Cathay Pacific has removed fuel surcharges. Here’s what awards to redeem

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With no more fuel surcharges, Asia Miles gains a new lease of life. Here's what you need to know about the program, and what awards to add to your wish list.

Cathay Pacific has removed fuel surcharges from all its tickets. Although this won’t necessarily lead to cheaper flights, it’s fantastic news for award travelers, who will pay less cash on mileage redemptions.

No pesky fuel surcharges means visiting Cathay Pacific’s First Class Lounge is closer than ever before

Exceptions apply to flights departing from Japan or the Philippines. Asia Miles will continue to pass on fuel surcharges wherever they’re imposed by partner airlines, e.g Qatar Airways, British Airways.

In this post, I’m going to cover two main things: the first half will be a refresher on Asia Miles, including an explanation of the award charts, rules, and some very confusing stuff on their website.

The second half will compare Asia Miles to KrisFlyer, and identify situations where Asia Miles redemptions can save you a chunk of miles.

Let’s dive in.

Asia Miles Refresher

Which credit cards allow you to earn Asia Miles?

Asia Miles are fairly easy to earn in Singapore, can be accessed through the following banks’ credit cards.

American Express Bank of China Citibank
  • BOC Elite Miles 
DBS HSBC Maybank
  • DBS Altitude
  • DBS Woman’s World Card
  • Maybank Visa Infinite
  • Maybank World Mastercard
  • Maybank Horizon Visa Signature
UOB    
  • UOB Visa Infinite Metal Card
  • UOB Lady’s Card
  • UOB PRVI Miles
  • UOB Pref. Platinum Visa
  • UOB Visa Signature

Several of these cards are currently running sign up bonuses, and you can also earn up to 4 mpd on certain categories of transactions.

Standard Chartered and OCBC do not offer transfers to Asia Miles .

How long are Asia Miles valid for?

Asia Miles earned from 1 January 2020 onwards do not expire so long as you earn or burn at least one mile in an 18-month period.

Asia Miles earned prior to 1 January 2020 expire after 3 years.

Who can you redeem Asia Miles for?

Just like KrisFlyer, you can name up to five redemption nominees and redeem awards in their name. Redemption nominees may be changed up to three times per membership year, at a cost of US$50 per change.

Does Asia Miles have a waitlist?

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon awards can be waitlisted, provided you have at least 70% of the miles required. A maximum of 10 waitlist bookings can be made at any point in time.

How much does it cost to change or cancel an award ticket?

Asia Miles charges the following service fees, which apply per passenger.

  Online Other Channels
Change date or flight number
(per flight sector per passenger)
US$25 US$40
Change route, cabin class or flight award type N/A US$100
Refund ticket N/A US$120

Note that some changes (e.g refunds) can’t be done online, so you’ll have to call in to do so.

How much do awards cost?

Asia Miles has several award charts, but here’s the three you need to be most familiar with.

(1) For award travel on Cathay Pacific & Cathay Dragon

Standard Awards on Cathay Pacific & Cathay Dragon
(in ‘000s of miles)
  Y PY J F
1-750 7.5 11 16 25
751-2,750 10 18 25 40
2,751-5,000 22 30 45 70
5,001-7,500 30 40 65 100
5,001-7,500
(to/from USA)
30 45 70 110
7,501+ 42 60 85 125
The table above reflects “Standard” award prices. Asia Miles also has “Choice” and “Tailored” awards which have greater availability, but higher costs

(2) For award travel on Partner Airlines

Awards on Partner Airlines
(in ‘000s of miles)
  Y PY J F
1-750 10 14 20 30
751-2,750 15 22 30 45
2,751-5,000 27 43 61 87
5,001-7,500 35 45 70 110
5,001-7,500
(to/from USA)
40 50 75 120
7,501+ 47 65 90 135
Asia  Miles does not publish this chart on their website, but it’s been pieced together from searching

(3) oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart

Distance in miles Required miles (in ‘000s)
Economy Class Business Class First Class
0 – 1,000 30 55 70
1,001 – 1,500 30 60 80
1,501 – 2,000 35 65 90
2,001 – 4,000 35 70 95
4,001 – 7,500 60 90 140
7,501 – 9,000 65 100 150
9,001 – 10,000 70 110 160
10,001 – 14,000 90 135 220
14,001 – 18,000 100 155 250
18,001 – 20,000 105 165 260
20,001 – 25,000 115 185 280
25,001 – 35,000 130 210 300
35,001 – 50,000 150 240 345

Charts (2) and (3) have their sweet spots (the Multi-carrier award chart in particular can be extremely useful), but since we’re on the topic of Cathay’s elimination of fuel surcharges, we’ll focus on Chart (1) in this article.

How do I search for awards?

This may seem like a “duh” thing, but I need to point out two confusing things about the Asia Miles search interface.

(1) Use the right search engine

First, when browsing the Flight Awards section of the Asia Miles website, don’t click the first “Redeem Now” link that appears.

Clicking the first “Redeem Now” link will bring you to an extremely useless page that only prices direct flights. As the screenshot below shows, I’m not able to search for a SIN-SFO itinerary because Cathay and its partners don’t operate non-stop flights on that route (the “airline” field is ghosted and can’t be clicked). This means you won’t be able to find any ex-SIN itineraries on Cathay Pacific, apart from SIN-HKG.

Instead, click on the bottom “Redeem Now” button (or simply go here). You’ll see this search dialogue box, which means you’re in the right place.

Enter your destination, class and dates, and hit the “Search Flights” button.

(2) Don’t trust the first price you see

Second: don’t trust the pricing you see at the top of the search results.

Let’s take the example of a Singapore to London Economy Class award. At the top, you’ll see  that Economy Standard awards “start from” 30,000 miles one-way.

However, when I scroll down and look at the awards actually available, all I see are 42,000 miles options on Cathay Pacific, and 35,000 miles options on British Airways and Qantas.

Where are the 30,000 miles options? Am I just looking at the wrong date? Maybe I should try one of the other dates in the award calendar?

Don’t waste your time. What’s going on is that Asia Miles is showing you how many miles the route would cost if Cathay Pacific flew it. 

Huh?

Put it this way: a SIN-HKG-LHR flight covers a distance of 7,852 miles.

As per the Cathay Pacific award chart, an Economy Class award should cost 42,000 miles. Indeed, that’s the price we see in our detailed search results.

Standard Awards on Cathay Pacific & Cathay Dragon
(in ‘000s of miles)
  Y
1-750 7.5
751-2,750 10
2,751-5,000 22
5,001-7,500 30
5,001-7,500
(to/from USA)
30
7,501+ 42

However, a direct SIN-LHR flight covers a distance of 6,765 miles.

If Cathay Pacific flew this route, they’d charge 30,000 miles in Economy. This is obviously useless information, kind of like saying “if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a car.”

Standard Awards on Cathay Pacific & Cathay Dragon
(in ‘000s of miles)
  Y
1-750 7.5
751-2,750 10
2,751-5,000 22
5,001-7,500 30
5,001-7,500
(to/from USA)
30
7,501+ 42

You’ll never be able to find a 30,000 miles award on this route…because it doesn’t exist! It boggles the mind that Asia Miles would put such stupid logic into their pricing system, but at least you now know where it comes from.

As a bonus, we can also see where the pricing for Qantas and British Airways comes from. Both of them operate direct SIN-LHR flights (6,765 miles distance), so as per the partner award chart, you’ll be paying 35,000 miles in Economy each way.

How do prices compare to KrisFlyer?

Now that you know the ins and outs of searching, the next question is: what should you redeem?

The elimination of fuel surcharges means we can do closer like-to-like comparisons between Asia Miles and KrisFlyer. I say “closer”, because you still need to factor in:

  • the additional time spent transiting in Hong Kong
  • the additional costs (in cash, not miles) of a transit in Hong Kong- there’ll be additional airport taxes of ~S$80 on a round-trip Business Class itinerary

Assuming you’re alright with that, then you’re all set to experience Cathay’s Business and First Class products, not to mention their lounges in Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific A350-1000 Business Class
Cathay Pacific B77W First Class

Here’s how award costs for Cathay Pacific redemptions through Asia Miles compare to Singapore Airlines redemptions through KrisFlyer.

  (Singapore Airlines) (Cathay Pacific)
Round-trip Prices J F J F
New York JFK 198K 264K 170K 250K
San Francisco|
Los Angeles
190K 260K 170K 250K
Barcelona | London | Manchester | Paris 184K 250K 170K 250K
Amsterdam | Brussels| Frankfurt | Milan| Rome | Zurich 184K 250K 130K 200K
Dubai  98K 150K  130K  200K 
Tokyo 94K 140K 90K 140K
Beijing 78K 106K 90K 140K
Shanghai  78K 106K 50K 80K
Hong Kong | Taipei 61K 81K 50K 80K
First Class may not be available on all routes. I’ve excluded Australia & New Zealand because it doesn’t make sense to fly 3.5 hours north to Hong Kong, then all the way back down south.
If you want to check the distance covered on a given route, try using the Great Circle Mapper to plot it out

The sweet spot for me is Europe, at least the destinations that just fall into the 5,001-7,500 miles band. Business Class redemptions on Asia Miles save up to 54,000 miles on a round-trip ticket, compared to KrisFlyer.

As the diagram below shows, the 7,500 mile line is an important one for Cathay Pacific awards to Europe. Slip to the wrong side of that line, and you’re paying up to 50,000 miles more on a round-trip Cathay Pacific award.

Could you get to Europe for fewer miles? Certainly- Turkish Airlines will cost just 90,000 miles in round-trip Business Class. However, they’ll also impose frightful fuel surcharges, which can be upwards of S$700.

Cathay Pacific also serves some major cities that Singapore Airlines does not, such as Vancouver, Boston, Washington D.C, and Madrid. If you were flying on Singapore Airlines, you’d still need to make at least one stop, so you should be mostly indifferent between them and Cathay Pacific on these routes.

Cities served by Cathay Pacific but not Singapore Airlines

  (Star Alliance award) (Cathay Pacific)
Round-trip Prices J F J F
Boston | Chicago | Toronto | Vancouver | Washington 211K 297K 170K 250K
Dublin | Madrid 184K 281K 170K 250K
Manama | Tel Aviv 142K 182K 130K 200K
First Class may not be available on all routes.
When comparing the amounts above, remember that KrisFlyer Star Alliance awards may have fuel surcharges, while Asia Miles awards on Cathay won’t.

Cathay Dragon also serves a range of smaller cities that Singapore Airlines/SilkAir don’t. You can view a full list here, but one that stands out to me in particular is Okinawa, because it’s just shy of the 2,500 miles distance band. This gets you to Japan for just 25,000 miles in one-way Business Class.

So if you’re redeeming miles for multiple people and trying to stretch your balance without compromising on comfort, do see if a Cathay Pacific award can help. Sure, you’ll have to detour through Hong Kong, but if it’s the difference between Business and Economy Class…

Conclusion

I’m quite excited to start experimenting with Asia Miles, once travel becomes possible again. The removal of fuel surcharges has given it a new lease of life, and although I don’t think the in-flight experience can match up to Singapore Airlines (few can), it’s still a very high quality way of getting from A to B.

What awards are you looking forward to redeeming with Asia Miles?

Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion with the intention of helping people travel better for less and impressing chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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ithh

Great news about the removal of fuel surcharges. Some sectors on CX/ KA are really difficult to find awards for and this includes HKG-OKA. Been trying for a year.

bluepanda

I’ve monitored for very long. Never available. Just take SQ to KIX (and add a leg on NH) or redeem JL with Avios.

Guest

yes agree with you, most convenient way

Melvin Eng

Definitely the Europe routes since the sweet spot is really sweet! 54k difference in miles pretty much means an additional trip to a SEA city from Singapore.

Zhong

Routing through HK is quite painful though. Having a stopover on a 12hr journey significantly increases the time. Balanced by the much nicer lounges CX has vs SQ’s mediocre ones.

anom

One World partner airlines will still impose fuel surcharge unless your travel only involves CX/KA. Correct me if I am wrong.

rtk

“if my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a car”

hahahaha… haven’t laughed this hard this week! 😀 😀 😀

swapneil

Same here bro!!
Never laughed so loud ! Never laughed so hard

freedom

Just checked, price is lower without fuel surcharge.

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