I have spent the last few days trying to book a variation of an award with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer for two vacations, by making use of the trick of a anomaly in Singapore Airlines’ award chart.
Singapore Airlines (along with some other foreign airline award charts) include Hawaii and Central America in one zone. In fact, all these countries belong to one zone:
Bermuda, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hawaii, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Puerto Rico.
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So what are we trying to do?
Book a round-trip award for 35,000 miles plus taxes, with one complimentary and one paid ($100) stopover.
What you want to do is start and end the round-trip in the Hawaii and Central America zone and just ‘transit the US’. Obviously in this case the US is your home and this is where you will really start and end the trip (you will need two additional one-way bookings).
You can travel from Central America to Hawaii or vice versa, but you save $100 (for a free stopover) if you travel from Central America first. If you start in Hawaii and have two stopovers, you will likely have to pay for both stopovers.
Imagine that you travel like this:
– from Panama City (PTY) –> you just spent your first vacation in Panama
– to Honolulu (HNL) –> for your second vacation
– from Honolulu to Aruba (AUA)–> for your third vacation and also an open-jaw
On your way from PTY to HNL, you ‘stop over’ in LAX and from HNL to Aruba you happen to stop over in LAX again.
In the same fashion, you can go from Mexico City to Honolulu via Los Angeles and return to anywhere in the Caribbean. There are many permutations for this one.
Of course, you will need two additional one-ways – one to start your trip in PTY and one to get back from Aruba. If you’d like to pay for all them with KrisFlyer miles, this adds up to 70,000 miles for the three trips to Hawaii, Aruba and Panama City. Or 23,333 KrisFlyer miles for each round-trip. That’s about half what you would pay for a round-trip to Panama (35,000 miles) or Hawaii (45,000 miles) with United MileagePlus.
You will have to pay taxes and fees for these flights and also pay for one or two stopovers (but it depends on your routing).
Of course you don’t have to stay limited to these destinations – any airport within these countries works, as long as you can make the routing work:
Bermuda, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hawaii, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Puerto Rico
Is it that easy?
Let’s review the most important rules from the Terms & Conditions.
– A maximum of six travel segments are allowed per itinerary.
– One complimentary en route stopover is permitted for round-trip awards, unless otherwise stated below. Up to three additional stopovers are also permitted at USD100 each, regardless of class of service.
– Complimentary stopovers are not permitted in a purely domestic itinerary, or within the country of departure in an international itinerary.
– Complimentary stopovers are not permitted if an itinerary contains only European cities, or is between the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
– A stopover is defined as a connection above four hours in an itinerary within or between the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, or a connection above 24 hours in all other itineraries.
– The original outbound departure point may not be used as a transfer point to the final destination on the return leg.
– One origin or destination open-jaw is permitted for a round-trip award (e.g. fly Singapore to San Francisco, then LA to Singapore; or fly Seoul to Singapore, then take a return leg to Tokyo). Open-jaws are permitted across different award zones, but the higher award level will apply. En route open-jaws are not permitted.
– Side trips are not permitted. A separate award ticket is required for a side trip.
– Backtracking is not permitted. Travel must be made via the most direct route.
– You can only make changes to the destination or airline on an issued ticket if travel has not commenced. Such changes will require re-issuance of tickets at a service charge. Please refer to Service Fees for the relevant fee.
What are the potential pitfalls of this awesome redemption?
You can use any Star Alliance combination of carriers. Copa, Avianca and United will be the ones you should be looking out for, as they all have no fuel surcharges. The agents sometimes see ‘phantom’ fuel surcharges (e.g.on COPA Airlines). Ask them to prepare an itinerary for booking and they should go away.
While availability is generally good, often a direct flight is not available. As we only have 6 segments in total, that restricts some trips.
Also Singapore Airlines enforces MPM – you can’t exceed MPM (at least not by much). ExpertFlyer is the best way to look up MPM numbers.
You will need to get a Pro Subscription (new accounts can get a free 5-day trial if you use our link).
To validate your itinerary, look at gcmap.com and enter your airport codes. You must be under the MPM requirement by a carrier flying the route – that is usually United Airlines (UA).
The agent will give you pushback for almost anything – for example, it is often debatable as to what is the ‘most direct routing’.
How to find availability?
I used united.com and ANA Star Alliance Search for my searches. Some of the United flights I selected were not available to KrisFlyer agents, so I verified searches with the ANA tool – it has a much lower rate of errors.
How difficult is the booking?
So far I have made a number of calls for a few different itineraries.
You will need to call in to the US number of the Singapore-based call center. Agents are generally very friendly but so far not very well trained with the airport codes outside of Asia and Australia, or with the routing we are undertaking.
The US KrisFlyer number is (213) 404 0301.
The first agent flatly denied my routing due to layovers >4 hours in the US. That is a wrong interpretation of rules, since the itinerary transits the US but is not (just) in between the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
I wished a friendly goodnight and excused myself from this call.
This agent came up with the backtracking argument – any routing I suggested would be backtracking to him. I again said goodbye with a friendly voice.
This agent mentioned that my original itinerary has 7 segments and only 6 segments would be allowed – I corrected that, but had to find new dates where the direct flight was available. She put the reservation on hold, but was unable to price it.
This agent refused to issue the flights as one award since complimentary stopovers would not be allowed if the country of the stopover was the same as the departing country for an international award.
I hung up somewhat disappointed that the itinerary would not work, but it later dawned on me that she was wrong. The correct solution would be to charge for the stopover since an award from Hawaii stops in the United States and that stopover would need to be charged at $100.
The agent spotted the fact that I was over MPM and denied any booking. I requested a call from a supervisor (that usually takes 24 hours).
Call #6 to Call #10
The supervisor called me back the next day and we went back and forth about MPM requirements and routing options for my trip.
He was initially very skeptical and repeated the agent’s claim of the impossibility of the route.
We usually left the call after 20-30 minutes of talk for him to call me back the next day after checking with the ticketing department. To my surprise, every day he really did call back and provided improved options.
After about a week, I got the bookings I wanted!
How to get Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles?
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Ultimate Rewards.
Will this go away?
I strongly believe that this ‘gift’ was born from the view Singapore Airlines took when designing the award chart. They most likely had precious little redemptions in the region and thought it would make things ‘more simple’ to clump Hawaii and Central America into one region.
Once we all book our awards this year, it will most likely go away.