When tickets went on sale for the re-launched Singapore to Newark SQ21/22 flights earlier this week the majority of eyes were drawn to price and award availability. In fact, we detailed all the information in our summary article here. But the team (and some of our eagle-eyed readers) noticed some subtle changes to information being displayed for Premium Economy fares.
First a little background.
SIA’s Major Fare Shake-Up
Back in December Singapore Airlines announced major changes to their fare types and redemption fees. We did a comprehensive overview here. One of the more unpopular changes was the introduction of some fare categories, especially in Premium Economy and Business class, which were no longer eligible for upgrade using miles. Here’s a list of the revised fare codes brought in during March.
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
In Premium Economy this was a definite negative, as the changes meant you’d have to buy a Flexi ticket to be eligible for an upgrade to Business Class using miles, whereas before March 2018 this option was available to any Premium Economy ticket holder. Also of note, Lite fares had been introduced for Economy and Business but not Premium Economy.
The Rollback / Enhancement
As of Thursday this week (31st May 2018), the S, T and P Premium Economy fare codes are now all eligible to be upgraded with miles. That means Premium Economy Standard can now upgrade to business but at a different (higher) rate compared to Flexi fares. Typically around 30% more miles are required to upgrade a Premium Economy Standard (P fare code) ticket over the requirement for Flexi (S or T fare codes). The Premium Economy Standard fare continues to earn fewer miles – 100% vs. 125% of the actual mileage flown.
At the same time ‘Premium Economy Lite’ (R fare code) has been introduced. More on that later.
At the moment it appears that the Premium Economy Standard (P fare code) is only being offered on return fares. However, this isn’t explicitly stated anywhere in the terms and conditions so may change in future.
Take this example of a return flight from Singapore to Sydney:
It’s good news here as you can see the cheapest Premium Economy fare (Standard) is now eligible for upgrade using miles, which wasn’t the case after the changes were implemented in March and only came about again from Thursday this week.
The site gets a bit confused though when you click for information on the number of miles required to upgrade, showing all the options for both fare types identically (it doesn’t matter which link you click on).
What this actually means is that for a round-trip upgrade to Business Class from Premium Economy Standard on this route will cost 78,000 miles (Saver upgrade) or 124,000 miles (Advantage upgrade), while from Premium Economy Flexi to Business class it’ll cost 60,000 miles (Saver) or 100,000 miles (Advantage). The wording will no doubt be amended in due course.
These rates are confirmed on the Singapore Airlines Upgrade Chart, which was updated on 31st May to reflect the ability to upgrade Premium Economy Standard fares to Business Class.
The new ‘Lite’ Premium Economy fare code – ‘R’
As noted above the ‘Premium Economy Lite’ category was missing from the changes implemented in March. Now when searching the Singapore to Newark route for a round-trip in premium Economy you are offered this third option.
Two things stand out straight away – upgrade with miles and cancellation are not allowed. The cost of changing the booking is also double that for Premium Economy Standard. However the good news is that seat selection is still complimentary.
So broadly this matches the conditions associated with the other ‘Lite’ fare categories, with the exception of Economy Lite where seat selection is paid unless you have status in the KrisFlyer scheme.
If you simply want to travel as cheaply as possible, don’t care about upgrading and have firm travel plans – the new Premium Economy Lite fare to Newark is saving you a good deal of money (18% in the above example). Frankly S$2,220 for over 36 hours in a premium economy seat is extremely good value.
On top of that the return flight still accrues miles at the 100% rate, meaning 19,058 KrisFlyer miles (about S$380 value) in this case which is enough to get you a business class redemption from Singapore to Bali.
The Good News
We found that the new ‘Premium Economy Lite’ fare is only being offered on the Newark flights. That means all other Singapore Airlines routes offering Premium Economy, such as Singapore to Sydney and Singapore to London now have the option to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class using miles regardless of the fare you pay, whereas before you had to purchase the ‘Flexi’ fare for upgrade eligibility.
This is a very welcome and genuine enhancement (or rollback, however you see it). SIA could of course start introducing the ‘Premium Economy Lite’ fares on other routes in future but this has not occurred yet.
It’s also good news if you always intended to upgrade your Premium Economy booking. The cheaper Premium Economy Standard fares offer above average value for your miles in this case.
We looked at two examples of booking Premium Economy with the intention of upgrading to Business Class, assuming a Business Saver redemption is available in both cases.
Singapore to Osaka (return) in January 2019
|Miles Earned||6,092||7,616||+ 1,524|
|Upgrade Cost||52,000||40,000||– 12,000|
|Saving in fare||Standard vs. Flexi >||S$414.91|
|Cost in miles||13,524|
|Saving per mile||3.1¢|
For this flight you’ll save S$414.91 buying a Premium Economy Standard ticket rather than a Flexi ticket but the round-trip upgrade will cost you 12,000 more KrisFlyer miles. You’ll also earn 1,524 fewer miles for the trip, making your effective additional miles cost 13,524. That’s a value of 3.1 cents per mile, which is a good return.
Singapore to Newark (return) in January 2019
|Miles Earned||19,058||23,824||+ 4,766|
|Upgrade Cost||119,000||94,000||– 25,000|
|Saving in fare||Standard vs. Flexi >||S$700.00|
|Cost in miles||29,766|
|Saving per mile||2.4¢|
Slightly less value here but still above the minimum we like to see of 2 cents per mile. This example would work if you are lacking the 184,000 miles required for a business class saver redemption but of course does assume Saver upgrade availability which is currently scarce on the route. We expect that will change once the hype dies down.
Depending on your perspective and your miles balance, the addition of upgrades to Business Class from Premium Economy Standard is welcome news. On all the ‘non-Newark’ routes we searched like Singapore to Sydney and Singapore to London the Premium Economy fares offered were only ‘Standard’ and ‘Flexi’ meaning on those flights all Premium Economy fares are therefore now upgradeable with miles.
The Premium Economy Lite option on the Newark flights is ideal for those on a budget whose plans are relatively fixed and who don’t care about an upgrade. Happily it still accrues KrisFlyer miles at the 100% rate – a great deal for the upcoming service if you can cope with the seat for that long.
We also found that if you’re booking Premium Economy with the intention of upgrading to Business Class the ‘Standard’ fare is now the way to go provided your miles balance is sufficient as it generally provides better value even though the upgrade cost in miles terms is higher.
(Cover Photo: Singapore Airlines)