Singapore Airlines Lets You Waitlist for Awards. Is This a Good Strategy?

Reader Brian said,

I’d like to see you talk about the singapore waitlisting process (especially for the much touted suites class). There isn’t much written about it so it would be interesting to hear your analysis as a “professional” award booker. Possible areas of content: Is it ever successful? How often does it clear and on what routes? Is it worth speculatively transferring flexible miles over for the chance of getting into suites? Is there any way to predict your chances?

Singapore Airlines is pretty generous with reward space for their own members, they’re just not at all generous with reward space for their partners’ members. If you have United miles you won’t be able to get long haul business and first class awards on Singapore. But if you use Singapore Airlines own miles you probably can. (They’re a bit tighter with Suites Class space on some routes than they were a year ago, however.)

Singapore Airlines miles are pretty easy to get because they are a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Citi ThankYou Rewards. So if you have any of those, you can have KrisFlyer miles.

The other unique thing about Singapore is that they allow you to waitlist for awards.

The question here is: what do we know about when waitlists clear? And in my experience it isn’t a completely predictable process.

I’ve seen waitlists clear far in advance, and I’ve seen them clear at the last minute. And I’ve seen them clear not at all.

  • If a flight is filling up, there’s very little likelihood that it will clear.
  • If a flight is wide open, there’s some chance but it is not guaranteed that the waitlist will clear.

Suites Class awards do clear — sometimes — and unfortunately I do not have a foolproof way of telling someone that they can pick a flight, waitlist, and wind up with the award space they’re after… because in my experience just because there are seats available doesn’t mean Singapore will open those seats for folks on the waitlist.

The good news is that waitlists do sometimes clear, which is a better situation than a few years ago when I find it inconsistent whether you’d even wind up staying on the waitlist when you added yourself to it. Under the old reservation system (2.5+ years ago) I found that sometimes you’d drop off.

As a result of that history I do tend to get paranoid and check every so often that someone is still listed, but of late that hasn’t seemed necessary.

Here’s the award chart for travel on Singapore Airlines (.pdf).

Awards aren’t the cheapest of any award chart, but in many cases they are reasonable. If you book on the Singapore website you get a 15% discount of the prices on the award chart. So, for instance:

  • San Francisco – Hong Kong in ‘suites class’ is 70,125 miles one-way.
  • Houston – Moscow in first class is 57,375 miles one-way.
  • New York JFK – Frankfurt in suites class is 57,375 miles one-way.

You can have one enroute stopover on a roundtrip award.

Singapore adds fuel surcharges to awards (whatever the cost of a fuel surcharge would be on an equivalent paid ticket).

If you want to fly Singapore Airlines, which really has one of the world’s best first class products, the way to do it is with Singapore’s own miles.

Strong Values Redeeming on Partner Airlines

Singapore’s partner award chart is here. The chart lists roundtrip award prices, but one-way awards are half the cost of roundtrip. These awards have to be booked over the phone.

  • US – Hawaii costs 35,000 miles roundtrip in coach, 60,000 miles roundtrip up front (in ‘business class’ — United classifies their domestic first class as business class for award purposes, for experts out there that means United’s domestic first class awards book into “I class”.)

  • North America domestic first class awards cost just 40,000 miles roundtrip (again, because United books their domestic first class into “I” which is Star Alliance business).

  • North America – Europe is 130,000 miles roundtrip in business class; 160,000 miles roundtrip in first.

  • North America – Middle East is 115,000 miles roundtrip in business class, 150,000 miles roundtrip in first.

  • South Africa is 145,000 miles roundtrip in business class.

There are no fuel surcharges on US domestic awards (or awards between the US and South America).

A Great Place to Pool Your Points for an Award

Effectively the addition of Singapore Airlines Krisflyer as a transfer partner puts Star Alliance first class awards to several destinations back in the realm of possibility for Chase cardholders even after the United devaluation.

It also makes Singapore an even more useful transfer partner because you can pool points from Chase, American Express, and Starwood all into the same account.

But you only want to do this when you have a specific use for the points. Singapore’s miles expire three years after they are earned.

Key things to know about waitlisting Singapore Airlines award space:

  • You have to have enough miles in your account to waitlist for an award
  • You cannot waitlist for a flight and in the same class of service you are already confirmed on (eg waitlist for a saver award on a flight where you are booked standard in the same class of service)
  • You can waitlist multiple flights. You do not need enough points to support booking everything you waitlist.
  • You do not have to actually book what clears off the waitlist.

Update: Lucky and I were both asked about Singapore Airlines award waitlisting at the recent Frequent Traveler University event in San Diego. He covers the top in a post as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If an award clears the wait list is it possible to then book it online for the 15% discount?

  2. I can attest that I have seen them not clear too. I was WL for a J class award CDG-SIN and it never cleared. I ended up buying a J class ticket at the counter at CDG. There were 40+ seats open in J on the A380.

  3. For some reason, SQ collects fuel surcharges from the Mainland to Maui (OGG). From anywhere in the US to HNL, KOA and LIH, it’s $5.60. But it’s $173 to OGG. For the return, it’s all $5.60. Weird.

  4. About stuff not clearing when there is enough space…had anyone tried putting pressure over the phone? Now I know most of your do not understand how Singapore functions.. but if u scream loud and often enough they will when you have logic working for you…. i.e enough space…

  5. A friend has called before and gotten SQ to open up space but he was also a KrisFlyer elite gold and something PPS member. Not sure if that makes a difference or not.

  6. Do they clear waitlists if there’s heaps of availability at some point (say, T-24)?

    I’m only saying this because the two flights I took with them in F last year, there was only one seat available for an F award, which I took rather than waitlisting. I booked both legs about 2 weeks out. On the first flight (NRT-SIN) I was the only person in F (which was awesome service, they were queuing up to refill the Krug)..on the second leg (SIN-SYD in suites) there were three passengers including me. I know SQ like to keep their F cabin exclusive, but it seemed a little excessive!

  7. “San Francisco – Hong Kong in ‘suites class’ is 70,125 miles one-way.” ==> there is a Suite class on SFO-HKG route? Can anyone please confirm?

  8. SQ does apparently fly Suites Class from JFK to FRA, but you won’t find it available to book with SQ miles.

    Not. Ever.. Ever… Ever.

    Right now the farthest out they are booking is the first 2 weeks of March 2015. Let’s not be silly and look for 2 seats on the same flight, let’s only look for one seat, nearly a year in advance. Nada. Almost a year in advance, and if you want Suites Class, and only one seat at that: Nada.

    Oh wait, you CAN book 2 award seats in Suites Class the day after tomorrow; are you packed?

  9. @Bobby, if it’s booked online you should get the 15% discount.
    @Joey, KF EG and PPS often gets priority, especially if you are PPS. The only occasions I was upgraded was when I was EG.

  10. @Jay- call up and ask an SQ phone rep to make an exception? Ha!- clearly you haven’t dealt much with ground side SQ customer service, or even any customer service in Singapore.

    If you are TPPS, then you will have a better chance of getting your waitlist cleared. For the rest of us Hoi polloi, including SQ top tier Elite Gold, good luck. Typically SQ only releases a limited number of premium redemption seats on each flight, regardless of load. Better to fly empty up front than to give away a seat to someone who might pay for it.

    @Clare- that’s a rare exception- my and my friends experience is that upgrades are more likely on SQ if you are top tier in an alternate carrier program, rather than EG. SQ only does op ups, and the only time I got one was when I was United elite. I was elite Gold for 3 years, flew SQ roundtrip over 100 times in that period- not one upgrade. So I’ve gone back to posting my miles on other Star A carriers for status instead, though I still frequently redeem my MR and Chase points on SQ.

    One other note on waitlist- you can waitlist on your preferred flight while still booking an alternate flight at another time or alternate day. This way you have a back up if your waitlist doesn’t clear.

  11. I’d like to give back with my experience.

    I was looking for JFK-SIN in F suites 10 months out. Nada. I was only able to waitlist. I then read a bunch of threads on waitlisting and decided to call KrisFlyer in Singapore. Got onto a very helpful chap who had me on confirmed ZRH-SIN in F (still A380 suites). Now all I need to do is to get to ZRH but I have some time to organise that, hopefully with Lufthansa or Swiss. I was also able to confirm LAX-SIN in J just to give me some options. Let’s wait and see how this plays out. The call centre is very good, but sometimes you can find someone who is not as helpful. It may pay to end the call and call back later.

    One interesting fact. At one point I was able to see flights available for waitlisting on my screen that the operator was not able to see. Her explanation was that I was in a different country so maybe there was an allocation there. Doesn’t sound right to me. However, because I was able to waitlist it, she able to help me waitlist my wife on a separate booking. Now, does that sound strange to anyone?

    Thank you for the very valuable information.

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