Update: In a slightly unsavoury move, Alaska has changed the Singapore Airlines award charts and stopover rules from their original form less than a week after they were first introduced. Here’s the full update.
Alaska Airlines sure took their sweet time on this after first announcing their partnership with Singapore Airlines back in 2017, but as of now, it’s finally possible to redeem your Alaska miles on Singapore Airlines flights.
This is a significant boost to the Alaska program; the award availability picture is incredibly generous, and while the redemption rates are quite high across the board, there are a handful of new sweet spots worth talking about.
Alaska Has Access to Singapore’s Premium Awards
Singapore Airlines is well-known for being rather tight-fisted when it comes to releasing business class, First Class, and Suites Class award seats to its partner airlines.
Indeed, Star Alliance partner airlines rarely have access to Singapore Airlines premium space on the airlines’ flagship long-haul routes to North America and Europe, with the airline choosing to reserve those highly-coveted award seats for members of their own KrisFlyer program instead.
Well, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan now seems to be the exception to the rule, as you can access a very generous amount of business class availability (and even a few pockets of First Class and Suites Class space!) using your Alaska miles.
This is an excellent development for Canadians especially, as it gives us a way to access Singapore Airlines premium awards without having to go through the laborious process of earning Singapore KrisFlyer miles (either via US credit cards or by transferring HSBC Rewards points, neither of which are particularly hassle-free).
Award Redemption Rates Are Quite High
Now that the good news is out of the way, here’s the bad news: the redemption rates on Singapore Airlines don’t make for pretty viewing, since they’re generally quite high across the board.
Alaska negotiates independent redemption agreements with each of their partner airlines, so the redemption rates and geographic routing possibilities vary from airline to airline. You can examine the Singapore Airlines award chart on your own at this link – you’ll need to choose the Origin and Destination zones, and then look for a Singapore Airlines chart under the list of charts that shows up.
Note that the chart differentiates between “North Asia” and “South East Asia”, and the way the line is drawn is rather peculiar.
Basically, every East Asian jurisdiction with a Singapore Airlines destination besides South Korea and Japan is classified as “South East Asia” – so that includes China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, as well as countries you’d ordinarily associate more with the term, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and of course, Singapore itself.
Meanwhile, South Korea and Japan are the sole occupants of the “North Asia” zone, while anything west of Myanmar is classified as “India & South Asia” instead.
(Don’t ask me what kind of map Alaska and Singapore were looking at when negotiating their agreement – probably the same map that had put India in the same region as Korea and Japan for the Japan Airlines chart!)
Based on my research, the valid routing possibilities and associated business class mileage when redeeming for Singapore Airlines flights – complete with an extended-length Singapore stopover on a one-way journey – are as follows:
North America to North Asia: 80,000 miles
North America to South East Asia: 100,000 miles
North America to Australia/New Zealand: 145,000 miles
North America to India & South Asia: 130,000 miles
North America to Africa: 160,000 miles
South East Asia to South East Asia: 25,000 miles
South East Asia to North Asia: 60,000 miles
South East Asia to India & South Asia: 65,000 miles
South East Asia to Australia/New Zealand: 65,000 miles
Note that a redemption like Australia–Singapore–Africa isn’t listed among the possibilities above, and so wouldn’t be allowed.
Two notable omissions from the list are Europe and the Middle East. Both of these regions are have official award charts listed between them and South East Asia (and, for the latter, to North America as well), and yet nothing is showing up at the moment when you search for, say, Singapore–Zurich or Singapore–Dubai on the Alaska search engine. Time will tell if we’re going to be allowed to make these bookings.
It’s quite reasonable for your eyes to be widening with horror as you look at these redemption rates. 160,000 Alaska miles to fly Los Angeles–Singapore–Johannesburg one-way? I mean, Singapore Airlines is fantastic and all, but I’d much rather drop 150,000 Alaska miles on Emirates First Class or 140,000 Alaska miles on a round-trip to South Africa on Cathay Pacific instead.
So let’s dust it all down – in light of these rather steep award prices, are there are any particular sweet spots that would be worthwhile in the right circumstances?
What Are the Sweet Spots?
1. North America to Japan or South Korea, via Singapore, for 80,000 miles
Consulting our list above, we see that North America to North Asia is priced at 80,000 miles in business class one-way, and North America to South East Asia is priced at 100,000 miles. So you could book something like Los Angeles–Singapore–Tokyo with a stopover in Singapore for 80,000 Alaska miles.
Considering that that’s already basically two-thirds of an Aeroplan Mini-RTW, on a transpacific flight that you’d never be able to book with Aeroplan miles in the first place, that’s not a bad deal at all.
In fact, even if you only wanted to book a flight from North America to Singapore, you’d be better served adding on a throwaway leg to Tokyo or Seoul at the end and saving yourself 20,000 miles!
Meanwhile, if you want to go to travel between North American and Tokyo, you can invoke a variant of this sweet spot by booking Singapore’s direct Los Angeles–Tokyo fifth-freedom flight.
This will also set you back 80,000 miles, which is higher than, say, the 75,000 miles that a program like Aeroplan might charge, but then again, you can’t get the direct Singapore Airlines business class flight on Aeroplan, so that’s a moot point.
2. Intra-“South East Asia”, with Singapore Stopover, for 25,000 miles
Another compelling sweet spot takes advantage of Alaska and Singapore’s generous definition of South East Asia, which stretches as far north as Beijing and as far south as Bali. Beijing–Singapore–Bali, with a stopover in-between, for 25,000 Alaska miles is therefore a pretty sweet deal.
Perhaps even sweeter, though, might be booking a “pseudo-round-trip” as a one-way ticket. Let’s imagine you found yourself in Guangzhou, and wanted to take a side-trip to Singapore: you could book Guangzhou–Singapore–Hong Kong as a “one-way” for 25,000 miles and simply take the high-speed train to close the gap.
The same story applies for something like Hong Kong–Singapore–Taipei and using a cheap British Airways Avios ticket to get back to Hong Kong.
(Note that something like Beijing–Singapore–Shanghai will not work, since the two endpoints must be in separate jurisdictions for the ticket to be valid. Furthermore, Beijing–Singapore–Tokyo won’t work, since the latter would be considered part of “North Asia”, a separate zone. And finally, Shenzhen–Singapore–Hong Kong doesn’t seem to work either – now that would be far too easy!)
Essentially, if you ever need to travel between two points within Alaska’s definition of South East Asia, consider flying via a Singapore stopover for 25,000 miles in business class to get an extra mini-vacation out of it.
3. “South East Asia” to Australia/New Zealand for 65,000 miles
While the prices from South East Asia to the North Asia zone (60,000 miles) and the India & South Asia zone (65,000 miles) are quite extravagant given the distance covered, I think the South East Asia to Australia/New Zealand zone is priced rather fairly at 65,000 miles one-way in business class.
Singapore–Auckland, for example, can reach up to 10 hours in duration, and when you throw in the fact that you can add another flight from some other point in South East Asia (like Beijing–Singapore–Auckland) for a 16+ hour journey in total, 65,000 miles doesn’t seem an unreasonable price in that context.
Aeroplan charges a similar 67,500 miles for the same journey, although wouldn’t allow a stopover in Singapore and may well have access to fewer business class award seats on these routes than Alaska does.
4. Singapore First Class and Singapore Suites!
Here’s where things get really exciting. The award space isn’t very plentiful, but if you look hard enough, you can find space in Singapore Airlines First Class and Suites Class!
Outside of a few rare occasions, partner airlines having access to Singapore’s top-tier premium cabins is virtually unheard of, so the fact that Alaska seems to have access to a reasonable amount of First and Suites space is pretty noteworthy.
Most of the space seems to be focused on regional routes in Asia, such as Beijing or Shanghai. These are priced at 35,000 Alaska miles one-way, and remember that you can tack on another flight within the South East Asia region as well.
There are a few isolated dates to Auckland as well. These are available at 90,000 Alaska miles in First Class, but you can also add another segment within the South East Asia region, which opens the door to booking something like Auckland–Singapore–Beijing, a 16-hour journey entirely in First and Suites Class, for 90,000 miles!
There are even some incredibly rare dates from New York JFK to Singapore via Frankfurt in Suites Class on the Airbus A380, which you can book for 130,000 Alaska miles! Now that’s verging onto the territory of pure unchecked extravagance, but for a 21+ hour journey in Singapore Suites, some of you might find that worthwhile in the same way I found 150,000 Alaska miles for 27 hours of Emirates First Class to be worthwhile.
(Similar to Sweet Spot #1 above, add on a throwaway leg to Japan at the end of this to bring the cost down to 110,000 miles…)
And if you somehow manage to combine a JFK–Frankfurt–Singapore routing with a stopover and then a Singapore–Auckland flight for 31 hours of Singapore Suites in total, then you’ve truly earned my respect.
That means you’ll have parted ways with 190,000 Alaska miles (North America to Australia in First Class), which means you’ve been playing the MBNA Alaska game since the early days!
5. Singapore A380 New Suites to Hong Kong for 35,000 miles!
Finally, the new Alaska–Singapore partnership has given us Canadians what’s undoubtedly the easiest way to sample Singapore’s New A380 Suites Class for ourselves. That’s a pretty unbelievable development for those of us who like to sample the major luxury flight experiences out there, since even Singapore’s own KrisFlyer members often find it challenging to book these New Suites.
There’s sporadic New Suites availability on the Singapore–Hong Kong route with New First Class (SQ856/SQ861), which you can book for 35,000 Alaska miles, and at that price you could even combine it with a Beijing–Singapore flight in the Old Suites for an epic side-by-side Singapore Suites to China showdown.
(Alas, I didn’t find any New Suites space on the Singapore–Shanghai service that has it, SQ830/SQ833; otherwise a Shanghai–Singapore–Hong Kong routing would truly take things to the next level.)
I personally often find myself booking one-way flights between Beijing and Hong Kong, so you can bet that I’ll be looking to take a champagne-fuelled detour via Singapore the next time the need arises to get a taste of the Singapore A380 New Suites experience, which is arguably at the very top of my bucket list at the moment.
For most Canadian travellers, I’d say that Alaska’s newly introduced points redemption capability on Singapore Airlines is a mildly positive development.
That’s because we now have access to a far greater range of premium availability on one of the world’s best airlines, albeit at a higher redemption rate than we might be accustomed to on other Alaska partners or other points programs. Redeeming Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines at much more favourable rates will likely remain the optimal use-case, but if we don’t find any satisfactory options on those airlines, Singapore Airlines business class is never a bad fallback option to have.
Meanwhile, a small handful of sweet spots do emerge from the new award chart, which are particularly favourable for those who like to pursue luxury flight experiences and also those who spend a large chunk of time in Asia. As someone who ticks both those boxes, I’m very much looking forward to using my stash of Alaska miles for some epic Singapore Airlines redemptions in the future.