Rounding Up Singapore Airlines' Recent Slew of “Enhancements"

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Airlines


'Enhancements' for some but not for all

When it comes to making changes to its business, Singapore Airlines has no chill

 Singapore Airlines' SG50 A380, photo courtesy of Travel+Leisure

Singapore Airlines' SG50 A380, photo courtesy of Travel+Leisure

2017 has been a whirlwind year for Singapore Airlines. Not only has it signed a huge deal with Boeing valued at $13 billion dollars, it also unveiled an ambitious cabin upgrading program for its flagship A380s. It even threw in a landmark Scoot-Tigerair merger for good measure albeit alongside a huge Krisflyer devaluation. 

Yet, unlike the rest of us firmly embedded in leave clearing season, it is as if Singapore Airlines' Marketing and PR team isn't yet done with the year. In that vein, the airline just announced a wave of changes that will fundamentally change the way we look at its fares, tickets and therefore, how we plan our travel. Merry Christmas.

Read on for Travelcene's roundup on the latest wave of changes as we'll be looking at what these changes mean for each 'type' of traveller.


for the Leisure traveller:

Good

  • Higher mileage accrual rates for the cheapest tickets (50% instead of 10% or even 0% previously)

  • Economy standard tickets can now be upgraded to Premium Economy using miles  

Bad

  • The introduction of seat selection fees 
    • Standard tickets (payable for Lite) - from USD 5
    • Forward Zone tickets (payable for Standard) - from USD 8
    • Extra Legroom tickets (payable for Flexi) - from USD 25

Unchanged

  • Food and drinks are still free 
  • Cabin baggage allowance is still generous at a minimum of 30kg per passenger, 35 kg for Flexi tickets

Bottom Line

For the leisure traveller, this could present interesting opportunities. For one, the fact that all tickets should now earn 50% mileage means that SQ tickets are now a more palatable option for miles chasers. Thank god we're leaving the old 10% regime behind - it was probably an idea out of Scrooge McDuck himself. 

However, the introduction of seat selection fees will likely draw ire from all walks of society though these fees will probably not deter diehard SQ fans anyway. Other renowned airlines like British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Emirates also charge seat selection fees

That being said, families travelling with children/infants will get waivers and so will status-holding Krisflyer and PPS Club members. For the rest, seat selection becomes free once check in opens 48 hours before departure. 


for the schedule-sensitive traveller:

Good

  • Higher mileage accrual rates for Premium Economy Flexi (125% from 110%)

Bad

  • Lower mileage accrual rates for Economy Standard tickets (75% from 100%)

  • Lower mileage accrual rates for Premium Economy Standard (100% from 110%)

Unchanged

  • There are only Premium Economy Saver award tickets 

Bottom Line

The changes coming to travellers who book flexible tickets on Economy or Premium Economy will be marginal and mainly come with the change in the mileage accrual quantum. These changes broadly follow the trends of fare rationalisation we're seeing in this round of changes in that Standard tickets now accrue less miles and have lesser flexibility compared to Flexi tickets. Previously, standard and flexi tickets earned the same amount of miles but with varying cancellation/date and flight change conditions.

Nothing much to see here, let's move on.


for the Premium traveller:

Good

  • The introduction of the Business Lite fare class

  • Higher mileage accrual rates for Business Flexi (150% compared to 125%)

  • Mileage accrual rates for First/Suites are higher at 200% compared to 150% previously though nothing has been said about the elusive 300% given for those paying full fare Suites

Bad

  • Lite tickets are highly restrictive (no cancellations or upgrading with miles)

Unchanged

  •  Cabin baggage allowance remains at 40kg, 50kg for First/Suites passengers

Bottom Line

The unveiling of 'Business Lite' presents an interesting proposition for premium leisure travellers. Ostensibly, the new fare class could attract leisure travellers who have firmed up plans but want to travel in more opulence. That being said, the decision to restrict upgrades using miles make sense as these travellers are less likely to shell out even more miles for an upgrade to First/Suites. We can only hope that this means that Business Lite tickets will now be priced below the Business class fares what we're used to right now. 

However, I surmise that these cheaper fares would probably appear for flights with traditionally lower yield for the airline's premium cabin like on some of the new routes to destinations like Dusseldorf. Travelling to London or Paris? Forget it. 


 Singapore Airlines takes delivery of the 10,00th jet made by Airbus, photo from Business Traveller Asia Pacific

Singapore Airlines takes delivery of the 10,00th jet made by Airbus, photo from Business Traveller Asia Pacific

“The transformation is not just about how we can cut cost but also how we can generate more revenue"

These round of changes are interesting to say the least. It seems as if the airline is adopting a stratification strategy based on how flexible people need their tickets to be and it is my opinion that these changes should improve the cabin yields for the airline especially if the new fare classes it is introducing will bring about price reductions.  

In essence, SQ now has a fare class in each cabin for travellers with firm travel plans and no intention to upgrade to a better class of service. In economy, the airline is wooing such travellers with higher mileage rates and in the premium cabins, it's likely hoping that lower prices will entice people to access luxuries at a cheaper rate.

I also recently said to a friend that I didn't think that Singapore Airlines would introduce seat selection fees for its flights unlike some of the other carriers in the region. Well, I think I spoke too soon. 

That being said, I think that it is a net positive for mile chasers that travel often but do so mostly in economy. A higher mileage accrual rate for the cheapest fare bucket means that SQ regains its competitive advantage in the miles department in exchange for a relatively marginal cost to the consumer in the form of seat selection fees. 

Once you factor in that families with children and infants will not have to pay seat selection fees, and that seat selection is free 48 hours before departure, the world suddenly doesn't seem that bleak anymore. Krisflyer Silver/Gold and PPS Club members should count their lucky stars that they weren't forgotten.  

No matter what you think about Singapore Airlines, these changes are reconsideration and rationalisation of SQ's pricing structure that should be described as laudable at worst and exciting at best.

Also, all award tickets are now named either Saver or Advantage (no longer Standard) though I wonder how paying close to twice the amount of miles for roughly the same ticket could hardly bring any advantages to you. 

If you've reached this far, congratulations. All of the changes outlined here will take effect after January 20, 2018 and if you're thinking of getting into the nitty gritty details of the 'enhancement', take a look here

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