Analysis KrisFlyer Singapore Airlines Star Alliance

Booking a KrisFlyer Star Alliance Round The World Award

Securing some of the best value you'll likely ever get from your KrisFlyer miles isn't an easy undertaking

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We wrote on Wednesday this week about our upcoming round-the-world First Class trip and in doing so mentioned one key thing – we’re not using KrisFlyer’s excellent value ‘Star Alliance Round The World Award’ ticket (RTW award) for this trip.

In that article we touched on a few of the reasons why it didn’t work for us on this occasion but we thought this would be a good time to give an overview of exactly what the RTW award looks like and how you can go about planning and booking one to make the most from a large pot of KrisFlyer miles.

Introduction

Possibly the ‘holy grail’ of KrisFlyer miles value, a ‘Star Alliance Round The World Award’ ticket lets you make a trip of a lifetime with up to 7 stopovers along the way for a significant saving on the regular KrisFlyer miles rates payable for those flights as individual sectors.

You can book these awards as soon as redemption flights become available for the airlines you’re choosing to fly with. Realistically that means up to 330 days before for all Star Alliance carriers, however some will let you book close to a month further in advance than that (355 days before travel). The whole RTW trip can span a maximum 12-month period from start to finish (oh to be retired… and swimming in KrisFlyer miles).

Like anything to do with KrisFlyer miles which represents good or excellent value though, such as the $100 stopover trick for example, it’s not that straightforward to arrange nor that well advertised. In fact this is the only page on the Singapore Airlines website mentioning the option (and don’t even bother with the reservation request form link there, it’s not going to help!).

Star Alliance airlines

Star Alliance RTW award flights can involve flight segments on any of the 27 full Star Alliance member airlines.

Star Alliance Airlines
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A3 OS.png BR LX
AC.png AV LO TP
CA.png SN.png LH TG
AI.png CM.png SK.png TK
NZ OU.png ZH  UA.png
NH MS SQtrans

Remember that SIA’s partner airlines (like Alaska and Virgin Australia) are not Star Alliance members and so their flights can’t be included on a RTW award itinerary. Flights operated by SilkAir (not a Star Alliance member) also can’t be included. You must stick to the Star Alliance group.

One exception is ‘surface sectors’, where you take a break from the ticket and pick it up later on in a different city at your own expense. These can involve any combination of cars, trains, buses or flights on any airline you like. You can even redeem your miles or points in the process, though that would be totally separate (and additional) to the RTW award.

The rules

A few basic rules apply and a host of more complex ones too.

  • Travel must take place in one continuous direction at all times, the ‘no backtracking’ rule. That means you can choose from the outset to go either west or east from your starting point but must continue to do so until you make it back to the starting point again.
  • The journey must begin and end in the same country. Not a big issue for most of our readers planning to start and end an RTW trip in Singapore, however if you started the trip in Australia for example it’s fine to start in Brisbane and end in Sydney.
  • A maximum of 7 stopovers are permitted in total.
  • A maximum of 2 stopovers are permitted in each countryNote the exception that up to 5 stopovers are permitted in the USA which applies to Star Alliance round the world fares (i.e. cash tickets) is not extended to the KrisFlyer RTW award ticket.
  • Maximum total travel distance is 35,000 miles (i.e. the sum of all sectors flown must not exceed this).
  • Maximum number of flight segments is 16. That includes segments flown on routes purely flown in transit, for example Mumbai to Istanbul to Thessaloniki on Turkish Airlines is 2 segments (sectors) even if you are only changing planes in Istanbul. It is not a stopover though in that case (don’t mix up the two!).
  • ‘Surface sectors’ are permitted. You’ll make your own travel arrangements for these, which can be by air if you wish (how would they know?!) but each counts towards your stopover allowance. For example on a westbound itinerary flying to Boston then making a surface sector to New York and departing from there is 2 stopovers (one in Boston, one in New York). Since that’s the limit in a single country your next flight would have to depart the USA altogether (via another US airport if necessary, but only in transit if that’s the case).
  • All sectors must have award availability in the chosen cabin at the time of booking. That means Saver awards both on Singapore Airlines and Star Alliance airlines (Advantage awards are not applicable for RTW tickets).
  • You can change flights / dates prior to departure (a fee applies), however once the trip has started you can no longer make any changes.

The cost

An RTW award ticket using your KrisFlyer miles will set you back:

  • 180,000 miles in Economy Class
  • 240,000 miles in Business Class
  • 360,000 miles in First Class

Given the sharp disparity in cash fares between Economy Class and premium cabins, it only really makes sense to redeem an RTW award in Business or First Class. You’re paying a 33% miles premium to redeem in Business Class over Economy on one of these trips, however the cash fares would easily come to double or even triple the cost.

With a further 50% increase in miles required for a First Class RTW award, the deal in Business Class actually stands out as arguably the best value option here.

Planning a trip

You’ll need a few tools to help you plan a trip like this. Not least a map (or a globe!), a vague idea of the places you want to visit will also help, then once you’ve got a plan with some dates in mind you’ll most certainly need a pen and paper as it’s time to start searching award availability and you’ll soon lose track if you don’t record what you find.

Trip Planning
Planning is key. Flexibility is vital. Several refills of coffee are probably essential.

Before you get to the award searching stage a good resource to check whether your plan meets the requirements is the Great Circle Mapper. Here you’ll build your route (just start typing with hyphens between the city / airport codes until you’re back to the start point again) and you’ll be presented with the map and the distance for each sector.

GCMap.jpg
How the Great Circle Mapper site will help you check two key rules for these RTW award tickets

Crucially though as you can see you’ll get the total distance (remember it must be less than 35,000 miles), the total number of flight segments (16 is your limit) and of course the direction of travel between each city pair.

Ok so direction is fairly obvious if you have a pair of eyes and can ascertain left from right, but to be clear for a westbound routing each sector must be between 180o and 359o, while for an eastbound one you’re looking for 000o to 179o. Any leg that falls outside that basic rule may require a re-think.

Don’t be too put off by having to use 3-letter IATA airport codes on the GCmap site as the World Airport Codes website will help you find those if necessary. Most people know New York is JFK or EWR (Newark) and that Los Angeles is LAX, but if you’re struggling to work out what Santorini is this site will quickly tell you (it’s JTR, by the way, and Star Alliance carrier Aegean will help you fly there).

The Wikipedia page for most airports in the world also usually contains this information and the Great Circle Mapper site itself even has a search function.

Machu Picchu.jpg
If it’s on your bucket list you can probably get there via the Star Alliance network. For Machu Picchu (pictured), head to Cusco Airport (CUZ), served by up to 11 Avianca flights per day.

Searching the awards

Here’s where things have improved in the last six months or so – most Star Alliance award flights can now be searched through the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer online search facility.

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Award flights for most Star Alliance airlines are now searchable through the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer online portal

It’s not quite as user friendly as the United MileagePlus site, which doesn’t even require a login and allows you to view a whole month of availability on a route in Business Class for example.

UA Calendar Search
Example of a search using the United site. View whole months at a time with a non-stop only option if you prefer and an easy way to see the dates where Economy Class or Business / First Class awards are available.

You also need to remember the exclusions in the KrisFlyer system. As we noted in our latest update you still can’t search Air India, Asiana, TAP Portugal and most Avianca flights (the latter being several carriers in one). You also can’t search domestic flights in New Zealand, while you can search (but not book) domestic flights in Brazil and Japan.

For these airlines and routings the United MileagePlus site is our recommendation for searching availability.

UA OZ Flight.jpg
Here’s an Asiana flight searched using the United site. This won’t show up on the KrisFlyer site. Remember it’s the ‘Saver’ category in each case where you’ll need availability for an RTW award.

Remember to be flexible – you’ll probably need to be to make a trip like this work in the class required on your selected routings.

For example if your last leg of a round-the-world routing is from Paris to Singapore you would no doubt be looking at a non-stop Singapore Airlines flight. If the only available award seats on the date of your choice however are for Thai Airways via Bangkok, we’d recommend locking that in.

There’s nothing to stop you swapping onto the Singapore Airlines option if it becomes available later, provided your trip hasn’t commenced. In our view it’s not worth procrastinating for a single sector being unavailable on an RTW award, as all the other award availability you have searched is subject to constant change until the booking is made!

Calling KrisFlyer

The moment of reckoning.

At the very end, armed with all the dates and details, it’ll be a long call to the KrisFlyer team at Singapore Airlines to (hopefully) make the booking. Don’t expect that to be a walk in the park – some of the award availability you found may not be visible to the phone agent (especially for Star Alliance airlines if searched on another website), and you may have inadvertently broken one of the many rules like backtracking, maximum stops or distance.

London Payphones (Marco Pekic).jpg
(Photo: Marco Pekic)

Be prepared to be flexible and patient. Most importantly remember what you’re gaining here – a significant miles saving over paying sector-by-sector on such a huge trip.

Examples

Everyone’s requirements and priorities on a RTW award are different. In fact we’d dare to say almost no two RTW trips booked with KrisFlyer miles are exactly the same.

Here’s a westbound example in Business Class starting and ending in Singapore with 13 flight segments and 7 stopovers. I didn’t include the distance of each sector but the total distance is well within the limit at 23,846 miles.

Segment Airline Miles Taxes
Singapore – Male SQ 35,000 S$34.00
Male – Istanbul – Vienna TK 47,500 S$395.90
Vienna – Frankfurt – Manchester LH 27,500 S$218.30
Manchester – Houston SQ 65,000 S$360.44
Houston – Los Angeles UA 20,000 S$7.60
Los Angeles – Seoul SQ / OZ 85,000 S$32.60
Seoul – Taipei – Bali BR 43,000 S$72.30
Bali – Singapore SQ 17,500 S$21.40
Total (as individual bookings) 340,500 S$1,142.54
RTW Award 240,000 S$1,142.54
Saving 100,500

Note: Taxes are converted to SGD where necessary at XE.com rates on 28th June 2018.

RTW1.jpg
(click to enlarge)

As you can see this itinerary, booked as an RTW award, offers a 30% KrisFlyer miles saving (100,500 miles) over booking the redemptions segment-by-segment.

Let’s take a look at an eastbound example, again in Business Class. This time the total distance is higher at just over 28,000 miles but the number of stopovers is still 7 with 10 flight segments.

Segment Airline Miles Taxes
Singapore – Hong Kong SQ 27,500 S$34.00
Hong Kong – Osaka NH 22,500 S$44.40
Osaka – Tokyo – Honolulu NH 105,000 S$155.70
Honolulu – Chicago UA 30,000 S$7.60
Chicago – New York UA 20,000 S$7.60
New York – Frankfurt SQ / UA / LH 65,000 S$32.70
Frankfurt – Cape Town LH 45,000 S$418.80
Cape Town – Johannesburg – Singapore SQ 45,000 S$47.10
Total (as individual bookings) 360,000 S$747.90
RTW Award 240,000 S$747.90
Saving 120,000

Note: Taxes are converted to SGD where necessary at XE.com rates on 28th June 2018.

RTW2
(click to enlarge)

An even better saving of 120,000 KrisFlyer miles here. I’m sure some of you can come up with itineraries which achieve an even better deal than that.

Don’t think that a routing has to be long and complex to make a saving either, even relatively simple routings can save you miles, provided they still fall into the RTW category (keep going east or west back to the start point, with no backtracking). Take this Business Class route for example.

Segment Airline Miles Taxes
Singapore – San Francisco SQ / UA 88,000 S$81.70
San Francisco – Washington UA 20,000 S$7.60
Washington – Paris UA 65,000 S$257.40
Paris – Singapore SQ 85,000 S$149.00
Total (as individual bookings) 258,000 S$495.70
RTW Award 240,000 S$495.70
Saving 18,000

Note: Taxes are converted to SGD where necessary at XE.com rates on 28th June 2018.

RTW3.jpg
Simpler RTW routings still achieve a saving, however do make sure your plans are fixed

Clearly the difference here is not as attractive, but 18,000 miles saved is still enough for a Business Class redemption to Bali, or a return Economy Class flight on that route, so it’s not to be sniffed at.

Remember though that you’re losing flexibility by booking this an RTW award (once you set off on that SIN-SFO flight at the start nothing else can be changed about your subsequent sectors). It’s therefore only worth the smaller saving in our opinion if you’re 100% sure about your travel plans.

Other tips

The start / end point can be anywhere

Remember your KrisFlyer RTW award flight doesn’t have to begin and end in Singapore. It doesn’t even have to involve Singapore or Singapore Airlines at all if you don’t want it to. Not all of our readers are based in the ‘Lion City’ so don’t be worried that this only applies to those who are – it doesn’t.

Singapore Skyline 2
Singapore is the perfect place to start or end the KrisFlyer RTW award flight for most of our readers, but it isn’t necessary to include the city in your itinerary at all if you don’t want to

Absolutely no backtracking?

We’ve heard reports that the ‘no backtracking’ rule applies strictly and includes transit legs. For example if you’re planning a westbound RTW trip including a leg from Istanbul to Pisa with Lufthansa you can’t change in Frankfurt because Frankfurt to Pisa is then an eastbound routing (slightly). You can however change in Munich as you’re then still flying westbound to Pisa.

This is of course a bit silly and we can’t see what difference it makes to them provided your origin and destination city on a transit journey are ultimately in the correct direction.

Though SIA supposedly apply this rule strictly for all sectors, we have also heard of some cases where they are willing to make an exception. For example on an eastbound RTW routing a stopover in London followed by a ‘surface sector’ to Edinburgh then continuing east from there (London to Edinburgh, technically, is a westbound routing).

Please do let us know if you’ve had any success doing this and we’ll update the article, it appears to be at the discretion of the call centre agent assisting you with the booking, or there may be a more specific rule we’re not aware of.

First class

Although you have a full suite of flights on 27 Star Alliance airlines to choose from for Economy Class and Business Class RTW awards it’s not so simple if you want to fly a First Class RTW itinerary. That’s because only 9 of the Star Alliance airlines actually offer a First Class cabin:

  • Air China
  • Air India
  • ANA
  • Asiana
  • Lufthansa
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Swiss
  • Thai
  • United

Swiss First Class award seats are not available to KrisFlyer members and that includes RTW awards, so sadly that’s out straight away.

Lufthansa tend to open up their First Class award availability to partners around 14 days prior to departure date. Let’s say the start of your chosen First Class RTW award itinerary is SIN-FRA (SQ First Class) then the next leg a few days later is FRA-ORD.

Obviously you want to be flying Lufthansa First Class on that second sector, however there’s little chance of securing an award seat on that flight outside the 14-day window.

There is nothing to stop you booking this RTW award in First Class and accepting a Business Class award seat on the FRA-ORD sector. You won’t get any miles deducted for accepting the lower cabin on any sector, however if the First Class award seat then becomes available you can change into First Class.

LH A380 First (Lufhansa Group)
Lufthansa First Class (A380 pictured) isn’t an easy award to secure, especially on an RTW ticket. (Photo: Lufthansa Group)

The only problem here is that once you’ve commenced your RTW journey no changes are possible, so this change would have to be locked in prior to your first flight departure. We’d therefore recommend if you’re looking for an RTW award including Lufthansa First Class that you plan that sector as close as possible to the beginning of your itinerary, giving you the best chance to ‘upgrade’ it to First as you’ll almost certainly have to accept Business Class on that flight initially just to achieve a valid RTW award to start with.

Summary

Possibly one of the best ‘cents per mile’ valuations you can ever get when redeeming KrisFlyer miles is surely achieved with an RTW award ticket in Business Class or First Class.

The main downsides though are flexibility and the realistic prospect of having enough time to do them justice. While the shorter itinerary example shown could probably be completed in about 2 weeks if necessary, the longer ones with the most significant miles saving couldn’t realistically be achieved in less than a month.

Sadly two more downsides are the lack of flexibility once the trip has commenced, which could potentially lock you in to specific flights on specific dates up to a year in advance, and the limited supply of First Class products and routes across the Star Alliance network for those wanting to enjoy the trip in the ultimate luxury.

If you can make one of these itineraries work for you however the deal usually translates to an excellent saving, and perhaps a few flights with some lesser-known airlines you may not have considered flying with before.

Have you done a KrisFlyer Star Alliance Round The World Award before, or are you planning to do one? Let us know your experiences in the comments section below.

(Cover Image: Supplied / MainlyMiles)

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14 comments

  1. Another fantastic write up, Andrew.. thanks for putting in the time and effort for the insights..

    Here’s my own RTW plan..

    SIN>ZHR>FRA>JFK>SFO>HNL>HND>HKG>SIN

    SQ-A380Suites>LX-B777First>LH-A380First>UA-B767First>UA-B767First>NH-B787Business>NH-B787Business>SQ-A380Suites

    Hopefully by the time I actually am able to do this, UA would’ve upgraded /gotten rid of their B767s… 😊

    Like

      1. Hahaha… Thanks, Andrew.. only one problem each, about my plan and your suggestion, which I did look into..

        1. the redemption miles ANA wants for that A380 flight to HNL is nuts! (I forgot the number)

        2. How the heck I’m going to achive saving up 720,000 miles, given my annual burn rate!

        Hahaha… let’s see…

        Like

      2. Maybe I’ll do a ‘budget’ RTW.. just for the sake of being able to say “Been there, done that.. I’ve flown round the world before..”

        SIN>HKG>SFO>EWR/JFK>FRA>SIN

        SIN>HKG SQA380 or B77W Suites or First. )
        HKG>SFO SQB77W First. ) 120,000
        SFO>EWR UAB777 Polaris. ) 20,000
        JFK>FRA SQA380 Suites. )
        FRA>SIN SQA380 Suites. ) 120,000

        4 cities, total ‘only’ 260,00 miles ea…vs 7 cities for 360,000 miles.. hmm…

        Like

  2. HI Andrew,

    Thanks for the great write up!

    I would be very grateful if you can answer a couple of questions based on your expertise.

    1. I am trying to book award saver flight using krisflyer miles in Luftansa first class from Athens to Nairobi via Frankfurt (mainly for the lounge access and limosine 😀 ). But when I called Krisflyer, they mentioned first class is not open for Krisflyer redemption for this sector. But you had mentioned in one of your articles (sweet spot article I guess) that it is indeed possible to book first class in Luftansa using Krisflyer. Even when I used Krisflyer website to search for options, it doesnt throw results when I choose business/economy (I tried Frankfurt and Johannesburg) and it shows only for economy. What am I missing?

    2. Turkish airlines website shows Nairobi to Sao Paulo (GRU) via Istanbul (again for the lounge :D). But when I called Krisflyer to book this sector using miles, they said it is not available for redemption. Is there a hack I can use to book this sector?

    Thanks very much for your help!

    Like

    1. Hi Jowber,

      Can you let me know what approximate dates you are looking at for these redemptions? Bear in mind that KrisFlyer usually only has access to Lufthansa First Class redemption seats (if they even become available to partners) around 2 weeks in advance of the departure date. That sometimes means locking in Business Class, then calling up to pay the extra miles for First if it becomes available closer to the time.

      Another issue you may be facing is that your routings possibly fall foul of ‘backtracking’ rules. I need to investigate whether that’s the case here.

      Like

      1. HI Andrew,

        Thanks for your quick response.

        1. Regarding Lufthansa first class, I tried both 2 weeks, 2 months and one year from now and none were available. When I called Krisflyer, they said business class seats will also never be open for booking using miles redemption.

        2. I was looking one year from now for Turkish airlines flight too (may 5 2019).

        Please note for both these flights it is not part of RTW. I am doing individual sector redemptions.

        Thanks for your help. I highly appreciate it.

        Regards,
        Jowber Sadiq

        Like

  3. Hey Andrew, my Husband and I are planning our very own RTW trip – targeting to start around May 2019 and ending perhaps beginning of 2020.

    I’ve utilised the star alliance book and fly website to chart out the routes – and I realised no flights are open 365 days from now I.e, those flights I am thinking of redeeming from September 2019 onwards.

    Would you know if it’s possible to book flights with dates more than 365 days from today? This makes it significantly more difficult to redeem if they are only limiting the redemption to dates within 365 days from today!

    Like

  4. Hi Michelle

    Are you based in Singapore? I’ve recently done a redemption at the Singapore Airlines office.
    While flight reservations are only open 335-365 days in advance, you could seek their advise on what is the best way forward. The folks have been incredibly helpful, in particular Dora and Herda!

    Like

  5. I’m trying to book RTW First Class via SQ: the first leg is SIN to ZRH scheduled 330 days from now.
    Just spent 20 mins on hold with Krisflyer. The poor operator helped me check the next 330 days for a Saver First Class redemption (for RTW, only Saver can be used).Result: NONE.
    So Singapore Airline is advertising a RTW First class, but it is not offering any availability.
    Just a big fat lie. I feel so stupid i spend so much time planing and dreaming about it.

    Like

    1. Unfortunately reward availability is never guaranteed and here you’re choosing a route with the new Suites cabin which has only 6 seats offered so saver availability will be very hard to come by.

      Take our advice as explained in the article and accept a Business Class redemption for that sector for now. As it’s the start of your trip you have a whole year to check for saver awards coming up in First Class on that date and if they do – you can change into First for no cost. Worst case scenario is that you start your trip in Business, and you’re effectively paying the First Class RTW award rate for a long sector in a lower class, but I can’t see another solution here if you’re tied to starting via Zurich.

      A better alternative might be to route through Frankfurt for your initial sector. Here Singapore Airlines are offering 16 First Class seats per day (167% more than the Zurich route), giving you a far greater chance of securing the award seat between now and then. Additionally even if you have to accept a Business Class seat and a First saver award never comes up on the two daily SIA flights to Frankfurt, from 2 weeks before you have a chance that the non-stop Lufthansa A380 will have an F award open up for your date, an excellent option.

      Hope you can make it work, these RTW fares are fraught with complication and endless planning (if they weren’t they wouldn’t be so ‘cheap’) but the key is to remain flexible and remember – it’s worth it if you succeed!

      Like

  6. Hi Andrew, I must say thank you for putting together this article and the site, I’m planning a RTW trip in 2019 with my partner and this comes in really handy. Keep up the good work !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Colin!

      Do you mind sharing your planning process? I’m planning RTW with my partner as well – although we are only aiming to redeem RTW business class!

      We r at the initial phase and we’ve only chart the routes on star alliance website. Did you fill up the redemption form for submission yet? If so – care to share the process?

      Like

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