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Although I am a frequent Oneworld airline traveler, I rarely think to utilize Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program to book award flights. However, digging into the program a bit more has led me to reconsider my booking options for the future. A number of great sweet spots exist within the Asia Miles program that gives it a leg up on other Oneworld booking opportunities. Plus, as a transfer partner of multiple popular points programs, accumulating Asia Miles is a breeze.
For those unfamiliar with the airline, Cathay Pacific operates out of a primary hub in Hong Kong. The carrier is one of the founding members of the Oneworld airline alliance. It is also well known for its exemplary long-haul first class product. Unfortunately, in recent years, Cathay Pacific has reduced its global footprint. Now, the carrier serves less than 80 cities and destinations across the globe.
Despite a reduced global footprint for the airline as of late, the Oneworld airline alliance has been expanding (Royal Air Maroc, Alaska, Oman Air). As a result, the expansion has only added to the potential flights that can be booked via Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles program.
Understanding the sweet spots of the Asia Miles program allows prospective frequent flyers to secure the most value for their points.
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Award Charts
- Asia Miles Award Sweet Spots
- Asia Miles Program Quirks
- Asia Miles Transfer Partners
- Our Take
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Award Charts
In order to unlock the sweet spots of the Asia Miles program, one must first understand how the program prices award flights. In addition, you must understand the cities that the program serves. It was once well-known for its New York to Vancouver fifth freedom flight, which featured its ever-extravagant first class.
However, recent route cuts (plus a pandemic) reduced the number of routes between Hong Kong and the U.S. from eight to five. The following American cities still enjoy Cathay Pacific service:
- Los Angeles
- New York City (JFK)
- San Francisco
While the airline has reduced its global footprint, its award program retains its worldwide reach thanks to Oneworld partners.
Interestingly, the Asia Miles program has separate award charts for itineraries on flights operated by Cathay Pacific and for itineraries on multiple Oneworld partners. While the Asia Miles award chart landing page specifically mentions a separate chart for Airline Partner Awards, it doesn't seem to exist.
Fortunately, Asia Miles also has a tool that lets users price straightforward award itineraries across all possible cabin classes. Based on the various searches I conducted, an award ticket on a single partner airline runs a premium of anywhere from 5,000 – 10,000 extra miles on top of the listed price on the Cathay Pacific award chart.
It's worth noting that for single-airline awards, each direct (outbound/inbound) may consist of a maximum of two segments. The same limitation does not exist for multi-partner awards. However, multi-partner awards must involve two or more airlines besides Cathay Pacific.
Asia Miles Award Sweet Spots
Now, with award charts and rules established, an exploration of award sweet spots can begin!
Super Long-Haul Awards on Cathay Pacific (85K Business)
Similar to a number of other programs, the Cathay Pacific award chart determines mileage costs based on total travel distance. What stands out about the Asia Miles award chart is that the highest mileage band begins at 7,501 miles.
Whether your Cathay Pacific itinerary spans 7,501 miles, 14,703 miles, or anywhere in between, the mileage cost will be the exact same. As a result of these pricing rules, some incredibly far-reaching awards are out there for the booking.
For example, take the very straightforward itinerary of New York (JFK) to Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific serves this route, which covers over 8,000 miles. This route costs 42,000 miles in economy, 85,000 miles in business, or 125,000 miles in first class under the Asia Miles program.
Now, consider the fact that an additional flight from Hong Kong to other parts of Asia — or even Africa or Oceania — requires no additional miles. That's right. No extra cost to go thousands of miles farther, and all on miles. To illustrate this point, tacking on a segment from Hong Kong to Johannesburg increases the total distance covered from 8,072 to 14,703 — all without an additional mileage cost.
Heading from New York to Johannesburg via Hong Kong might be an extreme example of super long-haul awards. However, the possibilities are endless thanks to the truly global network of routes Cathay Pacific offers.
Excessive Extravagance on Qatar Airways (90K Business)
Remember the small mileage premium assessed on a single-partner one-way award ticket for travel on airlines other than Cathay Pacific? An extra 5,000 miles could be worth it for a chance to travel 15,000+ miles and over 24 hours in Qatar Qsuites.
Through the Asia Miles program, an award from Los Angeles to Sydney via Doha would cost just 90,000 miles in Qsuites. To fly the same itinerary and book via American Airlines would require two separate awards, let alone many more miles!
It's not just the ultra-long-haul itineraries that benefit from this award pricing. Getting to Europe could be done in Qsuites, too (or at least partially based on destination.) A journey from Dallas to Sofia, Bulgaria, costs the same 90,000 miles in business class but lets travelers enjoy the comforts of Qsuites for roughly 15 hours.
Surely this won't be for everyone. But it works for those (like me) who don't mind going out of their way for extra time flying in style.
However, one word of warning. Asia Miles assesses quite a hefty amount of taxes and fees for award travel on Qatar Airways. Expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 on top of mileage costs for such awards.
Oneworld Multi-Carrier Round-the-World Trip
A number of airlines offer round-the-world awards — ANA, Aeromexico, and Qantas just to name a few. Add Cathay Pacific to that list, thanks to its multi-carrier award chart. The Asia Miles program allows up to 50,000 miles of travel, although it's fairly easy to circumnaviate the globe in less than half of that.
Before jumping into planning out some lavish trip that spans every single continent, it's important to understand the rules of a round-the-world award with Asia Miles:
- Travel must include flights on at least two Oneworld airlines other than Cathay Pacific.
- The maximum permitted travel distance is 50,000 miles.
- Up to five stopovers are allowed.
- Two transfers and two open jaws are also permitted, though all distances count toward the total mileage traveled.
- Mileage requirements are those of the highest class booked in any single itinerary.
- Premium economy cabin travel is not allowed.
An entire article (or more!) could be written on how to maximize all of the different intricacies of what the Asia Miles program allows with these kinds of awards. For now, I'll keep it simple with my example itinerary: Seattle – London – Hong Kong – Sydney – Tokyo – Seattle.
These five long-haul flights cover four continents and take would-be travelers from Seattle to four major global destinations. Conveniently, this journey spans 24,989 miles. That puts it just within band 11 on the Asia Miles muti-carrier award chart, meaning it costs:
- Economy: 115,000 miles.
- Business class: 185,000 miles.
- First class: 280,000 miles.
The Asia Miles award pricing tool is particularly useful when planning one of these trips. Select the “Multi-City” option instead of “Return” or “One Way” and plan away! You won't be able to book more complex awards online, but you can get an accurate sense of what such awards will cost.
West Coast to Asia Awards (From 61K Business)
Not all Asia Miles sweet spots require flying halfway across the world (or more)! Those on the west coast can take advantage of favorable transpacific pricing. For instance, flights between Seattle and Tokyo on Japan Airlines are under 5,000 miles in distance.
Staying under the 5,000-mile threshold ensures the journey costs just 61,000 miles in business class. Travel between Tokyo and Vancouver fits the same criteria as well and even allows for a short connecting flight within Japan.
East Coast to Africa (From 61K Business)
When Royal Air Maroc joined Oneworld, it brought the airline alliance some much-needed connectivity to Africa.
In particular, Asia Miles program users can enjoy this connectivity when flying to Africa from the eastern coast of the U.S. Royal Air Maroc links Casablanca with Miami, New York, and Washington, D.C., in the United States as well as Montreal in Canada. Between any of these four cities and Casablanca, expect award travel to cost 27,000 miles in economy or 61,000 miles in business class.
These figures are higher than what American Airlines charges for the exact same flights. That's because the AAdvantage program considers Casablanca to be part of Europe instead of Africa. However, through Asia Miles, travelers can add on additional legs into Africa to the journey at no additional cost.
For example, a trip from New York to Mauritania via Casablanca stays under 5,000 miles and therefore costs the same amount of miles. Under the AAdvantage program, the same itinerary would be 40,000 American miles in economy or 75,000 miles in business.
Asia Miles Program Quirks
Program sweet spots are valuable to understand, but the intricacies of an award program are sometimes even more important.
In the case of Asia Miles, there are a handful of considerations to factor in when booking awards.
Increased Access to Cathay Pacific Award Space
Award space can be hard to come by these days, and Cathay Pacific awards are no exception. By booking through Asia Miles, travelers will have access to extra award space on Cathay Pacific compared to booking through other programs — particularly in business and first class.
Earlier Access to Awards
Asia Miles releases award space 360 days in advance of flights. This compares quite favorably with other Oneworld programs, such as American Airlines AAdvantage and British Airways Avios, which release space 331 days and 350 days in advance, respectively. Using Asia Miles to book awards the moment they become available gives travelers a leg up against others trying to book through other programs.
Save Miles With Extra Segments
Similar to how the Avianca Lifemiles program prices awards, for mixed-cabin itineraries on Cathay Pacific, Asia Miles uses a mileage-weighted average to calculate an overall award cost. That means for particularly long itineraries, adding an additional segment in a lower cabin will reduce the overall award cost.
Varied Taxes and Fees
Seasoned award travelers know that different award programs assess different surcharges for travel on various airlines. Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles program is no different.
For a journey in Qatar Airways Qsuites from the U.S. to Doha, the American Airlines AAdvantage program charges $7.65 out-of-pocket. Asia Miles, on the other hand, charges over $500 more than that per person!
However, on other awards, Asia Miles can charge lower taxes and fees that its peers. Examples include transatlantic flights on British Airways.
Not All Awards are Bookable Online
Unfortunately, while the Asia Miles program allows for incredible award redemptions, not every award can be booked online. Certain airline partners, and certain complex itineraries, require filling out a flight award request form and/or calling a representative to book.
Asia Miles Transfer Partners
Luckily, Asia Miles enjoys a number of transfer partners among the transferrable points programs. All transfers are made with a 1:1 ratio — except for Marriott Bonvoy transfers, which transfer at a 3:1 transfer ratio.
To get a sense of how long transfers from each program might take, be sure to check AwardWallet's transfer time resource.
While not a standout favorite airline program among North American frequent flyers, Cathay Pacific’s loyalty program serves as a useful option for those savvy enough to understand all of the program’s capabilities.
Whether it’s extra long-haul journeys, targeted distances across oceans, or just a way to access award space earlier, sweet spots are ripe for the taking within the Asia Miles program. With a plethora of transfer partners available to travelers, consider booking your next Cathay Pacific or partner flight via Asia Miles!
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