Author's Note: On March 1, 2017, Singapore announced a devaluation of their Krisflyer program with effect from March 23, 2017. It is unclear if redemption opportunities 1, 2 and 4, below, will be adversely affected, but redeeming directly on Singapore (redemption opportunity 3, below) will now require more Krisflyer miles. Read more here.
Singapore Airlines is known as one of the best and safest airlines, but it is also a partner with Star Alliance (together with United) as well as with several other airlines (including Air India, TAM, and all of the Virgins). The KrisFlyer program releases exponentially more saver award availability on Singapore Airlines and discounts online redemptions by 15%, making it the clear choice for booking travel on Singapore (versus trying to redeem free travel on Singapore through United or Lufthansa).
Since it has a very favorable award chart (especially compared to United) and does not charge last minute ticketing fees KrisFlyer can also be a great way to redeem for travel on United and other Star Alliance partners. When booking on Singapore itself or a travel partner, you may redeem points for one way travel or round trip, and if you redeem for round trip travel, you are allowed one free stop over.
The most valuable redemptions for US-based travelers on KrisFlyer are as follows:
- Traveling from the US Mainland to Hawaii: Singapore charges 35,000/60,000 points in economy/business for travel round trip on United to Hawaii with no last minute ticketing fees so long as United Mileage Saver awards are available on the dates and times that you are intending to fly (i.e., check on United's website before calling Singapore). Booking directly with United’s program will cost you 45,000/80,000.
- Traveling on United in Business in the US: Singapore charges 40,000 points for domestic business class round trips on United or Virgin America. Again, if booking on United, Mileage Saver awards must be available on the dates and times that you are intending to fly so check the United website first. Booking directly with United or Virgin America will cost you 50,000 points.
- Traveling to Frankfurt from JFK on Singapore Airlines’ flight: Assuming you book online for the 15% discount, one way travel on that flight will cost you 17,000 points in coach, 48,900 points in Business and 57,400 points in First plus fees of between $180 and $220. It will be a more comfortable and less expensive way to get from New York to Frankfurt than by booking through United’s program on United or Lufthansa metal. Likewise, traveling from LA to Tokyo or San Francisco to Seoul or Hong Kong in a Singapore First Class Suite is only 140,250 miles plus fees of $300 roundtrip, again less taxing and less expensive than your alternatives.
- Getting an Around-the-World Ticket: Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Around the World tickets are only 180k/240k/360k in economy/business/first and allow seven stops. United is the only US carrier still allowing these rewards and charges 200k/350k/450k, allowing only five stops.
Singapore is not the only frequent flier program that you will want to be part of, but you will want to open an account and use it for the above redemptions with your Chase, Citibank and Amex points. Moreover, if you even find yourself paying to fly on United, you will also want to get credit through KrisFlyer for all of your travel, unless you are purchasing full fare tickets, as United has now moved to a revenue-based point system.
There are, however, some pitfalls to avoid with Singapore. First, some have reported that it may take several days to transfer points to Singapore, whereas other transfers are instantaneous. Second, your points expire two years after they are accrued or transferred (and unlike with United and American, you cannot generate activity to keep them active).