Redeeming Miles with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, a Complete Guide

Cathay Pacific is regarded by many as the world’s airline, but they are also known to limit the availability of award seats, especially through partner programs. Cathay Pacific is often a go-to for OneWorld solutions and a great place to look for round the world trips. In this article, we’ll navigate their search tools, fare rules and of course how to go about finding those elusive business class and first class seats.

Keep on reading below.

The most useful OneWorld partner

Asia Miles is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards with a transfer ratio of 1:1, making them perhaps the most useful OneWorld alliance transfer partner as they can be used for award redemptions across the alliance. Cathay Pacific is by many regarded as one of the world’s best airlines and in recent years they’ve restricted the number of award seats that can be booked by OneWorld partner frequent flyer programs such as AAdvantage, in particular for redemptions in First Class.

In other words, Asia Miles is a great program for accessing Cathay First award seats for booking far into the future. Additionally, Asia Miles provides some great redemption opportunities on OneWorld alliance.

The best use of Cathay Asia Miles is for OneWorld multi-airline redemptions

What makes Asia Miles tricky is the fact that they have different pricing structures for award redemptions. Single airline redemptions are priced on a distance-based award chart where the price in miles is determined by the total flown distance on one-way segments.

Single airline rewards come with some restrictions such as a max limit on 4 segments for round trips and 2 segments on one-ways. There are some sweet spots however, such as booking flights in the longest distance band of 8,500+ miles.

The best use of Cathay Asia Miles is for OneWorld multi-airline redemptions. Unlike single airline redemptions multi-airline redemptions need to include at least two OneWorld airlines excluding Cathay’s own flights. What sets these redemptions apart is the fact that you can include up to 8 flight segments and 5 stopovers. This essentially means that you can book a round the world in business class for 240,000 miles, with a maximum flown distance of 50,000 miles.

OneWorld redemptions via Cathay Pacific enables many segments and stop-overs. Perfect for long trips like round-the-world.

But watch out for fuel surcharges

One thing that’s worth noting about Asia Miles is the fact that they have fuel surcharges. On partner airlines such as Qatar, the surcharges can amount to upwards of $1,800 whereas Cathay’s own flights don’t incur any high surcharges, only airport taxes.

Working out the cost in miles of an Asia Miles award ticket

Unlike most US airlines, Cathay Pacific still prices their award tickets based on fixed charts. This makes it easy and predictable to calculate the price of an award ticket, and you won’t be subject to any sudden price fluctuations as long as there are award seats available.

Asia Miles has three different award charts which is complicated

The system is divided into different award charts which makes it quite complicated. These are as follows:

  1. Asia Miles Award Chart: This chart applies for awards redeemed on Cathay Pacific operated flights.
  2. Airline Partners Award Chart: This chart applies for awards redeemed on OneWorld and non-alliance partners.
  3. OneWorld Multi-Carrier Award Chart: This chart applies for redemptions containing 2 or more OneWorld partner airlines in the same booking.
The Asia Miles Award Chart. Understanding Cathay Pacific's Award Charts is a serious undertaking, download our app and have a chat with our experts if you need help. For full details on the award charts, click here.

Cathay Pacific flights: Prices are based on distance flown of every one-way flight

Asia Miles uses a zone-based system for calculating the cost of an award ticket. The award prices listed in the chart above apply for one-way flights, and the cost of the flight is determined by the total flown distance of that leg. For instance:

  • A one-way flight from New York to Hong Kong has a flown distance of 8,072 miles.
  • This places it in the highest price category, costing 85,000 miles in business class.
  • This is when redeemed for Cathay Pacific flights.

OneWorld: Use this unofficial Award Chart

For flights on OneWorld partners there is no published chart, instead you’ll find a calculator on the Asia Miles website. The calculator is fairly difficult to use and doesn’t allow you to enter any airline/route combinations. Luckily, we've made a simple chart for you:

The Airline Partners Award Chart: Use this for single flights on OneWorld partners.

Note that the single airline pricing (above) also applies when combining Cathay Pacific with one OneWorld partner airline. If your itinerary includes two or more OneWorld airlines, then the multi carrier pricing applies (below).

Use this chart if your itinerary includes two or more OneWorld airlines.

Mixed cabin - flying different cabin classes on different segments of your trip

Asia Miles also allows so-called mixed cabin redemptions. Unlike most other airline programs who calculate the cost of the highest cabin for the entire trip, with Asia Miles you only pay for the distance flown in each respective cabin as part of the itinerary.

For example:

  • You’re flying from New York to Singapore via London.
  • The New York to London segment is in first class and the leg from London to Singapore is in business.
  • Both flights in this case are with British Airways, so we are using table number 2, the Airline Partners Award Chart.

JFK-LHR-SIN has a flown distance of 10,216 miles pricing it as 90k in business and 135k in first.

The JFK-LHR leg has a distance of 3,451 miles and LHR-SIN is 6,765 miles. If we convert these as a percentage of the total miles flown, then:

  • JFK-LHR will give is 33,7% and
  • LHR-SIN is 66,3% of the total distance flown.

In order to calculate the price in points we’ll take the percentage of the distance flown and multiply them with the cost of the total distance of each respective cabin, and then add them together:

  • 33,7% of 135,000 = 45,495 miles.
  • 66,3% of 90,000 = 59,670 miles.
  • 59,670 + 45,495 = 105,165 miles, the total cost of our mixed cabin redemption.

Working out the cost in taxes and surcharges is a hassle

Cathay Pacific doesn’t take out fuel surcharges on their own flights, only the airport taxes. These can be calculated either directly via the search engine on the Asia Miles website.

For flights on partner airlines, fuel surcharges are imposed. One notable exception is that British Airways flights redeemed through Asia Miles don’t incur the same high fuel surcharges of $1500+ but rather a lower amount of approximately $300-500. The only way to know exactly is to look up the flight segment via the search engine on the Asia Miles website.

Strict routing rules and award booking conditions

Cathay Pacific has some of the strictest routing rules for award tickets.

  • A one-way award may only contain two flight segments, meaning that only one flight connection is allowed.
  • For round trip awards, a maximum of four segments are allowed, e.g. two for the outbound and two for the inbound.
  • Stopovers are allowed on round trip awards only, and you’re only allowed to take one stopover which must fall within the segment’s limitation.
  • Stopovers are no longer allowed on one-way itineraries.
  • Open-jaws are allowed in lieu of a stopover, but you can’t have both on the same itinerary.

Different rules for multi-carrier redemptions

The above rules apply for redemptions on Cathay Pacific flights and single carrier OneWorld redemptions. Of course, Cathay has different rules for the last category, multi-carrier OneWorld redemptions.

Multi-carrier awards can offer some amazing redemption opportunities as they are priced based on the total distance flown, but the prices listed in the chart apply for round trip travel. This means that you can book round the world itineraries for relatively reasonable rates. Multi-carrier redemptions may include up to 5 stopovers and must start and end in the same city, and most importantly you must include at least two OneWorld airlines.

Finding and booking award availability for Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles award tickets can either be booked online or over the phone. Relatively simple itineraries can be booked online, whereas more complex itineraries, including those with stopovers, must be booked over the phone. 

More complex itineraries must be booked over the phone

When looking for Cathay Pacific we recommend only using the search engine on the Asia Miles website as they offer better availability to their own members. In other words, more seats are available than if you had searched via American’s search engine, for instance.

If you’re looking at availability over the next months, we recommend you use the American Airlines OneWorld search engine, which features a very useful calendar feature. Best practice is to always double check the availability found on American on the Asia Miles website to make sure that the seats are bookable. If the itinerary isn’t bookable online, note the flight numbers and complete the booking over the phone.

Transferring Amex Points can take up to 3 days

Asia Miles generally doesn’t allow members to hold award seats but in some instances a supervisor may authorize an award hold while waiting for a points transfer to clear. Note that it can take up to 3 days for Amex points to clear, so that is an important consideration.

Next up: Emirates Skywards - Good rates to the Maldives, Seychelles, Japan or Australia

If you’ve read this far, this marks the half way mark in our Hack School series, good on you! Next up will be Emirates Skywards.

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