After 285 Mainly Miles articles, over a million page views and half a million site visits, 2018 is drawing to a close. This was our first full year of running the site and thankfully there was a fair share of Singapore Airlines news, a raft of miles-earning opportunities and plenty of credit card offers to keep us going.
That’s not to mention all our travel in 2018, including five Singapore Airlines reviews, four reviews on other airlines including Qantas First, Emirates new First and Qatar Qsuites, several lounge and hotel reviews and aviation news from Star Alliance airlines and others of interest to our readers in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
Most of all we’ve been buoyed by the supportive comments we’ve received from our readers this year. We write about what we’re passionate about, and we’re pleased it hits the spot with so many of you. Thank you for your support this year and in the years ahead.
Here’s our year in review: 2018.
2018 saw a number of new aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet:
- Boeing 787-10
- Airbus A350 ULR
- Airbus A350 Regional
See our latest December fleet guide for all the details of the current SIA fleet. Meanwhile if the three different Singapore Airlines variants of the Airbus A350 are starting to confuse you, we recently wrote a detailed guide to help out with that.
New planes meant new seats this year too. The 2018 Regional Business Class seat was introduced on the 787-10, and later on the A350 Regional, while down the back of the A350 ULR an enhanced 2018 Premium Economy seat made its debut.
Disappointingly the Singapore Airlines 2017 Business Class seat, as fitted on the newest A380s, didn’t make its way onto the A350 ULR aircraft.
Singapore Airlines mostly reinstated old routes this year with the advent of the A350 ULR, restarting non-stop flights to Newark and Los Angeles. Seattle was announced as the fourth non-stop city in the USA for the airline, which is set to be serviced by the regular A350 from September 2019.
Elsewhere on the Star Alliance network from Singapore some new redemption opportunities popped up from LOT Polish, operating a Boeing 787 to and from Warsaw, and Lufthansa, reinstating a long-forgotten Munich route, this time with an Airbus A350 rather than the A340 used previously.
With the long-awaited re-opening of Raffles postponed until 2019, very few new hotels opened their doors this year in Singapore.
We took the opportunity to review the excellent Six Senses Duxton a few days after it opened in April. Just this month the group has opened a sister property, Six Senses Maxwell, which we hope to review soon.
Across the water in Bintan we were wowed by the nearly four-year old Sanchaya, and we long to return as soon as our bank balance allows!
Elsewhere in Singapore there was a new opening at The Capitol Kempinski in September, which we’ll aim to try in 2019.
Aside from the re-opening of Raffles, 2019 should see the new Capri by Fraser at China Square and Dusit Thani Laguna properties open. The launch of the JEWEL at Changi airport should also see the opening of Singapore’s second YOTEL.
The long-rumoured merger
2018 was finally the year Singapore Airlines announced it was merging its regional subsidiary SilkAir into the mainline operation.
The big news was that flat-bed Business Class seats will be installed in the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft (the only ones transferring to SIA as part of the merger), and seat-back IFE will be installed throughout the cabin.
As part of the process lots of Boeing 737-800s SilkAir currently operates will be transferred to low-cost SIA subsidiary Scoot, as will over a third of its routes, in advance of full integration in 2020, when the SilkAir brand will finally disappear.
If 2018 proved one thing when it comes to miles earning credit cards in Singapore it’s that almost anything is possible.
If you’d said to us this time last year that:
- by April we’d be earning 8 miles per dollar for 3 months on all Apple Pay transactions using our Citi credit cards,
- in June Citi would slash the annual income requirement for their popular PremierMiles card to 30k,
- by July a brand new card would be launched offering 2 miles per dollar locally and 5 miles per dollar overseas on all spending with no minimum and no cap,
- by August a mid-range card would offer 4.2 miles per dollar on dining, 3 miles per dollar on overseas spend and 1.4 miles per dollar locally for 2 months, only to repeat the offer again in November and December.
we’d probably have said you were mad. That summary though represents the highlights of ‘the year that was’ for the miles-earning credit card market in Singapore during 2018.
Highlights from the year, month by month
Grab a coffee, or your beverage of choice, and maybe some popcorn! Here’s a trip down memory lane to reminisce over what was reported in the Mainly Miles world during 2018.
- The year kicked off with Singapore Airlines announcing it was adding a credit card surcharge to bookings. After some confusion it transpired it only affected those booking the cheapest Economy Class tickets. Nonetheless the backlash led SIA to u-turn on the proposal after just one day.
- That same evening I took the brand new Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class flight down to Sydney, just 11 hours after my waitlist cleared, for one of our most anticipated reviews of the year.
- By mid-month Singapore Airlines announced that London and Hong Kong would be the next two routes to be served by the newly configured aircraft. 10 days later we exclusively revealed that Shanghai and Zurich would be next (they were).
- February started with the news that one of SIA’s oldest seat types, the ‘Spacebed’, was officially dead with the last aircraft fitted with those seats retired from service.
- The first routes for the new Boeing 787-10 were revealed as Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur for crew training (though the former went on to become permanent), followed by Osaka for the ‘official launch’. Two weeks later it was announced that Perth would join the 787 fold too. Today 11 cities are on the 787 roster.
- Singapore Airlines offered a 50% discount on redemption tickets during March to and from Bali in Economy Class and Business Class. One of the biggest discounts seen in the ‘Spontaneous Escapes’ series, a similar offer was repeated for SilkAir flights in September and October, allowing you to fly from Singapore to Japan for just 12,500 KrisFlyer miles.
- We were the first to reveal the new seating layout of the upcoming Singapore Airlines Boeing 787-10 planes with alternating ‘couple’ and ‘divorce’ seats in the middle pairs. We went as far as producing a predicted seat map, which came eerily true just a month later.
- March started with some rare good news for KrisFlyer members, the ticket fees hike for KrisFlyer redemption bookings was to be postponed for 2 months. Far from being from the goodness of their heart though, SIA coughed up and admitted they just couldn’t get it to work in time.
- For much of the next 11 days, miles addicts flocked to IKEA to take advantage of OCBC’s offer of 12 miles per dollar spent using their Titanium Rewards card.
- Another old Singapore Airlines Business Class seat bit the dust – the ‘Ultimo’ blue recliners bowed out on the daily Bangkok run to make way for an A330.
- Later in the month Mileslife said they’d give us at least 500 miles a year (10 per week) just for logging on to their app every day. The promotion continues, though they quietly cut the minimum to 1 mile per week in November meaning you theoretically could now earn as little as 50 miles per year from this promotion.
- The crescendo for March was the much-anticipated delivery of 9V-SCA, the first Singapore Airlines Boeing 787-10 (and the first commercial 787-10 in the world for that matter). We covered the news and photos from the delivery day.
- We joined the inaugural commercial flight of the Singapore Airlines 787-10 (and the first commercial passenger flight of any 787-10 worldwide) between Singapore and Bangkok. By the same evening we’d published one of the first passenger reviews of the new Regional Business Class seat.
- Never ones to do things by halves, the next day we took the same plane back to Singapore to focus on the middle ‘couple’ pairs at the bulkhead row for another detailed review.
- Later in the month a major bank and credit card issuer lost its mind slightly and decided to give us up to 8 miles per dollar on any Apple Pay transactions for 3 months, with no cap. Citi probably didn’t realise you could Apple Pay two Emirates First Class tickets for S$11,000 and earn enough miles for a Business Class redemption from Singapore to Europe in the process, which is exactly what Eddie did!
- Singapore Airlines proved the doomsayers of the ‘transformation plan’ wrong by announcing a S$893m annual profit. The next day they confirmed that SilkAir was to be merged into the mainline operation, something we predicted 5 months earlier (to the day).
- Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles scheme was ‘revalued’, there were winners and losers but the crux of the matter was – it wasn’t a disaster by any means. Qatar Airways made an epic display of how these things shouldn’t be done a few days later, decimating the value of their frequent flyer points with zero notice.
- Just as the month was coming to a close, Singapore Airlines confirmed that non-stop flights from Singapore to New York would serve Newark once again from October, this time using the A350-900ULR.
- Singapore Airlines launched its longest seasonal capacity boost on the Osaka route with the A380 – a period of over 3 months. We found literally hundreds of saver award tickets in Suites class during the period. SIA later ramped up A380 flights on the route through the entire northern winter season to the end of March 2019, doubling down with twice-daily A380 flights for nearly a month over Christmas and New Year. All in all it resulted in the largest swathe of Suites saver awards on a single route we have ever seen.
- It was revealed that the latest Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR aircraft were to get an ‘enhanced’ Premium Economy seat, with ‘solo’ seats featuring additional space and storage at the very back of the plane in a unique 1-4-1 configuration. While there was some confusion as to why, it turned out the additional overhead crew rest compartment in the ceiling at that location meant it was necessary for the storage space alone.
- The owner of the first two Singapore Airlines Airbus A380s delivered, the first of which introduced the A380 to commercial service in 2007, announced it was scrapping the pair of aircraft for spare parts.
- Nagoya and Ho Chi Minh City were announced as the next two 787-10 routes with the latest Regional Business Class seats.
- The popular Citi PremierMiles credit card officially became an ‘entry-level’ product, with a cut in the income requirement from S$50k to S$30k per annum.
- We embarked on our biggest trip of the year – a three-week round-the-world epic exclusively in First Class (with the exception of one flight from Boston to San Francisco where we had to slum it in JetBlue ‘Mint’).
- Bad news came for OCBC Titanium Rewards cardholders in early July when it was revealed the bank was pulling the plug on 4 miles per dollar on mobile payments five months ahead of schedule. The bonus, which was scheduled to run until the end of 2018, was instead cancelled on 5th August.
- Singapore Airlines revealed that non-stop flights to Los Angeles would start again in November 2018, using the A350ULR. The reshuffle meant the end of the Seoul – Los Angeles route and a retiming for Tokyo – Los Angeles flights.
- Speaking of Tokyo, the airline also announced it was adding a 6th daily flight to the Japanese capital from December 2018.
- Just months after obtaining a near monopoly on ride sharing services in Singapore, Grab slashed earning rates for its Grabrewards program by 88% without warning anyone.
- Singapore Airlines launched its blockchain-based (though we’re still unclear why it had to be) KrisPay app, offering a truly awful 0.67 cents value per mile at 18 outlets in Singapore. While the merchant list has grown to 30, and a ‘double value’ offer was launched for November, the deal remains a poor option and we suspect take-up has been very low.
- To finish up the month, Bank of China launched a miles-earning card into the Singapore market, the BOC Elite Miles World Mastercard. It took months to get hold of one, but once you did it offered 5 miles per dollar on overseas spend and 2 miles per dollar spent locally until the end of 2018. Even the ongoing earn rates remain highly competitive.
- Citi shifted allegiance from Priority Pass to DragonPass with its PremierMiles card, with a huge catch meaning lounge access would become possible at only 84 locations worldwide, without a single lounge at Changi’s T3 or all of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. They backtracked on the change within a day.
- Finnair redemptions became possible through the popular Alaska Mileage Plan frequent flyer program. Not the best rates from Singapore to Europe at 60,000 miles in Business Class, but a welcome additional option in the scheme.
- Qatar Airways confirmed it was finally sending its Qsuite Business Class to Singapore from November, and has since increased to twice daily operation with all three services set to be served with the new cabin from 31st March 2019.
- Singapore Airlines announced that Adelaide would be the first route featuring its new Airbus A350 in regional configuration, featuring the new 2018 RJ seats in Business Class on a daily basis. Further routes with the aircraft have since been revealed as Jakarta, Brisbane, Kuala Lumpur and Bengaluru.
- We did two of our most anticipated flight reviews of the year on the very same night – 9th September. I departed Frankfurt for Doha on the Qatar A350-1000 to check out the new Qsuite, while just a couple of hours later Eddie jetted off from Geneva to Dubai onboard Emirates’ latest 777 First Class Suite.
- Star Alliance carrier EVA Air launched a fantastic-looking new Business Class product on its new Boeing 787 aircraft, now flying intra-Asia and later in 2019 from both Taipei and Bangkok to Europe.
- Citi, probably reeling from the unexpectedly high cost of its 8mpd Apple Pay promotion earlier in the year, quietly revealed some terms and conditions changes for several credit cards. Foreign transaction fees increased, with the annual bonus points limit on the Citi Rewards card changed to a monthly cap and several payment categories excluded from points earning.
- Singapore Airlines took delivery of the world’s first Airbus A350ULR in preparation for non-stop flights to the USA.
- A rare good-value method to convert your KrisFlyer miles to a form of cash was offered by the Shangri-La hotel chain for a month, offering the equivalent of 2.3 cents per KrisFlyer mile when converted to ‘Instant Dining Awards’.
- Singapore Airlines launched ‘Elite Gold Rewards’ for Gold members achieving specific Elite miles thresholds during their membership year, including a double miles reward and advance upgrade eligibility.
- Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia announced a devaluation of their miles transfer rate between the KrisFlyer and Velocity schemes from 1st January 2019.
- In a sign of how passenger expectations for premium cabin products have shifted over the last few years, Air Canada revealed it was taking a quartet of second hand Singapore Airlines A330s in mid-2019, but wasn’t willing to sell the installed 2009 RJ Business Class seats as Business Class on transatlantic routes. Until its new flat-bed 1-2-1 product is later installed on the same planes, the seats will be sold as Premium Economy.
- In ‘news from the Qs’ towards the end of the month, Qatar Airways moved from Changi’s T3 to T1, allowing easier use of the Qantas Singapore lounge and British Airways Singapore lounge for its premium passengers. A few days later Qantas announced it would open a dedicated First Class lounge in Changi’s T1 next year, a boon for oneworld Emerald status holders at the airport who have no current dedicated First Class option.
- Singapore Airlines kicked off the month with news that Seattle would be its fourth non-stop route between the Lion City and the USA. With the A350 ULR fleet fully occupied however, it was the regular A350 announced as the aircraft chosen to serve this route four times per week, with a 3-class cabin.
- SIA low-cost subsidiary Scoot announced it was shifting its entire base in late 2019, not overseas but ‘up the road’ to Changi T1, to better serve expansion plans. We immediately said others would have to make way for them, and await the news about who that will be.
- Singapore Airlines finally announced a move to Jakarta’s new Terminal 3. Lack of lounge capacity meant its Gold card holders would be shunned lounge access in place of a S$14 food voucher, however, a first to our knowledge and quite a slap in the face to frequent flyers at the airline’s largest outstation globally.
- A couple of days later, SIA’s shuffling of 17 SilkAir routes to Scoot over the next two years finally paved the way for the full-service subsidiary to be merged into the mainline operation in 2020, in a ‘right-size’ condition (i.e. everything SIA wants, nothing it doesn’t).
- Citi trialled its ‘PayAll’ concept targeted at some cardholders as a clear retaliation to the likes of CardUp and iPaymy, allowing customers to ‘buy’ miles from as little as 0.8 cents each.
- Finally to wind up the month with more non-SIA news, Qatar Airways finally committed to serving the Singapore market exclusively with its excellent Qsuite Business Class product from March 2019.