On Wednesday I wrote about Alaska Airlines finally publishing its award chart for Singapore Airlines and releasing award inventory. Today I’m jumping into the nitty-gritty to understand if booking Singapore Airlines (SQ) flights using Alaska Miles is a good idea or not.
This is a continuation of my Alaska Partner Award Series that looks at all the major partners of Alaska Airlines and how to find and book awards with these airlines. Alaska seems to add a partner or two every year but they are often quite slow to release award inventory until a year or two after. For Singapore Airlines we had to wait for 2+ years before awards were made available to Mileage Plan members.
Unfortunately for most situations, the price of a Singapore Airlines award flight is much too expensive to really consider unless you are hellbent on flying their new Suites Class … which I kinda am.
There are a few sweet spots for redemptions using Alaska’s chart but, to be honest, it’s a little hard to justify given Cathay Pacific’s excellent Business and First Class award pricing, its world-class product, and fairly reliable award availability. You can read all about that in my previous post on Cathay Pacific as it relates to Booking Partner Awards.
For those of you that aren’t very familiar with how Alaska awards work, the routing rules are pretty simple. You are allowed to fly with Alaska plus a partner which means that you cannot combine Alaska’s other partners. For example, you cannot fly with American Airlines and then connect onto a Singapore Airlines flight even though both are Alaska’s partners. You can only fly Alaska PLUS American OR Singapore OR any other partner.
Essentially the equation is A + B = Award where A is equal to Alaska Airlines and B is equal to any other Alaska partner.
Singapore Airlines does not fly directly into Canada, so this means if you want to fly on Singapore airlines from North American, you will fly from Calgary (YYC), Edmonton (YEG), Kelowna (YLW), Victoria (YYJ) or Vancouver (YVR) to Seattle on Alaska Airlines then onwards to a hub city within the United States where Singapore airline operates.
Singapore Airlines currently operates out of Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Houston (IAH), both New York airports (JFK, EWR).
Also remember, on an Alaska Award, you are allowed a free stopover in the hub city of the operating airlines. For Singapore Airlines, that’s at Changi International (SIN).
There is currently an oversight in the Alaska Award chart that shows that Canadian cities cannot be used as the origin to fly on Singapore Airlines but that’s not true. Awards definitely do price out using the Alaska Airlines booking engine.
Alaska, as it does with other partners, provides pricing depending on the region you are starting from and where you end up. For the most part, I would focus on departures from North America but for SQ, I decided to take a more holist approach, mostly because the sweet spots don’t really come from North American origins or destinations.
Because Alaska doesn’t have a nicely laid out award chart for any of their partners, I built one.
The chart should be pretty easy to understand. Choose an Origin from the Y-axis (vertical), and look across on the X-axis (horizontal) for your Destination. The chart shows 3 prices. From top to bottom, they represent Economy (Y), Business (J), and First (F) Class.
Award Prices are High
If we consider Singapore Airlines award pricing to a couple of Alaska’s other partners, Cathay Pacific (CX) and Japan Airlines (JL), we can quickly see that SQ’s pricing is quite expensive across all cabins.
Let’s take a look at what the Economy, Business and First Class awards would cost using Alaska miles across Singapore, Cathay and JAL from Canada to Singapore. Singapore is considered SE Asia in all cases.
|Cathay Pacific (CX)||30,000||50,000||70,000|
|Japan Airlines (JL)||40,000||65,000||75,000|
|Singapore Airlines (SQ)||47,500||100,000||130,000|
As you can see, SQ pricing is way out of whack in comparison to two other world-class airlines with similar hard and soft products. From where I sit, it’s very hard to justify the cost simply to fly on Singapore Airlines.
Should I Even Bother?
Easy there Tonto. You can always find value if you are in the right frame of mind.
I know I told you earlier but I’m going to remind you again. With Singapore Airlines redemptios using Alaska Miles, you are allowed to stop in Singapore (SIN) for free on a one-way redemption.
Now I want you to picture in your mind, how you might be able to leverage this knowledge to get the most flying time possible in SQ’s Business or First Class products.
The real gem in the SQ award chart is from SE Asia and specifically SE Asia to SE Asia. There’s another gem which is not quite as good but definitely something to keep in mind and that’s North America to North Asia.
SE Asia to SE Asia
I should probably define what SE Asia is according to Singapore Airlines. Basically it is anything in Asia that isn’t Japan or Korea, which is pretty interesting. The problem with lumping an award chart into geographical areas is that there’s always going to be a sweet spot if you look hard enough.
Japan and Korea are considered North Asia but China is considered SE Asia, even though Beijing is actually further north than Korea and all but one city in Japan, Sapporo (CTS) but it is cheaper than flying to North Asia.
Unfortunately, the SQ award chart does not allow North Asia to North Asia but we can still play around with SE Asia to SE Asia.
Let’s take a look at what that would look like. Let’s say you managed to get yourself to Beijing (PEK) on a revenue ticket or some other award and you wanted to go to Taipei (TPE) but also wanted to stopover in Singapore (SIN). Well, you could do so for 35K Alaska Miles in First Class!!!
Here’s what award availability looks like.
Notice in the above image that there’s a 7-day layover with this award. That’s because of the free stopover rule with Alaska Mileage Plan. That’s quite a nice perk.
The PEK-SIN flight is 6.5 hours and the SIN-TPE flight is 4.5 hours. This means combined, you would get 11 hours in Singapore’s First Class product for 35K Alaska Miles. Oh … and by the way, that’s almost exactly what you get for signing up for a credit card with an out of pocket cost of $39! Bonkers!
This little trick could work for any destination in SE Asia. Let your mind run wild and see what crazy combinations you can come up with.
North America to North Asia
North Asia is defined as Korea and Japan, two of Asia’s most popular destinations. The interesting thing about the award pricing for this redemption is that it is cheaper than the North America to SE Asia redemption. This is important to remember because with Alaska awards, you are allowed a free stopover on a one-way award and that stopover is in the hub city of the partner airline.
This is greate because Singapore is in SE Asia so if you wanted to go to Singapore and Japan/Korea, it would be cheaper than if you just wanted to go to Singapore.
It would look something like YYC-SEA-LAX on Alaska then LAX-SIN on Singapore Airlines. You would then stop in Singapore for free, then you would fly SIN-HND/NRT. This would cost you 80K in Business and 110K in First. That would be cheaper than if you just flew YYC-SEA-LAX-SIN.
Amazing Award Availability
Finding award availability is actually pretty easy and in fact … it’s sometimes better than what Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Members have access to. When doing a quick search for LAX-SIN in Business Class, I was able to find 2 seats available for Alaska Mileage Plan redemption whereas Singapore Airlines shows no Saver Class availability and only a chance to redeem for the award on their waitlist.
The LAX flight is a weird flight that lands in Tokyo’s Narita airport before going onward to Singapore.
And here is the availability for Singapore’s own members. The first thing you notice is that there’s no Saver award availability, only the ability to waitlist. If you want to pay for the Advantage level (more awards made available at a higher price), the seats are up for grabs.
How to Book
Alaska Airlines booking engine is actually quite good at helping you find and book award travel on many of their partner airlines. Singapore is no exception. Here are a few tricks to get you started.
- Begin with the Alaska seach engine on www.alaskaair.com but make sure you check off the criteria highlighted in the image below and click Find Flights.
You do this because you are looking for award space (Using miles), you are only booking a one-way because that’s how Alaska prices its awards (One-way), and you want to make it easy on yourself so you want to search a month at a time (Award Calendar).
- You will now see the calendar of award availability. I like to filter by Business Class or First Class availability. When you do that, you will see the lowest priced award. Now because Alaska has a few partners that can ultimately get you to Singapore, you have to refer back to the award chart I gave you at the beginning to try and narrow down your search date. We know from the chart that the Business Class award from North America to SE Asia is 100K for Singapore Airlines, so we start at any of the dates that show that amount.
- Once you have clicked on one of the dates, hopefully you will see Singapore Airlines award availability right away. You can tell if there are any flights availabile if Singapore Airlines shows up as a filter. I leave both Alaska and Singapore Airlines on as a filter in case the system is trying to route me to another airport in the US in order to secure Singapore award availability.
How to Earn Alaska Miles
I’ve written about this a ton but ultimately the fastest way to earn Alaska Miles is to churn the MBNA Alaska credit card. The annual fee is $99 but if you sign up through Great Canadian Rebates, you earn $60 cashback so your total cost is $39 for 30,000 miles.
Oh … and you can churn this card about 4x a year so you would have 120,000 miles for $156 or 0.13¢ per mile. That’s just ridiculous.
The Singapore Airlines redemption via Alaska Miles is a bit of a hard sell but there are certain situations where the value proposition is quite strong, especially the SE Asia to SE Asia redemption.
Regardless of whether or not you redeem for Singapore Airlines awards, Alaska Airlines once again proves that their currency is amongst the strongest in the world because of all the options you have with all their partners.