Cheapest Miles to East Asia

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 2.23.57 AMSo far I’ve done Cheapest Miles to Hawaii, and Cheapest Miles to Europe. And what this is, is a chart comparing all the airline miles prices back to back to show you the best options. In this case I’ll be doing a chart of the best miles from North America to East Asia.

When I say East Asia, I’m including what airlines typically categorize as at least two zones: North Asia and South East Asia. In practicality it’s everything from Korea to Indonesia.


On to the Charts…

Economy Business Alliance Transfers From
Virgin Elevate 40 95 Amex MR (2:1)
AA 50 – 70 100 – 110 OneWorld SPG
Alaska 50 – 85 100 – 120 SPG
Alitalia 60 – 70 90 – 95 SkyTeam Amex MR, SPG
US Airways 60 – 80 110 – 120 OneWorld SPG
Avianca 70 – 78 150 – 156 Star Alliance
United 70 – 80 130 – 160 Star Alliance Chase UR
Singapore 70 – 105 160 – 205 Star Alliance Amex MR, Chase UR, Citi TY, SPG
Korean Air 70 – 125 125 – 155 SkyTeam Chase UR
Delta 70 – 170 140 – 325 SkyTeam Amex MR, Citi TY, SPG
Air Canada 75 – 90 150 – 155 Star Alliance Amex MR, SPG
Lufthansa 80 135 Star Alliance SPG
Air France 80 200 SkyTeam Amex MR, Citi TY, SPG
Hawaiian 80 – 100 160 – 200 Amex MR, SPG
Air Berlin 120 240 OneWorld SPG


Distance Based Programs

Example: SFO – ICN

JAL 50 80 OneWorld SPG
ANA 60 90 Star Alliance Amex MR, SPG
BA Avios 60 120 OneWorld Amex MR, Chase UR, SPG
LAN 70 200 OneWorld SPG (1:1.5)
Asia Miles 85 – 110 115 – 175 OneWorld Amex MR, Citi TY, SPG


Example: CLT – DPS

ANA 85 125 Star Alliance Amex MR, SPG
JAL 85 125 OneWorld SPG
BA Avios 104 208 OneWorld Amex MR, Chase UR, SPG
Asia Miles 110 160 – 175 OneWorld Amex MR, Citi TY, SPG
LAN 200 400 OneWorld SPG (1:1.5)

Read more about these distance based programs and how they price out awards:


Clarifications on some of the varying region based prices

Most all differences in prices are because there are generally two regions, Southeast Asia and North Asia. North Asia will include Japan, Korea, and often China and Taiwan. Southeast Asia is nearly everything to the south of China, from Indonesia to Vietnam.

But there are some other reasons prices vary

  • Hawaiian miles: 80k/160k with AA
  • Alaska miles adopts AA’s off-peak to Japan and Korea for 25k
  • Alaska miles when booking on Cathay is 60k/100k
  • With Asia Miles flights are much cheaper on OneWorld than Cathay Pacific
  • When using United miles, it’s slightly cheaper flying on United instead of Star Alliance partners
  • Delta just has extreme variations in prices and “saver” awards can be similar to unicorns

FYI, AA’s off-peak to “Japan, Korea, and Mongolia” is October 1 – April 30. Like I said, Alaska mirrors this pricing when you book on AA.



See the Complete Chart of Airline Stopover Rules.


Avoiding Fuel Surcharges

Using United miles, AA miles, and US Airways miles – I know I beat this over the head, but if you look at 90% of the miles I use, it’s AA and United, simply because they don’t pass on insane fuel surcharges. What’s the point of this hobby if I’m paying $650 on a flight anyways?

See the Master Chart to Avoiding Fuel Surcharges.


Use Air Canada Aeroplan Miles on Air China, Singapore, and United – According to my chart of avoiding fuel surcharges, for whatever reason, when you use Air Canada miles on Air China, Singapore, and United, the flights just don’t have fuel surcharges. Same could actually be done if you wanted to route through Europe on Swiss, Brussels, or Scandinavian.

Use British Airways Avios (miles) on AA flights – A lot of people don’t realize that when you use Avios for flights on AA to Asia, the flights just don’t have fuel surcharges.


Best Uses of Miles to Asia

Off-peak with AA (using AA miles or Alaska) is among the best options, but only gets you to Japan or Korea.

US Airways is a very solid option for North Asia for 60k miles in Business Class to North/South Asia for 110k/120k. Not only are those some of the lowest prices, but they don’t pass on fuel surcharges, and the routing rules are generous and include 1 stopover.

United miles are unique in that you can route through a number of places, including Africa to get here. Read more: United Miles Stopover Secrets.

JAL and ANA are once again phenomenal redemptions for certain flights, perhaps especially for flights to northeast Asia and with less connections. Even Avios appear to be a solid option for direct flights, especially on AA (since it won’t have fuel surcharges).



In the end, this chart is about you finding the best flight option with the miles you have or the bank points you have. Again, you can compare this with two other charts:

Hopefully with these charts, figuring out the best miles for your dream trips will be a little easier.

Related Posts:


  1. I searched an LAX to NRT route on AA recently, using the Avios search engine. It included the fuel surcharges. So, when redeeming miles for trips from the US to Asia, it would be best to stick to North American frequent flyer programs to avoid fuel surcharges.

    I was wondering about using Alaska Airlines miles for travel on Cathay Pacific. On a one-way award, would it be allowed to do Honolulu – Oakland (stopover) – Seattle – Vancouver – Hong Kong – Manila? On such an itinerary, is there no limit to the number of connections?

    • I checked ORD to PVG, HKG, and NRT and all of them showed up at $23.
      So, nvm, I checked LAX to NRT on Avios with AA and it also was $23. Not sure why it would be different. Could you screen shot me what you’re seeing?

      Not sure about the Alaska routing rules but I think they are MPM based, in which case that’s a hard routing to get. But regardless, I’d love to hear about any routing from Hawaii to Asia that’s via the US, but my guess is that’s way outside what’s close to legal on a number of levels. What you can do is is two tickets. One HNL to the US. Then another to Asia.

    • This is my screenshot. I searched two dates in 2015 round trip, for AA flights. If you can help me out, then I would appreciate it.

      When it comes to those Cathay Pacific flights (and connecting flights on Alaska Airlines), is there any way to look up the MPM? It would be helpful to have a convenient way to look it up, so that I can experiment with routings.

    • @brandon,
      Those don’t look like YQ charges, those are the prices for purchasing AVIOS since you have a zero balance in your account (according to that screen shot).

    • That’s not at AA

  2. It seems that Alitalia often shows up as having some of the lowest Business class awards, but I’ve never seen a report of using them. Any insights?

    • I’ve never used them personally, but I hear calling them is an adventure to Italy. 😀

  3. Hi Drew, when I search ITA Matrix, as an example, a direct coach flight on Garuda, BKK-CKG on Feb. 2, I see YQ of $58, and when I go to book through Flying Blue I see that same $58 charge showing up in “Taxes and carrier surcharge required” section alongside the 10k mileage requirement. Any other trick to avoiding fuel surcharges on Garuda? You mention above that they don’t charge these so perhaps I’m missing something.

    • You’re right, I misquoted this awhile ago and I’m not sure why, or if that changed now they joined skyteam. Or if I just was remembering my Indonesian Hopper post, which wouldn’t have YQ being domestic… anyways, I changed it above. Thanks for the comment. Sorry for the error.

  4. Good post. I still for the life of me cannot get the North America – Africa – Japan routing to work out on United . com. Is there a special way to do this, or do you need to search for all your segments and call a United rep until you get one that will price it out at the saver level to Japan.

  5. Drew, you mention Avios to Asia
    “A lot of people don’t realize that when you use Avios for flights on AA to Asia, the flights just don’t have fuel surcharges”

    But in your “Complete guide to British Avios” you say AA flights within North America only don’t include surcharges.
    So im confused as to which is correct? Can I use Avios to get from the US to Asia on AA and not pay fuel surcharges? If so how?

    • What’s I’ve stated above is correct. Check BA and you’ll see that flights on AA to Asia do not have YQ.

      The BA post was incomplete but not untruthful. AA technically does have YQ internationally outside of the Americas, but BA just doesn’t pass them on with AA flights to Asia. Maybe an oversight, no idea.

  6. These are fun/helpful tools, thanks Drew. Looking forward to when you might try a chart for travels to Middle East/North Africa. :-) have lots of spots I need to explore, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt (pause on that one), then Jordan too. Maybe Doha again. Did you get to Oman yet?

  7. Hi Drew
    Wife and I planning a trip to Japan next year Mid October.
    I have about 220,000 miles while wife has about 50,000.

    I did a search on the ANA site it came up to 120,000 miles round trip for 2 in economy, while the same search on United shows up as 140,000 + $127 for two.
    ANA does not show my the fees as my flights include United and ANA metal combo.

    My question to you is: Is 140,000 miles + $127 a good deal?

    • I was reading your old posts and found out that i can book a free one way within united to anywhere in US after i come back from Japan for the same number of miles 140,000 and lower total fees $100 vs $127

  8. what partner would VE redeems for to S Asia with
    40k, and 95k J respectively ? thanks

  9. In Australia we have such little choice in buying miles, Qantas allows a poultry 20K once per year for AUD$557, then finding flights direct to the USA in J/F is near impossible unless booked near a year out.

    Many of us go via HKG or SIN or BKK to US and Europe with so much choice using many of the program miles offers, like BNE to HKG return in J using AS miles for AUD$1500 same price as a Y ticket, recently booked BNE to CDG all up for 2 in J under AUD$6K with USDM.

  10. Anyone has some tips on the least mile route to take if I am flying out of North America and want to hit up Japan and Australia using United or BA miles? It doesn’t matter which order to visit these places. I tried searching through united and reading the tips here but still end up with expensive mile iten! Thanks!

  11. No Asiana appearance :/

  12. I am trying to book a coach class ticket for my son from Minneapolis (MSP) to Bangkok (BKK). I have points with AA, Delta and Chase. I would like to find something for under 100k points round trip. His dates are approximately Dec 19 to Jan 4. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  13. Hi Drew,

    I hope this is a good time to ask you but I’m very new to this… I’m having a very difficult time to find the best way to depart from Los Angeles and my destination is GuangZhou China. If you have time, or if anyone out there can assist me that would be great. Thanks guys!

    • Note* I am trying to leave around December 24th and come back on January 10th.

  14. Hey there – I am trying to book a business class ticket for 2 from Western Canada – to Bangkok April 2017. I have 280K Avion points – I can transfer to Asiamiles and fly Cathay Pacific but I’m having trouble doing this online – somehow it doesn’t show the Bangkok airport?? – British Airways is a bust with the fuel surcharges and no flights available – it’s really pathetic – do you have any advice?


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