Most of us typically use our KrisFlyer miles for relatively straightforward routings, a simple one-way saver redemption or perhaps a return trip, but there’s a less well known way of extracting more value from your miles – the $100 stopover trick.
Last time we looked at this in detail was before the January 2019 devaluation of the KrisFlyer program, which saw some modest increases for Business Class and First Class redemption rates.
We’ve expanded the guide and re-worked the calculations at the new award rates to see if the savings are still worth the effort.
What’s a stopover?
Singapore Airlines define a ‘stopover’ as “any layover longer than 24 hours”. Effectively you’ll fly from A to B via C and spend at least one day in C (your stopover point).
One thing to always remember is that you don’t need to use the stopover trick when all you’re doing is a layover (up to 23 hours 55 minutes at your stopover point).
The basic KrisFlyer rules state that you can add one free stopover to a Saver round-trip redemption ticket or two free stopovers to an Advantage round-trip redemption ticket. For one-way awards however one free stopover is only available if you book an Advantage redemption. In fact the website implies this is the only way to achieve a stopover at all for a one-way award.
Straight away that puts most people off – you want to be securing a Saver award flight wherever you can as the additional miles cost for an Advantage redemption is almost always very significant and would wipe out any savings made using this method.
When you try to price up a Saver award with a stopover, it’s less ‘implication’ – more ‘hard rule’.
What many people don’t realise though, is that you can add a stopover even to a one-way saver redemption, or add additional stopovers to round-trip saver tickets, for US$100 each.
The maximum number of stopovers you can add to a Singapore Airlines or SilkAir itinerary is three.
|Number of Stopovers|
US$100 is approximately S$136 at 16th July 2019.
How long can I stopover for?
Good news here – it’s anything from 1 day to 1 year, though you can’t ticket the second sector more than one year from the booking date, so if you’re booking the first sector six months ahead that gives you a further six month window to choose the second sector.
Once you’ve flown the first sector, you can shift the second one but it must be used within a year of the first flight completion.
$100 you say?
We call this the ‘$100 stopover trick’, but in reality it’s not quite that simple. Depending on how and where you do the stopover, it’s really the ‘up to S$177 stopover trick’, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
The reason is twofold:
- The $100 fee for adding a stopover to a saver award ticket is in US Dollars, which currently converts to around S$136.
- Taxes and fees increase when you do a stopover, if your alternative would instead be layover. S$40.80 more is payable when you stopover in Singapore on any routing, compared to a layover. This is more likely to affect our non-Singapore readers.
|Stopover in SIN vs. Layover in SIN|
|Tax / Fee||Layover||Stopover|
|Singapore Airport Development Levy||S$3.00||S$10.80|
|Singapore Passenger Service & Security Fee||S$6.00||S$32.90|
|Singapore Aviation Levy||Nil||S$6.10|
|Stopover vs. Layover||→||+ S$40.80|
As you can see you are hit with an increase in both the Airport Development Levy and the Passenger Service & Security fee if you do a stopover in Singapore instead of a layover. You’ll also have to pay the Aviation Levy.
Since most of our readers will be taking the stopover in Singapore on a saver award ticket in between two separate trips at different times of year, the additional S$40.80 is payable anyway and so you won’t notice the difference.
It only affects those whose alternative to a stopover would be a layover, like a Hong Kong-based reader opting for a stopover in Singapore on the way to Bali, rather than a layover.
It can be even worse
It’s a lot worse if you want to stopover somewhere with higher taxes, like Manchester on the way to Houston or Frankfurt on the way to New York.
Since you will pay taxes as a departing passenger for the second flight in those cases, including the dreaded APD in the UK, the additional fees come in at S$166.80 for an Economy Class redemption from Singapore to Houston with a stopover in Manchester and S$96.40 from Singapore to New York with a stopover in Frankfurt.
In both cases that’s over and above the US$100 (S$136) you’ll pay per person for the stopover itself.
Part 3 of our KrisFlyer College series will help you understand where taxes are high and, in the case of APD, how to best avoid them.
The main drawback
To take advantage of the stopover trick on a one-way saver redemption, you have to call KrisFlyer to make your booking (it can’t be done online). That’s not a huge problem as you can still check redemption availability online first then call to book, just make it clear that you wish to pay the extra US$100 for a stopover as part of your itinerary so the agent does not get confused and try to charge you for two one-way redemptions, or price up an Advantage award ticket with a free stopover.
Yes, we’ve had them try to do both – and yes it is frustrating. Just persevere – it’s worth it, as you’ll see.
How does this save miles?
The beauty of the stopover trick is that you pay the prevailing miles rate from your original origin zone to your ultimate destination zone, which can be significantly less than the alternative, which would be to book two one-way awards instead.
Let’s say you’re based in Singapore and you plan to use your KrisFlyer miles to visit Los Angeles in Business Class, but you would like to spend a few nights in Tokyo on the way.
Ordinarily you’d secure the following redemptions:
- A one-way business saver SIN-NRT: 47,000 miles + S$50
- A one-way business saver NRT-LAX: 92,000 miles + S$68
- Total Cost: 139,000 miles + S$118
By paying an extra US$100, you can take advantage of the direct Singapore to Los Angeles miles rate:
- A one-way business saver SIN-LAX (stopover NRT): 95,000 miles + S$118 (taxes) + US$100 / S$136 (stopover fee)
- Extra cost: S$136
- Saving: 44,000 miles
Would you pay an extra S$136 to save 44,000 miles? At 0.3 cents per mile, we certainly would!
That’s a nice example of how you can save miles using the stopover trick for a two-centre holiday perhaps, but it’s a but limited. For one thing, most of our Singapore-based readers are restricted to one of SIA’s six ‘fifth freedom’ routes – check out our guide here on those.
Multiple trips planned over a year
A more useful method for most of our readers based in Singapore is to save using the stopover trick by planning multiple trips well in advance. This way you can save miles by tagging the first leg of your next trip to the end of your first trip.
Sounds a little confusing, so here’s how it works.
Let’s say you’re planning to visit Seoul in September and Auckland the following January using your KrisFlyer miles in Business Class. This would probably be your ‘usual’ redemption:
- A return business class saver SIN-ICN-SIN: 94,000 miles + S$82
- A return business class saver SIN-AKL-SIN: 124,000 miles + S$114
- Total Cost: 218,000 miles + S$196
Here you’ll have to play a slightly different game to get the $100 stopover trick to work. By changing your flight to Seoul to a one-way redemption, you can then book Seoul to Auckland with a stopover in Singapore as your second redemption (the stopover is in fact your time at home between the two trips).
Then round off with a one-way redemption back to Singapore from Auckland. It’ll look like this:
- A one-way business saver SIN-ICN: 47,000 miles + S$50
- A one-way business saver ICN-AKL (stopover SIN): 91,000 miles + S$114 + US$100 (S$136)
- A one-way business saver AKL-SIN: 62,000 miles + S$32
- Total Cost: 200,000 miles + S$332
- Saving 18,000 miles
Even if you don’t have firm dates for your trip, for example you’re not 100% sure which day you’ll want to head to Auckland, simply book the closest flight you expect for the second part of the ICN-SIN-AKL itinerary with a Business Class saver redemption available.
You’ll then be able to change the date of the SIN-AKL flight for a US$25 fee, even long after you’ve returned to Singapore, provided a saver redemption is available on the date you want. We think that’s still worth it given the number of miles you are saving.
First Class saves even more
As you’d expect, the stopover trick gives you an even bigger saving in First Class or Suites.
Let’s say you want to do a Paris and a Shanghai trip over the next year. Using the stopover method above we applied to the Seoul / Auckland combination, the first thing you need to know is how many miles you’ll be charged from Paris (Zone 11: Europe) to Shanghai (Zone 5).
There’s a problem though. The award chart doesn’t say, instead asking you to contact KrisFlyer Membership Services to confirm the rate. You might automatically assume it means you can’t do this redemption, but it doesn’t mean that at all.
In fact you can’t do Paris – Singapore – Beijing, which is also Zone 11 to Zone 5 and the reason a rate is not quoted, but you can do Paris – Singapore – Shanghai. More about the ‘no backtracking’ rule later on!
You don’t even have to call, a simple search on the Singapore Airlines website or app will show you that the saver award rates on this routing are:
- Economy: 42,500 miles
- Premium: 86,500 miles
- Business: 101,000 miles
- First / Suites: 138,000 miles
That’s right – it’s less than going to Hong Kong (Zone 4), a much shorter flight from Singapore! Except in Premium Economy that is, where it’s more expensive to go to Shanghai than Hong Kong, which makes little sense when the other classes are all cheaper.
The key here is the First / Suites rate – and at 138,000 we’re looking at just 13,000 miles more for Paris – Singapore – Shanghai than just Paris – Singapore. Normally a saver First / Suites redemption from Singapore to Shanghai is 53,000 miles, so we’re saving 40k here.
That 40,000 miles saving is more than enough for another Business Class flight from Singapore to Shanghai, or a return Business Class flight to Bali, so this is definitely worth doing for an additional cost of just S$136.
Closer to home
You don’t have to think long distance to save using the $100 stopover trick. It can even save you miles on trips closer to home, for example if you’re using your KrisFlyer miles to fly Business Class to Jakarta one month, then the following month doing the same again but to Bangkok instead, the two return saver awards would normally set you back a total of 81,000 miles + S$157.
Simply repeat the process above to save 19,000 miles by instead booking:
- A one-way business saver SIN-CGK: 19,000 miles + S$50
- A one-way business saver CGK-BKK (stopover SIN): 21,500 miles + S$73 + US$100 (S$136)
- A one-way business saver BKK-SIN: 21,500 miles + S$33
- Total Cost: 62,000 miles + S$293
- Saving 19,000 miles
If you don’t know exactly when you’ll head to Bangkok, just pick an available date later in the year for the SIN-BKK sector since you can always change it for a US$25 fee. Then book the final BKK-SIN redemption once you know your plans.
Use a layover if you can
Most of our readers based in Singapore will be using the stopover trick to save miles by adding two trips at different times of year together on the same redemption booking, as we’ve shown in the examples above.
For some people though, especially those based outside Singapore who may want a brief stop on the way through, it pays to try and do a layover instead.
For example later this year my parents are heading up from Perth to Hong Kong in Business Class on Singapore Airlines using their KrisFlyer miles, but they’ll stop over to see us in Singapore for the night en-route.
Getting into Singapore at 7.30pm gives us enough time to take them to their favourite Zi Char place (ok it’s our favourite too!), then after a good night’s sleep it’s a relaxing morning before heading off to the airport again for a lunchtime departure to Hong Kong.
Remember, they aren’t using the stopover trick to do this! It’s a completely free ‘layover’ of 17 hours 35 minutes in Singapore.
Better still 36,500 miles each is the usual rate from Perth to Singapore, but also applies for those continuing to Zones 2, 3 and 4 (Hong Kong is Zone 4), so effectively the 4-hour flight from Singapore to Hong Kong in the 2013 Business Class is also free.
If they wanted to stay in Singapore longer (> 24 hours) and use the stopover trick they would pay an extra US$100 (S$136) each, plus S$40.80 in extra taxes, that total of S$177 we spoke about above, but in this case as it’s not necessary – why bother?
What about checked luggage?
If you have a long layover in Singapore, like in the Perth – Singapore – Hong Kong example used above, you can ask for your bags to be checked only to Singapore at the point of departure. They are happy to do this, and it’s commonly expected when passengers have an overnight layover as most will want access to their belongings.
Alternatively you can have your luggage checked all the way to your final destination on a layover if you wish. If you can pack enough items in your hand luggage to see you through a short stop, this may actually be preferable.
Star Alliance / partner awards
Stopovers are permitted on award tickets booked partly or wholly with a Star Alliance carrier or SIA partner airline, but there are a few things to be aware of:
- Stopovers are only permitted on round-trip itineraries.
- The rules on award stopovers for the most restrictive carrier will apply. Some airlines don’t allow stopovers at all on a saver redemption, even a round-trip one, others significantly restrict the duration of a stopover.
- No stopovers on domestic tickets (e.g. San Francisco to Washington with a stopover in Denver won’t work).
- No stopovers on Intra-Europe itineraries (e.g. Rome to London with a stopover in Munich won’t work).
- No stopovers in the country of departure (e.g. Phuket to Hong Kong with a stopover in Bangkok won’t work).
Remember this does not prevent layovers on these tickets, so you can potentially squeeze up to 24 hours in another city en-route to your final destination, and not even pay a stopover fee on a saver redemption.
No backtracking, but it’s not as simple as that!
One of the more poorly understood concepts for KrisFlyer redemption tickets is the ‘no backtracking’ rule. We only say it’s poorly understood because Singapore Airlines keep the criteria to themselves!
Backtracking, according to the airline, is “when a journey does not occur in the same direction as that in which it was begun”.
That’s a bit vague.
For example if you want to redeem from Bangkok to Taipei via Singapore (with the intention to stopover in SIN) that’s not allowed, as it’s backtracking. Fair enough, it certainly looks like it is.
If you want to redeem from Bangkok to Beijing however, that’s not backtracking – it’s a valid routing, despite being a more acute angle than BKK-SIN-TPE.
Distance, not only direction, also plays a part, and by that we mean relative distance between the two legs of the journey. Singapore Airlines may also override a standard rule to offer redemptions on a market it wants to serve (e.g. Bangkok to Singapore to London, which is allowed).
Ultimately, lots of routes you think probably are backtracking – like Kuala Lumpur or Penang to Singapore to Shanghai, often aren’t. Likewise routes you might think aren’t backtracking, like Delhi to Singapore to Beijing, often are.
The good news is you don’t have to second guess this. You can check if your stopover is a valid routing (i.e. doesn’t violate the ‘no backtracking’ rule) by searching it as a basic redemption (e.g. KUL-PVG, to see if it’s valid as a layover). If it brings up the backtracking message, you can’t book it is as layover or as a stopover.
Apart from this example, Delhi to Bangkok, other routings which constitute backtracking include Chennai to Bangkok (but Mumbai to Bangkok is ok) and Delhi to Beijing (but Mumbai to Beijing is ok). It’s a bit of a minefield so just search a standard award if you’re not sure.
Checking the taxes
The taxes and fees you’ll pay for your stopover routing depend on the routes themselves. Essentially if you are using the stopover trick to have time at home in between your two redemptions, like a Seoul trip followed by an Auckland trip later in the year, the taxes are no different than they would be if you booked those two trips independently.
For stopovers / layovers in places like Manchester on the way to Houston and Frankfurt on the way to New York it’s a little more complicated.
The easiest way to confirm what the taxes will be is to make a dummy award booking on the Singapore Airlines website for the routing you are proposing as an Advantage award. Disregard the miles rate (you won’t actually be booking this), but the taxes and fees should be accurate.
The usual taxes and fees rate for a Singapore to New York flight via Frankfurt with no stopover or layover is S$105.30 (don’t worry about the Advantage miles rate). Scroll down to the bottom of the search results to add the stopover and check how the taxes change.
The taxes and fees for this routing with a stopover in Frankfurt are S$201.90 each, S$96.60 more per person than transiting with no stopover.
You will still have to add on US$100 (S$136) for each stopover per person, as this will not reflect in the charges for an Advantage award stopover, so in this case you’re looking at around S$338 each instead of S$105 each.
A small catch when using this method to check the taxes and fees is that the online system will not let you search and book an award itinerary including a stopover of more than 30 days, even though you can book over the phone a stopover of up to a year.
Again we are only using this method to check the taxes and fees, not actually book the award, so just pick valid dates with Advantage availability in order to generate the quote.
Is the stopover fee refundable?
Yes, provided you cancel before taking the first sector of the journey the US$100 fee is refundable when you elect to redeposit your miles and not go ahead with the trip. However, the miles redeposit fee (US$75 for a Saver award) is still charged as usual.
Once you have set off on the first leg of your journey, you can no longer refund any stopover fees charged for that itinerary.
You can’t waitlist for a stopover routing, all the stages must be available for redemption. As we’ve mentioned already, you can book for a date you know is available then if your preferred date comes up change across to it for a US$25 fee.
For mixed-class awards, for example if you want to fly Business Class from Seoul to Singapore but you can only secure an Economy Class redemption from Singapore to Auckland, the whole itinerary will be priced at the Business Class rate.
That more than cancels out the saving using the stopover method in that example, so isn’t something you’ll want to do, unless you want to take the chance of Business Class coming up later and then paying the change fee.
There are some real savings to be had by considering using the $100 stopover trick on a saver redemption next time you use your KrisFlyer miles, especially in Business Class and even more so for First Class or Suites redemptions.
Some interrogation on the Singapore Airlines website will help you determine what the taxes and fees will come to (sometimes these are higher than for layovers), and also which routings are and aren’t valid in line with the slightly cryptic ‘no backtracking’ rule.
Have a think about using the $100 stopover trick next time you plan a trip – and let us know what inventive routings you can come up with to save even more of those precious KrisFlyer miles.
(Cover Photo: Peter Gronemann)