages using credit cards such as DBS Women or Altitude, UOB Preferred, and Sign up bonuses until being qualified as gold member as I want to have lounge access. Once I’m qualified gold member and can redeem a return business flights from one of Star Alliance partners. Will keep the gold membership till the expiry.

    2, Asia Miles and Lifemiles – Shifting the strategy to these 2 programs for more business and above award flights. Credit card spending to earn Asia Miles rather Krisflyer. Lifemiles to get Star Alliance mileages.

    Best regards,
    Sayaka

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