In January 2019, Singapore Airlines announced plans to “fill or kill” the much-maligned KrisFlyer waitlist 14 days before departure.
This change was supposed to take place in Q2 2019, but ended up getting delayed till July, when it was announced that all flights departing from 14 August 2019 would be subject to the new waitlist policy.
What is the new waitlist policy?
For flights departing from 14 August 2019:
- all waitlists will either be cleared or cancelled at least 14 days prior to departure
- the waitlist will be closed 21 days before departure
This means the waitlists for flights departing today, 15 August 2019, closed on 25 July 2019, and all outstanding waitlists were either cleared or cancelled on 1 August 2019.
We can see the impact in a dummy search between Singapore and Sydney in Business Class. Note how all flights between 15 August (today) and 5 September (21 days from now) are either available or not available (“check availability” is a quirk of Singapore Airlines’ award calendar– it basically means the same as “not available”).
The first time a waitlist option appears is on 6 September 2019, 22 days from today.
Although the new system should give greater certainty in the sense that you won’t find yourself stuck on the waitlist with two days to go, it can hamper your ability to gamble on a superior option coming through last minute.
For example, I may be holding on to a Business Advantage award but hoping that a Business Saver clears on another flight. Since all waitlists are now cancelled or cleared 14 days before departure, I’ll need to manually check flights each day for up to 14 days to see if a Saver award opens up just before departure. It’s hardly the end of the world, but certainly more inconvenient than the old regime where the system would do the monitoring and notification for you.
The new system has also given rise to some quirks of its own, which we’ll explore below.
Despite the new policy, the Singapore Airlines website will occasionally show you waitlists that you can’t actually add yourself to.
In the example below, I’m looking for SIN-AKL in Business Class on 22 August 2019. This date is within 3 weeks of today, so by right I shouldn’t be seeing any waitlist options at all. And yet the waitlist appears, available for selection.
If I try and add myself to this waitlist, the website will let still me enter passenger details as per normal…
…but will give me an error message at the final stage.
I’m sure that most people don’t keep up with KrisFlyer news as obsessively as we miles chasers do, so this is bound to lead to some confusion (and unnecessary calls to KrisFlyer’s helpdesk). I’ve only seen it happen once, but I’ve heard scattered reports that it can happen on other routes too, so keep your eyes peeled.
No longer possible to check online whether the upgrade waitlist is open
I generally don’t think that it’s worth buying a ticket and upgrading it with miles, but it can make sense if your employer is covering the cost of the revenue ticket.
Although the waitlist for awards is closed 21 days before departure, it’s still possible to waitlist for upgrades up to the point of departure.
In the past, you could see whether the upgrade waitlist was open by checking the situation for awards. If you saw a waitlist for Business Saver awards, it meant that you could also waitlist for a Business Saver upgrade by calling up customer service (it’s not possible to do this via the website).
Now that the website doesn’t offer waitlisting within 21 days of departure, you’ll need to call up customer service to check if the upgrade waitlist is open, and add yourself if it is. It’s not that big of an inconvenience in the sense that you’d have to call to add yourself anyway, but at least in the past you could have saved yourself a phone call if you knew from the website that the upgrade waitlist was closed.
The “New York problem”
Let’s say I’m trying to redeem a Business Class award from Singapore to New York JFK- a notoriously difficult route to find awards. I plan to fly 6 days from now, so this falls within the “it’s either available or not” period.
I enter New York JFK, 21 August 2019, Business Class, 1 Adult as my search query…
…the website checks…
…and kicks me back to the main screen with the following error message.
By right, the system should have shown me an award calendar of +/-3 days where there are Business Saver/Advantage awards available for immediate confirmation, or else offered me Premium Economy/Economy options.
This confused me at first, but I eventually figured out that there were really no other options available. I did separate searches for Economy and Premium Economy, and couldn’t find anything from Singapore to New York JFK from 18-24 August 2019. I also faced a similar problem when searching for New York EWR space too.
It was much less likely that you’d meet with such a situation under the old regime, because the odds of there being no awards or waitlists across all cabins and all date ranges was small. Now that waitlists are automatically not an option within 21 days of departure, the odds of encountering such a situation increases, especially on routes with high loads.
I only managed to replicate this problem with routes to New York City, but let me know if you see it happening elsewhere.
It’ll take some time for the dust to settle on the new waitlist process, but I’m sure the question everyone has is “are waitlists clearing more regularly now?”
I hate to say it, but your guess is as good as mine. Singapore Airlines promised greater certainty in the waitlist process; it didn’t promise to clear more waitlists.
Even with the changes, the waitlist situation will still continue to be stressful- confirming flight plans 2 weeks before departure is still cutting it way too close for most. However, it is a step in the right direction, and perhaps we can hope for greater transparency around the waitlist clearing process in the future.
If you believe that past performance is indicative of future returns, you can monitor this Flyertalk thread where people post data points of waitlists clearing or not clearing.