Airlines

The Milelion’s KrisFlyer Guide: Redeeming KrisFlyer Miles for Singapore Airlines flights

Want to use your miles to redeem those amazing Singapore Airlines First and Business Class seats? Here's how to do so.
I’m currently writing a KrisFlyer guide over on www.creditcardcompare.com.au, which I’m reproducing here with edits for a Singapore audience. You can read the original post here

So far, we’ve looked at the basics of KrisFlyer, including elite tiers and key policies. We’ve seen the various ways you can earn KrisFlyer miles on the ground and in the air, as well as the basics of redeeming miles for flight awards. We’ve also drilled down into relevant change and cancellation fees for Singapore Airlines and partner awards .

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Now it’s time to look at redeeming miles specifically for Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights (SilkAir will be absorbed into Singapore Airlines in 2020, so I’ll be using Singapore Airlines as shorthand for both).

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 (coming soon)
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)

Searching for Singapore Airlines award space

Singapore Airlines opens award seats 355 days prior to departure. You can view award space through the Singapore Airlines website – just be sure to click the “Redeem flights” button when searching.

It’s also possible to search via the Singapore Airlines app. This is often a faster option than searching the website, as the app is more responsive. 

Unlike some frequent flyer programs, there’s no need for you to have any KrisFlyer miles in your account before searching. This is good, because it means you can first confirm that award space is available, before transferring points into KrisFlyer. 

Pricing a Singapore Airlines award

To know how much your award will cost, you need to refer to the SQ award chart. You’ll see a total of three pages – the first page is for Advantage awards, the second and third pages are for Saver awards. We’ll cover the differences between Advantage and Saver awards in the next section, but first let’s talk about reading the chart.

Singapore Airlines uses a zone-based chart, which means that destinations are grouped into zones. If I wanted to find out how many miles it would cost to fly Business Class from Sydney to Shanghai, for example, I’d look for Zone 9 and see where it intersects with Zone 5 (North China). 

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That gives me the one-way price, in thousands of miles, of an award ticket between those two zones. In addition to this, you’ll also have to pay some government taxes and airport fees, which will be displayed on the website when you book. 

How much taxes and fees can I expect to pay on an award ticket? Which are the cheapest (and most expensive) airports to fly out of? Find out here

You’ll need the same number of miles whether you redeem a ticket for an adult, a child or an infant (defined as aged up to 23 months). For infants, you have the alternative option of paying 10% of the full-fare revenue ticket cost, which will almost certainly be better value than redeeming miles. 

You should be able to find most of the countries that SQ serves in the zone descriptions, although there are some potential points of confusion: 

  • Nepal (KTM – Kathmandu Airport) is part of Zone 6, but not mentioned in the zone descriptions 
  • Chengdu and Wuhan are only one degree south of Shanghai, but are considered part of South China (Zone 4). Only Beijing and Shanghai are classified as North China (Zone 5)

The two types of awards: Saver and Advantage

When you try to make an award booking for a Singapore Airlines flight, you’ll be presented with two types of awards: Saver and Advantage*. 

*Unless you’re trying to redeem Premium Economy Class – SQ only has Saver awards available for that particular cabin.

Saver awards are cheaper than Advantage, but also have fewer seats available. If you’re looking to travel to a popular destination during a peak period, it’s possible that Saver awards will be unavailable or waitlist-only (we’ll discuss waitlisting in the next section). In that case, you can either take your chances with the waitlist, or shell out more miles for an Advantage ticket. 

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The chart below provides an illustrative representation of the relative cost of Saver versus Advantage awards for one-way Business Class flights out of Singapore. An Advantage award can cost anywhere between 30-85% more miles than a Saver ticket – quite a hefty premium!

The crazy thing is, it is actually more expensive to book an Advantage award in a given cabin than a Saver award in the cabin above! For example, it costs 90,000 KrisFlyer miles for a one-way Business Advantage award between Sydney and Singapore, but only 85,000 KrisFlyer miles for a one-way First Saver award.

One-way flight to SydneySaverAdvantage
First Class85,000155,000
Business Class62,00090,000
Premium Economy Class47,000N/A
Economy Class28,00055,000

So before you bite the bullet and pull the trigger on Advantage pricing, always check to see if there is Saver space in the higher cabin class. 

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Although Advantage awards are more expensive, they also come with lower change and cancellation fees than Saver awards. 

Per Ticket feesSaverAdvantage
Cancellation FeeUS$75US$25
Change Fee (route, cabin class, award type)US$25US$25
Change Fee (date, time)US$25Free
To understand how KrisFlyer change and cancellation fees work, be sure to check out this guide

Advantage awards also come with more free stopovers than Saver awards. The table below shows how many free stopovers you get with the different types of tickets.

Additional stopovers can be added for US$100 each, up to a maximum of 3SaverAdvantage
One-Way Award0 free stopovers1 free stopover
Round-Trip Award1 free stopover2 free stopovers
Stopovers can be a great way of flying further, for less. Here’s how you can use stopovers to save tens of thousands of miles on KrisFlyer awards

For instance, you might want to fly from SYD-SIN-HKG with a three-day stopover in Singapore before moving on to Hong Kong. A one-way Advantage award would let you do this for free, whereas you’d need to pay US$100 to add a stopover to your one-way Saver award. 

Using the award calendar

Assuming you have some flexibility around your travel dates, you can use the award calendar feature to look for alternative award options.

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Click on the “View 7-days calendar” option to bring up the award calendar. This shows, for the given number of seats you’ve requested, which dates have immediately confirmable Advantage/Saver space and which do not. The date you search becomes the mid-point of the range, so you’ll see space for +/- 3 days (searching via the mobile app only shows +/- 1 day of award space).

For example, we see above that there is at least 1X Saver seat on 6 March, and 1X Advantage seat on 5, 7 and 8 March. If you see “check availability”, it means there are no seats available, or waitlist availability only.

Dealing with the waitlist

If you’re trying to book an award ticket during peak periods, odds are you’ll run into the KrisFlyer waitlist. This is KrisFlyer’s way of saying “We don’t have an award seat right now, but if you put your name down we’ll let you know if one opens”.

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To add your name to the waitlist, simply select the flight and click on “Next”. You’ll be prompted to fill out your passenger details, after which you’ll click the “Confirm and add to waitlist” button.

If your waitlist clears, you’ll receive an email and text message notification. After that, you have a pre-set amount of time (usually 72 hours) to confirm your ticket, at which point the miles and taxes will be deducted. There is no obligation to confirm a waitlisted ticket that clears.  

Although you don’t need any miles to search for award space, you do need sufficient miles to waitlist on a flight. For example, if I want to waitlist myself on MEL-SIN in Business Saver, I need at least 62,000 miles in my account.

That said, waitlisting does not deduct or otherwise put a “hold” on my miles – in other words, I could waitlist myself on multiple MEL-SIN flights across different dates as long as I have at least 62,000 miles. I could also waitlist myself on a SYD-SIN flight at the same time if I wanted to do so. There is no restriction on the maximum number of waitlists I can be on. 

The waitlist can be frustrating, because it’s essentially limbo and there’s no hard and fast rule as to when/if your waitlist will clear. To introduce greater certainty into the process, Singapore Airlines has announced that from August 2019, waitlists will be “filled or killed” at least 2 weeks before departure. It will also not be possible to waitlist on a flight that is leaving within 21 days- it will either be available, or not available.

No one knows for sure what heuristic SQ uses to clear its waitlist, but here’s what experience tells me:

  • A higher-tier KrisFlyer member will have priority in getting his/her waitlist request cleared.
  • If you have two people flying, it’s better to book 2x single ticket waitlists rather than 1x double ticket waitlist. That’s because the waitlist may clear one seat at a time, and you don’t want a situation where you’re skipped over in preference of a single seat waitlister behind you.
  • Calling up KrisFlyer membership services to request a “chaser” may work. This is where they nudge the revenue management team to look at your waitlist request. Some people swear by this, others say it has no effect whatsoever.

If you hate the uncertainty of a waitlist, there are a few options:

    • Be flexible: If Tokyo Haneda is not available, Tokyo Narita is always an option. If you can’t get New York JFK, try Newark.
    • Break up your party: Perhaps you’re searching for two Business Saver tickets and only getting waitlist options. Try searching for one seat first. It’s possible that there is only one Business Saver available, and booking one Saver plus one Advantage ticket is still better than booking two Advantage tickets
    • Reserve a flight while waitlisting on your first choice: When you waitlist for a flight, SQ’s website will prompt you to select another non-waitlisted flight as a backup option should the waitlist not clear. You don’t need to pay for this flight yet, it’s simply held for you as backup
    • Use your KrisFlyer miles to book an award on one of SQ’s partner airlines: We will cover this in the next guide.

Conclusion

Singapore Airlines’ most aspirational First and Business Class products can only be booked through KrisFlyer, so it pays to know the ins and outs of the system if these seats are on your bucket list. 

If you’re less particular about the specific airline that you fly (“Business Class is Business Class”), then stay tuned for the next guide where we’ll show you how to use your KrisFlyer miles for partner airlines. 


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LIONEL TEO
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LIONEL TEO

Great article! Worth mentioning you can book a saver award space without on waitlist if you do it one year in advance!

Kenny
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Kenny

Thank you for this guide.
It is very comprehensive

Toru
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Toru

Very useful!

Cappy Hamper
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Cappy Hamper

Hi Aaron, you mentioned that one could “Reserve a confirmed flight while waitlisting on your first choice”. But would your miles be deducted (since you now have a confirmed flight) meaning you wouldn’t be able to continue waitlisting more flights?

Michael
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Michael

Would love to know the answer to this as well

Christian
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Christian

Very nice. Thanks. How does it work with interline awards? For example, SIN- SFO-BNA? Would that qualify as a single award, using partner space for the last leg?

Liam
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Liam

If i have 2 1 way saver confirmed, can i combine them and get a stopover for free? Presume the only cost is usd25 change fee?

Mister
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Mister

Great article. Aaron, would you recommend a service to analyze my miles, travel habits for work and recommend which airlines I should be flying to optimize my rewards? I fly 15 times a year in Asia for my job and I have a mix of miles with different airlines. I was looking at PointsPros but they seem to mostly be focused on one-off award bookings rather than analyzing and coming up with a travel plan for a flyer. I imagine a savvy travel agent could help, but I’m not sure where to look. Thanks.