British Airways is known for its incredibly high carrier imposed surcharges (often referred to as “fuel surcharges”) when redeeming miles or points for flights. However, many don’t realize that there’s one program that allows you to reduce these significantly.
The basics of British Airways’ high surcharges
If you ask anyone in the miles & points world about British Airways, fuel surcharges on award tickets might be the first thing that comes to mind. For example, currently a one-way ticket in first or business class from Newark to London on British Airways will currently cost you $879.80 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges, in addition to the Avios.
Unfortunately you’re on the hook for these surcharges even when booking through most partner programs. They might vary a bit by partner, but they’re mostly similar.
For example, Alaska Mileage Plan has the same fees as British Airways, plus a $12.50 partner award ticketing fee.
Meanwhile the fees are a bit lower through American AAdvantage, but the difference isn’t huge.
Avoid fuel surcharges with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles isn’t my favorite frequent flyer program in the world, but there are a few sweet spots to the program. One of those is that Cathay Pacific Asia Miles has significantly lower fees for British Airways awards than other programs.
Now, you might be thinking “but I don’t have any Cathay Pacific miles.” That’s fine, because Cathay Pacific Asia Miles partners with a few major transferable points currencies — you can transfer rewards at a 1:1 ratio from Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Citi ThankYou.
How big can the savings be? Those same Newark to London flights that have $879.80 in fees through British Airways Executive Club will cost you just $247. Those are savings of over 70%, which is huge.
Let me note that the savings in premium economy and economy aren’t nearly as large, so the primary benefit is for first and business class. For example, for the same premium economy award where British Airways Executive Club charges $329, you’d pay $247 with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Obviously that’s still better, but not as good.
So, how do you determine the number of Cathay Pacific Asia Miles required for a British Airways award? There’s not an award chart for this, but rather you have to go to Cathay Pacific’s page for redeeming flight awards. If you enter just the origin, destination, and airline, you’ll see a dropdown that shows the cost of a redemption in each cabin.
Note that you need to be a Cathay Pacific Asia Miles member to access this page, though you don’t need to have any sort of a points balance.
To give a general sense of pricing, you can expect that a US East Coast to London flight will cost you 61,000 miles in business class or 87,000 miles in first class, while a US West Coast to London flight will cost you 75,000 miles in business class or 120,000 miles in first class.
Is booking British Airways awards through Cathay Pacific worth it?
I think it goes without saying that most people would rather spend $250 than $880 as a co-pay when redeeming for an award ticket. So the value of redeeming Cathay Pacific miles on British Airways is obvious for first and business class, while it’s less valuable in premium economy and economy.
However, there are also some reasons this might not make so much sense:
- Cathay Pacific Asia Miles charges $120 or 17,000 miles to redeposit an award, while Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage allow free redeposits; if you’re not sure you’ll travel, that’s something to keep in mind
- In many cases, Cathay Pacific’s mileage requirements are significantly higher than you’d pay through other programs, so you should factor the value of miles into your math as well
- If you’re starting with transferable points currencies, we often see 25-40% transfer bonuses to British Airways Executive Club, while we don’t see nearly as many transfer bonuses to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, so in some cases the different in points can be huge when factoring that in
So to me this is one of those useful things to be aware of, but I don’t actually think booking through Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is necessarily a consistent slam dunk.
You can avoid British Airways’ high fuel surcharges by booking awards through Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. While the program has fees for British Airways awards, they’re a small fraction of what you’d pay with most other programs, at least in first and business class.
While this is a good opportunity to be aware of, it’s not always going to be the best option for booking, due to the cost, cancelation terms, etc.
What’s your take on redeeming Cathay Pacific miles on British Airways?