Airlines Guestwriter

Is it time to switch to Asia Miles?

Is Asiamiles more attractive post the Krisflyer devaluation.

So while Aaron has been busy sitting in the dark wearing goth kid clothing (Wong, 2017) (also taking the time to do some heavy number crunching so we lazy bums don’t have to), the rest of us have been thinking about where else we could spend our credit card miles now that our beloved national carrier has effectively become (even) more expensive to fly.

Other than KrisFlyer, many Singaporean credit cards allow you to credit miles to Asia Miles, which allows you  to redeem flights on Cathay Pacific (and its partners). So, how’s the scene look over at Hong Kong’s flagship carrier?

(Caveat: I’ve rather limited experience with Asia Miles myself, so would gladly welcome any corrections / additions from readers. Just add on to the comments if you’d like to leave any feedback!)

Marco? Polo!

First things first – some of you might have heard about the Marco Polo Club, Cathay Pacific’s loyalty programme. Then there’s Asia Miles, their rewards programme. What’s the difference?

It can be a little confusing, but Marco Polo Club status refers to a member’s elite level, akin to KrisFlyer Silver, Gold, etc… Asia Miles, however, refers to their rewards programme.

For those of us with zero status with Cathay Pacific, we can sign up for a plain Asia Miles account, which suffices for what we really want to do here – redeeming flight awards using credit card points.

Earning Asia Miles

Most major Singaporean banks (exception: OCBC) allow you to transfer points to Asia Miles. The full list of financial partners can be accessed here – the ones I recognise on first glance are American Express, ANZ, Citibank, DBS, HSBC, Maybank, Standard Chartered, UOB.

There’s also the option of chalking up miles by actually flying revenue (e.g. on CX or oneworld), but who’s actually got time for that?

Flying Cathay Pacific

Looking at Cathay Pacific’s route map, two things are immediately obvious.

First, it’s got a pretty well-developed network, covering Asia, Australia, Europe and America – all the places Singaporeans love to go.

Second, if you’re based in Singapore, you’ll probably need to get to Hong Kong before going on to your next stop.

That’s great if you want to do a stopover in Hong Kong, but not at all helpful if you want to go the opposite direction (i.e. Australia). Even if it’s on the way, the added hours from the stopover can still be painful.

Probably something to consider before booking!

The Experience

We don’t have trip reports on CX right now (something I’m hoping to remedy by the end of the year…) and so I’ll point to OMAAT’s reviews as a reference:

Unfortunately for us, a fair number of the SIN-HKG flights are currently still on older hardware and offering regional Business Class hardware. If you’d like to avoid that, you can try looking out for flights operating the new A350 – though for a 4h journey that might not really be your main priority.

Comparing numbers

The Asia Miles awards chart is organised by different zones (grouped by distance) from KrisFlyer’s, which makes it difficult to directly compare against the latter’s updated award chart. Instead, I chose a few cities from Skyscanner’s 2016 list of top year-end Singaporean destinations to see how Asia Miles fares against KrisFlyer.

(Also added New York to get a sensing for trips to America. Also, in case you want to see Trump Tower in person.)

I opted to compare the equivalent of business class saver return tickets, since I’m guessing that’s what the majority of (mile) price-conscious readers will be gunning for. Take note that for Asia Miles, a one-way award costs more than half of a return, so it’s actually cheaper to redeem a return ticket.

For the value of the new airport taxes / fees charged for KrisFlyer redemptions, I’ve used the value currently under “Airport/Government taxes” and excluded “Carrier surcharges”.


Addendum: In several instances it may make even more sense to redeem Asia Miles on partner airlines; this will probably be covered in a future post!

Bangkok (BKK)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 40,000 miles + 500 HKD (~S$92)
(755 HKD if via HKG)
40,000 miles + S$66.20
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 2h 15min
(7h 45min if via HKG)
 2h 25min

Verdict: Tie (CX for possible flexibility of including HKG stopover)

Bangkok’s the only other city CX flies to directly from Singapore – it’s pretty much a tie between the two (slightly cheaper for SQ). Flying CX does give you the option of throwing in a Hong Kong stopover for cheap (about 250 HKD) , though

Update: I’ve had conflicting reports on whether adding a HKG stopover will increase the number of miles spent – while a post on HWZ suggests that it doesn’t, comments have indicated that it does. I think the latter is more likely.

Hong Kong (HKG)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 50,000 miles + 630 HKD (~S$115) 55,000 miles + S$93.60
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 3h 50min  3h 45min

Verdict: CX

Asia Miles starts getting cheaper – I value 5000 miles at around S$100, so the price difference is enough to hurt. Interestingly, you can also choose to fly via BKK (a stopover is possible too, though pricier) but if you want to cover both cities it seems to make more sense to redeem it as a SIN-BKK itinerary with HKG stopover instead.

Tokyo (NRT)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 80,000 miles + 1,011 HKD (~S$185) 86,000 miles + S$66.60
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 9h 6h 35min

Verdict: Tie (SQ for shorter journey time, CX for HKG stopover/transit)

I was expecting CX to be the clear winner here given that Japan was one of the zones more adversely affected by the SQ devaluation. However, it seems that overall pricing is evenly matched, with the extra 6000 miles for SQ fairly evenly balanced out by the additional S$120 for CX (probably due to the transit in HKG).

If you want to check out the CX lounges in HKG it can be a fun detour, but I would personally opt for a direct flight instead.

Melbourne (MEL)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 80,000 miles + 1,832 HKD (~S$335) 116,000 miles + S$143.50
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 7h 35min (QF) 7h 25min

Verdict: QF (if you can find availability)

Edit: I now realise that the CX booking engine will show lowest price (including partner airlines) so the figure quoted was likely for Qantas. Which is great since flying CX would include a nonsensical HKG layover and cost you 120,000 miles and can increase your total journey time to something like 17h 15min.

Once we leave Asia we start seeing the redemption cost for CX tickets clearly taking the lead (in getting cheaper) as compared to SQ.

That said, saving 36,000 miles (~S$720) might sound great, but I’d personally rather save 10h of my time. The geography just doesn’t work out, in this case.

London (LHR)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 115,000 miles + 3,077 HKD (~S$562)
(4,334 HKD on BA)
170,000 miles + S$367.80
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 12h 50min (BA) 12h 55min

Verdict: BA (if you are okay with the hard product)

Edit: Again, the lower price quoted is likely for a BA direct flight.

Even with higher taxes, the 55,000 mile (~S$1100) difference is humungous. Even for a CX flight, at 145,000 miles it’s worth considering the extra layover at HKG to enjoy the great lounge(s). 4h of waiting is not the worst thing in the world, in this case.

It’s also possible to book British Airways directly on the Asia Miles booking system. It seems the number of miles required is the same, though taxes might differ (more expensive, in this case).

Addendum: BA business class is not all that great, from what I’ve heard. In this case I think perhaps transitting in HKG is not the worst thing in the world?

New York (JFK)

Asia Miles KrisFlyer
Price 145,000 miles + 1,716 HKD (~S$314) 184,000 miles + S$193.60
Shortest 1-way Journey Time 21h 21h 35min

Verdict: CX

Since SQ doesn’t fly to New York directly, it loses whatever edge it had over CX (though for CX, it could sometimes be noticeably  longer). The 39,000 mile difference (~S$780) fails to make up for the difference in taxes, though the overall gap is not as stark as the SIN-LHR itinerary.

Conclusion

This evaluation was done with a rather small data set, and I’ve made a few assumptions regarding the cash values that KF will be charging post-devaluation, but overall I suspect that  the figures should be indicative enough, even if not 100% accurate.

This was an interesting exercise for me – I’d started with the expectation that Asia Miles would be the clear winner, but it turns out that post-devaluation KrisFlyer still seems pretty comparable, as far as business class flights to Asia go.

For long-haul flights, Asia Miles does emerge as the clear winner, though you’d probably want to consider total journey time to see if a redemption makes sense. Ultimately, as our national carrier, SQ still offers more direct flights ex-SIN than other airlines, so that’s something else to consider in choosing which programme to use for your redemptions.

cover photo via Instagram by airplanesloverr

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28 Comments on "Is it time to switch to Asia Miles?"

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That was pretty quick.
1 more point to CX for their user friendly site. Can see availability for a weeks at a time (hopefully not ghost availability).

I’m seriously considering looking at CX or OneWorld airlines now that SQ is doing away with the 15% mileage discount. One caveat though if you’re looking at business class, I wouldn’t use BA’s J class. It’s horrible. I got upgraded flying SYD-SIN and was really happy until I saw the seat. It’s no wider than an economy class seat though you get enough pitch to lie flat. You also have to stare a stranger (if traveling alone) in the face for the journey (the privacy screens aren’t worth much, IMO) as the seats alternate facing forward and backwards. I was… Read more »

I believe Qantas direct ex-sin to Australia can also be booked via CX..

Some points:- 1. There are actually direct flights from SIN to MEL (QF) and TYO (JL) with Oneworld. Not every Asia miles redemption need to be routed via HKG. There are many Oneworld options out of SIN – MH, QF, UL, QR, JL, AY and BA. 2. Asia Miles follows a distance-based redemption chart, unlike KrisFlyer’s zone-based chart. Even if your destination is the same, the miles needed for your redemption will differ by the routes. E.g. SIN-BKK-SIN – 40k miles in J SIN-HKG-BKK-HKG-SIN – 80k miles in J 3. One can have up to 4 stopovers (total 5 stops)… Read more »

Hi Shyh Jie and other Milelion readers, has anyone ever tried to redeem the “One can have up to 4 stopovers (total 5 stops)”?? I hope to get some advise from anyone who might have experience in this. Is it easy to book? How long is the maximum stopover? I have read this before, and I actually started converting to Asia Miles recently because of this, but I haven’t really found any advise from anyone who has successfully redeem this award.

Hi Mike, my experience is limited to redeeming SIN-(QR)-DOH (Transit) – (QR) – CDG (Stop) – (open jaw) – AMS (Stop) – (CX) – HKG (Stop) – (CX) – SIN You will need to call in to book. It is best if you have checked for the availability and know the exact flights you need. HK-based Cantonese-speaking agents should be the most competent; the Mandarin-speaking ones are not too bad but some of the ones whom I spoke to sound a little brusque (that’s how they speak I guess). I gave up on the English speaking agents because it was… Read more »

in terms of the hardware, SQ business beats CX business (or just about any other carrier) any time.

I have sat in those reverse herring-bone seats, and never mind how OMAAT raves about them, they are horribly uncomfortable. For one, they are so narrow (I’m 5’9 with 30″ waistline btw) you’d feel like a beached popiah.

SQ, on the other hand, gives you the amplitude to practice the latest yoga contortions.

CX HK lounge beats the crap out of SQ’s SIN lounge any day of the week though…

This is so true indeed…coming from a ex BA gold member now this month turn silver…. unbeatable lounge experience… t4 CX lounge when opens I certainly have high hopes for that… but currently the QF lounge at t1 serves me very very well…

CX seems to work if you want a hkg stopover. But SQ works if you want to do a secondary side trip for usd100 – eg booking bkk-nrt as bkk-sin and sin-nrt with the sin stopover costing usd100 (if they still allow this, really hope they do) but with same mileage cost. Obviously need to get your way to BKK in the first place but there is that option, cheaper now that the surcharge is gone

Hi,

How to book stopover with Asiamiles/CX, is it only doable by phone ? Engine doesnt show any stopover option

For Asia miles you need to redeem return as the one way redemption cost more miles per leg as compared to return

Even before sq devaluation, 1 area cx beat sq hands down is the connectivity to Canada. For some reason, cx flies to Vancouver n Toronto whereas sq doesn’t. I plan to visit Canada next year and will cx as I prefer transit at HK rather than US

i wonder if SQ might resume flights to canada with the new long range a350s…

Other than its regional J class and abysmal on board catering in J, CX beats SQ for most routes – other than routes to AU and NZ. Here are the highlights: 1. Frequency – 6x daily to LHR and 4x daily to NYC area etc. flight times to NA and EU works well with SIN frequencies, with most flights leaving past midnight. 2. J and F lounges. The Pier Business Class is definitely the best J lounge in the world. Can’t be compared with QR, SQ, EY etc. Food is better than SQ SKL (sitting in T3 now..) 3. Long… Read more »
Asiamiles? Goodness…most ppl here I can see access OMAAT regularly and I can’t believe non of you recommend Alaskan MP program. I am based in SIN as well and has jus redeem a 1 way JAL SIN-TYO-CGK stopover in TYO for 30k miles. SIN- HND in J but NRT-CGK in F…both fantastic routes… CX 1st class redemption on Alaskan will only cost you 27.5k miles with stopover in HKG and no fuel surcharge. Fancy J? 22.5k miles One way. Lots of article on OMAAT on CX as lucky is a CX freak. Hope the readers here can exposed to other… Read more »

Hi JK, please note that for CX intra asia and asia (exclude HK) to Europe and South pacific, you cannot get free stopover in HK with Alaska Miles, which will be treated as two separate tickets!

Thanks and yes you are right and apology not clear on my above posting. Good you point out as well for CX, JL will be a better option when using Alaskan in this case.

Warning about Asia Miles: yes, the prices are much lower but availability is terrible (vs. Star Alliance): I mostly fly out of Hong Kong but think this also applies to Singapore. Award availability in PE, J and F is nearly impossible this year between Asia (esp. Hong Kong) and Europe. I tried far out, medium and short notice. CX availability It used to be good around 2 years ago and has gotten so bad that it is impossible to find even PE No other reasonable options as OneWorld coverage Asia Europe is really thin. MH is only flying to London… Read more »

Forgot Qatar: zero availability as well. Any date, any route (involving HKG or SIN)

fwiw i found some via avios. can find LHR-DOH-SIN on J for 3 months out.