Asia Miles, the frequent flyer program of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon, has long been a niche program for many of us in the US. It is not a strong program for earning miles, and does have pretty confusing award charts (yes, plural). However, it is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, as well as Marriott/SPG, so miles are relatively easy to come by.
Redeeming under Asia Miles also means expanded access to Cathay Pacific award seats than partners, and can be great for super long routes. We have previously published a full guide on redeeming Asia Miles, as well as some sweet spots for redemptions under the current chart.
Well, today Cathay Pacific is announcing major changes in both earning and redeeming miles under the Asia Miles program. These changes go into effect June 22, 2018, so this is barely a month’s notice. Since most of us really care about redemption, that’s what I’ll focus most of this post on.
Earning Miles will Become Zone-Based
Asia Miles is shifting to a truly strange way of earning miles—sort of like redeeming awards. It’s not going revenue-based, since the number of miles you earn is not directly tied to the dollar amount you spend on the ticket. However, the number of miles earned will still depend on both distance and fare class, and will basically be zone-based.
Here is what the breakdown looks like. For example, it doesn’t matter if you fly First Class from Hong Kong to Boston, Chicago, or New York—since they are all considered ultra-long flights, you earn the same number of miles.
This probably makes mental math easier, since the program will function more like a punch card than ever. You can think of it as “fly paid First Class from New York to Hong Kong ~8 times, get a free First Class ticket free.”
This earning chart is effective “immediately,” in the sense that for all Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon tickets issued before June 22, 2018 for travel on or after that date, you will earn from whichever chart gives you more miles. This is a smart move on their part, to avoid people waiting to book after the date just to potentially earn more miles.
Earning miles on partner airlines is nog changing—you still earn miles as a % of distance flown.
All Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon Awards are Priced One-Way
Cathay Pacific is saying goodbye to the current award chart for their own flights, which prices one-way and return tickets differently.
Meanwhile, below is the new Asia Miles Standard Award Chart. You will see that all tickets will be priced one-way, and there have also been some realignment of distance zones. The previous 7 zones have been slimmed down to 6, with some adjustment on the short haul ends.
For example, flying New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG) in Business Class was under award zone E, so it will cost 85,000 miles one-way, or 145,000 miles round-trip under the current chart. However, come June 22, tickets will be priced one-way. So while the one-way cost stays the same, the round-trip price will jump to 170,000 miles, or a 17% increase.
But folks might stand to benefit in some other ways. For example, Hong Kong (HKG) to Manila (MNL) used to fit under award zone A, so a one-way Economy Class ticket would cost 15,000 miles. With the new chart, this flight now falls under the short haul category, so a one-way flight from Hong Kong to Manila will cost 7,500 miles, or a 50% decrease.
I should mention that all of the prices I’ve discussed up to this point are compared using the “saver level” award chart. Cathay Pacific will introduce two additional redemption levels with the Asia Miles overhaul.
Perhaps particularly interesting is that the “Standard Award” chart will only have access to seats up to 353 days out, whereas the “Choice Award” and “Tailored Award” options get a week’s head start. A week doesn’t sound like a lot, but for those hoping to get premium cabin awards on peak travel days, this might be a make or break situation.
Here is the Asia Miles “Choice Award” chart. As you can see, the prices are about 50% higher than the Standard Award chart.
Price Increase on Oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards
Asia Miles has long offered a oneworld multi-carrier award chart. This chart is entirely distance based, and allows you to fly with two oneworld partners, on top of Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon.
Where this chart excels is really long, almost round-the-world itinerary. Obviously, you are only limited by the number of oneworld partners you can fly with. This has always been one of the best ways to use Asia Miles, since you could fly 25,000 miles for just 160,000 miles in Business Class, which is a great deal. Here is the current chart, expiring June 22, 2018.
Meanwhile, here is what the oneworld Multi-Carrier award chart looks like starting June 22, 2018.
The prices mostly remain the same for flights under 4,000 miles, and Economy flights only see slightly bumps at the longer end. However, there will be a more significant price hike on longer itineraries in premium cabins. For example, the 25,000-mile Business Class award I previously mentioned will go from 160,000 to 185,000 miles, a 15.6% increase.
My Impression of Asia Miles Changes
These changes go into effect on June 22, 2018, so you have less than a month to make redemptions under the current chart. For those of us who are transferring miles from partners, you might want to keep in mind that Asia Miles transfers can take a while, so you might want to get started sooner rather than later.
For the vast majority of Asia Miles members, who are likely redeeming Economy Class awards, Cathay Pacific has promised that no Economy Class award is going up in price, so that should be a reassurance (but also not entirely true, since oneworld awards in Economy are getting more expensive in some cases).
Pricing flights only as one-ways streamlines the award chart, and I think is theoretically a welcomed change. However, many of the round-trip prices are going up as a result of this. I guess the upside is that at least you won’t feel bad redeeming a one-way ticket anymore, because there isn’t an option to save miles by going round trip…?
As someone who primarily focuses on redemptions on premium cabin awards, these changes aren’t great. The cost of First or Business Class awards are going up, almost across the board, and the beloved multi-carrier award chart is seeing a devaluation.
I think the changes are relatively modest, in the grand scheme of things, so I’m not too upset. One thing that does make me worry, though, is how the number of “Saver” seats will be affected in this overhaul. Cathay Pacific says that they are increasing the number of available reward seats by 20%, but that number is essentially meaningless without knowing the breakdown of redemption levels. I guess that’s just something we will have to wait and see.
What do you think of these Asia Miles change?