Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific is regarded as one of the world’s best airline brands, and offers a great experience in both first class and business class, along with amazing lounges in Hong Kong and at some outstations.
If you asked me about Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program five years ago, I’d probably tell you to not even bother taking a look at it. That’s because in the past, Cathay Pacific has made most of its first and business class award space available to members of partner frequent flyer programs, like Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage.
Unfortunately post-pandemic, that’s no longer the case. Nowadays Cathay Pacific restricts a vast majority of its premium cabin award space to members of its own frequent flyer program. At this point I’d say Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is sort of a necessary evil if you want to fly premium cabins on Cathay Pacific with miles. Therefore I figure it’s worth taking a close look at the program, because there’s value to be had.
Let’s discuss the basics of earning Cathay Pacific miles, and then the basics of redeeming them, along with the best redemption values.
In this post:
How to earn Cathay Pacific Asia miles
If you don’t currently have any Cathay Pacific miles, don’t worry. For those of us in the United States with access to transferable points currencies, Cathay Pacific miles are among the easiest currencies to rack up.
Basics of redeeming Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
Before we talk about the best ways to redeem Cathay Pacific miles, let me discuss some of the logistics and terms that come with redeeming, including mileage expiration policies, award types, stopovers, and more.
Cathay Pacific mileage expiration
When it comes to the mileage expiration policy, Cathay Pacific miles don’t expire as long as you have at least some account activity every 18 months. Virtually any activity that includes earning or redeeming miles would extend the expiration, ranging from crediting a flight to the program, to transferring some points from a credit card partner.
Cathay Pacific mileage award charts
Cathay Pacific has different award pricing, depending on whether you’re looking to book travel on Cathay Pacific, a partner airline, or a combination of the two.
The below award chart covers travel exclusively on Cathay Pacific, and it’s distance based, factoring in your entire one-way journey.
Cathay Pacific has different award pricing for travel on partner airlines, though unfortunately there’s not a published award chart for that. So you need to just search on Cathay Pacific’s website to find the pricing for a particular flight.
Last but not least, Cathay Pacific has the oneworld multi-carrier award chart, which is distance based and factors in your cumulative distance flown. This applies if you’re traveling on at least two oneworld airlines excluding Cathay Pacific, or three oneworld airlines including Cathay Pacific. This is great if you’re planning a round the world trip, as five stopovers are allowed.
Cathay Pacific mileage redemption surcharges
Many airlines are known for charging pesky carrier imposed surcharges (often referred to as fuel surcharges). Cathay Pacific does pass those on to passengers, but in many cases they’re not too bad.
For flights on Cathay Pacific flights, you’ll pay fuel surcharges in line with this chart. As you can see, they’re among the lowest fuel surcharges charged by any airline.
Asia Miles also passes on carrier imposed surcharges when traveling on partner airlines. Those will typically match what the partner airline would charge directly on a revenue ticket, and in some cases, could be substantial.
Cathay Pacific mileage stopover policy
If you want a stopover on an award ticket, Cathay Pacific allows one stopover on a roundtrip award. This includes for travel on Cathay Pacific, as well as for travel on partner airlines. For the oneworld multi-carrier awards, you’re allowed up to five stopovers.
The catch is that regardless of the type of award you book, you need to reserve by phone in order to take advantage of the stopover feature.
Cathay Pacific mileage change & cancelation fees
When it comes to Cathay Pacific’s policy on award ticket changes and cancelations, the fees differ depending on whether you’re changing or canceling a ticket:
- Changing an award ticket will cost you either $50 or 7,500 miles
- Redepositing an award ticket will cost you either $120 or 17,000 miles
You can choose which way you’d like to pay, though based on my valuation of miles, I tend to think that paying cash is the better value. With many airlines having lowered or reduced change and redeposit fees, this is definitely among the higher fee structures out there.
Cathay Pacific mileage award redemption nominees
To avoid fraud, many frequent flyer programs (particularly in Asia) restrict who you can redeem your miles for, either limiting redemptions to family members, requiring you to nominate only certain people to your account, etc. That’s also the case with Cathay Pacific.
Cathay Pacific only lets you redeem miles for yourself or for a redemption nominee. You can nominate up to five redemption nominees at no cost over the lifetime of your account. Therefore, you can change up to three nominees per year, with a service fee of $50 per redemption change. This applies to each nominee who is added once you reach the limit (which requires replacing existing nominees).
The best uses of Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
I try to be practical when it comes to covering where I see value with a particular frequent flyer program. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, five years ago I thought that Cathay Pacific Asia Miles was a useless program for those of us with transferable points. That’s because partner programs had access to most of the same award space on Cathay Pacific as the carrier’s own program, while Asia Miles has fairly few partner sweet spots.
That has changed, so let’s discuss that in a bit more detail.
Unlocking award availability on Cathay Pacific
The single most valuable aspect of Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is being able to redeem for first and business class travel on Cathay Pacific, given how much that availability has been restricted through partner programs. Availability is much better through Asia Miles than through partner programs. Availability still isn’t good, though, but it is better.
Just to highlight some of Cathay Pacific’s premium cabin redemption rates:
- Ultra-short one-way business class flights within Asia will cost you 16,000 miles, slightly longer flights within Asia will cost you 28,000 miles, and many of the longest flights within Asia will cost you 32,000 miles (or 50,000 miles in first class, for routes like Hong Kong to Tokyo)
- Flights from Hong Kong to the US west coast will cost you 84,000 miles in business class or 125,000 miles in first class
- Flights from Hong Kong to the US east coast will cost you 110,000 miles in business class or 160,000 miles in first class
What is award availability like on Cathay Pacific for premium cabin travel?
- I find business class award space within Asia to generally be quite good, and readily available
- Long haul business class award space is definitely better to the Middle East, Europe, and Australia, than to North America, where it’s extremely tough to come by
- I’ve written separately about Cathay Pacific first class awards, which are also tough to find availability for, but it’s not impossible
How do you find Cathay Pacific award availability? You’ll need to go to Cathay Pacific’s website and log into your loyalty account, which you can sign-up for at this link (if you’re not yet a member). Once you have an account and are logged in, just go to the “Redeem flights” tab, and then enter the route you’re looking at. For example, below is a search of the Los Angeles to Hong Kong route.
Fortunately there’s a way to see calendar availability, so that you can view available seats for two months at a time. Rather than clicking “Redeem flights” right away, just select all of your preferences (including the class of service), and then click the “Departing on” field. You’ll then see a calendar that shows you little icons that reflect availability, based on the cabin you’re searching for.
If you see a date that has the little seat icon, that means there’s availability for a particular cabin.
From there you can go ahead and book your ticket.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles award availability is by no means amazing — it’s not like how EVA Air Infinity MileageLands has access to a lot of EVA Air business class award space. But it’s better than nothing, and better than what you’ll find through other programs.
Are Asia Miles partner award redemptions worth it?
If you’re interested in Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for partner redemptions, there are two main opportunities to consider. For the most part, Cathay Pacific’s partner award pricing isn’t very lucrative, and you’ll find better value through other programs.
One sweet spot worth calling out is that Asia Miles has lower surcharges on British Airways than you’d pay if booking directly with Executive Club or another partner program. For example, a Boston to London British Airways first class award would cost you 100,000 Cathay Pacific miles plus a total of ~$236 in taxes and fees.
As a point of comparison, booking that same award through American AAdvantage would cost you 85,000 miles plus ~$731 in taxes and fees.
The potential savings in surcharges are massive, as you can tell.
The one other potential sweet spot is the Asia Miles oneworld multi-carrier award chart, which can be a great way to plan a round the world trip. For example, for 250,000 miles you could book an award in business class covering a distance of 20,001-25,000 miles. That has the potential to be a great deal, though personally it’s something I’d shy away from:
- Finding availability for all segments and then booking by phone has a huge hassle factor
- There are carrier imposed surcharges on many partners, so you’ll potentially be paying quite a bit of cash for such an award
- Booking a single award with so many stopovers limits your flexibility to change plans, especially given how many programs let you book simple one-way awards nowadays with a lot more flexibility
So if you’re super patient, and skilled at finding award availability, and have very firm plans, there’s value to be had. However, personally I don’t think the juice is worth the squeeze, so to speak.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is an increasingly useful frequent flyer program, for the simple fact that it’s the best way to book premium cabin awards on Cathay Pacific. Nowadays Cathay Pacific has restricted a vast majority of its first and business class award space to members of its own frequent flyer program.
While Cathay Pacific doesn’t have great award space across the board, business class awards within Asia are generally pretty readily available, and first and business class awards are available on long haul flights with a lot of planning and flexibility.
While there are a couple of partner sweet spot opportunities with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, I’d primarily consider the program for Cathay Pacific redemptions.
What has your experience been with redeeming Cathay Pacific Asia Miles?