How to think about speculative award bookings for end-2021 travel

Fancy taking a punt on year-end travel? Award bookings are the way to go, thanks to their refundability and SIA's flexibility policy.

With Germany announced as the first VTL destination, there’s a real hope now that SHN-free travel to additional countries will open up in the months to follow. That’s as good a reason as any to pencil in some getaways for Q4.

Possibilities…possibilities

For those planning to roll the dice, it’s ideal to redeem KrisFlyer miles since (1) Saver award space is plentiful (for now at least), (2) you get unlimited free changes, and (3) it’s always better to tie up miles rather than cash.

In this article, I’ll briefly explain how the complimentary rebooking policy works, how to make changes to your award ticket online, and the destinations worth taking a punt on for Q4. 

Complimentary Rebooking Policy

Complimentary Rebooking Policy

Singapore Airlines passengers with commercial or award tickets issued on or before 31 December 2021 can make unlimited, complimentary changes to their bookings as per the table below:

Date of Change Remarks
On/before 31 December 2021 Unlimited free changes
From 1 January 2022 One free change

This overrides the regular change fees that apply to Saver and Advantage awards, as highlighted below. 

  Saver Advantage
Change of date/time on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights US$25
 Waived 
No fee
Change of route, cabin class, award type or add a stopover on Singapore Airlines US$25
 Waived 
US$25
 Waived 

The complimentary rebooking policy does not apply to partner airline bookings (e.g. Lufthansa, SWISS) made with KrisFlyer miles. 

It also does not apply to no-show fees. For example, if you forgot to reschedule your award flight and fail to show up for it, you’ll have to pay a no-show fee (US$100-300, depending on cabin) before you’re allowed to reschedule (free). 

Changing an award ticket online

The good news is that the vast majority of award ticket changes can be made online.

Login to your KrisFlyer account and go to BookingsUpcoming Flights. Select the itinerary you wish to modify by clicking Manage Booking.

On the next screen, click the Change Booking button.

You’ll then be presented with several options.

You can:

(1) Change the date (e.g. 19 September to 20 September)
(2) Change the destination (e.g. Zurich to Frankfurt)
(3) Change the cabin (e.g. Economy to Business)
(4) Change the award type (e.g. Saver to Advantage [not shown in the screenshot above; this can be done on the following screen]

Date change

This is straightforward. Select your new dates and flights, and click through to the end. 

You’ll see a confirmation screen informing you that the change is free of charge. 

Destination change

Before we talk about destination (or cabin/award type) changes, we need to know one important KrisFlyer rule.

If your new redemption booking requires fewer KrisFlyer miles, the excess miles will not be refunded

This means that only certain kinds of changes make sense; in other situations you’ll want to cancel and rebook.

For example, suppose I originally book a Business Class ticket to Tokyo (47,000 miles), then want to change to Frankfurt (92,000 miles). Assuming award space is available, I simply need to top up 45,000 miles and any difference in taxes, which can be done online. 

But if I’m in the reverse situation (i.e. booked Frankfurt and now want Tokyo), I will not get a refund of my 45,000 miles if I make this change online (or via the phone, for that matter). Instead, I’ll need to cancel my Tokyo ticket (US$75 fee) and book a separate Frankfurt ticket. 

Changing destinations may also involve a change in taxes and fees. For example, suppose I want to change from Zurich to Frankfurt. 

German airport taxes are higher, so the system prompts me to pay an additional S$117.60. Zurich and Frankfurt are in the same award zone, so no additional miles need to be paid. 

Cabin change

The same logic as above applies. If you’re upgrading cabins, go ahead and do it online- you’ll just pay the difference in miles.

However, if you plan to downgrade cabins, you’ll need to cancel the higher cabin award and book the lower cabin award separately. Do it online, and the system will happily tell you the change is free of charge…while you forfeit the difference in miles. 

Again, this is simply the operation of the “no refund of excess miles” rule. 

Award type change

If you hold a Saver award and something possesses you to upgrade to Advantage, there’s no issue- simply reselect an Advantage award, pay the top-up and flex in the mirror. 

Topping up Saver to Advantage. The extra 10 cents is probably due to currency fluctuations since my last booking

But if you book an Advantage award as an insurance policy while waiting for a Saver award to open, you can’t make that conversion- I mean, you can, but you’ll forfeit the miles difference. Instead, you’ll need to cancel the Advantage award then book the Saver award separately. 

My speculative bookings

More VTL arrangements are likely to materialise before the end of the year

So, with all that said, what’s my game plan?

Well, I’ve already booked travel to Germany, but that’s unlikely to be the only country we can go to this year. Based on Singapore’s latest border restriction categories, I think it’s worth keeping an eye on countries in Cat. III: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland. These have the potential to be bumped up to Cat. II or the VTL list if all goes well. 

🛂Singapore Border Restriction by Category
  Cat. I Cat. II Cat. III Cat. IV VTL
Short-term visitors
Application required ATP Details on ICA website VTP
Pre-departure PCR test
72h

72h

48h
On-arrival PCR test
SHN
7 days

14 days

14 days
ART during SHN N/A
Day 3, 7, 11

Day 3, 7, 11
N/A
Post-SHN PCR test N/A
Day 7

Day 14

Day 14
No SHN. PCR test on Day 3, 7
Cat I: Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China (ex-Jiangsu), New Zealand, Taiwan
Cat II: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Germany, Mainland China (Jiangsu)
Cat III: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland
Cat IV: All other countries/regions
VTL (from Sept 8): Germany, Brunei

If VTL arrangements do happen, they must be on direct flights. Of the Cat. III list, Singapore Airlines offers non-stop service to Denmark, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland so that’s the subset I’d watch out for.

Of this group, only Denmark and Switzerland are currently open to Singapore residents.  While I’d love to visit Japan, my friends there tell me it’s highly unlikely to open to tourists this year, so that might be a bridge too far. South Korea and Singapore have been in talks about a bubble for a while now, but nothing concrete has materialised. 

But yes, go ahead and make award bookings. Remember: you can make as many changes as you want up till 31 December 2021, and then a further free change beyond that. The travel date can be pushed up to one year from the date of issuance, and in a worse case scenario, you can always get your miles refunded for US$75. 

One caveat: if VTL arrangements do happen, they may be added as separate flights. For example, suppose you book Singapore to Copenhagen, and Denmark is later declared as a VTL country. Your flight from Copenhagen to Singapore may not be the designated VTL flight, which means you wouldn’t qualify for a SHN waiver. Singapore Airlines might only run VTL flights on certain days, or add them as a new flight number.

In that case, you would have to change your return flight, and possibly pay a top-up of miles. From what we’ve seen with Germany, Singapore Airlines only releases Advantage award space on VTL flights (unless you’re a Solitaire/PPS Club member). 

There won’t be any issues with your outbound flight from Singapore at least, since the VTL concept only applies to flights into Singapore. 

Conclusion

The VTL arrangement looks to be our best hope for quarantine-free travel in 2021, and if you’re planning a year end getaway, there’s no harm in making a few speculative bookings thanks to SIA’s flexibility policy. 

You’re of course limited by your “working capital”, i.e. the number of miles in your account, since every booking will consume some of then. But play your cards right and you might avoid the mad rush to book tickets when the situation crystalises. 

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Lee

Can the same logic apply if I want to ‘speculate’ for 2022 travel?

bluepanda

Expiring miles could also play a part in the “strategy”, particularly the dates. If you have miles expiring say early 2022, and you still want to punt on Japan, you need to book something first to use up the older miles, and then book Japan.

Gina

Thanks for the reminder! My husband and I are booked for December, arriving via Amsterdam, returning via Paris. I guess these won’t make it to VTL by December for sure. I managed to change the destination from Amsterdam to Munich for free. However, I can’t change the arrival city from Paris to another city. I guess I have to move this flight to next year so I don’t pay the cancellation fees. Will try to find another return flights and hopefully there will be more added to the availability soon…

Rekeno

If you say you cannot change Paris because you couldn’t do online, please call SQ hotline to get it done, it’s still FOC.

Gina

Really? Thanks for the information!

bluepanda

I’m not sure whether the policy has changed during these times. “Change” (whether free or paid) has always been only changing the destination city, not departure city. If you want to depart from another city, you have to book another ticket. In the post, the reference is to a return ticket starting from Singapore.

Gina

Thanks! Will call to check. Worse case, I will move the flight to Dec 2022. I will use it at some point and I assume Paris will be open w no quarantine by Dec 2020.🤪

Noile lim

Pardon my poor understanding, but why the focus on. Cat III?

I thought can just speculate on Cat I or even go ahead with bookings on Cat I, since Cat I has no SHN requirement?

MXW

The territories in CAT I do not currently welcome travelers from Singapore.

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