More details of the Singapore Airlines and Virgin America partnership announced — it’s potentially lucrative!

While the practical implications might not be huge, the new partnership between Singapore Airlines and Virgin America sure is interesting. I find it fascinating every time an airline with a traditional frequent flyer program partners with an airline with a revenue based program, as we get to see how they value things differently on both the accrual and redemption side.

At the beginning of the year Singapore and Virgin America began codesharing, which had limited implications since it only applied to itineraries involving both airlines, and most of the Virgin America routes were served by United anyway.

Then last week Singapore unveiled their award chart for travel on Virgin America, which was mildly lucrative for shorthaul coach awards, but not very tempting for transcontinental or first class tickets.

But now we have the full details of the partnership, involving both accrual and redemption

Earning Virgin America Elevate points for flights on Singapore Airlines

Here’s Virgin America’s accrual chart for travel on Singapore:

As a point of comparison, here’s Singapore’s accrual chart for travel on their own flights:

So I think it goes without saying that accruing Elevate points for travel on Singapore is a horrible value. Virgin America has a revenue based program and gives passengers five points per dollar spent on their flights.

So for a San Francisco to Hong Kong flight in Suites Class you’d accrue roughly ~4,849 Elevate points. That’s the same number of points you’d earn for a ~$970 Virgin America ticket. That’s a far worse value than accruing ~10,391 KrisFlyer miles. So I suppose the chart is nice in theory if you’re big into collecting Elevate points, have a revenue Singapore flight, and don’t want to credit to KrisFlyer. But this is hardly a lucrative alternative.

Earning Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flights on Virgin America

Here’s Singapore’s accrual chart for travel on Virgin America:

For the occasional Virgin America flyer this is actually a really lucrative accrual chart. You’re earning 100% base miles on all revenue fare classes, so this is essentially a way to earn miles in a traditional frequent flyer program for travel on Virgin America.

For example if you pay $100 for a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Seattle on Virgin America you have the choice between collecting 954 KrisFlyer miles and 500 Virgin American Elevate points. Virgin America Elevate points are each worth about 2.2 cents each towards the revenue cost of a Virgin America ticket, so I’d say KrisFlyer miles are the better value. That being said, if your fare is substantially higher or lower it can impact which program it’s more lucrative to credit to.

Redeeming Virgin America Elevate points for flights on Singapore Airlines

Here’s the mileage calculator for award redemptions through Virgin America for travel on Singapore Airlines.

There are a couple of interesting things worth noting. First of all, it appears as if Virgin America doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for redemptions on Singapore. Furthermore, while they allow one-way awards, they price at 60% of the cost of a roundtrip.

What’s interesting is that Virgin America charges the same for all of Singapore’s routes between the US and Asia, including those out of Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Newark, and San Francisco. And they seem to be the same whether you terminate in Hong Kong, Seoul, or Singapore, for example. So it’s a very simple chart.

In all cases it’s 130,000 points roundtrip in first class, 95,000 points roundtrip in business class, and 35,000 points roundtrip in economy class.

Keep in mind you can transfer points from Membership Rewards to Virgin America, though it’s at a 2:1 ratio. That means you’re looking at 260,000 Membership Rewards points for first class, 190,000 Membership Rewards points for business class, and 70,000 Membership Rewards points for coach. For first and business class it’s almost always a better value to go directly through KrisFlyer, though for coach it could actually make sense to redeem through Virgin America, since redemption rates are similar and you save a bunch of money by not booking through KrisFlyer, which imposes fuel surcharges.

For example, if you booked New York to Singapore roundtrip in coach you’d pay 35,000 Elevate points (the equivalent of 70,000 Membership Rewards points) plus ~$60 in taxes, while if you booked through Singapore KrisFlyer you’d pay 63,750 miles plus $691.69 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges. So it’s no doubt worth spending an extra 6,000 points to save over $600 in cash.

So I’d say there’s potentially quite a bit of value on the redemption side, especially if we were to see a transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Virgin America Elevate, as we’ve seen in the past.

Redeeming Singapore KrisFlyer miles for flights on Virgin America

I shared all my thoughts in this post, though for reference here’s their award chart:

What remains to be seen is what bucket Singapore pulls award space on Virgin America out of. Since Virgin America has a revenue based program they don’t have award “buckets” per se, as the number of points required for a redemption is entirely dependent on the revenue cost of the ticket.

I tried doing some research by calling up KrisFlyer and trying to book an award ticket from Seattle to Los Angeles, though that turned into quite an adventure.

Me: “Yes, I wanted to inquire about making an award reservation for travel between Seattle and Los Angeles on your new partner airline, Virgin America.”
Agent: “Sorry, which airline?”
Me: “Virgin America, it’s your new partner airline.”
Agent: “Please wait on hold as I look at availability.”
*Puts me on hold for a few minutes*
Agent: “I have checked availability for your dates on United and US Airways, and there is no availability.”
Me: “But could you please check space on your new partner airline, Virgin America?”
Agent: “Allow me to read you all our partner airlines [she proceeds to read every Star Alliance airline].”
Me: “Yes, but you also have a new partnership with Virgin America.”
Agent: “Could you please spell the name of the airline for me?”

I spelled it out and she put me on hold for about 30 seconds (not long enough for her to actually look up space) and then she returned.

Agent: “I checked availability on that airline and they don’t have space.”
Me: “Which airline?”
Agent: “The one you just mentioned.”

Riiight…

Conclusion

It’s nice to see a partnership that actually adds a bit of value for once. I’d say that KrisFlyer members get the better end of the bargain on the accrual side, while Elevate members get the better end of the bargain on the redemption side. Though in some cases redeeming KrisFlyer miles for travel on Virgin America can make sense as well, especially for west coast trips.

What do you guys think?

Comments

  1. @ Alan — Now that’s a great point. I’d have to assume (hope?) it’s the KrisFlyer space, or else I’m not sure they’d bother publishing an award chart since you can’t redeem Elevate points for first or business class on any of those routes. I’ll do some more research.

  2. In my experience you only want to call KrisFlyer during Singapore business hours. The call center used during non-business hours are incredibly inexperienced & badly trained.

  3. Nonetheless, it’s pretty damn impossible to beat a rt on sq y for 35k y, and no fees. if you can tough it there.

  4. @ romsdeals — That’s news to me. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a partner, though are you sure Virgin America is? It’s not listed on the Starwood transfer page.

  5. Thanks for this very helpful analysis, Ben. I have been wanting to fly VIrgin again but have put my eggs in the UA basket. I almost have enough points in Elevate for a business ticket on SQ. Perhaps more virgin in my future after all. This may be quite a smart redemption policy on their behalf to compete against UA.

  6. 13k r/t in J from SIN-DPS/BWN/SGN/HAN seems like a perfect use for the orphaned Elevate points that I have.

    Not as good of a deal for 26k MR points, but still an interesting development.

  7. In terms of just getting miles/points through credit card spending. It seems to be better deal spending on Virgin America Visa than United Explorer card since it costs only $35,000 to get 35,000 Elevate points instead of having to spend $65,000 for 65,000 United miles. (I’d rather spend my 35,000 elevate points for a SQ economy ticket to Asia than spending 65,000 UA miles)

    But UA miles is still better when one earns miles by flying, especially on cheap tickets that give good mile-to-dollar spend ratio.

  8. Are Suites redemptions using Elevate considered as First Class? Or are Suites awards not allowed at all?

  9. @ Kai — Apparently redemptions are only possible starting March 7, so I’m not sure. Given that both book into the “O” bucket nowadays I’d guess Suites isn’t excluded.

    Of course this assumes that Virgin America has access to the same award space as KrisFlyer members, and that they aren’t given the same availability as Star Alliance members.

  10. @Raymond, That’s a very good point. The only thing is you have to be pretty certain you can get space on SQ for your trips. United Airlines gives you access to all the other *A Asian partners, such as ANA, Asiana, Thai so it’s easier to get an itinerary together. But if you’re traveling from the West Coast, then SQ availability tends to be quite good!

  11. If you live in Southern California a simple way to earn some extra Virgin America points is Mogl. It’s a dining program that returns 10% in cash or VX points. Here’s my referral link – http://mo.gl/1eiijd52 . We’ve pulled down enough for a couple flights.

  12. yes, 90k r/t JFK-FRA is great. Just not that easy to generate 90k VX points.
    It’s 114,750 using SQ points with the online discount. So of course better to transfer MR to SQ. Best availability as well

  13. @ jmw2323 — True, though assuming both have access to the same availability you’re also saving $400 in fuel surcharges by booking through Virgin America vs. Singapore.

  14. SIN-PER in Y for $142 and 20K r/t is also not too shabby. It’s only 40K in C. 😉

  15. I purchased a one way SQ11 directly from Singapore Air and entered my elevate # – am I earning elevate points for this flight?

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