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Forget Singapore Suites — the new hottest award ticket in town will soon be the airline’s upcoming flight from Newark (EWR) to Changi Airport (SIN), carrying 67 business-class passengers and 94 premium economy passengers some 10,000 miles from the New York City area to Southeast Asia without a stop. This ultra-popular biz route resumes on October 11, 2018 — it was discontinued after Singapore retired its final Airbus A340-500s back in 2013. And yes, it is the new longest nonstop flight in the world.
Back in the day, SQ 21 offered a total of 100 business-class seats, with a single-cabin configuration. Now, with the new Airbus A350-900ULR (“ultra long range”), Singapore has opted to offer 161 seats, spread between two cabins. That means business awards may be even more difficult to come by, but the addition of premium economy brings an interesting upgrade opportunity that hadn’t been available half a decade ago.
Booking Business-Class Awards
Of course, the most straightforward option would be to book a confirmed seat in business class, ideally using the fewest number of miles. Since Singapore doesn’t release biz-class award seats to most partners, your best bet would be to transfer points to KrisFlyer and book directly through SQ’s own frequent flyer program.
Fortunately, KrisFlyer partners with all four transferrable currencies — Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Starwood Preferred Guest. Points transfer at a 1:1 ratio from all four programs, though you’ll need 3 Marriott points for every KrisFlyer mile once the program combines with SPG this summer.
The challenge, of course, will be finding award space. Like most carriers, Singapore is notoriously stingy with its most premium routes, since it doesn’t make sense to release seats for awards that can easily be sold for many thousands of dollars. That said, the new nonstop will operate daily, though not every day of the week is ideal for business travel.
SQ21, the leg from Newark, departs in the morning, at 10:45am or 9:45am, and arrives the next evening in Singapore. For business travelers hoping to make the most of a week in Singapore, that means Saturday morning departures will make the most sense, with Sunday morning and then Monday being reasonable alternatives. Leaving the US on Tuesday or Wednesday means most of the week is shot, though Thursday and Friday departures could appeal to Singapore residents returning home for the weekend after doing business in New York. For that reason, I’d expect Tuesday and Wednesday Newark departures to offer the most business-class award availability.
The same doesn’t apply to SQ22, the US-bound flight from Changi. This flight departs Singapore late at night, either 11:35pm or 12:40am, long after the end of the work day, and arrives in Newark in the early morning the following day. This leg results in far less lost time — almost none at all, in fact, since you can work a full day in Singapore and then the next full day in New York. Still, some days will be more appealing than others — a Sunday night (Monday early morning) departure from Singapore for business travelers aiming to work a full week in New York, perhaps, or a Thursday or Friday night departure for anyone looking to spend a full weekend on the East Coast. Monday and Tuesday night flights make it easy to split the week between both ends of the world, which potentially leaves Wednesday and Saturday as days with more award space.
All that said, Singapore could opt to release space on any days or none at all as it tests the waters on the world’s new longest route. Assuming you’re able to find space, expect saver awards to cost 92,000 miles each way, with standard awards going for 135,000 in each direction.
Upgrading From Premium Economy
As I mentioned, the addition of premium economy on this route adds an interesting upgrade alternative. If you book premium economy with cash, you may be able to use KrisFlyer miles to move up to business class.
Note, however, that following a change in December of last year, the cheapest premium-economy fares are not eligible for mileage upgrades, so you’ll need to book at least an “S” or “T” class ticket in order to move up to biz. It’s not possible to upgrade KrisFlyer awards — your premium-economy flight must be booked using cash, or using points through a program’s portal, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Based on Singapore’s current chart, an upgrade between cabins will run you 47,000 miles each way at the saver level, or 70,000 miles at the “Advantage” level. Singapore no longer applies a 15% discount for booking awards or upgrades online.
We should have a much better idea of award availability once Singapore 21 and 22 go on sale Thursday, May 31. Still, it’s not uncommon for carriers to add new flights to the schedule without making any award space available, only to add tons of mileage tickets over the next few days or weeks. I’m inclined to think that biz-class availability will be especially tight on this route, though, considering the appeal a nonstop flight from Newark to Singapore has for frequent business travelers.
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