business class

Just over a year ago, I flew off the handle when an absolutely idiotic article began making the rounds. Spoiler alert: it’s still idiotic. I called an airline, videotaped it, and proved it. Yet today, here I am telling you that asking for revenue management got me a business class ticket…

Without so much as mentioning that you’d also need at least 40,000 points and a pricey ticket to begin with, said article purported that if you simply said revenue management it would get you an upgrade on a flight. Thousands upon thousands of travellers flooded airline call centres thinking that simply saying “revenue management” would turn their $300 economy ticket into a $5000 business class upgrade. Spoiler alert #2: it didn’t.

Alas, today I effectively said the words revenue management – and I went from not having a confirmed airline ticket at all to having a confirmed A380 business class ticket on a five star airline. All mine for just 30,500 points and $30.

No joke – revenue management was the difference.

Before you start dialling the number of the airline operating your next flight, this is extremely niche and really only involves a few airlines around the world. The airline in question today is Singapore Airlines, and the process in question is in no way a guarantee, just an amazing opportunity which contradicts the true notion that saying “revenue management” is only for idiots. Any airline which allows customers to waitlist for an upgrade or ticket using miles could theoretically also oblige.

A little backstory…

I am currently on an around the world trip, but like all plans in life, they’re only as good as their achilles heel. Despite having perfect flights taking me across the Atlantic, Pacific and through the Middle East, I needed to connect up my trip between Singapore and Hong Kong. Sadly, last minute economy flights are over $500 on the dates I need, for just a 4 hour one way flight! Yikes!

Facing a complete eye gouge in pricing, I turned my efforts toward using points.

At the “saver”, or lower price level using points, Singapore Airlines charges just 30,500 points and $30USD for a one way flight in business class. Considering 30,000 points would be decent value for economy, and Singapore has one of the best business cabins in the sky – it’s an amazing rate. Couple that with the wallet hit I was facing and it looked dreamy.

Unfortunately, all the flights I could possibly use were “waitlist” only.

business class

That’s the first important note here: if you have enough miles in your account, Singapore Airlines will let you waitlist as many flights as you wish. You only need enough miles for one of them, and you can waitlist tons. Even if you don’t have the miles, calling in often allows you to waitlist.

With just two days to fly, I was still waitlisted, with no sign of that changing.

Unlike when you’re waitlisted on a normal flight, this waitlist doesn’t mean you have a ticket. It just means that you are someone who wants one. If my waitlist didn’t clear, I’d be forced to buy an even more last minute fare, likely over $1000 – double yikes!

Alas, I followed advice we’ve given out on the blog for years. Call Singapore Airlines call centre and politely query the agent to “chase” the waitlist availability with a revenue manager. To do this, the agent effectively speaks to someone in revenue management, which is the department responsible for maximising each flight.

If the revenue manager thinks the seat may go unsold, or is feeling generous, they may oblige the request of the agent. It’s always up to them.

Today, t-minus 2 days before departure, with sweat beginning to drip, I called Singapore and spoke to a lovely guy who did not mind querying to see if they could turn a waitlist into a confirmed reservation. He was happy to, and the brief phone call went something like this…

Singapore Air: Hello, thanks for calling Singapore Airlines.

Me: Hi, I’m one of those annoying people who waitlisted a bunch of miles redemption flights, and I’d really appreciate if we could see if there are any which you could chase with revenue management to become confirmed. I’m dying to fly your newer A380!

Singapore Air: Sure sir, the flight is only a couple days away, and I’d be happy to speak to that dept. Can I place you on a brief hold?

….Jazz Music….

Singapore Air: Sir, I’m happy to say it’s good news. You now have a confirmed seat.

Five minutes later, after a call to revenue management, the agent was able to offer me a confirmed seat. I didn’t demand “revenue management”; nor did I demand a seat, I just politely asked if the agent would ask the question to revenue management and with no obligation to, he did. There are reports of people having similar success, even for flights months out. Here’s an interesting Flyertalk thread on the subject.

I now have a confirmed business class seat for 30,500 miles which I all but guarantee I would not have, had I just left things to the online system. Many, many waitlisted seats never clear on Singapore Airlines even if there are plenty of empty seats in the cabin, so this manual prodding can make all the difference.

Just to reiterate, most airlines don’t allow waitlists at all, and very few would ever even entertain the idea of allowing a customer to ask for such a manual courtesy. Alas, Singapore Airlines does, and they made this writer very happy today with an instant confirmed yes. With most airlines around the world, asking for someone to chase a seat with revenue management is for idiots. With Singapore, it’s the opposite.

The more you know, right?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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23 Comments

  1. I thought you were supposed to whisper “revenue management”, not say it fully aloud. That way it’s properly conspiratorial.

  2. Headline – “SAYING “REVENUE MANAGEMENT” REALLY GOT ME A BUSINESS CLASS FLIGHT”

    Post – “I didn’t say “revenue management”; nor did I demand a seat,”

    Umm…what?

    1. Thanks for taking time to try and make someone want to blow their brains out. It’s an incredible legacy you’ve left on this earth.

        1. How is it click bait? Let’s recap…

          Pre call to revenue management: no ticket.
          After call to revenue management: business class ticket.

          Sounds like a pretty self explanatory title and result.

  3. Interesting story, thanks. A small note: the use of ‘Alas’ in the article seems a bit odd. General this would mean ‘unfortunately’, no? So synonyms would be words like ‘woe’? Seems to be used to indicate positive occurrences in the story.

    1. Yeah, I was also wondering if there was a sense of the word ‘Alas’ that I’m not aware of…

  4. Just over a year ago, I flew off the handle when an absolutely idiotic article began making the rounds. Spoiler alert: it’s still idiotic. I called an airline, videotaped it, and proved it. Yet today, here I am telling you that asking for revenue management got me a business class ticket…

    So you were wrong a year ago, Got it.

    Calling SQ KF customer service for a “chaser” isn’t new, & you got lucky
    There have been many reports / posts on FT SQ forum that mentions no luck even after several calls.

  5. Hi Gilbert – matey, I just wanted to say thanks for sharing. Many people in the world find out something and selfishly keep it to themselves. You’ve looked to help give people ideas which may help them. So don’t blow your brains out – and keep leaving a positive legacy that you do. Will it come in handy for me as a non-Singapore flyer ? Nup. But maybe it will encourage me to become one or even develop your ideas into something else that might help me another time. So keep up the posting !

  6. Almost all Asian full service carriers have waitlist, it is a common (yet annoying I agree) practice and all you can call to inquire about it anytime – this isn’t unique to SQ. Airlines have to clear things such as groups, waitlist, aircraft changes, time schedules etc. that factor into a waitlist clear thus why it can be hours before the scheduled flight. It can also heavily depend on your status with the airline to push things favourably your way. Magically saying “Revenue Management” isn’t what is happening in the background.

    You got very lucky in this case and a four hour flight SIN-HKG is not a huge win considering how many flights SQ has daily to HKG with their biggest aircraft. Why on earth would you burn 30.5K miles for Business on a <4 hour flight? Just bite the bullet at take CX eco.

    I write this because I see you get very defensive to any response that isn’t on the same page as you. These “others” represent thousands of seasoned travelers such as yourself that know the ropes. You’re not the only road warrior out there, take into consideration others advice/opinion without putting that ego wall up right away.

    1. When someone attacks you, I see nothing wrong with defending yourself. What am I supposed to do, stand here and bow in disgrace to everyone who disagrees yet offers no insight or opinion as you at least did? No thanks.

      I thought I somewhat made the “why not fly CX economy” kind of obvious. It was over $500 for a poorly timed flight in economy. 30,000 points I earn in no time, so for a superior experience at a more preferable time it was a great win. I’m quite aware of how waitlists, schedules, inventory management and other factors which go into these equations work and did my best to make the topic understandable to people without diving into a dissertation on yield management.

  7. 30+ years with a U.S. mainline legacy carrier… Life Elite status… I’ve had a great deal of success with “revenue management” over the years. About 40-60% of the time they open a seat for me. Not quite clear what’s idiotic about that. Typically makes the difference between a hub overnight stay for an F/J class award seat trans-Pacific or South Pacific. That’s worth at least $200-$300 so why not ask?

    1. Great to hear Bradley. Haven’t used it in the US, other than when an AA rep tells me they don’t see any seats avail for upgrade, yet I politely correct that I see “X” amount in the required inventory code to which I hear the “oh, I see one now”….

  8. Qantas also kind of do this for their elites, you can’t waitlist, but if there’s no award availability showing, you can call them and they can request additional inventory, which I believe depends on there being revenue seats available in certain fare buckets.

    Do you have any SQ status, or do they do this for anyone (unofficially of course, and as in RM release the seats, not the waitlisting, I get that’s a normal benefit).

    1. Even British Airways has been known to do this if asked politely.
      Obviously, status (Gold, at a very minimum) seems to help.

  9. Ha!!! Unbelievable responses from readers… Everything from name calling to grammar correction. I love it. Please continue trying to be helpful and enjoy the posts for what they are.

  10. I’m sure American Airlines would do this for all their customers that ask
    Delta too 😉

  11. Not here to troll just genuine robust criticism.
    This article is complete clickbait.
    This is an extremely niche scenario most likely useless to 99% of the readers.
    Instead of hating on your readers perhaps just up your standard of journalism and don’t panic when you have to bang out new content and there is none around.
    Like you said, attack the issue – not the person.
    We’re attacking the issue of your poor quality blogging on your company website which you present with a photo of you, not you as a person.

    1. Again, I don’t see how the article is clickbait. Saying the words got me a ticket and there are other airlines where this works as well.

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