Citi recently announced that ThankYou Points now transfer to seven airlines and one hotel chain.
Since you can earn up to 50,000 bonus ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, I’ve been looking into those transfer partners to find the high value redemptions that maximize ThankYou points. I’ve harped on the sweet spots, luxury, and generous stopover rules of Singapore KrisFlyer miles already.
Today I want to show how to maximize Cathay Pacific Asia Miles for trips to Europe and South America.
Asia Miles has two distance-based charts for travel on oneworld partners and non-oneworld partners like Alaska Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Aer Lingus. If you maximize your routings and fly partners without fuel surcharges, there are a lot of high value redemptions in the Asia Miles program.
- What airlines can be booked with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles?
- How many stopovers and open jaws can an award have?
- What fuel surcharges are imposed on awards, and how can you avoid them?
Cathay Pacific is a member of the oneworld alliance. That means you can use Asia Miles miles on all these airlines:
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
- Iberia (Spain)
- Japan Airlines
- LAN (Chile and Peru)
- Malaysia Airlines
- Qantas (Australia)
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Jordanian
- S7 Airlines (Russia)
- SriLankan Airlines
- TAM Airlines (Brazil)
Asia Miles can also be used on:
- Aer Lingus
- Air New Zealand (between Hong Kong and Auckland only)
- Alaska Airlines
- Gulf Air
- Jet Airways
- Royal Brunei Airlines
Asia Miles awards include fuel surcharges when an equivalent cash flight has fuel surcharges. Luckily there are a lot of options to avoid fuel surcharges on Asia Miles awards. These partner flights do not have fuel surcharges:
- American Airlines flights within the Americas
- most LAN flights
- Alaska Airlines
- Aer Lingus
- Air New Zealand
Other partner flights do have fuel surcharges often in the hundreds of dollars per segment. You can verify the fuel surcharges on a flight by using ITA Matrix.
Getting to Europe (airberlin, Aer Lingus), the Caribbean, Central America, or South America (American Airlines, TAM, LAN) without fuel surcharges is easy. Getting to Asia, Africa, and Australia without fuel surcharges is difficult or impossible.
Asia Miles has two award charts.
One Partner or Two Airlines incl. Cathay Pacific/Dragonair
The first is for awards on a single partner airline OR awards on two airlines when one is Cathay Pacific or Dragonair.
Add up the distance of all award segments in a single direction using gcmap.com, and read the miles price off the chart. One way awards are about two-thirds the price of roundtrip awards.
Award Chart For 2 Partners or 3+ Including Cathay Pacific/Dragonair
This award chart is only used in very specific cases. Use this award chart if:
- You are using exactly two partners, neither of which is Cathay Pacific/Dragonair, and you are flying a roundtrip.
- You are using three or more airlines, one of which is Cathay Pacific/Dragonair, and you are flying a roundtrip.
This award chart is cheaper than the other award chart.
I tried to price out an award that used three partners (airberlin, TAM, American), and I expected it to be on this chart. Unfortunately, as the first bullet point indicated, when not using Cathay Pacific/Dragonair, this chart only applies when using exactly two partner airlines.
I asked the agent to remove my last leg and just price the rest on this chart. She couldn’t even do that because I was left with New York to Europe to South America on airberlin and TAM, and I no longer satisfied the rule that this award chart is for roundtrips. (I started in New York and ended in Sao Paulo.) She ended up bouncing me back to the first award chart and charging all three segments as one ways on that chart.
There is a lot of value on this second award chart if you can comply with its rules. For instance, if you flew New York to Berlin with Aer Lingus on the outbound and airberlin on the return, the flights would be 7,962 miles flown and would cost only 85,000 Asia Miles + taxes.
A roundtrip in business class to Europe with American Airlines miles would cost 100,000, for comparison, and American doesn’t even partner with Aer Lingus, so you couldn’t even book these flights.
I don’t exactly know them. There is conflicting information online, and the phone agent didn’t sound too confident. I do know that they are basically generous.
First Chart (One Partner and/or Cathay Pacific/Dragon Air)
“The member or the Nominee may make two stopovers, two transfers or one open-jaw at either the origin, en route or turnaround point on all airline partners except Air China and Iberia where no stopovers or open-jaws are permitted. If the open-jaw is at the origin, the member or Nominee must return to the country of origin, though not necessarily to the same city.”
That explains why my award that started in New York and ended in Sao Paulo was not a roundtrip. Open jaws are OK, but the origin and the end of the award need to be in the same country to be considered a roundtrip.
The terms go on to say: “For one-way award travel…only one en route stopover is allowed. ”
My read is that if you are on the first award chart, you get two stopovers plus your destination on a roundtrip, and if you book a one way award, you get one stopover plus your destination.
Second Chart (Roundtrip 2 Partner or 3 Incl. Cathay Pacific/Dragonair)
“You can make a maximum of five stopovers, two transfers and two open-jaws at either origin, en-route or turnaround point, subject to airline partners’ terms and conditions.”
I actually don’t know Asia Miles means by a transfer. My guess would be that a “transfer” is any layover that isn’t a stopover, but it would be surprising to get fewer layovers than stopovers. At a minimum, it looks like you can stop at 5-6 destinations plus stopovers on these two-partner awards.
If I book a Cathay Pacific Asia Miles award for myself or a client, I will push harder to understand these routing rules. If you book one, leave your experience in the comments.
Awards I Priced Out
I found the following award space and tried to price it out:
- airberlin economy from JFK to Berlin to Frankfurt
- TAM economy from Frankfurt to Sao Paulo
- American Airlines economy from Sao Paulo to JFK
I chose these flights because none include fuel surcharges and “triangle trips” like this are something that should be better value on a distance-based chart but would be expensive on a region-to-region chart like American Airlines has.
I called Asia Miles at 866-892-2598.
The agent shot down my award request since I included three partners and none were Cathay Pacific/Dragonair.
I had her remove the American Airlines segment, so the award went from New York to Europe to South America and stopped. That meant that it wasn’t a roundtrip (the award needs to start and end in the same country), so she had to price each segment on the first chart. These were the prices:
- New York to Berlin: 25,000 Asia Miles + 94 HKD ($12)
- Berlin to Frankfurt: 10,000 Asia Miles + 381 HKD ($49)
- Frankfurt to Sao Paulo: 40,000 Asia Miles + 917 HKD ($118)
For these individual flights, British Airways Avios would cost about the same out of pocket, and would charge the following prices, which are cheaper in all cases:
- New York to Berlin: 20,000 Avios
- Berlin to Frankfurt: 4,500 Avios
- Frankfurt to Sao Paulo: 30,000 Avios
Asia Miles are less valuable than Avios for this award, but Asia Miles will be more valuable than Avios if you can get onto the second award chart, and if you book business or first class. British Airways charges huge premiums (2x and 3x the economy price) for those awards, and Asia Miles charges a much smaller premium.
There is value in the Asia Miles program if you book partners that don’t collect fuel surcharges on routes to Europe and South America.
To get onto the cheaper award chart, you need to use exactly two Asia Miles partners. Stopover rules look generous, but are not totally clear to me.
Citi ThankYou Points transfer 1:1 to Asia Miles. You can earn up to 40,000 bonus ThankYou points with the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card after spending $3,000 in the first three months. I think Singapore Airlines remains a more attractive transfer partner overall, but it’s nice to know there is value in two transfer partners.