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!)
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!
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:
- First Class (looks great!)
- Business Class (pretty cool)
- Business Class, regional (it’s okay… but meh.)
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.
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!
|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)
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)
|Price||50,000 miles + 630 HKD (~S$115)||55,000 miles + S$93.60|
|Shortest 1-way Journey Time||3h 50min||3h 45min|
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.
|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.
|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.
|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)
|Price||145,000 miles + 1,716 HKD (~S$314)||184,000 miles + S$193.60|
|Shortest 1-way Journey Time||21h||21h 35min|
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.
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.