Most of you probably recall the good news in May 2020, when Cathay Pacific took advantage of low fuel prices to do away with its fuel surcharges on both revenue and award tickets, cutting the cash cost of redemptions using Asia Miles on its services if you booked on or after 1st May 2020.
Last month the flip side was bad news – Cathay had brought back its fuel surcharge from 1st February 2021, with further increased rates effective for bookings made on or after 1st March 2021.
Well it’s more bad news unfortunately – jet fuel prices have continued to increase recently, up around 12% over the last month, prompting Cathay Pacific to hike its fuel surcharge for the third time this year, applicable to tickets booked from 1st April 2021.
Latest Cathay Pacific fuel surcharges
Here’s how Cathay’s fuel surcharges will increase for cash and award tickets booked from 1st April 2021, compared to current rates (remember all these rates were zero back in January 2021!), for the most common routings applicable to our readers.
Cathay Pacific Fuel Surcharges
|Until 31 Mar 2021||From 1 Apr 2021|
Australia / NZ,
US / Canada,
Middle East, S. Asia
Exchange rates to SGD conversion correct at time of writing.
Note that fuel surcharges for tickets purchased in Hong Kong are applied in HKD.
As you can see these are still reasonable enough levels not to be too alarmed about, though the increases are slightly in excess of 20%.
Fuel surcharges apply to award tickets on Cathay Pacific booked using Asia Miles and Avios points, but not to those redeemed with Alaska Mileage Plan miles.
How are fuel surcharges calculated?
Cathay Pacific applies its fuel surcharges sector-by-sector, so for a simple Singapore – Hong Kong return trip booked after 1st April 2021 you’ll be looking at US$10.90 x 2 = US$21.80 (currently around S$29) in fuel surcharges. That’s not wildly more than the ~S$24 fuel surcharge applied for bookings made by 31st March 2021.
If you take a longer flight from Singapore via Hong Kong to a different destination, you’ll pay the sum of the applicable fuel surcharge for the flown sectors.
For example, a Singapore to Tokyo via Hong Kong return trip is (US$10.90 + US$10.90) x 2 = US$43.60 (currently around S$59) in fuel surcharges. A Singapore to Frankfurt via Hong Kong return trip is (US$10.90 + US$48.70) x 2 = US$119.20 (currently around S$160) in fuel surcharges.
What’s the impact?
Remember that these fuel surcharges are in addition to the compulsory taxes and fees, typically levied by airport operators and applicable to all carriers.
Here are some examples of the extra charge you’ll be faced with on these award tickets in total, inclusive of airport charges too.
They assume travel in Business Class (travel class does slightly impact the taxes charged for itineraries including a departing flight from both Hong Kong and London), based on round-trip itineraries.
Additional Taxes & Fees
Taxes & Fees
(Mar vs. Apr 2021)
|Route||Until 31 Mar||From 1 Apr||Change|
Based on IATA Consolidated Exchange Rates at 17 March 2021
These increased charges will be applied for award tickets booked on or after 1st April 2021. Existing tickets are unaffected as they are only impacted by the fuel surcharge in force at the time of booking.
Is it worth booking now?
If you’re planning to lock in a long-haul Asia Miles redemption on Cathay Pacific, for example a return flight from Singapore to Europe as a couple in early 2022, it’s probably worth considering making your booking by 31st March 2021 to avoid an additional S$60 or so in fuel surcharges for the two of you.
Award tickets on Cathay Pacific are made available to Asia Miles members 360 days prior to departure, and to BA Executive Club (Avios) members 350 days prior to departure.
That means if you want to avoid the April fuel surcharge increase by booking on the last day of March, you’ll be able to lock in future redemptions on Cathay Pacific at current fuel surcharge rates for departures until:
- Asia Miles: 26th March 2022
- Avios: 16th March 2022
A word of caution though, the future direction of fuel prices is unknown and Cathay Pacific reviews its fuel surcharges on a monthly basis, so May 2021 and beyond might well see lower fuel surcharges compared to April 2021, for example. You won’t receive any refund in this case, if you have already booked.
Further erosion of the Asia Miles / KrisFlyer advantage
Asia Miles still offers beneficial rates when redeeming Cathay Pacific flights compared to using KrisFlyer to redeem Singapore Airlines flights on a number of routes, however SIA continues to impose no fuel surcharge on its award tickets.
That means the advantage of paying lower miles rates is becoming increasingly offset by higher taxes and fees when redeeming Cathay flights, while the Hong Kong carrier continues to bump up its fuel surcharge.
Here’s the difference in pricing from 1st April 2021 compared to January 2021, when Cathay Pacific still applied zero fuel surcharges to its flights, based on a round-trip redemption in Business Class.
Business Class redemptions from Singapore
|Jan ’21||Apr ’21|
* S$156 if routing via FRA
As you can see, total taxes and fees are now quite substantially higher for Asia Miles redemptions made in January this year compared to the new April 2021 rates.
For routes like Hong Kong and New York though, it’s still worth redeeming additional miles for a Cathay Pacific award using Asia Miles than a similar one with Singapore Airlines using KrisFlyer miles, since the miles saving substantially outweighs the extra cash.
For Europe it hinges on whether your Asia Miles redemption falls into the Long – Type 1 (5,001 – 7,500 miles) or Ultra-Long (7,501+ miles) redemption ones, based on total travel distance.
Since the redemption rate in Business Class jumps by 20,000 miles when redeeming from Singapore via Hong Kong once you ‘cross the line’, it makes a stark difference when assessing the benefit Asia Miles has over the KrisFlyer programme, since the latter has a fixed redemption zone for all European cities.
For Long – Type 1 redemptions, like Singapore to Frankfurt, you’re saving 54,000 miles per person, despite the increased cost of S$237, using Asia Miles on Cathay rather than KrisFlyer on SIA.
Even though the increased cost used to be just S$76, this is sill worth doing in our opinion.
On more distant Europe routes (Ultra-Long zone) like Singapore – London, however, it’s now seriously questionable whether it is worth saving 14,000 miles but paying an extra S$240 over and above the Singapore Airlines option (previously only S$79 extra before these fuel surcharges came back).
That’s especially true given the added hassle of an aircraft change in Hong Kong.
We would therefore now only consider an Asia Miles Europe redemption into the Ultra-Long zone, at these new fuel surcharge rates, if the trip was to a city SIA does not serve (like Madrid), or if SIA did not have availability on our chosen date.
Cathay Pacific’s latest fuel surcharges for both revenue and award tickets from 1st April 2021 represent an approximate 20% increase on the current March 2021 ones, so if you have a relatively firm Asia Miles or Avios redemption planned on Cathay Pacific you might want to lock it in by 31st March to save some of the cash component.
While it’s not a serious impact for a shorter routing, it’s worth considering for longer trips like those to the USA and Europe, where you’ll be hit with the higher surcharges on each of the longer flight sectors.
Remember you can now book award seats on the airline well into 2022, when COVID-19 vaccination is set to be widespread in many countries and hopefully a much wider range of travel will be possible for us all.
(Cover Photo: Airbus)