Anatomy of an Award: Booking United BusinessFirst with Singapore Miles

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This is the third post in a series about how I used Singapore miles to book United BusinessFirst between San Francisco and Buenos Aires, as well as a review of the product and travel experience. 

I had a one week window during which I wanted to fly Business Class from San Francisco, back home to Buenos Aires.

Checking Award Space of Viable Options

Here were the airlines whose Saver award space I could book (no the type of miles I had, the airlines I could book):

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-4-35-50-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-02-at-4-35-41-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-02-at-4-28-36-pm

  • United ~ bookable with my Singapore miles (which I would transfer from my ThankYou account)
    • Redeeming Singapore miles would also cost 50,000 + taxes and no fuel surcharges, which is 5,000 miles less than what United charges to fly it’s own Business Class.
    • United and Copa are the two main Star Alliance carriers I could utillize to get to Buenos Aires (neither of which impose fuel surcharges), but I didn’t like the idea of using a bunch of my ThankYou Points for Copa Business Class since it is not a fully lie-flat seat, more like Domestic First Class.

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  • Delta ~ bookable with Flying Blue miles (which I would transfer from my ThankYou account)
    • Redeeming Flying Blue miles would cost 62,500 miles + taxes, which is 12,500 fewer than Delta charges, but still more than the Etihad or Singapore miles I’d need to fly AA or United

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-4-45-48-pm

First Choice

Since using Alaska miles or using ThankYou Points (as Etihad or Singapore miles) would cost the same amount of miles, my top choice was to use Alaska miles since I value them a little less than ThankYou Points. I searched aa.com first because I prefer their search tool over alaskaair.com’s, although either should show the same American Airlines award space at the saver level. Unfortunately, there was no Business Class space during my desired week of travel.

Second Choice

The next best choice was to redeem Singapore miles on a United flights. I searched on united.com for award space between San Francisco and Buenos Aires because any Star Alliance space on united.com, and any United Saver space seen on united.com without signing in can be booked with Singapore miles. I found a few days with options, but they all had two connections and looked like this:screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-5-14-44-pm

  • San Francisco > Houston in United economy
  • Houston > Santiago, Chile in United Business
  • Santiago > Buenos Aires in Air Canada economy

I wasn’t excited about having two stops, but I still called up to price the award and found that it cost 50,000 Singapore miles + $30 in taxes.

Considering I had a small time window of when I wanted to fly, overall the award seemed acceptable.

I also knew that Singapore Krisflyer has very cheap award change fees, so if Business Class space showed up on a better route (like San Francisco > Houston > Buenos Aires), I could call in to request the change and only be on the hook for $20. And really I’d about break even if that did happen, since switching to that route would mean eliminating the connection in Santiago that was adding about $20 in taxes.

Before booking, I estimated the chances that an award with only one stop in Houston would open up closer to departure using Scott’s method, and the chances looked pretty good.

I decided to book the award via Santiago but to keep checking award space daily.

Transferring ThankYou Points to Singapore

The next step was to transfer my ThankYou Points to Singapore KrisFlyer. Here are the steps I took:

1. Log in to your Citi account on either citi.com or thankyou.com. Either will take you to the right place.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 1.40.47 PM

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2. Scroll to the account details for either the Prestige or Premier, and click on Points Summary on the right side of the screen.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 1.18.11 PM

3. If you have multiple cards that earn ThankYou Points, you will be asked to designate which account’s points you want to view.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 1.24.35 PM4. On the following screen, hover your mouse over Travel in the tool bar at the top of the page, and click Points Transfer from the drop-down menu.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 1.27.28 PM

5. You will then be directed to a page that lists all of the airline and hotel transfer partners. Choose whichever partner you wish to transfer to, and click Transfer Now. Note that you must already have an account open with the loyalty program you are transferring to (I already had a Singapore KrisFlyer account open).

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6. Type in the number of miles you want to transfer. You have to transfer in increments of 1,000 to all partners.screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-25-20-pm7. Enter your frequent flyer number, accept the terms and conditions….screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-25-50-pm

8. …and you’re done. I received the following confirmation email:screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-6-41-14-pm

10. The last step is to wait. Transfers are not usually instant. You can check on the status of transfer times to specific partners in this FlyerTalk thread about Citi ThankYou Points.

It took two days to complete my transfer.

Booking

Once the Singapore miles hit my account, I called Singapore KrisFlyer (you always call the airline whose miles you’re using, not the airline you’re flying) and fed the agent the award space I found online to book it.

Shortly thereafter I received the following email confirmation:

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-6-12-30-pm

Using the confirmation code for the United reservation the Singapore rep had given me, I accessed my reservation on united.com and chose my seating assignment.

Bottom Line

After weighing my options considering what award space was available with the miles and points I had, I chose to booking a United Business Class ticket between San Francisco and Houston for 50,000 Singapore miles and $27. It was not my ideal itinerary, but I knew I could change my award for only $20 if my ideal routing showed up.

I kept checking award space, and a better itinerary did pop up. In the final installment, I’ll share my experience changing my Singapore award.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Very nice post Sarah. I’m actually trying to book flights from SFO to Southern S America (Patagonia) sometime in the next couple of months so this post couldn’t have been timed better for me. I was looking solely at American/LATAM to get me straight to Punta Arenas, el Calafate or Ushuaia but I could do a flight to Buenos Aires or Santiago with Singapore miles then use Avios to get down to the Patagonia.

    • Glad it was helpful! Delta miles are also useful for flying Aerolineas Argentinas to El Calafate. I’m headed down there myself at the end of November for a week of hiking. Compared to cash flights that time of year, I’m getting between 1.6/1.7 cents of value per Delta mile which isn’t half bad. Haven’t searched cash flights to Ushuaia but I would assume you’d get a similar per mile cent value flying Aerolineas to Ushuaia as well.

  2. Hi Sarah,
    I have previously booked several trips on United using my Krisflyer miles. I have recently come across a weird problem that hopefully you or Scott can help me figure this out. I am interested specifically in booking trips between ROC and CDG. When I go onto united.com without signing in I see plenty of saver space (looking at economy July 12 for example) mostly connecting in EWR. I then ,on a different computer, signed in to expert mode, I could see anywhere from 2-9 X and XN seats available. When I called (several times) Singapore they tell me that there is no availablity on the ROC-EWR leg. I then did a search for ROC-EWR instead of CDG and sure enough, there is no saver award yet there is on the same flights when I put in CDG! Help! how do I get this to work?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Carol. I wish had more insight into your problem but unfortunately I don’t– it most likely has to do with married segment logic, which is a topic I don’t have a good grasp on. Can anyone chime in?

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