Are Non-Saver Flight Awards Always A Bad Deal?

For those of us obsessed with miles & points, I think it goes without saying that the goal is to redeem miles at the saver level whenever possible. The thought of redeeming any other way almost makes me sick to my stomach.

Of course we’re in the minority, given that a vast majority of people are using their transferrable points for “pay with points” travel purchases, or even worse, merchandise. Both of those redemption options are generally yielding a return of a cent per point or less.

While the goal is to redeem at the saver level, in some instances that just isn’t practical, so I think it’s worth examining instances where redeeming miles at the “standard” level doesn’t represent a horrible value. I think Singapore KrisFlyer is one of those programs.

Why I like Singapore’s KrisFlyer program

Singapore KrisFlyer is one of my favorite frequent flyer programs for a variety of reasons, including:

  • You can transfer points to KrisFlyer from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Starwood Preferred Guest
  • KrisFlyer is the only way to book most first & business class award tickets on Singapore Airlines
  • KrisFlyer’s saver level award rates for travel on Singapore Airlines are very reasonable
  • KrisFlyer has generous change & cancellation policies, making it easy to lock something in and then change it later

Singapore-A380

Redeeming for first class saver awards can be tough

If you’ve tried to redeem miles for Singapore first class at the saver level lately, you may have noticed that space is pretty tough to come by. It’s certainly not impossible, but one of the main challenges is that Singapore’s new 777s feature just four first class seats, meaning there’s rarely saver level space on those planes in advance (which I can’t blame Singapore for).

Singapore recently simplified their award structure. Previously they had saver, standard, and full awards. Saver awards were cheap, standard awards were more expensive, and full awards were outrageously expensive.

KrisFlyer-Award-Types

Now they just have saver and standard awards, meaning the outrageously priced awards have been eliminated as an option. While not for everyone, I do think it’s worth examining the standard level premium cabin award costs, because in some cases they’re not that bad.

How expensive are Singapore KrisFlyer standard awards?

Just to give a few examples, factoring in the 15% discount you receive for booking awards through Singapore’s website…

A one-way standard first class award from San Francisco to Hong Kong costs 136,000 KrisFlyer miles.

KrisFlyer-Standard-Award-1

A one-way standard first class award from Los Angeles to Tokyo costs 144,500 KrisFlyer miles.

KrisFlyer-Standard-Award-2

A one-way standard first class award from New York to Frankfurt costs 110,500 miles:

KrisFlyer-Standard-Award-3

Singapore also recently announced a new nonstop flight between San Francisco and Singapore, which will be operated by an A350 without a first class cabin. I haven’t seen any saver level award space on the flight, but a standard award costs 102,000 KrisFlyer miles.

KrisFlyer-Standard-Award-5

In many cases the standard award costs aren’t much higher than the saver award costs charged by other airlines.

For example, United MileagePlus charges 110,000 miles for Lufthansa first class between New York and Frankfurt, while that same route is bookable on Singapore Airlines through KrisFlyer at the standard level for 110,500 KrisFlyer miles plus some fuel surcharges, with much better availability.

American AAdvantage charges 110,000 miles for Cathay Pacific first class between San Francisco and Hong Kong, while that same route is bookable on Singapore Airlines through KrisFlyer at the standard level for 136,000 KrisFlyer miles.

Singapore-Suites-1
Singapore Airlines A380 Suites Class

Bottom line

I’m not suggesting anyone should run and make a bunch of standard KrisFlyer award bookings because they’re such an incredible value. Rather I’m suggesting that there’s merit to booking KrisFlyer standard awards under certain conditions, like:

  • If you’re traveling during peak times and/or really need to be somewhere, and are otherwise struggling to find saver level space
  • If you’re someone who values the convenience of booking a direct flight and locking it in, rather than trying to tweak a ticket as the departure date approaches
  • If you have tons of points spread across multiple transferrable points currencies, since you can pool them all with KrisFlyer

Keep in mind that a majority of people redeeming miles for premium cabin awards aren’t doing so at the saver level. Yes, there are lots of people out there actually redeeming 400,000+ miles for roundtrip business class in mediocre products. For those people, KrisFlyer standard awards represent a much better value.

Have you ever booked a non-saver level award, and if so, through which program?

Comments

  1. I saw something absolutely disghusting on View From the Wing: a DL RT biz award ticket costs 650-700k from LAX-JNB

  2. When you say “a majority”, is that just your gut feeling, or do you have numbers on that from somewhere? It’s not impossible, but I find it hard to believe it’s the majority of premium cabin redemptions.

  3. Sorry to be such a noob, but other than availability miles cost, what are the advantages/differences for saver award vs standard? Are the cancellation and rescheduling options different?

  4. A lot of friends look to me for guidance on points/trave and nothing pains me more when I hear “I just emptied out my xxxxx account to save $79.86 on a flight to Miami!!”

    I get that not everyone has the time, money or interest to pool their miles for months/years for an F/J trip to Asia, but if you’re just using your points to save money on a Delta flight, just get yourself a card paying you 2% cashback and you’ll come out ahead. Sure, it doesnt feel as good to get $12 back each month as it might to save $100+ on a flight, but in the long run this is the way to go.

  5. The important thing you omit is that the American and United award is much more valuable since you can add positioning flights within the US and connecting flights within Europe/Asia for the same price. With Singapore, you are can only book a single segment at those prices.

  6. The Standard Business JFK-FRA award is a decent redemption going to Europe. At 68K pp, the miles needed are still less than United’s partner awards, surcharges are relatively low going from the US to Europe and availability at the Standard level is good. Also, a better product than Lufthansa or United. As another poster mentioned, you’d need to figure in the cost of tacking on a cheap flight from FRA to your intended destination.

  7. A few years ago I found myself with a (difficult to use) huge mileage balance and I did a last minute non saver award flight to Zurich on AA. At the time, I wasn’t lucky enough to use miles for upgrades because I was only PLT flying all international flights. Another issue was the general scarcity of award flights to fit my needs. The recent program changes have helped me with EQM along with lower prices on international business class fares and better availability of saver awards to places I travel. Probably won’t have a problem using miles in the future.

  8. Unless you are swimming on miles (like most travel bloggers are) I would never redeem first class tickets between US East Coast and Europe. As you can see on your example, it costs 120,000 miles to fly 17hrs 45min on SQ from SFO-SIN and 130,000 miles to fly 7hrs 45min between JFP-FRA. In my opinion to redeem that many miles to fly less than 10 hours in first class is just a waste.

  9. You can always waitlist SQ saver, book standard and rebook few days before departure to get some miles back.

  10. While I have not done it, I believe SQ only allows stopover(s) on a roundtrip at the Saver level. If you book a one-way, you are not entitled to a stopover, however, if you book the Standard level one-way you are. So some people might find it worthwhile to pay up a bit to get an included stopover.

  11. Important to note: Standard Awards in Business Class come with a surcharge of 50% over the Saver Award while for First Class Standard Awards the premium is 100%.

  12. I booked a standard award on Delta for my return from Asia this trip because I had hundreds of thousands of Delta miles that I have been sitting on for years and I wanted to inspect the Delta One product.

  13. I book Standard with SQ regularly. Krisflyer miles are so easy to accrue and use, and there’s almost infinite First Class availability at the Standard level.
    As an Australian, Standard point cost is also roughly the same as a regular redemption using Qantas points for a similar route (eg SYD-LHR), but with way more availability.
    For the product standard, ease of booking and availability, I think SQ’s Standard pricing is very reasonable. Of course, even better if you can snag a Saver award!

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