Chase Ultimate Rewards points provide some great SkyTeam and Star Alliance award options regardless of your final destination in Asia. While your options for Oneworld are more limited — and expensive when booking premium cabins — booking with British Airways Avios might make sense for economy bookings on some itineraries.
Additionally, there are a couple great redemption options outside of the three traditional alliances with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and, of course, there’s always Singapore KrisFlyer for those who want to fly Suites Class on Singapore Airlines.
As a reminder, there are many options to accrue Ultimate Rewards.
Now, let’s dive in and see how we can use Ultimate Rewards points to fly to Asia!
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
Let’s be clear upfront. Flying Blue’s reconfigured program (as of June 1, 2018) is a nuisance as it’s simple region-based award chart has been ditched in favor of one that depends on specific city pairings.
On top of that, Flying Blue will pass on surcharges and won’t let you include stopovers. However, their availability can be quite good, and Flying Blue sometimes has decent economy award rates across SkyTeam carriers.
Flying Blue award rates
Since Flying Blue has created an award program that lacks consistency, you’ll want to check the Miles Price Estimator so you can see what saver level awards cost on a particular route. While many routes will be priced similarly, you will definitely see some award prices that make you wonder why a difference of a couple thousand miles was necessary.
Let’s start by looking at a few examples of routes to Singapore (SIN):
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
Los Angeles (LAX)
New York (JFK)
While business class awards from these four airports require the same number of miles, the economy award rate from LAX is quite a bit more than the other three options.
Another interesting thing about Flying Blue is that it doesn’t just provide the typical transpacific routes you might expect. Sometimes, it will route you through Amsterdam (AMS) on KLM or Paris (CDG) on Air France.
While this might not be ideal, Flying Blue does release more award space on KLM and Air France flights to its own members so it could come through in a pinch.
How to book with Flying Blue miles
Transfers from Ultimate Rewards to Flying Blue are 1:1 and process almost instantly. While some phone agents (1-800-375-8723) will refuse, I’ve been able to get 48-hour holds for awards. When you consider the problems Flying Blue has had with “fraud prevention”, we’d suggest calling Flying Blue and putting your award on hold. Once you’ve done that, you can transfer your points and have them issues the ticket over the phone — use a credit card in the account holder’s name.
British Airways Executive Club
If there’s a weak spot in the Ultimate Rewards program, it’s probably long-haul awards on Oneworld carriers. While you can use British Airways Avios, the rates required for premium cabin awards are rough — economy awards can be a decent deal though.
British Airways Avios award rates
If that’s not enough, British Airways Executive Club also has two separate distance-based award charts. The standard award chart rates apply to awards that include British Airways flights plus no more than one partner airline. So, an award that only includes flights on American Airlines would fall under this chart.
If your itinerary will include more than one partner, your award will fall under British Airways’ multi-carrier chart. If you were to connect to LAX on American Airlines then catch a flight on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong (HKG), this award would require you to use the multi-carrier rate.
Let’s take a look at the standard award chart — all partner awards use “peak” award prices:
Zone // Distance
Economy Off Peak // Peak
Premium Economy Off Peak // Peak
Business Off Peak // Peak
First Off Peak // Peak
*Not available in North America
4,000 // 4,500
5.750 // 6,750
7,750 // 9,000
15,500 // 18,000
6,500 // 7,500
9,500 // 11,250
12,750 // 15,000
25,500 // 30,000
8,500 // 10,000
12,750 // 15,000
17,000 // 20,000
34,000 // 40,000
10,000 // 12,500
20,000 // 25,000
31,250 // 37,500
42,500 // 50,000
13,000 // 20,000
26,000 // 40,000
50,000 // 60,000
68,000 // 80,000
16,250 // 25,000
32,500 // 50,000
62,500 // 75,000
85,000 // 100,000
19,500 // 30,000
39,000 // 60,000
75,000 // 90,000
102,000 // 120,000
22,750 // 35,000
45,500 // 75,000
87,500 // 105,000
119,000 // 140,000
32,500 // 50,000
65,000 // 100,000
125,000 // 150,000
170,000 // 200,000
Now, here’s a look at the economy rates from the multi-carrier award chart:
It’s a simple calculation to determine how many Avios are required by other classes of service:
- Premium economy: 50% more
- Business class: 100% more
- First class: 150% more
How to book with British Airways Avios
Booking with British Airways is pretty easy — if the online search doesn’t fail you. Simply search for the route you want and complete the booking online. While it can be a very useful online search tool, it has recently had tons of issues with searches failing or not showing flights on American Airlines. Sometimes it just takes reloading or changing browsers but it can be quite frustrating.
You can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points (1:1) almost instantly.
United Mileage Plus
If for no other reason than the fact that United MileagePlus doesn’t pass on “fuel” surcharges on award tickets, United is often a great way to book awards if you have Ultimate Rewards points to burn. Beyond that, United is often your best Ultimate Rewards partner if you want to book an award on a Star Alliance carrier.
You can book one-way awards but, if you book a round-trip, you might be able to take advantage of United’s Excursionist Perk — a free one-way ticket within a region. There are all kinds of creative ways to utilize this but, for most people, it’s simply a stopover within a region. You can also include an open jaw when you book a round-trip award which can make your trip a bit easier.
United MileagePlus award rates
You need to remember two important aspects of United’s MileagePlus program before booking. One is that there is one award chart for United flights and one for Star Alliance/partner awards. The transpacific/long-haul segment of your award will determine which chart will govern your award.
So, if your flight from Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) is on United before connecting to Seoul (ICN) on ANA or Asiana, your award falls under the United’s standard award chart.
The other important consideration is that United divides Asia into several regions (Central Asia will be covered in another article). For this article, we’ll look at three regions: Japan, North Asia and South Asia.
The division of the continent is important as you cannot book a free one-way flight (Excursionist Perk) from Japan to South Korea — or any other country in Asia. This can be very frustrating if you have a flight on ANA to anywhere in North or South Asia.
Here are the one-way award rates for United’s standard award chart:
Class of Service
If you’ll be flying to Asia on one of United’s partners, these are the one-way award rates:
Class of Service
How to book with United MileagePlus miles
United has great flexible date search capability which allows you to see if economy and/or premium cabin saver-level award space is available within a 2-month time frame. To see specific flight options, you just need to click on a date. From there, you can select your flight and complete your booking.
Occasionally, United has been known to show phantom award space. For this reason, you’ll always want to click through to the booking process before transferring Ultimate Rewards points (1:1 ratio). If you want to be very thorough, you can run a second search with Aeroplan just in case.
Transfers from Ultimate Rewards generally process instantly.
Other options to consider
There are a couple other fun options for awards to Asia that deserve to be mentioned. They might not be as broadly applicable, but they’re great if you can use them!
Singapore KrisFlyer – premium cabin awards
Singapore KrisFlyer won’t blow you away with great redemptions rates but it’s the only way you’re going to book Suites Class, first class or business class on Singapore Airlines from the U.S. Fortunately, you can include stopovers on one-way saver awards for roughly $100 which makes the rates slightly more tolerable.
There are two award charts that you need to know if you want to fly business or first on Singapore Airlines. First, the standard chart for itineraries exclusively on Singapore Airlines:
- West coast to Singapore: 88,000 miles for business class, 118,000 miles for first class
- East coast to Singapore: 92,000 miles for business class, 120,000 miles for first class
- West coast to Hong Kong/South China/Taiwan: 82,000 miles for business class, 92,000 miles for first class
- West coast to Japan/South Korea: 85,000 miles for business class, 95,000 miles for first class
Second, the Star Alliance award chart for itineraries that include a connection on a Star Alliance partner such as United. This chart lists round-trip award rates but you can book a one-way award at half the price:
You can expect Ultimate Rewards points to transfer within 12 to 24 hours. As with all Ultimate Rewards partners, your points transfer at a 1:1 ratio.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club – non-stop ANA and Delta awards
Virgin Atlantic really shines as an Ultimate Rewards partner thanks to its redemption rates for non-stop ANA awards and even non-stop Delta awards. Awards on ANA will need to be round-trip but Delta awards can be one-way.
When booking non-stop first class on ANA, the clear choice is Virgin Atlantic Flying Club — the same holds true if you want to fly to Asia with Membership Rewards — but economy and business class rates are also competitive. Keep in mind that Flying Club has separate award rates for flights from the west coast and east coast/central U.S. These are the round-trip rates:
Class of Service
East Coast/Central U.S.
To find award space, use United’s site then call Virgin Atlantic (1-800-365-9500) to put the award on hold before transferring Ultimate Rewards points (1:1) — though, the transfer should process almost instantly. Flying Club phone reps are fantastic so this won’t be difficult.
While Virgin Atlantic allows you to search for award space on Delta flights, the process can be a bit convoluted. Here’s an example of why this is the case. If you select Minneapolis (MSP) as your origin then try to choose Tokyo Haneda (HND), the destination won’t populate. If you click the teardrop pin to search for a destination by country then select HND, it won’t let you search for an award ticket.
To get around this, you can enter London Heathrow (LHR) as the destination, select Pay with Miles then switch the destination to HND. It’s a tedious process but worth getting better business class redemption rates on non-stop awards than Korean SkyPass or Flying Blue provide.
As with ANA flights, you can have Flying Club put an award on hold while you transfer points.
While Chase Ultimate Rewards doesn’t have as many airline partners as some flexible points programs, it has very useful partners if you want to book an award ticket to Asia.
While booking flights on Oneworld carriers will be a little rough with British Airways Avios — especially premium cabin awards, you have some really great options to book Star Alliance and (some) SkyTeam partners.
How have you used Ultimate Rewards points to fly to Asia?