Singapore is a modern day city-state, and despite being no more than a tiny island at the tip of Malaysia, it is home to one of the world’s premiere airlines. With help from its centrally located hub, Singapore Airlines connects passengers to and from every inhabited continent. It is efficient in its operations, and is considered to be the second largest carrier in the world, as measured by market capitalization. Singapore Airlines isn’t famous for its convenience though; its business class is undoubtedly the best in the world, and its offerings in first, premium economy, and standard economy classes are among the industry leaders too. The only thing better than your seat is the quality of the care you’ll receive. Singapore Airlines prides itself on its in-flight service and accommodations — check out its marketing materials if you don’t believe me, many prominently feature flight attendants in action — and you won’t be disappointed by it. Add in a versatile loyalty program (KrisFlyer), and you have an airline that should be on every higher flyer’s radar.
- Name: Singapore Airlines
- Code: SQ
- Website: www.singaporeair.com
- Hub: Singapore Changi (SIN)
- Destinations: 64
- Alliance: Star Alliance
- Loyalty Program: KrisFlyer
- Loyalty Tiers: (1) Gold, (2) Silver
Three Notable Features
- Young fleet with innovative hard products: Singapore Airlines has a history of retiring its planes as soon as they become “too old.” While most aircraft are designed to last for at least a couple of decades, Singapore seldom flies planes after they’ve been in service for 10 years. Correspondingly, the average age of its fleet is among the youngest in the industry. At the time of the writing, that figure is 7.9 years old. As a point of comparison, Delta Airlines is more than double that at 17.2 years old.
Singapore Airlines uses the perpetual plane turnover to its advantage, as it is constantly upgrading its onboard products to constantly up the industry standard. It’s an innovative carrier to say the least. It was the first to debut Suites Class on its A380, which then inspired its competitors to follow suit. Just ask Etihad.
Singapore can also take credit for having the world’s best business class. Recently redesigned seats, which are featured on board newly delivered A350s, are nicer than some first class products. They’re wide, spacious, and incredibly comfortable for sleeping.
Even Singapore’s Premium Economy is an attractive option for long haul travel.
So no matter which class of service you’re in, you can expect one of the best hard products in the sky. That’s quite the draw for higher flyers.
- World class soft product: To complement the remarkable seats on board its planes, Singapore Airlines invests just as heavily in its soft product. If you’re flying in any of the premium cabins, you can participate in the “Book the Cook” service if you’re so inclined. Prior to departure, you select what you would like to eat on board from a menu featuring dozens of gourmet entrees. During the flight, you’ll be treated to a near restaurant-quality meal. On top of that, champagne aficionados in First Class can sample Dom Perignon and Krug side-by-side. Both cost over $150 per bottle!
The flight attendants on Singapore Airlines have earned a legendary status as some of the best in the business too. You’ll have their undivided attention, but you won’t ever feel overburdened either. They’re charming and kind and proactive in responding to your anticipated needs — what more could you want? Plus they add special touches throughout the cabin, like when you opt to sleep in the Suites Class double bed with your partner, they’ll sprinkle rose petals on the sheets.
It shouldn’t be a surprise how important the flight crews are to Singapore’s operation, at least given how prominently they’re featured in promotional materials.
Higher flyers will always be in good hands!
- Versatile KrisFlyer program: Unlike most world-renowned airlines, Singapore Airlines actually has a useful loyalty program, especially for redemptions on its own flights. Considering how much you get when you fly, in terms of both hard and soft products, the prices you pay are relatively fair and reasonable. Singapore did away with fuel surcharges earlier this year too. You can snag a seat in Suites Class for as low as 37,500 miles (between Singapore and Hong Kong) and on a long haul route for 67,500 (between New York and Frankfurt, more on this later). Because Singapore Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, you have access to its incredible roster of partners too. Most rates are a little bit more expensive than what you would pay on United or Air Canada, but sweet spots exist: you can fly in Business Class from the Continental United States to Hawaii for 60,000 miles roundtrip, for example. You can also redeem for travel on Virgin Atlantic/America/Australia as well. KrisFlyer makes higher flying much easier!
Three Notable Drawbacks
- Booking (partner) awards can be a challenge: While flying on Singapore Airlines is wonderful, using KrisFlyer and its online booking software is not. The website is slow and laggy, and if you want to book partner awards, you have to call customer service. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem, but complications tend to arise during this process. First off, you might be routed to the call center in the United States, or you might be connected to the one in Singapore instead, depending on what time of day you call. Or maybe you’ll get the one in Japan — who knows? While all of the phone agents have access to the same basic tools to help you, you’ll likely run in to a language barrier. You might also have trouble with more obscure partner bookings, especially on Virgin branded flights. Because you’re getting a great value in the end, these issues are forgivable. But still though, it would be better if they weren’t so prevalent; that would be more in keeping with Singapore’s standards of excellence.
- Small route network: The ways that Singapore Airlines has been able to expand out of its tiny Southeast Asian home is pretty amazing. It has set industry standards with its hard and soft products, and it’s one of the biggest airlines in the world… but there’s only so much that it can do. In order to be profitable, it has to be conservative in deciding which routes to operate, and as a result, it only flies to 64 destinations. That’s about 18% of United and Air Canada’s totals (they’re both around 350 strong). The shortage of routes is more dramatic when you look at it on a map…
Compared to its Star Alliance partner Turkish Airlines, which also relies on revenue from connecting passengers, Singapore lags behind…
Granted, Singapore is regarded much higher than Turkish, but the difference in the number of routes is remarkable nevertheless. It’s a lot harder to get on a Singapore Airlines flight, just by virtue of having fewer routes to choose from.
- Paid tickets are expensive: Like on Delta and Air Canada, the higher standard of travel on Singapore Airlines often comes at huge premiums. Seriously, the difference could be upwards of thousands of dollars, if not more. You almost never see Singapore’s offering as the cheapest on any given route. For example, between Singapore and Beijing in Economy Class…
…Or between Singapore and Europe…
…and routes between Southeast Asia and North America are just as egregiously expensive.
Thank God for KrisFlyer — that way you don’t have to spend that kind of money to fly on Singapore Airlines!
Three Special Opportunities
- Earn lots and lots of miles: While you may not have a lot of opportunities to actually fly Singapore Airlines (unless you live in Asia), it is surprisingly easy to accrue KrisFlyer miles. In addition to being able to credit any flights on Star Alliance, or Alaska Airlines, to Singapore’s program, you can transfer points from any of the major Flexible Point Value currencies — American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and also Starwood Starpoints — into your account. Pretty soon you’ll find that you have a massive balance of points… If traveling on Singapore Airlines is how you want to fly higher! Few loyalty programs can compete with KrisFlyer in this sense; there are only a handful of companies that partner with all four flexible point issuers. Use this to your advantage as you look for ways to fly higher.
- Suites class between New York and Frankfurt: If you need to cross the Atlantic Ocean, you can’t go wrong with Suites Class on Singapore Airlines. The comfort is unbeatable, and for that matter, neither are the redemption prices. For 67,500 miles one way, you can have your own private mini-cabin between New York JFK and Frankfurt, Germany.
Comparatively, you could fly United’s Polaris First Class on that same route for 80,000 miles one way.
The better option should be a no brainer to you, but hey, you’re the one who decides the best way to fly higher! If you’re still not convinced that paying 67,500 points for Suites Class is a great deal, keep in mind that it routinely around costs $6,000 cash, if not more.
- Great redemptions values await patient customers: If you don’t mind being on the phone to book award tickets on any carrier not named Singapore Airlines, you’ll find an abundance of sweet spots on KrisFlyer’s partner award chart. Some of the highlights, which I allude to in the “Versatile KrisFlyer program” section, include the 67,500 miles for Suites Class between New York and Frankfurt, 60,000 miles for Business Class on United between the Continental United States and Hawaii round trip, and if you can find availability on Virgin Atlantic, between London and North America for 50,000 miles one way in Upper Class.
Singapore Airlines is also one of the best options to move about the Southern Hemisphere. You can fly its award winning Business Class from Singapore to Cape Town or Johannesburg for only 50,000 points one way. Seeing that this is a 12 hour flight that usually costs well over $2,500, you’re getting a tremendous value with this redemption.
The award chart for KrisFlyer and Star Alliance partner awards is confusing, although greatly rewarding for those who are willing to study it. If you’re willing to put in that effort, you’ll be flying highest most often than not on Singapore Airlines.
As is the case with the other airlines, Singapore Airlines has its share of strengths and weaknesses. While it’s one of my favorites, that doesn’t mean that its competitors are definitely inferior. You probably have different experiences, perspectives, and values than I do; what matters to me may not matter to you and vice versa. The point of this guide is merely to highlight the features that makes Singapore Airlines unique, and help you better understand how it fits in to higher flying collectively.