Best Use of Asia Miles (Cathay)

I first wrote a Best Use of Asia Miles in 2013, and the last time was 2014. That’s a mistake because it’s actually an interesting transfer option for Citi ThankYou Points.

I think this will be an improvement on my older posts, as I now better understand some of the confusing details.

It’s worth knowing though! We’re talking some of the cheapest First Class flights, cheapest round-the-world flights, and the most stopovers allowed! Cheap and awesome.

And with this post you’ll have everything you need to book a great (and valid) ticket with Asia Miles.

Overview on Asia Miles

Earning: Asia Miles is a transfer partner of Citi ThankYou points at 1,000:1,000, and from SPG at 1,000:1,000 (or 20,000:25,000).

 

1) Premium Cabin is where it’s at.

Compared to other programs, Asia Miles is very competitive, especially for Premium seats. While the main perk is the stopovers, and the route flexibility, it’s worth comparing a couple of very simple routes to show what we’re starting out with.

Examples:

  • Roundtrip from Chicago to Rome (via DUS) = 45k/80k/120k
    • AA = 45k – 60k/115k/170k
    • United = 60k/115k/160k
    • Delta = 60k/140k/na
  • Roundtrip from Chicago to Bangkok (via HKG) = 90k/135k/190k
    Same flight on:

    • AA = 75k/140k/220k
    • United = 80k/160k/260k
    • Delta = 80k/160k/na

This not including the benefit of stopovers, and the con of fuel surcharges.

Still, I think you can clearly see the benefit for premium cabin.

 

2) Stopovers is where its at.

Pricing is distance based – so you add up all the miles flown on the route and compare it to their award chart to get the price.

There are two award charts, which I’ll explain in a minute, but the OneWorld award chart allows 5 stops (1 destination + 4 stopovers?).

(To be honest, it is possible that Asia Miles allows 5 stopovers in addition to a destination, given that they later say that a stopover is allowed on a “Mixed” “en route” oneway award).

For example you could book the ticket below for 65,000 miles, where you stop in Buenos Aires, Lima, and Bogota.

It would be basically the same price as anyone else to Argentina, except you could get up to 5 stops.

That’s unique nowadays, and reason enough to consider the program.

 

3) Two Award Charts, and both are good.

Again, you just add up the miles flown (I used gcmap.com) and compare it to the award charts below.

 

Here is the OneWorld Award Chart:

Cathay Asia Miles OneWorld Award Chart

This is to be used when:

  • Two oneworld alliance airlines, where Cathay Pacific or Dragonair is not included; or
  • Three or more oneworld alliance airlines when Cathay Pacific or Dragonair is included.

This award chart allows:

  • “Five stopovers, two transfers and two open-jaws”.

 

Here is the “Mixed” Cathay + 1 Award Chart:

Asia Miles Cathay Award Chart

This is to be used when:

  • “Redemption for single or mixed (two) carrier awards.”
  • “For mixed carrier awards, Cathay Pacific or Dragonair must be included.”

Pricing:

  • You add up the miles one-way, even for a roundtrip.

This allows:

  • Two stopovers, two transfers or one open-jaw”.
    • “Except Air China and Iberia where no stopovers or open-jaws are permitted”.
    • “Must return to the country of origin, though not necessarily to the same city.”
  • “For one-way Flight Award… only one en route stopover is allowed”.

 

4) Fuel Surcharges

Unfortunately, you can really get slammed on Asia Miles passing on fuel surcharges, so you need to fly on airlines that don’t have fuel surcharges.

Airlines that don’t have fuel surcharges:

  • LAN
  • TAM
  • AA
    • none within North / South America
    • none to Asia
    • Note: there are fuel surcharges on AA flights to Europe
  • Qantas
  • Cathay – very low ($46 for JFK-HKG roundtrip)
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Japan Airlines
  • S7
  • Air Berlin (That’s what I wrote before… and BA doesn’t pass it on either).
  • Aer Lingus
    • Although it may not be bookable on the OneWorld award chart. It would have to be booked alone, or just with Cathay – details in Conclusion.

 

In general, fuel surcharges on most airlines for a roundtrip to Europe aren’t that high, like $200 on AA, Finnair, Iberia, and $261 on Royal Jordanian.

 

Best Uses

The best use, in my opinion, is for people who have lots of Citi ThankYou points that either a) want to fly first class, or b) want to stopover in a lot of places.

One confusing element, is that sometimes the OneWorld award chart is cheaper, and other times the Mixed award chart is cheaper. The mixed award chart is only for Cathay and a single partner.

 

1) Really Long Flights on Cathay

Here’s how you can fly in any class for a long time… although the only reason I know to fly for a long time, is the First class junkies who purposely spend time on a 2 foot wide mattress eating microwaved food for 18 hours. But no judgement here.

 

The Mixed/Cathay award chart for any flight “10,001 or above” is 110k/175k/260k.

If you’re willing to pay those prices here’s one suggestion.

US – Hong Kong – Johannesburg (on Cathay) / Cape Town – Doha – New York (Qatar)

Unfortunately, to stay on this Mixed award chart you can only fly one other airline besides Cathay. So this roundtrip would work from New York, but not Chicago (since Qatar doesn’t fly there).

However, the other award chart is barely more expensive.

 

2) Really Long Flights On OneWorld

The OneWorld award chart goes to higher tiers… because you can fly further with multiple airlines.

It tops off at 50,000 flown miles, but it’s near impossible to fly that much.

For fun I found the following direct OneWorld flights and added it up:

That hits all 6 inhabitable continents. It comes out to 32,929 flown miles.

On the OneWorld award chart, that prices out as 130k/190k/275k.

 

The next category up – 35,000 to 50,000 miles – isn’t that bad either: 150k/220k/335k.

Sure it’s a lot of miles, but you could fly all over the world.

 

3) RTW Flight Without Fuel Surcharges

The same thing as above but slightly more realistic.

Note: if you use 3 or more airlines, it needs to include Cathay (or Dragon Air).

 

Here’s my idea: LA – Berlin – Doha – Hong Kong – Sydney – LA

The route is a total of 24,527 flown miles, which means it would cost 110k/160k/235k. Great price for the amount of flying!

(Remember, we’re using the OneWorld Award Chart since we’re using 3+ airlines and it has to include Hong Kong to have more than two airlines. Cathay can be included on the Doha – Hong Kong route, or the Hong Kong – Sydney route.)

  • LA to Berlin on AirBerlin
  • Berlin to Doha on AirBerlin
  • Doha to Hong Kong on Cathay
  • Hong Kong to Sydney on Qantas
  • Sydney to LA on Qantas

Of course, you can route this all kinds of ways. Even if you used the exact same airlines, there are tons of other city combinations.

Also, you could fly Malaysia without fuel surcharges. And you could tack on Bali, or Thailand, or Vietnam, or anywhere really, and still continue on to Hong Kong on Cathay.

And while there isn’t a First Class on Air Berlin, there is a business. And if First was your goal, you could fly something else and pay the fuel surcharges for that segment.

 

4) US to Europe

Unfortunately, the only airline without fuel surcharges that we can use alone in Europe is Air Berlin. However, Air Berlin at least has the benefit of having multiple hubs, like Dusseldorf, Berlin, and Vienna.

However, this is one of the times where it may be cheaper to use the single/mixed award chart.

This is confusing because the single/mixed award chart measures the oneway and prices as a roundtrip.

  • 2,501 – 5,000 miles = 45k/80k/120k
  • 5,001 – 7,500 miles = 60k/120k/180k
  • 7,501 – 10,000 miles = 90k/145k/220k

Then the OneWorld (which would be exactly two airlines in this case) would measure the entire trip, and price it as such.

  • 4,001 – 7,500 miles = 60k/80k/105k
  • 7,501 – 9,000 miles = 60k/85k/115k
  • 9,001 – 10,000 miles = 65k/95k/130k
  • 10,001 – 14,000 miles = 85k/115k/155k
  • 14,001 – 18,000 miles = 90k/135k/190k

The advantage would be allowing more stopovers and two airlines on the OneWorld chart.

 

Example: Chicago – Berlin – Vienna – Dusseldorf – Chicago

It’s 9,473 flown miles as a roundtrip, and would price as 65k/95k on the OneWorld chart (barely sliding under the next tier, which would add 20k).

But as a oneway there it’s at most 4,753 flown miles, which on the mixed chart would be 45k/80k… which is quite a deal, and includes a stopover!

 

Doing a similar thing from the west coast, and it’s still cheaper to use the single airline.

San Fran – Berlin – Rome – Berlin – San Fran

12,841 miles roundtrip on the OneWorld award chart makes it 85k/115k Asia Miles.

For a oneway it’s 6,421 miles, and on the Single award chart it is 60k/120k

 

The problem here is that it only qualifies as the single award chart if you only fly one airline. So that works from SFO, LAX, ORD and other major airports… but it wouldn’t even get AirBerlin flights in Seattle, Vancouver, Dallas, etc…

If you want to fly premium cabin, it’s cheaper, or you want the stopovers… just add a domestic AA flight to make it two airlines. For most of America you might not have an option.

 

With the single award chart you can fly Aer Lingus via Dublin as well. But you can’t combine it with AirBerlin flights.

 

5) US to Central America / Caribbean

Turns out that the Mixed airline is a good option for really short flights even without stopovers. This is when there is a single airline, or a single partner plus Cathay.

If you were just to fly AA down to Mexico and back, the prices are low… at least for people who live in the south / southeast.

Here are the prices for a roundtrip (although you measure the distance flown oneway):

  • Under 601 flown miles = 15k/30k/40k
  • 601 – 1,200 = 20k/40k/55k
  • 1,201 – 2,500 = 30k/50k/70k

Beyond that, it’s less competitive.

 

Screen Shot 2016-11-13 at 11.48.07 PM

Examples of roundtrip economy flights:

  • Dallas to Belize City is 1,189 miles =  20,000 miles
  • Chicago to Cancun is 1,444 miles = 30,000 miles
  • Miami to Havana / Cancun / Grand Cayman / Jamaica are all under 600 miles = 15,000 miles
  • Charlotte to Cancun is 1,075 miles = 20,000 miles
  • NYC to St. Maarten is 1,681 miles = 30,000 miles

Obviously you don’t have to live in a hub, and you can connect. But these are pretty minimally short flights.

 

6) US to South America

Anything goes with South America because there aren’t any fuel surcharges on any airline in the region.

While you can see a ton of airlines, remember it’s distance based – so the further away you get from the US, the more you pay… as always. It just seems to make more of a difference here.

 

Award Charts

The OneWorld award chart ends up being cheaper for most everything. It requires two airlines exactly, and the award chart is based on total miles flown (roundtrip) and shows prices in roundtrip:

  • 4,001 – 7,500 miles = 60k/80k/105k
  • 7,501 – 9,000 miles = 60k/85k/115k
  • 9,001 – 10,000 miles = 65k/95k/130k
  • 10,001 – 14,000 miles = 85k/115k/155k

It’s 9,324 flown miles and would cost 65,000 Asia Miles.

You could stop in Miami, Bogota, Lima, Quito, and the Galapagos all for 65k.

 

Or you could go longer for a little more.

Here’s Miami, Lima, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Chicago for 85K.

It’s 11,641 flown miles, which means it would cost 85k/115k.

It would be cheaper if you could keep it under 10,001 miles… like by starting/ending in Miami. Or starting in Dallas and replacing EZE.

If you can do something under 10,001 miles, it will cost 65k/95k.

 

But if you want to spend 85k… might as well use all your stops.

 

 

Conclusion and Extra Details

Extra Details I haven’t mentioned:

  • Airlines that can only be booked on Single/Mixed awards (details here):
    • Aer Lingus
    • Air New Zealand
      • Only for HKG – AKL
    • Alaska
    • Bangkok
    • Gulf Air
    • Royal Brunei Airlines
  • Some online booking?
    • “Redeem flight awards on these airline partners instantly online. Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia Airlines, Qantas Airways, Qatar Airways”
  • The shortest distances don’t apply to Alaska and Aer Lingus.
    • “Award zone “S” is not applicable to one-way tickets on Aer Lingus. Award zones “S” and “A” are not applicable for Alaska Airlines flights to or from Mexico with sector distances of less than 1,200 miles.”
  • Is it possible to book a flight without Premium economy, and get free business class?
    • “For Cathay Pacific flights without Premium Economy Class, upgrading from Economy to Business Class is allowed.”
    • “For British Airways flights without Premium Economy Class (World Traveller Plus), upgrading from Economy to Business is allowed.”

 

Conclusion

While Asia Miles is an odd program, it’s worth knowing for its unique ability to trot around the globe with 5 stopovers.

It really is one of the leftover award charts from the glory days of stopovers, that just hasn’t changed or gone away.

In short, Asia Miles is a great Citi transfer if you want lots of stopovers, and possibly good First Class flight prices.

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10 Comments

  1. Another great post. One correction – in example 1, you wrote “So this roundtrip would work from New York, but not Chicago (since Qatar doesn’t fly there).” However, Qatar does fly to Chicago (economy & business only – no first class)…for example, see my linked TR.

    Reply
  2. Great research, but it’s excruciatingly hard to find a CX agent who would know how to ticket a stopover flight.

    Reply
  3. Another informative post.

    I, too, have looked into this program and found some use. I feel like you didn’t talk much about travel to Asia in this post, after saying JAL and CX don’t have, or don’t have much, fuel surcharges. I have found some flights to Asia with very reasonable prices.

    And one more thing. You should mention that some partners are not allowed to book one-ways. For example, JL.

    Reply
  4. Seems of minor benefit versus booking from various programs on sweet spots. Might be better if YQ-free can be unlocked on RTW ex-Brazil.

    Reply
  5. Do you have some good deal example start from Asia, like Hong Kong? thanks!

    Reply
  6. Agree with the first commenter…. QR does fly ORD-DOH.

    Reply
  7. Drew, AsiaMiles is an Amex MR transfer partner as well. I checked, and it is 1:1 ratio.

    Reply
  8. Nice overview. But as usual, my mind blows reading your analysis – too many details to think about!

    AsiaMiles are useful to get access to all premium award CX space – partners don’t get access until 3-4 weeks after the CX booking window opens, and premium seats are often gone by the time that happens. Alaska used to be an awesome way to redeem on CX before Alaska “enhanced” their website and allowed online booking – previously, you had to call Alaska but the advantage was they had the same access as AsiaMiles. Now, Alaska only gets access 3-4 weeks after AsiaMiles customers do.

    For me, the miles aren’t really the issue – it’s finding premium space when I want it that is the main problem. I can always gin up whatever I need or trade with someone. But I can’t trade for nonexistent seats…

    Reply
  9. Cx just launched a 30% bonus on hotel transfers

    Reply
  10. Awesome post! Would you be able to post something on Asia miles with trips originating from Asia?

    Reply

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