Category Archives: Alliances

Use Ultimate Rewards points on Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines, an Ultimate Rewards transfer partner

RewardsGuy explores the best ways to use Ultimate Rewards points on Singapore Airlines award tickets. 

The announcement earlier this year that Singapore Airlines has become the newest transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards Points received decent buzz from the frequent flyer community. I, however, do not believe the news that Chase card holders will now be able to use Ultimate Rewards points on Singapore Airlines received nearly enough attention – and I will tell you why.

Singapore Airlines (known simply as SQ, the IATA designation code)  is arguably one of the top 5 airlines in the world. The premier airline consultancy Skytrax agrees – making Singapore Airlines one of a handful of airlines to receive the highest 5 Star rating. All cabin levels, from economy to business to first, are all among the best in their class. They operate an all wide-body fleet, and in-flight service consistently ranks as one of the best globally. SQ also operates some interesting routes to and from the US such as: JFK to Frankfurt (on an A380), Houston to Moscow, San Francisco to Hong Kong and Seoul, and LAX to Tokyo.

Singapore A380

Now that we have sung its praises, let us take a look at one of the major disappointments of flying Singapore Airlines – earning miles. Unless you are flying long-haul in business or first class, it is very difficult to earn decent mileage in their Krisflyer frequent flyer program. For economy bookings you will earn anywhere from 10% to 50% of miles flown, unless you pay the full-fare class which is very expensive. If you want to bank the miles flown on SQ to a partner program such as United MileagePlus, be sure to check the earning chart – chances are you are earning ZERO miles for most economy fare classes.

This is exactly why the latest addition of Singapore Airlines as a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner is such a treat.

SQ Suite, in double bed mid-row layout

Singapore Airlines First Class Suites

The Singapore Airlines A380 First Class Suite embodies the pinnacle of aspirational award travel, which is what RewardsGuy is all about! The good news for you is that this in-flight experience is literally at your fingertips now that you can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points on Singapore Airlines. Taking a look at the Singapore Airlines Krisflyer awards chart, a First Class Suite award ticket from New York JFK to Frankfurt is 67,500 miles one-way for saver awards. I tried booking the First Class Suite through singaporeair.com and there is saver award availability!

Singapore Airlines Suite Award Online Booking

Singapore Airlines Suite Award Online Booking

You receive a 15% discount on award miles when booking online, meaning the one-way award ticket is 57,375 miles plus $239 in taxes and surcharges. That means the 70,000 Ultimate Rewards points you will earn if you recently signed up for the Chase Ink Plus bonus offer is more than enough for a First Class Suite experience. That is a $6000 value, meaning your Ultimate Rewards points are worth over 10 cents per point. You will even have enough left over to add 12,500 points to your Hyatt Gold Passport account  – enough for a Points & Cash stay at a category 6 hotel such as the Andaz Maui or Park Hyatt Vienna (read my earlier post on maximizing Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them to Hyatt Gold Passport).

So if you find yourself in the fortunate position of having a new influx Ultimate Rewards points, consider splurging on one of the most memorable in-flight experiences available on any airline. A recent article I read was titled “Flying Singapore Airlines in First Class Ruined My Life“. It may be an exaggeration, but one thing is definite – it most likely will be a once in a lifetime experience. Go for it – use your Chase Ultimate Rewards points on Singapore Airlines!

Best frequent flyer program to bank AirFrance/KLM flights

AirFrance/KLM combined serve the most international destinations

I examine what is the best frequent flyer program to bank miles to if you fly with AirFrance/KLM, and are not a member of their FlyingBlue program.

Every traveler faces this dilemma at some point: a flight deal that is too good to pass places you on a non-preferred airline, where you are not a member of their mileage program. Rather than pass up the opportunity to earn miles, the discerning traveler will search to see if that airline partners with programs which you might actually care to earn miles on. Alliance partners are the obvious first choice – but NOT always the best choice, as I found out recently when I booked a killer deal from Singapore to Bali on KLM.

KLM and AirFrance share the same mileage program, Flying Blue, and they are the 2nd largest member of SkyTeam alliance – after Delta Airlines. Therefore Delta would seem to be the clear choice to bank miles for my KLM flight, even though I am not a fan of the recent changes to their program (award chart devaluation, earning miles based on ticket price, cutting elite benefits, not to mention they do not allow one-way award bookings). However after doing some research, my findings concluded that Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is the best program to bank points from AirFrance & KLM flights.

Alaska Mileage Plan partners with great airlines

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan partners with great airlines

Alaska Airlines is not a member of any of major alliances, however they have partnered with many key alliance and non-alliance Airlines. Again, the icing on the cake is that all points earned through these partner flights count towards elite membership levels on Alaska!

Since my KLM booking is in a discounted economy fare (fare class T), I was not expecting a good earn rate on ANY partner – let alone a non-alliance partner. In fact KLM’s own program Flying Blue only gives 25% mileage earning in fare class T. However to my surprise, Alaska Mileage Plan earns 100% of miles on KLM fare class T according to their partner charts – and 100% elite qualifying miles. Also if you are a Mileage Plan MVP or MVP Gold/Gold 75k member you earn the usual elite bonus of 50% or 100% miles, respectively.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan gives many redemption options for your miles. You can redeem on major partners such as American and Delta with essentially the same mileage chart as if you were a AAdvantage or Delta SkyMiles member. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is also one of the best programs to redeem for travel on Emirates Airlines. The mileage chart can be a bit expensive for the long haul Emirates flights, however you do not pay the big fuel surcharges charged to Emirates Skywards members! I bet that won’t last long, so if you have spare Alaska miles I suggest you book your flight on Emirates soon. In case you may be planning a Europe trip in the near future, a reminder that Emirates recently introduced a non-stop New York JFK – Milan flight.

Alaska Airlines Visa Card

If you do not quite have enough miles to redeem for your next big trip, consider the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Visa Signature Card offered by Bank of America. The current publicly available offer gives you 25,000 bonus miles upon card approval, no spending minimum. The benefits also include a free companion coach ticket every year and 3 miles earned per $1 spent on tickets booked on Alaska Airlines.

Next time you think you may have to forfeit earning miles because you are not flying a one of your preferred airlines, be sure to check if they partner with Alaska Airlines! Let no mile go unearned.

Earn United MileagePlus in Swiss Business Class

Swiss International Airlines, a Star Alliance member

A recent round of business trips took me from Singapore to Dubai to New York and back, literally around the world. For a combination of reasons, including cheaper business class tickets and the opportunity to earn United MileagePlus miles (which are rated as some of the most valuable), I chose to book the trips on a mix of Star Alliance carriers. My Dubai to New York leg had a layover in Zurich, and the first leg of the flight was on Swiss Business Class . I always prefer non-stop flights, but for some reason I was REALLY looking forward to my flight on Swiss International Airlines. The word ‘Swiss’ by itself connotes precision, quality, cleanliness, sophistication, and a guarantee that it runs like clockwork.

Since I was going to bank the miles from this Swiss flight to my United MileagePlus account, I was glad to discover that Swiss is one of the absolute best partner airlines you can fly for United miles (on par with Lufthansa and ANA). That’s because they recognize your MileagePlus Premier Gold status and give you the 50% bonus earned miles on top of the 175% base miles for business class (J fare class), and 150% PQM. (See MileagePlus Earnings Table for Swiss fare classes)

New Business Class seats on Swiss A330-300

New Business Class seats on Swiss A330-300

The aircraft was a fairly new Airbus A330-300, and it was fitted with the newer business class seats in 1-2-1 configuration. The seats are simple, comfortable, and functional with brown tones and wood veneer finish– screaming Swiss in every way. The seats with air adjustable cushion firmness transform into lie-flat beds at the press of a button, perfect for this overnight flight. The breakfast menu, presented as a booklet and pen where you tick your choices, had excellent selection (including Swiss pastries. I especially enjoyed the business class amenity kit – a cross between an brushed aluminum lunch box and an antique medicine case. The service is best described as no-nonsense friendliness, nothing overly exaggerated as seen with some Asian and Middle Eastern airlines.

Swiss is a member of the Miles and More awards program, shared among 10 European airlines including:

Swiss Business Class Breakfast Menu

Swiss Business Class Breakfast Menu

– Lufthansa
- Austrian Airlines
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Swiss International Airlines
- Adria Airways
- Croatia Airlines
- Condor
- Luxair
- Brussels Airlines
- Germanwings

Lucky for you, it is a great time to be a Miles and More program member. There is a limited time 50,000 mile bonus on the Miles & More Premier World Mastercard from Barclaycard.  You receive 20,000 award miles after your first purchase and 30,000 additional miles after spending $5000 within the first 90 days. Benefits include:

Special 50,000 mile bonus offer NOW

2 awards miles per $1 spent on Miles and More program airlines, and 1 mile per $1 on all other spending

* annual companion ticket after your first purchase and annually thereafter

* NO foreign transaction fees

* complementary online FICO credit score access

* annual fee of $79, waived for Senator and HON Circle members

Zurich, great for a long layover

Zurich, great for a long layover

In my opinion this is a great offer for those who travel to and within Europe often as you will have greater access to award seats on airlines such as Lufthansa and Swiss, who offer superior Business Class products versus US carriers. Oh, and Zurich is a beautiful city and extremely convenient from the airport (15 minutes by train) to spend a couple hours if you have a long layover!

 

Vietnam Airlines upgrade with Optiontown

I just returned from my long weekend trip from Singapore (my current home) to Hanoi, Vietnam. Let me tell you about my Vietnam Airlines upgrade experience with Optiontown.

This is officially my first trip since launching Rewards Guy, and I must confess – I sinned, I paid for my flights. Any savvy award points user knows that points have an certain “minimal acceptable value” – in most cases I place the value of frequent flier miles around 1.5 cents per point (see valuation chart from ThePointsGuy). In this case, the cost of the super saver economy seats I found on Vietnam Airlines, a Skyteam alliance member, trumped using what few Delta miles I do have.

I then discovered Optiontown, a website that offers business class and first class upgrades for a discounted price. I can understand why some airlines would join Optiontown – it assures that they can at least fill their premium class seats if they wish and gain some additional seat revenue. Currently, the list of participating airlines is limited and scattered, mostly constituting 2 or 3 star Skytrax rated airlines:

Optiontown offers discount upgrades

– Adria Airways  (A Star Alliance)
– Aeromexico  (Skyeam)
 – Air Baltic
 – Air Europa  (Skyteam)
 – Air India  (Star Alliance)
 – Air Asia X
 – Biman Bangladesh
 – Corsair
 – Cyprus Airways
 – Insel Air
 – SAS  (Star Alliance)
 – Ukraine International
 – Vietnam Airlines  (Skyteam)

All said and done, I would pay approximately $80 each way for the option to upgrade to Vietnam Airlines business class – if available and accepted by the airline (you get refunded if not upgraded). I got lucky, I think…because I have no prior experience with Optiontown so I don’t know what the success rate is. Both my outbound and inbound flights were upgraded for the total of $160. That is pretty good considering it is a 3 hour flight in each direction.

VN Business Class

VN Business Class

The business class seats on this short haul Airbus A321 were of the basic “old school” variety. A wider and more bolstered seat with extra legroom and pitch, it got the job done. After all, who does not enjoy taking a holiday flight in business class rather than economy? With Optiontown, you too might find yourself a discounted upgrade to business or first class for your next vacation.

**Note that according to Optiontown’s website, travelers who receive discounted upgrades are not necessarily granted access to usual premium class benefits such as Lounge access and additional bonus frequent flier miles. However, there have certainly been cases where flyers have received these benefits from airlines. For example, I was allowed to use the Skyteam lounge at Singapore’s Changi Airport and the Vietnam Airlines lounge at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport.