Best Ways To Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points To Fly To Asia [2018]

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Introduction
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Europe
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Africa
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Caribbean, Central America, & Mexico


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.

Keep in mind, in order to transfer points to partners, you’ll need either the Chase Sapphire Reserve®Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, but you can earn points across all Ultimate Rewards cards.

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):

Departure City Economy Class Business Class
Atlanta (ATL) 35,000 miles 85,000 miles
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) 37,000 miles 85,000 miles
Los Angeles (LAX) 46,000 miles 85,000 miles
New York (JFK) 34,000 miles 85,000 miles

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.

Flying Blue Award New York to Singapore

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 // Flight DistanceEconomy
Off Peak // Peak
Premium Economy
Off Peak // Peak
Business
Off Peak // Peak
First
Off Peak // Peak
Zone 1
1-650 miles*
*Not available in North America
4,000 // 4,5005,750 // 6,7507,750 // 9,00015,500 // 18,000
Zone 2
651-1150 miles
6,500 // 7,5009,500 // 11,25012,750 // 15,00025,500 // 30,000
Zone 3
1151-2000 miles
8,500 // 10,00012,750 // 15,00017,000 // 20,00034,000 // 40,000
Zone 4
2001-3000 miles
10,000 // 12,50020,000 // 25,00031,250 // 37,50042,500 // 50,000
Zone 5
3001-4000 miles
13,000 // 20,00026,000 // 40,00050,000 // 60,00068,000 // 80,000
Zone 6
4001-5500 miles
16,250 // 25,00032,500 // 50,00062,500 // 75,00085,000 // 100,000
Zone 7
5501-6500 miles
19,500 // 30,00039,000 // 60,00075,000 // 90,000102,000 // 120,000
Zone 8
6501-7000 miles
22,750 // 35,00045,500 // 70,00087,500 // 105,000119,000 // 140,000
Zone 9
7001+ miles
32,50 // 50,00065,000 // 100,000125,000 // 150,000170,000 // 200,000

Now, here’s a look at the economy rates from the multi-carrier award chart:

oneworld partner awards

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.

United MileagePlus Chicago To Seoul

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 Japan North Asia South Asia
Economy 35,000 miles 35,000 miles 40,000 miles
Business 70,000 miles 70,000 miles 75,000 miles
First 90,000 miles 90,000 miles 95,000 miles

If you’ll be flying to Asia on one of United’s partners, these are the one-way award rates:

Class of Service Japan North Asia South Asia
Economy 35,000 miles 35,000 miles 40,000 miles
Business 80,000 miles 80,000 miles 90,000 miles
First 110,000 miles 120,000 miles 120,000 miles

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:

Singapore KrisFlyer Star Alliance Award Chart

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 West Coast East Coast/Central U.S.
Economy 60,000 miles 65,000 miles
Business 90,000 miles 95,000 miles
First 110,000 miles 120,000 miles

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.

Bottom line

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?

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Comments

  1. Booked HND-MSP and used the teardrop trick without an extra step (didn’t have to use the additional LHR trick). I think there are some slightly different search functions on the US vs GB sites?

  2. BA fuel surcharges are pretty high, especially on premium awards…I was looking at a one-way that had >$600 in taxes and fees

  3. Well shit. Forgot about Virgin for ANA redemptions. Would have been nice to have posted this yesterday before I transferred a boatload of Korean SkyPass out of my UR account today.

  4. VS redemptions on DL price out as 60k in J one way not just for the non-stop, but for the “direct” as well. For example, DL6 HND-LAX-SLC would be 60k even with the plane change at LAX, but as long as you are connecting with the same flight number on LAX-SLC.

    There are quite a few “direct” DL transatlantic/transpacific/South America flights eg DL120 HND-MSP-LGA or DL588 PVG-SEA-MSP, for example, so you can get a 60k if the stars align together for you.

  5. Thank you for the tear drop trick

    I’ve long given up on using Virgin Atlantic website for MSP trips to anywhere

    On my iPad VA website only allows me to choose 6 destinations . Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Colombo, and 3 in India
    I can type in LHR
    It can’t find any other airports

    Thus it’s been useless for me on mobile

    Your trick allowed me to find MSP to CDG and other airports

    A huge thank you

  6. I booked MSP-HND via Virgin on Delta in Delta One for May 2019. You can use the teardrop on the site or you can call, they can pull up the same space that is seen on BA’s site for the most part. VA’s agents are really good and super patient.

  7. What about Alaska miles on Cathay? IMO best receptions out there to get to anywhere in Asia. 30k one way economy, 50k in business. Or JAL/AA 60k in business

  8. @Spencer

    If you have a magic trick for turning UR points into Alaska miles, I’m sure we’d all be interested in hearing it.

    (The title of this article is, in case you missed it: “Best Ways To Use Chase Ultimate Rewards Points To Fly To Asia [2018]”)

  9. Surprised no mention of Korean SkyPass… despite not ideal redemption rates, it’s one of the few ways to try KE F and allows stopovers on one-ways.

  10. @JB – first, use the VS desktop site (mobile site is not too friendly to award searches). Next, when you perform searches for non-VS routes, you can’t just type the city pairs (ie MSP & HND). You can usually enter your origin and it will populate for you. Then, there is a little teardrop pin on the side of the city box for the destination – if you click that and find your destination in the lists, it will work. There are several/many airports not in the search engine (ICN for example). Those you have to call the VS award desk – they have been stellar for searches for me.

  11. Hey All,

    Need your suggestion for booking our first family trip with points. Here is the info:

    *Got 400k points with Citi Premier Card.
    *Another 200k points with Amex
    *11k points with Singapore Rewards
    *Leaving out of Atlanta to Istanbul.
    *Looking to do Business Class
    * 2 Adults, 1 child 3 yr, and lap infant 6 months.
    *Looked at Singapore program via Turkish/Lufthansa surge/tax charge is $3,000 seems like really….
    Love to get your suggestion if there is a better way when it comes to Surge/Tax cost?

    Thank You.

  12. Any idea which programs have better chance of securing 4 business class award seats? That would be helpful in guiding us where to look if we want to redeem for a family trip. Thank you!

  13. I did a sample search on Flyingblue for LAX to SIN. The lowest rate is 115K miles just for one way. I searched in different months, but rate is still 115K. Am I missing something?

  14. @Lisa – the VS awards can see any/all DL saver rate awards. My HND-MSP trip is for my family of 3. Before that I had a ICN-SEA route that the VS rep on the phone said there were 9 available! If you initially search using just 1 pax, but then look just above the large font award cost (ie 60,000 moles), it will say 1 or 2 or 3 left or will be blank. If it’s blank, there’s usually 3+ left (like the example Spencer has above is blank just above the 60,000 miles). The. You can call it in!

  15. Used it for 1st class Korean Air for 2. FUK-ICN-IAD. Flying ANA IAD-NRT 1st class with VA points in December. Had my mother get the card for Asiana B class CAK-ORD-ICN-FUK to hopefully catch the cherry blossoms in April.
    Also used it to top off my United account a couple of times when I was close to booking a trip.

  16. For Virgin Atlantic (redemption on ANA), what is the policy/rules for stopovers and/or open jaws? Thanks much.

  17. @Spencer, the Excursionist Perk doesn’t seem to work on Business Saver Awards. I’ve tried, JFK–KUL-HKG–JFK as well as JFK–KUL–BPN for months of April, May & June of 2019 and neither shows Bus.Saver seats available (only Economy & Bus. Everyday). Is that common?

  18. @ Tigris23 — It has nothing to do with the class of service, and everything to do with United’s crappy website, and the number of flights required to get between those cities.

    I just priced JFK>IST>KUL on 4/1, KUL>BKK>HKG on 4/6, and HKG>EWR on 4/10, with all segments in business, and 22 hour connections in Istanbul and Bangkok, and it priced correctly as 90k + 0k + 75k for 165k total.

    The trick is to find the dates with availability for each portion of your trip first, then plug those specific dates into the advanced search tool.

  19. @ Tiffany, thanks for the tip! So I’ll search each segments first then thread them together in advance search!

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