All posts by aaronwong

Clearing the SQ waitlist

kf

Ah, the fabled SQ waitlist. I don’t think any other airline has such a perfect mechanism for torturing its loyal members as does SQ.

When there are award seats available in a particular award class (saver, standard, full) but revenue management has not decided to release them yet, the status shows as “waitlist”. Provided you have sufficient miles to redeem the ticket should the waitlist clear, you can fill in your details and add your name to the list. You’ll then receive a confirmation (but the miles will not be deducted yet).

krisflyer

Now you wait. Should the gods (SQ revenue management) look favorably on your request, you’ll receive an SMS anywhere from a few weeks to a day (typically 2 weeks out, although I’ve heard reports of people clearing the waitlist when they got to the airport (!)) before your flight telling you the waitlist has cleared and asking you to call the customer centre to confirm your seat .

How fast you clear the waitlist depends on 3 factors

  1. The route you’re flying on
  2. The cabin you’ve requested
  3. What status you have with SQ

With regards to (1), different routes have different popularity and capacity. Popular routes like SIN-FRA-JFK with good loads and relatively lower frequency have a lower chance of clearing than others. Regional routes which SQ services often (eg BKK, HKG) are popular, but because SQ runs so many flights to these destinations demand is spread out over more flights, increasing your chances of getting a seat. In reality this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation- popular routes have more flights but also more competition, less popular routes have fewer flights but less competition.

Suffice to say that some of the legendarily difficult routes to redeem miles for include

  • SIN-FRA-JFK in premium cabins
  • SIN-LHR in premium cabins
  • SIN-SYD in premium cabins
  • Silkair award flights to locations like USM (for some strange reason)

With regards to (2), award seats are all about opportunity cost. Yes, SQ has an internal metric that values the miles it has outstanding with members, and allowing a redemption will clear some of that liability from its balance sheet. But SQ also controls the value of that liability directly through its award pricing chart. What the American airlines are known for doing is that when they need to shore up the balance sheet, they just announce a devaluation and just like that, a mile which was previously worth 2 cents liability is now 1 cent. Brilliant.

SQ is generally willing to let the economy class seats get filled up with award passengers because their opportunity cost is lower. But business and first class seats represent a much larger opportunity cost, so SQ will wait until the absolute last minute before releasing these to ensure that they couldn’t otherwise have sold them

Another thing to consider is the type of aircraft- SQ has announced that on its new 777-300ERs, first class seats will be cut from 8 to 4 (they will however be increasing business class from 42 to 48 seats).

old
old configuration with 8 F seats
new
new configuration with 4 F seats

This will obviously have implications for award seats too. Given that the 777 is the backbone of the SQ fleet, this means there will be far fewer F award seats available in the future.

(3) is a black box, because I honestly don’t know how this plays into the equation, other than it is relevant. As I’m sure you know, the pecking order is-

Solitaire Life PPS >Solitaire PPS>PPS>KF EG>KF ES> KF

The higher you are on this rung, the more priority you have in terms of waitlist. It’s even a published benefit that Solitaire PPS members and their redemption nominees get priority access to Economy class saver awards (whee). But does it apply to business/first waitlists? Observation suggests yes. Ever since I’ve become a KF EG member I’ve noticed my business/first awards clearing about a week earlier than before. Of course, that’s from a grand total n of 1. But reading online suggests the same priority exists.

How to get your waitlist cleared?

I’d like to caveat this with the disclaimer that only SQ revenue management knows what their formula is for clearing the waitlist. Online forums are filled with speculation and heresay- some people swear by one method which others say doesn’t make a difference.

Everything below is anecdotal- stuff that has helped me or others I know. YMMV, but if you’re desperate, why not?

Call, call call

SQ really makes you work for your award tickets.  Obviously it’s too early to call them 6 months before you fly, but what I generally do is I start calling them at the T+21 day mark before departure. And then I call them daily. Each time they will say the same thing, that they will send a chaser to the relevant department. Whether or not they do that, I don’t know, but the way SQ’s system works is that award seats are not automatically released. This is a manual trigger process initiated by SQ’s revenue management team . So it doesn’t hurt to have someone bugging them about it.

Link to a revenue ticket, if one exists

If you’re flying with someone on the same flight who has a confirmed revenue ticket, you can ask the CSR to make a comment in your waitlist that your partner is flying on the same flight as well. Giving the PNR enables them to “link” the two (I say “link” because it’s more like a note than an official computer linkage).

Paying SQ a visit

ionsq

Of all the methods, I’m the most skeptical about this. The story goes that visiting SQ’s office in Ion and sitting down with a CSR will help your waitlist clear faster. I can see why people would say that, but the actual clearing takes place in a different department. So all the CSRs there would be doing is what a CSR on the phone would do- to send the same chaser along. Nonetheless, there are people online who swear this worked for them.

If booking for multiple people, use separate reservations

This is good for a few reasons. First, if one of you for whatever reason needs to change his or her plans, it’s easier to change the booking. Second, if they’re only willing to clear the waitlist for 1 passenger at a time, you won’t get skipped over the list (if they’re wiling to clear for 2, and if you waitlist both simultaneously they’ll clear you then your partner so you don’t lose out anyway).

To recap

  1. Only SQ revenue management knows the exact rules behind opening up award seats. 
  2. Waitlists generally start to clear 2 weeks before departure
  3. Accept that waitlists are a sad fact of SQ redemptions, and you should have backup handy in case the waitlist doesn’t clear

Happy waiting!

cover photo by xiaojun

The squeaky wheel gets the grease

I don’t really think much of Hilton, ever since they gutted their loyalty program in an act that rivaled the sacking of Rome. But man, their customer service is something else altogether. And I mean that in a good way.

I stayed at the Hilton Shilim Estate Retreat & Spa in Pune, India, for 2 nights during my company’s offsite. This property is located on one of the many hill stations in the area. According to the photos on the site, it’s a idyllic little retreat with nature and greenery all around you.

HL_stespapoolvillavw01_5_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center HL_poolvillaliving_4_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center HL_shillimspa02_5_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center HL_valleybardeck01_2_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center HL_villaking_6_675x359_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center

Looks nice. Now here’s reality. Amazing what photoshop can do, eh?

IMG_20150904_161743
tears in the curtains around the bed
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spots. lots and lots of spots
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glass not cleaned properly
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more stains
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water (i hope) stains
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dirty curtains and bedsheets

That’s not even to take into account the surroundings, which were full of construction and the associated bugs you’d get from having pools of stagnant water nearby. Service was hit and miss- so big is the property that you need to call for a car just to go from the villa to any of the facilities, but this ended up taking 20-25 mins to arrive each time.

Now, I don’t believe in complaining for the sake of it, but given the expectations surrounding a Category 7 property like this (10 being the maximum for Hilton) I thought it warranted some feedback to Hilton which I duly did.

I didn’t hear anything from them for 2 weeks, but when I followed up with them via their Facebook team, I received the following message

Hello Aaron,

We would like to express our sincere apologies for falling short of our commitment to extend a rewarding experience due to the overall hotel and room condition, lack of diamond benefits, insects, and car service during your stay. In an effort to make amends for your experience, a total of 120,000 points have been posted to your Hilton HHonors account. The Voice of our Customers is critical to ensuring our guests receive a rewarding experience when staying at the Hilton Portfolio of Brands. Thank you for bringing this concern to our attention. Please let us know if we can look into anything else.

Thank you. -Alex

Full disclosure: I am a Hilton Diamond member through a credit card tie up offer, although I don’t make enough stays there to even qualify for Silver. I imagine this must have helped somewhat.

120,000 points is not to be sniffed at by any means. That’s the equivalent of a 2 night stay in the Hilton or Conrad Singapore, or enough for a 1 night stay in one of the “dream” Hilton properties in Koh Samui or the Maldives. Was I expecting this much? Not at all. I appreciate the gesture though.

I think the lesson here is that if something isn’t the way you think it should be, you really need to voice it out to management. Keeping quiet doesn’t help anyone, not least yourself. Of course, that’s not an excuse to be entitled and demand for compensation, but at the very least you’ll know (or hope) that the feedback makes things slightly better for the next guest. And if you get something out of it, consider it to be a bonus.

 

150 Free Starwood Points for Updating Security Questions

I believe that Starwood is one of the last remaining hotel programs  with any significant value left. Starwood points are generally considered to be worth about 2 US cents each. So here’s an opportunity for free US$3 for 10 seconds of work.

security

Simply update your SPG account’s security questions by 31 Oct and you’ll get 150 points for your troubles. Although there is no official acknowledgement of this bonus, it’s been mentioned by the official SPG social media rep on Flyertalk

Too bad I’m currently on a long case in Abu Dhabi with no prospect of earning any Starwood points the rest of this year….