Booking KrisFlyer Advantage awards more often? You’re not alone

If you've had trouble finding Saver space lately, you're not alone. Why are more and more KrisFlyer members having to resort to pricier Advantage seats?

KrisFlyer members will know that when it comes to redeeming Singapore Airlines flights, there’s three types of awards available: Promo, Saver and Advantage.

But since Promo awards are not available outside of Spontaneous Escapes, or for travel beyond the following month, for most members the decision usually boils down to Saver versus Advantage.

Saver awards are cheaper, but less plentiful. Advantage awards are more expensive, but more abundant (well, relatively speaking anyway!).

✈️ KrisFlyer Award Types
 SaverAdvantage
Price8.5K to 148.5K15K to 243K
Change of DateUS$25Free
Change of Route, Cabin Class or Award TypeUS$25US$25
CancellationUS$75US$50
Stopovers0 (OW)
1 (RT)
1 (OW)
2 (RT)
Seat Selection
(Economy)
Standard seatsStandard and Forward Zone seats

Even though Advantage awards come with lower change and refund fees, as well as more complimentary stopovers, it’s pretty safe to say that Saver is what everyone hopes to book.

But with SIA load factors back to pre-COVID highs, Saver space in premium cabins can be hard to come by. Even Solitaire PPS Club members who, in theory, should have access to the most award space, are reporting that they have to resort to Advantage awards more often.

Want instant confirmation? Advantage may be the only option

Now to be clear, Saver awards still exist. You can easily find them on short-haul routes, as well as to South Asia and China. It’s even possible to find them on popular long-haul routes like London and Sydney, provided you’re willing to travel during off-peak periods.

That said, if you find yourself having to resort to Advantage awards more often than before, here’s some potential reasons. 

 Note: In this post, I’m referring to First and Business Class Saver awards, not Premium Economy and Economy Saver awards which are relatively more abundant.

Why are KrisFlyer members booking Advantage awards more often?

Load factors are up

Surging load factors have meant SIA’s A380s have been brought back in full strength

SIA has ridden the post-COVID recovery wave, with load factors for September 2023 touching 88%. For comparison, that’s even better than the corresponding figure for September 2019!

While that’s good for shareholders, it’s not so rosy for KrisFlyer members. As load factors increase, so too does the opportunity cost of opening a seat for miles redemption (because that seat could have been sold to a fare-paying passenger). This means that the revenue management team has to be more conservative about releasing award seats, and when they do, it’s more likely to be in the Advantage bucket rather than Saver (this also explains why Spontaneous Escapes lists are shorter than pre-COVID).

Compounding the problem are capacity constraints- both crew and aircraft. SIA has been rehiring cabin crew and pilots after a two-year freeze, but the airline has been hit by delivery delays to both the B777-9 and the B787-10.

This means that SIA is probably not operating as many flights as they would like to, with a commensurate impact on Saver availability. 

More competition for award seats from partner programmes

Historically speaking, SIA blocked partner programmes from redeeming its long-haul First and Business Class awards, reserving these for KrisFlyer members (Lufthansa Miles&More members could also get access, but these miles were hard to accumulate via credit cards).

However, that rule has been relaxed in recent years. It started with Alaska Mileage Plan members getting access to the so-called “forbidden cabins” in 2019, and then in 2022, EVA Air Infinity MileageLands and Aeroplan members got to join the party too.

There goes the neighbourhood

“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

It got to the point where members of these programmes sometimes even see awards that KrisFlyer members don’t!

Therefore, KrisFlyer members aren’t just competing with each other for Saver seats anymore- they now have to contend with partner programmes as well. And with greater competition for seats, more members are forced to pay for Advantage awards (which partner programmes usually can’t access).

It’s easier to earn miles than ever before

In SIA’s FY22/23 annual report, the airline noted that “members also accrued and redeemed record levels of miles in this financial year”, as the overall membership base grew by almost 30% to 6.7 million members.

I can certainly believe it. Over the past few years, it’s undoubtedly become easier to accrue miles in bigger quantities than ever before:

  • Kris+ launched an aggressive expansion strategy, expanding to almost 1,000 partners with up to 9 mpd for extended periods from 2021 to 2023 (plus 4 mpd more from credit cards)
  • Citi PayAll has gone on the warpath to grab market share, selling miles from as little as 0.8 cents apiece
  • Other payment facilities like CardUp have made it easier for cardholders to generate miles on previously un-cardable expenses
  • The UOB Lady’s Cards broke the 4 mpd mould by upping the ante to 6 mpd (and are now available to both genders)
  • Card issuers have been more upfront about selling miles and points, and even though not all of these are great deals, there’s bound to be less-savvy miles collectors who take it up
  • The rise of e-wallets has created more opportunities for manufactured spending

With more miles chasing fewer seats, it’s inevitable that Saver seats will quickly disappear, leaving Advantage as the next best option. 

The gap between Saver and Advantage awards has narrowed

Waitlist for 103,500 miles, or instant confirmation for 123,000 miles? Some would choose the latter

One of the lesser-discussed effects of the 2022 KrisFlyer devaluation was the narrowing of the gap between Saver and Advantage awards.

This happened because all Saver awards increased in price, but Advantage awards between Singapore and Zones 1-9 were unaffected. Moreover, while Saver awards to Zones 10-13 increased by an average of 13%, the increase for Advantage was only 5%.

Using Business Class as an example:

❓ How much more is Advantage compared to Saver?
(Business Class)
 Before 2022 devaluationAfter 2022 devaluation
Zone 2
Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei
84%67%
Zone 3
Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos
86%67%
Zone 4
South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan
64%47%
Zone 5
Beijing, Shanghai
67%51%
Zone 6
India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh
67%51%
Zone 7
Japan & South Korea
49%35%
Zone 8
Perth & Darwin
78%60%
Zone 9
Australia (ex-Perth & Darwin) & NZ
45%31%
Zone 10
Africa, Middle East, Turkey
84%83%
Zone 11
Europe
30%19%
Zone 12
USA (West Coast)
32%20%
Zone 13
USA (East Coast & Houston)
41%29%

The upshot is that psychologically speaking, it’s become less painful to pay for Advantage over Saver.

Consider flights between Singapore and Zone 11 (Europe): 

 Business SaverBusiness Advantage
Before 2022 devaluation92,000120,000
(+30%)
After 2022 devaluation103,500123,000
(+19%)

Prior to the 2022 devaluation, Business Advantage awards cost 30% more than Saver. That’s now come down to 19%. 

Or consider flights between Singapore and Zone 12 (Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle)

 Business SaverBusiness Advantage
Before 2022 devaluation95,000125,000
(+32%)
After 2022 devaluation107,000128,500
(+20%)

Prior to the 2022 devaluation, Business Advantage awards cost 32% more than Saver. That’s now come down to 20%.

To put it another way, suppose I’m looking at flight options to San Francisco, and see the following:

Business Saver awards are 107,000 miles, but require waitlisting. Business Advantage awards are 128,500 miles, but are available for immediate confirmation.

What goes through my mind? Well, obviously I’d rather pay 107,000 than 128,500 miles, but maybe I don’t want to deal with the uncertainty of the waitlist. If I confirm my flight now, I can start planning the rest of my trip, whether it’s connecting flights, car rental, hotels, or activities. I can block my leave. I can tell my companions to block their leave.

In that sense, an extra 20% might seem like a small price to pay for certainty, and it’s less of a sting than the 32% needed prior to the devaluation. I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but it’s hard to look at this and believe it wasn’t intentional.

Some routes open straight to Advantage

Suites Saver to London? It’ll take something special for that to happen!

And finally, it may just be the case that Saver awards simply don’t exist for the route in question.

SIA opens award space for booking at 8 a.m Singapore time, 355 days in advance. You might think that your best chance of snagging a Saver award is to camp on the website and book as soon as seats are loaded, and while that works for some routes, there are others which open straight to Advantage.

That’s especially the case if you’re hunting for Suites. I ran a search for on the Singapore-London route using a Solitaire PPS Club account, which in theory should have access to the most award space of any KrisFlyer member. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find immediately-confirmable Suites Saver awards ; the best the system would offer was the waitlist. 

Again, I don’t have the data to provide insights on how often the waitlist clears, but at first blush it would appear like the de facto pricing for long-haul suites is Advantage.

❓ Do Suites Saver awards even exist?

For what it’s worth, instantly-confirmable Suites Saver awards are available (even to regular KrisFlyer members), just perhaps not on the routes you want!

At the time of writing, it’s possible to find these on flights to Delhi, Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Shanghai. 

That said, with flight times of less than 6 hours, it’s questionable just how much you’ll be able to enjoy the experience.

Conclusion

Singapore Airlines B787-10 Business Class

Only Singapore Airlines knows for sure how many Saver and Advantage awards are being released, but to the extent that the mix now contains more Advantage than Saver, that constitutes a “stealth devaluation” to the extent that the average price KrisFlyer members pay for an award has increased.

While I expect the Saver drought to ease somewhat as SIA adds capacity, I do worry that increased competition from non-KrisFlyer members is here to stay.  Aeroplan getting increased redemption availability was a big blow for KrisFlyer members (and to be clear, I don’t begrudge Aeroplan members for redeeming awards; I’d probably be doing the same in their shoes), but that’s part and parcel of being in an alliance.

Of course, if you’re booking far in advance, of if you’re flying to short-haul destinations, you should still be able to find Saver awards. But certain routes can still prove elusive, especially if you’re travelling as a couple or a family. In those cases, Advantage may be the only option-albeit an expensive one.

Have you been redeeming Advantage awards more frequently?

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

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Mark

We have flow this year to Europe, Australia/NZ, Japan. All in business. All saver awards. In fact I don’t remember when I have ever redeeemed an advantage award. We have flights booked for 2024 to Japan and Australia/NZ also business and also using saver awards. It is all about planning. There is absolutely no need to waste miles on advantage awards if you plan well.

Spoon

Well done to you But not everyone (who has a lot of miles in their account) will also have the opportunity to book redemption awards months in advance. It is almost impossible to get saver awards to/from EU destinations once you approach 4 months or less before a selected travel date.

David

The most important thing is status with SIA, preferably Solitaire and also flexibility. If you are willing to redeem way in advance, like literally 300ish days in advance then your chance of acquiring saver drastically increases. Also sometimes Solitaire members can “see” more redemption than normal members (even elite gold)

Tiak

The dirty secret of many airlines is that they make more money selling miles than tickets. So they are really the ones who are fueling the miles collection game.That works when people have a reasonably good chance to get more value out of redeeming miles than buying tickets, but if they continue to make redemption more and more difficult (or costly), there will be increasingly less incentive to accumulate miles. I fear that given the pressure to maximise profits, we will eventually get to that state of affairs. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Meow

Can anyone advise some ways to fly business class from Singapore to Zurich? Can’t find any award space in any categories on SQ.

David

simple answer: forget it….

Spoon

Pay for a revenue ticket.

Renz

It doesn’t bother me much.
If I see saver open, I choose saver.. if not I go advantage for the date I chose.

To me it’s not a waste of mileage, though I burned it already with 2x suite advantage to LHR, I still have plenty more to go.

hawaii

Earn and burn !

S S

Make sense now to value mpd based on advantage redemption

Lifshitz

Back in the day, you could fly 1st for 75k TPAC on CX/AS. But then, back in the day you earned a mile per USD. Now we earn more than 5 miles per USD – net/net, it’s hasn’t gotten more expensive.

Tom

@Aaron a bigger problem for Australian based KF members is not so much that it’s easier to earn points but rather the opposite. Recently a number of Visa, AMEX and Mastercard transfer partners have increased the redemption rates to KF from 2:1 to 3:1. That is a very significant devaluation.

Kel

So the valuation of a KF mile needs to be adjusted accordingly to account for advantage rates then?

Matt Lee

Aaron: thanks for the wonderful article. One question I have in mind: does this change how the value of a mile is evaluated, given the increased difficulty in redeeming saver award?

Spoon

Another reason is that there are now many websites (including but not limited to the Milelion) that are rich with resources that spoonfeed people who would otherwise not bother to read cards/promos t&c themselves. This makes it easier for a larger number of people to get in on miles-accruing deals. I remember the time up to 2013 before the Milelion site came up – I’d be poring through cards and the bank sites from time to time to see if anything was afoot. That was also when I redeemed 2 Suites savers from SIN-JFK. There are indeed no Suites savers… Read more »

xiaoboy

echoing similar sentiments. Advantage is quickly becoming the new Saver benchmark. @Aaron, will be great to get your views on travelling as a family unit during peak periods. From experience, its a lot of work involved, you will need to strategise: 1) plan at least 12 months ahead else be flexible on travel dates (i.e. skip school) 2) be willing to fly separately on different flights (good luck booking business saver for a party of 5 on same popular flight route) 3) have a KF points pool for at least 500k miles spare after confirmation (enough to also reserve for… Read more »

anon

The only reason saver was increased coz nobody was redeeming advantage to begin with. before the devaluation, I saw many savers unavailable+waitlist only. but every advantage was available

Ross

Thank you for this article! If there is a flight with one Advantage and one saver seat am I able to book this for a couple as one PNR? I am OK with paying the Advantage price for both tickets.

gary

I am booking my trip with miles right now and I have the option to join the waitlist for the saver or get the confirmed booking on advantage. Should I select the waitlist for the saver, does anyone know when will I know if I am confirmed going to get the saver rate? Or if I fail to get the saver rate, will I get automatically pushed to the confirmed Advantage rate? And when will the airline let you know if you are confirmed going to be in on the saver rate? Or will I run risk of getting pushed… Read more »

gary

ok I got my answer from Sia already. Essentially they will only let you know if you have got the saver rate about 2-3 weeks before the flight. and you will not be automatically pushed to advantage if it fails as well.

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