In the comments of my recent post detailing “Best options for first class awards to Hawaii,” a reader reminded me that it is now possible to book United flights online at singaporeair.com (thanks Derek). That’s great news!
In November 2017, Singapore Airlines had announced a new Star Alliance award chart (i.e. higher award prices) and their intention to make Star Alliance awards available online starting December 7 2017. You can read more about these changes here. Also note that Singapore’s award change fees will go up on March 1 2018 (details here). Compared to many other airlines, their change fees will still be quite low though (e.g. $50 to change a Star Alliance award; $75 to cancel for a full refund).
I don’t know if partner award searches really became available on December 7, but I can confirm that at least the ability to book United flights is live now. Their booking screen indicates that the ability to book partners online is “being rolled out progressively,” so I can’t promise that all partners are available yet (probably not).
Why this is interesting
The ability to book United (and other Star Alliance) flights with Singapore Airlines miles is great for a number of reasons:
- Singapore Airlines miles are super easy to get. You can transfer from Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, or SPG.
- Singapore’s award pricing is sometimes much better than United’s for the exact same flights. For example, Singapore charges only 60K miles round-trip for business class flights to Hawaii, whereas United charges 80K.
- Singapore has no close-in ticketing fees whereas United will charge you $75 per ticket if you try to book an award that departs within 21 days.
- Singapore’s change and cancellation fees are much lower than United’s.
One big disadvantage to using Singapore miles, though, is that Singapore will include fuel surcharges when you book an award whereas United never does. On the other hand, if you use Singapore miles to book a carrier that doesn’t charge fuel surcharges (such as United!), then you won’t have to worry about that extra expense.
How to book awards online at singaporeair.com
1) Find award space on United.com
United.com’s award search capabilities aren’t perfect, but they’re way better than Singapore’s. Without logging into your United account (because logging in can potentially show you more availability than what Singapore can see), search for the awards you want. The key is to find “Saver Award” space as shown below:
Be careful about results that indicate “mixed cabin” because it may mean that part of your trip is in economy even if you were searching for business or first class.
Note that the prices you see here are not what you’ll pay at singaporeair.com. The point of looking on United.com is just to find award availability. Singapore has different award prices than United for many routes even if you use Singapore miles to fly United.
2) Search for the same flight on singaporeair.com
The first thing you’ll see when you browse to singaporeair.com, is the “Book a trip” tab. Click “Redeem flights” to get started. Enter all of your flight details based on the flight you found in step 1.
In this example, I searched for a United business class flight from Los Angeles to Maui on February 12th. United would have charged 40,000 miles plus $80.60 (due to their close-in booking fee), but Singapore charges just 30,000 miles plus $5.60.
3) Transfer Points to Singapore Airlines
If you don’t have enough points in your Singapore Airlines account to book the flight, you’ll now have to transfer the needed points into your account. You can expect the following transfer times (based on data points from this Flyertalk thread):
- Amex Membership Rewards: Usually overnight. May be longer on weekends.
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 1.5 hours to 2 days
- Citi ThankYou Rewards: 1 to 2 days
- SPG: Typically 4 days or more
Unfortunately there’s always a chance that the award you found will be gone by the time you have the points to book it. For that reason I’d recommend against transferring SPG points for a hard to get award.
Personally I prefer to use Citi ThankYou Rewards when transferring to Singapore since Amex, Chase, and SPG have other valuable partners that I’d rather use those points for when possible. To transfer from Citi ThankYou Rewards you need a premium ThankYou card such as the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige card.
4) Book the award
Once you have enough miles in your account, you can redo the search as described above and book the award online.