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Finding the Cheapest Business Class to Singapore
By Regina Ang
It started with a family emergency. My brother called me to say my father was not well. The doctor said get to Singapore as soon as possible. Since the flight from New York to Singapore takes more than 20 hours and it was going to be a very stressful trip, I decided that I wanted to travel on business class. I didn’t have enough miles to claim an award ticket so I had to find the cheapest business class to Singapore.
Immediately, I started searching. The first flight that I found was an economy ticket on Cathay Pacific leaving the next day. The price: an exorbitantly high $15,000. I called the airline to see if they had a special family emergency fare. They don’t. Disappointed in Cathay Pacific, I began searching and discovered an Air China business class fare from Newark to Singapore with a 4 hour layover in Beijing. It was leaving in 5 hours from Newark. The price was $3,300. Compared to Cathay Pacific, this was a bargain. I jumped on it and left the country immediately.
Adjusting to a 12-13 Hour Time Difference
Singapore is is either 12 or 13 hours earlier than New York. During daylight savings time, it is 13 hours earlier and the rest of the year it’s 12. You also cross the international date line, so you lose a day. For instance, if you leave from New York on a Thursday evening, you arrive Saturday morning. There are many theories about how to adjust to such an extreme time zone change. After 20 years of flying back and forth, we’ve adopted a simple strategy. Sleep as much as you can on the flight. And, of course, we eat and watch movies in between.
Why Waste Miles on Business Class?
We fly to Singapore or Asia often. In the beginning, we traveled on economy. We are now in our mid-50s and going economy is just too hard on our backs. It makes an enormous difference to us to be able to sleep in a bed. In Premium economy, you can recline but you are still sitting up for the entire flight. There are other advantages to flying business class, including waiting in the lounge for the flight (though you can now get this by paying or having a specific credit card), disembarking first and priority luggage handling. Customs and immigration lines are much shorter when you are the first to leave the airplane.
For one of the best business class exoeriences, you should also research Emirates.
We also prefer to fly to Singapore with a layover in either Taipei (our favorite), Beijing, Hong Kong or another Asian City. The alternative is to go via Europe (Frankfurt). We prefer to have the longest part of the flight (14+) be our first leg as it give us more opportunity to sleep. When flying via Frankfurt, the first segment is only 6 hours and after takeoff, the meals and landing, there is not much time for sleeping.
Paying for the Cheapest Business Class to Singapore
When we do not have enough rewards points for a free flight to Singapore, we either fly business on Air China or Premium Economy on EVA Air.
Wondering what you will do once you get to Singapore? Read this post from the Swedish Nomad about Gardens by the Bay.
Since my emergency flight, I have flown Air China a number of times. Air China business class is one of the cheapest business class fares from NYC to Singapore. It is a Star Alliance partner. In addition to scoring such a low business class fare for my emergency flight, I earned 25,448 miles which I added to my United Mileage Plus account.
Premium economy on EVA is generally in the $1,500-1,800 range. The seats and service are good. The transfer in Taipei is easy. Unfortunately, EVA only flies from JFK. We live in Jersey City City so prefer to fly from Newark. On our last trip, we flew Premium Economy on Cathay Pacific and while we enjoyed the wider seats, we were disappointed in the service. Cathy regards Premium Economy as the same as the economy class.
Using Miles to Get the Cheapest Business Class to Singapore
After my experience on Air China, I was determined to find more ways for the cheapest business class to Singapore. And, that meant learning how to use airline mileage programs. I started to obsess over collecting miles. Since 2012, we have earned and claimed more 885,000 United miles. My spouse and I have converted miles into business class seats to Singapore and other Asian destinations many times in the last 2 years, mainly through accumulating miles from credit card spending. This is clearly the cheapest business class to Singapore!
Credit card companies offer attractive sign-up bonus that can be converted into miles. Chase, Citi, and American Express all offer cards with sign up bonuses. They all require a minimum spend within the first 3 months of receiving the credit card. If you have an existing frequent flier program that can be linked to these programs, you’re on your way to earning your first free ticket!
British Airways Avios Program
Our first foray into credit card miles was through British Airways. They were offering 100,000 Avios bonus points for signing up their Chase Visa credit card. The annual fee of $95 was waived for the first year. Additionally, British Airways offered a free companion voucher for spending $30,000 in a year. While the companion voucher is very attractive, there are many restrictions on using the voucher. The flight must be on British Airways and initiated from your home country. Additionally, British Airways levies extremely high taxes and fees and almost all of their flights stop over in London.
British Airways is part of One World Alliance which includes American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair and others. You can also use Avios to book seats on partner airlines (through the BA website only) where the taxes are much less onerous.
My spouse and I both signed up for the BA Visa card. We each had 100,000 Avios deposited into our account ($200,000 total). British Airways permits family pooling of Avios which is very helpful when trying to gather enough Avios for a long haul business class flight. For several years, we would charge everything we possibly could on the card. The sign-up bonuses helped with several trips to Asia on Cathay Pacific.
If you are flexible, availability is pretty good for either business or premium economy seats. Taxes on non-British Airways flights are also nominal. We learned that when redeeming miles on BA, there were many more flights available if we were willing to stopover in London as part of our journey.
Current British Airways Offer
Currently, British Airways is running a promotion where you can earn 50,000 Avios after the initial 3 months (must spend $3000), plus 25,000 Avios (after charging another $10,000 within the year). You can earn another 25,000 Avios if you charge another $20,000 in the first year. This is a hefty amount of charges for most people.
Chase Business Ink card
I also signed up for the Chase Business Ink credit card. Beside the 80,000 miles bonus, this card pays 5x points on any telecommunication charges (internet, cell phone). This allows you to quickly ramp up Ultimate Rewards (UR). UR is a Chase points program that can be transferred to various airline frequent flyer and hotel programs.
I was able to rack up enough miles for my spouse and I to fly business class on any Star Alliance (through Chase Ultimate Rewards) and also One World Airlines (through British Airways Avios program). Star Alliance and One World are the two major airline code sharing partnerships.
Using Credit Cards Mileage Programs Tips
- There are many credit card products out there and you need to figure which is the best for you.
- I recommend prioritizing non-airline affiliated credit card programs because you can transfer the affiliated points to any airline.
- Be conservative. Make sure not to open too many cards in a short period since each will require a minimum spend.
- Time the credit card application process to take advantage of any large purchases that you are planning.
- Be careful when you churn cards as it will have an impact on your credit rating which in turn impacts on the kind of credit card offers you receive.
- The following sites are helpful for creating your credit card and mileage accumulation strategy: The Points Guy, One Mile at a Time and Boarding Area. There are thousands of travel bloggers out there who will share their secrets in flying for free!
Cheapest Business Class to Singapore