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Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program has just announced some changes to their frequent flyer program, which kick in as of June 22, 2018. With these changes they’re adjusting the number of miles that members will earn from flights, and are also adjusting the number of miles required to redeem for some flights. Much to my surprise, these changes aren’t actually that bad, and some people may even benefit.
Keep in mind that this program is transfer partners with Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou, so a lot of people are potentially impacted by this.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is adjusting how miles are earned
Cathay Pacific will be adjusting the ways in which they award miles. Previously Cathay Pacific awarded miles based on the distance flown, where you get a percent of miles for the distance flown based on the fare class you’re in. While these changes kick in for flights flown as of June 22, if you booked before that date then you’ll automatically be credited the higher of the two mileage totals (either the old or new rates).
Logically you’d think they’d move to a revenue based program, where they award miles based on how much you spend rather than how much you fly. At least that’s the industry trend. But that’s not what they’re doing.
Instead Asia Miles is moving towards a zone based chart, where you earn miles based on the rough distance of your trip, as follows:
As a point of comparison, previously Cathay Pacific awarded:
- Miles for 150% of the distance flown for first class
- Miles for 125% of the distance flown for business class
- Miles for 110% of the distance flown for premium economy
- Miles for 100% of the distance flown for select economy fares
- Miles for 25% of the distance flown for discounted economy fares
The number of miles earned for travel on partner airlines will remain unchanged, and will be based on a percentage of the distance flown, determined by the cabin and fare class.
Are the changes in mileage earning positive or negative?
Cathay Pacific claims that with these changes, members will earn more miles on 80% of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon tickets. That of course sounds good, though I’m skeptical.
Let’s look at a couple of routes as examples. First let’s look at New York to Hong Kong:
- In paid first class you’d go from earning 12,089 miles to earning 15,230 miles
- In discounted business class you’d go from earning 10,074 miles to earning 10,880 miles
- In discounted premium economy you’d go from earning 8,865 miles to earning 8,700 miles
- In discounted economy you’d go from earning 2,015 miles to earning 4,350 miles
That actually looks pretty good.
On the other end of the spectrum, let’s look at a Taipei to Hong Kong flight:
- In paid first class you’d go from earning 752 miles to earning 1,140 miles
- In discounted business class you’d go from earning 626 miles to earning 810 miles
- In discounted premium economy you’d go from earning 551 miles to earning 650 miles
- In discounted economy you’d go from earning 125 miles to earning 330 miles
While I’ve never in my life credited a mile to Asia Miles, at first glance it does seem like members may earn more miles on most fares under the new system. That won’t be the case across the board, but I have no reason to refute the statistic that 80% of members will earn more miles. This isn’t as bad as a program going revenue based.
In many cases, Asia Miles members will be earning more miles for first class travel
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles adjusting redemption rates on Cathay Pacific
On top of that, Asia Miles is also adjusting how miles can be redeemed, for tickets booked as of June 22, 2018. First let’s look at the change in mileage redemption rates for travel on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon.
Here’s the new chart, for travel booked as of June 22, 2018:
Here’s the old chart, for travel booked through June 21, 2018:
Previously Asia Miles offered a discount for roundtrip award tickets, while going forward one-way pricing will be half of roundtrip pricing. So, how does pricing compare?
- The cost of a one-way first class award ticket between Hong Kong and New York will be reduced from 130,000 miles to 125,000 miles
- The cost of a one-way business class award ticket between Hong Kong and Taipei will be reduced from 20,000 miles to 16,000 miles
- The cost of a one-way premium economy award ticket between Hong Kong and Sydney will remain 30,000 miles
Those are just a few examples, but overall these changes look fairly favorable. If you otherwise always booked roundtrip tickets then this is bad news, while for those who booked one-way tickets, these changes are mostly good news.
Cathay Pacific also notes that they’ll be improving award availability on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon by 20%, though they don’t say in what cabins that will be. Furthermore, they note that for economy class redemptions, fewer or the same number of miles will be required in all cases.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles adjusting redemption rates on oneworld partners
Asia Miles is also adjusting mileage redemption rates on oneworld partner airlines.
Here’s the new chart, for travel booked as of June 22, 2018:
Here is the old chart for redemptions on oneworld partner airlines:
These changes aren’t as extreme as I was expecting:
- For Zones 1-4, pricing remains identical
- Above that we’re seeing some increases; some changes are mild while others are most significant
- Perhaps the worst of the changes is in Zone 10 — if traveling 18,001-20,000 miles, the cost in business class increases from 140,000 miles to 165,000 miles, while in first class the cost increases from 205,000 miles to 260,000 miles
Overall these changes don’t strike me as half bad, surprisingly. Typically when I hear of frequent flyer program changes, I expect the worst. I’m not trying to cherry-pick with the above examples, but rather I chose them at random and then compared the old and new prices.
It does indeed appear that most Asia Miles members will be earning more miles for flights, which is good news.
When it comes to redeeming miles, we’re largely seeing improved pricing for one-way awards, while the cost of roundtrip awards is going up mildly, given the previous discount for roundtrip awards. The way I see it, the only real negative change is to the oneworld award chart, where the adjustments are more significant.
But overall I feel like this could have been a lot worse, and this isn’t even a devaluation across the board. Some people will benefit from this.
What do you make of the changes to the Asia Miles program?