Update 6/23/16: Singapore is ending its Sao Paulo <-> Barcelona route, which is reviewed here in First Class. The last flight is October 20, 2016. Singapore will continue to fly Singapore <-> Barcelona, but that isn’t much consolation, since Sao Paulo <-> Barcelona is specifically such a great deal. Award space is great Barcelona <-> Sao Paulo through October 20.
I just booked myself an award from Sao Paulo to Barcelona: 10+ hours in Singapore First Class for 58,225 Singapore miles + $37, a route I’ve highlighted before as a sweet spot. I booked the award for several reasons:
- I need to get from South America to Europe because it is turning to winter here 🙁 and summer there. 🙂
- Ten hours of Singapore First Class for 58,225 miles is a ridiculous steal.
- This is the only route to book Singapore award space with no fuel surcharges, which are illegal departing Brazil.
Asia to South America is too far and has too few customers for nonstop flights. Airlines that offer service between the two continents always include a stop like Korean Air, which flies from Seoul to Los Angeles to Sao Paulo. Singapore flies from Singapore to Sao Paulo three times a week with a stop both directions in Barcelona. You can book any part of the trip individually.
As you can imagine, an Asian airline flying between Europe and South America doesn’t fill the plane with paying customers, so award space is wide open between Sao Paulo and Barcelona in both directions in economy, Business, and First Class. And, for whatever reason, Singapore charges very few miles for Saver awards on the route.
From Barcelona to Sao Paulo, an 11 hour, 10 minute flight, Singapore charges only:
- 17,425 miles + $183 one way in Economy
- 50,150 miles + $197 one way in Business Class
- 58,225 miles + $207 one way in First Class
Economy and First Class are ludicrously cheap compared to other airlines’ award charts. For instance, American charges 50k/87.5k/120k each way in economy/Business/First which is 2-3x the price Singapore charges. United charges 47.5k/87.5k/125k, again 2-3x the price Singapore charges. And Singapore offers a superior product compared to United’s and American Airlines’ partners.
Unfortunately from Barcelona to Singapore, you pay pesky fuel surcharges of about $100-$150 one way. You must pay fuel surcharges on all Singapore awards that fly Singapore Airlines except on the Sao Paulo to Barcelona and Sao Paulo to Singapore flights. Brazil law prohibits fuel surcharges.
So from Sao Paulo to Barcelona, a 10 hour, 25 minute flight, Singapore charges only:
- 17,425 miles + $37 one way in Economy
- 50,150 miles + $37 one way in Business Class
- 58,225 miles + $37 one way in First Class
This route is flown by a Singapore 777, which means it features “only” First Class instead of Suites Class, which is the name of First Class on the Singapore A380.
I have flown Singapore First Class on the 777 before, and it is awesome! Here’s my full trip report.
You basically get a throne…
…that turns into a comfortable, large bed.
Plus you get some of the best service, food, and drink in the sky.
Singapore First Class is several steps above American and Latin American carriers, and solidly better than Lufthansa First Class, which would be the second best option between Europe and South America.
Getting Singapore Miles
You need Singapore miles to book Singapore First Class, Suites Class, and Business Class on longhaul flights. Singapore protects the cabins by not releasing award space in them to partners. Luckily Singapore miles are easy to get.
Singapore is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points. Plus 20,000 Starpoints transfer to 25,000 Singapore miles.
The best cards to get Singapore miles are the Citi Prestige® Card, Sapphire Preferred, and Ink Plus.
The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.
My review of the Citi Prestige Card explains its many benefits like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.
The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:
- 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
- 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
- 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
- 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
- no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter
The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:
- 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
- 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
- 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
- 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
- $95 annual fee
According to this FlyerTalk thread, which compiles transfer times, transfers from Chase, Citi, and Amex usually show up overnight within 1-2 days. Transfers from SPG can take up to two weeks.
Which transferable points to send to Singapore, if you have several options, depends on which type of points you’d like to save for future uses.
I had 125 Singapore miles. I decided to transfer 8,000 Ultimate Rewards and 40,100 SPG points to Singapore miles. With the 10,000 bonus Singapore miles for transferring 40,000 SPG points, that was a total of 58,100 new Singapore miles, bringing my total to 58,225 miles.
The Ultimate Rewards posted within 24 hours. The SPG points took three weeks to transfer. (More on that in a separate post.) Luckily, while I waited, the award space remained. If space had disappeared in First Class, my back up plan was to book economy, plan C was to book Business, and plans D through I were to book any cabin a few days earlier or later (the flight occurs three times per week.) If I had booked economy or Business, the extra miles would not have been orphaned; they would have been used to book a trip between the mainland United States and Hawaii on United in the future–another top use of Singapore miles.
Once I had my miles, the process was a snap. I searched right on the home page of singaporeair.com.
Award prices are initially displayed without the automatic 15% discount for booking online.
But once selected, the discounted price is displayed.
I paid for the award with my Citi Prestige® Card. If I hadn’t already used my $250 Air Travel Credit for 2016, I would have had the $37 in taxes refunded as a statement credit. Since I have, I will just earn 3x on this airline purchase.
Booking the ticket doesn’t end the fun. I also want to ensure the ideal seat, food, and lounge plan.
Singapore First Class is laid out 1-2-1 in two rows. I chose seat 1A to have my own space an a window.
Singapore premium-cabin passengers can select their exact meals in advance of the flight through the Book the Cook service. Unfortunately the service is not available for flights from Sao Paulo, only the following cities: (It would be available if flying Barcelona to Sao Paulo.)
I could only select meal preferences/allergies. I just selected “Standard meal,” and I’ll have a chance onboard to choose from several options.
I looked up lounge access, and it looks like I’ll get to use the Star Alliance Lounge in Sao Paulo. I googled trip reports and found this review of the GRU Star Alliance lounge.
It looks solidly better than a United Club or equivalent, but well below what I would expect if Singapore had its own lounge like it does at Singapore’s airport.
In a few weeks, I’ll fly Sao Paulo to Barcelona in Singapore First Class. It’s an awesome route between South America and Europe because it has a super product, a very low mileage price (especially in economy and First), no fuel surcharges, and great award space.
Singapore miles partner with every transferable points program.
Has anyone else flown this route? Trip report coming up in a few weeks.