There are many ways / tactics one can use to score an award ticket. Regardless of ways, the goal remains the same – to score that elusive and highly sought after premium class ticket!
For me, this is what I do when I am earning:
- Decide on which alliance suits you best – for me I chose Star Alliance for obvious reasons : ease of Krisflyer miles earning in Singapore and Singapore Airlines being on Star Alliance. I also prefer SQ/Star Alliance redemption based on zone instead of many One World’s redemption based on distance.
- Estimate your earning capability – this will allow you to plan your trip (be it long haul or regional).
- If you don’t get to fly regularly, try to maximize mileage earned from credit card spending : this may require you to maintain many credit cards (as each has its own advantage in certain spending). However, DO NOT attempt to spend beyond what you can afford.
- Keep a lookout for sign up bonus (e.g. double miles bonus from DBS Altitude Amex recently OR the recently passed 15,000 miles UOB Privi Miles sign up bonus).
- Do not be ashamed to pay every small thing with Credit Card : UOB Preferred Platinum Visa offers 4 mile/$ for Paywave usage. At $90 per transaction that works up to 360 miles! Remember, every mile counts.
- Take note of points expiry! Certain cards (e.g. DBS woman’s card, Citibank Rewards card) has a shelf life on their points while some (e.g. Citibank Prestige, DBS Altitude) has no expiry. For those with expiry, transfer these points into your Krisflyer account just before expiry.
- Ignore cash rebates/discounts! I generally do not bother with cash rebates/discounts unless it is >8%. My take is any rebate less than 5% = IGNORE! In general, I value my Krisflyer miles at about SGD 3 cents per mile (you will have to do your own math on this).
- Paying annual fee – Annual fee is only good if it comes with miles (refer to this link on credit cards that offer sign up/renewal miles)
- Using 3rd party sites – Sites such as Expedia and Krisflyer Spree have promotions that allow you to earn very good miles! However, do your homework before spending. Even though Kaligo offers 10 miles/$, the hotel price (and availability) tends to be significantly more expensive and hence I have never used Kaligo before.
- If you are flying on revenue tickets, try to stick to the same alliance (and put into your main frequent flyer account). If you can get an exceptional fare (which usually offer very little or no miles), just go with that.
- Make full use of your credit card benefits! There are many out there (e.g. 4th night free on Citi Prestige, free limo on ANZ travel card, Priority Pass card with certain credit cards etc).
When it comes to ticket redemption, I have only done redemption using Krisflyer Miles on Singapore Airlines and Star Alliance partner. This is what I do in general:
- AVOID Economy Class redemption (especially on Singapore Airlines out of Singapore). Taking into account of the Fuel Surcharge, you are probably better off buying a discounted ticket (which you can earn 3-4 miles/$ based on credit card spending). Exception to the rule : if you need a last minute ticket that is ridiculously expensive (as it will likely be a full fare economy) or economy class tickets out of countries that impose no fuel surcharge (be it Singapore Airlines or partner airlines) e.g. Hong Kong, North America or Brazil.
- Regional Business/First Class is worth considering for those who just started earning and may not earn enough miles for Long Haul flights. One of my favorite is SIN-HKG flight that uses A380 as one can try out Suites at just 31,875 miles and $65 per pax on fuel surcharge. All you need is to drink 4-5 glasses of Dom/Krug to make your trip worth it (*grin*)
- For those with enough miles (you are probably an expert by now), ticket availability is crucial. I usually plan my trip in advance and my trip is planned based on ticket availability. Tickets are usually available 350 days in advance. For North American flights (New York and Los Angeles), prepare at least 330 days in advance. Flights to/from Houston and San Francisco are slightly less popular hence 6 months in advance should be adequate. For flights to Europe, I would say prepare at least 6 months in advance. Regional flights (Asia and Australia) generally 3 months should be adequate. Availability varies seasonally and also depends on the hardware used (availability to AKL is bad during winter months on a 77W while it is better during summer months when A380 is used).
- Stick with your frequent flyer airline! My preference will be to redeem my flight on Singapore Airlines as it is probably one of the best (if not the best) airline on Star Alliance. Moreover, one will get 15% discount if doing a redemption online. However, partner airline redemption is not without merit. This is useful to get you into cities that is not operated by Singapore Airlines. There are also sweet spots on partner redemption (e.g. North America One Way Business class is only 20,000 miles – this is good if one is flying transcontinental).
- Keep a lookout for flights from countries that do not impose fuel surcharge. Business/First Class flights from Sao Paulo to Singapore will cost you only $60+!
- In general, only 2 seats are available per flight on saver award for Business/First/Suites. Regional Business Class may have slightly more opening (3 or even 4!) but rarely >2 seats are available on First/Suites. Unless you have shitloads of miles, avoid spending it on Standard/Full award.
- Consider stopover – this is a little more tricky as stop over is not allowed on One Way stopover award. One can call up to Krisfyler hotline to try to arrange a stopover (subjected to availability on the second segment) for an additional USD $100. Do take note that you may have to call in a few times for this. Stopover flights are only applicable to North/South America flights.
- Do not burn your miles on upgrades! unless the ticket is paid for by someone else.
Ultimately, we all have our own ways of earning and redeeming our miles. Use what suits you best and remember not to spend beyond what you can afford!
*Krisflyer redemption on Singapore Airlines / Star Alliance Partner chart