This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel, and was last updated January 2019.
If you’re flying with Singapore Airlines to the Lion City and beyond in economy or premium economy, your stash of KrisFlyer miles can swing you a sweet upgrade to business class.
Through its Star Alliance membership, KrisFlyer miles can also see you bumped forward on the likes of Thai Airways, Air New Zealand and United.
However, one traditional drawback has been that upgrades were only available from the most expensive economy fares, and even then, the cost isn’t far from a straight-out business class award booking.
That's recently been improved (ever-so-slightly), with mid-range Singapore Airlines 'Economy Standard' fares also becoming eligible for upgrades: but the cost remains similar to making an outright business class booking.
For example, from Sydney to Singapore, you'd need 55,000 KrisFlyer miles for a one-way business class upgrade from Economy Standard fares or 45,000 miles from Economy Flexi fares – yet the cost to make an outright reward booking in business class sits at 58,000 miles: just 3,000 miles more than to upgrade from Economy Standard, and with significantly less money paid on the side.
To its advantage, upgrades on Singapore Airlines can be confirmed in advance – unlike the procedure on Qantas which more closely resembles an ‘upgrade lottery’.
From Singapore, longer flights to London and Paris can be upgraded for 65,000 KrisFlyer miles in each direction on flexible fares or 80,000 miles on Economy Standard tickets – again only marginally less than the 85,000 miles needed to make an outright business class award booking on the same flights.
If your all-economy travel policy sees you stuck in economy on the company dime, here’s what you need to know to turn those KrisFlyer miles into a business class seat on your work trip.
Note that if you're short of KrisFlyer miles, you can also convert Virgin Australia Velocity frequent flyer points into KrisFlyer miles.
Singapore Airlines business class upgrades
Singapore Airlines upgrades are all one-class – meaning economy passengers can move forward into business class, but only on flights where premium economy isn't available.
Where premium economy is offered, you'll only be able to move from economy to premium economy: and from premium economy to business class.
The more expensive Singapore Airlines economy fares in the Y, B and E ‘buckets’ are eligible for upgrades, now joined by M, H, W fares as well, although you’ll be staying put if booked on anything cheaper.
On flights with premium economy, Premium Economy Flexi fares corresponding to the S and T fare letters can be upgraded to business class.
SQ upgrades can be confirmed immediately through the KrisFlyer website, provided that upgrades are available on your flight and your request is made at least 24 hours before wheels-up.
If they’ve all been snapped up, you can also join the ‘waitlist’ – where requests are assessed closer to push back, or you can opt to fork out more miles to confirm that upgrade instantly if a higher-level 'Advantage' award is available, as opposed to the usual 'Saver'.
Star Alliance business class upgrades
Across the Star Alliance network, the overwhelming majority of airlines restrict upgrades from economy to business class to the two most expensive fare types.
For both Thai Airways and United, that’s anything in the Y and B fare buckets, and the same can be said for Asiana Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
On Air New Zealand, KrisFlyer miles can be used to upgrade both economy (Y and B) and premium economy (U, E and O) passengers, although the number of miles required is the same for both tickets.
Excluding Singapore Airlines, upgrades on all Star Alliance partners have to be processed manually – either over the phone or by fax to the KrisFlyer office in Singapore.
In Australia, residents can call 02 9350 0203 for assistance, which is a local call from most fixed phones in Sydney.
In any case, not every seat is available for upgrades – Singapore Airlines and its other partners typically hold back a number of business class seats for high-value sales, even on departure day.
If that’s a concern, we’d recommend giving the KrisFlyer team a call and checking for available upgrades before locking in your confirmed economy flights.
Requesting your upgrade
A great feature of the KrisFlyer website is that you can confirm upgrades as soon as your booking has been finalised through to 24 hours before take-off.
To get started, load up your reservation through the ‘manage booking’ section of the website.
Here, look for the ‘redeem an upgrade’ button – although if you’re travelling on one of those cheaper economy fares, it’ll be greyed out:
If you do have the option, there are two types of Singapore Airlines upgrade awards:
- Saver – the award requiring the fewest miles with the lowest availability
- Advantage – the award commanding the highest number of miles with better availability
In some cases, government taxes, airline fuel surcharges and fees can differ between business class and economy – in which case you may also be asked for a credit card to cover the difference.
A few tips…
If your upgrade to business class is successful, you’ll earn both KrisFlyer and Elite Miles only as applicable to your original economy or premium economy fare.
Also, upgrades aren’t available when travelling on most frequent flyer award tickets, whether booked through KrisFlyer, Velocity or any other program.
You also can’t upgrade on codeshare flights – whether that’s on Singapore Airlines or with one of its partners.
To upgrade a Singapore Airlines flight, you’ll need to be booked on the SQ code – and for partners such as Thai Airways and United, seek out the TG and UA codes, respectively.
Booking an SQ flight number on these airlines – while useful for KrisFlyer members – keeps you stuck in economy.
Have you recently snagged a KrisFlyer upgrade to business class? If so, do you find them good value for your travels, or do you prefer to redeem for business class seats outright?
Additional reporting by Brandon Loo