This is the first in our series on how to maximise use of your KrisFlyer miles. It covers the basics for beginners to KrisFlyer, though it’s a good refresher even for experienced members of the scheme.
We’ll be adding over a dozen parts to the guide with increasingly more advanced methods for using your miles including for upgrades, incorporating stopovers, booking Star Alliance and partner airline redemptions and identifying where some sweet spots lie, including tax-free award tickets and miles discount offers.
Part 1 – The basics
Updated: 19th May 2019
In this part you’ll learn some introductory concepts:
- What KrisFlyer is and how it works.
- How to join.
- The basics of redemption.
- How to determine the cost of a KrisFlyer redemption and how to book.
- The difference between ‘Saver’ and ‘Advantage’ redemptions.
Welcome to KrisFlyer
So you’ve accrued a decent credit card points balance in Singapore, content in the promise these will unlock ‘free’ airline seats across the globe.
Not just Economy Class airline seats of course, those elusive Business and First Class cabins will be at your disposal, allowing you to jet off on your next trip in true style with lounge access, Champagne on demand and spacious seats that convert to fully flat beds.
Question is – how does it all work? When is the best time to secure a redemption? What does ‘Waitlist’ mean? Which airlines can I redeem on? Can I pay half cash / half miles for a ticket? What happens if I cancel?
Our guide will explain the KrisFlyer redemption process, helping you use your miles wisely and secure the best seats for your future travels around the world.
What is KrisFlyer?
KrisFlyer is the frequent flyer program of Singapore Airlines and SilkAir. You can earn KrisFlyer miles when you fly on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Scoot, Star Alliance airlines like Thai and United, and partner airlines like Vistara and Virgin Australia.
You can also earn Elite miles when you fly on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Star Alliance airlines and selected partner airlines. These help you climb the status ladder giving you additional benefits (see our Status Tiers Guide here).
A key benefit of the KrisFlyer scheme is the ability to transfer points and miles from several credit cards into KrisFlyer miles, not just in Singapore itself but in several other countries too including Malaysia, Australia, the USA and the UK.
To take part of course you first have to join. KrisFlyer membership is free of charge and open to anyone aged two or older. Membership is individual (you can’t share an account as a couple or a family, for example) and you must maintain only one KrisFlyer account.
Sign up online. There are very seldom any sign-up offers, but if you’re lucky you may find yourself eligible for 1,000 KrisFlyer miles as a welcome bonus. The last such promotion was in early 2018.
The basics of redemption
The most important thing you’ll need to know before you make any redemption is how much it’s going to cost. That element sounds simple, but takes two basic forms – the number of miles needed and the applicable taxes and fees for your routing.
Just because you have saved enough miles for your desired redemption doesn’t mean the flight will be completely free. Those taxes and fees will also be payable. They range from very low on some airlines and routings to quite ridiculous on others (where high taxes and/or fuel surcharges apply). See Part 3 of our KrisFlyer College series for all the details on KrisFlyer taxes and fees.
For most people redeeming KrisFlyer miles for Singapore Airlines flights the good news is that fuel surcharges are not payable on award tickets. That means the taxes and fees are restricted to airport passenger service and security fees, though departures from some countries can also attract hefty taxes on top, like Air Passenger Duty for departures from the United Kingdom.
Here’s an example of the how the miles rate and taxes and fees are displayed when you search and book.
Singapore to London
Taxes and fees are quoted in Singapore dollars for all flights departing from Singapore. Flights from other countries are charged either in local currency or US dollars.
London to Singapore
Note the very high taxes and fees level for departures from the UK due to Air Passenger Duty (£218 is around S$387!). We’ve got some tips for avoiding high taxes like these in Part 3 of the guide.
Singapore to London (return)
Taxes and fees for a round-trip award redemption are quoted in the currency of the departure country, or in US dollars for some countries.
If you are making a Star Alliance or partner airline redemption with your KrisFlyer miles, a fuel surcharge may be added if it is imposed by the operating airline. For example, Lufthansa award tickets booked through KrisFlyer do attract a fuel surcharge, Ethiopian Airlines tickets do not. More on those kind of redemptions in a later part.
Don’t forget to keep earning maximum miles even when you pay the taxes and fees for your redemption ticket – the KrisFlyer Amex card for example gives you 2 miles per dollar spent at SingaporeAir.com.
You can see how many miles you’ll need for a redemption by making a dummy booking, or by referring to the KrisFlyer zone-based award charts (see below).
What are ‘Saver’ and ‘Advantage’ redemptions?
Singapore Airlines offers KrisFlyer members two award types – Saver and Advantage. As the name suggests, Saver awards cost fewer miles, however availability is more limited. Advantage awards on the other hand will set you back more miles, but have greater availability.
Some fees for amending your booking and redepositing your miles are lower for Advantage redemptions, which also have a wider range of free seat selection in Economy Class. We’ll explore those intricacies in more detail in a later part to the KrisFlyer College guide.
Broadly speaking, you shouldn’t be redeeming your KrisFlyer miles for an Advantage award, as these cost significantly more miles to the extent that the cents per mile value you are achieving is usually poor.
More on how to determine whether a redemption is ‘good value’ or not in later parts of the guide.
How many KrisFlyer miles do I need?
Redemptions on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir start at 7,500 miles one-way, for example from Singapore to Jakarta in Economy Class.
The KrisFlyer miles rate is based on the ‘zone’ of your departure point and the ‘zone’ of your destination. It also doesn’t matter on the number of stops it takes to get between these zones – the rate is fixed (awards can have up to six segments). For example Singapore to Newark on the non-stop A350-900ULR is the same rate as Singapore to JFK via Frankfurt on the A380.
There are some interesting disparities in some of the zones. For example on a short-notice peak day you might find you can only secure an Advantage Economy Class redemption from Singapore to Bangkok (25,000 miles vs. 12,500 miles for a Saver redemption). That’s a steep increment costing you double the miles.
However there may still be Saver Business Class award space on a flight which suits your needs – and at 21,500 miles that’s less than the Advantage Economy ticket.
If you think that’s unlikely then don’t – we’ve seen exactly this situation on a Sunday afternoon booking for the following morning to Bangkok. Advantage awards only in the Economy cabin but Savers available in Business. You’d be mad to pay 25,000 miles to fly this route in Economy when Business Class is available for 21,500 miles.
Who can I redeem for?
You can redeem award tickets for yourself and up to five people on your redemption nominee list. We’ll talk about the redemption nominees in detail in a later part of the guide as there is some complexity here, especially when you wish to make changes to the list.
The Singapore Airlines award redemption zone charts
There are seven award charts in total to help you determine the number of miles you’ll need to redeem a particular award.
Firstly, the Singapore Airlines and SilkAir award charts. You’ll need to refer to these for any award redemption exclusively flown on these airlines (no other carriers involved in the journey).
Next there’s the Star Alliance award chart. This is the one you’ll need if you are flying Singapore Airlines / SilkAir and a Star Alliance carrier in the same itinerary (e.g. SIA from Singapore to Frankfurt then Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Lisbon), or your journey is exclusively flown with one or more Star Alliance airlines.
Lastly there are award charts for each of SIA’s partner airlines.
- Alaska Airlines Award Chart
- Juneyao Award Chart
- Virgin Atlantic Award Chart
- Virgin Australia Award Chart
- Vistara Award Chart
How to use the charts
Let’s say you want to redeem a one-way saver award flight on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Hong Kong in Business Class, that’s Zone 1 to Zone 4 in the Singapore Airlines and SilkAir Award Chart. Remember to refer to the second table; the first of these charts shows the advantage award rates, not saver.
As you can see it’s 30,500 KrisFlyer miles each way for Business Class on this routing.
The Star Alliance chart shows miles prices for a round-trip award. Just halve the amount shown if you’re flying one-way.
If you wish to combine a Singapore Airlines / SilkAir award with a partner award you need to sum the two award prices together. For example a Business Class redemption from Singapore to Brisbane with Singapore Airlines then Brisbane to Hobart with Virgin Australia.
That’s ‘Zone 1’ to ‘Zone 9’ on the SIA chart (62,000 miles) plus ‘Australia 1’ to ‘Australia 1’ on the Virgin Australia chart (21,000 miles). Total 83,000 miles.
Unlike a Singapore Airlines / Star Alliance combination, you can’t book an SIA/Silk and partner airline combination online as one ticket. You must either book the legs separately or call the contact centre and ask them to combine the legs and book them as a single ticket.
Also do bear in mind not all Star Alliance and partner awards are searchable and bookable online via KrisFlyer (for example, Asiana on the Star Alliance side won’t show up, nor will Vistara or Alaska Airlines on the partner side). More on that in a detailed part of the guide dedicated to booking exactly these types of award itineraries.
What SIA’s zone charts don’t tell you
Nepal is in Zone 6 of the Singapore Airlines and SilkAir award chart, but the chart doesn’t mention this. You can fly there on SilkAir.
For the Star Alliance redemption chart, Iceland is in the ‘Europe’ zone. For whatever reason SIA again don’t feel the need to mention this! Ok this time they don’t fly there with their own metal, but you can redeem your miles to and from Keflavik on flights operated by Air Canada, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, TAP Air Portugal and United.
It’s also a bit of an intra-Europe ‘sweet spot’, if you can exploit the zone to its fullest (e.g. Iceland to Greece for 12,500 miles). More on that kind of trick in later parts.
A simpler award chart
The zone-based award charts are ok once you get used to them, but can be a little tricky to use especially if you’re new to this. If your flight routing is to or from Singapore, as it will be for most straightforward KrisFlyer redemptions, we’ve created a route-based redemption chart, which is simpler to read.
This will also help you see what cabin types Singapore Airlines offers to each destination (for example, there is no redemption rate for First Class from Singapore to Adelaide, because no such cabin is offered on that route).
You can find our handy chart here.
The chart also shows the mileage rates payable on SIA’s ‘standalone’ routes that don’t transit Singapore, like Manchester to Houston.
How many miles for children and infants?
Simple. Exactly the same.
Children aged 2-11 will require the same number of miles and attract the same taxes and fees for an award booking. You can have your child on your nominees list, or they can use their own miles, provided they are travelling with an adult.
For infants (up to age 23 months) you have a choice, either pay the regular miles requirement like a child or adult (ouch!), or pay 10% of a full-fare ticket in the same class for the flight you are travelling on.
10% of the full fare is obviously a better deal in most cases. It’s a bit of a con though, infants don’t even get their own seat after all and many airlines will allow you to add an infant to an award ticket for free, or charge 10% of the miles and taxes usually applicable to an award ticket for example.
Additionally you will not be able to make a redemption booking online including an infant (even if you’re willing to pay miles for the infant). The option is simply ‘greyed out’ for redemption bookings on the website or the app.
You must either book online for the adults and any children travelling, then call reservations to add the infant either for miles or 10% fare payment, or do the whole thing over the phone.
How early can you book?
Award seats are loaded 355 days prior to departure date. This can be a very good time to lock in a redemption, for example on many flights you will see at least two saver redemptions in Business Class loaded at this early stage. Unlike some carriers, like British Airways, Singapore Airlines doesn’t guarantee this on every flight, but we find it is regularly the case.
For example searching for two Business Saver awards on a flight from Singapore to London 355 days from now is no issue – three flights to choose from with availability. Try looking a week from now and it’s a different story. You’ll be hard pressed to find one seat, and don’t expect a choice of departure times!
Flights are loaded up 355 days ahead just after midnight Singapore time (SGT), if you know your travel plans far in advance and want to be the first to check availability and book – that’s the time.
For our readers from around the globe, that’s GMT+8 and you can check the current SGT date and time here.
How late can you book?
KrisFlyer award seats may be available until your flight is closed for commercial sale. That happens 2 hours prior to the scheduled departure time.
We recently made a same day Business Saver award redemption from Singapore to Bali online, packed our bags then headed to the airport. So it is possible!
How to book a KrisFlyer redemption
For beginners and even most seasoned KrisFlyer members, singaporeair.com is the easiest place to search award availability, and it’s there that you’ll want to book your award ticket if possible. It’s as simple as logging on to your KrisFlyer account then searching your desired routing using the ‘redeem miles’ option.
Here’s where you’ll make the selection on the website:
And here’s the option on the mobile app:
You’ll have to be logged on to your KrisFlyer account, if not you will be prompted to do so at this stage. On the mobile app you can usually log in using touch ID or face ID (device dependent).
There is no minimum KrisFlyer balance in order to search available award flights, so anything with availability will appear. If you know there is a flight operating but it doesn’t appear on the list, then no redemption available is available in any category for the class you have selected to search and the number of passengers you have chosen.
We personally find the SingaporeAir mobile app (free to download) best here – searching is straightforward and skipping between days either side of your original search date is even faster than the website in many cases.
Note that there is currently a Beta version of the SingaporeAir app you may have been invited to test, though it’s not downloadable for public access yet. Functionality is similar, with an enhanced user interface.
A couple of things to bear in mind – if you switch the search results to another redemption category (e.g. Star Alliance awards) and view those results, this will then be set as the ‘default’ category for any searching using the ‘previous day’ / ‘next day’ links.
This can be useful, for example if you want to find the next available EVA Air award seats between Singapore and Taipei, or annoying if your preference is to fly Singapore Airlines as in that case you will need to re-select ‘Singapore Airlines / SilkAir’ after pressing next day, for example.
We’ll be covering more advanced ways to search for redemption availability, both on Singapore Airlines and other carriers, in later parts of the KrisFlyer College series.
What does ‘Waitlist’ mean?
You may notice when searching award availability that sometimes specific flights show as ‘Waitlist’. That means for the number of seats you have searched, at least one of those seats is not immediately available for redemption in that class and category (e.g. Business Saver), however Singapore Airlines will allow you to join a waitlist of passengers who may or may not be offered the redemption at a later date.
In order to waitlist for an award ticket you must have sufficient miles for the proposed itinerary in your account, however no miles will be deducted nor fees payable at the time of waitlisting an award, unless your waitlist clears and you proceed with the booking within a specific time window, usually 3 days from notification.
There are a few rules and complexities involved, not to mention some tips and tricks, so we have dedicated one of the parts of KrisFlyer College specifically to the waitlist process. Read that part here.
We’ll leave it there for Part 1. If you’re an experienced KrisFlyer there’s probably not much here you didn’t already know, however if the program is new to you there are a few introductory concepts to digest.
Stay tuned for further parts to the guide as we start to introduce more advanced concepts and tricks to make the most of every KrisFlyer mile in your account.
KrisFlyer College Series
Don’t miss further modules of KrisFlyer College as we expand it to over a dozen parts. Get an email notification as soon as they are online, including alerts when we publish other articles too, by joining our growing list of email followers.
(Cover Image: MainlyMiles / Kentaro Iemoto)