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How to Waitlist for Better Award Flights on Singapore Airlines

July 16, 2019
12 min read
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Singapore Airlines is widely recognized as having some of the best seats and service in the world thanks to its excellent business class, first class and Suites cabins. At the same time, award seats in these premium classes are some of the hardest to book, as the carrier typically doesn't release these awards to Star Alliance partners like United. However, even if you can't find award inventory on your desired dates and flights through the KrisFlyer program, don't give up hope. Today I'll take a closer look at a unique way to gain access to Singapore awards using its waitlisting program.

Waitlisting Basics

Your next Singapore award flight could be even more comfortable or less expensive by utilizing the carrier's waitlist option.

As noted above, Singapore doesn't release any business or first class award seats to its Star Alliance partners, and it only offers them a subset of its economy class award seats. Even through its own program Singapore doesn't offer many business and first class award seats, which isn't surprising given the high demand for these products. However, it does allow you to put your name on a waitlist for the seats you want. Then, the airline will only charge you if seats become available and your reservation “clears.” You can think of it as flying standby but with the chance of getting approved in advance.

However, there are a couple of catches. First, you have to have the miles in your account before you can make a waitlist request. Second, if your flight departs on or after August 14, 2019, you'll now need to make your request at least 21 days before your flight, and you must clear from the waitlist at least 14 days before your flight.

Getting Started with a Waitlist Request

Thankfully, the process for waitlisting flights is fairly easy. First, you will need to open a KrisFlyer account, log in and search for the flight(s) you want. Keep in mind that waitlisting is only an option for flights operated by Singapore Airlines, not its Star Alliance partners. When you do search for an award, you will see results as Available, Waitlist or Not Available displayed at the Saver and Advantage mileage levels.

Here's an example of a nonstop flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) in business class that isn't currently available at the Saver Level:

In this case, you must have at least 89,000 KrisFlyer miles in your account in order to be added to the waitlist. Unfortunately, this presents a bit of an issue for those who are planning on transferring points from a flexible points program. These transfers are always irreversible, so if your waitlisted segment never clears, you’ll be left with a mileage balance in the KrisFlyer program rather than one that can be transferred to other airlines or hotels later. While some of the strategies below can help prevent this unfortunate scenario, there's no guarantee that you'll clear.

Once you're on a waitlist, you will receive an email notifying you if your award clears, but that does not mean your award will be ticketed. All it means is that you have the option to ticket it by calling, or you can choose not to ticket it. When you receive an email indicating that your waitlist request has cleared, you'll be given a ticketing deadline of about a day. If you don't book before that time runs out, you'll no longer eligible to ticket the award.

Finally, bear in mind the changes that have now been implemented for flights departing on or after August 14, 2019. You must request to be added to the waitlist at least 21 days before your flight, and you're only eligible to clear into your waitlisted flight and class of service up to 14 days before departure. If you don't clear, the unsuccessful waitlist request will be cancelled.

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This could be a good thing — in that you now have a final decision on your waitlist request further in advance — but it also wouldn't be surprising to see fewer requests clear, especially for premium cabins. Singapore may hold back seats from award inventory up to a few days before departure in the hopes of selling them to full-fare passengers. If those are then released for award tickets within that two-week window, your waitlist request will already have been cancelled.

Strategies to Maximize Your Chances on the Waitlist

Now that you know how to get on the waitlist, what can you do to increase the probability of your award clearing? There are no guarantees, but here are some suggestions:

1. Book early. Since awards can clear at any time, those who book early will have the best opportunity for an award to clear. Furthermore, booking early increases your chances of being ahead of other people who are waitlisting the same flight.

2. Waitlist multiple flights. Even though you must have the necessary miles in your account to ticket any flight you waitlist, Singapore does allow you to waitlist multiple awards while only having enough miles in your balance for the single, most expensive award. So if there are multiple flights in a day to your destination, or multiple days when you are willing to fly, then you can waitlist several of them at once.

3. Call Singapore. There are numerous reports that calling to inquire about the status of your waitlist request can positively influence your chances of having it clear. Some sources attribute this effect to the manual nature of the waitlisting process, while others claim there is a technical glitch that prevents waitlists from clearing. Personally, I think that both explanations have some truth to them.

4. Avoid peak travel times. Waitlisted awards will clear if Singapore’s revenue management staff thinks that the carrier is unlikely to sell that seat. In other words, your chances of success are greater when you choose dates that are not in high demand, such as weekends and holidays.

5. Book confirmed awards as backups. For some people (like me), it would be way too stressful to waitlist a flight and then have an entire trip hinging on the whims of a revenue management person at the airline. So the real trick is to have a backup flight booked in case your waitlisted award doesn’t clear.

The good news is that once your award is on the waitlist, your miles are not deducted and you're free to spend them on a confirmed flight, perhaps in a lower class of service, at a less convenient time or with a less desirable routing or aircraft. Note that Singapore KrisFlyer has relatively modest change and cancellation fees for award tickets if one of your desired waitlisted flights clears.

For example, let's say you wanted to waitlist the above flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong on May 17, 2020. However, you don't want to be left high and dry if the Saver award doesn't clear. To prevent this scenario from coming to fruition, you can book a confirmed, connecting flight through Singapore (SIN) for that same day:

You now know for sure that you'll be getting to Hong Kong on your desired date.

However, in order to do this, you must select the waitlisted flight first. If you book the confirmed flight and then go back to waitlist for the nonstop option, you won't be allowed to do so without the required number of miles in your account.

This process can actually be done online, though again, you will need to pay the $30 redeposit fee if your waitlisted flight comes available and you must cancel your backup reservation.

And if positioning flights are necessary to make this work, I would recommend booking an award on Southwest, which offers free changes or cancellations of tickets booked with points. This would be key in the above situation if you're suddenly departing at 10:05pm instead of 1:15am; you could hopefully adjust your flight to a more convenient time.

6. Use the waitlist as a tool to upgrade. You can also call Singapore to book a confirmed seat in economy or business class and have the agent waitlist you for a higher class of service. Once the waitlisted seat is confirmed, the ticket can be reissued — the agent will deduct the additional miles required and you’ll need to pay a $20 service fee. This could help make the jump from business to first class, though remember that you have to have enough miles for the more expensive redemption in your account.

7. Have Singapore status. There are many reports of Singapore freeing up waitlisted awards more easily for those who hold elite status. But what if you don’t normally purchase Singapore tickets? Not to worry, as it turns out that Singapore’s KrisFlyer program is one of the best places to credit your United, Air Canada and other Star Alliance flights. Silver Elite status requires just 25,000 miles, which you can easily earn with two round-trip flights to Singapore. Just note that Singapore awards elite-qualifying miles based on your fare class, so it will be harder to earn status if you are booking highly discounted fares.

8. Check again within two weeks. As noted above, all unsuccessful waitlist requests will be cancelled 14 days prior to departure. However, there's nothing stopping you from manually checking for award inventory once that happens. If you have a confirmed, back-up flight but your desired itinerary suddenly opens up with just a week until the trip, you can still call and pay the small fee to change. This just won't be an automated process and won't use the actual waitlist feature, since that is no longer an option once you're within two weeks of departure.

Earning Singapore KrisFlyer Miles

You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points directly to Singapore's KrisFlyer program to take advantage of this waitlist option.

One of the best things about the Singapore KrisFlyer program is how easy it is to quickly boost your account balance, since it's one of the only programs to partner with all of the major transferable point currencies:

  • Chase Ultimate Rewards: You can transfer your Ultimate Rewards points from your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred Credit Card at a 1:1 ratio. You can also combine points from cash-back cards like the Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants) or Chase Freedom Unlimited to convert those earnings into transferable points. Keep in mind that transfers typically process within 24 hours but can take up to two days. The information for the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
  • American Express Membership Rewards: Membership Rewards points transfer 1:1 to Singapore from cards such as the American Express® Gold Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express. Transfers are generally complete within 24 hours.
  • Citi ThankYou Rewards: Singapore might be one of the best airline transfer options available from the ThankYou Rewards program, but transfers tend to take 2-3 days. The ratio is 1:1, and you can transfer points from your ThankYou rewards account if you hold a Citi Premier® Card or a Citi Prestige® Card. The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
  • Capital One: Singapore was added as a Capital One transfer partner in last 2018 for cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Capital One Spark Miles for Business card. However, these miles transfer at a 2:1 ratio, so you'd be much better off using one of the other programs. Our test transfer from Capital One to Singapore took 36 hours.

Singapore also partners with Marriott Rewards as a transfer partner, but it can take about three weeks for the miles to show up in your account, so this is likely the worst option. Points transfer at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer.

Bottom Line

If you’ve ever dreamed of indulging in an award flight on Singapore Airlines in a premium class, then you'll almost certainly need to use the carrier's KrisFlyer program. This can be a challenge given the demand for these terrific products and the limited inventory Singapore releases for awards. However, if you're sitting on a stash of transferable credit card points and are feeling just a little lucky, Singapore’s waitlisting program can help bring those awards within reach.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Honig / The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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