Update: Several Singapore Airlines routes are actually incorrectly priced. See updated post
Singapore Airlines First Class and Business Class awards are among the most aspiration awards, offering one of the world’s best product on easily argued the world’s best airline and right now, if you act fast, you can backtrack on Award tickets and enjoy more time flying Singapore Airlines while saving 40,000+ miles on a First Class Award!
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Award program offers two separate award charts for awards on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights, which include a 15% discount when booked online, and an award chart for partner awards. If your flight includes a single flight on a partner airline, then you must use the partner award chart which can only be booked over the phone. A note of caution, Singapore Airlines Krisflyer requires that travel is booked in the most direct route possible with no backtracking. If backtracking occurs the airline typical requires two award tickets. Yet, I found one caveat, backtracking is allowed when flying on Singapore Airlines flights, if the routing is published on their website, especially when traveling between zone 4 and zone 12 on Singapore Airlines award chart.
Backtracking on Award Tickets is Important
Backtracking on award routes is important due to the limited number of partners throughout the world and/or the limited availability of award seats. Most airline award programs allow limited backtracking. It is common to allow award flight lengths to be 125% miles of the published mileage routing. On a recent award trip I flew San Francisco – Washington– Abu Dhabi – Cairo with AA and Etihad. Technically this is backtracking as I overflew Cairo, but was legal routing as I was within the 125% maximum mile rule. If backtracking was illegal, I would have been forced to fly to Cairo via Europe on AA’s partners. By being able to backtrack I could instead fly via a major Middle East partner and hub on partner airline such as Qatar, Etihad, or Royal Jordanian. Backtracking allows for connections and more award options and are vital on certain award.
As most airlines only offer limited hub & spoke routes, circuitous routing is often required to get to a destination. Singapore Airlines only hub is Singapore, with limited 5th freedom flights from places such as Hong Kong, Seoul, Manchester and Tokyo. Anyone flying Singapore Airlines to Southeast Asia, must fly south to Singapore, before flying North to other ASEAN nations. Even if flying from Europe to Burma, Thailand, or Vietnam on Singapore Airlines on a paid ticket, a traveler is required to fly further south, before flying north again. Thankfully Singapore Airlines does not charge more for ASEAN destinations and allows this limited backtracking, however if flying to the middle east form Europe, Singapore Airlines would not allow this or charge it as two award tickets.
Backtracking Limitations and loophole on Singapore Airlines
Typically Singapore Airlines limits and blocks backtracking on award flights. If someone was to choose to backtrack, Singapore Airline prices the backtracking segment as a second award.
Per Krisflyer’s T&C
“a. Travel must be via a published route. Backtracking is not permitted except as required by route restrictions. Backtracking occurs when a journey does not continue in the same direction in which it began. An itinerary containing a backtracking sector not required by route restrictions may require separate tickets.”
The issue lies within the wording “MAY” and what is published on the website vs not published. Awards from Europe or North America to SE Asia require backtracking, but are all priced the same. This limited backtracking is valid routing on Singapore Airlines. Typically, backtracking outside of SE Asia is not allowed.
Last week, I was looking for a ticket to the United States from Hong Kong. I was willing to fly Hong Kong to San Francisco on Singapore Airlines direct route but could not find First Class Saver space. I next attempted to book Hong Kong to Los Angeles (LAX). Saver space was available to LAX via Singapore and Seoul for 82,500 miles, or so I thought. The issue, was that this routing required backtracking to Singapore and when selecting the award it would reprice to 123,250 miles, the cost of two awards.
Many people would give-up and accept the fact that Singapore Airlines Krisflyer award program’s term and conditions require two award tickets and would be willing to pay the inflated price for the award ticket, or decide to fly a more direct routing on a partner award (if available) for 100K miles. I however thought Singapore Airlines was violating the United States Department of Transportation full-fare advertising rule, 14 CFR 399.84(a).
The law requires that airlines publish and advertise the full fare of ticket prices face up and cannot change the price or add ticket fees which are misleading. I found the change in price and additional miles to be misleading. I initially called Singapore Airline’s Krisflyer customer service and explained the situation. The agent was nice, but informed me that the terms and conditions would require two tickets, so if I wanted to fly that route, I would have to pay the full price of 123,250 miles.
I honestly was not certain if award tickets were covered by 14 CFR 399.84(a) but after talking to fellow bloggers on Travel Codex, I decided to file a complaint with the DOT. I figured the worst case scenario, the DOT would tell me that the law only applied to tickets purchased with cash. My complaint to the DOT was simple and I was hoping valid, as the DOT and Frontier Airlines settled a case where Frontier Airlines advertised fares for 40,000 miles but did not disclose fees. This resulted in an $80,000 fine!
After filing the complaint, I received an email the next day informing me that my complaint appeared to be valid and Singapore Airlines would have 30 days to respond to my complaint and have 60 days to resolve it. To my surprise within a week, I received an email from Singapore Airlines informing me that they would be honoring the advertised price and routing! I would just have to call to book the ticket over the phone and would be based on saver space availability! I quickly transferred 83,000 miles to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer program from my Chase Ultimate Rewards and called the service center with the case reference number to book my flight. Sadly by the time I called Saver space in Suites Class on the A380 from Hong Kong to Singapore was not available, but I was still able to book First class from Hong Kong to LAX via Singapore and Seoul for the price of a nonstop award!
How to Book an Award that Requires Backtracking
Singapore Airlines Krisflyer typically does not allow backtracking, however due to computer calculation issues and several fares which are published fares on Singapore Airlines website which will calculate and quote award prices incorrectly, backtracking exceptions can be found on several routes. If the price of the award increases after selecting the price due to backtracking, consider pressing the issue further with Singapore Airlines in order to save thousands of miles on your award redemption. If you have any issues, and you think you have a justified complaint, reach out to the US Department of Transportation if the flight touches US soil. Remember, if you need any additional help, my Award Booking Business is here to help too!