That Buzzfeed video, Singapore Airlines’ new Suites and high SES

Travelling better for less knows no SES.

The Milelion is pretty easy to trigger, especially when it comes to miles and points. Some say this reflects a highly principled stature and a strong sense of right and wrong. Others suggest it reflects his very small appendages.

Whichever camp you fall into, you’ve probably seen the Buzzfeed video featuring Singapore Airlines’ new A380 suites. Frankly I think it makes for painful watching, so I’m not going to link to it here (it’s easy enough to find on Youtube though). I’m just going to share three quick thoughts on the video and get it out of the way:

(1) If you’re watching the video hoping to get some inside information on the products, or really any information at all beyond what’s publicly known, you’re going to be disappointed. The script for this video seems to be random reaction shots, followed by still more random amazement shots. And occasionally a joke about poop and pee. No, really.

Yes, I get that you make videos with your target audience in mind, but it’s sad because they must have had such great access to the design team, SQ people, Airbus people etc. I mean, they got to see the assembly line in Toulouse! Couldn’t we get more than just poop and pee jokes?

(2) It’s weird why they chose to do a section on food in the video, given that it’s a delivery flight and the food is catered by Airbus. Visually and taste-wise, it’s hardly the best representation of what the catering team in Singapore would be capable of producing. Plus, everyone had plastic cups, which doesn’t make for great optics for SQ.

(3) NOOOOO WOMAN IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING RICH YOU LIVE IN AMERICA THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE MEGA SIGN UP BONUSES WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU GO FIND GARY LEFF

Moving on.

Where did Buzzfeed get that US$24,000 (S$31,600) figure anyway?

The title of the video is clearly meant to grab your attention. US$24,000? OMG switch off the cat videos and call the kids, honey! I find it a bit lazy and clickbaity, but clearly it works:

It’s clickbaity to me because it’s somewhat misleading. Let’s talk about that US$24,000 pricetag.

First up, where does it come from? Well, if I do a search on Google Flights for a return SIN-LHR flight on SQ322/317 (the flight pairing that currently has the new A380 cabin products), I get a quote of US$11,528 (S$15,238) per seat.

Presumably the US$24,000 price comes from doubling the quote to reflect the price you’d need to pay if you wanted to guarantee yourself a double suite (i.e. booking two seats outright).

Look, I get why they do that. After all, a figure like US$24,000 is going to grab attention, eyeballs and most importantly, clicks. But the new A380 serves Hong Kong and Sydney as well. And granted, you won’t get the “full” Suites experience if you do a 3.5 hour flight to Hong Kong, but you’d definitely get the full experience to Sydney. At least I hope so.

How much does it cost if we price the flight from Singapore to Sydney? US$6,386 (S$8,399) per seat. That’s still a lot of money, but it’s half the price quoted in the video.

And just for completeness sake, if you did this to Hong Kong, you’d be looking at US$3,409 (S$4,482) per seat. Yes, I know it won’t be the “proper” suites experience, but I suppose if you’re the sort who does it for the Instant-gram…

But here’s the thing- all along we’ve been assuming that we’ll start the journey in Singapore. Want to see something cool?

Check out what happens if I start my journey to London out of Ho Chi Minh City, via Singapore. I’m still flying on SQ322/317 on the way to London and back with the new A380 products, but my ticket price plunges to US$7,112 (S$9,351) per seat. 

And therein lies the weird quirk of airline pricing. Airlines tend to charge their captive market higher rates than connecting traffic, for obvious reasons. They need to compel foreign passengers who could otherwise have taken non-stop services from their home country to connect in Singapore, and the easiest way to do that is offer discounts. So by adding a separate set of flights to my itinerary (I’ll need to position myself to and from SGN), I’m saving ~40% off the the price.

Using Google Flights again, I experimented with routings ex-SGN, HAN, BKK, KUL and CGK to see how low I could get the prices to go. Here’s what I found:

(mobile readers will need to scroll left/right on screen to see the full table)

Price per seatStart from SingaporeStart outside Singapore and connect in Singapore
to LondonUS$11,527US$7,112 (SGN)
to SydneyUS$6,386US$5,520 (KUL)
to Hong KongThis doesn’t really work for HKG, both on a practical level (are you really going to connect for what should be a 3.5 hour direct flight) and in terms of your routing

I don’t know about you, but US$5,520 sounds a heck of a lot better than US$12,000 a seat. Of course, Buzzfeed isn’t exactly known for nuance, and a video headline screaming “New US$5,520 First Class Suite” probably wouldn’t get quite as many clicks.

Now, before someone goes and writes a headline to the tune of “HIGH SES BLOGGER SAYS US$5.5K NO BIG DEAL” let me pre-empt that by saying it’s still a lot of money, and I’d certainly never pay those prices myself. Neither should you, for the record. And fortunately, we don’t have to, because miles and points gives us access to experiences that would normally be well outside our financial reach. 

Unfortunately, most people are going to come away from this video thinking such products are the exclusive domain of the well-heeled. Like the team at Mothership.

“For super high-SES passengers only”

Mothership picked up the Buzzfeed video and basically narrated it out for those who don’t want to watch. Which is fine, because I am loath to give Buzzfeed any more clicks.

What’s not fine? Right below the headline- “For super high-SES passengers only”. I think I’m making it my life’s goal to show everyone that nothing could be further from the truth.

Image result for singapore airlines new suites

Let’s talk award space on the new Suites between Singapore and Sydney

  • A Saver award costs 80,000 miles one way
  • An Advantage award costs 150,000 miles one way.

Award space is of course subject to the vagaries of revenue management (protip: anyone who claims that all you have to do is say “revenue management” to get award seats to open up is probably a few fries short of a happy meal), and it does seem like Suites saver awards on SQ221 from SIN-SYD have been blocked.

However, Suites Saver awards on SQ232 from SYD-SIN are available for waitlisting. I can even find some days where Suites Advantage awards can be confirmed instantly (23 Apr, 25 Apr, 26 Apr, 28 Apr…)

Obviously the waitlist is a bit of a crapshoot and there’s no way of knowing for certain if it’ll clear (fwiw, Fred managed to get his saver waitlist to clear, and his was ex-SIN), but if you want to throw your hat into the ring the cost of entry is 80,000 miles.

Let’s look at two ways you can get those 80,000 miles, for much less than US$12,000.

The UOB PRVI Miles and PRVI Pay way

There are many, many ways to generate the 80,000 miles we need at a fraction of the revenue ticket price, but I wanted to highlight the most brain-dead no effort way.

  1. Sign up for UOB PRVI Miles card. Doesn’t matter which one- AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
  2. Using the UOB PRVI Pay function, request that UOB deposits S$80,000 in your designated bank account. This will earn you 40,000 UNI$, and a total amount of S$80,000 + S$1,600 (admin fee) will be charged to your card
  3. Hold on to the funds deposited to pay off your S$81,600 balance. Transfer 40,000 UNI$ into your Krisflyer account for S$25 and get 80,000 miles

That’s it. You’re now in a position to redeem a ticket in SQ’s new Suites for S$1,600 plus some fees, if the waitlist gods smile upon you. Or get one instantly at S$3,000, when you find a date with available Advantage awards for immediate confirmation.

The sign up bonus way

Maybe you don’t fancy putting $80,000 on your credit card (but remember- you get the cash amount credited to your bank account as soon as it’s charged, so in reality you’re only out of pocket $1,600) or you’d rather earn miles the old fashioned way.

We’re sort of in between sign up bonus cycles now which is a bit of a shame (the Citibank Premiermiles 42,000 mile sign up bonus seems to be MIA currently), but there are still ways to chalk up the miles quickly.

[do note that some, but not all, of these links earn The Milelion an affiliate bonus]

  1. Sign up for the AMEX Rewards card. Spend $1,500 within 3 months, get 24,000 membership rewards points (~13,333 miles)
  2. Sign up for the AMEX Krisflyer Ascend. Pay the $337.05 annual fee and spend $6,000 within 3 months to earn a total of 29,200 miles (if you don’t want to pay the annual fee, you can get the AMEX Krisflyer Blue which has the first year free and gives 17,250 miles when you spend $2,500 within 3 months)
  3. Sign up for a DBS Altitude Visa card and request to pay the first year’s annual fee of $192.60 to get 10,000 miles*
  4. Sign up for a Citibank Premiermiles Visa and request to pay the first year’s annual fee of $192.60 to get 10,000 miles*
  5. Get an OCBC Titanium Rewards card and try to use this with your mobile payments app (Apple, Android, Samsung) wherever you can. It shouldn’t be too hard given that any card terminal that accepts contactless payments will take mobile payments. Earn 4 miles per $1, capped at $12,000

*Alternatively, it may be prudent to wait for another sign up offer to come on the market before signing up for these cards. A little waiting can pay dividends!

None of the above cards require an annual income of anything more than $50,000 to obtain. Depending on your income, you may also be able to qualify for some of the $120K p.a. credit cards which give you a chunk of miles as a welcome gift.

But even assuming you didn’t, you’re looking at a total haul of ~62,500 miles with $7,500 of spending and $722 of annual fees. If you use your OCBC Titanium Rewards card carefully and max out your 4 mpd opportunities, you’ll spend a mere $4,375 more to hit that 80,000 miles.

Total damage?

  • $11,875 in spending
  • $722 of annual fees (potentially less if you use the Krisflyer Blue with the first year fee waiver)
  • Overall points transfer fees of ~$100 (you’ll need to transfer from 4 separate banks to Krisflyer)

$11,875 of spending in a year is less than $1,000 a month, and certainly possible for most people. I’ve not even gotten into the myriad ways you can bring this cost down by buying miles through things like Cardup, tax payment facilities, welcome gifts etc. So take this as just one of many roads to Rome. Or Sydney, in this case.

Travel better for less

It’s only fair to point out again that award space is not a sure thing. But I’ll hazard a guess that most people would be more than willing to take a punt on that, given the potential upside. Plus, if you wanted a sure shot you could get a confirmed Advantage award ticket for S$3,000 (PRVI Pay) plus some taxes, still way below any US$12,000 sticker price.

Here’s my point: travelling better for less means intelligently using the tools that exist out there, like credit cards and sign up bonuses. Those aren’t the exclusive enclave of the high SES or the low SES. They’re for those who are willing to commit a little bit of time and energy for a frankly amazing return. To put it another way, miles and points are the great SES leveller- experiences that could once upon a time only be afforded by the high SES  are now attainable by those of us outside that group.

So, no, Mothership writers. You don’t have to just settle for seeing it in pictures and video.

To Tanya and Jason, the authors: If you’re reading this- the Miles Masterclass is sold out but I’ll be happy to arrange a special pair of tickets just for you guys if you reach out.  Come down, join us, and discover miles and points like you’ve never known them.

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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invisible

Or, if you are in US, sign up for three Chase/Citi cards with 50K bonus miles miles, make appx $8000 total (depending on promotion) transactions, (better travel related to earn extra miles), transfer your miles to KF and you have round enough miles for round trip in saver.

Terence

Titanium rewards cap is $12k not miles right?

Moritz

Magic happens..

Mx

Hi Aaron, to get the sign-up bonus on the Amex cards it seems like we have to pay the annual fee.. Is there a way to get around this that i’m not aware of? Appreciate your help, thanks!

Aaron Wong

Bugger, forgot about that. I’ll need to edit this. If you don’t want to pay annual fees try the krisflyer blue card. First year is free, earn 17250 miles when you spend 2500 in first 3 months.

Mx

Thanks for your reply. I called the Amex person and no chance in getting the Ascend annual fee waived. Given the the $337 annual fee and $6k spend required on Ascend to get 29k miles, I did the math and it’s better to get the Krisflyer blue card, spend $2.5k to get the sign up bonus of 17k miles, and charge the remaining $3.5k to OCBC Titanium via mobile pay with zero annual fee to earn 31k miles.

Kambing

I am on my second year of free fee Ascend. Here’s how: applied for kf blue by accident ( free), called up Amex and said sorry I really wanted the Ascend, I don’t need the freebies ( no miles signup bonus then, just the hotel stays). They changed the card for me and didn’t charge me anything. I used the card as back door entry to kfgold (15k spend on ex-sin sq travel in one year, which I managed by persuading friends and family to let me be their travel agent). When year 2 arrived, annual fee was charged. I… Read more »

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