Airlines

Should you pre-emptively book awards now to avoid the KrisFlyer devaluation?

With just two weeks left to the KrisFlyer devaluation, what should you be doing with your miles?

Last week, Singapore Airlines announced several changes to its KrisFlyer program, the most important of which was that award costs will increase by up to 12% on 24 January 2019.

Saver rates ex-SIN before and after 24 January

You now have just about two weeks left to figure out how the devaluation impacts you, and what you can do about it.

Many people have been asking whether it’s a good idea to burn all their miles on awards now, so as to avoid the price increase. In this post, let’s look at what options exist and the pros and cons of taking each one.

How to avoid the 24 January price increases

First things first: if you want to lock in the current award chart pricing, you need to book an award flight on Singapore Airlines before 24 January. Awards can be booked for flight dates up to 355 days in advance, so you could potentially look as far out as Dec 2019/Jan 2020.

You’ll subsequently be able to change your travel dates after 24 January without having to pay additional miles. A change fee applies, which is:

  • US$25 fee with a Saver ticket,
  • Free with an Advantage ticket.

Do note that the fee is per changeper ticket, so if you’re flying a family of four, you’ll pay a total of US$100 per change. Assuming you’re only going to change your dates once, the cost may still be worth it, particularly if you’re traveling to a destination that is seeing a larger price increase.

There was some confusion earlier about this because of the FAQ section on the SQ website:

Q6: If I make changes to my redemption booking or ticket on/after 24 January 19, which mileage level will apply? 
A: The revised award levels will apply for changes to your redemption bookings/tickets made on/after 24 January 2019. Members with existing redemption bookings/tickets who wish to change travel plans are advised to make the changes before 24 January 2019, for the current award levels to apply.

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One way of reading this is that any changes on/after 24 January would attract the new mileage prices. This would be strange, as historically speaking, only changes that required a ticket reissue (name change, routing change) required a miles top-up.

I reached out to Singapore Airlines, who confirmed this: 

There you have it- date changes do not require a re-issuance of your ticket, and therefore will not require any top-up of miles.

Remember: if you’re waitlisted and your waitlist clears on/after 24 January, you’ll need to pay according to the new award chart, notwithstanding the fact that you waitlisted before 24 January. Similarly, if your waitlist cleared before 24 January, but you only ticketed on/after 24 January, you’ll pay according to the new award chart. All that matters is when your ticket is issued!

Burning all your miles now preserves their value

It sounds kind of counter-intuitive, but the best way of preserving the value of your miles is to burn them. That’s because any miles left in your KrisFlyer account will automatically decline in value by up to 12% come 24 January. By not spending your miles, you automatically accept this haircut (unless you only redeem economy class flights, which aren’t increasing in price).

But let’s think about it a bit more realistically- suppose you have 500,000 miles in your account and only redeem tickets for yourself. There’s no way to cash out your entire balance short of redeeming several Business/First Class flights in the space of 355 days. And unless you’re retired or not working full-time, it’s going to be a stretch to take that much leave.

In the end you might end up paying a US$75 cancellation fee per ticket to recover your miles if you can’t fly, which would put you in a worse off position (out of pocket fees, devalued miles) than if you just did nothing.

This should perhaps serve as an object lesson on why miles are not to be hoarded. Those who have consistently kept their miles balance in check by regular earning and burning should be able to cash out what’s left for one good trip. Those who have hoarded miles may find themselves having to accept a devaluation on at least part of their balance.

If your points are still on the bank side, consider keeping them there

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The advice in the previous section applies to you if your miles are already in your KrisFlyer account. But what if they’re still on the bank side?

If they are, I feel there’s little reason to rush to convert them all to KrisFlyer miles. That’s because bank points have the flexibility to be converted into currencies other than KrisFlyer. Most banks in Singapore partner with Asia Miles (protip: check out multi-carrier awards), and if you bank with Citi, you have the widest selection of airline transfer partners in Singapore.  British Airways Avios, Etihad Guest, and Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles, can be incredibly useful programs, depending on where you want to go.

We cover the ins and outs of FFPs other than KrisFlyer in our Alternative Frequent Flyer Programs workshop. I’ll be running another class on 24 January (more in a separate post), so be sure to check it out if you’re interested!

If you can’t burn your miles, at least look forward to February Spontaneous Escapes

Singapore Airlines will be making Spontaneous Escapes a permanent feature from February 2019. The announcement teased that the February edition (released on 15 February for travel in March) would feature “never-before redemption deals”, and after that kind of foreplay, SQ better deliver.

The typical Spontaneous Escapes discount is 30%, which would already more than offset any of the 24 January award price increases. The catch, however, is that awards booked under February’s Spontaneous Escapes will only be valid for travel in March 2019 (if US destinations are available, travel in April 2019 might be possible based on past patterns). Moreover, Spontaneous Escapes awards cannot be changed or cancelled.

Most people won’t be able to travel on such short notice. Therefore, even if February’s Spontaneous Escapes contain some monster deals, not everyone will be able to take advantage of them.

Conclusion

If you have just enough miles to burn on a nice trip for you and your family, now’s the right time to pull the trigger. Don’t get overly attached to your miles balance- they were earned to be burned!

If you’re in a situation with too many miles and not enough time to burn them, my commiserations. At least this “lesson” won’t be as painful as previous ones, where the devaluation could be as high as 30-40%. Burn what you can conceivably travel in the next 355 days, and try and keep a smaller balance in the future.

If most of your points are in flexible currencies like Citi ThankYou points, I’d recommend keeping your powder dry and transferring points as needed. Be sure to study other FFPs to see where their sweet spots lie.


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Jeremy
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Jeremy

Hi Aaron, I have a question on Saver award tickets issued before 24Jan19. I thought it is normal practice for KF to check if there is available Saver award space for the new dates the passenger is looking to change to before allowing the change of dates (albeit with the US$25 fee)? In this case, if there is no saver fare available for the dates you want to change to, then you would be subject to the NEW rates for Advantage fares?

This would make a difference

Haley
Guest
Haley

BOC transfers to Asia miles too, not reflected in the table

Talan
Guest
Talan

Hi Aaron,

I want to try the following:
My preferred travel date is waitlisted. If it does not clear before Jan 24, i ticket the same route+class on an alternate date and continue my waitlist on my preferred travel date. If it clears, then i do a date change and there should me no change in miles.
Do you have the same understanding?

Sidney
Guest
Sidney

Hello Aaron, I spoke with a SQ service staff at ion orchard, and she told me that if I have to push back the date of an issued ticket, it constitutes a re-issuance. Can you confirm this?

For context, I am planning to book a one way trip from New Zealand to Taipei with a Singapore stopover, but planning to push the Singapore to Taipei leg to Mid 2020.

Thanks!

Drakka
Guest
Drakka

I checked with the Ion desk. 1) If you are trying to do the stopover, it will be counted as a re-issuance if you try to change the 2nd leg after 24 Jan. You will have to pay the usual $100/ticket to add a stopover (assuming it is Saver J) and you will have to pay the additional miles (difference of post-24Jan TPE-SIN-AKL vs. pre-24Jan TPE-SIN-AKL) 2) But, if you booked individual tickets for TPE-SIN and SIN-AKL, then you tried to change the SIN-AKL dates, that does not constitute a re-issuance of ticket. You pay US$25 for the change of… Read more »

Sidney
Guest
Sidney

Thanks Drakka, appreciate it. I shall wait to add the stopover then since I will have to pay the additional miles anyway.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Thanks Aaron for insight.
I have choped 2 pairs of J tickets for Nov to drain my KF to below 2k.
Will change dates to 2020 April or June later date

Yojimbo
Guest
Yojimbo

Am I right to say that if you booked for Nov 2019, the furthest date change you can make would be Nov 2020?

Chris
Guest
Chris

I guess so.

Sam G
Guest
Sam G

No – a ticket needs to have the first leg flown within 1 yr – so the furthest is going to be 14th Jan 2020 (as that’ll be the last day bookable on 24th Jan – T+355)

Sam G
Guest
Sam G

I guess you could book something like KUL-SIN-SYD-SIN-KUL early Jan 2020, fly KUL-SIN & then call and change the rest, you’d have another year at that point. Bit extreme though to save a small amount of miles – especially as once flown one segment the ticket can’t be cancelled, so you’d need to be sure you could get what you wanted before you flew the first flight!

Happy Camper
Guest
Happy Camper

Sam G.. Once you’ve flown one segment, you can’t make any changes…

Sam G
Guest
Sam G

You can change the date of a partially flown ticket on SQ metal, no change to route, cabin or award type possible and no changes to partner airline tickets either. So very limited scope but possible

Rules are in the small print here:-
https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/us/ppsclub-krisflyer/forms-and-fees/service-fees/

Happy Camper
Guest
Happy Camper

Apologies, Sam G.. I stand corrected.. in my actual case, I was looking at change route after I had flown first segment and I was told I couldn’t..

Sorry for the confusion… We learn something new every day… 🙇🏻

Having said that, I actually did manage to change my route, even after flying first segment.. but in my case, there was “exceptional circumstances”.. they changed aircraft type.. and I didn’t like what the swapped aircraft was.. so they were kind enough to allow the change.. ✌🏻

Sam G
Guest
Sam G

Indeed we do 🙂 you are kinda right though…. although my strategy in theory would work, in reality very limited scope and not one I would recommend !

Mileshedgehog
Guest
Mileshedgehog

If I wish to use my miles for a June/July 2020 (JCL) trip, is there any way to save them from the devaluation? Are tickets valid past 355 days?

Happy Camper
Guest
Happy Camper

Nope

David
Guest
David

Another way to think of it could be: for travel beyond the next 12 months, unless one totally boycotts Krisflyer, you’re going to pay the higher redemption rate whether you had a huge stash of Krisflyer miles or if you had conserved your credit card points.

Jac
Guest
Jac

Hi does anyone know if Star Alliance award ticket can also do the $100 stopover in Singapore?

edward
Guest
edward

if you’re asking a question like this, it means you haven’t really understood how the $100 stopover works

Jac
Guest
Jac

right that’s adding alot of value here.

jon
Guest
jon

i have a one way from syd-sg this june issued at 58k miles. i’m thinking of reissuing the ticket for syd-tok, with a stopover in sg prior to 24 jan. my reasoning is that if i were to try to add tokyo after 24 jan, the entire leg will increase from 83k to 91k. i reckon based on sq’s explanation, if i were to move the tokyo flight date after i finish the syd-sg leg, it’s only a date change and not a reissue correct?