With the Aeroplan Mini-RTW being tightened on September 1, I’ve been looking for reprieve in other reward programs’ “round-the-world” redemption sweet spots. A few weeks ago, we covered the British Airways Avios Multi-Carrier Award Chart, and today we’ll look at a similar offering from Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
By the way, I’ve just added the full program guide to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles under Points Programs, and I think it’s definitely a program that we should all be paying more attention to. While the rules and charts may appear quite byzantine at first, once you’ve spent some time figuring it out, there are quite a few gems to be had.
The Multi-Carrier Award Chart
In this article I wanted to talk about one of those gems, which is the Asia Miles Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart. This chart only applies to Asia Miles bookings of the following description:
The itinerary contains no Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon flights and two Oneworld partner airlines
The itinerary contains at least one Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon flight, as well as two or more Oneworld partner airlines
Any itinerary with only one Oneworld partner airlines is priced according to Asia Miles’s Standard Award Chart, instead of this chart.
Meanwhile, you can’t have three or more Oneworld partners on the itinerary if you don’t also include at least one Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon flight.
On top of that, you also cannot mix in any of Cathay’s additional non-Oneworld airline partners such as Air Canada, Aer Lingus, or Alaska Airlines. Got it? Good.
(One of the things you’ll soon notice when you start dabbling with Asia Miles is how unnecessarily complex it all seems. On the plus side, though, that complexity provides shelter to a rather wide array of sweet spots for those who are willing to put in the time and effort into figuring things out.)
The award chart itself, as displayed on the Asia Miles website, is as follows:
As you can see, the chart is split into 13 zones, each with a certain distance band for the total mileage of your trip. To figure out which zone your redemption falls into, you add up the distances of all the flown segments, and then look up that zone according to your chosen class of service (redemptions in premium economy are not possible under this award chart).
With this award chart, you’re allowed to have up to five stopovers of extended duration, two layovers of up to 24 hours in duration, and two open-jaws.
Needless to say, this opens up quite a very wide range of routing possibilities, especially for those of you planning an extended trip or long-term travel, allowing you to potentially include up to nine cities on your itinerary in addition to your origin.
Unlike the Avios multi-carrier chart, which seemed rather ambiguous as to how the class of service is determined, the Cathay Pacific multi-carrier chart explicitly states that mixed-cabin itineraries are priced according to your highest class of service. Therefore, if you’re redeeming for, say, a business class round-the-world ticket, it’s in your best interest to get all the segments in business class if you can.
A Few Examples
Five stopovers, two layovers, and two open-jaws give tremendous flexibility when planning trips to multiple destinations. Here are a few examples of what you can accomplish under the Asia Miles multi-carrier award chart.
1. South America Hopper
This itinerary involves American Airlines and LATAM – that’s two Oneworld partner airlines, so we’re good to use the multi-carrier chart.
After a layover in JFK, we’ll fly down to São Paulo on LATAM, followed by an open-jaw to Rio de Janeiro. After that, we can stop in Buenos Aires and Santiago for an extended period, before flying up to Cuzco. After conquering Machu Picchu, we’ll resume our journey after an open-jaw in Lima, followed by stopovers in Quito and Bogota and then a flight home to Toronto with a layover in Miami.
The total distance flown is 12,432 miles, so this falls into Zone 8 of the Asia Miles multi-carrier chart, meaning that we’ll pay 90,000 Asia Miles for economy class or 135,000 Asia Miles for business class.
2. Asian PERSUASION
Cathay Pacific brings us from Vancouver to Taipei via Hong Kong and Seoul (yes, Cathay’s Seoul–Taipei fifth freedom flight is highly useful here). Then, we’ll fly Malaysia Airlines down to Kuala Lumpur, and then down to Bali. We’ll do an open-jaw to Phnom Penh, before catching Qatar Airways’s fifth freedom service to Ho Chi Minh City (that should be a fun one). From there, we’ll fly Japan Airlines back to Vancouver with another stop in Tokyo.
On this itinerary, we’ll have to choose five cities among Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, and Tokyo as our stopovers, with the odd one out being a 24-hour layover. We’re combining three Oneworld airlines with Cathay Pacific metal, so we’re eligible for the multi-carrier award chart. The total distance clocks in at 19,341 miles, so we’ll fall into Zone 10 of the chart and pay 105,000 Asia Miles in economy class or 165,000 Asia Miles for business class.
3. Round the World to All 6 Continents
Starting in Toronto, we’ll hop down to São Paulo with American Airlines and LATAM. After a stopover there, we fly over to Johannesburg on LATAM, and then up to Madrid on Iberia. An open-jaw to Helsinki is followed by a trek down to Melbourne via Doha, Mumbai, and Hong Kong on Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific. Lastly, we fly to Los Angeles on Qantas, before taking a road-trip through the United States and flying home from Chicago.
Choose five cities among São Paulo, Johannesburg, Doha, Mumbai, Hong Kong, and Melbourne as your stopovers, with the odd one out being a 24-hour layover. Again, there are Cathay Pacific flights together with a multitude of Oneworld airlines, so we’re eligible for the multi-carrier chart. The total distance comes in at 34,718 miles, just under the Zone 12 threshold of 35,000 miles, so we’ll pay 130,000 Asia Miles in economy class or 210,000 Asia Miles in business class.
Optimizing the Asia Miles Multi-Carrier Chart
The value proposition of this award chart is clear, but what are some ways that Canadian travellers can optimize this redemption opportunity even further?
Under the Threshold
Similar to the Avios multi-carrier chart, the fact that the Asia Miles chart is broken down into separate zones, each with their own upper thresholds in terms of distance flown, means that you can get outsized value by coming very close under the distance threshold, but not going over it.
This is seen in Example #3 above, where we aimed to get as close to 35,000 miles in distance flown as possible, but strove not to overshoot that limit and cross into the next distance band (which would entail a further chunk of Asia Miles that we’d need to pay).
RBC 20% Conversion Bonus
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles can be transferred from both American Express Membership Rewards (at a 1:0.75 ratio) and RBC Avion (at a 1:1 ratio). In particular, RBC Avion often puts on transfer bonuses to Asia Miles, the most recent one being a 20% bonus in March 2019.
Taking into account the 20% transfer bonus, and you’re looking at a South American Hopper journey for 112,500 RBC Avion points in business class. For those of you with large holdings in Avion (or those who know the tricks with RBC to rack up large volumes in a short span of time), this could be one of the most lucrative ways to use your Avion points on an unforgettable trip.
Transfer from Amex US
While the transfer ratio from American Express Canada is 1:0.75 (which is alas inferior to the 1:1 transfer ratios to Aeroplan and British Airways Avios), Amex US allows you to transfer US MR points to Asia Miles at par. This could therefore be an excellent use of the signup bonuses you earn on Amex US credit cards.
Remember, you can transfer Canadian Amex MR points to US MR points at the prevailing exchange rate once every 12 months as well.
TAXES & FEES
One thing to note about Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is that it isn’t the most efficient award program in terms of taxes and fees. British Airways and Qatar Airways flights in particular seem to come with high surcharges, while the other airlines seem to have more moderate surcharges attached. Starting in North America, be prepared to pay at least $400–500 in additional fees for this type of redemption, and likely more.
It could therefore be optimal to start your trip in one of the jurisdictions that has regulated fuel surcharges, like Brazil, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Australia, or New Zealand. Doing so would eliminate fuel surcharges on any and all Oneworld carriers, even British Airways and Qatar Airways. And since you’re most likely to use this redemption opportunity on a larger round-the-world trip anyway, you could “nest” this redemption with another trip in order to get yourself to your starting point.
How to Search and Book
Book these Cathay Pacific Asia Miles multi-carrier awards in the exact same way as any other complex award: do some research on the routes served by Oneworld airlines, plan out a route that fits all the rules, and then search for availability.
While ExpertFlyer is generally a great tool for searching for availability, they do lack the ability to look up award space on several Oneworld member airlines, like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, or Qatar Airways. However, I’ve found that the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles website itself is pretty useful for locating availability on a segment-by-segment basis – simply use the one-way search tool to look for your flights one-by-one, similar to what you’d do with the Aeroplan search engine for Star Alliance awards.
One downside to the Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart is that you’ll need to call the Asia Miles call centre to book anything under this award chart, and Asia Miles’s call centre agents can be notoriously tricky to work with. Don’t be afraid to call a few times in order to find a competent agent, and make sure to do all the research beforehand so you can guide the agent through the process if necessary.
With the unparalleled ability to have five stopovers and two open-jaws on a single itinerary, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles’s Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart can be extremely useful for those of you planning complex round-the-world trips.
While the mileage requirements are higher than what you’d find on, say, an Aeroplan Mini-RTW, the far more generous stopover allowance, taken together with Aeroplan’s impending rule changes, make the “Asia Miles RTW” a highly attractive proposition, and one of many sweet spots worth looking at within the wider Asia Miles program.