Unless you’re extremely wealthy or is lucky enough to be flown around the world in business class or even better cabins for work-related trips, chances are that we would have to make do with budget flights and at most, economy class flight tickets when we travel.
I mean, this is perfectly fine. Most of my flights are taken on budget flights like Scoot and honestly, I have very little complains. Flights are mostly just a form of transportation to me in order to get from point A to point B.
To me, premium luxury travel is an experience to be enjoyed. Just like how people travel to China to visit the Great Wall of China? I am willing to pay to experience flights in business class, first class or even ultra luxury cabins. Well, I’m just not willing to pay that much – cheapo at heart, you say?
To start playing the miles games, we need to understand some basic information. Basically, miles is a form of virtual currency. Miles refer to the number of miles you have flown, not the number of miles you can fly. Miles accumulated in frequent flyer programs can be redeemed for flights or other rewards.
Contrary to popular beliefs, there are many ways to earn miles and most of it aren’t even earned in the air.
Miles Isn’t For Everyone
Because we go any further, I’ll be upfront with you that the air miles game isn’t for everyone. Singapore isn’t the best of countries to play this game, as compared to the United States for example. For an Average Joe, there is going to be some form of expenses involved in order to travel in ultra premium cabins. You’re not going to be able to achieve it for free.
The key thing I’m concerned with is value. I can eat economical mixed rice aka “cai png” everyday and be perfectly fine with it – excellent value for the $3 or $4 spent per meal. On the other hand, if you tell me that all the Louis Vuitton bags in the world could be purchased at 25% of the retail price, I might be tempted to buy a bag or two for my wife.
Then again, I wouldn’t do it every month or every year. 25% of an expensive price tag is still expensive, correct?
What fun is a game without goal setting?
My goal is really simple. A pair of tickets for a one-way flight from Singapore to Beijing in Singapore Airlines Suites Class. To get an idea of where Suites Class stands –
Suites Class > First Class > Business Class > Premium Economy > Economy Class
Check out the lovely official marketing image from Singapore Airlines.
Why settle for less when we have SQ in our backyard? Aim for the best in the business! Plus we also want to visit the Great Wall of China while we’re in China. Time frame to achieve it? Perhaps 1-2 years, since I’m not in a hurry. (Or perhaps, Melbourne. Hmm.)
List Of Singapore Airlines Suites Flights
Below is the list of all routes in the world that has the Singapore Airlines Suites class. Which isn’t that many due to its exclusive availability on the Airbus A380–800.
- Singapore – Hong Kong [08:40] <37,500>
- Singapore – Beijing [08:45] <50,000>
- Singapore – London [09:10]
- Singapore – Shanghai [09:20] <50,000>
- Singapore – Melbourne [10:45] <80,000>
- Singapore – Delhi [17:00]
- Singapore – Sydney [20:15] <80,000>
- Singapore – Auckland [20:50]
- Singapore – London [23:45]
- Singapore – Frankfurt – New York [23:55]
- Singapore – Paris [00:10]
- Singapore – Sydney [00:45]
- Singapore – Zurich [01:30]
- Singapore – Tokyo [N/A]
To help with your planning, I have listed the departure timings of the A380 flights. Why is that important? The Private Room only opens at 5:30am.
Singapore – Hong Kong is the cheapest of the lot and therefore easiest to achieve. It also has the shortest flight, which probably isn’t the best way to experience the SQ Suites Class. Not enough time to join the mile-high club, some say. Oops.
So how many miles do I need? You can refer to the redemption chart but I selected a date 6-months in the future just to get a better idea.
Aww. Not enough miles. Anyway, notice that the miles redemption caters only for the flight fare – the taxes and surcharges still have to be paid. In this instance, it is $220.60 per pax.
Let’s see how much the flight would cost in actual dollars.
After excluding the taxes and surcharges, the value of 85,000 KrisFlyer miles (after online discount 15%) is a whooping : $7881.20 – $441.20 = $7440.00 ($3720.00 per pax). Considering that the flight is six hours long, each hour would cost $620 per pax. Woot. I’m certainly not willing to pay this amount in any case.
But then, in the miles currency, that’s another story. To dig deeper, let’s check out the value per mile.
Since I already have a fixed goal in mind, next I would need to work out a really important metric. The redemption value calculates how much value we are getting out of each mile.
a) Suites Class
Redemption Value = $7440.00 / 85,000 miles = 8.75 cents
8.75 cents per mile is extremely good in my opinion. Generally, the best value is achieved for the most prestigious cabins. Needless to say, economy flights have the worst redemption value. Having seen how I had worked out the example above, you can play around with the booking system to see the differences for economy, business or first class flights.
b) Economy Class
I used the same parameters and selected economy flights for the same SIN-PEK route.
Using KrisFlyer Miles：34,000 KrisFlyer miles + SGD 364.40
Using Dollars : SGD 1,368.40
Redemption Value = ( $1368.40 – $364.40 ) / 34,000 miles = 2.95 cents
2.95 cents is extremely lousy, almost 1/3 of the SQ Suites rate! This is why I would never, ever redeem my miles for economy flights.
Redemption Value is a really important metric when we evaluate other methods of earning miles. To repeat myself, there are many ways to earn miles and most of it aren’t even earned in the air.
To quickly illustrate the concept of redemption value, I can use the Citi Premiere Miles credit card which I have been holding on since the start of time. I mostly use it as a general spending credit card and have 11,285 miles on it now.
On its credit card page, it advertises that card holders can redeem cash rebates easily with miles! Most people would go wow, nice! Who doesn’t love money right?
The redemption value for cash rebates is $10 for 1,200 miles which is only 0.833 cents per mile. What the heck was that?! If I were to convert my miles to cash rebates, it would only be a cash value of $94.
Using the redemption value for SQ Suites which I’m aiming for, the value of my never-will-expiry miles is 11,285 * 8.75 cents = $987.
$94 vs $987 : I’m pretty sure of which one I would choose. That’s a freaking 10x difference!
In this simple example, I hope the idea of redemption value is now clear. Sure, there is nothing wrong with exchanging miles for cash rebates. This just means that the Citi Premiere Miles credit card is a “everything also 1% cash rebate” credit card, which is actually really, really attractive since it earns 1.2 Citi Miles on every S$1 spent.
The problem is when the comparison is made between cash rebate, and using miles for a purpose-specific redemption of premium class air travel that reveals the ridiculous difference in value.
By the way, did you just realize something? All miles-branded credit cards are simply rewards points credit cards in disguise. Miles is just another form of virtual currency such as DBS points or UNI$.
This is why the miles game isn’t for everyone. However, the miles game CAN be played by anyone. Sure, some expenses is required and of course I’m paying a premium over the average air fares because of the experience I’m buying and not just a mode of transportation.
Of course, one can even go for lower hanging fruits. How does a business class flight to Bali sound to you? Board the flight before everyone else in t-shirt, shorts and slippers and have free-flow champagne served to you while you have an decent meal?
Premium air travel is not a pipe dream. I did it before. You can do it too. All it takes is a little patience and a little money to make it happen. I’ll blog more along the way to track the progress towards my goal of flying on the Singapore Airlines Suites. Bon voyage!