Guide to making Asia Miles redemptions – what you need to know about stopovers, award holds & pricing quirks

GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 10 minutes
POSTED: December 28, 2016
UPDATED: July 14, 2017
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
STATUS: Updated with latest info in December 2016

Asia Miles continue to be an appealing frequent flyer program for Australian points collectors, with a wide range of points earn partners – including most of the major credit card rewards programs in Australia.

The program is not without its intricacies and quirks though, and you have to understand the various ins and outs when you come to make an Asia Miles redemption. In this guide we’ll show you how to redeem Asia Miles effectively, including how and where to search for availability and a range of other tips and tricks for using your Asia Miles.


Summary of tips and tricks for Asia Miles redemptions

We cover a few of the key things to know about making Asia Miles redemptions in this guide. Here’s a quick list with some navigation to the relevant sections:


The basics of Asia Miles

Asia Miles is Cathay Pacific’s frequent flyer points program – for status, you’ll need to look at the Marco Polo Club.

Asia Miles are great value for long-haul return Premium Economy, Business Class or First Class itineraries with Cathay Pacific and/or their oneworld partners.

Some example Asia Miles sweet spots:

  • Sydney to Narita on Qantas or Japan Airlines at 80,000/54,000 points return in business/premium economy
  • Any Australia city to Hong Kong operated by Cathay Pacific at 80,000/54,000 points return in business/premium economy
  • Sydney or Brisbane to Los Angeles on Qantas at 120,000/72,000 points return in business class/premium economy

Which partners can be reserved online vs those you have to call for

Redemptions using Asia Miles generally need to be made over the phone, however Asia Miles also offer simpler bookings on Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Qatar, Finnair and British Airways without having to call the Asia Miles call centre.

By ‘simpler’, I mean that online booking only prices itineraries using the Asia Miles partner award chart, not the more expensive but also more lucrative for complex itineraries, ‘multi-carrier’ award chart.

For online bookings, start by either by using cathaypacific.com and selecting ‘redeem flights’ under the date and destination input, or by using Asia Miles’ own award booking engine – but there is little difference between using either one.

Cathay Asia Miles booking redeem flights

How to research and book Asia Miles redemptions online

You can research and confirm availability online (for the airlines mentioned above), but you could also equally do that for most oneworld airlines using Qantas.com or the British Airways website, which are generally better to use and include more partners. You won’t be able to confirm Asia Miles pricing on those websites however.

Using the Cathay Pacific website and starting here, you’ll be prompted to login, after which you can select ‘Flight Award Redemption’.

From there, you start your search (but only worth doing for the partners that can be booked online, remember) –

And results will show:

However, you can’t get to the next screens – which calculates confirms the total amount of miles needed and taxes payable – unless you have enough miles in your account to book. This can cause problems – more on this later on – as the price on this screen may not be correct for multi-sector itineraries.

Don’t trust Cathay Pacific’s online booking engine pricing for multi sector itineraries

Asia Miles pricing is based on the actual route being booked but note that during the search process point the LOWEST price for that specific route is displayed (e.g. for a direct flight), not the actual price of the flights available.

This is a terrible piece of website programming – who wants to know what the lowest theoretical price would be for a flight that isn’t available? No-one. The prices showing here should be based on the actual flights found.

This is very frustrating – you can’t be sure of pricing unless you go and calculate the exact routing distance and look up the Asia Miles award table.

Here’s an example, this time using the award search function on the Asia Miles website, searching for a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. I am explicitly wanting to travel with Qantas direct, instead of the long way with Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong.

Pricing for Sydney – Los Angeles with Qantas should be 120,000 Asia Miles, but via Hong Kong, it’s 175,000 Asia Miles (both Business Class, return).

The results returned by the Asia Miles site make it look like every date has direct availability at the 120,000 Asia Miles level:

I click on a date, but see it’s an indirect option via HKG instead. However the pricing doesn’t even change at this point, showing at the lower price level:

It’s at this point, without the miles in your account, you can get no further. You are being quoted 120,000 Asia Miles and have no reason to think differently. And this is the crux of the issue – at this point I would make a transfer of my credit card points over to Asia Miles thinking I could make the booking (and have done so in the past).

I do have enough miles in my account to check the actual price though, and this is what shows on the next screen – the final price of 175,000 Asia Miles:

Along with this helpful error message:

The price is different because of the greater distance required for SYD-HKG-LAX vs SYD-LAX – this takes the itinerary into a higher price band.

If I had transferred my points to Asia Miles assuming I could book at the lower price level, and was out of points to transfer in my credit card account, I would now be stuck with a chunk of Asia Miles I couldn’t use – a big problem. Thankfully I had enough to top up to make the redemption.

Bear this in mind when you do your own research!

Do your own checks on pricing – either with the Asia Miles redemption calculator or by spending the time to call

You can research the cost of a flight in points using the calculator on the Asia Miles website, if you’re just after a comparison cost between different routings.

Asia Miles award flight costs are calculated by assessing the routing you are taking, then summing the total distance (in miles) for that routing to compare against the award chart.

I use the excellent gcmap.com tool for this. So, a flight from Sydney to New York via Hong Kong is 12,652 miles while a flight from Sydney to New York via Los Angeles is 9,963 miles..

This is important as it means the distance based chart is not priced between the origin and destination city directly, which makes it easy to get caught out when assessing pricing.

It’s based on the actual route you take, and in the Sydney to New York example above, the difference between flying on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong and on Qantas via Los Angeles is the difference between two pricing bands. The former comes in the over 10,000 miles band, while the flight via LA is just under 10,000 miles in distance – the difference between 110,000 and 85,000 miles, one way, in Business Class.

Incorporating stopovers in Asia Miles redemptions

Given the likelihood you’ll be using Asia Miles for long-haul and return itineraries, it’s very likely you’ll have intermediary cities on your itinerary where you could choose to stopover. Thankfully Asia Miles allows this with both the Asia Miles award chart and oneworld multi-carrier award charts.

Buried in the Asia Miles terms is the following (broken down a bit for readability):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Member must depart from the intermediate point on the next available connecting flight.
  4. For the purposes of this section, open-jaw means a flight itinerary where the departure city is different from the returning city, or alternatively, the destination city that a passenger arrives in is different from the one he/she returns from on the return portion of the trip.
  5. To redeem a oneworld Multi-Carrier Award, the total Mileage Credits required in determining the award zone is the sum of the sector distance (between the origin airports and destination airports) of all sectors in the itinerary…
  6. …The Member or Nominee can make a maximum of five stopovers (for a oneworld Multi-Carrier Award). In addition, two transfers and two open-jaws are permitted.

Some definitions for you:

  1. A stopover is a stop of more than 24 hours.
  2. An open-jaw is where you arrive into one city, but depart from another
  3. An intermediate point is a transit city, where you connecting (transferring) only

Let’s break these rules down a bit. First for the regular Asia Miles award chart:

  1. You get two stopovers on a return itinerary. So you could fly Sydney – Hong Kong, stopover, Hong Kong – London (your destination), then London – Doha (stopover), Doha – Sydney.
  2. You can only transfer twice on a return itinerary – so SYD-MEL-HKG-LHR and back again would be allowed, but SYD-MEL-HKG-FRA-LHR and back again would not. Transfers have to be made by using the next available flight within 24 hours, otherwise it will be considered a stopover.
  3. You can have one open jaw – and this can be anywhere along your itinerary, pretty much, subject to the stopover and transfer rules being met
  4. You can combine stopovers, transfers and an open jaw

And for the oneworld multi-carrier award you can have up to five stopovers, plus two transfers, plus two open jaws, which we explain in much more detail in the dedicated guide.

In short – Asia Miles stopover rules are pretty liberal and you can use them to your advantage to craft a lengthier and more valuable itinerary if you can find the award availability to work for your plans.

Putting Asia Miles awards on hold – it’s (sort of) possible

Getting your award tickets on hold without having the miles in your account is like the holy grail for flexible points program collectors – it allows you to hold and then transfer without worrying about risking your miles if seat availability dries up while the transfer takes place.

Asia Miles allow award holds under certain circumstances, where you can keep points seats reserved, without the points in your account.

Why is this useful? If you can get them to put an award on hold for you, it means you can make the transfer from your credit card points program (Membership Rewards, Citibank Rewards, ANZ Rewards or Altitude Rewards) with minimised risk of the seats you were after being grabbed by someone else while you wait for the points to transfer.

There doesn’t seem to be any other information online about this that I can find, so I thought I’d write up what I found after speaking with several phone agents trying to get to the bottom of this.
24 hours after getting off the phone about my account not having enough points to make the booking I was after – I noticed an email pop up in my inbox with an itinerary as follows (personalised info removed):

Asia Miles award hold itinerary

Note the key comment at the bottom of the confirmation:

PLS FINALIZE BKG BEFORE 10APR 18:00 OR ELSE BOOKING WILL AUTO CANCEL
PLEAE BE INFROM THAT BA FLT MIGHT AUTO CANX DUE PARTNER AIRLINE BKG

In short, the agent I was talking to (without telling me about it) had put the award I was looking for on hold for me for nearly 3 weeks.

On questioning Asia Miles phone agents a bit more, I managed to glean the following:

  1. Awards can be put on hold under specific circumstances (not outlined to me) and holds are approved by a supervisor
  2. Holds seem to be up to three weeks
  3. Cathay Pacific flights seem to be guaranteed when on hold
  4. Holds for partner airlines (like BA in my case) are not ‘guaranteed’ and may go back into inventory for others to book depending on the airline

On the last point, I checked when I got this itinerary and found that the British Airways seats had been taken out of award inventory and were not able to book any more, and I was just assuming that this was due to my hold and not that someone else had booked them.

It took me around 5 days to get the additional miles over and then to call back Asia Miles to get this ticketed, and all has gone through successfully. The Cathay Pacific website does offer a ticketing function for itineraries on hold but this seems to probably be limited to itineraries including Cathay Pacific only, as it wouldn’t work for me.

Key takeaway: if you have any issues with your Asia Miles award booking such as long transfer times for points to arrive in your account or any other means to get them to consider putting your award on hold – request they do it. The worst that can happen is they say no, and you might save some sanity and get your seats held if it comes through.

How to deal with Asia Miles agents over the phone

The Asia Miles call centre is a very hit and miss affair, although over the last 3 to 6 months, I have generally found that things are improving.

Previously waits on hold in excess of 40 minutes were not uncommon, on all of the different days of the week I tried and across most times of the day. This may have eased up, but it’s hard to tell.

If you do have issues with hold times, with the time difference to Hong Kong being usually 2 or 3 hours behind AEST, the best time to call is usually in the morning, where it’s much earlier in the day in Hong Kong. Hold times have always been much reduced when calling before 8am AEST, and the Asia Miles call centre is open 24/7.

I think it’s usually best to be prepared to set aside an hour on the phone for any Asia Miles redemption enquiries.

Make sure you push for flight by flight availability search

I had several occasions where the call centre staff couldn’t see the intended redemption I wanted to make, but then asking them to search flight by flight then yielded a more positive outcome.

Be prepared to get them to search flight by flight if you don’t get results that match what you’d see on cathaypacific.com or ba.com in your initial online availability research.

Get your transfer details right (obviously) and be prepared to wait 3 days for a Membership Rewards transfer

I have transferred Asia Miles from American Express Membership Rewards countless times and expect 2 to 3 business days for the points to move between the two.

The first time around, a spelling error crept into my name in my Asia Miles account and I didn’t notice. This caused a mismatch between my American Express Membership Rewards account and my Asia Miles frequent flyer account, which resulted in a 1 week delay with the transfer being rejected. This included the couple of days it took for American Express to re-credit the points that came back.

The subsequent transfer I’d say took around 72 hours to go from Membership Rewards to Asia Miles, which is a little longer than I’d expect, and worth noting. Westpac Altitude Rewards is much faster, usually 24-48 hours. So make sure all your account details on both sides are correct before making the transfer.

Summing up

Most Asia Miles redemptions are painless once you have understood these quirks of how the program and their systems and agents work. There is excellent value to be had from Asia Miles, so it’s worth investing the time in understanding the program so you can capitalise on what they have to offer.

Guide to making Asia Miles redemptions – what you need to know about stopovers, award holds & pricing quirks was last modified: July 14th, 2017 by Keith