Cathay Pacific has announced that it will be adding a Miles Plus Cash option effective 30 March 2021. This allows Asia Miles members to pay for Cathay Pacific or partner airline flights with a mixture of miles and cash.
Crucially, Cathay Pacific has not yet revealed the all-important value per mile they’ll offer when using this option, so we’ll need to wait till the feature goes live to know (spoiler: it won’t be great).
Interestingly enough, the airline has also announced that it will eliminate Choice and Tailored Awards from 30 March 2021, leaving Standard Awards as the only option.
Miles Plus Cash: Details
Cathay Pacific is positioning Miles Plus Cash as a way of using your miles for a ticket when award seats are unavailable or on waitlist. How does a Miles Plus Cash booking differ from an award?
|Redemption||Miles Plus Cash|
|Availability||Only award seats||Any seat|
|Miles Required||Fixed based on award chart||Depends on cost of ticket|
|Value Per Mile||Higher
First, you need to understand that opting for Miles Plus Cash is conceptually similar to buying a revenue ticket. That means you’ll be able to use Miles Plus Cash for any available seat, on any flight sold by Cathay Pacific. Basically- if you can buy it with cash, you can buy it with Miles Plus Cash.
Second, the number of miles required for an award seat is fixed, based on the award chart. With Miles Plus Cash, you choose what mixture of miles and cash you want to use. If you were so inclined, you could pay for your entire ticket with miles, but the miles required would depend on the cost of the ticket.
Third, while the value per mile on an award is variable (depending on dates, cabins, routes etc.), you’ll definitely get better value than with Miles Plus Cash. Miles Plus Cash will assign each of your miles a fixed (or fixed-ish) value, which I promise will be underwhelming.
|Why fixed-ish? In the FAQ, Cathay says “different miles conversion rates may apply, subject to destination, cabin class and seasonality”. This leads me to believe there may be some variability, but definitely within a narrow band (and with a low base).|
A minimum of 5,000 Asia Miles will be required to use Miles Plus Cash. While miles can be used to pay for fares, you’ll still need to pay cash for the following:
- Advance seat reservations
- Excess baggage charges
- Fuel surcharges
- Cancellation fees
Tickets purchased through Miles Plus Cash will earn miles and Marco Polo Club points as per the fare rules.
Should you subsequently cancel a Miles Plus Cash ticket, any cancellation fees will be deducted from the amount paid in cash first. Any outstanding amount will then be deducted from the amount paid with miles, using the original conversion rate upon purchase.
|❓ Haven’t I see this before?|
If the concept of Miles Plus Cash sounds familiar, it’s because Singapore Airlines already has a similar feature, which allows KrisFlyer members to offset the cost of a revenue ticket with miles at a rate of 1.02 cents per mile. The main difference is that Cathay Pacific also allows you to pay for partner flights with miles, as opposed to just its own flights.
No more Choice or Tailored awards
The other big announcement is that Cathay Pacific will be eliminating Choice and Tailored awards from 30 March 2021.
For the uninitiated, these are more expensive awards that have greater seat availability. Choice awards are roughly analogous to Advantage awards on KrisFlyer, while Tailored awards are similar to the former Full awards, which Singapore Airlines removed in 2016.
Here’s how much Standard and Choice awards cost:
|Standard Awards on Cathay Pacific
(in ‘000s of miles)
|Choice Awards on Cathay Pacific
(in ‘000s of miles)
There is no award chart for Tailored awards, because it depends on the cash price of the ticket. You can think of it as the forerunner for Miles Plus Cash, and therefore it’s little surprise they’re eliminating them (sample price for SIN-HKG in Business: 57,000 miles one-way)
In fact, what’s more surprising to me is the removal of Choice awards. I doubt this is a good thing, quite frankly. You’d need to be a very optimistic man to believe that the seats formerly allocated for Choice will now be available for Standard awards.
I get that no one likes paying Choice prices, but it’s useful in an emergency, and a heck of a lot better than going down the miles and cash route.
For FAQs regarding the removal of Choice and Tailored awards, click here.
Cathay Pacific calls Miles Plus Cash the result of “acting on your feedback”, but trust me, the only one who benefits is the airline. There’s almost no scenario where you’d find this worthwhile (unless perhaps you had a small balance that was due to expire soon), and you’re almost always better off redeeming a full-fledged award with Cathay or one of its oneworld partners.
You may say I’m prejudging this because they haven’t even revealed the rate for Miles Plus Cash, but I’ve seen enough of these schemes to know what to expect.
While it’s good that Standard awards will remain unchanged, any move towards revenue-based redemptions (where the miles required depends on the cost of the ticket) always makes me jittery. We’ll need to see where this goes, I suppose.
What do you make of the new Miles Plus Cash option and removal of Choice/Tailored awards?