Earlier this month Cathay Pacific announced it was simplifying its Asia Miles redemption options by removing Choice and Tailored awards and retaining only the cheapest Standard award category, while at the same time adding a ‘Miles Plus Cash’ option to redeem on any flight with available seats.
The changes took effect today, so this is the first time we can see what approximate rate the airline is offering when using your Asia Miles to offset some or all of a cash fare.
How to search
To use the Miles Plus Cash option when searching on cathaypacific.com, you’ll have to be logged in to your Asia Miles or Marco Polo Club account.
The option does not seem to have been integrated into the airline’s mobile app at this stage, though we only checked the iOS version.
Once you reach the payment stage for a cash booking, you’ll need to select the ‘Pay with Miles Plus Cash’ button to activate the option and see how many miles you’ll need.
Even if you have enough miles to cover the entire payment, you’ll only be able to use the number needed to cover the fare. Taxes and surcharges (including the airline’s latest fuel surcharges) must be paid in cash.
What’s the value?
The lowest number of miles you’ll need to redeem using this option is 5,000. Whatever fare, route or cabin we chose, these first 5,000 miles always seem to offset the fare at a fixed 0.66 Singapore cents per mile, which we probably don’t need to tell you is really, really bad.
As you can see in this example the fare is reduced from S$335 to S$301.90 (S$33.10 saving) by redeeming 5,000 Asia Miles (0.66 cpm).
At around the halfway mark, value remains unchanged.
As you can see here, a fare saving of S$151.70 (S$335 – S$183.80) is costing you 22,852 miles (0.66 cpm).
In the top half of a redemption, however, once you’re offsetting more than 50% of the fare, value does seem to increase slightly.
In this case using the maximum number of miles to offset the entire S$335 fare element of this ticket costs 42,193 Asia Miles, a value of around 0.79 Singapore cents per mile.
We tested the cheapest tickets on a variety of routings across the cabin classes and this value range was more or less replicated on all these bookings.
|SIN-HKG-SIN||Economy||0.66 to 0.79|
|SIN-HKG-SIN||Business||0.66 to 0.77|
|SIN-TPE-SIN||Business||0.66 to 0.77|
|SIN-LHR-SIN||Premium||0.66 to 0.79|
|HKG-LHR||Economy||0.66 to 0.77|
|HKG-LHR||First||0.66 to 0.77|
As you can see it’s a similar story across the board here, regardless of departure city, routing or cabin class.
Better value with more expensive fare types
For more expensive fares within each cabin class (e.g. Flex fare for Economy), value does appear to increase to 0.93 Singapore cents per mile when you offset more than half the cash component using Asia Miles, though this is only ‘real’ if you’d normally purchase these more expensive tickets anyway.
‘Miles Plus Cash’ counts as activity
Asia Miles moved to an activity-based policy for miles expiry for all miles earned from 1st January 2020, which for most members is a great improvement on the previous three-year fixed expiry windows.
One challenge for some of our readers in Singapore is keeping their Asia Miles balance ‘alive’ since the requirement for some earning or redemption activity at least once every 18 months.
If you’re flying on a cash fare with Cathay Pacific or an applicable partner airline and you elect to part pay using some of your miles (min. 5,000, for a discount of around S$33), this will count as activity and reset the clock for all remaining miles you’ve earned since 1st January 2020.
Unfortunately, it’s a poor value way to do so, unless you’re swimming in miles and can’t think of an alternative transaction like a credit card points transfer, but it at least provides another option here.
Standard awards remain available
Thankfully Asia Miles has not turned into a fixed value redemption scheme, with the usual (and best value) Standard award type still available for redemption, though this latest change means we have said goodbye to the more expensive Choice and Tailored award categories.
For many Asia Miles members, Choice awards were an acceptable trade-off between cost and increased availability, especially when travelling during holiday periods.
It remains to be seen how Standard award inventory might change following the removal of these two options, as this will be key to the value of the Asia Miles programme going forward.
Given that these awards are where the value lies for Cathay Pacific redemptions, we are obviously hoping availability will remain the same or improve slightly.
A significant reduction in Standard award availability would unfortunately relegate the Asia Miles programme to more of a dynamic pricing model, which at these ‘Miles Plus Cash’ redemption rates would be terrible news.
We knew that using your Asia Miles to offset a cash fare on Cathay Pacific was never going to be good value, but these rates are surprisingly stingy. For the majority of fares you’re only able to offset at 0.66 to 0.77 Singapore cents per mile (around HKD 0.04 per Asia Mile).
It actually makes Singapore Airlines’ part pay with KrisFlyer miles option at 1.02 cents value per mile, and Scoot’s at 0.95 cents per mile, look quite generous in comparison!
Going forward we’ll be keeping a close (but somewhat subjective) eye on Asia Miles Standard award availability, since any significant cuts here could spell bad news for the programme’s value.
In the meantime it’s quite clear where very little value lies – and that’s in this new Miles Plus Cash option, which you should not be considering except perhaps in order to completely ‘cash out’ of the scheme.
Full details of the new option, including a list of frequently asked questions, are available here.
(Cover Photo: Cathay Pacific)