All posts by aaronwong

An open letter to the influencers who promoted the Krisflyer UOB account

Dear fellow influencers,

I’m glad you’re all as excited about the new Krisflyer UOB account as I am. I mean, why else would you all have, in a coordinated and synchronized manner, simultaneously posted Instantgram posts on the very day the UOB Krisflyer account was launched?

I have to admit, I feel really noob reading all your posts. After all, you guys take better photos than me, have more aesthetically  pleasing bodies than me and also got more followers than me. Staring at your followers list makes me feel like proverbial urchin staring through shop window on cold Christmas eve.

Now, because none of these posts were tagged #sponsored, #ad, #advertorial, or #theypaidmeinsmallunmarkedbills, I must assume that these are all impartial reviews based on your personal experiences with the product. Therefore, I am genuinely concerned that you guys are missing out on some of the best opportunities to earn miles.

Fortunately, I can help you here! I’ve done some research on the account and while I feel that the overall idea is definitely innovative, there are things that could potentially be improved on. I really hope that UOB takes notice of these and makes some changes so that a great idea doesn’t get let down by poor execution.

Hope this helps!


Dear ladyironchef

I love your food porny posts and the way you introduce to me new restaurants all the time. You’re the reason I haven’t seen my feet in years and have the turning radius of a small van. And am currently going to die alone.

However, it seems like you are paying for your restaurant expenses with the UOB Krisflyer debit card. I think this is a mistake. You see, you could easily be earning 4 mpd on all your local dining and online expenses with the HSBC Advance cardwithout cap, all the way until 31 May 2017!

Yes, I know the card is a bit of a pain in the butt to get, but trust me, when you’re earning unlimited 4 mpd without an arbitrary 5% cap and a chunk of money earning 0 interest in the bank, it is the most shiok feeling ever. More shiok than when the Sin Huat crab beehoon uncle actually treated me with dignity and respect and never try to upsell me. Happy days man.

But what happens after 31 May, you ask? Well, we can hope that HSBC, from the kindness of their hearts, decides to extend this promotion again as they have done time and time again in the past. But if they don’t, you might fancy gambling and applying for the UOB Preferred Platinum AMEX and hope they take your application, failing which you could get the Maybank Horizon Visa Signature card which gives 3.2 mpd on dining. Not as good as 4 mpd, of course, but might be better than parking funds in a 0 interest account.


Dear melissackoh

I love your posts because your photo skills really zai. Every time I see your posts I wonder why I must use Blackberry camera to take all my photos. Then I remember that blur out of focus bokeh is the new black(berry). Ha ha ha!

In your post you implied your trip to Sydney was made possible thanks to the UOB Krisflyer account. I am excited because I also want to go Sydney and see koalas boxing wallabies, which I hear is on the national flag.

Now, it takes 56,000 Krisflyer miles for a round trip Economy saver award between Singapore and Sydney.

If you have $3K-$100K in your Krisflyer UOB account (let’s take $51.5K as the middle value), you’d be earning 1.4 mpd, the bonus component of which (1 mpd) is capped at 2,575 (5% of $51.5K) per month.

To earn those 56,000 miles, you’d need to spend $5,250 a month for a year on your Krisflyer UOB debit card (25,200 base miles, 30,900 bonus miles- remember, bonus is capped at 2,575 a month!) for a total outlay of $63,000

But assuming you spent an average of 30% on dining out, 30% on online shopping and 40% on everything else, with the right card strategy (HSBC Advance + DBS Woman’s World/Citibank Rewards + UOB PRVI Miles) you could get a weighted average of 0.3*4 +0.3*4 +0.4 *1.4= 2.96 mpd! This means you’d only have to spend <$19K in a year to get that Sydney trip!

Plus, you’d be able to put that $51.5K to work for you in koalas boxing wallabies futures. I hear the return on that is non-zero.

Obviously, the equation changes if you have 100k+ in your account, but if you are parking $100K+ without interest in the bank, please let me know who your influencer agency is because mine is clearly not doing its job properly.

BTW, please don’t go to Pancakes on the Rocks. Last time I was in Sydney everyone told me that was THE place to go to, but I thought it was super average. This is why I don’t like people.


Dear bellywellyjelly

I love your travel posts. Super bohemian one. I wish my Bangkok trips could be as awesome as yours but I am scared of new experiences so every time I go it’s Paragon–>Roast–>After You–>Patpong–> Emporium

(EDIT: Posts have since been updated with #ad tags)

In one of your posts, however, you mentioned this-

Here’s a tip, use the #KrisFlyerUOB Account on your fav budget airlines Scoot & Tigerair to get complimentary additional baggage allowance plus FREE seat selection and more 😉 (got you covered here)

Don’t worry! Bro got you covered too!

You might like to know that your complimentary additional allowance  (5kg) only applies if you buy a minimum of 20kg luggage allowance. And you need to buy this 20kg at the time of booking, not after! If you buy after, hard luck.

Also, you talked about complimentary seat selection. I am balding and have bad BO, so no one wants to travel with me. But if you travel with your friends, you need to know that only the principal cardholder gets free seat selection, even if the other travelling parties are on the same booking.

PS- I’m a bit confused, because from the way you’ve written your post…

Scratched this off my bucket list on my trip with #KrisFlyerUOB, the first debit card & account in Singapore. 

…it kind of makes it sound like you’ve already been able to travel with the miles you got from this account. Which is quite impressive given that it was only launched a few days ago, and (assuming your situation matches melissackoh’s) you’d have had to have spent ~S$56K to get the 25,000 miles you need for a round trip economy saver (you see your bonus 1 mpd is capped at 2,575 miles each month, meaning you’d have to earn the remainder 22,425 miles at 0.4 mpd)

Moreover, as per the T&C of the UOB Krisflyer debit card, any miles earned only get credited to your Krisflyer account at the end of the month. And it’s only 24th April. If you have lobang for faster miles crediting, please share ok?


Dear thetravelintern

Hope you guys are doing well. I liked that quote by Eleanor Roosevelt you shared- “Do one thing every day that scares you.” This morning I tried using 1 ply toilet paper instead of my usual 2. Don’t want to tell you how that went but the important thing is I tried.

You guys mentioned this in one of your posts-

Great travel perks such as free seat selection and convenience fee waiver when booking flights — no more additional charges to deal with while planning your next big adventure

Regarding the free seat selection- see the advice I gave bellywellyjelly. Regarding convenience fee waiver- take care guys. I know it sounds good but you need to spend a minimum of S$250 on a Scoot/Tigerair booking on a single transaction first. Then you’ll get a fee waiver voucher that can be used on your next booking.

So technically, you should be saying “no more additional charges to deal with while planning your next next big adventure”.  Also, be aware that you get a maximum of one waiver a year per account yeah?

You guys say the Krisflyer UOB debit card is helping you achieve your travel dreams. Let me see if I can help you out there- it takes 25,000 miles to go to Laos in economy saver on Silkair. Assuming the same figures I gave to melissackoh, you would need to spend $1,500 a month, or $18,000 a year to get the miles you need (7,200 base, 18,000 bonus).

But if you used my recommended card strategy @ 2.96 mpd, you’d only need to spend ~$8.5K! Anyway guys, I recommend you save your Krisflyer miles for long haul redemptions. You could get to Laos for <S$400 return trip with budget airlines.


So that’s my advice!

My fellow influencers, let us continue to maintain the highest standards of transparency and miles earningness. Without us, the public is lost.

Excelsior!
The Milelion

What you need to know about Norwegian’s new Singapore-London flight

Budget carrier Norwegian Airlines has announced that it will start non-stop service between Singapore and London from September this year.

CNA’s article on the launch- which, incidentally, features the wrong type of airplane. Not all aircraft are the same, guys

According to the press release, one-way fares from Singapore to London will start at S$199 for economy and S$839 for premium-class with the following schedule

Footnote 4: From 29 Sep to 06 Oct 2017 Footnote 5: From 13 to 27 Oct 2017

It looks like that the press release was incomplete, as from November 2017 the Friday departure from Singapore moves to a much more sensible 10.50pm slot, allowing you to start your vacation on Friday without taking an additional day of leave.

The route is expected to start in late Sept/early October, but in the meantime, here are a few things you should know about the new Singapore-London route.

You’re flying to Gatwick, not Heathrow

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from LGW’s campaign to have Gatwick expanded at the expense of an additional runway at Heathrow

One of the ways that Norwegian can keep prices low(er) is by flying to London Gatwick (LGW) instead of London Heathrow (LHR). LHR is a major international hub and as you can expect, landing slots sell at an obscene premium ($75M for a prime slot, anyone?)

What does that mean for you as a traveler? Well, let’s look at where the two airports are on a map

1=LGW, 2=LHR, 3= Paddington Station

I’m taking Paddington Station as the de facto centre of London for the purposes of this illustration. You’ll see that Heathrow (dot 2 on the map) appears to be closer than Gatwick (dot 1 on the map)

But that’s not the whole story- in terms of public transport (trains in particular), Heathrow and Gatwick have very different options

Heathrow is served by

  • Heathrow Express (15 mins to Central London, GBP 5.50 one-way if booked 90 days in advance for weekends, otherwise GBP14-25)
  • Tube (1 hour to Central London, GBP5-6 any time)

Gatwick is served by

  • Gatwick Express (30 mins to Central London, GBP 17)
  • Thameslink (80 mins to Central London, GBP 20)
  • Southern ( 80 mins to Central London, GBP 20)

The biggest difference is there is no tube option for Gatwick (although Oyster cards are accepted for payment). Anecdotal stories on Flyertalk suggest that Gatwick is less congested than Heathrow as well.

Landing at Gatwick also means there will also be implications for Singapore passengers looking to use the Norwegian flight as a means of connecting to the rest of Europe- depending on where your connecting flight departs from, you may need to budget more time or money.

Fortunately, Gatwick has a wide variety of carriers like Ryanair, Vueling, WOW Air and Norwegian Air Shuttle that can connect you to your onward destination, which should minimize the need to change airport.

Norwegian has 5 types of fares

If you’re flying in economy, you’ll have a choice of booking a Lowfare, Lowfare+ or Flex ticket. If you’re flying in premium, you have the option of Premium or Premium Flex. You can see the differences in each ticket above.

It obviously defeats the purpose of buying a budget airline ticket if you opt for Flex. I mean, SQ’s promotional return economy rates to London are S$1,218, so a one-way Norwegian ticket for S$1,190 just doesn’t make sense.

Based on what I can see, the cheapest possible option for a Norwegian round trip to London is about S$520.

In case you were wondering, it will cost you 76,000 Krisflyer miles and ~S$240 of taxes to travel round trip to London in economy. Despite the removal of fuel surcharges during the recent Krisflyer devaluation, surcharges on UK award flights remain high because of the Air Passenger Duty that the UK authorities charge.

From a quick search on Kayak, the cheapest flights to London are with Air France at S$878. These aren’t direct, however, and require a 90 min layover in CDG. Direct flights would start upwards of S$1,200.

So on the surface, Norwegian appears to be offering a very good deal for a direct flight.

Of course, there’s always the add-ons…

Prepare to be upsold

I suppose it’s part and parcel of opting for a budget carrier that you’ll be upsold left right centre. That said, Norwegian isn’t half as egregious as some other carriers– for starters, none of these add ons are gotcha style pre-selected options.

Bags

Where luggage is concerned, it costs you S$45 for 1 bag (max 20kg) and S$100 for 2, per way (the prices are the same SIN-LGW and LGW-SIN).

Seats

It costs S$45 to select a seat, but interestingly Norwegian does not seem to discriminate among “better” exit row seats and regular seats. It costs you the same amount of money to pre-select a middle seat at the back of a plane as it does an exit row one.

Note that Norwegian has 3-3-3 seating in economy and 2-3-2 in premium.

Meals

Meals on Norwegian aren’t cheap at S$45 (this covers 2 meals on the SIN-LGW flight)

As per the Norwegian website, here’s what you can expect.

    • A hot meal including beer, wine or mineral water during the service
    • You get to choose between two different dinner options. Which one of the options you want you decide on board.
    • You’ll get a small starter, a main course and something sweet to go with your coffee afterwards.
    • Got a special dietary requirement? Don’t worry. We’ve got alternatives for you.
    • On flights with two meal services you’ll also get a light meal

You should also be aware that the second “meal” isn’t much of a meal, more like a cold item.

First Service

  • A cold pasta/salad starter
  • For the main course you have the choice between either a meat or fish dish with vegetables and potatoes or rice
  • The meal is rounded off with a dessert
  • Coffee/tea is served after the meal

Second Service

  • A snack bag which includes a sandwich, a sweet or savoury treat and a juice box

Just what is the Norwegian Air experience like, anyway?

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Given that the flight is blocked at 13h 40 mins outbound and 12h 40 mins inbound, I imagine a lot of people want to know what they can expect on the aircraft.

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Here are trip reports from Norwegian Air’s 787 economy and premium cabins respectively to give you some idea. All seats on the 787 have free IFE and every 3 seats share 2 power sockets. Each seat will also have a USB socket under the IFE screen. Norwegian offers free Wifi on some flights, but it doesn’t look like they’ve extended this to long haul international yet.

Again, it’s difficult to describe the product without actually trying it, but it seems like apart from the absence of a free meal, your cabin experience would not be too different from flying any other full service carrier.

Would I take it?

The flight definitely looks like a spectacular deal to London. 13 hours is a long time, but Norwegian’s cabin doesn’t look particularly punitive in the way that Ryanair or Spirit try to make theirs. In fact, with free IFE and presence of charging outlets, you could argue this would be no different from any other long haul flight.

Image result for norwegian air 787

I think it’s great that long haul budget options are finally coming to Singapore, and I hope the additional competition compels SQ/BA to reduce their cheapest economy fares on this route.

That said, I would probably look to redeem miles (for premium cabin travel) to London, then take a cheap flight to Paris to avoid APD on the return leg to Singapore.

#notaprincess

First Class for the Family: SQ F Ground Experience and TPR

Since discovering the Miles and Points game 3 years ago, Jeriel has now spent a disproportionate amount of time reading the T&Cs of credit cards and frequent flyer programs. His grand plans for round-the-world premium travel has taken a hit since the arrival of his daughter, but he is still determined to fly as far, frequently and luxuriously as possible on Miles and Points. Expect more family-orientated trip reports and travel tips from him!


First Class for the Family – Melbourne 2017

Hacking the SQ Waitlist
First Class for the Family – Ground Experience and The Private Room
SIN MEL 777-300ER First Class Review
Krisflyer First Class Lounge Melbourne Review
MEL SIN A380 Suites Class Review


About 2 weeks out from our intended travel dates, our outbound leg was still booked in Business Class. I had waitlisted First on the same flight, but when I tried to make a dummy revenue booking, there were 7 out of 8 seats occupied on the seatmap. I was pretty much resigned to flying J.

Why the need to fly F? Our primary concern was for our daughter. This red-eye was scheduled to depart at 2345hrs, and we were hoping that she would be sleeping by the time we boarded the plane. As anyone who has been to the SilverKris Business class lounge would know, it certainly isn’t an ideal place to coax a toddler to sleep. The Private Room would provide significantly more space, peace and quiet. In particular, there is a dedicated parents’ room at the back of TPR. While it is hopelessly under equipped, it still meant we would be able to turn down the lights and get her snoozing.

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Looks nice, until you try to squash your feet into that little recess there and sleep diagonally

On the flight itself, J isn’t so bad. I would say the only perk about flying with an infant in J is that you are almost guaranteed the bassinet seat. There is a significant difference in the hard product between the bulkhead and regular international business class seats on SQ. Bulkhead seats have a full ottoman, whereas the regular seats only have a small cubby for your feet. This makes a world of a difference when the bed is deployed, especially for taller individuals like myself. The bassinet seats are all bulkhead seats and are routinely blocked out for pre-selection by other passengers. Once you have your tickets confirmed, call the SQ hotline to purchase your infant-in-lap ticket and at the same time, request for them to assign the bassinet seat for you.

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Same seat, but much better. The ottoman allows you to sleep straight

Well, Imagine my surprise when our F waitlist cleared about 36 hours prior to departure. This presented somewhat of a conumdrum though: should I spend almost 34k miles and a couple hundred bucks (for the infant ticket) more to upgrade my family to First? School never prepared us for difficult, first-world problems like these… After waffling for about 3 hours, it was already midnight and my wife snapped, ‘just upgrade the bloody flight and go to sleep la!’ Thus it was decided.

Was it worth it in the end? Most definitely not. On hindsight, if I were given a choice again I’d probably have stuck with J for a number of reasons. But I guess this is what the Milelion is for, sharing expensive mistakes so that we all can maximize the miles and points we have painstakingly collected for better travel experiences.

Since I’ve written about the First Class check-in experience and TPR before here, instead of the usual review, I hope to examine some of the more esoteric considerations one may have to think about when deciding between J and F over the next 2 posts, especially in the context of travelling with a young family. Hopefully some of you may find this helpful.

1) Check in Process – All Style but no Substance

Flying First or Suites entitles you to use the First Class check in lobby at Terminal 3. Now I really think this area is quite beautiful. The driveway is huge and the room is beautifully appointed with lots of space and seating. We were the only people using the area (as you probably would be since the process is usually quick and seamless), so my daughter had a great time running around and exploring the different sofas and chairs.

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Driveway of First Class Check in Lobby
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Not another passenger in sight.

Well it definitely makes you feel special, but practically speaking this area offers little more than the dedicated queue in the main hall. You have a porter to carry your bags to the counter and a nice place to sit (instead of stand), but that’s about it.

With children, the main check in hall has so many attractions and displays which will probably keep them entertained for far longer. In my opinion, this is a nice facility to use once in your life perhaps, but definitely should not factor in much when deciding between J and F.

This is a huge pity though, as I’m sure it certainly wasn’t cheap to build and isn’t cheap to staff and maintain. Why Changi cannot collaborate with SQ to come up with a more seamless First Class experience befitting its status as the best airport in the world (like the FCT in Frankfurt or the TG First Class ground service in BKK) really escapes me.

This was made painfully obvious during this particular trip, where we encountered a snag right at the check-in counter, but there was no ‘extra mile’ in the service afforded to us when it mattered most.

We had arrived at Changi almost 5.5 hours prior to our scheduled take off, intending to fully utilize the facilities at the lounge. That proved to be a fortunate decision as we found ourselves in a messy situation with our tickets.

What happened was; as I wasn’t expecting my waitlist of F to clear, I had already ticketed my family on J prior to the upgrade. The CSO who processed my upgrade request had cancelled my daughter’s return ticket, but somehow only re-issued a one-way outbound ticket in return. Basically, she didn’t have a ticket for the trip home.

I have no doubt it was merely an honest mistake on the part of the CSO. It just needed to be rectified before take-off. As my whole family had valid outbound tickets, I was expecting that we could wait for the staff to resolve this issue while we headed up to The Private Room. I was told by the check-in staff member at the First Class area this was not possible. In fact, I was told I couldn’t even wait in the First Class check-in area, but had to make my way out to the SQ Ticketing counter in the main hall to approach the ticketing staff to resolve this. In the end, we had to wait for about 1.5 hours standing at the SQ ticketing desk in the main check-in area waiting for this issue to be sorted out. I can’t even remember how many rounds I walked around the Terminal 3 hall carrying my daughter singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.

After about 30 minutes of waiting, I again politely suggested to the ticketing staff members that we be allowed to go air-side to enjoy the lounge facilities (also because it was getting late and my daughter was getting cranky). We were again denied that request. Another hour elapsed before the ticketing staff asked for permission from their manager for us to head up to TPR. It took another half hour before we were finally issued the new tickets. Thankfully by this time, we were in the comfort of the lounge.

Now, the service at SQ Ticketing wasn’t bad per se. The staff member there assisting me gave me her full attention and set about trying to rectify the situation as quickly as she could. However, shouldn’t prompt and attentive service should be the baseline level provided to any passenger in my situation, regardless of the class of travel? My experience exposes the gaps in the ‘service coverage’ for premium passengers. The service within the confines of The Private Room and during the flight itself is probably amongst the world’s best. From the time you leave home till you reach TPR, and during that short journey from TPR to the doors of the aircraft, it seems you’re pretty much on your own.

In my particular situation, I would have saved myself the long wait if we had simply kept our original tickets. But for now, don’t count on the supposed better service you get as an F passenger to help you get out of sticky situations comfortably.

2) TPR

The Private Room experience has to be one of the big reasons why one would choose F over J. The SilverKris Business Lounge is almost perpetually crowded and noisy, and at times, the First Class Lounge is not much better. TPR, even at its busiest, is truly a sanctuary of peace and quiet. Well, at least until some joker (yours truly) brings their infant over!

The layout of the area is still the same as our previous reviews, but here are some photos anyway.

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View from the Entrance
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View from the back
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Work Area
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One of two snooze rooms
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Dining Area
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The First Class Loo
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Same Tuscan Soul amenities as available in-flight

A positive development seems to be an update in the menu. Previously, a simplified menu was provided based on the time of day. Departing SIN LHR on a 9am flight I had received the truncated breakfast menu, whereas Aaron on his SIN CDG flight received the lunch and dinner menu. This time, we received a nice leather-bound folder with the entire menu, complete with the selection of available beverages. Here is the menu in all its glory (correct as of March ‘17). The wait staff told me that the menu is changed slightly every few months though.

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This looks a lot more presentable doesn’t it?

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Overall a good selection of drinks, but I thought the food menu was not as extensive as it used to be. The Charles Hiedsieck Blanc Des Millenaires on offer was good, but we all know better than to fill up on champagne before the flight itself…

The service was attentive but not intrusive. I received faux shock and dismay at the appalling experience we had at check in. We were shown to the family room and a staff member stayed on hand to make sure we had everything we needed as we put our daughter to bed (we just laid a blanket on the carpeted floor as a makeshift bed).

After she was asleep we had a nice, relaxing meal at the dining area. We had the Sauteed Lobster with Linguine to share, which was delicious. The lobster was fresh and the meat was succulent and QQ, and the pasta was done just right al dente.

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Sauteed Lobster with Linguine

The wait staff recommended Chocolate Therapy for dessert, which worked like a charm. All the injustice from earlier on was forgiven (but definitely not forgotten).

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This. Is. Super.

It was only then could I stretch my legs and look forward to flying the new 77W First Class product.