Maximizing Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Partner Awards

by on May 28, 2014 · 24 comments

in Chase, Singapore Airlines, Ultimate Rewards

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TPG contributor Jason Steele delves deeper into Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program to shed more light on taxes and fees on partner awards, so you can make the best decision when deciding if this program makes the most sense for your needs

Last week, Chase announced that the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program will become its 11th transfer partner, and the 6th airline partner. In fact, Singapore is now just the second airline (after British Airways) that is a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest programs.

Singapore Airlines is notoriously stingy with the number of award seats on its own flights that it releases to partners, but it releases far more award seats to travelers redeeming miles from the KrisFlyer program. That said, the KrisFlyer program can also be useful for redemptions on its 25 Star Alliance partners and 6 other airline partners. While Star Alliance was already accessible to Ultimate Rewards members via United Airlines, the new partnership with Singapore opens up other booking options.

To help you maximize your award itineraries with the added transfer opportunities, this post will run down everything you need to know about KrisFlyer partner awards.

Singapore is now a transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards.

Singapore Airlines is now a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards!

Award charts

The KrisFlyer program has multiple award charts, including:

How to book awards

Awards on Singapore and SilkAir can be booked online, and travelers even receive a 15% mileage discount for doing so. Nevertheless, any award that requires use of a partner airline must be booked by calling Singapore. Fortunately, their U.S. call center is open 24 hours a day and they do not charge telephone booking fees. Their number is (213) 404-0301. I made several calls to this number, all of which were answered quickly and professionally. Just be advised that when their representatives quote prices in dollars, they are referring to Singapore dollars (which are presently worth about 80 cents).

Routing rules:

Every airline has its own rules that determine which flights you can and cannot book with your miles. You can read their 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, but flights on Virgin Australia, Virgin America, and Virgin Atlantic must be ticketed separately in accordance with their own award charts. The same is true of Air India until they join Star Alliance later this summer.
  • One way awards are permitted for flights on all carriers except Scandinavian, TAP Air Portugal, and Virgin Atlantic. Where round-trip prices are listed, one-way awards cost half the miles.
  • No backtracking. Singapore airline has a “no-backtracking” rule that doesn’t seem to be very specific. The terms and conditions simply say that “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.
  • One free stopover is permitted on round-trip awards, but three additional stopovers can be purchased for $100 each (other than flights within Europe, or within/between the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico or U.S. 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. There are no free stopovers on one-way awards.
  • One open jaw is permitted. You do not have to depart from your outbound destination, or you may return to a city other than your origin, but not both.

Some partners awards don’t incur fuel surcharges, such as domestic flights on Virgin Australia.

Fuel surcharges

As is the case with most foreign carriers, Singapore imposes fuel surcharges on most award tickets. Fuel surcharges are added to its own flights and to most partner awards where carriers include those in their ticket prices. Current exceptions include flights operated by:

  • Avianca/TACA
  • TAM
  • US Airways domestic
  • United Airlines within the Americas
  • Virgin America
  • Virgin Australia domestic

Some sample prices for one way flights including all taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges:

  • Warsaw to New York JFK in business class on LOT flight #26: $99
  • Denver to Tokyo-Narita on United flight #139 in business or economy class: $297
  • Philadelphia to Frankfurt on US Airways flight #700 in economy class: $212

As you can see, these fuel surcharges are substantial, but LOT Polish typically charges the least among all European carriers. Some bloggers have reported that Singapore will not impose fuel surcharges on any United flights, but that is not the case according to the Singapore representatives I spoke to.

Award availability

I also asked the Singapore Airlines call center to search for flights on Virgin America, which operates its own fare-based award travel redemption system. In general, I found excellent availability relative to the meager award space dolled out by United, Delta, US Airways, and American Airlines on their domestic flights.

I also searched along some popular routes within Australia for award space on Virgin Australia, and found availability to be nearly as generous.

Reach Hawaii from the US for just 35,000 miles on Singapore partners.

Reach Hawaii from mainland North America for just 35,000 miles round trip on Singapore partners.

The best partner awards

Here are some examples of partner awards for which you’ll come out ahead by transferring points to Singapore KrisFlyer:

  • North America to Southern South America in business class. Singapore charges 100,000 vs. 110,000 on United. Flights on United, TAM, or Avianca/TACA will have no fuel surcharges.
  • Mainland North America to Hawaii. United charges 45/80/100 for three class flights (45/80 for two class) to Hawaii while Singapore’s chart shows 35/60/80.
  • 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 on a three-class flight. 60,000 miles are needed for a first class award on a three-class flight. In contrast, 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 35,000 miles for economy and 60,000 miles for business. Conceivably, you could fly round-trip from Aruba to Hawaii on one award for as little as 35,000 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.

In theory, I could book an award from Bermuda to Hawaii, with stopovers in Denver in each direction, and a return to Trinidad and Tobago, all for 35,000 miles and $100.

With routine devaluations occurring across much of the points and miles world, it’s encouraging to see value being added to some programs. The options presented above are just some of the many ways you can make use of the Krisflyer program and its new partnership with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

How do you plan on utilizing the newest Ultimate Rewards transfer partner? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • wiivile

    Does Singapore Airlines allow you to use Cash + Miles?

  • Ivan

    Is Jamaica one of the places you can go with those 35k that takes you to Hawaii?

  • Brian

    So to clarify, I should be able to do SJU – IAH (stop 2 months) – HNL – IAH (stop 2 months) – LIR for 35/60 + $100?

  • Jason Steele

    That appears to be the case, according to their rules.

  • Jason Steele

    Jamaica is part of the Caribbean, so yes.

  • Jason Steele

    They do, but since you only get one SIN dollar per mile, you are only getting 0.8 cents in value. You would be far better off using the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal and getting 1.25 cents per mile as well as additional mileage from the travel itself.

  • M

    Does Singapore Air hold itineraries for any period of time to allow transfer of points into one’s frequent flyer account?

  • Ven

    What’s the best way to find availability? Call in? I’ve tried using the KrisFlyer website but whenever I select use miles, it returns me the cash price of the ticket. Can pull them up on United?

  • Bob

    Is there any fee imposed for booking award flights within 21 days, like United/AA does?

  • PhatMiles

    No. There is no close-in ticketing fee.

  • Bobby

    Brian – Are you sure the redemption on Virgin America is 40k roundtrip in first for a transcontinental flight? Please see this award chart on Singapore’s website. Would suggest that redemption is actually 170k roundtrip!!!

  • Dan Miller

    Depending on if you are points rich / cash-poor or the opposite, another option might be using Avios to position yourself to the Caribbean, and then ending your roundtrip in your home town.

    So, something like:
    CVG-CLT-FPO (9000 avios)
    FPO-EWR-ORD-HNL (one-way)
    HNL-ORD-CVG (35000 KrisFlyer miles)

    CVG is my home town, so I spend 9000 avios going to Freeport in the Bahamas, then use the Central America / Hawaii “zone” for 35,000 KrisFlyer miles.

    So you’re trading 9000 Avios to save $100. Is that a good deal? Probably depends, but I think it’s at least in the conversation.

    That is also not using your stopover, so you might be able to put in a stopover at ORD to add an extra trip?

  • Jason Steele

    Many of these partners can be searched on other web sites, such as United or ANA. Delta is great for searching Virgin Australia awards.

  • Jason Steele

    No, so there is a little risk there.

  • jmw2323

    select “redeem award flight” instead. Not sure why there are the two options since 1 doesn’t do what you would expect it to.

  • Ben

    Are the links to the award charts working?

  • tridentnyc

    Your links for the Singapore award charts the last week or so are not working.

  • Colin

    Does the stop-over have to be directly before the final flight to destination? For example, I am based in OMA. Could I do something like CUN-IAH-OMA (Stopover)- DEN-HNL-DEN-OMA (Stopover)-IAH-POS?

  • Colin

    I found KrisFlyer awards have a maximum of 6 segments. So I’d have to do something like CUN-IAH-OMA(Stopover)-DEN-HNL-DEN(Stopover – *Find another way to go DEN-OMA-DEN*)-Somewhere in the Carribbean/Mexico.

  • jeffakaod

    Would the following itinerary work with both stopovers in San Francisco?

  • Rosie

    I’ve been trying to decide between Bermuda and Hawaii because I have family in both so being able to get to both on one ticket would be amazing. I’m based in New York so what would be the best way to do this? Preferably I’d go to Hawaii first so NY-HI-BDA-NY. Any recommendations? Thanks so much!

  • gk08

    Is there any way to book an online award that combines partner and Singapore flights to get the 15% online booking discount? Or do you have to call if partner flights are needed?

  • Rojiviris

    Wondering the same thing. Planning to take the A380 from JFK-FRA and get the discount, but I forgo the free stopover and OJ in order to come back via CDG or LHR. Gonna have to bite the bullet and not get the discounted redemption, but at least all segments will still be 1st class, so I’m not complaining.

  • Chris K

    I think I might be missing something with the Mexico/Caribbean/Hawaii thing.

    I’m based out of SFO. So I could do BDA – SFO (3 month layover) – OGG – SFO (3 month layover) – MGA for 35/60k + $100?

    But then on top of that, I would need to get a one-way ticket from SFO to BDA, and then another one way ticket from MGA to SFO? So that would be an additional 35/60k miles? All told it would be 70/120k miles + $100?

    That’s still a pretty amazing deal for 3 round-trip flights, but just want to be sure I’m getting this right.

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