Introducing Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles frequent flyer scheme

By Chris C., July 22 2014
Introducing Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles frequent flyer scheme

Aussie travellers, meet Asia Miles – the loyalty program for earning points on flights with Cathay Pacific and its Oneworld partners such as Qantas and British Airways.

Regardless of how frequently you fly, perks like lounge access are kept at bay unless you’re also a paid-up member of the Marco Polo Club.

Sound confusing? Think of Marco Polo as your haven for status credits, and Asia Miles as your points balance.

Used together, you’ll enjoy the same basic benefits as with Qantas Frequent Flyer, and could be earning miles to put towards your next flight.

Here’s how to get the most from the Asia Miles program.

Asia Miles 101

Through Oneworld, members can earn ‘Asia Miles’ with when travelling with the likes of Qantas, British Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, and of course, Cathay Pacific itself.

Asia Miles’ web of partners also extends to Star Alliance members Air New Zealand and Air China, Skyteam’s China Eastern, and also to Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Gulf Air, Jet Airways and Royal Brunei.

Membership is free – simply head to the Asia Miles website to enrol, and you’ll be able to start reeling in points straight away.

Again, don’t confuse ‘Asia Miles’ with ‘Club miles’ and ‘Club sectors’ in the Marco Polo program.

Asia Miles can be swapped for free flights or upgrades, while Club miles and sectors – earned only through the Marco Polo Club program – determine your frequent flyer status.

You’re not restricted to earning just one or the other – by linking your memberships, you’ll be able to work towards the next tier in Marco Polo while building up your mileage balance with Asia Miles.

Asia Miles alone doesn’t come with creature comforts such as lounge access or priority boarding, but as miles can be used to upgrade to business class, you’ll want to whip out that membership card wherever you can.

Earning Asia Miles with Cathay Pacific

The number of miles you’ll earn on Cathay Pacific flights depends on where you’re sitting, and how much you’ve paid for your journey abroad.

In business class, you’ll earn 1.25 points per mile on all fares – so on a flight between Sydney and Hong Kong, your bounty stands at 5,740 Asia Miles.

That drops slightly to one point per mile on the most flexible economy tickets, but plummets to just 0.25 points per mile on some of the mid-range fares.

On those tickets, you’d earn just 1,148 miles on the same flight, while on the cheapest economy fares, you’ll earn nothing at all.

Earning Asia Miles with Qantas and other partners

Asia Miles members travelling with Qantas or other Oneworld members such as American Airlines, British Airways or Malaysia Airlines can pocket miles for their trouble.

Between Sydney and Hong Kong, business class travellers with Qantas earn the same number of points as when flying with Cathay, although one point per mile in economy is limited to the most expensive fare type.

Business class on the Qantas Airbus A380
Business class on the Qantas Airbus A380

Flexible fares net 2,296 points, although the vast majority of Qantas economy tickets – including Red eDeals and Sale fares – earn zip.

On Qantas domestic flights, it’s a similar picture: Asia Miles only recognises your flying if you’re in business class or have shelled out for a flexible ticket.

The same also applies when travelling with Air New Zealand, British Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Royal Brunei, so if you’re normally down the back on these flights, Asia Miles isn’t the program for you.

On the other hand, Air China, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN and Qatar Airways pay out miles at more generous rates in economy – including on the cheaper fares.

Redeeming Asia Miles for flights

For travel with Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, British Airways and Qantas, Asia Miles members can hunt for awards through the Cathay Pacific website:

Regardless of the airline booked, awards are based on the number of miles flown. From Sydney to Singapore or Hong Kong, it’s 45,000 Asia Miles for a one-way flight in business class.

However, by booking a return journey rather than two one-way flights, you’ll save a pretty penny.

A return trip on the same routes is 80,000 Asia Miles, so steer clear of one-way bookings whenever you can.

On the domestic front, a return Qantas business class booking between Sydney and Melbourne sets you back 30,000 miles – or a higher 40,000 as two one-way journeys.

Award flights with all other airlines have to be processed manually by the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles team, but can be requested online:

Redeeming Asia Miles for flight upgrades

Cathay Pacific allows travellers to upgrade to the next highest class – which sees economy passengers moving forward into premium economy, but only premium economy travellers can grab a seat in business class.

But Cathay Pacific isn't the only airline on which you can score an Asia Miles upgrade. Asia Miles can also be used for upgrades on British Airways, including on the airline’s daily Sydney-Singapore-London flight; Dragonair, Cathay Pacific’s regional offshoot; and American Airlines.

Club World business class on British Airways
Club World business class on British Airways

Like award flights, the best value is found in return trip upgrades – rather than redeeming separately for two one-way flights.

Logically, more points are needed to upgrade on longer flights, while fewer points can see you moved forward on those shorter hops.

When flying between Sydney and either Singapore or Hong Kong, 22,500 Asia Miles is enough for a return upgrade from premium economy to business class with both British Airways and Cathay Pacific.

From Hong Kong, longer flights to London and Los Angeles can be upgraded for only 30,000 Asia Miles on the return journey, which is terrific value.

Unlike Qantas, which only processes its business class upgrades closer to departure, Asia Miles members can snag a seat at the pointy end as soon as their booking has been finalised.

Read: Cathay Pacific business class upgrade guide

Upgrades to business class aren’t always guaranteed, so if you’re unsuccessful, it doesn’t hurt to join the upgrade waitlist or try your hand at the check-in desk.

The bottom line on Asia Miles...

If you normally travel in first class, business, premium economy or on flexible economy tickets, the Asia Miles program could see you reaching that next award flight or upgrade in no time.

However, if you’re normally stuck in the cheap seats, you’ll quickly find it difficult to boost your Asia Miles balance – and even if you manage to build a respectable nest egg, they’ll be useless if your goal is to upgrade.

In short: on most of the cheaper fares, you’ll neither earn Asia Miles or be able to upgrade with points, so we’d suggest looking elsewhere before making Asia Miles your program of choice.

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2012

Total posts 125

Its important to note Asia Miles are valid for three years from the month the mileage is credited.

11 Apr 2014

Total posts 14

It may be worth noting that Premium economy to Business class upgrades are only available in certain fare classes -- R & W but not E from memory -- which means that you'll need to pay a bit more for the possibility of a upgrade with miles. Also I'm not sure if it's even possible to book R class online, unless E has already sold out.

Still, it's far better than playing the upgrade lottery with QF.

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