Today (September 14, 2018): how to book Singapore Airlines’ First Class suites with points & miles.
Flying in a Singapore Airlines‘ (SQ) First Class suite is one of the world’s most sought-after premium travel experiences (read here my trip report in First Class onboard SQ’s newest A380 aircraft). Unfortunately, SQ’s First Class ticket comes with a price tag that matches its exceptional reputation. Return tickets between Singapore and Europe, the USA or Australia are mostly priced well above $5000 USD, limiting access to the phenomenal product to the lucky few. However, you can also book a seat in SQ’s First Class cabin using points & miles (like I did), although these awards seats have limited availability as they are extremely popular among mileage geeks (which consider them to be the Holy Grail of premium flying). In this overview article, I explain how you can snag a First Class award suite on SQ for just a few bucks:
- First Class cabin on Singapore Airlines
- Book via Singapore Airlines’ loyalty program KrisFlyer
- How to acquire KrisFlyer miles
- Best routes to book a Singapore Airlines First Class award
Have you ever booked an award seat in SQ’s First Class cabin? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
First Class cabin on Singapore Airlines
SQ operates three different types of First Class on its longhaul fleet. While there are significant differences in the hard product between these 3 products (e.g. cabin layout and seat type), they all share the same excellent soft product that SQ is known for around the world (think gourmet dining, Krug Champagne, top-notch amenities and impeccable service at 30,000 feet).
- SQ’s most impressive First Class product is found in the front upper deck of its newly delivered A380 aircraft. It consists of only 6 ultra-spacious suites – 3 one each side of the aisle – with each suite featuring a swivel leather arm-chair and separate bed. The partitions between the suites in the first two rows can be lowered to form an extra-large suite with double bed, perfect for couples traveling together.
- SQ’s older but still excellent First Class suites can be found on the front lower deck of the carrier’s older A380 aircraft. These planes features 12 First Class suites in total (twice as much as the new layout): 8 along the windows and 4 in the center; the dividers between the center suites can be lowered to create a larger suite for couples. These are genuine suites, with sliding doors, but the main differences with the new product are that these suites have a somewhat dated look and they don’t feature a separate seat and bed (just a seat that goes fully flat). This product will disappear over time as SQ plans refurbishment of all its existing 14 A380 aircraft, ensuring First Class product consistency across its entire A380 fleet.
- SQ’s Boeing 777 fleet features a different, less impressive type of First Class product. The B777 First Class cabin features 8 generously sized and semi-private seats in a 1-2-1 layout. While still luxurious, the seats are not that different from SQ’s excellent Business Class seats (they don’t have sliding doors) and they are definitely a step down from SQ’s A380 offering, so I recommend to save your miles for the A380 experience (unless you have no other option).
Book via Singapore Airlines’ loyalty program KrisFlyer
An award seat in SQ’s A380 First Class cabin can only be booked via SQ’s loyalty program KrisFlyer as the carrier does not make First Class award seats available to its Star Alliance partners. So stop looking around as there’s no other way to book a First Class redemption on SQ than via KrisFlyer (with one exception, more on that below). The first step you need to take to fly SQ’s First Class cabin for almost free is to make a KrisFlyer account (which can be done here, free of charge). Once you have a KrisFlyer account, you can look for an award seat by clicking the “Redeem Flights” button at top of the flight search box. Next, you choose your destination as well as departure and return date, and you select “First/Suites” from the Class drop-down menu, after which you have the choice of booking two types of KrisFlyer awards:
- Regular awards – called advantage awards by SQ – are more frequently available but they are also the most expensive award redemptions. In fact, IMHO, SQ charges an insane amount of miles for a regular award, so I recommend not to book them (unless you have no other choice and tons of miles to burn). For example, a one way First Class redemption between Singapore and Europe or the USA will cost you 210,000 miles. The number of miles you need can be checked here.
- SQ also releases a limited number of saver awards on selected routes (sometimes in advance, sometimes last-minute). Saver awards require fewer KrisFlyer (e.g. 115,000 miles between Europe and Singapore or 118,000 miles between the USA and Singapore) but they are very popular and have limited availability. Saver awards on SQ’s new First Class product are rarely released, although I can assure you that my First Class trip from London to Singapore was booked last-minute via a saver award.
One of the things to keep in mind is that KrisFlyer has a very unique feature for redeeming points. When an award seat is not available on your requested flight, you will sometimes be offered the choice to be waitlisted for that award, whether it’s a regular award or a saver award. If SQ decides later to make that seat bookable using KrisFlyer points, you’ll be the first in line to snag it and you’ll be contacted by the carrier by email and/or text message to confirm the booking within a certain time frame (mostly two or three days). The good news is that being waitlisted does not implicate any obligation or financial loss: after the seat becomes available, it’s up to you whether you book it or not and only then will your credit card details be needed. So, in theory, you can get waitlisted for as many flights as you want, hoping that one will becoming available closer to your departure date.
When your journey involves a connecting flight on SQ or a SQ partner airline, you need to know that SQ’s loyalty program KrisFlyer operates two different award charts:
- One award chart is only valid for flights that are solely operated by SQ and its local subsidiary SilkAir.
- Another award chart is only valid for award travel on flights operated by Star Alliance member carriers only, or in combination with flights operated by SQ.
Lastly, while you cannot book A380 First Class awards via SQ’s Star Alliance partners, SQ does occasionally makes B777 First Class award seats available to its partners. Remarkably, SQ also makes a limited number of A380 First Class redemptions available to members of Virgin Australia’s Velocity loyalty program.
How to acquire Krislflyer miles
There are 3 ways to acquire KrisFlyer miles
- You can collect KrisFlyer miles by crediting the miles that you earn with SQ and SQ’s Star Alliance partners to KrisFlyer. In addition to flying, you can also earn KrisFlyer miles with more than 200 non-airline partners, from credit cards to hotels, car rental companies, telcos, and more. Read more here.
- You can collect KrisFlyer miles by transferring SPG or Marriott Rewards hotel points to KrisFlyer miles. SPS (Starwood Preferred Guest) is the loyalty program of Starwood hotels and Marriott Rewards is the loyalty program of Marriott Hotels. In August 2018, both loyalty programs were combined into an identical program, that has several great perks, one of them being the ability to transfer your hotel points to airline miles at a 3:1 conversation rate. In addition, you receive a 5,000 mileage bonus when you convert 60,000 points into miles (resulting in 25,000 airline miles instead of 20,000). As a consequence, one of the single best values of Marriott Rewards is to transfer your points in bulks of 60,000 to an airline’s loyalty program (such as KrisFlyer), which will get you 75,000 miles that can be used to book free award tickets or upgrades, which is what I did for this flight. Read here my review of the combined SPG and Marriott Rewards program. Keep in mind that it does take some days before your converted hotel points will appear into your frequent flyer account.
- You can boost your KrisFlyer account with your credit card spendings as SQ is a 1:1 transfer partner with the top travel credit card rewards programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou. Holders of Chase Sapphire, Ink Business Preferred, Amex Platinum, Amex Premier Rewards Gold, Citi Prestige, Amex SPG can transfer points directly into their KrisFlyer account in 1,000 point increments. Unfortunately, this option is only available to residents of selected countries (including the USA).
Best routes to book a Singapore Airlines First Class award
SQ’s First Class suites are only offered on selected routes. If you want to fly the new First Class product, you have to keep an eye on award availability on the following routes to London, Sydney, Zürich, Shanghai, and Hong Kong:
- SQ221 Singapore (8:20 pm departure) to Sydney (5:55 am arrival; + 1 day)
- SQ232 Sydney (11:00 am departure) to Singapore (5:30 pm arrival)
- SQ322 Singapore (11:30 pm departure) to London (5:55 am)
- SQ317 London (11:25 am departure) to Singapore (7:30 am arrival; + 1 day)
- SQ856 Singapore (9:55 am departure) to Hong Kong (1:55 pm arrival)
- SQ861 Hong Kong (3:40 pm departure) to Singapore (7:35 pm arrival)
- SQ830 Singapore (9:45 am departure) to Shanghai (3:05 pm arrival)
- SQ833 Shanghai (4:50 pm departure) to Singapore (10:20 pm arrival)
- SQ346 Singapore (1:25 am departure) to Zurich (8:15 am arrival)
- SQ345 Zurich (11:45 am departure) to Singapore (5:55 am arrival; +1 day)
If you want to experience the new SQ A380 First Class product with the least amount of miles, then you have to book a flight between Singapore and Hong Kong: this 4 hour journey will cost you 70,000 regular Krisflyer miles or ‘only’ 37,500 saver award Krisflyer miles.
One other SQ A380 route worth mentioning is the Frankfurt to/from New York route. Although this route is currently still operated by A380s with the the old layout, it’s the most affordable First Class route in SQ’s longhaul offerings, costing 130,000 regular Krisflyer miles or ‘only’ 70,000 saver award Krisflyer miles (almost half of the number of miles required for SQ’s other intercontinental flights).