The “transformation office“, a crack team of individuals tasked with revamping the more ‘traditional’ business practices within the SIA Group, have clearly been working overtime. Yesterday a range of changes, both to fare types, award tickets and redemption service fees were announced. For most of us, it’s bad news, though there are some enhancements for many full-fare premium travellers.
Here’s our lowdown on the headline changes, and how they’ll affect you.
Changes to award redemption fees
New award names
KrisFlyer ‘Standard’ awards will be renamed ‘Advantage’ awards, so soon we will have ‘Saver’ (the cheaper ones) and ‘Advantage’.
Revised fees (from 1st March 2018)
Changing the date of your award redemption booking, previously free of charge, will now cost US$25 for a saver booking, but remains free for advantage awards.
Changing the route, cabin class or award type will set you back US$25 for both award types. Not a significant change, as this was previously US$20.
Changing the date, route, flight or carrier on partner airline redemptions will now cost US$50, up from US$20 currently.
The mileage redeposit fee, currently US$30 for all award types (or US$15 if you are KrisFlyer Elite Silver status or higher), will now cost US$75 for saver awards and US$50 for advantage awards, regardless of your KrisFlyer or PPS Club status.
This is a significant increase if, like us, you often take advantage of the generally good saver award availability 355 days prior to the travel date, when SIA release their award seats, even though you don’t necessarily have the annual leave allocated by your employer, or you’re not 100% sure the trip will go ahead.
US$15 or US$30 isn’t really much to lose to have the flexibility of a confirmed seat so far in advance, and it was particularly useful for business class or first class / suites redemptions. Once these changes take place, it will be a slightly different decision to make, as US$75 isn’t quite such an insignificant amount to write off.
On the other hand this may reduce the level of ‘speculative’ award bookings clogging up the system, many of which will be cancelled and go unused, and that potentially improves award availability for all. We won’t hold our breath though.
The no-show fee for redemption award tickets will now be US$100 for economy redemptions, US$200 for premium economy redemptions and US$300 for business, first class or suites redemptions. Currently, it’s set at US$75 for all travel classes.
Remember the no-show fee is in addition to the miles redeposit fee, so if you fail to turn up for a business saver redemption, then ask for the miles to be refunded, the fee will be US$300 + US$75 = US$375.
Click here for the full breakdown of new award ticket fees which will apply from 1st March 2018.
Changes to fare types
New fare names
In both economy and business class, the new fares are called ‘Lite’, ‘Standard’ and ‘Flexi’. In premium economy, it’s just ‘Standard’ and ‘Flexi’. First class / suites retain a single fare category.
The new economy fare codes
- Economy Lite – Q, N, V, K
- Economy Standard – M, H, W
- Economy Flexi – Y, B, E
The new premium economy fare codes
- Premium Economy Standard – P
- Premium Economy Flexi – S, T
The new business fare codes
- Business Lite – D
- Business Standard – U
- Business Flexi – Z, C, J
The new first / suites fare codes
- First / Suites – F, A
Upgrades using KrisFlyer miles will not be allowed from Economy Lite fares, Premium Economy Standard fares, or from Business Lite fares.
This is a double-edged sword. In economy it will open up the upgrade with miles opportunity to two classes (Standard and Flexi), while currently only the most expensive economy fares are eligible. That’s good news, but remember it means an upgrade only to premium economy on flights with that cabin fitted, an upgrade from economy to business is only available on aircraft with no premium economy cabin.
In premium economy this is a definite negative, you’ll now have to buy a Flexi ticket to be eligible for an upgrade to business class using miles, whereas currently this option is available to any premium economy ticket holder.
In business class it’s the same story, the new Lite fare won’t get you an upgrade to first class using miles, for that you’ll need to book Standard or Flexi.
To us, this is a big change. As you will have to pay more from the outset, most of the time, to get a ticket which is eligible for miles upgrade either in premium economy or business class, it effectively devalues the miles when used for this purpose.
There may be some advantage for economy class passengers booking Standard or Flexi tickets though, especially travelling on aircraft without a premium economy cabin. As we expect the 787-10 and regional A350 not to have a premium economy section, but still probably fly longer flights as far as Japan and Australia, this might become an economy to business upgrade ‘sweet spot’.
Singapore Airlines is going down the paid seat selection route for economy class passengers. While this is disappointing, appears more suited to a low-cost airline, and will anger a lot of passengers, it was probably only a matter of time.
That’s because this is low-hanging fruit for the “transformation team”. Full-service carriers like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Finnair, Qantas and Emirates already do this for at least some of their economy passengers (and in the case of British Airways for some business passengers too), and are making a fortune in ancillary revenue from it.
The airline classifies the seats in economy in three categories:
- Extra Legroom (self-explanatory)
- Forward Zone (further forward, closer to the doors for faster disembarkation)
- Standard (the rest)
Advance seat selection, currently free of charge for all economy class bookings, will now cost from US$5 (about S$6.70) per sector for ‘Lite’ fares, with higher cost for the forward zone (from US$8 per sector) and extra legroom (from US$25 per sector) sections.
On a ‘Standard’ economy fare, standard seat selection is free, but not the new forward zone seats and extra legroom seats, which will still be chargeable.
For the ‘Flexi’ economy fare you’ll be able to choose any seat for free at the booking stage, except extra legroom, which is still chargeable.
Whichever fare you book, full seat selection will be made available at no charge once online check-in is open, 48 hours prior to departure.
In premium economy, you will be able to choose the standard seats for free, but will be expected to stump up cash to sit in the extra legroom row, even if you’ve paid full whack for a ‘Flexi’ ticket.
KrisFlyer miles accrual
In economy, mileage accrual rates will be 50% of miles flown for ‘Lite’ fares, 75% for ‘Standard’ fares and 100% for ‘Flexi’ fares.
That’s a big advantage for the cheapest economy tickets, which currently accrue miles at only 10% of distance flown.
In premium economy, where tickets currently earn 110% miles accrual across the board, the ‘Standard’ fare will now only get you 100%, while the ‘Flexi’ fare will be increased to 125%.
In business class, it’s 125% for ‘Lite’ and ‘Standard’ fares, the same as the current rate, but the ‘Flexi’ accrual rate increases to 150%.
For first class / suites, the existing miles accrual rate of 150% increases to 200% for all tickets.
In economy, checked baggage allowance will remain at 30kg for ‘Lite’ and ‘Standard’ fares but will increase to 35kg for ‘Flexi’ fares.
In premium economy, business class and first class/suites, baggage allowance remains the same at 35kg, 40kg and 50kg respectively.
Click here for the full breakdown of new fare types and conditions which will apply for bookings made from 20th January 2018.
How much notice are they giving?
As usual with Singapore Airlines – not a lot. The new fare categories will apply to all bookings made from 20th January 2018, around a month from now. For the award and redemption fees, there’s a little more time, as these won’t come into effect until 1st March 2018.
Some good news
If you’re travelling on an Economy Lite fare as a family with children under 12 on the same booking, seat selection will remain free (for standard seats). As you’ll also now earn 50% miles accrual instead of 10%, arguably you’ve scored a win with these changes.
If you hold KrisFlyer Elite Silver status, you won’t pay to reserve a standard seat in economy class even on a ‘Lite’ fare.
If you hold KrisFlyer Elite Gold status, you won’t pay to reserve a standard seat or a forward zone seat in economy class even on a ‘Lite’ or ‘Standard’ fare.
If you’re a PPS Club member flying in economy, you’ll be entitled to complimentary advance seat selection including standard, extra legroom and forward zone seats, whichever fare you are travelling on, in either economy class or premium economy.
(Cover Photo: Aero Icarus)