Category Archives: Airlines

Airlines

Revisiting the Krisflyer Star Alliance Partner Chart

EDIT: Revised guidance to this article now exists. Please refer to this article for the latest version.


I said before that it doesn’t make sense to redeem Krisflyer miles for Star Alliance partner awards. That still holds true. Krisflyer’s partner chart is structured in such a way that the greatest value still comes from redeeming Krisflyer miles for SQ awards.

BUT, I now feel upon closer inspection that there is 1 key exception- flights from Singapore to certain places in Europe (namely, what SQ calles Europe 2)

Here’s how many miles Krisflyer charges for a one-way ticket to Europe in the various classes on SQ vs on Star alliance partners (prices reflect SQ’s 15% award discount)

Class On SQ (Europe 1) On SQ (Europe 2) On Star
Economy 29,750 29,750 45,000
Business 51,000 68,000 80,000
First 72,250 91,375 107,500

Europe 1=Amsterdam, Athens, Copenhagen, Rome

Europe 2= Barcelona, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Zurich

Note: Krisflyer Star Alliance awards do not split Europe into 2 zones- there is only 1 Europe.

Suppose you want to fly business/first class to a popular destination that SQ doesn’t fly to in Europe. Maybe Berlin,  Madrid or Lyon. Or basically, anywhere else in Spain, France, the UK or Germany, or perhaps countries not serviced by SQ like Portugal, Austria or Belgium.

If you redeemed your KF miles for an SQ ticket, your best option would be to redeem a ticket to  fly to a city in Western Europe serviced by SQ and then take a cheap flight to your final destination. Depending on the type of airline you fly, this could add a couple hundred more dollars to your final fare. And you’d need to buy 2 separate tickets, which means less certainty in the event of irregular operations (IRROPs) (especially so if your second ticket is with a non-Star carrier or worse, a budget airline, which will almost certainly require you to claim and recheck your bags, which rules out any chance of a 1 hour connection time)

Viewed this way, the incremental 12,000 miles (for business) isn’t that much extra to pay for the convenience of getting to your destination on 1 itinerary and not having to buy a separate ticket.

What’s more, if you do this you won’t be subject to SQ’s somewhat arbitrary controls on business class award availability. There is only 1 class of Star Alliance partner redemption tickets, and with numerous European members you’re (TAP, SAS, Austrian, Lufthansa, Aegean) you have a good chance of finding something that works with you.

I don’t recommend doing this for first class because intra-Europe’s version of premium cabins are simply economy class seats with the centre seat blocked off. Really.  There is no such thing as business or first class on intra-Europe flights.

intra-europe business class on Lufthansa (courtesy of thepointsguy)
intra-europe business class on Lufthansa (courtesy of thepointsguy)

Obviously this logic doesn’t work on Europe 1 flights, which are significantly cheaper than Europe 2. If you’re going to other cities in countries in Europe 1, it makes more sense to redeem with SQ and get a cheap flight for your final leg because of the overall miles savings.

Is anyone planning to redeem Europe flights soon?

 

cover photo by matthintsa

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

You can earn Krisflyer miles on Scoot and Tigerair, but you shouldn’t

scoottiger

Not too long ago SQ announced that it was going to seek closer integration with Tiger and Scoot. Avoiding the obvious “why would you want to do that” question, it seems that this has now become reality.

In April it was announced that you could redeem your Krisflyer miles at the jaw-dropping rate of ~1 cent each for Tigerair/Scoot vouchers. Recall that a S$30 voucher cost 3,200 miles, S$50 cost 5,300 miles and S$100 cost 10,500. Considering that the cheapest redemption on SQ starts at 6,375 (Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei), there’s really  no reason to do this unless your balance is less than that and soon to expire.

Now, Scoot and Tigerair have announced their new PlusPerks (Scoot) and FlexiCombo (Tiger) add-ons, which bundle additional benefits including the ability to earn Krisflyer miles.

When I first heard about the integration, a naive part of me thought- oh, that’s great. Now when I fly Tiger occasionally for recreation travel I can earn some miles on the side. But, of course, there is a catch to it- you are basically paying to buy miles.

Let’s look at the two options

Scoot PlusPerks

scoot

I need to write a long essay one day on why Scoot’s branding is so misaligned with what it actually does IRL. For all the talk of “Scootitude” (a made-up, vapid word which employees probably groan at when senior management trots it out), Campbell Wilson has been an extremely bland CEO. AirAsia and Virgin have personality because Tony Fernandes and Richard Branson have personality. Campbell Wilson (or at least his public persona) seems so jarring when you consider he was a career SingaporeAir man who was then laterally transferred to Scoot, as opposed to a career entrepreneur like Fernandes or Branson.  But that’s another story for another time.

So Scoot sells a PlusPerks package that offers

  • The ability to earn KF miles
  • Extra legroom
  • Booking flexibility (1 date/name change per booking up to 24 hours before departure)
  • First to board

This package retails at S$39 for short-haul and S$59 for long-haul flights. And the miles earning? Well, heh.

scootfail

You know, when I saw this table I almost thought it was talking about percentages. Like, Singapore to Thailand routes will earn 60% of the regular miles. But no, it refers to miles. You get 60-150 miles for buying Economy fares on Scoot. For perspective, Singapore to Bangkok is ~880 miles.

Oh, and if you’ve purchased PlusPerks on an Economy sales fare, you will get the additional benefits but no miles. And if you used a voucher redeemed with KF miles, you don’t earn miles even if you buy PlusPerks.

Guys, seriously. There are valid reasons to buy a PlusPerks package. Maybe you’re on a long haul flight and that extra legroom would make you comfortable. Maybe you think you’ll need to change the date and you want that additional level of security. Maybe you want guaranteed overhead space near you through priority boarding. But anyone who buys PlusPerks because of the miles is an idiot. Friends don’t let friends buy PlusPerks for miles.

Tiger FlexiCombo

20150929_flexicombo

Tiger’s version of this package offers

  • 15Kg check in baggage
  • Seat selection
  • 1 flight change fee waiver
  • The ability to earn Krisflyer miles

The package retails at $50.

I actually slightly prefer Tiger’s implementation of this because at least you get 15kg check-in baggage.

tigerfail

But once again, the mile earning is, well, disappointing. Look, I get that this is a budget carrier, and if you flew SQ on a super deals ticket you’d only get 10% of the miles or around 88 miles. But SQ on a superdeals price would be only maybe 10-15% more expensive than a Tiger or Scoot, and once you take into account luggage fees, seat selection etc you’d be more or less indifferent.

So unless you want additional flexibility (which to be a fair an SQ super deals ticket wouldn’t offer) this may be worth a punt, but please, please, please don’t get this for the miles! There are much better ways of earning, like paying with your DBS Altitude AMEX or Visa, both of which earn you 3 miles per $1 on air tickets (4.5 miles for DBS Altitude AMEX if you managed to get the first 6 month promotion)

cover photo by kurtclifford