Over the Christmas / New Year break, Australian Business Traveller will be revisiting some of our most popular articles of 2017. We’re still around to report on any breaking news during this time, otherwise our regular publishing schedule will resume on Monday January 8, 2018.
If you’re flying with Singapore Airlines to the Lion City and beyond in economy, your stash of KrisFlyer miles can swing you a sweet upgrade to business class.
Through its Star Alliance membership, KrisFlyer miles can also see you bumped forward on the likes of Thai Airways, Air New Zealand and United.
However, one traditional drawback has been that upgrades were only available from the most expensive economy fares, and even then, the cost isn’t far from a straight-out business class award booking.
From January 20 2018, that gets a little better, with mid-range Singapore Airlines 'Economy Standard' awards also becoming eligible for upgrades.
But on flights from Australia, there's also quite a gap between the number of Singapore Airlines miles and Qantas points needed for an upgrade from economy to business class.
On most Sydney-Singapore jaunts, that'll require 45,000 KrisFlyer miles. By comparison, just 27,500 Qantas Points are needed to upgrade to business class from flexible economy tickets between Australia’s east coast and Singapore, while 50,000 points could get you there from a cheaper fare.
To its advantage, upgrades on Singapore Airlines can be confirmed in advance – unlike the procedure on Qantas which more closely resembles an ‘upgrade lottery’.
From Singapore, longer flights to London and Paris can be upgraded for 65,000 KrisFlyer miles in each direction on flexible fares or 80,000 miles on Economy Standard tickets from 2018 – only marginally less than the 85,000 miles needed to make a business class award booking on the same flights.
If your all-economy travel policy sees you booked on the higher-priced economy tickets, here’s what you need to know to turn those KrisFlyer miles into a business class seat on your work trip.
Note that if you're short of KrisFlyer miles, you can also convert Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points into KrisFlyer miles.
Singapore Airlines business class upgrades
Singapore Airlines upgrades are all one-class – meaning economy passengers can move forward into business class, but only on flights where premium economy isn't available.
Where premium economy is offered, you'll only be able to move from economy to premium economy: and from premium economy to business class.
The more expensive Singapore Airlines economy fares in the Y, B and E ‘buckets’ are eligible for upgrades, joined by M, H, W economy fares in 2018, although you’ll be staying put if booked on anything cheaper.
On flights with premium economy, Premium Economy Flexi fares corresponding to the S and T fare letters can be upgraded to business class.
SQ upgrades can be confirmed immediately through the KrisFlyer website, provided that upgrades are available on your flight and your request is made at least 24 hours before wheels-up.
If they’ve all been snapped up, you can also join the ‘waitlist’ – where requests are assessed closer to push back, or you can opt to fork out more miles to confirm that upgrade instantly.
Star Alliance business class upgrades
Across the Star Alliance network, the overwhelming majority of airlines restrict upgrades from economy to business class to the two most expensive fare types.
For both Thai Airways and United, that’s anything in the Y and B fare buckets, and the same can be said for Asiana Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
On Air New Zealand, KrisFlyer miles can be used to upgrade both economy (Y and B) and premium economy (U, E and O) passengers, although the number of miles required is the same for both tickets.
Excluding Singapore Airlines, upgrades on all Star Alliance partners have to be processed manually – either over the phone or by fax to the KrisFlyer office in Singapore.
In Australia, residents can call 02 9350 0203 for assistance, which is a local call from most fixed phones in Sydney.
In any case, not every seat is available for upgrades – Singapore Airlines and its other partners typically hold back a number of business class seats for high-value sales, even on departure day.
If that’s a concern, we’d recommend giving the KrisFlyer team a call and checking for available upgrades before locking in your confirmed economy flights.
Requesting your upgrade
A great feature of the KrisFlyer website is that you can confirm upgrades as soon as your booking has been finalised through to 24 hours before take-off.
To get started, load up your reservation through the ‘manage booking’ section of the website.
Here, look for the ‘redeem an upgrade’ button – although if you’re travelling on one of those cheaper economy fares, it’ll be greyed out:
If you do have the option, there are two types of Singapore Airlines upgrade awards:
- Saver – the award requiring the fewest miles with the lowest availability
- Advantage – the award commanding the highest number of miles with better availability
In some cases, government taxes, airline fuel surcharges and fees can differ between business class and economy – in which case you may also be asked for a credit card to cover the difference.
A few tips…
If your upgrade to business class is successful, you’ll earn both KrisFlyer and Elite Miles only as applicable to your original economy fare.
Also, upgrades aren’t available when travelling on most frequent flyer award tickets, whether booked through KrisFlyer, Velocity or any other program.
You also can’t upgrade on codeshare flights – whether that’s on Singapore Airlines or with one of its partners.
To upgrade a Singapore Airlines flight, you’ll need to be booked on the SQ code – and for partners such as Thai Airways and United, seek out the TG and UA codes, respectively.
Booking an SQ flight number on these airlines – while useful for KrisFlyer members – keeps you stuck in economy.
Have you recently snagged a KrisFlyer upgrade to business class? If so, do you find them good value for your travels, or do you prefer to redeem for business class seats outright?