What You Need To Know About Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Program Changes

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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.

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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

Bottom line

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?

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Comments

  1. Are they charging per segment?

    If you route SYD – HKG – JFK in business, will they charge 85k for 7,500+ or 85k + 45k? From the chart I’d think 85k but there’s no way they’d make a sweet spot that good.

  2. You only mentioned the new multi-carrier one world award chart, how about changes to the award chart for a single one-world or partner airline carrier?

  3. Why not call a spade a spade ?? The round trip is a huge devaluation as most people don’t go flying one ways

  4. Spent a little time looking over this earlier today. My immediate thoughts:

    1) First class redemptions on OW chart get hammered starting on band 5 (ex: 105k vs. 140k, 115k vs 150k)

    2) The language on the info site for the changes is interesting. They specifically say the CX chart is for CX flights only. How will they price itineraries with combo partners (ie: CX + AA)

    3) How are non-alliances partners like Aer Lingus, Swiss, etc, priced under the new program? It seems they don’t technically fit in on the CX chart since that says CX flights only, and they’re not Oneworld, so don’t belong on the OW chart.

    4) I disagree with @Abe, as i often take advantage of one-way awards. Due to availability, sometimes the only realistic way to build your itinerary is a one-way through one program (CX for example) and a one-way home through a program in a different alliance (Aeroplan, etc). Of course, I’d rather have the option for lower round trip pricing and only paying the higher charge for one-ways rather than making round trips more expensive.

  5. @Sam there’s no indication that they’re changing the rules regarding how to calculate distance. As such, SYD-HKG-JFK is a single “trip” that would be in the 7500+ category

  6. @matt I’m gonna take a guess that you’re a points geek. Most people are not thereby it’s a devaluation
    Again it probably won’t affect many frequent points flyers who know the game but still a devaluation

  7. I suppose it remains to be seen, but the ‘examples’ listed under the section:
    “Flight award changes for other airline partners”
    seem to imply that the “Asia Miles Standard” chart applies for single OneWorld carriers, eg:
    HKG-SYD on QF for 25k one-way in Y is given as an ‘after’ example.

    But it also gives an example of AA HKG-DFW in Y for 47k one-way, which amount is not in any chart.

  8. Lucky, I think you completely overlooked the new choice and tailored charts….. Seems that’s where the main devaluation will happen. Also, no information on single partner or 1 partner + Cathay chart which is also suspicious.

  9. From observations I read in Hong Kong:

    1. For long haul economy, the miles needed to return a round trip ticket pretty much stays the same, but reduced for one way (as it’s now just half the miles of a round trip)

    2. For regional economy, the savings is quite significant. One way from Hong Kong to Japan is now just 10,000 miles, half of what used to be 20,000 miles. Return from Hong Kong to Japan is only 20,000 miles, two thirds of what used to be 30,000 miles. But it was always quite impossible to redeem flights already.

    What hurts is that they have increased the miles needed for a return flights in premium cabins on long haul flight, while redeeming one way may have required less miles. Maybe there are benefits to be have redeeming a mixed cabin for a round trip flight, as long as the flyer can stand being at the back with most of the people for one leg of their trip.

    They seems to have also close the complicated loopholes people have been using regarding the open jaws and two stopovers allowances.

  10. @Abe Maybe just a little bit 😉

    I’m NYC based, and really mostly use CX miles for r/t to Europe on AA with no YQ. So am bummed that that’s going from 80k–>90k, but still a pretty mild deval. Don’t care too much about the long/ultra long haul deval since there are a bunch of better points/miles to use for those TPAC flights to Asia.

  11. Asia miles isn’t the best OW program and it isn’t a strong credit card orientated program, thus most of its users are HK based that choose to credit to Asia miles to build Marco Polo status.
    On top of that, HKG has no alternative, meaning this is a single hub airline.

    Canceling the round trip discount is a knife in the back to it’s loyal flyers since most of them fly HKG-X-HKG unlike an Alaska user (that just credits to Alaska since it’s the better program, and isn’t necessary based in a particular location or American that has 10 Hubs).

    Shame:
    Great airline, with a very efficient home airport, lots of premium traffic by default, busiest air cargo airport in the world , the best lounges in the world, based in a city which 1 out of 7 is a millionaire, yet they manage to be so mediocre.

  12. @Matt – is that OW partner award one way or rtn?

    For eg, LAX to LHR rtn is 90k now instead of 80k for business class? If that is the case, then it is still excellent value.

  13. @VK the 80k isn’t from the current OW chart. Flying on one airline for your whole ticket, regardless of carrier, would put it in the “single carrier chart”, hence 80k NYC to many hubs in Europe.

    LAX to LHR under new OW chart is now 135k vs 120k on old single carrier chart.

  14. This is an important devaluation for the vast majority of HKG based flyers as @Hong Konger said above – when I was based there I never used one-way segments only round trips.

    On top of that they introduced two new levels of award redemption, more in line with what US and European carriers do. That are not mentioned here at all. These new “Choice” and “Tailored” award levels require very significantly more miles – seems sure that a lot of award inventory will move to these new levels.

    @Lucky I think you need to reference the new award levels, they are the main devaluation.

  15. If they follow the way Weican did it, they could cut the saver awards in half – it wouldn’t make any difference as there was never saver availability.

  16. Does anyone know if a CX non-stop YVR-HKG in C is priced the same as a BA YVR-LHR-HKG routing in C… 70K Asia Miles?

  17. I see a huge appreciation in value for one-way ultra-long Cathay redemption. It seems like it decreased from 110k to 85k under the new chart (e.g. SYD – HKG – ORD). Would that be too good to be true?

  18. @Ruizhi Liu: Good eye, it would appear you’re correct. It seems that on the new chart, the Ultra long haul band is simply for flights 7500+ miles. Whereas under the old chart, the top two bands were 7501-10,000, and then 10,000+. So valid one-way routings over 10,000 miles are now significantly cheaper than before (although r/t is now more expensive).

    Following the same concept, it appears the lower mile bands were rearranged a bit, too. Something that jumps out at me right away is that biz class transcons on AA get a bit cheaper. Under the old chart, NYC-LAX or SEA would be 30k one-way or 50k r/t, and NYC-SFO would’ve been 45k one-way and 80k r/t. They’re all now 25k each way.

  19. I generally use my AM for upgrades from premium economy to business, and that’s an area that gets hammered by these changes. A return upgrade from MEL-HKG is 36,000, up from 22,500. So the fact I earn slightly more AM is cold comfort.

    I will admit that until now, that has been a sweet spot in the awards chart, and these changes bring the earn/burn rates closer to Cathay’s competitors like Qantas.

  20. old sweet spot = NYC Asia upgrade from Y+ to biz, was only 27,500 one way, or 45,000 r/t: the 10,000 discount for r/t upgrade will now be removed. no bueno.

  21. Actually, I’ve read several reports on the AsiaMiles changes, and I find it suprising that all of them refer to a “round trip discount”. We don’t usually consider round trip revenue fares as “discounted” as compared to one way fares do we?

    I personally have always viewed the round trip number as the base figure (possibly because I mostly do HKG-X-HKG routes), and considered that they penalised one way redemptions (much like buying a one way revenue ticket). Now that they have removed this penalty, I feel better redeeming one way tickets on CX and redeeming another one way ticket back on a competitor airline (its so frustrating sometimes that CX has redemption availability only on one leg but not the other).

    the round trip discount

  22. Asia Miles / Marco Polo was already one of the stingiest programs going in both in terms of limited earning options (much smaller bonuses for elite and premium cabins) and higher redemption ratios. This only mades the redemption worse except for some economy flights.

    Cathay certainly has their financial issues (due to a bad fuel hedge decision years ago), but seems to me they’re rewarding tourist/economy flyers to the detriment of higher revenue generating frequent flyers (not even mentioning some of the service degradations in recent years). There’s certainly other airlines and programs ex-HKG that are were more attractive before and are only more so today.

  23. Andy 11235 says:
    May 24, 2018 at 10:56 am

    @Sam @Andy: Regarding “…there’s no indication that they’re changing the rules regarding how to calculate distance. As such, SYD-HKG-JFK is a single “trip” that would be in the 7500+ category”

    Pricing out SYD-HKG-LAX now shows that–even today–that is considered in the 10,000+ category.

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