Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Devaluation: Sweet Spots



This post is the first of 2 parts. First, we’ll talk about what’s going to happen to Cathay Pacific miles after 6.22.18 and compare it to the currentstate of affairs.

In the next post, we’ll discuss what you can do with your stash of Cathay Pacific miles if you book before 6.22.18 (hint: a lot!).

Look, here are a few things you need to know about my perception of any changes in frequent flyer award programs.

  • I don’t care about earning miles with paid flights

  • I don’t care about using miles for upgrades

  • I don’t care about any redemption values above the lowest Saver levels

  • I don’t write about things I couldn’t care less about on my blog

So yes, the earning side of the Asia Miles program is getting better. And yes, I could analyze it to death, and create my own funny charts and show you how it’s not all bad, and talk about redeeming awards with new rip-off levels, but why? If you use Cathay Pacific for business travel, do your own math and decide if you want to keep crediting your miles to Cathay Pacific. My concern is redemption, so let’s get right to it.

Asia Miles Devaluation: Short Version

Most North America-based travelers interested in long-haul flights above Economy will lose.

Since Cathay Pacific announced the devaluation of its Asia Miles program, I’ve been looking for some sweet spots for the new chart. Please keep in mind that we still don’t know everything, since Cathay Pacific has not released the changes for the non-oneworld airline partners, and that’s a huge segment. Here are Cathay Pacific Asia Miles non-oneworld partners for a quick reference:

  • Aer Lingus

  • Air Canada

  • Air China

  • Air New Zealand

  • Alaska Airlines

  • Austrian Airlines

  • Bangkok Airways

  • Gulf Air

  • Jet Airways

  • Shenzhen Airlines

  • SWISS International Air Lines

While we can’t say for sure how the chart with the non-oneworld airlines will change – based on what we already know, you’d have to be a hopeless optimist to expect it will change for the better.

And one more thing: the Mixed Airlines Chart is going to be slaughtered after June 22. No more using Cathay Pacific with a partner airline. That’s a huge cut, as well.

That’s not to say there are no sweet spots in the new Cathay Pacific award charts (and I’ll tell you about what I’ve managed to find), but these sweet spots are on the fringes.

Most of us (me included) who want to fly long-haul in premium classes should get rid of our Cathay Pacific miles before June 22, 2018.

Asia Miles Devaluation: Long Version

   Cathay Pacific/Cathay Dragon Standard Chart

It’s virtually impossible to show you the real picture because by focusing on one way travel, Cathay Pacific is trying to obscure how they have raised round trip levels, and if that wasn’t enough, the distance bands have changed too.

Here is what’s going to happen: for long hauls, one-way levels mostly stay the same or, sometimes, go down. For round-trip travel, it’s a mix.

Currently, Cathay Pacific prices round trip redemptions at a “discount.” That means that one-way flights, while allowed, always cost more than 50% of round trips.

If your travel pattern is booking one-way flights, keep your miles and don’t do anything – your redemption levels will mostly stay the same or might get better.

For short-haul round trips, things are getting interesting.

   Short Hauls

As I’ve mentioned before, the new and old distance bands do not correspond. Compare:

Asia Miles Devaluation

 The current Asia Miles chart has 7 distance bands

Asia Miles Devaluation

The new Asia Miles chart will have 5 bands

Award Travel did a great job creating a nice Before and After table. It’s not perfect, but I don’t know how it would be possible to create a perfect visual aid without some complex infographics. Check it out to better understand what you’re losing and gaining.

      JFK — YVR

Although it’s not one of the examples above, there is one sweet spot that should jump right at you when you think of the new chart.

Asia Miles Devaluation

New York to Vancouver in Economy will cost 10,000 miles per one way and 20,000 per round trip after June 22

The distance between New York and Vancouver is 2,449 miles. If you are planning this trip in Economy, wait for June 22. It will cost 20,000 miles per round trip (currently 30,000) or 10,000 per one way (currently 20,000). This rate is very competitive, too, since most other programs will charge you 25,000 miles or more (American charges 30,000).

A Business Class ticket in this band won’t change — it’ll still be 50,000 miles — but if you want to experience this 5.5-hour flight in First, book now because after June 22 it will cost you 80,000 compared to 70,000 miles.

      HKG Sweet Spots

You will also save 10,000 miles (20,000 instead of 30,000 per round trip) for a flight between Hong Kong and Colombo, Sri Lanka. This will be quite a decent redemption in Economy for an add-on Hong Kong round trip flight.

Or you could fly between Hong Kong and Mumbai and save even more.

Asia Miles Devaluation

A flight between Hong Kong and Bombay will only cost 20,000 miles — a huge reduction from 45,000 you’d pay now

Since the distance between Hong Kong and Mumbai is 2,658 miles, you currently pay 45,000 miles for an award seat in Economy. After June 22, you will pay 20,000 miles — a huge, 55% reduction.

Your sweetest spot on the chart would be the distance between 2,500 and 2,750 miles. A flight like that will get you the biggest gain. Unfortunately, I didn’t find huge reductions other than Mumbai, but you might have a better luck.

   Here is how to look

Look for some ideas at one of my most favorite online tools, the Radius Around Point Map website.

Asia Miles Devaluation

The 2,750-mile band covers all Asia and most of the Indian subcontinent

Then check Wiki to find all cities where Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon fly.

Asia Miles Devaluation

That’s not it, though. There are a few Fifth Freedom Cathay Pacific routes, too. I explained more about Fifth Freedom flights here and here. The JFK – YVR fifth freedom route is the most celebrated, but there are more.

From Taipei (and back):

  • TPE – ICN

  • TPE – NRT

  • TPE – NGO

  • TPE – KIX

From Singapore:

  • SIN – BKK (and vice versa)

Since you’re allowed 2 stopovers and an open jaw for round-trip travel, you could fly from Hong Kong to Bangkok and make a stopover in Singapore – all for 20,000 Asia Miles in Economy.

Or you could fly from Hong Kong to Tokyo with a stopover in Taipei, take a train to Osaka, explore Kyoto and Nara, and fly back to Hong Kong either directly or via Taipei.

Read the new routing rules here; don’t worry, they’re every bit as arcane as the old ones. 🙂

If you’re based in Hong Kong, a 2,750-mile radius covers all Asia, including Japan and China (except for some former Soviet republics where Cathay Pacific doesn’t fly anyway) plus most of the Indian subcontinent. If this works for your travel patterns, you’re going to be fine — and in some cases, even better than before. No need to get rid of Asia Miles now.

Once again, the new Standard Chart will only allow you to travel on Cathay Pacific and/or Cathay Dragon.

   Long Hauls

Some of these are getting better in Economy. And, by the way, when I’m talking about long and ultra-long hauls, I’m interested in transcontinental flights, just so it’s clear.

Cathay Pacific flies to 8 North American Cities: New York (JFK and EWR), Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver.

Things are getting worse in Business and First — mostly.

Here are the costs in Economy.

  • New York, Boston, Washington DC, Chicago, Toronto: 90,000 before 6.22.18 and 84,000 after.

  • LA, San Francisco, Vancouver: 60,000 before and after.

While a 6,000-mile discount can feel like a good deal, may I suggest that using Asia Miles to fly ultra-long hauls in Economy is not a great idea to begin with? Compare this “enhanced” rate with what the U.S. airlines charge for flights to Hong Kong (round trip).

  • American: 65,000 – 70,000 miles

  • Delta: 70,000 miles

  • United: 80,000 miles

If you fly to Hong Kong from the West Coast, there are no changes in Economy award levels, which, at 60,000 miles, are competitive compared to the U.S. airlines.

   Super Duper Long Hauls

Since band F (10,001+) is going to disappear, it will cost you the same as the old band E (7,500 +) to redeem at the new levels, and that presents some opportunities.

You will be paying (per round trip):

  • 84,000 Asia Miles for Economy

  • 120,000 for Premium Economy

  • 170,000 for Business

  • 250,000 for First

Versus what you’re paying now:

  • 110,000 Asia Miles for Economy

  • 132,000 for Premium Economy

  • 175,000 for Business

  • 260,000 for First

You will find savings in every class, although First Class is moot. Cathay doesn’t fly First to faraway destinations except Europe and the U.S., so you would be paying enormous amount of miles just for a mix of First and Business classes.

The point, however, is that if you are looking at flying to Australia or South Africa, both destinations will cost you less after June 22 than it does now, so it makes perfect sense to wait and save your miles.

   oneworld Chart

The oneworld chart gets devalued in all classes, plain and simple. It starts getting worse for distances over 4,000 miles.

Award Zone Distance in Actual Miles Asia Miles Required
Economy Business First
01 0 – 1,000 30,000 55,000 70,000
02 1,001 – 1,500 30,000 60,000 80,000
03 1,501 – 2,000 35,000 65,000 90,000
04 2,001 – 4,000 35,000 70,000 95,000
05 4,001 – 7,500 60,000 90,000 140,000
06 7,501 – 9,000 65,000 100,000 150,000
07 9,001 – 10,000 70,000 110,000 160,000
08 10,001 – 14,000 90,000 135,000 220,000
09 14,001 – 18,000 100,000 155,000 250,000
10 18,001 – 20,000 105,000 165,000 260,000
11 20,001 – 25,000 115,000 185,000 280,000
12 25,001 – 35,000 130,000 210,000 300,000
13 35,001 – 50,000 150,000 240,000 345,000

You also need to remember 2 things about this chart.

  • Unlike the Standard Chart, you need to count all segments.

  • You must travel on at least 2 oneworld airlines or 3 with Cathay Pacific.

Here is the new official Cathay Pacific Terms and Conditions site.

Unless you consider the levels that haven’t changed a sweet spot, there is nothing to see there.

   Partners Chart

As I’ve mentioned before, the partner’s chart will be up only after June 22, 2018, but Cathay Pacific has shared some examples of the future redemption levels with us. From what I can glimpse, things are mostly getting worse in line with other Asia Miles award charts, or – best case scenario – staying the same.

Here are some examples for round-trip travel.

  • Hong Kong – Sydney in Coach on Qantas: from 45,000 to 50,000 Asia Miles

  • Tokyo – Taipei in Business on Japan Airlines: 50,000 to 60,000

  • Hong Kong to Doha in Business on Qatar: 80,000 to 100,000

Some one-way flights become a little cheaper.

  • Hong Kong – Koh Samui in Coach on Bangkok Airways: 20,000 to 15,000

  • Dallas – Hong Kong on American: 55,000 to 47,000 (still too much compared to AA’s own levels)

Let’s recap

What are the Asia Miles devaluation sweet spots?

  • New York to Vancouver in Economy

  • Hong Kong to the rest of Asia in Economy, especially for distances close to 2,500 – 2,750 miles (Mumbai, Colombo, etc.)

  • Hong Kong to Asia using stopovers on Fifth Freedom routes

  • Extra long hauls in all classes from North America via Hong Kong (JFK – HKG – SYD or JFK – HKG – JNB).

Also consider staying put if you mostly use Cathay Pacific miles to book one-way flights anyway.

The rest of us should use our stash of Asia Miles to book NOW.

What do you think? Are you going to get rid of your miles in light of the Asia Miles devaluation? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.

To Be Continued

Cathay Pacific Photo By: SDASM Archives

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