In Part 1 of our KrisFlyer College series we introduced the basics of redemption. Now for something a little more complicated in Part 2 – The Waitlist.
We’d prefer to develop the guide more progressively with some simpler concepts first, but truth is we just can’t leave this one for later. Lots of what we will talk about in subsequent parts won’t make sense if we haven’t explained (or at least tried to explain) the Singapore Airlines waitlist process.
Part 2 – The Waitlist
Updated: 13th May 2019
Note: Singapore Airlines is changing the waitlist system later in 2019, adopting a system whereby you will be informed of the outcome of your waitlist 14 days before the flight. At least two weeks prior to the flight, all successful waitlist redemptions will be confirmed, and unsuccessful ones cancelled.
This system has not yet started and will commence in the coming months. The current system, still in force, is explained in this guide.
In this part we’re introducing the various elements of the ‘Waitlist’:
- What the ‘Waitlist’ is.
- The rules of waitlisting.
- How to improve your chances of success.
- How successful we’ve been in the past.
- The golden rule – having a ‘Plan B’!
What is the Waitlist?
We’ve probably all been in this situation at some point. You have your heart set on a KrisFlyer redemption, like this Business Class award trip to Perth, and your search results emerge like this…
As we’ve said many times, KrisFlyer miles are generally good value only when redeemed for Business or First Class saver awards. Redeem for Economy and you’re probably not getting ‘bang for your buck’. Make an Advantage redemption and the same tends to apply – value goes out the window as you award is costing you double miles in many cases.
What then, is the Waitlist?
This is Singapore Airlines’ (relatively unique) system of having a redemption category in between ‘Not Available’ and ‘Available’. Instead you have the opportunity to join a ‘Waitlist’ for your selected flight in the displayed redemption category.
It essentially means ‘Not Available, but we’re taking names down’, or ‘register your interest’!
As the date of departure approaches if more seats are made available for redemption in the category you waitlisted for on that specific flight, and you’re close enough to the top of the waitlist, Singapore Airlines will email you with good news – you can now proceed to ticket your redemption if you still wish to go ahead.
The downside? This might happen very close to departure time (a few days before, even a few hours before), or it might not happen at all. The last rule then, which should be the first rule, is to have a Plan B.
There are a few basic rules for waitlisting a flight award using KrisFlyer miles.
- You must have sufficient miles in your account for the proposed itinerary and number of passengers you wish to waitlist.
- You can waitlist for as many flights as you want. Your KrisFlyer balance must cover the highest miles requirement of a single waitlist booking.
- Waitlist is only available for Singapore Airlines and SilkAir operated flights.
- No miles or taxes are actually debited at the waitlist stage.
- You cannot book a saver waitlist if you hold a confirmed advantage redemption booking on the same flight (but the same route and date on a different flight is ok).
- You can book a saver or advantage waitlist if you hold a confirmed cash booking on the same flight (the system cannot detect this).
If your waitlist clears:
- Your booking will not be made automatically.
- You must proceed to book within the stipulated time window (the ‘Ticketing Time Limit’ or TTL). Your KrisFlyer miles will be debited and taxes / fees collected if you proceed with this process. Of course, you don’t have to book if you no longer want to at this stage, simply cancel the waitlist or allow the TTL to expire.
If your waitlist does not clear:
- You will not be informed.
- Turning up at the airport with your waitlist confirmation will not help you.
What’s the Ticketing Time Limit?
The amount of time you have to confirm a successful waitlist seems to be a moveable feast, depending on how far in advance of the flight departure date the waitlist is approved.
We looked back at successful waitlist alerts we have received over the last few years and they went like this:
- Business saver cleared around 2 months in advance – TTL 3 weeks.
- Business saver cleared 1 week in advance – TTL 3 days.
- Business saver cleared 1 week in advance – TTL 3 days.
- Business saver cleared 1 week in advance – TTL 3 days.
- Business saver cleared 3 days in advance – TTL 24 hours.
- Business saver cleared 10 hours in advance – TTL 8 hours.
What’s my position on the waitlist?
There is no way to view the waitlist or tell where you stand on it. The general rule is that the waitlist is ordered based on who joined it first, with the exception that PPS Club / KrisFlyer Elite members get priority over those without status.
You might be next in line for a seat, or be several places from it. Neither really matter though, in both cases you might still be successful or unsuccessful, so knowing your position won’t help much.
Waitlisting without the required miles
As we mentioned above in order to add yourself to the waitlist for a flight at SingaporeAir.com you must have sufficient miles in your account for the proposed itinerary and number of passengers travelling.
There is an exception though. Let’s say you’re waiting for miles to credit into your KrisFlyer account having transferred points from your credit card, but they haven’t arrived yet.
You can still add yourself to the waitlist for a flight, but you will have to do this over the phone with Singapore Airlines.
If the waitlist is successful you must have the miles in your account before the TTL in order to go ahead with the booking. Of course this always applies, as there is nothing to stop you waitlisting for a flight and then spending all your miles on something else. The waitlist will still come through if you are successful (it doesn’t monitor your KrisFlyer balance), but you will not be able to proceed.
Another caveat, if the waitlist does come through but your credit card points still haven’t credited as you approach the TTL (or you’re waiting for more points to come in having booked something else in the meantime), call KrisFlyer and explain the situation.
Depending how far in advance your flight departs they may allow an extension of the TTL. Our experience is they are quite receptive to this.
Improving your chances
There are a few ways to try and improve your chances of successfully waitlisting on a Singapore Airlines or SilkAir flight.
Waitlist as early as you can
Generally award availability on Singapore Airlines is best a year in advance (right at that ‘minus 355 days’ point we talked about in Part 1 – The basics), then again within around 3 weeks of departure. Between those two times seeing the ‘Waitlist’ caption when searching for your saver redemption is common.
Waitlist early as you’ll be top of the queue (unless Elites / PPS members also list for the same flight). Saver award seats may be added to your flight in several ’rounds’ leading up to departure date. You’ll take best advantage of the most ’rounds’ by being on the list from the start, or as early as possible.
Waitlist on multiple flights to improve your chances
There is no limit to the number of flights you can waitlist for. While we all have our preferred dates and timings, if getting a successful redemption is your priority try to be as flexible as possible and waitlist as many flights as you’d be willing to take.
Consider other routings too. You might want to fly to Tokyo-Haneda, but would Narita be a disaster? Probably not. If Singapore to London-Heathrow is unavailable, why not waitlist on Singapore to Amsterdam? Around 40 relatively cheap flights make the 1-hour hop between Schiphol and London Airports every day.
Waitlist first, then confirm your second choice
If your preferred flight is a waitlist option, but an alternative flight on the same routing is available for confirmation, first add yourself to the waitlist for your first preference (you’ll need the miles in your account), then book your second choice (the miles will then be deducted).
If your waitlist comes through, simply call Singapore Airlines who will move you across from your confirmed second choice to your preferred flight for free (provided it’s the same routing).
For example let’s say you wish to fly from Los Angeles to Singapore on the non-stop A350ULR in Business Class, but the flight is waitlisted. The Los Angeles – Tokyo – Singapore flight on the same day may be available, so waitlist on the non-stop flight then confirm the indirect option.
The worst case is that your waitlist will never come through and you’ll have to take the indirect flight, but the non-stop option might become available right up to the day of departure, allowing you to swap your booking across for free.
Remember if your miles are limited – book all your waitlist options first. In the above example if you have 90,000 KrisFlyer miles in your account then go ahead and book the confirmed indirect option you won’t have enough miles to waitlist on any other flight.
Consider first if you want to also add yourself to the waitlist on the previous / next day for example, or on a different routing altogether (e.g. non-stop SFO-SIN).
For multiple passengers, check if any seats are available
If you’re a couple or a larger group it’s natural to want to travel together in the same cabin on the same flight. However if this is not essential to you (getting there is your primary goal), you should always search availability for one passenger on your preferred date / route to start with.
There are four flights per day from Singapore to London for example, if as a couple you wish to travel there in Business Class you might see availability like this if you search for two passengers (remember the miles rates are always shown per passenger, only the ‘Booking summary’ box reflects the number of passengers searched for):
But the results may look like this if you make the same search for one passenger:
Frustratingly, there are two saver award seats available in Business Class on this day, but only one each on different flights.
If you’re willing to travel separately, you can go ahead and confirm a saver award seat on SQ308 and another one on SQ318.
All is not lost though, both flights will then change to ‘Waitlist’ when searched for one passenger. Provided you have sufficient miles remaining in your account(s), you can both then waitlist a saver award in the Business cabin on the ‘other’ flight.
If you don’t have sufficient miles remaining to waitlist online you can do this over the phone with Singapore Airlines, having explained the situation. If the either of the waitlist bookings is successful prior to departure, you can now travel together on the same flight.
Another option of course, if travelling together is essential and you have no date or route flexibility, is for one of you to secure a saver redemption then the other person to confirm an advantage redemption on the same flight (average miles cost per person is now (85,000 + 120,000) / 2 = 102,500). That’s quite steep but guarantees you will fly together on the date and flight of your choice.
Unfortunately in that example the advantage passenger will now not be eligible to waitlist a saver award on the same flight.
Split larger groups into individual waitlist bookings
If you’re travelling as a couple, a family or a group you should consider splitting into individual waitlist bookings if possible. As seats (hopefully) become available individually, members of your group can then confirm onto the flight.
Remember as a couple if you waitlist for two seats in the same booking then one seat comes up in a round of increased availability, they’ll skip you and move on to the next individual on the waitlist. This could happen several times over a period of weeks, meaning solo travellers are jumping ahead of you while as a couple you are still waiting (but might otherwise have both already cleared the waitlist individually).
Consider a different cabin class
If getting to your destination is important within +/- a day or so, and let’s face it for most of us it is, consider whether a different cabin class would be a good backup option.
For example you could waitlist for saver Business Class on two flights to Shanghai on your preferred date (35,000 miles), but if First Class is also available to waitlist on the same flights why not add those too (50,000 miles)?
Ok it’s more than you were planning to spend, but it could double your chances of success, provided you have the required miles, and it’s still a better deal than an advantage Business award on the same route (65,000 miles).
Be aware that if you are then successful on the waitlist with a First Class saver award and confirm it, then later one of your Business Class saver waitlists comes through, you will have to pay a fee if you want to ditch the First Class redemption and take the Business Class one instead.
That’s because the class of service is not the same. No fee applies if you want to switch from an earlier to a later flight in the same cabin class once your waitlist comes through for the latter, for example.
Check the seat map to judge your chances
Before we discuss this, let’s be clear about one thing. Holding a waitlisted award booking doesn’t mean you will clear the waitlist just because the flight is not full in your chosen cabin as departure date approaches.
While Singapore Airlines tends to clear out some of the waitlist in the days leading up to departure (or even offers new award seats) once it’s clear they will not fill a cabin with revenue passengers, they are not obliged to do this, and often don’t.
Airlines must add randomness to their award inventory and try to prevent ‘patterns’ being established.
If saver awards were available (or waitlists cleared) every time it looked as though a plane was set to depart with empty seats, there would be no incentive for people to buy full-fare tickets.
Indeed we’ve witnessed SIA flights with less than 60% Business Class occupancy happily depart that way without us on them, despite having held a waitlisted saver award for weeks. That’s frustrating, but there are sound commercial reasons why it has to be that way sometimes.
Having said all that, your chances of a waitlist coming through are certainly better if the flight you choose isn’t very full.
There are a number of ways to view the occupied seat maps for Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights online, not least by making a dummy booking through SingaporeAir.com (though you will have to enter some details to get through to the seat selection page).
ExpertFlyer is another tool, a free account there is sufficient to view SIA occupied seat maps.
Let’s take a look at the flight we showed at the start of this article (that 3rd February 2019 waitlisted Business award from Singapore to Perth).
Note how ExpertFlyer is a bit more accurate – seat 11K for example is not yet occupied on this flight, but as a bassinet position it is blocked for booking on the SIA seat map (therefore appears occupied). As we’re interested in how many passengers are booked (14, leaving 22 empty seats), that can be an important difference.
Also, ExpertFlyer doesn’t require you to enter any booking details before showing you the seat map.
Keep checking availability
Strange though it may sound, the IT behind the waitlist system is not perfect and there are many reports that people have waitlisted for a flight then checked it again at a later date and found redemption seats available for booking, without any email from Singapore Airlines inviting them to confirm their waitlisted booking.
This is frustrating as one of the benefits of waitlisting should be that you could now sit back and wait for SIA to let you know if a seat comes up on that flight. While this does work most of the time, it is not a foolproof plan.
We therefore advise checking availability regularly in case additional award seats have been added without the waitlist system picking it up.
The SingaporeAir mobile app or website is a good place to do this, but we’ll be covering more advanced ways, including setting up automated alerts, in later parts of the guide.
Keep checking your email
This is how Singapore Airlines will notify you if your waitlist booking clears, so make sure you are able to regularly check your emails as you may have only a few days to complete the booking once the notification is sent.
Send a chaser
There are varying reports over the years that people have managed to get their waitlist bookings approved more quickly by calling KrisFlyer and asking them to send a ‘chaser’ to the relevant department. There are also reports this year that they have informed some people they no longer allow this.
The general idea is that the commercial / revenue team may open up more award inventory on your flight (not that your own position in the waitlist queue will be improved).
Our advice – be polite and request ‘chasers’ on only one or two of the waitlisted awards most important to you. Anecdotal evidence suggests chasers are most effective with 2-3 weeks of your flight departure date.
If you went to the trouble of looking up the seat map for the respective cabin class on your flight, it won’t hurt to mention that you can see there is still xx commercial availability.
Check Star Alliance redemptions on other flights
This won’t help you beat the waitlist, but it might prevent you from having to waitlist in the first place, or provide a good backup option.
For example, all Singapore Airlines flights may be waitlisted in Business Class between Bangkok and Singapore on your date of travel, however there may be some Thai Airways options. The miles rate is identical on this route, though the taxes and fees are slightly higher on Thai.
Check Star Alliance redemptions on the same flights
You might assume that if a flight is subject to waitlist for a saver award redemption using KrisFlyer miles then it definitely won’t be available for redemption using miles or points you have in a different Star Alliance program (a Star award), like United MileagePlus or Lifemiles.
While that generally holds true, it isn’t always the case. The award inventory ‘bucket’ for a flight is not always the same for KrisFlyer saver awards and Star awards.
Think of it this way – Singapore Airlines load two different saver award ‘buckets’ for a Singapore to Perth flight in Business Class departing on 2nd January 2019. Let’s say 3 saver awards for KrisFlyer members, and 2 saver awards for members of other Star Alliance schemes (Star awards).
The 3 savers for KrisFlyer members were snapped up quickly, so the flight is now subject to waitlist in this category.
So far though, no one has touched the 2 Star awards for this flight. A quick check at united.com (searching for 2 passengers) confirms it.
The Lifemiles search engine agrees too.
This happens more often than you might think, so if you have miles or points in another Star Alliance frequent flyer scheme do check availability there too if your flight shows as ‘Waitlist’ on the KrisFlyer site for the number of seats you need.
You might be able to secure one seat using KrisFlyer miles for example, and another using Lifemiles (where 1 saver award is available but a search for 2 seats at SingaporeAir.com returns a ‘Waitlist’ result).
Do bear in mind of course that Singapore Airlines’ long-haul Business and First Class seats are not generally made available for redemption as Star Awards, so this strategy is limited to Economy Class and Regional Business Class seats on the SIA / SilkAir network.
Our waitlist experience
Everyone’s experience of the waitlist will differ, because your chances of success depend on many factors, not least how long in advance you join the waitlist and the routing / time of year / day of the week vs. demand.
In total we’ve waitlisted 20 times in the last couple of years. Six of those came through, a 30% success rate. Again don’t read too much into that – your experience may differ significantly.
In most cases where our waitlist booking cleared this happened 3 days to one week in advance of the departure date. In one case though where we waitlisted 2 months before, it cleared the very next day, so don’t be put off trying early.
Have a Plan B
As we’ve alluded to a few times already in this article, having a Plan B is essential when you’re dealing with the waitlist, especially on a trip where you have limited flexibility over the destination and the dates of travel.
Some backup strategies to employ include:
- A firm redemption on Singapore Airlines at a less ideal (but still acceptable) time or date, or on an indirect routing.
- A firm redemption on Singapore Airlines to a nearby city (like Dusseldorf instead of Frankfurt).
- A firm redemption on a Star Alliance carrier, or another airline using frequent flyer programs like Avios or Asia Miles.
- A cash ticket on Singapore Airlines or another carrier (ideally refundable, in case your waitlist comes through late, though these types of ticket are often costly).
What you opt to do will depend how far in advance you are waitlisting your ticket, how flexible you can be and what other options are actually available.
If you’re waitlisting a year in advance for example, there’s probably no rush to put a Plan B in place for months to come. If your trip is in a couple of weeks, it’s much more vital to prioritise Plan B as options are likely to become more limited and ticket prices, if it comes to that, are usually rising.
Once you’ve wrapped your head around the concept of the waitlist and how it works, it’s actually a relatively simple system.
The key is to apply as many of the strategies we discussed above as you can (or are willing to do) to improve your chances.
Perhaps the most important thing of all to remember though is the first rule we mentioned – to have a Plan B. The waitlist process comes with no guarantees, until that happy email “Your Waitlisted Flight Is Available For Confirmation”.
Problem is if you’re anything like us your next question will be “which one?!”.
Let us know your experiences of waitlisting KrisFlyer redemptions in the comments section below. If you have any other hints or tips please do share them and we’ll consider adding them to the guide.
KrisFlyer College Series
(Cover Photo: Levi Jones)