Airlines

The Milelion’s KrisFlyer Guide: Basics of award flight redemptions

Is my free flight really free? Which chart do I refer to? Who can I redeem awards for? Learn the answers to all this and more.
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I’m currently writing a KrisFlyer guide over on www.creditcardcompare.com.au, which I’m reproducing with edits for a Singapore audience. You can read the original post here
The Milelion’s KrisFlyer Guide

Part 1: Introduction to KrisFlyer
Part 2: How do I earn KrisFlyer miles?
Part 3: Basics of award flight redemptions
Part 4: Changes and cancellation fees on KrisFlyer award tickets
Part 5: Redeeming miles for Singapore Airlines Flights
Part 6: Singapore Airlines First & Business Class Seats
Part 7: Redeeming miles for Singapore Airlines upgrades
Part 8: Redeeming miles for partner flights (coming soon)
Part 9: Redeeming miles for partner flight upgrades (coming soon)
Part 10: Redeeming miles for other options (coming soon)

Now that you understand how to earn miles with KrisFlyer, it’s time to examine your options for redeeming them. Broadly speaking, there are two uses of KrisFlyer miles:

  1. Redeeming flights and upgrades with Singapore Airlines and its partners
  2. Redeeming non-flight options like hotel rooms, rental cars and merchandise

The table below summarizes the choices available: 

As you can see, there are many ways you can redeem your miles. However, not all represent equal value. The question then is: what should you redeem your miles for? 

When it comes to any loyalty program, the best value redemptions will always be for that program’s native reward. In other words: you get the most value out of hotel points when you redeem them for hotels. You get the most value out of rental car points when you redeem them for rental cars. The same holds true for airline miles and flights- you’ll maximize the value of your KrisFlyer miles when you redeem them for flights and upgrades on Singapore Airlines and its partners. 

Although there may be rare instances where it makes sense to redeem your miles for non-flight options (e.g. if you have a small miles balance that is set to expire, getting suboptimal value is better than getting no value at all), these are the exception rather than the rule. 

We’ll get into the nitty gritty of redeeming miles for Singapore Airlines and partner flights in future posts, but first let’s go through a few principles that apply to redeeming award tickets in general.

Your free ticket isn’t totally free

Typically, your miles only cover the fare component on an award ticket; you’re still on the hook for airport taxes and fuel surcharges. 

The good news it that KrisFlyer no longer imposes fuel surcharges on Singapore Airlines/SilkAir award tickets. This means that the only cash you’ll pay out of pocket on a Singapore Airlines/SilkAir award redemption is to cover airport taxes in the departing, arrival and transit (if any) country. 

In the diagram below, I’ve illustrated what this may look like for someone flying between SIN and SYD in Economy Class. Note how I’ve colored the different boxes, depending on whether they relate to the fare, the Australian taxes, or the Singapore taxes. 

The inbound and outbound fare (blue box) is covered by miles. Therefore all I need to pay in cash is the $178 of Australia and Singapore airport taxes (yellow and green boxes). 

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However, it’s important to remember that if you’re redeeming KrisFlyer miles for a partner airline which charges fuel surcharges, KrisFlyer will pass them on to you.

I’ve illustrated this in the diagram below, where we redeem miles for a hypothetical SIN-IST-LHR Economy Class redemption on Turkish Airlines. 

That big yellow box labelled “YQ/YR” represents fuel surcharges, and in this particular case they’re even higher than the inbound and outbound fares combined! If we were to redeem this ticket, we’d be on the hook for $821 of airport taxes and fuel surcharges, making this redemption much less “worth it”. 

This can get even more confusing because not all partner airlines impose fuel surcharges. To be sure, you can always refer to a breakdown of the miles and taxes on the booking screen on the Singapore Airlines website.

If you want a quick way of checking taxes and surcharges, try using the ITA Matrix. I’ve written a guide here

I’ve shown a hypothetical SIN-PVG routing below, with the left hand side screenshot on SQ, and the right hand side screenshot on a mixture of SQ, TG and CA. Note the absence of fuel surcharges on the left, and their inclusion on the right. 

LHS: Singapore Airlines redemption- note the lack of fuel surcharges. RHS: Mixture of Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and Air China redemption- with fuel surcharges

Be sure to refer to the right award chart

When you want to check how many KrisFlyer miles a particular redemption will cost you, you’ll need to refer to the award charts. This may be confusing for first-time KrisFlyer users, because the program actually has seven different charts:

  1. Singapore Airlines/SilkAir Award chart
  2. Star Alliance Award chart
  3. Virgin Australia Award chart
  4. Vistara Award chart
  5. Virgin Atlantic Award chart
  6. Alaska Airlines Award chart
  7. Juneyao Airlines Award chart

The chart you refer to depends on the type of award ticket you’re looking at.

  • If your entire itinerary is operated by Singapore Airlines/SilkAir, refer to (1). 
  • If your itinerary contains a mix of Singapore Airlines/SilkAir and Star Alliance carriers, refer to (2)
  • If you’re flying with a non-Star Alliance carrier, refer to (3)-(7) accordingly

It is not possible to combine non-Star Alliance and Singapore Airlines flights in a single award itinerary- that’s to say, I can’t book a single SIN-BOM-DEL ticket with Singapore Airlines from SIN-BOM and Vistara from BOM-DEL

However, I can combine Star Alliance and Singapore Airlines flights in a single award itinerary. For example, I can book SIN-BOM-DEL with Singapore Airlines from SIN-BOM and Air India from BOM-DEL. 

Remember, though, that once I have even a single non-Singapore Airlines flight in my itinerary, the whole journey prices according to chart (2). For my SIN-BOM-DEL example, here’s how the pricing changes:

If entire journey on SQ (Singapore Airlines chart)If at least one leg of journey not on SQ (Star Alliance chart)
Economy Class37K50K
Business Class78K94K
First Class106K133K
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It doesn’t matter that SIN-BOM represents the “substantial” or “majority” portion of my overall journey; the entire award is now deemed to be a Star Alliance award and charged at the more expensive Star Alliance rates. That’s why it’s generally preferable to redeem a Singapore Airlines award where possible- no fuel surcharges, and generally lower redemption costs. 

The other reason why it’s important to know what award chart to refer to is that there are different rules governing Singapore Airlines versus partner awards. We’ll look at these in more detail in future guides. 

Know your change and cancellation fees

Although award tickets are generally flexible (with the exception of Spontaneous Escapes, which cannot be changed or refunded), you will have to pay fees to cancel or change your itinerary. These are summarized in the table below, and depend on the type of award you book (we’ll cover the difference between Save and Advantage awards in another post).

For a much more detailed look at changes and cancellation fees on KrisFlyer award tickets, refer to this guide.

Learn the redemption nominee system

Flights and upgrades can either be redeemed for yourself, or for any of your redemption nominees. KrisFlyer allows you to nominate up to five individuals to redeem awards or upgrades for. Here are three key points to note:

(1) There’s no fee for adding new nominees

(2) However, there is a fee to replace or delete existing nominees, and once a nominee is added he/she cannot be replaced or deleted for six months. After six months, a nominee can be replaced for US$30 or 3K miles. Elite members enjoy reduced or waived service fees. 

(3) Child or infant nominees are treated the same as an adult (i.e. they occupy one of five slots)

To add a nominee, login to your KrisFlyer account and look for the “Profile” tab. 

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This will open up a sub-menu. Click on “Redemption Nominees” 

Click on “Add Nominee”

Fill out the details of your redemption nominee.

You will be asked in the form what your relationship to the nominee is. Don’t worry, KrisFlyer clearly states that you can redeem miles for family and friends, so you can nominate pretty much anyone. This is probably collected for demographic information. 

That’s it! You’ll now be able to redeem award tickets on behalf of this individual. Simply search for awards as per normal and select your redemption nominee’s name from the drop down menu when you’re prompted to do so. You do not need to be part of the traveling party when you redeem an award ticket for your nominee.

Conclusion

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Although KrisFlyer doesn’t offer as many redemption options as some carriers (where miles can be used for lounge access, inflight Wi-Fi, inflight catering, movie tickets, charitable donations and much more), most of the non-flight options are anyways a poor use of miles and won’t be missed.

Knowing how to effectively spend your KrisFlyer miles on flights is the cornerstone of a good miles strategy, and that’s what we’ll explore specifically in the next guide.


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invisibleAaron WongChris Recent comment authors
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Chris

Hi Aaron,
If my miles are expiring and make a Krisflyer redemption for a flight dated 360 days later, can I change the date beyond t+360 days for that $25 USD fee?

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What would be the most practical/economical way to redeem award flight from Singapore to Hawaii in Economy?

Getting from Singapore to SFO/LAX and then book another flight is not practical. On other hand, getting to Japan and try to book flight from there is not practical either….