How to Take the World’s Longest Flight for (Almost) Free Using Miles
Singapore Airlines relaunched the world’s longest passenger flight between Newark and Singapore to much fanfare in October. While a 19-hour flight is daunting for even the most frequent of frequent fliers, it does cut travel time between the two cities by several hours since it avoids a transit stop in a third airport.
The Airbus A350-900ULR (ULR stands for ultra-long-range) Singapore Airlines flies on the route is specially configured with only business-class and premium-economy cabins aboard. Not only that, but the airline has partnered with wellness experts from Canyon Ranch to create healthy dining options and other jetlag-fighting features such as customized lighting settings that make the experience more enjoyable (or bearable, depending on how you look at it).
For fliers not based in New York, Singapore Airlines actually started flying non-stop from Los Angeles in November using the same plane model, and added three additional non-stop flights a week between Singapore and San Francisco. However, most of Singapore’s non-stop flights out of San Francisco are on the airline’s regular A350-900s with economy, premium economy and business class on board.
Whether you are an #avgeek looking to add a notch to your flight log, or someone who simply wants a faster way to get to Southeast Asia, the new Newark-Singapore service and those from the West Coast are worth considering. But with a price tag of around $1,600 round-trip in premium economy and $6,000 in business class, these flights might not be in your budget. Luckily, it's easy to use airline miles to book award tickets and fly for (nearly) free.
How to book awards on Singapore Airlines using miles
Singapore Airlines is a member of Star Alliance, along with airlines like United and Air Canada. Unfortunately, Singapore Airlines does not often release award space in its premium cabins to partners on its long-haul routes. So you’ll be hard-pressed to use your MileagePlus or Aeroplan miles for non-economy awards on the airline.
However, Singapore Airlines does release a fair amount of award space across all cabins to members of its own KrisFlyer frequent-flier mileage program. While you might not have racked up any KrisFlyer miles so far, either on Singapore’s own flights or those of its airline partners, there are plenty of other ways to build up your account quickly.
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Rewards. If you have a credit or charge card like the Platinum Card from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Citi ThankYou Premier, you can transfer the points you earn on everyday spending to your KrisFlyer account.
Transfer times vary and can take up to several days, so be prepared to initiate a transfer as soon as you find an award you want to book. First, though, you need to have a KrisFlyer account, so sign up for one here. It takes just a couple minutes and is free.
When you are ready to search for an award ticket, visit Singapore Airlines’ homepage and log into your account. Under the “Book a trip” tab, click “Redeem flights,” then enter your search airports and dates. In this case, you will want to search flights between Singapore and Newark, Los Angeles or San Francisco, but you can use these steps to search for Singapore Airlines awards on any of the airline’s flights in any of the classes of service.
Once you hit search, the site should pull up award availability on the specific routes you are reviewing both at the saver level, which requires the fewest miles, and at full price.
For an award in business class, KrisFlyer will charge 88,000 miles in each direction (176,000 round-trip) plus $6-$50 dollars between the West Coast of the U.S. and Singapore, or 92,000 miles each way (184,000 round-trip) from the East Coast. Premium economy is 65,000 miles each way (130,000 round-trip) from the West Coast, or 70,000 miles (140,000 round-trip) from the East Coast and the same taxes and fees.
That sounds like a lot of miles, but remember, you can transfer points in from any number of other programs and you’ll be flying for 17-19 hours, so it is worth redeeming them to fly in comfort.
Some search dates might not have any saver-level availability and some might have only “Waitlist” space. Do not let this discourage you. In fact, this is a great way to improve your chances of actually booking an award seat if one opens up. Plus, in my experience, waitlist awards come through a lot more often than not.
To waitlist an award, you will need sufficient miles already in your account to book the award if it does come through. This is probably the moment where you will want to initiate a transfer of credit card points to your KrisFlyer account. Once the miles are in your account, you can waitlist as many flights on as many dates as you like. You cannot waitlist flights that have open award availability, though. On those flights, you can only book available awards outright.
Before you do that, submit waitlist requests for all other flights you are interested in. Then, if there is an open award on one of the itineraries you might want to fly, you can just book that one at the end. Doing so will not cancel your waitlisted awards.
That way, you have a confirmed award ticket in your back pocket and if a waitlisted award on other date or flight opens up, you can change your reservation at that point. When a waitlisted award becomes available, you typically have up to 72 hours to book it.
Adding Stops and Other Strategies
Here are some additional strategies to save you miles: If you look at the KrisFlyer award chart, you’ll notice that awards from the U.S. require the same amount of miles whether you terminate in Singapore, or continue on to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, or Brunei.
Singapore Airlines will let you book a stopover on an award for an extra $100, so you can still stop in Singapore for a number of days then continue on to another destination without spending any more miles. You will need to call the airline to do this.
In practice, I have found that if you book an award to Singapore and then later want to add on another leg to another city, the airline’s phone agents will simply charge you the $25 fee to make a date or route change rather than the higher stopover fee, so you might not be out too much extra cash if you decide to do this.
On The Flight
Once you book a ticket, here are a few things to keep in mind so you stay comfortable and land rested and refreshed. These are specifically for the new flights from Newark and Los Angeles based on my own experience and those of other members of the Travel + Leisure editorial staff.
Timing is everything: Given the length of some of these flights, the schedule of the itineraries, and the time differences between origin and destination, you should try to start resetting your body clock several days in advance of flying. You can do this by shifting your bedtime forward or backward by an hour or two each day so you start syncing up with the destination, and moving your meal times so they more closely correspond with those in your destination.
Heart of darkness: Crews keep the cabins dark for almost the entire flight no matter which direction you’re traveling in between Singapore and Newark or Los Angeles, which can become disorienting over the course of nearly an entire day in the air. Make sure to get some natural sunlight before and, more importantly, after your flight to help reset your circadian rhythm faster.
Hydropower: Humidity levels on the Airbus A350 are about twice as high as those on conventional jets, but still only around the 20% mark. For that reason, it is imperative to drink as much water as possible. Your sinuses also dry out, which can impact your immune system, so consider bringing along nasal saline solution to spritz from time to time.
Costume change: Unlike many other airlines, Singapore does not provide business-class passengers with pajamas, so bring an extra set of apparel to change into for the portions of the flight during which you want to rest. I would suggest breathable, loose-fitting clothes since seats on Singapore’s A350s do not have individual air nozzles, so you’re at the mercy of the flight crew’s cabin temperature preferences.
Alternative alignment: Singapore Airlines’ business-class seats are a bit unique in the airline industry. They are laid out in a front-facing 1 – 2 – 1 pattern and are relatively wide at 28 inches across. However, the seats only recline to a lounging position. If you want to switch to bed mode, you’ll need flight attendants to flip the seat over and make it up with a mattress pad, duvet and pillows. Once that happens, you’re unlikely to change it back to chair mode until the end of the flight, even during the second meal service. Because of the layout, you also have to angle yourself slightly so your feet are positioned in a small cubby carved out of the preceding seat-back, which some fliers report finding uncomfortable.
BYO balm: Singapore offers amenities like toothbrushes and shaving kits in the business-class lavs and simple amenity kits with items like generic lip balm and fabric wrinkle remover. Bring your own preferred beauty products aboard, though. You’ll need them in order not to look like the Crypt Keeper after a 19-hour flight.
You better work: Few folks can afford to go incommunicado for a full day, so Singapore Airlines does offer Wi-Fi on board. Speeds are not the best, but sufficient for email. I clocked the Wi-Fi at 1.5 Mbps for downloads and 0.5 Mbps for uploads. Business-class passengers are entitled to 30MB free, which won’t get you far. You can purchase up to 200MB for $28, though. There are also some regions over the course of the flight where the Wi-Fi does not work. Ask the crew about the timing of these outages so you can plan to work around them.
If possible, order ahead: Singapore Airlines offers both business class and premium economy passengers the opportunity to order their main meal ahead of time through its “Book the Cook” service, featuring dozens of menu options. By doing so, you’ll avoid the risk of the galley running out of your preferred meal choice before the flight attendants get to you. Just one caveat: this service is not available on flights departing from Newark at time of writing. If you’re on that flight and see a dish you simply must have on the menu, mention it to flight attendants as soon as possible.
Tune out: Though the A350 is a quiet aircraft, using noise-canceling headphones will help you relax. Some studies show that blocking ambient noise will actually lessen the impairment to your sense of taste in the air, too. Singapore Airlines provides passengers with basic noise-canceling headphones in both business class and premium economy, but if you have your own nice pair, you’ll want to bring those instead.
Extra entertainment: Singapore’s KrisFlyer World entertainment system has thousands of choices, which you can preview ahead of time via the Singapore Airlines app and create a personalized playlist to watch on your flight. However, you’re always better off stocking your own tablet or device with content you know you’ll want to watch. If in doubt, download. You cannot have enough spare content for flights this long.
Charge up: The seats on Singapore’s A350s all have individual power and USB ports, and since the planes are new, they’re likely to be in good working order. However, there is never any guarantee, so be sure your devices are fully charged before boarding, and bring spare charging batteries.
Simple snacks: You won’t go hungry on this flight. You can order full meals between the main meal service in business class, and flight attendants set out snacks at self-serve bars in both classes. But if there are certain foods you need or prefer, be sure to tote them along.
Lounge life: If you’re in business class, you will have access to Singapore’s own lounges or partner lounges. That’s not the case for premium economy passengers, unfortunately. However, if you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Platinum Card from Amex, you should have access to Priority Pass’s network of airline lounges around the world, which means free snacks, Wi-Fi, and even showers before or after your flight.
Singapore Airlines’ new flights from Newark and Los Angeles to Singapore are among the longest in the world and are a harbinger of things to come in the aviation world. As future next-generation jets come online, airlines will continue to push the boundaries of aircraft capability and we’re likely to see more and more of these ultra-long-hauls take flight. With a little strategy in terms of miles and pre-flight prep, however, these super-hauls can be just as comfortable and even more convenient than split-up itineraries, giving you more time to enjoy your final destination.