Singapore Airlines business class upgrade guide

By Chris Chamberlin, February 18 2018
Singapore Airlines business class upgrade guide

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.

Singapore Airlines' new business class on select Boeing 777s
Singapore Airlines' new business class on select Boeing 777s

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.

Upgrade to Business Premier on Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300s
Upgrade to Business Premier on Air New Zealand's Boeing 777-300s

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?

Also read: How to book Singapore Airlines flights with Virgin Australia frequent flyer points

Additional reporting by Brandon Loo

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

21 Feb 2014

Total posts 3

Why am I not surprised when dealing with sq that they make things difficult for passengers. I live in Singapore and both fortunately and unfortunatly have been flying with SIA for over 20 years. 

Great airline, yes. However when I comes to the way they treat passengers via their ff programme they are more class conscious than any airline I have come across. For this reason I allocate all my miles earnt to United. At the end of the day they have a far better ff programme than SIA. 

also, SIA have the same policy as the likes of QF where they low ball the fare and make it up with "made up" charges. Of course when you redeem you are made to pay these extras. Is it even worth your points.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 4

Thank you so much for this article. I spend half an hour on the phone with a singapore call centre staff who had no clue about the awards program. 

I ask, what kind of ticket do I need to buy to upgrade to a saver or standard. She told me: to upgrade a seat, I must be on a BY or E booking. so I ask, to get a business saver upgrade do I need to be on a saver fare? she says. b.y.e. But what class on the website is that? I only see a saver or flexi? she says: by or e.

So I ask what do the different codes mean? she says. they are for different fare classes. So in reality I stil had no definitive answer to what ticket type I needed to book. 

by now I gave up asking what ticket type I need to start with.


Then came the best. "so what do business saver, standrard and full actually mean?" "saver cost you less points" " But why?" "because you get less service" So what is the difference in service between saver and standard? "you get more" 

and Full? "Full is like first class", but there is a separate chart for first class upgrades. "That's for first class bookings not business bookings" But what's the difference between a full business which is like first class and first class?


as you can see I was going round in circles as the person had NO clue what she was talking about.

This post just saved me from going bonkers. Thank you so much. 

saver=just a few seats, gone fast. Standard=more seats, Full= all available seats.

I'm planning on having enough points to upgrade two people to business next year. argh. going to be a challenge. when I did a test booking and chose pay with miles, it wanted 1.3 million miles for 2 business class return seats. (while an upgrade would cost 300K return for 2) so how to book business class saver seats at the awards rate is still a mystery to me.


One question I have though. 

In the upgrade screen I noticed it gave you the option to pick different flights, even after you already booked the flight. So changing to a different flight that has saver upggrades available can be done easily on the website?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 598

"when I did a test booking and chose pay with miles, it wanted 1.3 million miles for 2 business class return seats."

You're not doing it right...that's using points and pay.  To get a redemption ticket you need to login to krisflyer then go back to the singapore airlines home page and select the redeem flights button before you fill out your search criteria.

Purchasing the Flexi ticket and then upgrading is a waste of money and points.  For example MEL-LHR return at full fare can be $3k.  151k krisflyer points would be required to upgrade all 4 flights to J.  By comparison a J redemption costs $1250 in taxes plus 161.5k krisflyer points.


22 Feb 2016

Total posts 10

As a regular SQ flyer I would recommend avoiding expensive "upgrades" altogether and simply using points to redeem in business. Depending upon how many points you wish to spend the downside is that you may have to remain waitlisted for a while but with capacity at current levels odds are pretty good on many sectors. Unfortunately SQ is reluctant to reward even its most loyal customers with upgrades and in this respect takes a very different approach to other carriers such as Emirates 

28 Apr 2016

Total posts 2

I have a doubt

I booked a swiss flight and my return is a code share flight operated by singapore with a flight number of swiss LX. So I will have to check in with singapore airlines.

The paid upgrade at check in is going to be available/offered for my singapore flight with a swiss flight number?

Hi Luciana, as above: "To upgrade a Singapore Airlines flight, you’ll need to be booked on the SQ code".

28 Apr 2016

Total posts 2

Thank you. I was not sure if this rule was just for miles upgrade.

Im interested is the last minute money upgrade. I thought maybe paid upgrades could be offered.

So the only way to travel business in this segment would be change my flight in swiss I guess.

Actually my main problem is the lugagge. They really charge 55 dollars each kilogram of excess?

Thanks again. Best posts with information about Singapore airlines

A pleasure Luciana - there's still no harm in asking. Do let us know if you're successful and what price you're offered if so!

SilkAir - KrisFlyer

15 Jul 2015

Total posts 10

I was with SIA for over 10 years with all the Solitaire, PPS, Gold etc with them. Not once did I hear of an "upgrade" - I only received a seat in a higher class once because of overbooking and my 'status'. 

I would not agree with Chris that obtaining an upgrade or using points to upgrade with Singapore Airlines SIA is worth the effort or loosing the points. As thehopster and Julian both shared: SIA is so difficult for their FF members that your points are better allocated to other airline programs.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 598

I agree that they're quite crap for this.  I just use my points for J redemption only and don't worry about status.

14 Nov 2016

Total posts 3

Thanks for the article- late to the thread and hoping for some pointers. 

I'm trying to book return flights SYD-LHR next year, and then use Krisflyer points to upgrade, and seem to be looking in the wrong places. The points upgrade is of interest to me if I can secure it at the same time as purchasing the Y fare. I'll be using Velocity points, transferred to Krisflyer miles to upgrade. 

Is the only way to do this to purchase the fares via Krisflyer web, and then hope for upgrade availability using the 'manage booking' function? 

I'll be travelling with my family and as such do not have enough to redeem full fare for all in J. 

Thanks in advance!

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

15 Jun 2016

Total posts 21

Hi Chris, as a gold Aegean Miles+Bonus member I like to use those points to upgrade on an SQ flight. If seats are available, is this confirmed instantly as with a KrisFlyer upgrade, or will it be a lottery and confirmed just prior to the flight similar to Qantas? Thanks. 

Aegean Airlines - Miles & Bonus

15 Jun 2016

Total posts 21

Just did an upgrade from an economy Y ticket, to business D ticket. It was a very easy process and cost 85,000 krisflyer miles at the standard rate for 2 pax.

SilkAir - KrisFlyer

15 Jul 2015

Total posts 10

I couldn't agree more with thehopster - I too have so many points after years as Solitaire and I've NEVER been upgraded on SIA. Krisflyer is an earn and burn program but the number of seats for redemption is disappointing. 

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

14 Nov 2013

Total posts 42

i agree MGHolden, I had PPS for 4 years straight and not once was i offered an upgrade at check in, i was travelling minimum 2 times a month with SQ. Now with the rejig on points they have introduced i don't see much value in their FFP.

13 Nov 2017

Total posts 1

Learnt something new today with upgrade using points. Apparently since last year, you can only upgrade to a class higher. So if you are booked on Economy Class and if there is Premium Economy in the flight, that is where you can get to. Even if you want to use more points, you can never get to Business class. Found this policy a bit outdated and unfair. Seriously what are we going to do with all the FFP? Just find SQ Premium Economy products not that very for money.

01 Sep 2017

Total posts 4

SQ - exceptional in the air, and reasonably useless on the ground

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 270

Thankfully I booked my trip to Europe this year in September last year, so I was able to upgrade one leg from PE to Business even though I had bought the cheapest PE fare.

I found that the flight I wanted had availability, transferred Velocity points to KF, called KF and they did the upgrade for me straight away. Couldn't have been easier, and only 32,000 Velocity points (as I had some languising KF points already in my account).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Mar 2017

Total posts 6

I converted my velocity points to KrisFlyer Miles and booked 2 outright business class tickets. Was much better value than doing it through Virgin , waiting for the potential upgrade from virgin and SIA had the availability. I did it directly through the website. All was instantly confirmed - hassle free process (no status with SIA - only VA Platinum which is meaningless in this case).

03 Apr 2018

Total posts 1

Something I am still struggling to answer; am I able to associate my VA platinum to my SQ booking, earn Velocity status credits when flying, but still use KF points to upgrade one of the legs from W to J?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 4

Yup. I've done just that. You will only get the status and miles for the ticket you paid for, not the upgrade also get all the bonus miles thanks to your status. Which makes adding your va platinum instread of a kris silver much more compelling. if you bid for an upgrade and pay you wont get the extra points which I find a bit unfair. You only get the upgraded status and points if you go through the full commercial channel to do the upgrade.

Can I ask what you think about this....
I have a SilkAir flight Darwin to Singapore. Cost me a bit over $500 aud in economy. Based on a search, its available for 36,500 miles to redeem outright in business class. Called to upgrade. They want 31,000 miles to upgrade. Seems like outrageously bad value given I could almost have booked the flight for that and saved the 500 odd dollars..... Does this upgrade amount of miles sound right?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 4

sadly enough that sounds about right. Similar issue with SingaporeAir. Purchasing a business class rewards seat outright often is not much more than upgrading. plus, since they introduced Premium economy seats, an upgrade from economy to business is actually more expensive due to the double hop requirement. Also, a saver reward seat will be cheaper than a full price upgrade. Sometimes they won't provide you with a saver upgrade on your chosen flight. If changing the flight dates is not a big issue, then you might be able to find a cheaper upgrade deal on a different day.

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