Singapore Airlines Premium Cabin Awards May Get Easier to Obtain

Singapore Airlines premium cabin seats are tough to get on points. One common request I get in my award booking service is for Singapore Airlines flights. There’s a certain allure to flying Singapore. I often feel like the airline is overrated. There’s a mystique to it, their onboard product is good and I very much enjoy the style of service (although others find them to be a bit too fawning). But I also like Cathay Pacific’s first class product quite a bit, and that of several other carriers, at least as much. They just don’t have quite the same branding.

The problem is that Singapore Airlines premium cabin awards have been almost impossible to get.

It used to be that it was easy to get a single seat in Singapore Airlines First class, they would release one seat at a time only in first class and in business class at least to their partners but they would also often release a second seat once the first seat was booked. Availability for Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer members was frequently much better than the availability offered to their Star Alliance partners. It’s one of the few cases where this is true (Lufthansa and Swiss availability to Miles & More members being one of the other prominent examples). With most airlines, award space is award space no matter whose miles are being used to book it.

But Singapore only offered premium cabin award seats to partners on their 747 aircraft and on their regional 777s. They didn’t make premium cabin award seats available on their A380s, on their 77W long-haul planes, and on their Airbus A340-500s which fly the ultra-long haul routes from Newark ad Los Angeles to Singapore non-stop.

Singapore’s own members had to spend double miles for those premium cabin seats, they didn’t even release saver seats to their own members at all as a matter of policy. And since partner airlines don’t have the option of spending double points, there wasn’t supposed to be any award space in business or first class on these flights at all offered to partners. United miles simply could not be used for the awards at all. Singapore also didn’t offer “suites class” seats on the A380 at all for awhile, and when they began offering those seats to KrisFlyer members it was often at close to a million miles roundtrip on the longest haul routes.

Of course, 747 routes were rapidly disappearing and I’ve been predicting for a long time that eventually Singapore’s approach to these seats would have to change. Saying that no saver seats were available in business or first with Singapore’s “new” product made little sense when it really was Singapore’s only remaining product, and when it was hardly even new.

There’s no longer anything flying out of the U.S. on ‘old’ configured aircraft. You only have the 77W, A340-500, and A380. That’s it. Which means no saver awards with KrisFlyer miles from the US to Singapore (or Seoul, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, or Moscow). And no business or first class awards at all with Aeroplan, United, Continental, or US Airways miles.

At least that’s how it is supposed to have worked, there are plenty of times where there were glitches or perhaps unannounced inventory that was opened. And oddly enough, though the non-stop all business class flights to Singapore weren’t supposed to be available to partners at all I often found the space bookable with bmi Diamond Club destination miles. And plenty of folks managed to get first class award space by booking seats far into the future on flights that were scheduled to be operated by 747s and then having the aircraft changed.

But this is changing. Singapore Airlines is making a policy change. They’ve has announced a new mileage chart effective March 1 for use on their own flights. The Star Alliance award chart is also being updated as well. And along with their award price increases will come saver award availability in business class on the A340-500, business and first class on the 77W, and business class on the A380.

We do not know yet whether that will translate into award space for partners, since Singapore has historically offered different space to their own members versus to their partners, although I’m better that it will at least in some capacity.

The award price increases are fairly modest for using Singapore Airlines miles on Singapore flights, they’re fairly significant for use of Singapore Airlines miles on Star Alliance flights. That ‘s really just a negative for Singapore members of course, it doesn’t affect those with partner miles like United’s or US Airways’.

Even if it doesn’t immediately translate into premium cabin award space for partners, it’s still good news, because Singapore Airlines is an American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner (and transfer partner of several hotel programs like Starwood’s). Of course, like most non-US programs, Singapore KrisFlyer adds fuel surcharges onto awards so it’s still not an inexpensive proposition. But the price increases for flights on Singapore’s own aircraft aren’t that bad, plus since you’ll no longer have to send double miles to get business and first class awards on net it’s actually a huge price reduction.

I’ve never been especially keen to spend hundreds of thousands of miles to get awards on Singapore when I could spend American AAdvantage miles at the saver level for Cathay. But the marketing, and how tough to get the seats have been, have made the seats very attractive to many. Not to mention that they fly several routes like San Francisco – Seoul and Houston – Moscow plus all those Europe – Singapore routes where they offer the best onboard product for a non-stop option.

This thawing of award inventory with Singapore – which is supposed to begin March 8 for flights April 1 and onward and won’t include suites on the A380 – is certainly welcome.

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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  1. Gary,

    As a KF Gold Elite, I have the ability to book the A-380 business class, etc. But as you point out, there are no saver awards on those flights, so it costs an onerous amount of points.

    On the non 77W, A340-500, and A380 flights, I do not see additional availability than I do through Mileage Plus- in fact, I have sometimes been able to snag seats through United that SQ told me were unavailable. The only other advantage for KF members is that they can waitlist the second seat in First or Business, and then snag it when it opens up.

    Houston – Moscow – Singapore often has inventory available when I look on the KF site. I also saw it on the Continental site (a great way to research *A SQ flights) for only 32.5K miles one way- Y class of course, but was surprised you could get that routing for that amount of miles.

  2. This looks good, though I’m not sure I would necessarily agree that SQ offers the best Europe-Singapore direct option given that QF flies LHR-SIN with two A380 flights (as does BA, though I like QF’s premium service better). They even sometimes have 2 seats in F available. It’s an expensive redemption but still a nice way to fly!

  3. It wouldn’t surprise me if SQ opens up more availability to all *A partners, given that bmi has had TONS of A345/A388 business class availability for quite a while. It has made burning the last of our million+ bmi miles quite rewarding. I guess I need to finish burning by March 1!

  4. SQ has had on and off C availability on 25/26 SIN-FRA-JFK (and vv.) throughout this year (even after the A380 switch), and I don’t think its a glitch, (as supposed to other times where there was lots of availability on every day). I flew 25 all the way in C 2 weeks ago, and would highly recommend it 🙂

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