Review of KrisFlyer, the frequent flyer program of Singapore Airlines

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (October 19, 2018): Review of KrisFlyer, the frequent flyer program of Singapore Airlines.

I have previously published reviews (with pros and con) of the following frequent flyer programs: AAdvantage (American Airlines), Flying Blue (KLM & Air France), Mileage Plan (Alaska Airlines) and Miles& More (Lufthansa). Today, I have an in-depth look at KrisFlyer, the frequent flyer program of Singapore Airlines. KrisFlyer allows you to earn and redeem miles on Singapore Airlines and its partners, including all Star Alliance members, SilkAir, Alaska Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and numerous hotel chains and car-hire companies. Although the program has devaluated over the past couple of years, it still has a reputation as one of the best loyalty schemes in Asia (especially for those that want to book an award seat in Singapore Airlines’ premium cabin) and also features some unique benefits that are of interest to frequent flyers across the globe (e.g. waitisting for award seats, transferring points from most major credit cards, etc …).

What is your opinion about KrisFlyer? Leave a comment below.

In this overview, I explain the KrisFlyer program and how to benefit from it:

  1. KrisFlyer elite levels
  2. How to earn KrisFlyer miles in the air
  3. How the earn KrisFlyer miles on the ground
  4. How to spend KrisFlyer miles (and travel for free)
  5. Best and worst KrisFlyer redemptions
  6. Pros & things I like about KrisFlyer
  7. Cons & things I don’t like aboutKrisFlyer
  8. Poll: what’s the world’s best frequent flyer program?

SINGAPORE AIRLINES A380


1. KRISFLYER ELITE LEVELS

There are only two elite levels that you can work your way up to in the KrisFlyer loyalty program. KrisFlyer Elite Silver is the first level, and KrisFlyer Elite Gold the top level. Both levels have their benefits and as you move from KrisFlyer Elite Silver to Gold, these benefits become more valuable. Membership level is determined by the number of ‘Elite miles’ you fly with Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Vistara, and/or any Star Alliance airline (more on that below).

These are the benefits you enjoy with KrisFlyer after reaching elite status:

  1. KrisFlyer Elite Silver is awarded after earning 25,000 Elite miles within a 12 consecutive month period. KrisFlyer Silver members are equivalent to Silver status members in Star Alliance and enjoy the following benefits:
    • 25% bonus on KrisFlyer Miles earned on flights flown with Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Virgin Atlantic.
    • Priority reservation waitlist and airport standby for flights on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir or any Star Alliance partner airline (does not apply to award flights).
    • Waived or reduced KrisFlyer service fees.
  2. KrisFlyer Elite Gold is awarded after earning 50,000 Elite miles within a 12 consecutive month period. KrisFlyer Gold members are equivalent to Gold status members in Star Alliance and enjoy the following benefits in addition to Krisflyer Elite Silver membership benefits:
    • Access to Star Alliance Gold lounge when flying any Star Alliance partner airline. Elite Gold members may invite one guest traveling on the same itinerary.
    • Virgin Australia Lounge access when traveling on Virgin Australia. Elite Gold members may invite one guest traveling on the same itinerary.
    • Extra baggage allowance for flights on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia and Star Alliance partner flights.
    • Priority airport check-in.
    • Priority boarding
    • Priority baggage handling.


2. HOW TO EARN KRISFLYER MILES IN THE AIR

KrisFlyer lets you earn two types of miles: ‘Elite miles’, which determine your status, and ‘Krisflyer miles’, which can be exchanged for a variety of rewards.

Elite miles determine your status level and are derived from the actual miles flown, plus any applicable booking class bonuses earned on tickets that are eligible to earn miles. Elite miles are earned when flying with:

  • Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary SilkAir
  • All Star Alliance airlines: Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Avianca/TACA Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways International, Turkish Airlines, and United Airlines.
  • Virgin Atlantic (on transatlantic routes only)
  • Virgin Australia (flights within Australia, trans-Tasman and between Australia and the Pacific Islands only)
  • Vistara (flight within India only)

You can determine the number of Elite miles you will earn using KrisFlyer’s online calculator or using the table below:

Cabin Class Booking Class Earning Rate
First Class F, A 200%
Business Z, C, J
U, D
150%
125%
Premium Economy S, T
P, R
125%
100%
Economy Y, B, E
M, H, W
Q, N, V, K
100%
75%
50%

So when you want to reach status within the KrisFlyer program, it’s very important that you purchase tickets in the correct fare class. The earning rates vary and some booking classes won’t earn you miles at all. Elite miles only determine your elite status within the KrisFlyer proram and they cannot be exchanged for any rewards.

KrisFlyer miles are earned in addition to Elite miles when flying Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Star Alliance partner airlines and non-alliance partner airlines such as Alaska Airlines/Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, JetBlue and Vistara. Contrary to Elite miles, KrisFlyer miles can be exchanged for a wide variety of great rewards (more on that below). The number of KrisFlyer miles you earn depends on your elite status within the KrisFlyer program, the airline you fly, and your booking class. The full KrisFlyer mileage accrual chart for both Singapore Airlines and its partner airlines can be found here.


3. HOW TO EARN KRISFLYER MILES ON THE GROUND

The possibility to earn KrisFlyer miles (but not Elite miles) on the ground are endless:

  • Each time you stay in a hotel which partners with KrisFlyer, you can earn miles. Krisflyer partners with almost all big hotel chains, such as Marriott, Shangri-La, Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, Fairmont, Kempinski, InterContinental, and AccorHotels to name a few. A stay at a hotel will mostly earn you around 500 to 1000 KrisFlyer miles. All you need to do is present your Krisflyer membership number at check-in.
  • Several hotel loyalty programs allow you to convert your hotel points into KrisFlyer miles. These programs include Hilton Honors, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Rewards,  Shangri-La Golden Circle, Radisson Rewards, and AccorHotels (you can read my reviews with pros and cons of most of these hotel loyalty programs here). Marriott Rewards – the loyalty program of the Marriott Hotel Group – has the best conversion program as it allows you to convert Marriott Points to KrisFlyer award redeemable miles on a 3:1 basis, including a 5000 conversion bonus when you convert 60,000 Marriott Points.
  • KrisFlyer members earn award redeemable miles every time they rent a car with one of the major car rental companies, including Herz, Avis, Budget, Sixt, and Europcar. The exact number of miles you earn for a car rental depends on the company and ranges from 50 to 500 miles per day.
  • KrisFlyer allows its members to earn miles with several retail partners, such as Chic Outlet Shopping, Club 21, F1 Auto Cars, and all shops at Heathrow Airport and Singapore Changi Airport.
  • KrisFlyer allows its members to earn miles with several financial service partners, such as AIG, HSBC, Bank of China, National Australia Bank and Bank Danamon to name a few.
  • Members can dramatically increase their KrisFlyer mileage earning with credit card spending:  
    • Krisflyer is a 1:1 transfer partner with the following 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. The transfer time for these programs varies but transfers usually take place within 24 hours. Unfortunately, this option is only available to residents of selected countries (including the USA).
    • KrisFlyer miles can be earned with co-branded credit cards, which are only available in Singapore, Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan. Citizens of these countries can apply here for a Krisflyer credit card.


4. HOW TO SPEND KRISFLYER MILES ON FREE TRAVEL
  • KrisFlyer miles are best used for award travel on Singapore Airlines’ own flights, especially in premium cabins. This includes award travel on Singapore Airlines’ brand new Airbus A380 First Class Suites, which can only be booked with KrisFlyer Miles. The number of miles you need for travel on Sinagpore Airlines and its subsidiary SilkAir can be checked here. Two types of awards can be booked on Singapore Airlines:
    • Regular awards – called ‘advantage awards‘ by Singapore Airlines – are more frequently available but they are also the most expensive award redemptions. In fact, KrisFlyer 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.
    • Singapore Airlines 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.
  • KrisFlyer miles can also be redeemed for award travel on Star Alliance airlines and non-alliance partner airlines such as Alaska Airlines/Virgin America,  Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and Vistara. KrisFlyer operates different award charts for travel on its partner airlines:
    • View here the Star Alliance award chart
    • View here the Alaska Airlines award chart
    • View here the Virgin Atlantic award chart
    • View here the Virgin Australia award chart
    • View here the Vistara award chart
  • KrisFlyer miles can also be redeemed for flight upgrades on Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, and all Star Alliance airline members. Upgrade award tickets are offered on a one-class upgrade basis and double upgrades are not permitted, so upgrades from Economy Class to Business Class are only applicable to flights without Premium Economy Class. Also, only one segment of the trip in an eligible booking class can be upgraded at a time. Eligibility for an upgrade depends on the booked commercial class (the cheapest fares are often not eligible for an upgrade) and availability of an award seat (the seats that are made available for an upgrade award are the same ones as those can be booked using your miles).
    • View here the number of miles you need for an upgrade on Singapore Airlines or SilkAir (with a choice between regular and saver upgrade awards).
    • View here the number of miles you need for an upgrade on a Star Alliance carrier.
  • KrisFlyer miles can also be used as cash when you book a flight on Scoot, Singapore Airlines’ low-cost subsidiary. You can use your KrisFlyer miles to pay for airfares, taxes and selected ancillaries for Scoot operated itineraries when booking on FlyScoot.com, starting from as little as 1,050 KrisFlyer miles.
  • If you don’t have enough miles for an award ticket or a flight upgrade, you can mix KrisFlyer miles and cash on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir operated flights. You simply go through the usual booking process on singaporeair.com, and choose KrisFlyer miles as your currency at the payment stage. If you have enough miles, you can choose to pay for the whole fare, including airport taxes and surcharges, with your miles. You can also use your miles to pay for seat selections and pre-purchase additional baggage allowance. Otherwise, starting from just 980 miles, you can use your miles to reduce what you pay using your credit/debit card. This applies for yourself or any of your redemption nominees.
  • KrisFlyer partners with Make-A-Wish Singapore to fulfil the wishes of children with life threatening illnesses. So instead of spending them on free travel, you can als donate your miles to a meaningful cause. Every mile received goes to the beneficiaries of Make-A-Wish Singapore.
  • KrisFlyer also allows its members to turn their miles into a digital wallet – called KrisPay – that can be used for instant purchases right from your mobile phone. KrisPay can be used for everyday spend such as your petrol purchases at selected Esso service stations, M1, Challenger and many more participating partners. All you need to do is to downoad the KrisPay app from the App store or Gogle Pay, login with your KrisFlyer membership number and PIN, transfer your miles from KrisFlyer to KrisPay, and pay for your purchases instantly by scanning the QR code at any participating outlet.
  • Your KrisFlyer miles can be used for shopping on KrisShop, the online shopping portal of KrisFlyer. You can either mix miles and cash to pay for your purchases on KrisShop or redeem for your item in full with your KrisFlyer miles. Every 125 KrisFlyer miles gives you approximately $1 SGD in spend, subject to a minimum usage of 1,000 KrisFlyer miles per transaction. And if you choose to mix miles and cash to pay for your KrisShop purchases, you will also earn 1.5 KrisFlyer miles for every $1 SGD you pay with your credit or debit card.
  • You can use your KrisFlyer miles for hotel stays and car rentals on KrisFlyer vRooms, KrisFlyer’s online hotel and car rental booking engine. KrisFlyer miles and cash can be mixed to pay for over 300,000 hotels and 29,000 car rental locations worldwide for your next road trip, subject to a minimum usage of 1,500 KrisFlyer miles per transaction.
  • KrisFlyer allows its members to convert miles to points in the loyalty program of Shangri-La Hotels – called Golden Circle – where they can be redeemed for spa and dining vouchers, free room nights and upgrades at any Shangri-La hotel and resort, Kerry hotel, Traders hotel or Hotel Jen worldwide. Members receive 1 GC Award Point for every 12 KrisFlyer miles converted. A minimum of 20,000 KrisFlyer miles is required for each conversion. Please note that all miles converted cannot be reversed.
  • KrisFlyer members can transfer miles to Velocity Frequent Flyer, the frequent flyer program of Virgin Australia. This gives KrisFlyer members access to upgrades and reward seats across the domestic and international Virgin Australia network as well as non-flight redemption rewards in the Velocity Rewards Store. You receive 1 Velocity Point for every 1.55 KrisFlyer miles converted, and Velocity Points are credited directly to your Velocity Frequent Flyer account from then. A minimum of 5,000 KrisFlyer miles is required for each conversion. Please note that all miles converted cannot be reversed, and that you need to be residing in Australia, New Zealand or one of the Pacific Islands to be a Velocity Frequent Flyer member.


BEST AND WORST KRISFLYER REDEMPTIONS 

IMHO, the best way to spend your KirsFlyer miles is to use them for a saver award seat in Singapore Airlines’ A380 First Class suites, which are only offered on selected routes. If you want to fly the new A380 First Class product, you have to keep an eye out for award availability on the following routes to/from 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 Singapore Airlines 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 Singapore Airlines 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 Singapore Airlines’ longhaul offerings, costing 130,000 regular Krisflyer miles or ‘only’ 70,000 saver award Krisflyer miles (almost half the number of miles required for Singapore Airlines’ other intercontinental flights).

KrisFlyer has some other sweet spots for award travel on its partner airlines. For example:

  1. Travel on Alsaka Airlines from the west coast to Hawaii is only 12,000 KrisFlyer miles each way in Economy Class.
  2. Travel from Australia or New Zealand to Tahiti or Fiji on Air New Zealand is only 12,500 KrisFlyer miles each way for Economy Class or 28,000 KrisFlyer miles each way for Business Class.

As mentioned above, the worst way to spend Krisflyer miles is to use them for a regular award (= advantage award) in Singapore Airlines’s First Class cabin, since that would cost you an insane amount of miles, almost twice as much as a saver award. Also try to avoid a First Class award on a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777, not that this is a bad experience, but it is definitely a step down from Singapore Airlines’ A380 First Class offering (which costs the same).


PROS & THINGS I LIKE ABOUT KRISFLYER
  • Being one of the largest frequent flyer programs in Asia, KrisFlyer offers a wide range of flights to earn or redeem miles. This includes flights operated by Singapore Airlines, its subsidiary SilkAir, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Vistara, and all Star Alliance partners (Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, Air India, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Avianca/TACA Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, EgyptAir, Ethiopian Airlines, EVA Air, LOT Polish Airlines, SAS, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways International, Turkish Airlines, and United Airlines). It means that you can earn and spend your miles with dozens of airlines to more than 1,000 destinations worldwide.
  • The single best value of the KrisFlyer program are the saver awards, which allow you to book award redemptions on flights operated by Singapore Airlines and SilkAir for almost 50% off the regular number of required miles. Saver awards are only released on selected routes, sometimes in advance, sometimes last-minute.
  • KrisFlyer has a very unique feature for redeeming points on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir. 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 Singapore Airlines later decides 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.
  • Singapore Airlines is one of the few airlines that does not add fuel surcharges.
  • Elite status can be achieved based on the Elite miles you earn during a 12 month membership year, rather than just the calendar year.
  • KrisFlyer members can use their miles for people they know. You can pick up to five people as your redemption nominees, and use your KrisFlyer miles to book award tickets and flight upgrades for them. Anyone can be your redemption nominee – your family, friends, colleagues or neighbours. However, once you add someone, you can’t change them for six months. While adding names is free, deleting them will cost you miles or money.
  • KrisFlyer makes far more award space available on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir to their own members than they do to partner airlines.
  • An award seat in Singapore Airlines’ famous A380 First Class suites can only be booked via KrisFlyer as the carrier does not make A380 First Class award seats available to its Star Alliance partners.
  • Members who have at least 50% of the KrisFlyer miles needed to redeem an award ticket may purchase up to a maximum of 50% of the remaining KrisFlyer miles needed for that award. KrisFlyer miles can be purchased during the online redemption booking process for flights on Singapore Airlines or SilkAir, or by calling KrisFlyer Membership Services.
  • KrisFlyer allows one way award tickets.
  • KrisFlyer allows a stop-over on award tickets (although restrictions apply; more on that below in the cons).
  • KrisFlyer allows open jaw award tickets (although restrictions apply; more on that below in the cons). For example, you can fly into Singapore and out of Hong Kong.
  • Singapore Airlines has some of the most reasonable fees in the industry. Changes to flights, dates, routes or carriers , or cancellation of a booking with redeposition of your miles will cost you a moderately priced fee.
Fees for redemption award tickets SAVER (USD) ADVANTAGE (USD)
Change of date on Singapore Airlines / SilkAir 25 0
Change of route, cabin class or award type on Singapore Airlines / SilkAir 25 25
Change of date, route, flight or carrier on partner airlines 50 Not applicable
Redeposit of miles for award tickets / upgrades* 75 50

CONS & THINGS I DON’T LIKE ABOUT KRISFLYER
  • Although KrisFlyer doesn’t add fuel surcharges to their own flights, they do add fuel surcharges to partner airlines’ flights (when the operating carrier imposes them). For example, most European and Asian carriers will add fuel surcharges to their award flights and they are quite hefty. But other airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa and Virgin America do not. United Airlines does not add fuel surcharges to award flights within North America (including Hawaii) and Air Canada flights within North America do not incur fuel surcharges either.
  • Saver awards on Singapore Airlines’ new A380 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.
  • Advantage awards for First Class seats on longhaul flights are way too expensive.
  • KrisFlyer’s routing rules are very strict. A few examples:
    • Travel must be via a published route (meaning you must be able to buy that route from an airline’s website)
    • Backtracking is not permitted except as required by route restrictions. Backtracking occurs when a journey does not continue in the same direction in which it began. An itinerary containing a backtracking sector not required by route restrictions may require separate tickets.
    • Award travel on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir can be ticketed as one itinerary. But ward travel on all other participating airlines is ticketed separately.
    • The validity and number of complimentary stopovers available depends on the award ticket type, although additional stopovers are permitted at USD100 each, regardless of the class of service.
Saver Awards Advantage Awards
One-Way No stopover 1 stopover
Round Trip 1 stopover 2 stopovers
Validity of award tickets 12 months 12 months

POLL

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