If you’ve been trying to redeem Singapore Airlines awards recently, especially in First or Business Class, you might be forgiven for thinking that seats have disappeared altogether.
That’s especially the case if you’re looking at popular routes during peak periods (e.g. London and Tokyo for year-end travel). Redemption seats can be virtually non-existent, even when searching via a Solitaire PPS Club account (which in theory should have access to the best award space of all).
If you didn’t have the foresight to book your tickets well in advance (SIA award space opens at 8 a.m SGT, 355 days before departure), my usual recommendations would be:
- Looking for alternatives on other Star Alliance and oneworld carriers (Seats.Aero is a fantastic tool for this)
- Looking for award space out of nearby airports like KUL or BKK, then buying a cheap positioning fare
- Hunting for bargain premium cabin fare deals via the Google Flights Explore feature
But if you absolutely insist on flying those dates, and with Singapore Airlines, there’s one last roll of the dice you can try: looking outside of KrisFlyer.
Finding SIA award space via partner programmes
Wait a minute, you say. Doesn’t KrisFlyer always enjoy the best Singapore Airlines award space availability?
Yes and no.
Historically speaking, Singapore Airlines did not release long-haul premium cabin awards to partner airlines, reserving them for KrisFlyer members only (and Lufthansa Miles&More, for reasons we won’t go into detail here). While partner programmes like Avianca LifeMiles and United Mileage Plus could book Singapore Airlines Economy Class awards on any route, or Business/First Class awards on short-haul routes, everything else was off-limits.
However, in recent times that’s started to change. I first wrote about this last year, when I noticed that Alaska Mileage Plan and Aeroplan were getting access to awards that KrisFlyer members could not see.
In case there was any doubt as to whether this was a bug or a feature, Aeroplan confirmed that they had indeed worked out an arrangement with Singapore Airlines:
“We have indeed worked with Singapore to strengthen our partnership behind the scenes,” said Scott O’Leary, Air Canada’s vice president of loyalty and product, in a statement to TPG. “As a result, our members will enjoy better redemption availability on Singapore flights going forward.”
-The Points Guy
|✈️ The Aeroplan Effect
While there’s no way of proving it, I have to believe that the “Aeroplan Effect” is a big reason why award space between Singapore and the USA has dried up. The increased availability of SIA awards via Aeroplan was covered heavily in the North American blogosphere, and it was inevitable that competition for awards would increase.
For the record I don’t blame them- I’d be doing the same if I were in their shoes. But there’s only so many seats on every flight, and every seat that Aeroplan members book is one less for KrisFlyer.
In addition to these two programmes, it appears that EVA Air Infinity MileageLands also enjoys preferential access to Singapore Airlines awards. This was first reported by TripPlus (Google Translate required) back in March 2022, though there are a few precautions to note, as I’ll cover in a bit.
When I wrote last year’s article, I said that partners were getting more Singapore Airlines award space than KrisFlyer members. Some commenters took issue with this characterisation, saying it could be the case that SIA releases x seats to KrisFlyer members and y seats to partners (where x>y), and the seats for KrisFlyer members were simply redeemed first.
I can’t rule out that possibility (it really boils down to whether award seats come from different buckets or are comingled), but whatever the underlying reality, the fact remains that partners sometimes see seats that KrisFlyer members do not. And that means if you can’t find any SIA awards through KrisFlyer, it’s worth trying a different programme before giving up completely.
Here’s some examples of partners seeing space that KrisFlyer members don’t.
Suppose I want to fly from Singapore to London in mid-July. KrisFlyer shows only waitlisted options on SQ322 and SQ308.
But if I do a search via Aeroplan, Alaska Mileage Plan and EVA Air Infinity MileageLands, seats are available for immediate redemption.
Here’s another example to Perth in December. In this case, KrisFlyer only shows Saver availability on SQ225, with SQ213 available in Advantage.
If I do a search via Aeroplan, I can see immediately confirmable space on SQ225 and SQ213. EVA Air Infinity MileageLands shows space for SQ225, 213 and 223.
As I mentioned earlier, partner programmes (apart from Aeroplan, Alaska Mileage Plan and EVA Air) do not get access to SIA’s long-haul premium cabin awards. That said, there may still be a use case for booking trips within the region.
Suppose I want to head to Hong Kong for a National Day getaway. Singapore Airlines has closed off redemption seats on SQ874, the first flight out of Singapore on 9 August. The only option is to waitlist on Business Advantage.
However, I can find two tickets available for immediate confirmation via Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles, at 35,000 miles each (versus 34,000 miles for Business Saver via KrisFlyer).
Is it actually bookable?
Here’s the thing. Just because an itinerary shows up in the online search results does not necessarily mean it can be booked. For the uninitiated, this is a phenomenon known as phantom award space- when you try to book it, the website errors out.
The general rule is that if multiple frequent flyer programmes show the same itinerary, it’s unlikely to be phantom space. Therefore, in the examples above, I’d feel confident about the 16 July SIN-LHR itinerary, since Aeroplan, Alaska and EVA all show it.
But I could not reproduce the 10 September SIN-LHR on other search engines; only EVA showed this space. So I did another level of checks by calling up EVA’s reservations hotline to see if they could book the seats, and the results were mixed:
- The phone agent in Singapore told me that he didn’t see the space
- The phone agent in Taipei told me that the SIN-LHR space was available
Here’s another example how things can go awry with EVA. I was looking for year-end Business Class awards to Tokyo Haneda, and as expected, nothing turns up on KrisFlyer.
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands shows options on both SQ634 and SQ636.
If you currently have a zero balance, this is as far as you can go with the EVA booking engine. But a MileLion reader (thanks TJ) with EVA miles attempted to book these tickets, only to find on the final screen that the flights were waitlisted (which is weird- since when did EVA allow waitlisting for Star Alliance awards?).
This means that if you’re searching EVA Infinity MileageLands with a zero balance, you can’t be 100% certain that what you see on the results screen is what’s actually available.
Therefore, I’d exercise caution here. If I see Singapore Airlines award space on EVA Air, I would:
- Cross check it against Alaska Mileage Plan and Aeroplan (keeping in mind this will not be conclusive- Infinity MileageLands may see actual space that the other two don’t)
- Call up EVA Air customer service (in Taipei) to verify they can see the award too
- Ensure there’s a realistic chance of that award being available by checking whether SIA is even selling tickets on that particular flight and date (do a dummy booking via the SIA website)
That will hopefully minimise the risks involved, because once you transfer credit card points, there’s no going back. If you have actual data points of successful SIA bookings via Infinity MileageLands, I’d love to hear them.
Which programme to book with?
Since Alaska Mileage Plan and Aeroplan miles can’t be earned through Singapore credit cards, your only option is to buy them during one of the periodic sales.
|One-way Business Class
|Singapore to USA
|Singapore to Australia
It’ll still be cheaper than buying a Business Class ticket outright, but I’d much rather convert points I earned for “free”. That leaves EVA Air Infinity MileageLands and Turkish Miles&Smiles
Here’s how EVA Air Infinity MileageLands compares to KrisFlyer:
|One-way Business Class
|Singapore to Europe
|Singapore to Japan
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands partners with the following banks in Singapore:
- American Express
- HSBC (TravelOne only)
- Standard Chartered
Turkish Miles&Smiles won’t get access to long-haul premium cabin award space, but as I showed earlier, could still be useful for intra-Asia travel.
Here’s how Turkish Miles&Smiles compares to KrisFlyer:
|One-way Business Class
|21,000 to 52,000
|Defined here as: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
Turkish Miles&Smiles partners with the following banks in Singapore:
Singapore Airlines does not have fuel surcharges, and taxes and fees will be largely the same regardless of which programme you book through (Alaska Mileage Plan has a US$12.50 non-refundable partner fee).
Singapore Airlines award seats have become increasingly difficult to find on certain routes/dates, but they may still be available through partner programmes like Alaska Mileage Plan, Aeroplan or EVA Air Infinity MileageLands.
EVA is particularly promising as it’s a credit card transfer partner in Singapore, but you’ll need to exercise caution with the results as my testing shows.
Have you had success booking long-haul Singapore Airlines awards through partner programmes?