We got the codeshares and accruals, but redemptions were a lot slower. Although it’s been possible for a while now to redeem KrisFlyer miles for travel on Alaska, it hasn’t yet been possible to redeem Mileage Plan miles for travel on Singapore Airlines.
That’s now changed, and Singapore Airlines awards are showing up on Alaska’s website.
Premium Economy awards are not available (not that they’re good value redemptions anyway), and Mileage Plan award availability does not extend to SilkAir flights. Remember: SilkAir and Singapore Airlines are still two separate entities, and until SilkAir is merged into Singapore Airlines, the former’s award space will only be available to KrisFlyer members.
“Forbidden cabins” are available
Singapore Airlines only opens a subset of its premium cabin award space to partners. This consists of older cabin products (like the 2006 Business Class or 2009 Regional Business Class) on specific aircraft, as summarized below.
That rule doesn’t seem to apply for Mileage Plan members, based on the searches I’ve done. For example, you can see Business Class award space available from SIN-SYD on SQ231 (A380), and SQ 211, 241 and 288 (all B777-300ERs).
That same award space is not available to LifeMiles members.
Heck, you can even get the 2017 Suites on SQ856 to Hong Kong!
I’m not sure if this is a bug or a feature, because in the past we have seen situations where “forbidden cabins” were made available to partners for brief periods before being pulled. It is possible that this space will disappear over the next few weeks, so we’ll have to see.
Assuming this is a permanent feature, it’s generally a bad thing for KrisFlyer users (but not entirely bad, see below) insofar as it means more competition for award seats from mile-printing Americans. Yes, KrisFlyer is already a transfer partner of Chase, American Express, Citi ThankYou and Capital One, but all things equal, someone in the US is more likely to have a ready stash of Alaska Mileage Plan miles than KrisFlyer.
It generally doesn’t make sense to redeem Mileage Plan miles for Singapore Airlines travel…
|Update: As David in the comments pointed out, if you’re regularly flying revenue Business Class on SIA, it can make sense to credit your miles to Mileage Plan instead of KrisFlyer because of the preferable accrual rates. In this case then yes, redeeming Singapore Airlines flights via Mileage Plan can make sense, because you’re not buying miles out of pocket. My advice below applies to those buying Mileage Plan miles out of pocket
I’m going to say that in general, it doesn’t make sense for a Singapore-based Mileage Plan user to redeem Mileage Plan miles for Singapore Airlines travel. Two main reasons:
- One of the key advantage of Mileage Plan is that it doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges on redemptions. However, Singapore Airlines does not impose fuel surcharges in the first place
- Most of us in Singapore are outright buying Mileage Plan miles at 1.97 to 2.11 US cents each (2.7 to 2.9 SG cents), which is way more expensive than the 1.2-1.8 SG cents you can buy KrisFlyer miles for in Singapore
Regarding (2), it’s a fair point to say that we can’t just look at outright cost of miles. After all, if Mileage Plan charged 10,000 miles from SIN-SFO and KrisFlyer charged 100,000 miles, then it’d still be worth it to buy Mileage Plan miles even if they cost two times of KrisFlyer.
So let’s look at how the pricing compares. Because of the differences between KrisFlyer and Mileage Plan’s region definitions, I’ve used specific cities for reference where needed.
|Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
|Singapore to Bangkok
|Singapore to Hong Kong
|Singapore to Shanghai
|Singapore to Tokyo
|Singapore to Mumbai
|Singapore to Australia/NZ
|Singapore to USA
|Both Mileage Plan and KrisFlyer do not impose fuel surcharges, so we can just compare the miles component. I was not able to find any space to the Middle East, Africa or Europe, so I have not included them above
As you can see, Singapore Airlines redemptions through Mileage Plan generally require more miles than through KrisFlyer, and where they’re lower, the higher acquisition cost of Mileage Plan miles more than offsets the difference.
For the purposes of the table above, I’ve used actual prices (i.e how the Mileage Plan website is pricing out) as opposed to the prices in the award chart. That’s because there are numerous instances where the actual pricing conflicts with the chart pricing.
For example, Singapore to Mumbai in one-way Business Class should cost 25,000 miles as per the chart, but actually prices at 65,000 miles.
Likewise, Singapore to Shanghai in one-way Business Class should cost 60,000 miles as per the chart, but actually prices at 25,000 miles.
So my take is don’t rely on the award charts, rely on the pricing engine. If you want to see the award charts anyway, I’ve copied them below.
…unless the one-way trick applies
Mileage Plan aficionados will know very well the so called “one-way trick”, which allows them to redeem a virtual round trip between Singapore and Japan for just 25,000 miles.
This takes advantage of the fact that Mileage Plan allows a stopover on a one-way award, allowing you to spend up to a year in Japan before flying home.
Now that Singapore Airlines award space is available, the question is: can we do the same thing in reverse? The answer, thankfully, is yes.
Here’s an example of someone who takes one vacation to Shanghai and another to Tokyo. He redeems a separate one-way award to Shanghai, then on the way back, he redeems Shanghai to Tokyo with a stopover in Singapore (not unlike the traditional Singapore Airlines one-way trick, only that this particular routing wouldn’t be possible because it constitutes backtracking). This costs 60,000 Mileage Plan miles in Business Class, versus 86,000 KrisFlyer miles for redeeming separate tickets.
But a better example is flying PVG-SIN in First Class, doing a stopover in Singapore, then flying SIN-HKG in First Class again. The cost is just 35,000 Mileage Plan miles (vs 93,500 KrisFlyer).
Or how about this one, found by Wilson in the Telegram group. Do one vacation in the USA, and another in Tokyo…all for 80,000 miles in Business Class (vs 142,000 KrisFlyer).
I’m sure there are other permutations out there, so feel free to play around with the engine. In these cases, it may make sense to redeem Mileage Plan miles for Singapore Airlines travel.
Despite the new possibilities for using the one-way trick, my overall sense is that this is a negative development for KrisFlyer members in Singapore. Unless KrisFlyer plugs the award space open to Alaska Mileage Plan members, we’re going to see increased competition for award seat inventory that was historically “ours”.
As a reminder, from now till 1 November 2019, Mileage Plan miles are on sale at up to a 50% bonus (you’ll need to log into your account to check what bonus you were targeted for). I wouldn’t buy them for redemptions on Singapore Airlines, but it’s still a good deal for those wanting to go to Japan.
(Cover photo: The Points Guy)