Which KrisFlyer redemption offers the best value?
It’s an intriguing question that warrants further analysis, especially for those looking to get the most bang for their buck. At the same time, it could get out of hand very quickly, since KrisFlyer redemptions don’t have to be just for Singapore Airlines- miles can also be redeemed for its 25 Star Alliance partners, Alaska Airlines, Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, and Vistara.
But assuming we limited our scope to just Singapore Airlines, could we derive some heuristic to see where the sweet spots lie?
We sure can. All we need is some data.
While I’m sure there’s a more sophisticated way of going about this, I’m all about quick and dirty. So here’s how I’m determining which redemption represents the best value:
- I first obtained the mileage required for a one-way Saver award in Economy, Premium Economy, Business, and First Class between Singapore and each Singapore Airlines destination
- Then, using GCmap, I plotted the one-way distance between Singapore Changi and each of these destinations, taking into account stopovers where necessary (e.g. Singapore to Houston flies via Manchester)
- Finally, I divided the values obtained in (1) by the values obtained in (2)
|❓ What about flights with more than one routing?|
There’s two options for getting to JFK and LAX: the non-stop flights, or the one-stop ones.
Since the non-stop flights only have two cabins (Premium Economy and Business), I chose the one-stop flights via Frankfurt (JFK) and Tokyo Narita (LAX), and adjusted the distances accordingly.
The key question is:
For every mile I fly in real life, how many KrisFlyer miles do I pay?
The lower the figure, the better, obviously.
Admittedly, this might not be the most robust way of approaching things if we’re interested in monetary value, because the lack of competition on certain routes can make the price per mile flown frightfully expensive (and thereby represent better value for miles redemptions in the traditional sense of the word).
So your options are (1) accept this as a fun piece of analysis for a weekend read, (2) be pedantic in the comments, (3) be pedantic in the comments AND send me a nicely formatted Excel file with the min-max airfares for each route (my preferred option).
In other words, we’re not looking at how much money each KrisFlyer mile gets you, we’re looking at how many miles Singapore Airlines will fly you in the real world for each KrisFlyer mile redeemed.
Here’s the tl;dr:
For Economy Class redemptions, you’ll pay on average 9.9 KrisFlyer miles per 1 real-world mile flown.
|✈️ Economy Class Redemptions|
|Destination||Real-World Miles||KrisFlyer Miles||Ratio|
|Houston (via MAN)||11,523||44,000||3.82|
|New York (via FRA)||10,245||44,000||4.29|
|Cape Town (via JNB)||6,171||29,000||4.70|
|Los Angeles (via NRT)||8,775||42,000||4.79|
|Barcelona (via MXP)||6,856||42,000||6.13|
|Ho Chi Minh||675||13,500||20.00|
The three best value redemptions are, unsurprisingly, some of Singapore Airlines’ longest routes:
- Houston (stopover in Manchester): 3.82 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- New York (stopover in Frankfurt): 4.29 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Cape Town (stopover in Johannesburg): 4.70 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
Houston and New York in particular cover more than 10,000 miles, and while that’s a soul-crushing distance to be sitting in an Economy Class seat, at least you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that you’re paying a mere ~4 KrisFlyer miles for every real-world mile flown- the best value in the whole programme!
On the other extreme, short-haul destinations represent the worst value:
- Kuala Lumpur: 46.20 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Penang: 22.79 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Phuket: 22.24 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
Kuala Lumpur is particularly poor value, with members paying 46 KrisFlyer miles for every 1 mile flown. For perspective, that’s more than you’d pay for First Class to every destination except Jakarta!
Truth be told, there’s very little reason to redeem miles for short-haul Economy. You’d be much better off buying a cheap budget ticket, which gives you a free choice of dates and timings.
Premium Economy Class
For Premium Economy Class redemptions, you’ll pay on average 10.8 KrisFlyer miles per 1 real-world mile flown.
|✈️ Premium Economy Class Redemptions|
|Cape Town (via JNB)||6,171||43,000||6.97|
|Houston (via MAN)||11,523||80,500||6.99|
|New York (via FRA)||10,245||80,500||7.86|
|Los Angeles (via NRT)||8,775||75,000||8.55|
|Barcelona (via MXP)||6,856||71,000||10.36|
The three best value redemptions here are:
- Cape Town (stopover in Johannesburg): 6.97 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Houston (stopover in Manchester): 6.99 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- New York (stopover in Frankfurt): 7.86 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
It’s the same three from the Economy Class list, only with Cape Town replacing Los Angeles as the best value option. Even though it’s “only” 6,171 miles in flying distance (30% shorter than Los Angeles), it’s the beneficiary of KrisFlyer’s Zone 10 sweet spot, where Premium Economy awards are 43% cheaper than Los Angeles.
The three worst redemptions are:
- Hong Kong: 16.70 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Shanghai: 14.64 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Mumbai: 14.17 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
These are the shortest routes where Premium Economy is offered, and if you really need that extra bit of comfort, you might be better off buying Economy and hoping the opportunity to buy an instant upgrade comes along.
For Business Class redemptions, you’ll pay on average 20.9 KrisFlyer miles per 1 real-world mile flown.
|✈️ Business Class Redemptions|
|Cape Town (via JNB)||6,171||56,500||9.16|
|Houston (via MAN)||11,523||111,500||9.68|
|New York (via FRA)||10,245||111,500||10.88|
|Los Angeles (via NRT)||8,775||107,000||12.19|
|Barcelona (via MXP)||6,776||103,500||15.10|
|Ho Chi Minh||675||24,000||35.56|
The three best value redemptions here are:
- Cape Town (stopover in Johannesburg): 9.16 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Houston (stopover in Manchester): 9.68 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Istanbul: 10.48 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
KrisFlyer’s Zone 10 sweet spot features heavily here, with both Cape Town and Istanbul included (and Johannesburg a very close 4th).
Despite real-world distances of 5,000-6,000 miles, Business Class awards cost just 56,500 miles each. Istanbul is virtually at Europe’s doorstep, and yet the cost of a Business Class award is 45% cheaper!
The three worst redemptions are:
- Kuala Lumpur: 114.13 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Penang: 56.30 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Medan: 54.40 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
Again, this ties into the idea that you shouldn’t redeem your miles for short-haul Business Class. I mean, what’s the point? It costs an arm and a leg, and the flight is over before you know it. There isn’t even a meal service for Kuala Lumpur; Business Class passengers get a plastic-wrapped sandwich. And at 114 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile, this is the highest cost KrisFlyer redemption across the entire network.
By the way, Singapore Airlines doesn’t stock champagne on its Medan, Penang or Kuala Lumpur routes. If that’s not reason enough to avoid Business Class, I don’t know what is!
For First Class redemptions, you’ll pay on average of 24.6 KrisFlyer miles per 1 real-world mile flown.
|✈️ First Class Redemptions|
|New York (via FRA)||10,245||148,500||14.49|
|Los Angeles (via NRT)||8,775||146,500||16.70|
The three best value redemptions here are:
- New York (stopover in Frankfurt): 14.49 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Los Angeles (stopover in Tokyo Narita): 16.70 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- London: 20.84 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
Given the limited deployment of First Class, the names here are quite different compared to previous sections. Who would have thought that Singapore Airlines’ priciest redemption, New York JFK, would also be its best value? But with more than 10,000 miles flown, you really get a lot of time to enjoy that Suite (sadly it’ll be downgraded to a regular First Class seat from 15 May 2023, as the aircraft gets swapped to a B777-300ER).
London is also surprisingly good value (though 3rd place would actually go to Auckland, had it not lost First Class service from 26 March), but if you’re coming back to Singapore, I’d advise you to fly from Paris instead. London has infamously high airport taxes thanks to its Air Passenger Duty, which costs £200 (~S$335) per First Class passenger.
The three worst value redemptions are:
- Jakarta: 55.86 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Hong Kong: 28.36 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
- Melbourne: 24.97 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile
Melbourne is an interesting one, but when you examine the numbers you see the difference is marginal; it could just as well have been Shanghai, Mumbai or Sydney. With a flight time of 7h 30 minutes, you might not have enough time to fully appreciate the experience- especially if you take a red-eye flight.
As for Hong Kong and Jakarta, well, I’ll say they’re not good redemption ideas if all you do is fly. But as I’ll cover in the next section, there could still be good reasons to take a punt on these!
It’s important to note that not all miles are equal.
What I mean by this is that the quality of a real-world mile can differ tremendously depending on cabin product. For example, Singapore to Kathmandu in Business Class has a ratio of 19.63. This is lower than Singapore to Adelaide in Business Class at 20.44, suggesting better value.
However, Kathmandu is operated by the absolute worse aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet: the B737-800 (or at least it was until recently; I believe the MAX is now rostered).
These feature recliner seats in Business Class, first introduced in 2014 and well beyond their prime. Seat controls are entirely manual, lumbar support is saggy, there’s no privacy to speak of, and forget about Wi-Fi or seatback inflight entertainment.
In contrast, Adelaide is operated by A350-900 Medium Haul aircraft, which have Singapore Airlines’ 2018 Regional Business Class seat.
While it’s not as wide as some of Singapore Airlines’ other Business Class seats, this is actually my favourite Business Class seat in the entire fleet. I love that it reclines to flat without needing to flip, is friendly to back-sleepers, and offers good privacy.
Second, where First Class is concerned, a short-haul flight can still be good value if your pre-flight game is strong enough! Take Jakarta, for instance. At 56 KrisFlyer miles per real-world mile, it sounds like a terrible deal. And it would be, if all you did was take the flight.
But a First Class flight to Jakarta gets you a golden ticket (quite literally) to The Private Room at Changi Terminal 3.
This exclusive lounge for Singapore Airlines First Class passengers offers a fine-dining experience, serving up restaurant-quality food and fine wines (Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, before you ask).
So even though the flight will be over in the blink of an eye, those who can make time to enjoy the lounge beforehand can still come out on top.
It should be no surprise that the worst value KrisFlyer redemptions tend to be the shortest flights, and the best value KrisFlyer redemptions the longest. However, it’s not a hard and fast rule, thanks to the great Zone 10 sweet spot for travel between Singapore and Middle East/Africa.
Moreover, we shouldn’t just look at the KrisFlyer miles to real-world miles ratio, especially when there’s an opportunity to enjoy the lounge before the flight. It’s a completely rational decision (well, rational being relative) to redeem First Class to Jakarta if trying The Private Room is on your bucket list- perhaps even spend a whole day there, like some boliao people.