Home > American Airlines, American Express, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, India > Cathay Pacific Asia Miles added as American Express MR Partner — a better way to India?

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles added as American Express MR Partner — a better way to India?

This morning’s post from Gary at View From The Wing piqued my interest, mostly because I’ve had a fascination with trying to redeem American Airlines (AA) and British Airways (BA) miles for Cathay Pacific (CX) flights, particularly to India where my family travels a lot.

The problem is with the ways AA and BA have you redeem for flights.

With AA, round-trip it costs 90K Economy/135K Business/180K First AAdvantage miles to go from the United States to India. However, there are no stopovers allowed except for the North American gateway, plus you are only allowed to travel via the Atlantic. This means having to go with British Airways (which introduces hefty fuel surcharges) or other partners Royal Jordanian and Etihad and eschew stopover visits to London, Amman, or Abu Dhabi.

If you want to fly via the Pacific, on Japan Airlines (JL) or CX, you’ll have to purchase two awards. If you want to fly CX, round-trip it’s 70K Economy/100K Business/135K First, plus 45K Economy/60K Business/90K First from Hong Kong (or anywhere in Asia Zone 2) to India. This makes it 115K Economy/160K Business/225K First to India via the Pacific. The redeeming factor is that you can build in a stopover in Asia Zone 2 both ways by timing your 2 different awards.

With BA, it’s not that much better. BA charges by segment and you are almost penalized for redeeming for long-hauls. From San Francisco to Bombay, you’ll pay (round-trip) 70K Economy/140K Business/210K First for SFO-HKG, then 25K Coach/50K Business/75K First from HKG-BOM round-trip. This makes it 95K Coach/190K Business/285K First for the entire trip. Even with the current 50% bonus from American Express MR (until May 31), it would be 64K MR/127K MR/190K MR + $600 to $700 fuel surcharge to fly CX to India.

One redeeming thing about BA is that you pay less if you mix First and Business on an award; since CX is stopping First to India, you’d pay about 25K less round-trip flying Business to/from India than First.

However, once you’ve accumulated all those miles, you have to hope that CX has released award seats into partner inventory (since airlines always have more seats available to their own members than to partner/alliance members).

Now that Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is a partner of Membership Rewards, it makes moving miles in CX’s program a lot easier. CX’s program is distance-based, according to the following chart:

For redemptions from the west coast of North America to India (where transiting the Pacific makes as much/more sense as going via the Atlantic), we want to look at Column E. The furthest one can fly on CX from those two areas is Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Mumbai, which comes in at 9918 miles one-way, just under 10K miles. That makes a round-trip 90K Economy/145K Business/220K First.

So let’s compare the costs within each program for a round-trip itinerary on CX from San Francisco to Hong Kong in First Class, then Hong Kong to Mumbai in Business:

AA: 135K + 60K = 195K AAdvantage (225K if in all-First, in case CX decides to bring that back to India)

BA: 210K + 50K = 260K Avios (285K if in all-First, in case CX decides to bring that back to India)

CX: 220K Asia Miles (the full First price even though the flight to BOM is in Business)

In just business class:

AA: 100K + 60K = 160K AAdvantage

BA: 140K + 50K = 190K Avios

CX: 145K Asia Miles

Keep in mind that BA and CX will charge fuel surcharges, upwards of $700, while AA will only collect nominal airport taxes.

It seems that AA AAdvantage are just as good or better than Asia Miles in this instance. The nominal up-charge in miles for pure business class is balanced out by a lack of fuel surcharge fees. However, Asia Miles have better access to Cathay’s award inventory, plus they are now a member of American Express MR, which has cards that earn point bonuses and is a program that is known to offer transfer bonuses. AA is only a transfer partner of Starwood.

In the end, though, if you don’t have AA miles and have a lot of MR points, Asia Miles provide a great alternative to Avios for getting CX to India when there isn’t a transfer bonus (like the one now that expires on May 31).

As for my goal to get CX F on the way to India, it seems like the best-way would actually be to use what I did on my last trip to India: fly CX F to the part of Asia Zone 2 that overlap with US Airways South Asia region, then redeem 30K US Airways miles to fly Singapore Airlines Business from there. If I want to stopover in Hong Kong, use Avios to get from a spot in South Asia to HKG (or if you wanna splurge, fly Emirates A380 First/Business from Bangkok to Hong Kong!).

Have I hurt your head yet?

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