Airlines

Singapore Airlines is changing the KrisFlyer waitlist process- here’s what you need to know

Singapore Airlines is going to "fill or kill" the waitlist at least 2 weeks before departure from August 2019. Here's what it means for you.

The waitlist has historically been one of the most frustrating things about KrisFlyer.

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On the one hand, a “maybe” is better than a “no”. On the other, the opacity of the process, coupled with the fact it’s essentially limbo, is a surefire recipe for stress. Waitlists could clear six months before a flight, or six hours. A flight could go out half empty with waitlists never clearing, or completely full with all waitlists cleared. One member may get his waitlist cleared with a simple phone call, another may never clear his despite repeated calls, visits to the ION Orchard service centre, and sacrifices to assorted pagan gods.

That’s why there was so much excitement back in January when Singapore Airlines announced that from Q2 2019, all waitlists would be “filled or killed” 14 days before departure.

It seems there was some delay in the implementation, but an email just went out today detailing the updated waitlist process, which takes place from August 2019.

A quick primer on the Singapore Airlines waitlist

  • Waitlisting is only possible for Singapore Airlines/SilkAir award flights
  • There is no restriction to the number of waitlists you can be on
  • You must have sufficient miles for a given flight to waitlist, but the effect is not “cumulative”. For example, if SIN-SFO in Business Class requires 92,000 miles, I need at least 92,000 miles in my account to add myself to the waitlist. However, I can waitlist on multiple SIN-SFO flights, notwithstanding the fact I don’t have enough miles to pay for all of them
  • If your waitlist clears, you typically have 48-72 hours to confirm it. There is no obligation to do so
  • All things equal, elite KrisFlyer members are given priority on the waitlist

Here’s what we know so far.

Manage your waitlist redemption bookings online

With effect from today, you will be able to manage your waitlist redemption bookings online. Simply log in to singaporeair.com to manage your bookings and select alternative flights available for immediate ticketing.

I did a bit of a double take when I first read this: wasn’t it always possible to manage a waitlist booking online?

Then I logged into my account and understood what KrisFlyer meant. When you pull up a waitlisted booking, you now see a “select alternate flights” button”.

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Click this, and you’re brought back to the familiar booking screen where you can select another award (Saver or Advantage) that’s available for instant confirmation. You will not be able to select another waitlisted flight, however, something I’m not sure is glitch or design.

Conceptually speaking, this is no different from what you can already do. As it is, there’s nothing stopping you from searching for award space on alternative dates for a given route, even while holding a waitlisted booking. If you find something you like, you could ticket it under a different booking and cancel your existing waitlist.

I’m guessing the problem is that most people didn’t do that last step: cancel their existing waitlist booking. After all, it costs nothing to be on the waitlist, given there’s no limit to the number of waitlists you can be on, and no obligation to book a waitlisted flight that clears. Therefore, it’s possible that people who have already made alternative plans might still be taking up space on the waitlist.

The problem is compounded by the fact that when the waitlist clears, you’re given a fixed time period to confirm your booking. This means that if John, Jack, and Jill are on the waitlist, and the first two have no intention of flying even if it clears, Jill needs to wait while John’s and Jack’s waitlists clear and time out before she gets her bite at the cherry.

So the benefit of this change is that it nudges people to find an alternative flight using the same booking reference as their waitlisted booking. If they find it, their waitlist will be cancelled by the system, and they won’t be “holding up the line”.

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I’m all for the idea, even though I doubt it’ll make any practical change in real life. I’d much rather Singapore Airlines capped the number of waitlists you could be on at one time in order to prevent a tragedy of the commons situation where everyone is spamming the waitlist but not cancelling when their plans change.

Receive reminders on your waitlist redemption bookings

We will also send you periodic reminders via email to keep you updated about your waitlisted flights. If you prefer not to receive notifications about your waitlist redemption bookings, you may change your preference by logging into your KrisFlyer account here.

From 18 July 2019, KrisFlyer will send passengers on the waitlist periodic reminder emails at the nine, six, three, one month and three weeks mark before departure.

Want to fly on SQ’s new Suites to Zurich, London or Sydney? It’s almost impossible to find Saver awards unless you’re willing to waitlist

This is an interesting development, but I can’t think of what incremental information these emails could possibly contain.

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I’m pretty sure we won’t see something like what US airlines have implemented at airports, where a display at the gate shows the relative pecking order of each passenger in the upgrade list.

Image result for upgrade list gate screen

Although a “you’re now X of Y on the waitlist” email would be extremely helpful in helping you figure out whether you’re in with a shout, or nowhere close, the waitlist is a complicated beast and many different factors affect your position.

You may well be 1 of 1 if you add yourself to the waitlist the moment the flight opens, but if a couple of elite members join the queue, you could find yourself relegated to 3 of 3 through no fault of your own.

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I’m sure the last thing Singapore Airlines wants is disgruntled members clogging up the phone lines with “why has my position on the waitlist deteriorated?” Therefore, it’s not in their interest to provide too granular information.

In light of that, the only thing I could see this email saying is “You’re still on the waitlist (oh really?), would you like to consider some alternative flights?” and then provide a link to the “select alternative flights” option we saw above.

If this is the case, it really doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know. Therefore I’m skeptical about how useful this email will be, but let’s wait and see how it’s actually implemented.

Changes to confirmation and cancellation of waitlist redemption bookings

In addition, waitlisting for redemption flights will be available up to 3 weeks before departure, and you will be informed of the outcome of your waitlist redemptions at least 14 days before flight departure*. 

All successful waitlist redemptions will be confirmed and unsuccessful ones cancelled two weeks prior to the flight. Please note that the cancellation will apply to all waitlist redemptions excluding redemption upgrades, which will continue to be available up to the point of departure.

*Starting with flights departing from 14 August 2019 onwards

Here’s the major change to the waitlist process. From 14 August 2019…

  • all waitlists will either be filled or cancelled at least 14 days before departure
  • it will no longer be possible to waitlist for a flight that is leaving within 21 days. It will either be available, or not available
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Do note the difference in timing- the waitlist for all flights will close at 3 weeks before departure, but the result will be known at least 2 weeks before departure. In other words, for a flight departing on 1 December 2019

  • The waitlist will be closed on 10 November 2019
  • All pending waitlists will either be confirmed or cancelled by 17 November 2019

In one sense, this is a positive development. It means greater certainty, in that you won’t find yourself stuck on the waitlist with three days to go, wondering whether to roll the dice on your redemption coming through or settle for a suboptimal alternative.

The easiest way to book Singapore Airlines’ awesome new A380 Business Class to Zurich is to shell out for Advantage pricing…but what if Saver awards open last minute?

On the other, it means you won’t have the ability to gamble on a superior option coming through last minute when you already have an acceptable alternative planned.

For example, suppose I’m booked in Business Advantage, but I’d (obviously) much rather pay Business Saver prices. As mentioned in the guide to KrisFlyer award change fees, one option is to waitlist myself on Business Saver and pray that it clears before departure. If it does, great. I’ll pay US$25 to change my award type and get the excess miles refunded. If not, then I at least have my original plan.

Now that all waitlists are cleared or cancelled 14 days before departure, this option doesn’t exist anymore. The most I can do is keep checking award space manually to see if Saver has opened up- not the end of the world, but certainly an inconvenience compared to the old system where I’d be notified automatically.

The other unknown variable in this equation is whether it means Singapore Airlines will start opening up more award space closer to departure. I hope they do, because nothing kills member goodwill more than having your waitlist not clear, then seeing the Business Class cabin half empty en route to Economy.

That said, a half empty cabin doesn’t necessarily mean Singapore Airlines hates you- it could be the case that they did open the seats, but to people who had no intention of flying, and there simply wasn’t enough time for their waitlists to expire before getting to you. It’s for that reason I think Singapore Airlines may want to police the waitlists more strictly, if only so that space isn’t hogged by those who don’t need it.

Conclusion

I imagine that Singapore Airlines has received untold grief about the current state of the waitlist, and it’s good to see that they’re taking steps to address some of those concerns. These proposed measures won’t by any means resolve the situation- most people won’t be comfortable confirming vacation plans 2 weeks before departure and will still find the waitlist an incredibly stressful experience. However, it’s a step in the right direction, and one hopes for greater waitlist transparency in the future.

For those of you who are currently on the waitlist, be sure to let me know how your experience goes in the next few weeks.


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Jeff
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Jeff

Keep in mind SQ would rather let a business class cabin go half-empty than open up an (excessive) number of saver award seats last-minute — for the sake of exclusiveness

Ben
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Ben

They may still release seats to QPPS and above even if the waitlist is full. Personal experience. Quid pro quo. If you haven’t spent much cash on SQ, then you should not expect the best priority. Converse argument similarly applies.

john
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john

Does anyone know why they can’t just give the waitlist approvals a time limit? e.g. if i am waitlisted for a flight (or 10), upon approval for one flight i have to issue within 5 or 7 days or it goes to the next person on the waitlist?

BeyondBanality
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I had to pay USD75 to transfer from Advantage to Saver last week when I changed my redemption booking! I didn’t ask for details at the point (because I was SO excited to find new availability on Saver) but now that I’m looking at the fee page, they must have charged USD25 for the booking change + USD50 for redeposit of miles.

Happy Camper
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Happy Camper

This is correct.. USD25 + USD50..