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 stuck flying in economy with Singapore Airlines, splurging a little cash or some KrisFlyer miles can wrangle you an upgrade to the more comfortable surroundings of premium economy.
That’s where you’ll enjoy not just more legroom, a steeper recline and a larger seat but also Singapore Airlines’ renowned Book the Cook meal service and a wider array of food and beverage choices than offered down the back.
AusBT review: Singapore Airlines premium economy (Sydney-Singapore)
All that and more could be yours for as little as 22,500 KrisFlyer miles on shorter journeys like Sydney-Singapore or just 38,000 miles from Sydney right through to London Heathrow, while ‘upgrade bids’ using real money are also an option.
Here’s what you need to know to swing a premium economy upgrade on your next Singapore Airlines flight, and what you should look out for along the way.
SQ premium economy upgrades: the basics
For starters, you’ll find premium economy offered on selected Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 flights, and aboard some of the airline’s ‘long haul’ Airbus A350s – if you’re on another aircraft type such as the new ‘regional’ Airbus A350 from Brisbane, you’ll find only economy and business class.
That can actually work in your favour as Singapore Airlines upgrades are all one-class, so from economy you could upgrade only to premium economy on flights where it’s available, but to business class on flights where it’s not.
Also take note that points-based upgrades can only be requested by passengers booked on Economy Standard fares (M, H and W ‘fare classes’) and Economy Flexi class tickets: those being the Y, B and E ‘fare classes’.
Upgrade bids using money are only offered by invitation on a per-flight basis. Eligibility can be checked on Singapore Airlines’ website under ‘mySQupgrade’.
That provides a great opportunity to snag an upgrade if you’re booked on a less-expensive ticket or don’t have enough KrisFlyer miles in your account, but at the same time, it’s not a reliable option due to the invitation-only nature of the bidding process.
SQ premium economy upgrades: what they cost
To recap, the exact number of miles you’ll need for a premium economy upgrade depends on the length of your flight and where it’s flying to.
For Economy Flexi holders, Sydney-Singapore commands 22,500 miles for a one-way upgrade, Sydney-London a higher 38,000 miles when your flights are booked as an easy transit via Singapore, while a standalone Singapore-London flight requires a precise 32,500 miles.
Economy Standard passengers will notice a much higher premium to upgrade - 34,000 miles from Sydney to Singapore, a whopping 63,000 miles from Sydney to London, and 47,500 miles for just the Singapore to London leg.
(Naturally, it makes the most sense to request a single upgrade covering your entire journey rather than a separate upgrade request for each leg, requiring more miles.)
There’s no difference in upgrade rates when doing it online or over the phone.
Download: SQ premium economy upgrade table [PDF, 152kB]
As is becoming popular with a number of airlines, travellers can also tempt a cash bid for an upgrade to premium economy. Where offered, the minimum and maximum bid amounts vary from flight to flight based on aspects such as distance, flying time and the fare originally purchased.
Requesting your SQ premium economy upgrade
Travellers wishing to upgrade using KrisFlyer miles can begin by retrieving their reservation via the ‘manage booking’ tool on the Singapore Airlines website.
Then, look for the ‘redeem an upgrade’ button. It’ll light up if you’re on an upgradeable (Y, B, E, M, H or W) fare, while it’ll be greyed out when booked on anything less:
Unlike some other Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer awards and upgrades, premium economy upgrade awards are only offered at the ‘Saver’ level – so if an upgrade is available on your flight you can secure it straight away, and if not, you’ll be given the option to join a ‘waitlist’.
That means your upgrade hasn’t yet gone through but may be granted closer to departure, in a similar style to how Qantas international flight upgrades are handled.
Hoping to submit a cash upgrade bid? Keep your eyes peeled to your email inbox roughly seven days before your flight’s departure as you may receive an invitation to do so, or plug in your flight details on this page.
Bids are then accepted up until 50 hours before a flight’s departure time, and you’ll learn of your success or failure approximately 48 hours prior to wheels-up.
Singapore Airlines premium economy upgrade tips
Whether you upgrade to premium economy using KrisFlyer miles or real money, you’ll still earn KrisFlyer miles at the rate applicable to your original economy class ticket, not at the usual premium economy rates.
That also applies to travellers earning points via Singapore Airlines’ other partner airline frequent flyer programs including Virgin Australia Velocity Frequent Flyer, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and those across the Star Alliance network.
Further, you’ll need to be booked on an SQ flight number in order to upgrade using miles – book a codeshare flight number and your upgrade chances stand between zip and zero.
Remember too that Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Virgin Australia Velocity are two entirely separate loyalty programs: you can’t use Velocity points to upgrade directly with Singapore Airlines, but you could convert Velocity points into KrisFlyer miles and then request your upgrade.
Unfortunately, the exchange rate between Velocity points and KrisFlyer miles will be devalued from 1 January 2019, so if you're planning to transfer points, it's best to do it before then.