Maximizing Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Partner Awards
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Even if you’ve never set foot on a Singapore Airlines plane (or visited Singapore, for that matter), you probably have access to plenty of the carrier’s KrisFlyer miles. That’s because Singapore is one of the only airlines that partners with all four of the major transferable point programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One (the newest addition as of December 10, 2018). It’s also a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner. And since Singapore Airlines almost never releases premium class award seats to partners, KrisFlyer miles can be extremely valuable to travel in some of the best products in the sky.
That said, the KrisFlyer program can also be useful for redemptions on its 27 Star Alliance partners and five other airline partners. In fact, there are some sweet spots within its partner award charts that make KrisFlyer partner awards worth considering over other programs. Unfortunately, premium class awards on Singapore’s partners were devalued as of April 16, 2019, but there are still some solid options for you to consider.
To help you maximize your next redemption, this post will run down everything you need to know about booking partner awards through Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer.
Let’s start with some basics. The KrisFlyer program has multiple award charts, including its two main ones for travel on its own flights and those operated by its Star Alliance partners (warning: PDF links):
Each one of its non-alliance partners has its own, separate award chart (warning: all below links are PDFs):
- Alaska Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Virgin Australia
- Vistara (a Chinese carrier based in Shanghai)
- Juneyao (an Indian carrier based in Delhi)
How to Book Awards
In theory, Star Alliance and other partner awards can now be booked online and in Singapore’s app, so you should no longer need to call the airline. However, based on my experiences, the Singapore website is really only useful for booking flights operated by Singapore and Silkair. While it was able to find some partner flights, it missed many of the options I found on United.com, which should have the same access to Star Alliance award flights that Singapore does. It also has a relatively slow search engine and provides minimal options for flexible searches like a calendar view or ability to see multiple classes at once.
As a result, I’d suggest starting with another Star Alliance site to find award availability. Once you find available award flights, you can try to replicate the itinerary on Singapore’s site, but you’ll probably have to call to actually book. Fortunately, Singapore Airlines’ US call center is open 24 hours a day, and the carrier doesn’t charge phone booking fees. Just be advised that when their representatives quote the taxes and fees in dollars, they are usually referring to Singapore dollars (which are presently worth about 72 US cents).
Every airline has its own rules that determine which flights you can and cannot book with your miles. You can read Singapore’s entire terms and conditions, but here are the highlights:
- Most partners flights can be combined. You can combine Singapore/SilkAir flights with flights from other Star Alliance carriers. However, flights on non-alliance partners must be ticketed separately in accordance with their own award charts.
- You can book one-way awards. This is now permitted for flights on all carriers. Just be sure to look carefully at the applicable award chart, since some are priced as one-way and others are round-trip.
- There’s a six-segment maximum. You can’t have more than six individual flights on an itinerary, but you can book two separate one-way itineraries to have a greater number of permitted segments.
- You can’t backtrack. Singapore Airlines has a “no-backtracking” rule that doesn’t seem to be very specific. The terms and conditions simply say, “Travel must be made via the most direct route.” Clearly one can’t backtrack across regions, as most airlines forbid on award tickets, but there are reports that even small backtracking segments are not permitted. However, I’ve personally booked and flown Singapore Airlines from Delhi (DEL) to New York-JFK via Singapore (SIN) and Frankfurt (FRA) as a one-way award, so clearly they do allow backtracking in some situations.
- You’re allowed one free stopover on round-trip awards. However, this doesn’t apply to flights entirely within Europe or on flights within/between the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands. Stopovers are defined as any layover over 24 hours, or anything over 4 hours within or between the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico or U.S. Virgin Islands. You can also add up to three additional stopovers for $100 USD each, though there are no free stopovers on one-way awards.
As is the case with most foreign carriers, Singapore imposes fuel surcharges, often labeled “carrier-imposed” surcharges, on most partner award tickets, though it did drop fuel surcharges on flights operated by Singapore and its SilkAir subsidiary in 2017.
Current exceptions include:
- United Airlines flights within the Americas
- Virgin Australia domestic flights
In addition, fuel surcharges for LOT Polish flights are very low.
Best KrisFlyer Partner Awards
Here are some of the partner award sweet spots offered by the Singapore KrisFlyer program (all award prices are for round-trip itineraries):
- North America to Southern South America in business class. Singapore charges 115,000 vs. 120,000 on United. Flights on United or Avianca will have no fuel surcharges. However, if you’re booking Avianca-operated flights and have access to Amex or Citi points, be sure to compare award rates through Avianca LifeMiles, as certain destinations to the US are just 45,000 miles each way in business class.
- Mainland North America to Hawaii. United, Avianca LifeMiles and Air Canada’s Aeroplan program charge 45,000 miles to fly from the US to Hawaii in economy class and 80,000 miles for business class. However, Singapore only charges 35,000 and 69,000 miles for these United-operated flights, respectively.
- North American flights in business and first class. Flights within the United States and Canada (excluding Hawaii) are priced at 40,000 for first class on a two-class flight or business class on a plane with a separate first and business class cabin. 60,000 miles are needed for a first class award on a three-class flight. United charges 50,000 and 70,000 miles, respectively.
- Flights within “Hawaii/Central America”. Singapore’s chart considers Hawaii and Central America to be within the same zone, which also includes Bermuda, the Caribbean, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Flights within this region are 46,000 miles for economy and 69,000 miles for business class. Conceivably, you could fly round-trip from Aruba to Hawaii on one award for as little as 46,000 miles. To take advantage of this, you might pre-position yourself in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America or Bermuda before beginning an award to Hawaii, with a stopover in your home city in each direction (the second stop-over will cost $100), and an open-jaw return to another destination within the Central America/Hawaii zone (not including Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands). It would take a lot of planning, but you should be able to get two additional one-way tickets to Bermuda, Central America, or the Caribbean for the same number of miles as a simple Hawaii award, plus an additional $100. This would seem to work best if you live in a United or Air Canada hub, or any city from which those partners serve Hawaii.
- Alaska Airlines flights. Singapore’s Alaska award chart is surprisingly generous, unless you want to fly to Hawaii or Alaska in first class. Otherwise, economy awards start at 7,500 miles each way and top off at 12,500 miles, including Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico and Cuba.
Earning Singapore KrisFlyer Miles
As noted above, the KrisFlyer program is a partner of all three major transferable point programs (along with Marriott Rewards). As a result, you can transfer points earned on a number of different cards to Singapore to lock-in these award tickets:
- American Express Membership Rewards: Earn points on cards like the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express. Transfers from Membership Rewards to Singapore should be completed in less than 24 hours.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: Earn points on cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Freedom Unlimited or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, though you’ll need to combine your points into an account that allows transfers to partners rather than just cash-back rewards. Transfers from Ultimate Rewards to Singapore should process the same day but could take up to two business days to arrive.
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: Earn points on cards like the Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige. You can even share your points with any other ThankYou Rewards member, though shared points expire 90 days after receipt. Be aware that transfers from Citi to Singapore will generally take a day to process.
- Capital One: This issuer upped its game significantly in November 2018 with the addition of a dozen transfer partners, and Singapore KrisFlyer was added less than a month after the initial launch. This allows you to transfer miles from cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card directly to the program, though unfortunately it’s at a less-than-stellar 2:1 ratio and doesn’t appear to process instantly. Nevertheless, additional options are always a good thing.
Singapore Airlines’ reputation has been forged thanks primarily to its terrific premium classes and the recent relaunch of the world’s longest flight, but its KrisFlyer program has some solid redemption options for partner award flights as well. It’s also exceedingly easy to bank a ton of Singapore miles thanks to its partnership with all of the major transferable point programs. While the April devaluation removes some value from these partner awards, if you’re looking to redeem credit card rewards for your next trip, especially for any of the above Star Alliance flights, be sure to consider KrisFlyer as your program of choice.
How have you utilized Singapore KrisFlyer partner awards?