As Australia’s second-largest international carrier (after Emirates), Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer frequent flyer program is one of the more useful frequent flyer programs for travellers from our region.
However, the program is not without its downsides, so this guide aims to explore both the good and bad of KrisFlyer.
Excellent premium cabins
Singapore Airlines generally relases good availability to its own members in its excellent premium cabins.
Whilst Velocity members can technically book these flights, fewer awards seats are made available to them.
The airline also has one of the most luxurious products flying in the sky on the Airbus A380 in Suites Class, which is available from Sydney to Singapore and onwards to a growing number of destinations.
Wide network in Australia
Singapore Airlines service all major airports in Australia, including the big ones of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra, as well as Cairns and Darwin via its regional subsidiary SilkAir.
They have some of their best products flying to and from Australia, including the updated regional Business Class seat on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for those in Perth.
Easy to earn
KrisFlyer miles are relatively easy to accrue in Australia, enjoying partnerships with most of the major Australian banks including:
- American Express Membership Rewards
- Amplify Rewards
- ANZ Rewards
- Citi Rewards
- NAB Rewards
- Westpac Altitude Rewards
Don’t forget that ability to transfer points from Velocity to KrisFlyer makes any Velocity-linked credit card a KrisFlyer-earning card too.
You can boost your balance by crediting your Virgin Australia and Star Alliance flights to KrisFlyer and doing your online shopping through the KrisFlyer Spree portal.
No fuel surcharges on Singapore Airlines flights
KrisFlyer no longer applies fuel surcharges to Singapore Airlines redemptions. To put that into perspective, before that change, I had to fork out US$260 in taxes for my one-way Business Class flight from San Francisco to Singapore—now that is down to US$5.60.
The same goes for flights on its subsidiary, SilkAir—no fuel surcharges. However, they are added to redemptions on Star Alliance partner airlines.
Ability to transfer to/from Velocity
Singapore Airlines releases more saver award space to its own members, so sometimes it is worthwhile to transfer your Velocity points to KrisFlyer.
Whether you use Velocity Points or KrisFlyer miles will depend on the specific Singapore Airlines redemption you have in mind.
There are very few cases where it would make sense to transfer the other way round, i.e. from KrisFlyer to Velocity, but if you find a good-value redemption opportunity, that certainly is a possibility.
Just note that the transfer rate between the programs will be devalued from 1 January 2019, reducing the attractiveness of this feature.
Free or cheap stopovers
One of the best ways to maximise an award redemption on KrisFlyer is to add stopovers—usually in Singapore but also available at some of Singapore Airlines’ appealing mid-point cities including Frankfurt, Manchester, Moscow, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong.
For example, a one-way Saver award from Sydney to Frankfurt via Singapore costs 105,000/148,000 KrisFlyer miles in Business/First Class.
If you redeemed Sydney to New York via Singapore and Frankfurt, it would cost you 118,000 miles in Business and 152,000 miles in First, which is only 13,000 and a meagre 4,000 miles more, respectively.
You have two great stopover opportunities here:
- If you redeem a one-way Saver award, you can buy a stopover for US$100. So you could fly to New York with a longer stopover of your choosing in Frankfurt, and use Frankfurt as your European launch pad for an extra 13,000 miles in Business! The difference is even less with a First Class round-trip award – only 4,000 miles! Not that I would pay it but a one-way First Class retail fare between Frankfurt and New York costs ~$6,000!
- Or, if you wanted to hit up even more cities, you could double that one-way Saver price to make it a roundtrip Saver award, which also allows you to do an open-jaw within the same region (US East Coast) and gives you one free stopover (with additional ones available for purchase at US$100 each). Singapore Airlines flies to New York and Houston (not really ‘East Coast’ but whatever), so you could fly from Sydney to New York via Singapore and Frankfurt, and then back from Houston to Sydney via Manchester and Singapore. That means you can visit Singapore (purchase stopover), Frankfurt (free stopover), New York, Houston and Manchester (purchase stopover) for 236,000/304,000 miles in Business/First Class + US$200 for the two additional stopovers, which is a pretty great deal in my opinion!
Flexible change and cancellation policy
Singapore has one of the more generous policies when it comes to changing your travel plans.
It is only US$25 to change the date, route or cabin on a Singapore Airlines flight and US$75 if you need to cancel your award booking and want the miles re-credited to your KrisFlyer account. Compare that to Qantas’ 6,000-point cancellation fee.
Simple to book
KrisFlyer’s online booking system is quite easy-to-use compared to other frequent flyer programs (but it is not so comprehensive). Before you had to phone up to book an award on a partner airline but now you can do it online for the most part.
Two other benefits of the booking system are that there are no ‘close-in award booking fees’ for booking 21 days or less from departure, like with American and United, and you can waitlist awards, meaning you put your name down in case award space opens up in the future (which it often can) but you do need to have required amount miles already in your account to do so.
Part of the largest alliance in the world
Singapore Airlines is one of Star Alliance’s 27 members (compared to SkyTeam’s 20 and oneworld’s 13).
This means you have more diverse redemption opportunities on airlines like Lufthansa, SWISS, ANA, United and Turkish Airlines.
Last-minute travel discounts
Around the 17-19th of each month, KrisFlyer will usually run a 30% discount on selected routes that have seats open for travel during the following month and Australian airports tend to be included each month.
This promotion represents great value for those with flexibility with dates and KrisFlyer miles (or Velocity Points) to burn.
It is definitely not all rosy as KrisFlyer is not without its downsides:
- Limited space: they do not release much space to partners, such as Velocity and United, instead reserving more availability for their own members
- Limited upgrades: Premium Economy is now in the award chart, which is great for people that want to redeem those seats, however, for a large portion of frequent flyers, this is bad news, because upgrades from Economy that used to get you to Business now only get you to Premium Economy where that cabin exists on a flight
- Limited expiry: miles expire 36 months after accrual regardless of other activity, which is different to a lot of other airlines where you just need to earn more miles to extend the validity of all of them. If you want to extend their validity by six months, you’ll be up for a US$12 or 1,200-mile charge per 10,000 miles, (which is actually not a high charge in my opinion)
- Expensive award type: like most programs, KrisFlyer has two tiers of awards—Saver (cheaper) and Advantage (more expensive). If you want to try one of the newer cabins, chances are you will have to fork out more miles for an Advantage Award
- Website does not show monthly view: but we have got a way around that
- Frustrating call centre staff: KrisFlyer used to have a reputation for quite knowledgeable and helpful phone agents but recent reports from frequent flyers are to the contrary
KrisFlyer is a program that is definitely engaged in the Australian market, with connections to most major Australian credit card issuers, which makes their miles easy to earn. Their unique partnership with Velocity means KrisFlyer miles can be indirectly accrued in many more ways too.
Singapore Airlines fly a number of high-quality products to many Australian airports and the lack of fuel surcharges increases the value proposition of redemptions on the airline.
Their flexible change and cancellation policy is one of the more generous that is around and the free/cheap stopover options mean you can do combination trips on the cheap.
Of course, do be aware that no frequent flyer program is perfect and KrisFlyer is no exception, with work to be done in improving their online interface and customer service on the phone, increasing Saver level award availability and loosening the restrictions around miles expiry.
What is your take on the KrisFlyer program? Do you get any use out of it for your travel needs?
Supplementary images courtesy Singapore Airlines.