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Crediting United Flights to Singapore KrisFlyer

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Today, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen takes a look at the partnership between United and Singapore Airlines, and why you might want to credit the mileage from your United flights to the airline’s Asian partner.

Given the slew of negative changes to United’s MileagePlus program in recent years — including massive award chart devaluations, the changeover to a revenue-based earning formula and raised revenue thresholds for earning elite status — many flyers have been looking for better alternatives. While one obvious choice might be to credit flight activity to United’s Canadian Star Alliance partner Aeroplan, that program, too, has undergone a series of devaluations. Instead, it may be time to look further afield for a Star Alliance alternative to United, and the answer might just be its partner Singapore Airlines.

Not sure where to credit United flights? Consider Singapore's KrisFlyer program.
Not sure where to credit United flights? Consider Singapore’s KrisFlyer program.

Singapore is also a member of Star Alliance, and perhaps more importantly, its KrisFlyer mileage program is a 1:1 transfer partner of all four major transferable points programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. That means even if you’re just getting started with KrisFlyer, you have tons of great options for boosting your account right from the get-go with a variety of points.

Here’s a quick comparison of United MileagePlus and Singapore KrisFlyer, and why you might want to consider crediting your United flights to your KrisFlyer account based on earning rates and redemption values.

Star Alliance is the largest of the three major alliances.
Both Singapore and United are members of Star Alliance.

EARNING

Here’s a breakdown of how you earn award miles from United flights with each of the two programs.

United: Back in 2015, United MileagePlus went revenue-based, meaning that instead of earning miles based on the distance flown, members earn a certain number of award miles per dollar spent on airfare. Here’s how members of various elite tiers earn miles these days:

  • 5 miles per US dollar —Member
  • 7 miles per US dollar —Premier Silver
  • 8 miles per US dollar —Premier Gold
  • 9 miles per US dollar –Premier Platinum
  • 11 miles per US dollar — Premier 1K
United MileagePlus members earn between 5-11 miles per dollar.
United MileagePlus members earn between 5-11 miles per dollar.

Miles expire on the last day of the 18th month after which there was last activity in the account, though they’re very easy to keep active.

Singapore: With Singapore’s KrisFlyer program, you still earn miles based on the fare class of the ticket you purchase and the distance you fly. For United flights, this is the earnings breakdown for award miles:

  • A, F: 150%
  • C, D, J: 125%
  • P, Z, B, E, G, H, K, L, M, Q, S, T, U, V, W, Y: 100%

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 6.05.47 PM

So as you can see, while United weighs elite-qualifying earning very heavily toward premium classes of service and full-fare economy; if you’re just purchasing economy tickets, you’re neck and neck in terms of earning award miles. Note that you do not earn KrisFlyer miles on N-fare discount economy tickets.

KrisFlyer miles expire 36 months after they are earned, no matter your account activity, so keep that in mind, and start redeeming those miles!

ELITE STATUS

Here’s how elite status qualification and benefits stack up with the two programs.

United: United MileagePlus members earn the following Premier-Qualifying Miles (PQMs) on flights based on distance flown and the ticket fare code.

United PQ earning

  • Full-fare first and business class F, J: 300%
  • Discount first and business class A, C, D, Z, P: 200%
  • Full-fare economy Y, B: 150%
  • Economy M, E, U, H, Q, V, W, S, T, L, K, G, N: 100%

Here are the elite status qualification requirements and the benefits members of each level enjoy:

United Premier qualification

Premier Silver: 25,000 miles or 30 segments and $3,000 spending. Benefits:

  • Premier Silvers earn 7 miles per dollar spent on airfare
  • Complimentary upgrades
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus within 24 hours of departure
  • One free checked bag for self and companion
  • Premier access
  • Priority phone customer service
  • Enhanced Saver-level economy award availability
  • Discounted close-in award booking fees ($50 instead of $75)
  • Discounted award change fees ($50 instead of $100 close-in, free instead of $75 otherwise)
  • Discounted award cancellation fees ($125 instead of $200)
  • Star Alliance Silver benefits

Premier Gold: 50,000 miles or 60 segments and $6,000 spending. Benefits:

  • Premier Golds earn 8 miles per dollar spent on airfare
  • Complimentary upgrades
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking
  • Two free checked bags for self and companion
  • Premier access
  • Waived same-day flight changes (otherwise $75)
  • Priority phone customer service
  • Enhanced Saver-level economy award availability
  • Discounted close-in award booking fees ($25 instead of $75)
  • Discounted award change fees ($25 instead of $100 close-in, free instead of $75 otherwise)
  • Discounted award cancellation fees ($100 instead of $200)
  • Star Alliance Gold benefits, including lounge access
  • Marriott Rewards Gold Status

Premier Platinum: 75,000 miles or 90 segments and $9,000 spending. Benefits:

  • Premier Platinums earn 9 miles per dollar spent on airfare
  • Complimentary upgrades that clear as much as 72 hours before flight
  • Two Regional Premier Upgrades
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking for self and up to eight companions
  • Three free checked bags for self and companion
  • Premier access
  • Waived same-day flight changes (otherwise $75)
  • Waived direct ticketing charge (otherwise $25)
  • Priority phone customer service
  • Enhanced Saver-level award availability in economy and premium cabins
  • Waived close-in award booking fees
  • Waived award change fees
  • Waived award cancellation fees
  • Star Alliance Gold benefits, including lounge access
  • Marriott Rewards Gold Status

Premier 1K: 100,000 miles or 120 segments and $12,000 spending. Benefits:

  • Premier 1Ks earn 11 miles per dollar spent on airfare
  • Complimentary upgrades that clear as early as 72 hours before flight
  • Four Regional Premier Upgrades
  • Six Global Premier Upgrades
  • Complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking for self and up to eight companions
  • Three free checked bags for self and companion
  • Complimentary snack and drink in economy
  • Premier access
  • Waived same-day flight changes
  • Waived direct ticketing charge
  • Priority phone customer service
  • Enhanced Saver-level award availability in economy and premium cabins
  • Waived close-in award booking fees
  • Waived award change fees
  • Waived award cancellation fees
  • Star Alliance Gold benefits, including lounge access
  • Marriott Rewards Gold Status

If you spend at least $25,000 in net purchases using a MileagePlus co-branded credit card like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, those spending requirements are waived except for Premier 1K.

Singapore: With KrisFlyer, you earn elite miles based on the mileage flown and the fare class of your ticket at the same rates as regular award miles.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 6.05.47 PM

  • First A, F: 150% miles
  • Business C, D, J: 125% miles
  • First/Business P, Z: 100%
  • Economy B, E, G, H, K, L, M, Q, S, T, U, V, W, Y: 100% miles

To earn KrisFlyer Silver status, you need to accrue 25,000 elite miles per rolling 12-month period and your elite status will last until the end of the following 12-month period. Here are the benefits:

  • 25% bonus miles on Singapore, SilkAir and Virgin Atlantic (but not applicable to G, K, N, Q or V economy tickets)
  • Priority reservation waitlist
  • Priority airport standby
  • Waived fees for flight changes on Singapore and SilkAir flights and discounted mileage redeposit fees (US $15 instead of $30)

To earn Gold status, you need to accrue 50,000 elite miles per rolling 12-month period and your elite status will last until the end of the following 12-month period. In addition to the Silver benefits, Golds get:

  • Star Alliance Gold status including lounge access to Singapore Airlines lounges, Virgin Australia lounges and SilkAir lounges
  • Priority check-in and boarding
  • Waived checked bag fee for one extra piece of baggage

Singapore Airlines also fields an elite club called the PPS Club that’s based on your airfare spending on first- or business-class tickets Singapore and SilkAir, so I won’t get into that here since we’re talking about United flights.

It’s pretty clear that if you’re a top-tier elite with United, you might want to stick with MileagePlus due to the much richer benefits in that stratosphere. But if you’re a Silver or Gold, you might still want to consider switching to KrisFlyer – especially with Star Alliance Gold lounge access. You do give up those mileage-earning bonuses though, since KrisFlyer elites only earn them on Singapore, SilkAir and Virgin Atlantic flights.

EARNING COMPARISON

Let’s just take a look at a couple quick examples to see how your earning would stack up if crediting flights to United MileagePlus versus Singapore KrisFlyer.

Short-haul economy: Here’s an example itinerary from San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX) in July:

SFO LAX

The airfare is $100 plus taxes and fees, and is in K class, so here’s how many miles you would earn with United MileagePlus.

  • Member: 500 award miles, 674 Premier miles
  • Silver: 700 award miles, 1,000 Premier miles
  • Gold: 800 award miles, 1,000 Premier miles
  • Platinum: 900 award miles, 1,000 Premier miles
  • 1K: 1,100 award miles, 1,000 Premier miles

Here’s how many miles you would earn crediting those flights to KrisFlyer.

  • Member: 674 award miles, 674 elite miles
  • Silver: 674 award miles, 674 elite miles
  • Gold: 674 award miles, 674 elite miles

Because of the short distance and the mid-priced fare, you’re better off earning United miles on this one if you’re an elite.

Short-haul business/first: Now let’s take a look at the same flights but with a first-class fare.

SFO LAX first

The airfare comes to $303 plus taxes and fees and is in the P fare class. Here’s how many miles you would earn with United MileagePlus.

  • Member: 1,515 award miles, 1,348 Premier miles
  • Silver: 2,121 award miles, 1,348 Premier miles
  • Gold: 2,424 award miles, 1,348 Premier miles
  • Platinum: 2,727 award miles, 1,348 Premier miles
  • 1K: 3,333 award miles, 1,348 Premier miles

And here’s how many you would earn on Singapore.

  • Member: 674 award miles, 674 elite miles
  • Silver: 674 award miles, 674 elite miles
  • Gold: 674 award miles, 674 elite miles

So given the short distance but the high fare, you’re still better off with United’s formula, which weights spending over distance. Now let’s take a look at two long-haul examples.

Long-haul economy: Just for fun, let’s make our example United’s new San Francisco (SFO)-Singapore (SIN) ultra-long-haul, which TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig reviewed in June.

SFO SIN

A round-trip economy ticket would cost you $1,040 plus taxes and fees and books into the L fare class. Here’s how many miles you would earn crediting your flight to United MileagePlus.

  • Member: 5,200 award miles, 16,888 Premier miles
  • Silver: 7,280 award miles, 16,888 Premier miles
  • Gold: 8,320 award miles, 16,888 Premier miles
  • Platinum: 9,360 award miles, 16,888 Premier miles
  • 1K: 11,440 award miles, 16,888 Premier miles

Versus earning on Singapore…

  • Member: 16,888 award miles, 16,888 elite miles
  • Silver: 16,888 award miles, 16,888 elite miles
  • Gold: 16,888 award miles, 16,888 elite miles

As you can see, on a relatively inexpensive long-haul flight, crediting your miles to KrisFlyer is a far better option, even if you’re a top-tier United elite.

Long-haul business: Looking at the same flights in business class, the situation gets a little murkier. This is United’s BusinessFirst product and books into the P fare class. The airfare would cost $4,330 plus taxes and fees.

SFO SIN bus

Here’s how many miles you’d earn by crediting flights to United.

  • Member: 21,650 award miles, 33,776 Premier miles
  • Silver: 30,310 award miles, 33,776 Premier miles
  • Gold: 34,640 award miles, 33,776 Premier miles
  • Platinum: 38,970 award miles, 33,776 Premier miles
  • 1K: 47,630 award miles, 33,776 Premier miles

Versus earning on Singapore…

  • Member: 16,888 award miles, 16,888 elite miles
  • Silver: 16,888 award miles, 16,888 elite miles
  • Gold: 16,888 award miles, 16,888 elite miles

So in this case, United beats Singapore on both award and elite miles thanks to a big disparity in how P fares earn elite miles in each program – 200% with United versus 100% with Singapore.

If you’re buying cheap economy tickets and flying mid- to long-haul flights on a regular basis, then KrisFlyer might be the better choice for crediting your miles. Unless you’re a mid- to top-tier elite and/or you’re buying expensive fares, you come out ahead with a distance-based formula. Just be sure to pay attention to those fare classes.

REDEEMING

Earning is only half the equation, though. There are some big differences to point out when it comes to redeeming your miles. Though both airlines are members of Star Alliance, their award charts are quite different, and they also each have some non-alliance partners it pays to know.

Besides that, whereas United will charge you up to $200 to cancel an award, Singapore only charges $30, so that’s something to consider if your plans change a lot. Singapore also doesn’t charge close-in booking fees, and will only charge you up to $20 to change the flight, date, route or carrier for award tickets, while United levies fees of up to $100 for changes.

Airline Partners

Both airlines’ Star Alliance partners include:

  • Adria
  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • LOT
  • Lufthansa
  • SAS
  • Shenzen
  • South African Airways
  • SWISS
  • TAP
  • THAI
  • Turkish Airlines

United’s non-alliance partners are:

  • Aer Lingus
  • Aeromar
  • Air Dolomiti
  • Azul
  • Cape Air
  • Edelweiss
  • Eurowings (this is what Germanwings is rebranding as)
  • Great Lakes Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Island Air
  • Jet Airways
  • Silver Airways
If you want to fly Aer Lingus, you can use United miles but not KrisFlyer miles.
If you want to fly Aer Lingus, you can use United miles but not KrisFlyer miles.

Singapore’s non-alliance partners are:

  • Virgin America
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Virgin Australia
  • Vistara
You can put those KrisFlyer miles to use on Virgin Australia awards, though.
You can put those KrisFlyer miles to use on Virgin Australia awards, though.

So there are some great options on both sides to consider. Aer Lingus can be a great way to get to Europe, and Jet Airways has a decent route map in and out of India for you to use your United miles on. However, being able to use Singapore miles on Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia (and United for that matter) opens up huge route networks both within the US and internationally.

Here is a link to United’s award chart. Here’s one to Singapore’s chart for its own flights, and another to its Star Alliance chart, as well as individual charts for Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia for reference. Remember, when you redeem KrisFlyer miles online specifically for Singapore and SilkAir flights, you get a 15% mileage rebate, saving you even more miles.

Here are a couple of awards you might want to consider where KrisFlyer has the advantage:

1. Singapore Suites: If you want to fly Singapore’s famous first-class Suites, you’re going to have to use KrisFlyer miles to do it (and it’s worth it!). It would take you 74,375 miles to book Singapore’s Los Angeles-Tokyo route one-way in first class, and just 57,375 miles to book from New York-JFK to Frankfurt. As I said, you can’t even use United miles for these redemptions, but if you could, they would cost you and 110,000 miles for either. For more information, check out this post on how to book Singapore first-class awards.

Want to fly Singapore Suites? You'll need KrisFlyer miles to do it.
Want to fly Singapore Suites? You’ll need KrisFlyer miles to do it.

2. Domestic Business Class: It might seem strange, but Singapore will actually charge you fewer miles to fly United’s business class domestically than United will! Whereas MileagePlus requires 50,000 miles round-trip for a business-class award within North America, Singapore would only charge you 40,000 miles.

You might want to use KrisFlyer miles instead of MileagePlus to fly United's own domestic business class.
You might want to use KrisFlyer miles instead of MileagePlus to fly United’s own domestic business class.

3. North America to Hawaii: The same is true of United’s own flights to Hawaii. United will charge you 45,000 miles round-trip for economy and 80,000 for business/first class (on a two-class plane), while Singapore will just charge you 35,000 and 60,000 miles, respectively.

KrisFlyer miles might also be a better deal to get to Hawaii.
KrisFlyer miles might also be a better deal to get to Hawaii.

4. North America to Europe: Thanks to its Star Alliance partners and its partnership with Virgin Atlantic, KrisFlyer might also be a better choice for redemptions to Europe. It’ll charge you 55,000/130,000/160,000 miles round-trip to fly Star Alliance partners like Lufthansa and SWISS in economy/business/first, and 50,000/65,000/100,000 to fly Virgin Atlantic economy/premium economy/Upper Class (business). By contrast, United would charge you 60,000/115,000/160,000 to fly its own metal in economy/business/first, and 60,000/140,000/220,000 to fly partners.

KrisFlyer miles are also a great deal for getting to Europe.
KrisFlyer miles are also a great deal for getting to Europe.

5. Premium Economy: Singapore unveiled its new Premium Economy cabin last year, and you can now use KrisFlyer miles to book it, but not United miles, so if this is of interest, you’ve got to have KrisFlyer miles in your account.

Premium Economy seats on Singapore Airlines.
You can also now redeem KrisFlyer miles for Singapore’s own new Premium Economy seats.

6. Round-the-World Awards: While both KrisFlyer and MileagePlus will let you book Star Alliance round-the-world awards, KrisFlyer lets you include six stopovers and requires just 180,000/240,000/360,000 miles for economy/business/first and lets you build in seven destinations. United’s RTW awards cost 200,000/350,000/450,000 miles for economy/business/first and only allow up to five stopovers and 16 segments.

Those are just a few examples, but share any other favorite KrisFlyer redemptions in the comments below, as well as your United earning strategy and whether it includes crediting flights to KrisFlyer!

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