Singapore Airlines will hike KrisFlyer award prices from 5 July, and eliminate the 'Stopover Trick' from 1 August. Here’s what you should do now.
I’ve often said that there’s a certain inevitability to devaluations. It’s like standing outside and saying it’s raining — sooner or later, you’ll be proven right.
Well, it’s finally happened. As travel volumes start to recover in earnest, Singapore Airlines has announced that it will be devaluing the KrisFlyer frequent flyer programme from 5 July 2022. It will also be tightening its stopover policy from 1 August 2022, which spells the end of the popular 'Stopover Trick', a loophole that allowed members to save thousands of miles per booking.
No one likes devaluations, but all things considered, this could be seen as a dodged bullet. Award prices are increasing by 8–16%; not to be sniffed at, though a far cry from the 30–40% devaluations I’ve seen other programmes pull. Singapore Airlines flights continue to be free of fuel surcharges, in a time where rising jet fuel prices have led airlines to reintroduce them (even Emirates from the oil-rich UAE!). And perhaps most importantly, KrisFlyer has given five weeks’ notice — something you’d think would be common, but is never guaranteed.
KrisFlyer devaluation in brief
First, here’s a brief recap of how the KrisFlyer devaluation will pan out.
From 5 July 2022:
- Singapore Airlines Saver awards will increase by 8-16%
- Economy: 8–16%
- Premium Economy: 8–16%
- Business: 10–15%
- First: 10–13%
- Singapore Airlines Advantage awards will remain largely unchanged, except for 2–15% increases for travel to Africa, Middle East, Turkey, Europe, USA and Canada
- Singapore Airlines upgrade awards will increase by 4–5%
- Star Alliance partner awards will increase by 8–16%
- Additional changes will be made to non-Star Alliance partner awards (like Alaska Airlines, Vistara, and Virgin Australia), though these have yet to be unveiled
From 1 August 2022:
- It will no longer be possible to add a paid stopover to an award ticket
- Complimentary stopovers will be capped at 30 days
The good news is that any award tickets will continue to follow the pricing and rules as of the date they were issued.
Put it another way: so long as you redeem an award ticket before 5 July 2022, you can enjoy the current award pricing. And so long as you redeem an award ticket before 1 August 2022, you can enjoy the current policy on stopovers.
As such, your to-do list should feature the following.
Book your flights before 5 July
I need to emphasise that the devaluation we’re seeing is not an 'empty your account' moment. KrisFlyer award prices, relatively speaking, remain competitive even after the devaluation, and it will continue to be the easiest programme by far to earn miles with, for someone based in Singapore.
All the same, it would be wise to sit down and take some time to plan your travel for the next six to 12 months. Granted, not everyone has that kind of visibility, but if you believe it’s more likely than not you’ll take a trip, booking now lets you lock in the current pricing.
Singapore Airlines lets you book award tickets up to 355 days in advance. Provided your ticket is issued before 5 July 2022, you will enjoy the current prices — even if the actual travel date is from 5 July 2022 onwards.
To illustrate, suppose I have plans to travel to Seoul in January 2023. A Business Class Saver award currently costs 47,000 miles each way, which goes up to 52,000 miles from 5 July 2022.
By booking before 5 July 2022, I can enjoy the current 47,000 miles pricing — even if I subsequently need to change my travel dates from 5 July 2022. So long as I’m only changing the date, no top-up of miles is required.
Do note that other kinds of changes will require a reissuance, which will involve a miles top-up.
- Destination changes (e.g. changing from Seoul to Tokyo)
- Award type changes (e.g. changing from a Saver to Advantage award — not that you’d do that!)
- Cabin changes (e.g. changing from Business to Economy)
The main caveat to note is that when changing dates, you’re at the mercy of award space as it exists at the time. Saver awards, particularly in premium cabins, have dried up on certain routes and during certain periods (don’t try looking for London in December, for example), so there’s that added element of uncertainty.
In a worst case scenario where you can’t travel on the dates you initially selected and can’t find award space on alternative dates, you will be able to pay a US$75 cancellation fee and get your miles back.
Clear waitlists before 5 July
One unique feature about KrisFlyer is that if an award seat is not immediately available, you can put yourself on a waitlist. Should Singapore Airlines subsequently decide to open more seats for redemptions, that seat can be yours.
However, adding yourself to the waitlist does not lock in pricing. In other words, should I add myself to the waitlist before 5 July 2022, but my waitlist only clears from 5 July 2022, I’ll need to pay the increased prices.
How long will it take to clear a waitlist? If I knew the answer to that, I’d be a wealthy man. We have some vague idea of the priority in which it clears, in the sense that PPS and KrisFlyer Elite Gold members should be higher in the pecking order than ordinary members, but apart from that, it’s a complete black box. No one knows for sure the algorithm or heuristic Singapore Airlines adopts when deciding whether or not to open up additional award seats.
All we know for sure is that all waitlists will be 'filled or killed' at least 14 days prior to departure. It’s meant to give passengers sufficient time to make alternate bookings should the waitlist not come through, but seriously, have you ever tried booking a flight just two weeks in advance?
It’s been suggested that calling up KrisFlyer and asking them to send a 'chaser' to the awards team can help your waitlist clear, but I’m more skeptical about this. I don’t believe it makes any significant difference, other than clogging up the phone lines for everyone else.
Book your stopovers before 1 August (or even better, 5 July)
Strictly speaking, this doesn’t need to be done before 5 July 2022 (since the stopover policy only changes on 1 August 2022). However, you will need to do so if you want to enjoy the best of both worlds: current award prices and the current stopover policy.
There isn’t enough space to cover the Stopover Trick in detail (refer here if you want a guide), but the gist of it is that it takes advantage of the fact that A>B>C costs less than A>B + B>C.
You can therefore pay US$100 to add Singapore as a stopover point (in the place of B) for a duration of up to one year, and use your return leg from the first vacation as the starting leg for the second one.
For example, you might book BKK-SIN-SYD with a six-month stopover in Singapore. After you finish your first trip in Thailand, you fly back to Singapore, go about with regular life for six months, then carry on the journey to Australia. The total cost in Business Class would be 62,000 miles, versus 83,500 miles had you booked a separate BKK-SIN and SIN-SYD award.
This ability will be nerfed from 1 August 2022, when it will no longer be possible to add paid stopovers to award tickets. However, you can make your bookings now, and subsequently shift the travel dates as required.
Transfer points (if necessary)
If your current miles balance is insufficient to book the awards you want, you’ll need to transfer over credit card points. This involves a lead time that varies depending on bank, and with what’s at stake you certainly don’t want to leave it till the last minute:
- American Express: 24 hours
- Bank of China: >1 week
- Citibank: 2–3 working days
- DBS: 2 working days
- HSBC: ~1 week
- Maybank: 2 working days
- OCBC: 2 working days
- Standard Chartered: ~1 week
- UOB: 2–3 working days
Do note the above are estimated transfer times, based on my own personal experiences. My take would be the sooner you start the transfer process, the better.
Revisit your mileage valuation
If there’s one thing the KrisFlyer devaluation should make you do, it’s revisit your valuation of a mile. I’ve spoken at length about the topic, but to recap: every decision you make in the miles and points game pivots around your valuation of a mile.
- Is it worth it to pay a 3.25% foreign currency transaction fee to earn miles overseas?
- Is it worth it to forgo 5% cashback with ShopBack for 3 mpd with KrisFlyer Spree?
- Is it worth it to pay a 2% admin fee to earn miles on your bills with Citi PayAll?
- Is it worth it to pay a S$192.60 annual fee in exchange for 10,000 miles?
You won’t be able to answer any of these unless you know how much a mile is worth.
The valuation of a mile is subjective, however, and different people will value miles differently. In light of all that’s happened, I’m inclined to take a 1.5 cents per mile valuation. I’d advise you to come to your own figure, based on:
- Your typical redemption patterns (do you normally redeem miles for Economy, Business or First Class, for one-way or return trips?)
- Your next best alternative (if you weren’t able to redeem a Business Class ticket with miles, would you buy it with cash, or fly Economy?)
- Your average acquisition cost (do you pay fees to buy miles, e.g. by using a bill payment service like CardUp or Citi PayAll?)
Singapore Airlines will be increasing the price of KrisFlyer awards and tightening its stopover policy in the weeks to come. It’s not the end of the world, but you’d do well to bring forward the flight bookings for a few of your upcoming trips.
Remember: so long as you book before 5 July, you’ll be able to enjoy the current pricing and stopover policy. It’s never too early to start thinking about your next vacation, after all!
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