The Cathay Pacific Asia Miles mileage redemption program has traditionally taken a back seat in frequent flier circles to the likes of American AAdvantage and British Airways Executive Club. Given all of the negative changes made to the AA and BA programs over the past several years, Asia Miles may be worth a second look for some. While Enoch previously covered the program in depth, I wanted to highlight some additional sweet spots as well as mention some exciting new non-oneworld partners that have been added since his post. This program is certainly not for everyone, with its many restrictions and limitations, but to be sure there are some compelling redemption opportunities, particularly for transpacific flights between the US and Asia. In addition, Asia Miles members have earlier access to Cathay Pacific award space than members of some other oneworld programs like American AAdvantage, which opens award space about 30 days later than Cathay Pacific does.
There are two award charts for partner flights: a standard distance-based award chart, and a “oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart” that is also distance-based chart but for more complex itineraries. For the former, the “award zones” are defined by the distance of a one-way itinerary, regardless of whether a one-way or a round-trip is booked. For instance, SFO-HKG-SFO prices out at the D (5,001-7,500 miles) award level as SFO-HKG is 6,927 miles. Thus a round-trip business class award would cost 120,000 miles (70,000 for a one-way). This post will primarily focus on sweet spots on the standard award chart, with a quick overview of the Multi-Carrier chart at the end.
Notably, round-trip awards cost less than two separate one-way awards. For instance, flights between 2,501-5,000 miles (e.g., Vancouver to Tokyo Narita) cost 45,000 miles one-way in business class and only 80,000 miles round-trip. Also of note, fuel surcharges are assessed on Asia Miles award tickets, but fuel surcharges to Asia (the majority of Asia Miles sweet spots) are generally reasonable.
Asia Miles partners with three US-based transferrable points currencies: Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest. All three currencies transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Asia Miles. With Citi and American Express, transfers take between 1-2 days, while SPG transfers can take up to a week.
As a member of the oneworld Alliance, Cathay Pacific has access to award space on all oneworld member carriers. In addition, Asia Miles members have access to award space on numerous non-oneworld carriers as well. With Cathay’s recently signed partnerships with several Star Alliance carriers, numerous new redemption possibilities have opened up.
- Aer Lingus
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Austrian Airlines
- Air New Zealand
- Bangkok Airways
- Gulf Air
- Jet Airways
- Royal Brunei
It should be noted, however, that there are a number of restrictions with many partners (discussed below). In addition, one-way awards are not allowed on itineraries involving Finnair, Iberia, LATAM, Japan Airlines, Royal Jordanian, or S7.
In a follow-up post, I’ll be detailing my experiences trying to book awards on several of these partners.
ROUTING RULES AND QUIRKS
Like British Airways, which charges per segment, distances on the primary Asia Miles award chart are based on total travel distance across all segments. On round-trip awards, two stopovers, two “transfers” (connections), and one open-jaw are permitted, while only one stopover (no published restriction on connections) is allowed on one-way itineraries. “Backtracking” is allowed; for instance, LAX-HKG-NRT and even JFK-HKG-YVR are allowed.
A number of peculiarities exist. For instance, only Air New Zealand flights between Auckland and Hong Kong are bookable, while only Lufthansa group (Austrian, Lufthansa, and Swiss) and Air Canada flights that are codeshare flights with Cathay Pacific are bookable. This means JFK-FRA on Lufthansa, for instance, is not possible. Unsurprisingly, Lufthansa first class redemptions are not bookable. In addition, a number of carriers cannot be combined on the same itinerary with carriers that are not Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon: Aer Lingus, Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Gulf Air, and Royal Brunei.
- SEA-YVR-NRT-HKG, with the first leg on Alaska and the second leg on Japan Airlines is not permitted, whereas
- SEA-YVR-HKG with the first leg on Alaska and the second leg on Cathay Pacific, and
- LAX-YVR-HKG with the first leg on American and the second leg on Cathay Pacific would both be permitted.
New York to Vancouver nonstop
- JFK-YVR on Cathay Pacific
50,000 Asia Miles round-trip in business class (30,000 miles one-way); 70,000 miles in first class (40,000 miles one-way). Only three carriers operate a nonstop New York to Vancouver service: Air Canada, Philippine Airlines, and Cathay Pacific. Air Canada rarely releases premium cabin space on their Newark to Vancouver route, while Philippine Airlines has a far inferior product compared to the other two.
Transpacific routes under 7,500 miles:
East Coast to Japan or Korea
- JFK-NRT-PUS (Busan, South Korea) on Japan Airlines
- JFK-NRT-CTS (Sapporo, Japan) on Japan Airlines
- JFK-YVR-NRT on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines
West Coast to Taiwan, Korea, or Hong Kong
- SFO-HKG-TPE on Cathay Pacific (business class only)
- SFO-HND-TPE on Japan Airlines
- LAX-NRT-ICN on Japan Airlines
- LAX/SFO-HKG on Cathay Pacific
All 120,000 Asia Miles round-trip in business class (70,000 miles one-way); 180,000 miles round-trip in first class (105,000 one-way). Keep in mind that Japan Airlines bookings must be round-trip.
oneworld MULTI-CARRIER AWARD CHART
This award chart pertains only to round-trip itineraries that involve either:
- Two different oneworld carriers that are not Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon (e.g., ORD-LAX on American + LAX-NRT on Japan Airlines), or
- Three or more oneworld carriers, one of which is Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon (e.g., ORD-LAX on American + LAX-NRT on Japan Airlines + NRT-HKG on Cathay Pacific).
With multi-carrier awards, up to five stopovers, two connections, and two open-jaws are supposedly allowed, subject to the rules of the corresponding carriers. Unlike the primary award chart, total distance flown (rather than one-way distances) determines the award zones. Overall, while mileage costs can be considerably cheaper on this award chart for some itineraries, the two connection limitation is not ideal. Particularly for US-based fliers, certain (mainly West Coast) mixed American and Japan Airlines round-trip awards price out cheaper than those on the primary award chart. Long itineraries that avoid fuel surcharges, award availability permitting, can also potentially be great values, like the example Enoch highlighted previously.
Flights on the following carriers can be booked directly online: Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon, Finnair, Iberia, Qantas, and Qatar Airways. A word of caution: the pricing engine can be a bit misleading, so it’s advisable to price out the cost of the award and compare it to what the website says. More information can be found here.
For itineraries on other carriers or more complicated routings, calling in is required.
PHONE TREE AND CALL EXPERIENCES
The US phone number for Asia Miles is 866-892-2598. Numbers for other countries are listed here.
To reach an agent:
- Press 1 for English
- Press 1 as an existing Asia Miles member
- Enter Asia Miles number, followed by #
- Press 0 to reach an agent.
Agents are generally able to communicate well and are quite efficient, but call quality can be variable and at times is downright poor. Hold times are short to nonexistent, in contrast to what Enoch reported previously, and total call times for several dummy bookings I attempted ranged from 9-15 minutes.
So there you have it. Asia Miles may not be the best program for everyone given the numerous restrictions, but it can be a good way to burn ThankYou points or Membership Rewards points. In addition, there are a few specific award itineraries that can provide great value. In part 2, I’ll cover my experiences attempting to book a number of awards on some of the more exciting Asia Miles partners.
Many thanks to JR C. for the considerable assistance he provided.
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