Airlines

Can Singapore Airlines’ Regional Business Class still be booked by partner programs?

Singapore Airlines' new regional business class used to be readily available to partner programs. What happened, and why should you care?

In March this year, Singapore Airlines unveiled a new regional business class product on its newly-launched B787-10 aircraft. This full flat, all-aisle access seat was a welcome upgrade from the existing angled-flat product found on the A330s, B777-200s and B777-300s. I’ve yet to actually try the new regional business class in a flight setting, although by all accounts it’s a splendid seat.

No prizes for guessing which is the old and which is the new

Now, Singapore Airlines has a bit of a history of restricting premium cabin awards on certain aircraft to partner FFPs like LifeMiles, United Mileage Plus and Aeroplan. . Although members in these programs can on occasion access these “forbidden seats”, such instances remain the exception rather than the norm.

That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise to find that the Business Class cabin on the 787-10s was open for partner redemptions. Be it Perth, Osaka, Bangkok or Bali, partner FFP members could redeem these seats as freely as KrisFlyer members.

Screenshot from Aeroplan showing SQ B787-10 Business class award availability

Well, it seems that may have changed.

Can partner airlines still book regional business class?

Here are all the destinations that are currently served or will be served by aircraft carrying the new regional business class in January 2019. Note that I don’t say “served by the B787-10” because Adelaide and Jakarta will be served by the regional-configured A350-900 from December this year. It’s a different aircraft with the same seat.

Using the AC search method on the KVS Tool, I ran a power search for 1 Business Class seat every day in January 2019 (if that entire sentence didn’t make any sense to you, consider coming for Power Award Searching!).

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Here’s what an Aeroplan member (or any partner FFP for that matter) looking to book Singapore Airlines’ regional business class product in January 2019 would see:

Green= seat available, Red= seat unavailable, Grey= not applicable because A359/B787 does not operate that particular day

That’s slim pickings. Apart from Jakarta, Taipei, and occasionally Fukuoka, it’s not actually possible to get a seat on SQ’s 2018 regional business class. This is a far cry from the unrestricted availability that partner members enjoyed a few months ago.

To be clear- this isn’t a problem for KrisFlyer members. We see regional business class awards just fine. Look, I can even redeem 6 business class saver awards to Bali.

I wanted to make sure this restriction wasn’t just a seasonal thing, so I looked at June 2019 as well.

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The story here is very similar, in that most destinations are still blocked from partner redemptions. However, note that KIX opens up later in the year, after being blocked all of January. This leads me to believe that SQ has not blocked all partner redemptions for its regional business class, just certain routes based on season. This makes our summary table below a lot more complicated…

*Miles and More members can see regular SQ premium cabin awards

Why do I care?

Ok, you may think. That’s interesting from an academic point of view, but why do I care what non-KrisFlyer members can and can’t do with their miles?

Well, if you buy LifeMiles or hold any other Star Alliance mileage currency, this change matters to you. Suppose you bought LifeMiles, intending to fly from Singapore to Los Angeles in Business Class. Now, one way of doing that is SIN-NRT-LAX, with SIN-NRT on SQ and NRT-LAX on ANA.

But if SQ is blocking regional business class awards, then SIN-NRT would not be redeemable by LifeMiles members. Add the fact that all the other SIN-NRT flights are operated on “forbidden” aircraft, and you see what the problem is. This routing might be available to a KrisFlyer member, but it would not be to someone using LifeMiles.

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The same logic would apply if you wanted to fly SIN-DEL-LHR with SIN-DEL on SQ, or SIN-TPE-LAX with SIN-TPE on SQ. If partner airlines cannot access SQ’s regional business class, then your connectivity options when using partner miles are much more limited.

Conclusion

It’s one thing if SQ blocks long haul premium cabin award space to partners. But blocking regional premium cabins changes the calculus considerably. It means that SIN-based flyers who have purchased LifeMiles or hold other Star Alliance FFP currencies will find it harder to connect to regional destinations like BKK, TPE and DEL. That means fewer opportunities to try TG (nice), BR (awesome) or AI (snigger)’s cabin products.

For now, it’s not that big a deal since there are a fairly large number of aircraft with the 2009 regional business class seat still in the fleet. But SQ is scheduled to return all its A330s to lessors by 2020, and is already phasing out the ageing 777-200s. Assuming that SQ continues to block partner regional business class redemptions, the connectivity problem will become more apparent as the B787-10 and A359 become the de-facto aircraft on these routes.

So overall this is bad news for anyone using partner miles, but hey, their loss is our gain.


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Powell
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Powell

I think this may be a case of SQ reserving their more “premium” RJ seats for own members to try.

Likely there won’t be any “forbidden” aircraft once every single plane has the new RJ. No reason why they will want to restrict *A partners to redeem RJ especially when they do make some revenue from the partners who pay them.

Ken
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Ken

I’ve only flown the new RJ twice.. SIN>BKK and BKK>SIN.. on the former, I felt positively claustrophobic.. similar sensation as being in the bottoms of well.. somewhat.. even if it had more legroom and access room.. On the latter, even though it had a smaller access space and less legroom, it did feel less claustrophobic… My verdict it still out on whether I’m okay with then or I hate them.. Although on the surface, what would seem a no-brainer.. that 1-2-1 would beat 2-2-2 without blinking… this one, to me, may not be so straight forward… In my own personal… Read more »

Z
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Z

My sentiments exactly. For short flights to BKK, i kinda prefer the A330 J over the new RJ. Just more airy and spacious.

Ben
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Ben

Good decision by SQ. Keep the seats more readily available for their own KF members.

JW
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JW

Actually not too good as well when the majority of American credit cards can change their points to KF miles with generous sign ups and earning rates compared to our pathetic ones, in the end Singaporeans or residents still lose out. Hopefully one of the big boys matches BOCs earning rates soon, otherwise it will be the Americans flying SQ rather than us.

Ben
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Ben

Well, that is if we look at the KF members with no status. Why would SQ be too concerned with whether or not a KF blue who gets the redemption seat is Singaporean or not? Underlying aim is just to keep a lid on the unearned revenue floating around out there. Different story for PPS members and to a lesser extent KFEG. SQ more willing to open up award space which would not usually be allocated otherwise, and this change definitely benefits.

Asian Miler
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For the heavy LM afficionados that means bad news. But for other miles chasers (and in particular US-based credit card users) you’d think this is not a game changer. If KF stopped being miles transfer partners with overseas banks, however, you then get a revolt on your hands.

PlayerX
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PlayerX

SQ needs to release seats to its partners.otherwise, partners will stop releasing seats to SQ in retaliation

W
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W

Seems like 2018 regional J is not the only issue, quick search for 777-200ER 2006 J (on routes IST and CHC) throw up nothing on partner’s award.

Niky
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Niky

Not sure if the discussion is still actual:
I’m using Lufthansa miles & more awards.
for me Sq is always the easiest way to get a seat, even easier than LH…

I got SQ from Adelaide in 350 business without problems in 2019 February and March.