Asia Miles is the loyalty program of Cathay Pacific. While most award travel enthusiasts are likely familiar with booking an award on Cathay Pacific through one of their partners, most tend to skip over Cathay’s own mileage program. Yet, there are many instances when it makes sense to book through Asia Miles.
Cathay’s stopover and open-jaw policy for awards can save you thousands of miles, especially when compared to other programs that no longer allow those advanced routing tricks. Furthermore, Asia Miles’ distance-based award charts for its flights and partners can offer a great value in many situations compared to zone-based award charts.
Asia Miles switch to an activity-based miles expiration policy in 2020 means it will be significantly easier to prevent miles from expiring.
Like any program, Asia Miles has some downsides. However, the sheer number of ways to earn Asia Miles makes it very accessible. This post will delve into Asia Miles and explore some of the program’s most valuable features.
Earning Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon Flights
First and foremost, you can earn Asia Miles by flying on a paid Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, or other Oneworld ticket. Asia Miles provides a calculator to determine how many miles you will earn from a specific flight.
Flights on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon earn miles based on a combination of cabin class, fare class, and distance zone. The chart below shows how many miles you would receive for flights in economy class.
For example, a flight from New York to Vancouver spans 2,440 miles, a “Short” flight, according to the chart above. If you flew that route in economy (Y) class on Cathay Pacific, you would earn 2,000 miles.
The amount of miles earned through the Asia Miles program is the same regardless of status in the Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo program. That is in contrast to other mileage-earning programs that reward elite members with bonus miles for flights on their carrier.
Cathay miles earned through flights may take up to 6-8 weeks to appear in your account.
Flights on Other Oneworld Carriers
You can also credit any paid flights on other Oneworld carriers to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
In this case, the number of miles earned for flights will be based on the distance and fare class of your ticket.
In general, full-fare economy class tickets will earn you 100% of the distance flown, business class will earn 125%, and first-class will earn 150%. The exception is domestic routes where business class will sometimes earn a different amount. For example, American domestic J class earns 150%, while Japan domestic J class earns 100%.
See this page for a list of earning rates on all Asia Miles partners.
Transfer Points to Asia Miles
American Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou points can be transferred to Asia Miles at a 1:1 rate. Additionally, Marriott Bonvoy Points can be transferred at a 3:1 rate, Hyatt Points at a 2.5 to 1 rate, and Capital One miles at a 2:1.5 rate. Those last three transfer ratios do not provide significant value but can be useful if you are short on miles for an award and have no other options.Transferable point currencies that can be converted to Asia Miles.
|AMEX Membership Rewards
|1 : 1
|1 - 3 Days
|Citi ThankYou Points
|1 : 1
|1 - 2 Day
|Capital One Miles
|2 : 1.5
|1 - 5 Days
|3 : 1
|2.5 : 1
While the Asia Miles program may not be the most lucrative, the sheer number of ways to transfer in points makes the program quite useful. American Express is undoubtedly one of the easiest programs to quickly and consistently earn thousands of points through signup bonuses, upgrade offers, bonus categories, manufactured spending, and the Rakuten partnership.
American Express occasionally offers transfer bonuses of between 10-30% when transferring Membership Rewards to Asia Miles.
Most of these transferable point programs take at least a day to transfer to Asia Miles. If you’re trying to book an award for a highly coveted Cathay business- or first-class ticket, it may not be feasible to wait. It’s not uncommon for business- and first-class availability to disappear within hours of being released. Luckily, there may be a solution.
One thing to be careful of when transferring miles is that the name on the account you are transferring points from (Amex, Citi, etc.) matches the name on your Asia Miles account. Some have reported having their miles get stuck in limbo if the account details do not match exactly. If you’re noticing a transfer taking unusually long, it’s a good idea to call Asia Miles and inquire.
Earn Asia Miles for Hotel Stays
There are dozens of hotel brands where you can earn Asia Miles. In most cases, though, this means you give up any of the hotel’s loyalty program points that you would have otherwise received from your stay. As an example, you can earn 500 miles for each stay at a Grand Hyatt hotel. All World of Hyatt members earn 5 points per dollar spent on qualifying stays. Therefore, if your room rate was $200 and you only stayed for one night, you would be giving up 1,000 Hyatt points by opting for Asia Miles.
Asia Miles Shopping Portal
Like most airlines and hotel loyalty programs, Asia Miles has a shopping portal where you can earn additional miles. Unfortunately, for those outside Hong Kong, most of the stores are HK or Asia based.
Cathay Pacific Credit Card
In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific offers two American Express Cathay Pacific Credit Cards.
In the U.S., Cathay has a co-branded Visa card with Synchrony Bank. The card comes with a signup bonus of 30,000 miles after $3,000 in spending during the first 90 days. That’s on the low-end of previous signup offers, so it may be worth waiting for Synchrony to increase the bonus. The card previously had signup bonuses of 35,000 and 50,000 miles, both with $2,500 required minimum spending.
With that said, the Cathay Pacific credit card is not particularly useful for spending beyond the initial amount required to earn the bonus. It earns 2x on Cathay Pacific flights, 1.5x on dining and purchases outside the U.S., and 1x everywhere else. If you want to earn Asia Miles through credit card spending, you are better off putting spend on an Amex or Citi card. Once you are ready to redeem for a Cathay award, you can initiate a transfer from those programs to Asia Miles.
Furthermore, the card doesn’t offer much in the way of other benefits. You are eligible for a 10% discount on the fee to gift, renew, or transfer miles.
Buy Asia Miles
Asia Miles gives you to option to buy miles in blocks of 2,000 for $60 per block. Oddly, they only allow you to purchase miles when you are redeeming for an award. Additionally, the total number of miles you are buying cannot exceed 30% of the total miles required for the award.
Transfer between Asia Miles Accounts
Asia Miles can be transferred to another member for a fee of $170 for the first 10,000 miles and $140 for each subsequent 5,000-mile block. This fee is quite expensive, so transferring should certainly only be used as a last resort. You’re better off transferring in from Citi, Amex, Capital One, or even many of the hotel programs.
Other Ways to Earn Asia Miles
You can earn Asia Miles through hotel booking sites such as Rocketmiles, Kaligo, and Agoda.
There are also several car rental partners, including Alamo, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Rentalcars.com, and six that earn Asia Miles if you provide your membership number when making a reservation. At this time, you earn 500 miles per rental with most partners.
Redeeming Asia Miles
How to book Asia Miles Awards
There are three ways to book Asia Miles awards:
- Directly on the Asia Miles website
- Calling an Asia Miles service hotline
- Using the Asia Miles Flight Award Request form (some reports note it can take up to a week or longer to receive a response)
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles allows you to book an award 360 days out from departure. That is 30 days farther out than American and Alaska, giving you first dibs on access to award availability.
Asia Miles Award ticket change and cancellation fees
As long as your ticket maintains the same routing, awards can be rebooked on Asiamiles.com for a different date or time for a $25 or 1,000 Asia Mile fee. The cost increases $40 or 4,000 miles if you rebook by phone.
If you want to change the routing, cabin class, or award type, the fee increases to $100 or 10,000 miles. This type of change cannot be processed online, so you will need to call Asia Miles.
While American allows you to change the date of an award ticket for free, modifying the routing or downgrading the cabin class would result in a $150 fee per ticket. American also charges a close-in ticketing fee of $75 for members without elite status, while Asia Miles does not.
Redeeming for Cathay Pacific Flights
For flights on Cathay Pacific, the Asia Miles award chart is a distance-base. Trips up to 750 miles start at 7,500 miles for economy and 16,000 for business.
Note that the 5,001 to 7,500-mile redemptions are divided into two awards: “Long – Type 1” and “Long – Type 2.” Your award type is based on whether your trip origin, destination, or turnaround point contains a city in the Americas. If your trip touches the Americas, then your award falls into Type 2 and will require 5,000 more miles one-way for premium economy and business, or 10,000 more for first class. If none of your awards touch the Americas, or you are only making a transfer or stopover in the Americas, then the award falls into “Long – Type 1.”
Asia Miles has three types of award tickets for Cathay flights: Standard, Choice, and Tailored. Standard awards are essentially saver-level award availability, while the two others are flexible. Choice awards require 150% of the miles necessary for Standard awards. Below is the Asia Miles award chart for choice awards.
There is no Asia Miles award chart for Tailored awards, but you can expect those to be priced anywhere from 2x to 4x the price of Standard awards.
In theory, Choice and Tailored should provide additional awards available for a particular flight, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. In my experience, once standard-level award availability is exhausted, there have been no Choice or Tailored awards available. This lack of availability is in contrast to some other programs like American’s AAdvantage, where you can redeem AAnytime awards as long as the entire flight is not sold out.
Asia Miles is certainly not always the best redemption for Cathay Pacific flights. A one-way business class award on Cathay from the U.S. to Hong Kong costs 50,000 Alaska miles or 70,000 American Airlines miles, compared to 85,000 Asia Miles. Furthermore, a first-class award requires 70,000 Alaska miles, 110,000 American miles, or 110,000 JL miles, compared to 125k Asia Miles.
With that said, Asia Miles has earlier access to book the award space (360 days). Therefore, they may be worthwhile to use if you are not flexible with your dates and are flying on a peak travel date.
Additionally, while redeeming through those programs offers a better deal than Asia Miles, the reality is those programs can be much tougher to earn the required number of miles. As previously discussed, Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Capital One miles are transferable to Asia Miles.
Redeeming with a Stopover
A nice benefit of Asia Miles is that an award ticket can include stopovers. A stopover is a stop at an intermediate location en route to your final destination. On a one-way award, you can have up to two segments and one stopover. Therefore, on an award ticket from New York to Bangkok, you can take the New York to Hong Kong flight, spend a few days in Hong Kong, and then continue on to Bangkok. The same Asia Miles award chart applies if you include a stopover, so that award would be priced the same as only having a four-hour layover in Hong Kong and then flying on to Bangkok.
Cathay also permits you to include an open-jaw in your award ticket. An open-jaw means you fly into one city but leave on your next flight from a different city. Flying into and out of separate airports in the same city is not considered an open jaw. An open-jaw can occur at your destination or your point of origin. As with stopovers, an open-jaw does not increase the price of your award ticket.
Returning to our previous example, assume you booked a roundtrip award from New York to Bangkok. However, instead of starting your return Journey from Bangkok, you decide you want to start from Chang Mai.
In our above example, this round trip award would look like the following:
- Flight from New York to Hong Kong
- Stay in Hong Kong for a few days
- Flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok
- Stay in Bangkok for a few days
- Take a train, bus, or car to Chang Mai
- Spend a few days in Chang Mai
- Fly from Chang Mai to Hong Kong
- Layover in Hong Kong
- Fly from Hong Kong to New York
In summary, the number of stopovers and open-jaws permitted on each type of ticket are:
Standard Award (maximum 2 Sectors):
- 2 Sectors + 1 Stopover or Transfer
Standard Award (maximum 2 Sectors each way):
- 3 Stopovers
- 2 Stopovers + 1 Transfer
- 1 Stopover + 2 Transfers
- 1 Open-Jaw at turnaround point + 2 Stopovers
- 1 Open-Jaw at turnaround point + 1 Stopover + 1 Transfer
- 1 Open-Jaw at turnaround point + 2 Transfers
- 1 Open-Jaw at point of origin + 3 Stopovers
- 1 Open-Jaw at point of origin + 2 Stopovers + 1 Transfer
- 1 Open -Jaw at point of origin + 1 Stopover + 2 Transfer
- Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award: 5 Stopovers + 2 Open-jaws
Yes, it gets complicated. Asia Miles’s redemption conditions have the full details on permitted open-jaws and stopovers. If you aren’t sure of the most optimal way to structure an Asia Miles award, feel free to reach out to me.
Regrettably, you cannot book award tickets with stopovers or open-jaws online, so you will need to fill out the redemption request form or call Asia Miles.
Redeeming for flights on partner airlines
Asia Miles can be used for flights on nearly two dozen partner airlines. While most of the partners are Oneworld Alliance airlines, Asia Miles has several additional partners outside of Oneworld. These include Star Alliance members Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, Bangkok Airlines, Lufthansa, and Swiss.
However, note that awards on some partners, particularly the airlines that are not Oneworld members, can only be redeemed on domestic routes. For example, awards on Air Canada can only be redeemed between Vancouver and Calgary, Montreal, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Victoria, Kelowna, and Toronto, or between Toronto and Montreal, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Regina, Halifax, Quebec, and St John’s.
Some of Cathay’s partners, including Alaska, British Airways, Iberia, Qantas, and Qatar awards, can be searched and booked directly on Asiamiles.com.
Most of the other partners that are not on Asiamiles.com can be searched through American (for the Oneworld airlines) or United (for the Star Alliance Members). Jet Airways award availability can be searched on Delta. Alternatively, all of them should be searchable through Expert Flyer.
The Standard Asia Miles award chart applies to award redemptions for travel on a single partner carrier.
Until 2018, you could redeem an award that combined a Cathay flight with a flight on another partner airline for the same price that it would be if all flights were on Cathay. Unfortunately, adding such a partner fight will now increase the cost of your award ticket by 5,000 miles.
If you want to book an award with two Oneworld partners (without Cathay) or three Oneworld partners (with Cathay), a different award chart will apply.
Redeeming OneWorld Multi-Carrier Awards
There is a special Asia Miles award chart when your award is classified as a Oneworld multi-carrier award, defined as a ticket with:
- 2 Oneworld partners
- Cathay + 3 or more Oneworld partners
In this case, the maximum allowed distance is 50,000 miles, and it can contain up to five stopovers, two transfers, and two open-jaws. The number of miles required is based on the total flight distance of all segments.
You can use the Great Circle Mapper tool to determine the total distance of your itinerary.
The award ticket’s class of service (for award pricing), is based on the highest class in any of your segments. For example, if all of your segments are economy except for one in business class, the whole award is priced as a business award.
Booking a mixed cabin ticket through Asia Miles may allow you to redeem a premium economy, business or first class award for a lower price than what is listed on the award chart.
Asia Mile mixed cabin awards are priced as an average based on each segment’s distance. For example, Cathay offers a first-class cabin on its JFK – HKG route. If you flew this route in first-class, Asia Miles would charge 125,000 miles for standard award redemption. Alternatively, if your destination was DPS (Bali), and you were only transiting or doing a stopover in Hong Kong, your total award price would be 116,500. That is because the highest class of service on the HKG – DPS flight is business.
Even if you were not planning to travel all the way to Bali, or any other destination beyond Hong Kong, you could still redeem at the lower price. You would merely need to make a booking with the stopover, then cancel the second segment once you arrive in Hong Kong. Cathay likely frowns upon doing this, but if you don’t abuse this tactic, there likely won’t be any consequences.
Since Asia Miles’s award charts are based on total distance, adding a “throwaway” second segment to lower your award price will only be useful if you remain within the same distance category (i.e. 5,001-7,500 miles, 7,501+ miles.)
Redeeming Asia Miles for upgrades
If you paid cash for your ticket, you might be able to use your Asia Miles to upgrade to the next class of service. For example, an economy ticket can be upgraded to premium economy, premium economy to business, and business to first. If it is a two-cabin flight, economy tickets can be upgraded to business. Below is the Asia Miles Award Chart for upgrading paid tickets.
Generally, unless you score a great deal or take advantage of one of Cathay’s infamous mistake fares, it would be better to buy the class of service you want with a standard award outright.
Redeeming Asia Miles for Companion Tickets
If you purchased a business- (fare codes J, C, D, I) or first-class (fare codes F, A) ticket, you could use Asia Miles to book a companion in the same class of service. If you were traveling JFK to HKG, a roundtrip business-class companion award would cost 128,000 miles compared to 170,000 miles if you booked a standard award. Alternatively, a roundtrip first-class companion award on the same route would cost 188,000 miles compared to 250,000 miles through a standard award.
Below is the Asia Miles Award Chart for companion tickets:
Redeeming Asia Miles Awards for someone else
Like most airlines, you can redeem awards for someone else, even if you are not traveling. However, you can only redeem award tickets for those in your “redemption group.” Asia Miles allows you to have five individuals in your redemption group at any time. However, once you have added five members, it will cost $50 to replace any of your existing members with someone else.
Hold an Asia Miles Award
Asia Miles will allow you to hold an award ticket while you wait for miles to transfer into your account. The conditions under which they will hold an award for you are not disclosed anywhere. However, it appears you need at least some miles already in your account. Their official policy is that you need 70% of the required miles in your account to hold an award. This is in line with Asia Miles’ waitlist policy described below. If they approve a hold, it could be for as long as three weeks.
Waitlist for an Asia Miles Award
Another useful feature of Asia Miles miles is the ability to “waitlist” for awards on Cathay flights that are not currently available. The waitlist feature is available on some, though not all, flights that do not have standard-level award space available. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason as to why you are allowed to waitlist for certain flights but not others. If there is a particular flight without standard award space or the waitlist option, it may become available later. It is not uncommon for Cathay to just open up additional Standard award space without ever offering the waitlist feature.
As noted above, you need 70% of the required miles to waitlist for an award. However, if you have the required miles, there is no limit to the number of waitlist bookings you can make. For example, say you have 59,500 miles in your account, which is 70% of the 85,000 required for a standard business class ticket from New York to Hong Kong. You could then waitlist for a business class seat on as many JFK – HKG flights as you want.
Just like a confirmed award ticket, you can make a waitlist booking for yourself or anyone else in your redemption group.
If sufficient award space opens up, you will be notified that your waitlist cleared and that your award is on hold. You’ll still need to log into your account to pay for the ticket and redeem the award by a specific date. Since award seats are automatically allocated to those on the waitlist when space opens up, there’s no need to continue checking award space for that particular flight.
Asia Miles Change and Redeposit Fees
Asia Miles charges a fee of $25 or 2,000 Asia Miles if you want to change the date or time of your award, but keep the origin and destination the same. The fee increases to $40 or 4,000 Asia Miles if you call in to make the change, rather than performing it online. However, if you are unable to make the necessary changes to your itinerary online, you can likely get Asia Miles to honor the lower online-fee if you have to call in.
Changing the destination or routing of an Asia Miles award costs $100 or 10,000 Asia Miles.
If you want to completely cancel your ticket and refund the miles to your account, the fee is $120 or 12,000 miles.
Asia Miles Expiration
Undoubtedly, one of the worst aspects of Asia Miles used to be that any miles earned in the program expire after three years. That will continue to be true for any miles earned on or before to December 31, 2019. Thankfully, Asia Miles announced the program would switch from a Time-Based System to an Activity-based system. That means, any miles earned on or after January 1, 2020 will not expire as long as you use them or earn additional miles within 18 months.
Asia Miles Expiration For Miles Earned Before 2020
With the time-based system for miles earned prior to 2020, expiration occurs regardless of any activity in your account. The three-year clock starts immediately once the miles appear in your account.
Asia Miles provides an option to pay $40 per 2,000 miles to extend the expiration of your miles by another three years. At 2 cents per mile, that’s a pretty lousy deal.
Even if you redeem expiring miles for an award and later cancel the ticket and pay to redeposit the miles, those miles will only be valid until your next mileage expiration date. That means they would be valid for at minimum one month and at most one year. The cost to refund a flight award is $120.
For example, assume you used your miles to book an award before they were set to expire at the end of July. Then in August, you cancel the award and pay the $120 fee to redeposit your miles. Those miles remain valid until the following July.
If you have a lot of miles and time this strategy right, the $120 fee to extend expiration by a year could certainly be significantly cheaper than paying $40 per 2,000 miles to extend the expiration date of three years.
Asia Miles Expiration for Miles Earned After 2020
Any miles earned or transferred into your account on or after January 1, 2020 will no longer expire as long as you use or earn additional miles within 18 months. The easiest way to prevent miles from expiring is to transfer in 1,000 bank points.
Importantly, your miles expiry is automatically extended based on the last crediting or debiting date and not the activity or transaction date. For example, if you make a purchase through the Asia Miles Shopping Portal (iShop), miles can take up to 120 days to post to your account. Your miles expiry date will be not be extended until the bonus miles hit your Asia Miles account, so you will not want to wait until the last minute to make a purchase.
You can extend the expiration of your Asia Miles by:
- Redeeming Miles for a flight award
- Earning Miles on Cathay Flights
- Crediting miles from flights on partner airlines such as Qantas, American, British Airways, etc.
- Earning through the Asia Miles iShop)
- Transferring miles from a partner bank or hotel program (Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, Marriott Bonvoy, Capital One, World of Hyatt)
- Renting a car from Sixt, Hertz, or Avis
- Miles top-up ($60 per 2,000 miles; can only occur when booking an award where you already have at least 70% of the required miles)
- Perform a member to member transfer ($170 for the first 10,000 miles, then $140 for each additional 5,000 miles)
- Pay a miles renewal fee ($40 per 2,000 miles)
- Receive a gift of miles (sender pays $16.25 per 500 miles)
Asia Miles Elite Status
The Marco Polo Club is the loyalty program of Cathay Pacific in which members earn points to qualify for elite status. Marco Polo members are automatically enrolled in Asia Miles, but Asia Members do not automatically become Marco Polo members. In fact, it costs $100 to join the Macro Polo club.
Club membership entitles members to redeem their Asia Miles for things such as lounge access, extra baggage allowance, or additional legroom seats. Members can qualify based on activity for the elite status levels of Silver, Gold, or Diamond. Those elites receive many of the usual airline status perks, such as complimentary upgrades, priority check-in, and lounge access.
Asia Miles may not offer the best value for Cathay Pacific flights, but several features of the program make it worthwhile to consider when planning award travel. The ability to book flights 360 days out from departure means you will have access to award space before AAdvantage or Alaska Miles. Asia Miles recent change to their miles expiration policy means it is now easier to keep your miles alive. Additionally, if award space is unavailable, the ability to waitlist means you have priority if seats become available. Finally, the ability to transfer points from Amex, Citi, and Capital One make it easy to rack up enough points for international first- and business-class redemptions.