Category Archives: Guestwriter

First Class for the Family: Hacking the SQ waitlist

First Class for the Family – Melbourne 2017

Hacking the SQ Waitlist
SIN MEL 777-300ER First Class Review
Krisflyer First Class Lounge Melbourne Review
MEL SIN A380 Suites Class Review


Hacking the SQ Waitlist

We have all heard of the adage, ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’. Well, my wife and I certainly do not plan to spare the rod with our head-strong 2 year old. Besides, I can think of much better ways to spoil her than ‘sparing the rod.’ Flying her First Class for her 2 year old birthday trip could certainly count as one of those ways!

Planning travel with a young child can be challenging. One of the primary considerations for parents is the timing of the flight. Do you fly red-eye and arrive at your destination tired from the relatively poor quality of sleep, but increase the chance of your child sleeping through the flight? Or do you pick a day flight and risk spending the entire ride chasing after a bored infant, giving embarrassed and apologetic looks to everyone in your cabin. My wife and I (and most of the parents with young children we know) prefer the former. Of course, flying premium does help mitigate the part about the poor quality of sleep on a red-eye.

Whatever your preference is, chances are you will face a lot more restrictions on your travel time compared to the average traveller. As we all know, this can’t be good when considering award availability.

We only got around planning this family trip to Melbourne in about early January, about 2 months out from our intended date of travel. Although there were still scattered availability for 2 adults here and there, it was no surprise that saver awards for most of the flights were on waitlist on both Business and First class. At that time, the only available tickets to and fro was an outbound arriving on Monday, and an inbound departing on Thursday. 3.5 days for a holiday doesn’t exactly sound very enticing, but sometimes you’d do anything to get out of the country.

Now I’ve previously written about the SQ Waitlist here.  Aaron has a pretty good overview article here, and has also done some pretty good analysis on award availability here .

If you find yourself in my situation and the current available flights are not ideal, and/or you’d like some more time to think about it while putting the available award flights ‘on hold’ without subjecting yourself to change fees later on, here’s a nifty little trick you can use to ‘hack’ the waitlist.

For example, I wish to fly to NRT around the middle of August this year. The only available First Saver award is on the 17 of August, but I’d prefer to fly earlier or on a weekend if possible. For now, I would like to hold this available saver award.

I first make a reservation for this saver award on the 17th of August as one normally would, going through all the steps (including seat selection) until the payment page.

Selection of the only available flight

After entering your details, go to seat selection, and then proceed on to the payment page.

After entering your details, go to seat selection

When you’ve reached the payment page, exit the booking process by closing the page, or clicking any of the links on the SQ toolbar. I usually just click the Singapore Airlines logo on the top left hand corner of the page.

Now, head to the ‘Bookings’ tab under your account profile. You should see a booking reference number for that flight, even though the transaction wasn’t completed.

Booking Reference number for the ‘sham’ booking

If you attempt to select the ‘Manage Booking’ tab, this will return an error message and prompt you to complete the booking process offline.

Proceed to make the same booking again. This time, the flight should be on waitlist.

Same flight now on waitlist

Proceed to waitlist yourself on the flight. In about 15 to 20 minutes, the first reservation you’ve made should be automatically cancelled by the system after the ticketing time limit has lapsed. You will know this has happened when the booking reference disappears from the list of reservations under the ‘Bookings’ tab of your Krisflyer account. Almost immediately, you should receive a text message telling you that your waitlisted flight (the second reservation) is now available for confirmation. This is because you should be the next in line for an available award ticket on that flight.

Usually, when a waitlisted flight is made available for confirmation, you are given about 3 days or so to pay the miles / taxes and ticket your flight. Just like that, you have now bought yourself another 3 days to think about whether you want that flight or not. If you choose not to ticket in the end, just let the time lapse or cancel the waitlisted booking. There is no penalty for doing so.

In practice, I’ve found this useful to hold a suboptimal ticket while waiting for my waitlisted tickets on my preferred flights, especially for this trip. I held tickets for the Monday / Thursday flight, and eventually better flights opened up which I then ticketed on.

Theoretically, I guess one could repeat this process infinitely to hold the award for weeks, but you run the risk of someone else of higher Krisflyer status also waitlisting or buying a Standard level award on the same flight, thus beating you to the available ticket.

Experiment a little and see what works best for your travel plans. Of course with all things, use with consideration for others who may also be eyeing travel on the same flights as you. Stay tuned for my review of the SQ 77W First Class coming up!

Is it time to switch to Asia Miles?

So while Aaron has been busy sitting in the dark wearing goth kid clothing (Wong, 2017) (also taking the time to do some heavy number crunching so we lazy bums don’t have to), the rest of us have been thinking about where else we could spend our credit card miles now that our beloved national carrier has effectively become (even) more expensive to fly.

Other than KrisFlyer, many Singaporean credit cards allow you to credit miles to Asia Miles, which allows you  to redeem flights on Cathay Pacific (and its partners). So, how’s the scene look over at Hong Kong’s flagship carrier?

(Caveat: I’ve rather limited experience with Asia Miles myself, so would gladly welcome any corrections / additions from readers. Just add on to the comments if you’d like to leave any feedback!)

Marco? Polo!

First things first – some of you might have heard about the Marco Polo Club, Cathay Pacific’s loyalty programme. Then there’s Asia Miles, their rewards programme. What’s the difference?

It can be a little confusing, but Marco Polo Club status refers to a member’s elite level, akin to KrisFlyer Silver, Gold, etc… Asia Miles, however, refers to their rewards programme.

For those of us with zero status with Cathay Pacific, we can sign up for a plain Asia Miles account, which suffices for what we really want to do here – redeeming flight awards using credit card points.

Earning Asia Miles

Most major Singaporean banks (exception: OCBC) allow you to transfer points to Asia Miles. The full list of financial partners can be accessed here – the ones I recognise on first glance are American Express, ANZ, Citibank, DBS, HSBC, Maybank, Standard Chartered, UOB.

There’s also the option of chalking up miles by actually flying revenue (e.g. on CX or oneworld), but who’s actually got time for that?

Flying Cathay Pacific

Looking at Cathay Pacific’s route map, two things are immediately obvious.

First, it’s got a pretty well-developed network, covering Asia, Australia, Europe and America – all the places Singaporeans love to go.

Second, if you’re based in Singapore, you’ll probably need to get to Hong Kong before going on to your next stop.

That’s great if you want to do a stopover in Hong Kong, but not at all helpful if you want to go the opposite direction (i.e. Australia). Even if it’s on the way, the added hours from the stopover can still be painful.

Probably something to consider before booking!

The Experience

We don’t have trip reports on CX right now (something I’m hoping to remedy by the end of the year…) and so I’ll point to OMAAT’s reviews as a reference:

Unfortunately for us, a fair number of the SIN-HKG flights are currently still on older hardware and offering regional Business Class hardware. If you’d like to avoid that, you can try looking out for flights operating the new A350 – though for a 4h journey that might not really be your main priority.

Comparing numbers

The Asia Miles awards chart is organised by different zones (grouped by distance) from KrisFlyer’s, which makes it difficult to directly compare against the latter’s updated award chart. Instead, I chose a few cities from Skyscanner’s 2016 list of top year-end Singaporean destinations to see how Asia Miles fares against KrisFlyer.

(Also added New York to get a sensing for trips to America. Also, in case you want to see Trump Tower in person.)

I opted to compare the equivalent of business class saver return tickets, since I’m guessing that’s what the majority of (mile) price-conscious readers will be gunning for. Take note that for Asia Miles, a one-way award costs more than half of a return, so it’s actually cheaper to redeem a return ticket.

For the value of the new airport taxes / fees charged for KrisFlyer redemptions, I’ve used the value currently under “Airport/Government taxes” and excluded “Carrier surcharges”.

Addendum: In several instances it may make even more sense to redeem Asia Miles on partner airlines; this will probably be covered in a future post!

Bangkok (BKK)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 40,000 miles + 500 HKD (~S$92)
(755 HKD if via HKG)
40,000 miles + S$66.20
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 2h 15min
(7h 45min if via HKG)
 2h 25min

Verdict: Tie (CX for possible flexibility of including HKG stopover)

Bangkok’s the only other city CX flies to directly from Singapore – it’s pretty much a tie between the two (slightly cheaper for SQ). Flying CX does give you the option of throwing in a Hong Kong stopover for cheap (about 250 HKD) , though! (TBC)

Update: I’ve had conflicting reports on whether adding a HKG stopover will increase the number of miles spent – while a comment here suggest that it does, a post on HWZ suggest otherwise. Will check with Asia Miles and update.

Hong Kong (HKG)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 50,000 miles + 630 HKD (~S$115) 55,000 miles + S$93.60
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 3h 50min  3h 45min

Verdict: CX

Asia Miles starts getting cheaper – I value 5000 miles at around S$100, so the price difference is enough to hurt. Interestingly, you can also choose to fly via BKK (a stopover is possible too, though pricier) but if you want to cover both cities it seems to make more sense to redeem it as a SIN-BKK itinerary with HKG stopover instead. (TBC)

Tokyo (NRT)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 80,000 miles + 1,011 HKD (~S$185) 86,000 miles + S$66.60
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 9h 6h 35min

Verdict: Tie (SQ for shorter journey time, CX for HKG stopover/transit)

I was expecting CX to be the clear winner here given that Japan was one of the zones more adversely affected by the SQ devaluation. However, it seems that overall pricing is evenly matched, with the extra 6000 miles for SQ fairly evenly balanced out by the additional S$120 for CX (probably due to the transit in HKG).

If you want to check out the CX lounges in HKG it can be a fun detour, but I would personally opt for a direct flight instead.

Melbourne (MEL)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 80,000 miles + 1,832 HKD (~S$335) 116,000 miles + S$143.50
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 17h 15min 7h 25min

Verdict: SQ (though I suppose CX does cost less)

Once we leave Asia we start seeing the redemption cost for CX tickets clearly taking the lead (in getting cheaper) as compared to SQ.

That said, saving 36,000 miles (~S$720) might sound great, but I’d personally rather save 10h of my time. The geography just doesn’t work out, in this case.

Addendum: It should be possible to book a Qantas direct flight using Asia Miles, though I didn’t spot any availability in my initial research. 

London (LHR)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 115,000 miles + 3,077 HKD (~S$562)
(4,334 HKD on BA)
170,000 miles + S$367.80
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 16h 30min
(12h 50min on BA)
12h 55min

Verdict: CX

Even with higher taxes, the 55,000 mile (~S$1100) difference is humungous.

It’s also possible to book British Airways directly on the Asia Miles booking system. It seems the number of miles required is the same, though taxes might differ (more expensive, in this case).

Addendum: BA business class is not all that great, from what I’ve heard. In this case I think perhaps transitting in HKG is not the worst thing in the world?

New York (JFK)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 145,000 miles + 1,716 HKD (~S$314) 184,000 miles + S$193.60
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 21h 21h 35min

Verdict: CX

Since SQ doesn’t fly to New York directly, it loses whatever edge it had over CX (though for CX, it could sometimes be noticeably  longer). The 39,000 mile difference (~S$780) fails to make up for the difference in taxes, though the overall gap is not as stark as the SIN-LHR itinerary.

Conclusion

This evaluation was done with a rather small data set, and I’ve made a few assumptions regarding the cash values that KF will be charging post-devaluation, but overall I suspect that  the figures should be indicative enough, even if not 100% accurate.

This was an interesting exercise for me – I’d started with the expectation that Asia Miles would be the clear winner, but it turns out that post-devaluation KrisFlyer still seems pretty comparable, as far as business class flights to Asia go.

For long-haul flights, Asia Miles does emerge as the clear winner, though you’d probably want to consider total journey time to see if a redemption makes sense. Ultimately, as our national carrier, SQ still offers more direct flights ex-SIN than other airlines, so that’s something else to consider in choosing which programme to use for your redemptions.


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.

cover photo via Instagram by airplanesloverr

Hotel Review: Conrad London St. James (King Deluxe Room)


There are many Hilton properties in London, and though I’ve not actually stayed in many of them myself, the consensus (at least, on FlyerTalk) seems to be that Conrad London St. James, Hilton London Bankside, Hilton London Canary Wharf and Hilton London Tower Bridge all seem to be pretty well-regarded. With the fortuitous (and short-lived) Visa/Conrad promotion last year, I managed to net myself two free nights and stayed at the Conrad for a whopping five nights while in London, and found myself enjoying the stay immensely.

Location

The Conrad London St. James is located along Broadway, pretty much opposite the St. James Park underground station. It’s also round the corner from Westminster Abbey, which is very much a central location, as far as London goes.

The building itself looks pretty unassuming, blending in with all the other mid-rises in the area. The fancy dropoff area (and signage) are the only clues for what the building actually is.

Conrad London St James exterior

The hotel lobby has a very modern feel to it. This is perhaps due to the inclusion of modern art that I do not understand. Perhaps this sculpture represents the never-ending climb towards achieving and maintaining elite status?

Conrad London lobby

Slightly away from the main lobby is a sculpture comprising toys and action figures from across the decades, including stuff from various Pixar movies to franchises like Transformers. A geeky tribute, indeed.

Conrad London lobby toy sculpture

(Minutes after writing the above, I found out that the Conrad’s website has an Art Collection page that lists and explains the meaning behind several of its art pieces, including many pieces I hadn’t noticed, clearly proving my inability to appreciate art.)

The Room

I was assigned a King Deluxe room, which is just one step above the basic Superior Room. I got the sense that the property isn’t too generous with suite upgrades, though I didn’t try all that hard to get upgraded this time round.

King Deluxe Rm floorplan
(Image from Conrad London St. James website)

Anyway, I thought the room was more than adequate. It managed to feel sufficiently roomy, and was decked out with rather pleasant modern decor.

King Deluxe Rm

The king bed was sufficiently comfortable, and the desk was functional, I suppose. The inclusion of a media port for connecting devices (e.g. a laptop) to the TV was appreciated.

bed desk

The minibar area was pretty well-stocked, though I can’t say I’m an expert since I don’t usually take anything other than the complimentary items, which included Nespresso coffee capsules and a fair number of tea bags.

minibar-tea minibar

The bathroom was adequately large, with clear sections for the toilet, bathtub, shower (not pictured) and sink area, all nicely laid out in marble.

toilet bathroom

The TV was interestingly embedded into a flat mirror-like surface; when switched off, it’s not immediately obvious that there is a television set. Functionally it doesn’t really make much of a difference, but it’s interesting to note the attempt at integrating/hiding the television set within the room.

TV

The Extras

The room came with the fairly typical complimentary fruit platter; I’m not too sure if this is targeted at elite guests or is standard issue.

Conrad London welcome fruit

Many Conrad properties come with complimentary stuffed toys – we were lucky enough to arrive quite shortly after the launch of their new Mascot, Monty (the bulldog). Monty is a rather large (and higher cost, I imagine) toy and only comes upon request.

A very warm welcome to Monty! This handsome chap is our new mascot #MeetMonty #StayInspired

A post shared by Conrad London St James (@conradlondonsj) on

We requested for one, of course, and got a complimentary plush bulldog delivered to our room.

Monty

The availability of plush toys gave us the chance to create various dioramas within the room.

Monty Griffles fight Monty Griffles ride

Over the Christmas period, the hotel also delivered a special seasonal platter of chocolates to the room. A nice touch, I must say!

Conrad London Xmas chocolates

Breakfast

We had our breakfast at the hotel’s Blue Boar restaurant.

Blue Boar entrance Blue Boar interior

For hot food, they had the standard English breakfast items (eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.). You could also order cooked eggs – they didn’t have a live station you could order from. Also on offer – fruits, salad, bread, cereals, juices… a pretty wide range of stuff to choose from.

Hot food Fruit and salad

Bread Juice

FlyerTalk makes a big deal of the honey-roasted granola, which I must concede is pretty tasty. I believe it’s the same recipe as the one at the Hilton London Bankside.

Granola

All in all, a great place to stuff yourself with a proper English breakfast, fresh fruit, cereal, or all of the above. I was very much satisfied with the breakfast offerings.

Breakfast on plate

Lounge breakfast

I generally opt for the restaurant breakfast when able to since the lounge usually serves a more limited range of the same food, and it wasn’t any different at this property. Would suggest going for the restaurant breakfast unless you really would prefer the comparative privacy in the lounge, for some reason.

Lounge breakfast 1 Lounge breakfast 2

The Lounge

Lounge hours

Other than breakfast, the lounge offered afternoon treats and evening canapés (with drinks). The space itself was quite well-designed – there aren’t actually that many seats available, but each segment is styled differently and gives each area a distinct feel, making the lounge feel larger than it really is.

Lounge interior

Lounge 1 Lounge 2

Lounge 3 Lounge 4

There’s also a little meeting room that’s available for rental (first hour complimentary). Didn’t see any meetings going on in there during my stay, so I guess it’s not that popular an option. There were also showers available in the lounge, though I’m not too sure why anyone would choose to shower here instead of in their own room (in a really big hurry, I suppose?).

Meeting room Lounge shower toilets

At one end of the lounge is a relatively interesting centrepiece…

Lounge setting

…on the other side of which is where the action lies. The beverage offerings lie directly opposite.

Lounge alcohol

Cheese and cold cut spreads were available every evening.

Cheese platter Cold cuts

The specific hot food and desserts available differed daily, but generally I found them all to be rather enjoyable – it’s possible to substitute dinner with these, if you really want to.

Evening canapés (1)

Evening 1 menu

Evening 1 hot food Evening 1 dessert

Evening canapés (2)

Evening 2 menu Evening 2 hot food

Evening canapés (3)

Evening 3 menu Evening 3 hot food

Afternoon treats

I was exploring the city most afternoons, but got the chance to check out the tea time selections on Christmas day, when most of the city was closed anyway. Wasn’t that impressed with the savoury offerings, but the desserts were pretty good.

Afternoon tea menu

Tea dessert Tea scones

Tea plated

Assuming it’s like this every day, I think it’s a pretty good place to grab a bite, if you happen to be in the hotel in the afternoon.

Conclusion

All in all, I really enjoyed my stay here. You can get rooms here at about £240 per night without discount, although since properties like the Hilton London Bankside are available at 2/3 the price, I find it hard to justify paying the premium for this place. Still, if you’d like to pamper yourself, or are able to make a booking at a discounted rate, it’s definitely a great place to stay!


Louis believes he caught the premium travel bug after attaining KrisFlyer Elite Gold and occasionally being upgraded while shuttling between the UK, Singapore and Japan (in economy class). These travels have led to a wonderful marriage, as well as a burning desire to maximise his frequency of travel in business class or better.

He travels with a gryphon plush toy, Griffles, which often stands in for him in vacation photos. Griffles continues to amuse (and confuse) air stewardesses, hotel staff and just about everybody else, all around the world.