Category Archives: Airlines

Airlines

Miami, no vice: EVA Hello Kitty Business Class SIN-TPE

Miami, no vice: Planning
EVA Air Business Class SIN-TPE
EVA Air Business Class TPE-IAH
Red Roof Inn IAH Airport
United Economy IAH-MIA
Renting with Sixt Miami
Element Miami International Airport
Miami, the Keys and everything inbetween
Orlando: Disneyworld and other distractions
Jetblue Economy MCO-JFK
EVA Air Business Class JFK-TPE
EVA Air Business Class TPE-SIN


The first thing you need to understand about The Milelion is that he is a prime specimen of male masculinity. Where he walks, women swoon and men shake their fists in envious grief. He causes mass hysteria in the countries he visits. His bodily fluids have been incorporated into TCM as a remedy for many ailments. Indeed, centuries from now, historians will be unable to reference any epoch without doing so in standard units of Milelions.

Image result for asian bodybuilding
File Photo of The Milelion, before breakfast

It is because of this rampant surplus of masculinity that The Milelion saw no issue with booking a trip to Miami via Houston and Taipei on one of EVA Air’s Hello Kitty services.

I was gushing (in a manly way, of course) to my colleague about the upcoming Miami trip and the many manly exploits I would do while I was there. I would boldly stare down brightly-colored fish while snorkeling, hurl obscenities at Florida gators from a covered walkway, shop for torso-hugging v-neck shirts at the premium outlets and take limited public transportation where necessary.

“Don’t real men fly long haul economy?” he asked.

I ignored his question. It really wasn’t my job to answer the questions of men less manly than me.


Image result for eva air launch hello kitty jet

EVA launched its first Hello Kitty jet back in October 2005 in a marketing tie-up with Sanrio. The first aircraft, an A330-200, was described as follows-

On the right side of the aircraft, identified with “Hello Kitty EVA Air,” Kitty and her friends greet passengers with welcoming smiles. Daniel Star, his aviator glasses perched on his forehead, stands nearest the cockpit with Kitty by his side. Tim and Tammy, the mischievous monkeys, sit over the wing. Joy, the blue mouse, is poised on the engine. And Mimmy White, Kitty’s sister, joins parents Mary and George White, near the back of the aircraft. On the left of the aircraft under “EVA Air Hello Kitty,” Kitty stands nearest the cockpit beside her friend Kathy, the white rabbit. Rory, the yellow squirrel, frolics on the engine. Tim and Tammy and Kitty’s family are featured in the same positions as on the other side of the aircraft.

EVA currently services Cebu, Narita, Houston, Singapore, Paris, Haeda, Fukuoka, Seoul and Shanghai with Hello Kitty jets. The jets have names such as

  • Gudetama Comfort Flight
  • Sanrio Characters Shining Star
  • Sanrio Family Hand in Hand
  • Hello Kitty Loves Apples
  • Bad Badtz-Maru Travel Fun

The Hello Kitty planes get moved around ever so often, and the Singapore route will no longer be operated with a Hello Kitty jet come 31 May. No time like the present.


I had booked a complimentary airport transfer through the UOB PRVI card, thanks to my overseas spending in well-known masculine business destination Rio de Janeiro the month before.

In theory the limo booking covers a 4 seater vehicle like a Mercedes E Class. However, the agency had sent over a 7 seater van instead. This usually entails a $10 upcharge if specifically requested for, but it was pretty obvious they sent the larger vehicle due to the masculine way in which I entered my credit card details.

“This is logical”, I thought. “My selected mode of transportation needs plenty of room for my outsized biceps”

I arrived at Terminal 3 around 2pm for a 3.45pm departure. Eva Air’s desks are located at Row 6, next to SQ’s premium economy check in. There were no queues when I arrived, and even if there were I’m sure they would have parted like the Red Sea. Such are the perks of well-toned delts, I thought as I pulled my abductor muscle lifting my bag onto the belt.

“Where are you headed today sir?” the agent inquired with a slight tremble in her voice as she beheld the Adonis before her. This is a normal response for women when they see The Milelion.

“Houston.” I grunted (manly men always grunt. It’s a mixture of muscle mass and constipation). Houston seemed a suitably masculine destination, what with its association with the oil and gas industry and all. Renewable energy is so for whimps.

She weighed and tagged my bag to IAH, probably entertaining daydreams about my life on the oil rigs (bodybuilding oil comes from oil rigs right?) where my bulging muscles would be used to turn giant valves, lift massive pipes, and fix the occasional IT problem because Renaissance man. I was disappointed to learn that my bag weighed a puny 13kg because this represented a wasted opportunity for tricep and forearm development.

“This is the Hello Kitty flight, yes?” I clarified as I dropped to the floor to do some one-handed pushups. I managed to do about three or four before my arms started hurting so I stopped. Circuit training is all about knowing your limits.

She confirmed that it was. I was relieved. Although BR215/216 should be operated by the Hello Kitty jet, there’s no accounting for last minute equipment swaps.

I’ve never understood the ritualistic defacing of boarding passes that happens at check-in. It’s almost as if the ground staff believe that your ability to locate your boarding jet or remember your legal name will be enhanced through a liberal application of blue pen to the boarding pass. Fortunately, there was nothing of that sort this time and I received unadulterated boarding passes. Formalities complete, she bade me a good trip.

I had about an hour to kill before boarding so I headed off to the SilverKris lounge, which I’ve reviewed several times before so will only give you the highlights.

I was looking for raw eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and other protein-rich foods for my physique. Instead, I only found a selection of fruits, salad, simple carbohydrates and sugary drinks. SQ’s lounge food is so unconducive to bodybuilding it makes my hamstrings hurt.

Real men also down copious amounts of alcohol, of course, and I was hoping that SQ might have added a tavern or some sort of alehouse to the lounge since my last visit. It would be an appropriate place to mount a table and tell stories about my many epic (cyber) battles while fair wenches pour libations freely.

Unfortunately, I only found a selection of nancy wines.

Wines aside, I’d like to call out SQ for this latest cost cutting measure of hide the bubbly.

When I first saw this sign it was during a morning departure slot. I assumed that the timing had something to do with it. It now appears, however, that SOP is to keep the champagne under lock and key, only attainable through social interaction. How nefarious. They know my one weakness.

Because I could not find anyone in the lounge willing to engage in arm-wrestling combat and/or hot oil wrestling, I decided to leave early for the plane.

BR216 was departing from Gate B5 today. Security clearance took longer than usual. The uninitiated may think that this was because there was a large student group reaching before me, but everyone knows it was because my abs of steel kept on setting off the metal detector. Even from the end of the queue.

From the gate I could make out the rear end of the Hello Kitty jet. Alas, this was one of those gates that didn’t give great tarmac views.

I positioned myself at the entrance so I could be the first on board. I knew the rest of the passengers would respect the Alpha male’s right to first boarding, but I didn’t want to make them wait too long.

Boarding started and I gracefully bounded down the jetway, reaching the aircraft slightly winded. These jetways were longer than I remember. Catching my breath, I took in the 77W cabin.

There is no question in my mind that EVA totally kicks SQ’s ass on SIN-TPE routes. SQ’s flights are operated by A330s which have its regional angled-flat business product.

Image result for sq a330 business class

EVA, on the other hand, operates 77Ws with its latest reverse-herringbone flatbed seat installed in a 1-2-1 configuration.

With the recent Krisflyer devaluation, it costs the same number of miles (27,500 one way) to fly in Business Class to Taipei on SQ as it does on Star Alliance partners. Therefore I’d encourage anyone who is considering redeeming tickets on this route to opt for the EVA option, given the superior hard product. EVA is quite generous in releasing partner award space on this route too.

Do you really need a flatbed seat on a 4.5 hour flight? No. But do I really need all these Arnold Schwarzenegger workout videos and free weights? Sometimes, we just feel like treating ourselves.

I was bracing myself for a full-fledged assault of Hello Kitty from the moment I boarded the plane, but was surprised that the cabin looked identical to that of every other EVA flight I’d flown so far.

On first glance, there were only two immediately noticeable features that identified this as a Kitty flight.

First, there was a framed painting at the front of the cabin. The painting in each aircraft is unique.

Second there was a Hello Kitty pillow at each seat. Of course, there were many more cobranded items, as I’d soon discover.

I settled into my seat and, with much effort, finally managed to hoist my handcarry bag in the overhead compartment. This was totally not due to any weakness in my upper body but more because of the poor UX design of airplane overhead compartments. Why must they involve lifting weights above shoulder level? Preposterous.

Besides, I had a more pressing task- getting my hair tonic to cold storage asap. I would like to remind everyone it is well documented that male pattern hair loss is caused by an excess of testosterone. It’s true. Testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone which in turn causes hair loss. It speaks volumes to my masculinity and excess testosterone production that I have attained such illustrious male pattern balding at the young age of 29, and I challenge anyone else to do better. Bruce Willis, Andre Agassi and Gandhi would be proud.

“Would you be able to store this in your cooler?” I asked of a passing flight attendant.

“Of course sir. Is this medicine?” she asked.

It most certainly was not. I bristled at the suggestion that a man such as I would require anything of the sort.  “It’s a supplement,” I said, in a prickly tone. Manly men do not use medicine. They merely require an abundance of supplements. Properly chastised, she took my supplement and disappeared into the galley.

Pre-departure drink orders were taken. I enquired if they had any protein powder milkshakes, failing which I would gladly have a glass of Rose. Unfortunately, EVA has joined the ranks of airlines which do not serve champagne on the ground, for duty reasons. They do serve sparkling wine thoughs (and I was very glad that the crew drew a distinction between sparkling wine and champagne)

As I sipped my cava I took stock of the Hello Kitty situation so far.  The flight wasn’t even 10 minutes old and I had a Hello Kitty pillow, slippers, menu and air sickness bag. They even had Hello Kitty safety cards.

I unwrapped the slippers and put them on. Was this too girly? I asked myself.

No, I decided. It was not. I had big feet. And you know what they say about men with big feet.

Besides, I was wearing said slippers while reading hypermasculine broadsheet The New York Times. And the guy on the front page was bald. This surely more than compensated for things.

The aircraft taxied and took off in unspectacular fashion. I was half expecting Hello Kitty’s voice to appear on the PA as he/she/it willed the dual engines to full throttle through the power of audible kawaii. This did not happen.

Soon after takeoff I got my glass of Rose. I realise there are some people out there who would dismiss Rose as girly. But rose is fine and totally not girly to drink because the red reminds me of the blood of my enemies that I shed so freely.

I had a look at the menu while waiting for my lunch order to be taken.

It was very disappointing to note that there wasn’t any game meat on the menu. After all, I was by now used to dining on freshly slaughtered elk, caribou and the occasional Bambi’s mom.

 

While waiting for the food, I scanned the IFE system, looking for programs on weightlifting, polar bear wrestling or steel manufacturing/other metallurgy (all of which are hobbies of mine). I ended up watching Gilmore Girls because my fingers accidentally bumped  the icon and my hands accidentally put the headphones on.

The crew came around to dress the table. As you might expect, the tablecloths on the flight are Hello Kitty branded too.

The first course was a sweet and savory salad with smoked salmon, mini-apple cubes and capsicum.

I would like to point out that the capsicum had been cut into tiny stars, because Hello Kitty is all about stars. You gotta admire the folks at SATS catering who do this. Perhaps it’s automated, but I think it is safe to say no other airline has star-shaped capsicum.

I went with the prawn noodle soup for the main. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t Wah Kee standard. The prawns were tiny and the deshelled frozen type, the veggies were soggy and there was an overabundance of fishcake.

Desert was an excellent double chocolate mousse.

A byproduct of manliness is a super efficient digestive system. Hence I required the bathroom soon after my meal.

But even the loo isn’t safe from cobranding. There is Hello Kitty toilet paper. Yes, you heard me right. Anyone who needs to go number two can relish in the fact that they are. shall we say, browning the kitty.

The hand soaps and lotions have special branding too.

However, the toilet seat is stock. Would it really be so hard/disturbing to have a Hello Kitty bidet? It could play happy star music while cleansing your unspeakable regions.

I normally don’t pay much attention to the inflight duty free catalogue, but this one was a thing of beauty. It was chock full of Hello Kitty merchandise.

I was partial to the apron, which would let me live out my iron chef man fantasies.

But the other items weren’t bad too.

In the end, I settled for two decks of free playing cards and a complimentary bag.

Before long, our flight started its descent into Taipei.

Did the Hello Kitty service live up to expectations? Although the flight crew did not break out into a song and dance number midway through service, I still think this has to go down as one of the most kitsch things to do in the world. And some people just like that. I can imagine a whole planeload of hipsters doing the flight ironically, for example .

I disembarked the aircraft, manliness still intact. Now it was time to figure out which of EVA’s 4 lounges I should use…

First Class for the Family: Hacking the SQ waitlist

First Class for the Family – Melbourne 2017

Hacking the SQ Waitlist
SIN MEL 777-300ER First Class Review
Krisflyer First Class Lounge Melbourne Review
MEL SIN A380 Suites Class Review


Hacking the SQ Waitlist

We have all heard of the adage, ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’. Well, my wife and I certainly do not plan to spare the rod with our head-strong 2 year old. Besides, I can think of much better ways to spoil her than ‘sparing the rod.’ Flying her First Class for her 2 year old birthday trip could certainly count as one of those ways!

Planning travel with a young child can be challenging. One of the primary considerations for parents is the timing of the flight. Do you fly red-eye and arrive at your destination tired from the relatively poor quality of sleep, but increase the chance of your child sleeping through the flight? Or do you pick a day flight and risk spending the entire ride chasing after a bored infant, giving embarrassed and apologetic looks to everyone in your cabin. My wife and I (and most of the parents with young children we know) prefer the former. Of course, flying premium does help mitigate the part about the poor quality of sleep on a red-eye.

Whatever your preference is, chances are you will face a lot more restrictions on your travel time compared to the average traveller. As we all know, this can’t be good when considering award availability.

We only got around planning this family trip to Melbourne in about early January, about 2 months out from our intended date of travel. Although there were still scattered availability for 2 adults here and there, it was no surprise that saver awards for most of the flights were on waitlist on both Business and First class. At that time, the only available tickets to and fro was an outbound arriving on Monday, and an inbound departing on Thursday. 3.5 days for a holiday doesn’t exactly sound very enticing, but sometimes you’d do anything to get out of the country.

Now I’ve previously written about the SQ Waitlist here.  Aaron has a pretty good overview article here, and has also done some pretty good analysis on award availability here .

If you find yourself in my situation and the current available flights are not ideal, and/or you’d like some more time to think about it while putting the available award flights ‘on hold’ without subjecting yourself to change fees later on, here’s a nifty little trick you can use to ‘hack’ the waitlist.

For example, I wish to fly to NRT around the middle of August this year. The only available First Saver award is on the 17 of August, but I’d prefer to fly earlier or on a weekend if possible. For now, I would like to hold this available saver award.

I first make a reservation for this saver award on the 17th of August as one normally would, going through all the steps (including seat selection) until the payment page.

Selection of the only available flight

After entering your details, go to seat selection, and then proceed on to the payment page.

After entering your details, go to seat selection

When you’ve reached the payment page, exit the booking process by closing the page, or clicking any of the links on the SQ toolbar. I usually just click the Singapore Airlines logo on the top left hand corner of the page.

Now, head to the ‘Bookings’ tab under your account profile. You should see a booking reference number for that flight, even though the transaction wasn’t completed.

Booking Reference number for the ‘sham’ booking

If you attempt to select the ‘Manage Booking’ tab, this will return an error message and prompt you to complete the booking process offline.

Proceed to make the same booking again. This time, the flight should be on waitlist.

Same flight now on waitlist

Proceed to waitlist yourself on the flight. In about 15 to 20 minutes, the first reservation you’ve made should be automatically cancelled by the system after the ticketing time limit has lapsed. You will know this has happened when the booking reference disappears from the list of reservations under the ‘Bookings’ tab of your Krisflyer account. Almost immediately, you should receive a text message telling you that your waitlisted flight (the second reservation) is now available for confirmation. This is because you should be the next in line for an available award ticket on that flight.

Usually, when a waitlisted flight is made available for confirmation, you are given about 3 days or so to pay the miles / taxes and ticket your flight. Just like that, you have now bought yourself another 3 days to think about whether you want that flight or not. If you choose not to ticket in the end, just let the time lapse or cancel the waitlisted booking. There is no penalty for doing so.

In practice, I’ve found this useful to hold a suboptimal ticket while waiting for my waitlisted tickets on my preferred flights, especially for this trip. I held tickets for the Monday / Thursday flight, and eventually better flights opened up which I then ticketed on.

Theoretically, I guess one could repeat this process infinitely to hold the award for weeks, but you run the risk of someone else of higher Krisflyer status also waitlisting or buying a Standard level award on the same flight, thus beating you to the available ticket.

Experiment a little and see what works best for your travel plans. Of course with all things, use with consideration for others who may also be eyeing travel on the same flights as you. Stay tuned for my review of the SQ 77W First Class coming up!

The Milelion’s Guide to Asiamiles, written by a guy who’s never used it

Krisflyer award prices will go up from the 23rd of March.  I’ve written more thoughts about this here and here, but  no amount of analysis/angst/angry letters to the ST Forum will change any of this.

So perhaps it’s time to start looking around for a new FFP. The obvious candidate is Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles, given that it partners with almost every bank in Singapore and points transfer at the same ratio as Krisflyer.Image result for asiamiles

I’ve been getting a positive deluge of emails from people interested in jumping ship. And each time I’ve had to pretend like I’m vaguely competent on the subject, in order not to disappoint all the chiobus who are writing in (I assume you all are chiobus, otherwise I’ve just wasted the past few days of research)

So, after a week of research, I’m finally ready to share all I know about Asia Miles, its advantages, disadvantages, which routes you should use it for, which products you should use it for and all that jazz.

Will there be tables? Oh yes.

Macro Polo Club vs Asia Miles

Image result for marco polo asia miles

Let’s start with the basics. Cathay Pacific has two programs, which is always a confusing one for many first timers.

Marco Polo Club is Cathay’s elite status program. Members who obtain Diamond, Gold or Silver in this program get special privileges like priority boarding, lounge access, extra baggage, priority waitlisting etc.

Image result for marco polo tiers compared

Asia Miles is the loyalty program. You earn and use Asia Miles to redeem for award flights, upgrades etc. just like you would with Krisflyer.  You can be a member of Asia Miles and not have a Marco Polo membership, but all Marco Polo members are automatically enrolled in Asia Miles.

This was confusing to me because Krisflyer combines the two into one. But if you only intend to earn Asia Miles through your credit cards, you don’t need to worry too much about Marco Polo (as your award flights won’t earn you any status with Marco Polo either).

Let’s focus only on Asia Miles in this article.

Here’s how Cathay’s base awards compare to SQ

Comparing CX’s award chart to SQ’s isn’t a simple exercise. Why? Cathay’s award chart goes by distance, not destination. 

There are pros and cons of this approach (for example, a destination 2,501 miles away will be worse value than one 5,000 miles away), but my main gripe is that such award charts aren’t intuitive, at least for me. I mean, I’m terrible at gauging distances, and I’d bet most people are too. How far is it from Singapore to Los Angeles? Your guess is as good as mine.

In order to do a proper comparison of the Krisflyer and AsiaMiles charts, I needed to first make them on a like-to-like basis.

So that’s exactly what I did.

  1. I made a listing of every destination served by SQ (I left out Silkair. Don’t complain, this was still a lot of work)
  2. I got the flying distance from Singapore to each of those destinations based on the distance chart provided in SQ’s SilverKris magazine (it’s towards the back, if you’re interested)
  3. Using milecalc.com, I got the flying distance from Singapore to Hong Kong to each of those destinations. For example, if I wanted to fly with CX from Singapore to LHR, I’d have to purchase an award to fly from SIN-HKG-LHR

This generated a total list of 46 common destinations for which I could compare what CX and SQ would charge for different cabin classes. Here’s the full excel if you want to analyze it for yourself, otherwise I’ll put excerpts in each section as we go along.

A few caveats-

First, this list is not complete. There are a few additional routes served by Silkair but also by Cathay which won’t be taken into consideration here.

Second, remember that CX awards have inherent disadvantages when compared to SQ awards because you need to transit in Hong Kong, which adds time and distance to your overall journey. So even if something looks cheaper on CX, you need to factor in the added inconvenience.

Third, this doesn’t take into account the quality of the hard and soft products. There will be other times and places to discuss whether Cathay’s reverse herringbone J is as good as SQ’s mini-suite J, or whether Cathay’s superior ground experience for F passengers can compete with SQ’s superior inflight experience for Suites.

Fourth, I’ve looked at round trip award prices. Cathay one-way award prices cost 55-75% of round trip prices, so if we re-do this analysis for one way awards (be my guest), the answers may change a bit.

Fifth, this doesn’t take into account award availability. I don’t have a a good enough sense of CX yet to know how much award space they release or how the waitlisting process works.

Sixth, there may be some minor differences in taxes and surcharges.  Asia Miles also does not levy fuel surcharges on sectors originating in Hong Kong., but if you’re starting from SIN you may need to pay some surcharges on that leg.  Based on Louis’ research the difference was at most about S$100 or so.

Ready? Here we go.

Economy Class: SQ cheaper 68% of the time

Image result for cathay pacific economy -premium

Of the 46 routes I looked at, SQ had lower award prices in 31 instances. Two were ties, and CX was cheaper in 13 cases. On average, SQ was 10% cheaper.

click to enlarge. Green means SQ is cheaper. Red means CX is cheaper.

CX was cheaper to European destinations like AMS, DUS, FCO, FRA and ZRH by 27%, and to Japan/S. Korea destinations like NRT, HND, ICN, KIX, NGO by 11%. I’m not sure an 11% savings in miles is worth taking an additional layover, but 27% (assuming a short layover) might motivate people trying to conserve miles.

So those exceptions aside, if I were redeeming economy (nope), I wouldn’t do it on CX.

Premium Economy Class: CX cheaper 95% of the time

Image result for cathay pacific premium economy

I’ll be the first to say this is a problematic comparison, given that CX is in the midst of eliminating PY from its South Asia and Middle East routes.

That said, of the 37 destinations where SQ offered PY, CX was cheaper than SQ for 35 of them. Now, it doesn’t mean that CX offers PY on all the routes that SQ offers it (I’m not clear which routes have and don’t have it). What it does mean, however, is that on routes where SQ and CX both offer PY, CX will almost always be cheaper than SQ. PY on CX was ~24% cheaper than on SQ.

click to enlarge. Green means SQ is cheaper. Red means CX is cheaper

I think it speaks volumes to how ridiculously priced SQ’s PY is (in terms of $ and miles) in that if you wanted to fly to Melbourne, it would cost you 72K miles to fly SIN-HKG-MEL (i.e going in the opposite direction) in CX PY than to fly SIN-MEL for 90K miles on SQ PY. The same goes for Auckland, Sydney and pretty much everywhere in Australia and NZ.

Yes, the additional time incurred for Australia and NZ is probably a dealbreaker for most people, but what about other locations? SIN-JFK costs 30% less on CX than SQ. SIN-MXP, AMS, DUS, FCO, FRA and ZRH costs 74% less. That’s incredible.

Another interesting thing to note is the ratio between premium economy and business class awards on CX.

Where SQ is concerned, I mentioned that the even after the devaluation, you still needed ~75-85% of the cost of a business class ticket to redeem an economy class ticket.

For Cathay, that ratio is slightly lower. Depending on distance and one way/round trip, it takes anywhere from 60%-80% of the miles required for a business class award to book a premium economy award.

Although the gap is smaller, my advice would still be the same-I’d much rather save up the additional miles and have a proper business class experience. I think the gap would have to be >50% before I’d even consider redeeming miles for premium economy.

However,  if your heart is set on redeeming premium economy, then CX wins every time.

Business Class: SQ cheaper 55% of the time but…

Image result for cathay pacific business class

This headline is deceiving. It says SQ is cheaper 55% of the time, but to do this justice we need to look at long haul destinations, the type where business class comfort becomes more of a need than a want.

Click to enlarge. Green means SQ is cheaper. Red means CX is cheaper.

Again, it’s Europe where CX has the advantage. Business class awards to AMS, DUS, FCO, FRA, MXP and ZRH are 42% cheaper on Cathay than SQ.  JFK is 27% cheaper, SFO and LAX are 21% cheaper. LHR, MAN and CDG are 17% cheaper.

So where is SQ cheaper then? It’s cheaper to places where you really don’t need business class. Short haul destinations like South East Asia, medium haul like MLE, PER, BOM, DEL etc. The one key exception here is to JNB in this case you’d want to fly SQ because it’s 38% cheaper. And perhaps maybe DXB, which is 25% cheaper on SQ.

My conclusion is that unless I really couldn’t add a layover to my trip, I would definitely pick CX over SQ when it comes to business class.

First Class: 50-50 split, but…

Image result for cathay pacific first class
photo credit: palowilltravel

The story here is again that the big picture misleads. Although on average it’s split down the middle in terms of the number of routes where one carrier is cheaper than the other, where the all important long haul routes are concerned, CX has the upper hand.

click to enlarge. Green means SQ is cheaper. Red means CX is cheaper

First Class awards to AMS, DUS, FCO, FRA, MXP and ZRH are 28% cheaper on CX. Where the USA is concerned, JFK is 9% cheaper, LAX and SFO are 7% cheaper. I generally would not consider a price difference of <10% to be significant, so this becomes a question of availability. If SQ awards are not available, you could consider CX.

It doesn’t make sense to fly up to HKG and then down to Australia, but just in case you were thinking about that you might like to know that CX does not operate First Class on its flights to Australia and NZ. So if you’re intending to get to Australia in first class, you’d best stick with SQ. Or you could always try and get Qantas First Class space (cue stage laughter).

The differences (in % terms) aren’t as stark as they are for business class, but remember the base here is higher, so a 28% difference in miles can be substantial (in the case of Europe, it’s 180K vs 230K).

As an aside, I know we said we wouldn’t talk about hard/soft product, but I just want to add that the Cathay First Class lounge in HKG looks heads and shoulders above SQ…

Image result for cathay pacific first class lounge hong kong

Image result for cathay pacific first class lounge hong kong

Image result for cathay pacific first class lounge hong kong

My overall observation from this exercise is that Cathay generally has cheaper long haul awards than SQ. The question is whether you’re ok with taking the layover.

We’re far from done, of course, as there are other points about Asia Miles to consider…

Cathay’s priority awards cost a smaller premium than SQ’s

Remember that airlines tend to have different “buckets” of award availability. What we analyzed above was the “base” award for Cathay and Krisflyer, that is, the cheapest possible award.

But CX has 3 types of award tickets- Standard, Tier 1 Priority and Tier 2 Priority. Think of these as analogous to SQ’s Saver, Standard and Full awards (back when they still had full awards). Don’t get confused- CX’s cheapest award is called Standard, SQ’s cheapest is called Saver.

Where CX is concerned, Standard awards cost the least but have the lowest availability, Tier 2 Priority cost the most but have better availability. I put the 3 charts together for easy comparison

Click to enlarge. The Milelion. Adding value since May 2015.

What I want to highlight is the step-up between Standard and Tier 1 (let’s ignore T2, because like “Full” awards, only a fool would shell out that many miles), i.e the premium you pay in terms of miles in order to have access to a bigger inventory of award seats.

With Cathay, the step up is smaller than SQ on average. In First and Business Class, SQ  standard awards cost 1.9X and 1.7X the price of a saver award. For CX, the step up is 1.5X for both.

Ratio of Standard/Saver redemption cost for SQ and Tier 1/Standard redemption cost for CX

Now, I know it’s a psychological effect and chart prices are arbitrary, but I’m not really the sort who likes paying Standard award prices because it seems silly to me that if SQ can let go one award seat for 1.9X miles, it can’t let it go for X miles. I guess the lower Saver prices anchor me to the idea that I should be paying this amount for an award seat, and anything above that is me getting ripped off.

Of course not everyone thinks this way. I think the consolidation if you’re an Asiamiles user is that if Standard seats aren’t available, Tier 1 prices for premium cabins will be at most 50% higher.

Oneworld award tickets need not necessarily cost more than CX

Image result for oneworld airlines

Cathay does not have a separate award chart for OneWorld partner redemptions provided your ticket does not involve more than one non-Cathay carrier. In other words, if I flew SIN-HKG-NRT all on Cathay, I’d pay the same number of miles if I flew SIN-HKG with Cathay and HKG-NRT with JAL, or SIN-NRT with JAL.

If your ticket involves two or more Oneworld non-CX carriers, or three or more Oneworld carriers where CX is one of the three, you’ll need to refer to a different award chart. Which leads to another interesting observation…

Asiamiles RTW award prices are cheaper than Krisflyer

This chart is more relevant to you if you’re looking to book a RTW trip with Oneworld.

Cathay’s pricing of its RTW award has a bit more flexibility than Krisflyer’s in one sense. Krisflyer charges 180K, 240K and 360K for Economy, Business and First Class RTW awards, which have a maximum of 35,000 miles flown and 16 segments. Asiamile’s pricing scales depending on total distance covered.

But what is interesting is that even at their most expensive (150K, 220K and 335K for Economy, Business and First Class), Asiamiles RTW awards are cheaper than Krisflyer.

The main drawback I can think of is that an Asiamiles RTW award is limited to a maximum of 5 stopovers. I’d be very interested to plan a RTW trip with Oneworld though. Let’s see what happens…

Asiamiles are valid for 3 years, just like Krisflyer

Your Asiamiles are valid for 3 years from the time you earn them. Ditto Krisflyer.

Asiamiles asks for US$40 per 2,000 mile block, which gets you another 3 years. Krisflyer charges US$12 per 10,000 mile block, which gets you 6 or 12 months more depending on your elite status.

There is no reason why you should be in a position where your miles are about to expire though. Remember- earn and burn.

Asiamiles cancellation policies are more onerous than Krisflyer

If your plans change, you’ll find that Asiamiles has more stringent cancellation fees than Krisflyer.

Asiamiles does not offer free date changes for award tickets, but Krisflyer does (assuming your departure date is more than 24 hours away). Similarly, it is much cheaper to cancel a Krisflyer award than an Asiamiles one.

Topping up your Asiamiles account is cheaper than Krisflyer

Both Krisflyer and Asiamiles give you the option to top up your account assuming you don’t have sufficient miles for an award.

With Krisflyer, you need to have at least 50% of the miles needed, and then you can buy the remainder at a rate of US$40 per 1,000 miles (5.7 SG cpm)

With Asiamiles, you need to have at least 70% of the miles needed, but your buying rate for the remainder is cheaper at US$60 per 2,000 miles (4.3 SG cpm)

In either case there really is no reason why you should be paying such expensive rates to buy miles. You can easily buy the additional miles you need for ~2 SG cpm through credit card annual fees. 

Conclusion

Image result for cathay pacific business class

Image result for cathay pacific business class

This took a long time to figure out, but I’ve learned quite a bit about Asiamiles in the process. I think I’m finally ready to take the plunge and transfer some credit card points over.

If there’s one good thing about this devaluation, it’s the hope that maybe more Singaporeans will go outside the SQ bubble and try other carriers. I personally am looking forward to booking a First/Business class experience with CX in the near future.