Huge Changes Coming to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Effective March 23

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Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is one of the most valuable frequent flyer programs in the world. It’s one of my favorite places to transfer points from my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. (Points transfer from American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards as well.)

  • Almost no fees. There are no fees for telephone booking, for close-in award redemption, or for changing the time or date of travel on a Singapore Airlines award. (Changes to partner awards are just $20.) Award cancel and redeposits cost $30 — or $75 if you straight up no show.

  • Great award availability. While it’s almost impossible to book premium cabin long haul awards on Singapore Airlines using partner miles like United MileagePlus, award availability is much better than average using Singapore’s own miles, and you can waitlist awards.

  • Stopovers. You get one enroute stopover on a roundtrip for free, and you can book an open jaw as well. Extra stopovers, or stopovers on a one-way, cost $100. Although you do have to book the most direct routing.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is making 3 significant changes effective March 23:

  1. Eliminating fuel surcharges on Singapore and Silkair redemptions.
  2. Eliminating the 15% online booking discount. (This was a discount only for Singapore flights, since partner awards can’t be booked online.)
  3. Raising award prices for Singapore Airlines economy, business, and first class awards

Here’s the existing award chart (.pdf) and here’s the new March 23 onward chart (.pdf).

Whenever an airline says it’s raising award prices “to ensure that flight rewards remain sustainable yet competitive” what they really mean is “because we can.” KrisFlyer is generally too good, it’s been one of my favorite frequent flyer programs. And the best values do not last. Since the beginning of this blog 15 years ago I’ve been writing that anything which is several standard deviations better than the mean will eventually disappear, so enjoy it while it lasts.

It’s the dropping of the 15% discount that makes the changes significant. For instance,

  • Singapore – San Francisco business class is 80,000 one-way today.
  • It’s going up to 88,000 each way.
  • That’s just a 10% increase.
  • However the loss of the 15% discount means the ‘real’ price is going from 68,000 to 88,000, an increase of 29%

The mileage price goes up, but you’re saving ~ US$230 in fuel surcharges each direction. That’s a value of about 1.2 cents apiece you’re getting for the mileage increase. That’s not enough to be worth it but it’s a real offset that makes the changes not nearly as bad.

The offset though matters for redemptions on Singapore to South Asia, to Australia, and to Europe but there’s really no offset for North Asia redemptions since those fuel surcharges are so low to begin with.

For other US non-stop routes in business class,

  • San Francisco – Hong Kong goes from 75,000 to 82,000 miles, and loses the 15% discount
  • Los Angeles – Tokyo goes from 77,500 to 85,000 miles, and loses the 15% discount
  • Los Angeles – Seoul goes from 77,500 to 85,000 miles, and loses the 15% discount
  • Houston – Manchester goes from 57,500 to 65,000 miles, and loses the 15% discount
  • New York JFK – Frankfurt goes from 57,500 to 65,000 miles, and loses the 15% discount

US-Europe at 130,000 miles roundtrip and no fuel surcharges is reasonable. US-Asia at 170,000 miles roundtrip and no fuel surcharges is expensive but non-crazy especially considering how much award availability Singapore Airlines offers when using KrisFlyer miles.

There are no changes to:

  • Premium economy award prices
  • Standard (extra miles) awards that give you much more award availability
  • Upgrade award chart prices
  • Star Alliance award prices

Of course standard awards and upgrade awards lose their 15% online discount, so the award chart price doesn’t change but the effective cost still goes up for those redemptions.

Bottom-line is that the elimination of fuel surcharges offsets, but isn’t enough to make up for, the increases in award prices — especially the loss of the 15% online discount. However prices are still within the ballpark, availability is in general still excellent, and with no change to upgrade or Star Alliance pricing it will still remain a go-to for my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card points transfers.

(HT: Gul C)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. SQ is one of my favorite airlines but I never find Krisflyer to be a worthy program to transfer points to (other than Citi Thankyou points which don’t have many valuable partners). One of the reasons is fuel surcharges. Elimination of these charges would help, especially to places where these charges are high (e.g. Europe, Thailand), but I still find the program uncompetitive. Unless you must fly on SQ (and its premium cabins), you’re better off with many other programs in terms of pricing.

  2. This is a realignment of the redemption costs to the member. YQ down but points up. The changes won’t have a material impact on the bottom line for SQ or KF, so it’s not a devaluation at all.

    If you know how to work the Krisflyer program – you’ll know it is the #1 redemption program by a long shot. Excellent availability when you book at the right time, especially in business and first class.

  3. Fuel surcharges were bad, but ever decreasing availability on their own planes was getting ridiculous. I kept seeing the dreaded “waitlist” more and more during the past few years. Plus if you don’t live in a gateway city in US, you’re forced to pay from the staralliance chart anyway, or buy positioning flights. Their new chart is totally uncompetitive with the main star alliance mileage programs.

  4. The value of a Kris flyer point dropped by ~15-25%. Can’t wait for the gurus to spin this one.

  5. @atxtravel to be clear you’re not forced to pay for the positioning flight, you’re forced to choose between paying for the positioning flight or paying mileage based on the star alliance chart.

  6. @Gary — obviously I’m not forced to do anything, what I meant is for many of us, like you and me in ATX, the 15% discount was not very useful when trying to get home from Asia. It was mainly useful between SIN and Europe or Australia…a trip which I almost never take.

    I’ll study the chart again, because I think there are some sweet spots, especially when flying United in the Americas with no/low surcharges, but overall the program is a dud….even more so now compared to others like United/Aeroplan/ANA.

  7. This is why the long term future of points, will be tiered like FlexPerks, or credit cards are going to have to increase the category multipliers. 15-20 years from now, nobody is going to want miles that are worth 1c.

    Anyone else agree? Would love to here others opinions.

  8. It is always bad news when airlines devalue their programs. I guess too many bloggers have been writing about the great redemption’s on the airline so all good things must come to an end.

  9. @John the Wanderer —

    (1) I really don’t think US redemptions are driving changes to this Singapore-based program.

    (2) From an SQ KrisFlyer perspective this is likely revenue neutral. The airline is eliminating fuel surcharges. The cost of seats to the program goes up. [And remember there is no change in cost to the program for Star Alliance awards, so those prices aren’t changing.] While a 20k points increase and a $230 savings may not look like a great deal to us, the program was likely accruing less than 1.2 cents a point in liability.

    This is a simple tradeoff for the program between fuel surcharge and points liability, to keep their costs in line given the elimination of fuel surcharges on SQ metal.

    But it’s a net cost to consumers because consumers value the points more than SQ books liability for them at.

  10. Gary, are there any destinations in Asia from the U.S. (e.g. Hong Kong) where Singapore does NOT currently charge fuel surcharges? I seem to recall that you once mentioned that, for example, LAX to Hong Kong did not result in fuel surcharges but that LAX to Singapore did. Thanks.

  11. Having just redeemed online an SFO-MLE trip, and paid the fuel/tax/insurance charges, I can see where this isn’t always an easy value calculus. I had the miles, so would have probably preferred to use them, but the loss of the 15% online discount does add up after a while. Coming out of SFO, my experience is that it can be a bit difficult to find Singapore business/first seats, so I have to differ a bit on the assessment that awards are generally available. Gary, I am also not sure I agree with the assessment that “it’s a net cost to consumers because consumers value the points more than SQ books liability for them.” While it may be correct, I don’t think that creates net cost to the consumer. Corporate accounting costs are not a factor in consumer value. It’s only a net cost to consumers if the miles they already possess are worth less *on the market* than they would be under the prior policy. It appears they are, and that is the source of reduction of consumer value. The spread between how SQ values those points on their books [now less/mile than they once were presumably, since they have less market value] and what the consumer perceives as their value [also lower now that it costs more of them to book, i.e., their has been an inflationary impact] is not the measure of their value. In fact, that spread could well be near-identical now. Their value, which has now been reduced, but with an offsetting dollar credit against that value loss, is a direct reflection of what they will buy, not what it costs SQ to carry the miles on their books. Fun discussion. First world problem.

  12. Well now you have to transfer even more points to SQ, without certainty of getting awards that you waitlist (and a lot of routes seem to only have Waitlist as options, not actually booking them, at least when you’re searching months out and trying to plan).

    On top of it all, your points will expire on KrisFlyer if you fail to redeem.

    There must be programs which offer you better redemption odds for transferring UR and MR points.

  13. @Greg – I agree that consumers should not see this as a net positive. What’s interesting here is that this isn’t a net profitable move for Krisflyer either. They were faced with losing fuel surcharges, so are working to make up the lost revenue on each award. And since Singapore values each mile less than a consumer values that mile, both sides can feel like it’s a net loss.

  14. So there’s no awards from USA West to Europe? You have to fly yourself to the east coast?

    Also what is Hawaii considered, USA West? I’m wondering about Hawaii to Aus/NQ.

  15. @atxtravel – How can you compare United to Singapore? The quality of the two is significantly different.

  16. @ Gary, Though most of the readers feel that the additional miles impact superceeds the removal of carrier surcharge, I seem to be in the minority that feels the trade off balanced out.

    e.g I was recently weighing the options of booking through UA MP on Swiss+LF from SIN-JKF vs SQ KF SIN-JKF for family of 4. After settling for mixed bag of biz+eco tickets thru UA MP, I ended up out of pocket of about USD 600 in total for 4 tickets plus the miles; If I had done the same routing (eco+biz based on availability) on SQ, due to the surcharges and other fees, I would have paid approx USD 3500 as fees plus SQ miles based on current chart.

    In my opinion, this is a huge difference as SQ surcharges are close to USD 700 per ticket on SIN-JFK route (it is about USD 460 on SIN-SFO route) which in my understanding will no longer need to be paid by the proposed change.

    Isn’t this a significant reduction in fees that one stands to benefit or am I missing something?

    Secondly, I notice that pretty much any itinerary on biz using SQ KF seems to show waitlisted over next 10 months including for near dates. Any idea on whether they have turned the tap tighter on award availability even for KF members?

  17. @PK what routes are you looking at when you say pretty much any itinerary?

    I do think the elimination of fuel surcharges should be applauded. I think this breaks even for the program’s costs, or grows those costs a little, while overall is a modest negative for members.

  18. @ Gary, Thanks for your quick response. I was looking at SIN-JFK-SIN, SIN-SFO-SIN, SIN-LHR-SIN, SIN-CDG-SIN over multiple date options over next few months.

    Even for 1 ticket on biz, it was showing wait list status.
    It wasn’t so bad few months ago and I dread to think of nightmare in trying to book for family of 3-4 pax.

  19. Ive been using Krisflyer for many years- mainly to travel between Australia and Europe. Coupled with the (now closed) Krisflyer CCard I have, it’s been great while it lasted.
    However, I can certainly vouch for there being less “saver” tickets now available, not just in business (where it has always been nigh on impossible to get more than two seats SYD-EUR on points). This year, even the day after the flights become available 12 months in advance, many flights are already waitlisted for any more than a single business seat. After getting my own self ticketed, I am even finding my flight 12 months away waitlisted for even an extra single economy saver seat for my son. In previous years, with some level of flexibility on timing and destination city, i have always been able to get plenty of availability 6-8 months out.
    The changes certainly dampen my enthusiasm for the scheme, but it still beats flying Qantas FF

  20. How do you calculate the Fuel/Insurance changes?
    For example, if I book today for IAH-BKK roundtrip, I’m paying 132,000 miles + ~$650usd according to the checkout screen.
    After the change, it will be 176,000 miles + ? what? I’m thinking most of the $650 is going away if it’s just airport taxes left but can’t figure out what that would be.

    I have the hardest time redeeming Krisflyer points so it’s worth it to me to pay more points (since I prefer using Korean Air for US-Asia travel as I get way more eligible dates) if the actual dollar amount decreases.

  21. The charge for the changes to partner airline flights seems to be misleading. I currently have a UA flight booked through Singapore Air using Kris miles. I saw that saver fares opened up for a nonstop on the same day on united, so I called Krisflyer hoping to be able to change my ticket. Though they claim that the change fee is only $20usd, they are trying to charge me for a stopover but will not tell me where the stopover is. He also keeps quoting a stopover fee of $100, but telling me that it will be $220 USD per person. They cannot tell me why I am being charged a stopover fee when it is a direct flight either. The competence of the Krisflyer agents seems to defeat the lower award rates.

  22. I mostly used my miles for short haul flights from SIN to BKK, CGN, MNL etc. Here the Super Saver booked over the internet cost 12,750 (85% x 15,000) per leg. Now this fare class costs 25,000.
    I did not mind to pay the extra cash cost for tax and fuel surcharge, even though I always thought it lacked transparency – it was an acceptable deal. However, after the new changes, I am seriously thinking about just giving it a miss altogether… and boy am I glad that I finally gave up chasing points to maintain the Solitaire status a few years ago. Having flown a lot with SQ since 1996, I have seen this airline to go from the best to just mediocre and this change of the Krisflyer redemption program is just the latest of many disappointments.

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