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Has British Airways devalued Avios short-haul Cathay Pacific and JAL redemptions?

Two years after the last partner award chart devaluation, BA appears to have imposed a no-notice hike in Avios points required to redeem shorter Cathay Pacific and JAL flights.

British Airways appears to have snuck in a quiet devaluation for two popular redemption options in this part of the world – shorter flights on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines – with increases of over 50% in the number of Avios points needed to redeem in some cases.

Yesterday Miles to Memories wrote about reports of an internal memo at British Airways regarding an increase in the number of Avios required to redeem on some Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines flights.

While the information could not be verified, Ryan from MTM did find some award routes pricing at increased rates, with others remaining unchanged.

Our own analysis appears to show that Avios rates have indeed increased, though not consistently for both carriers and not on all routings. Other oneworld partners appear to be unaffected by the changes.

First thing to note

Given the lack of an announcement by British Airways about any upcoming changes to Avios award rates on these carriers, it’s important to bear in mind that this could just be a glitch.

When the airline devalued Avios awards on all partner airlines in 2019, customers were advised by email and given one month’s notice (even if the new rates themselves were kept secret for a while!).

It would be strange for BA to devalue its Avios on only two partner carriers in Asia without mentioning it, but perhaps the airline thinks its (mostly UK-based) members won’t really notice.

The devaluation

Here’s the crux of the changes, based on our award searches:

  • This devaluation is carrier-specific, as far as we can tell. It only applies when you redeem Avios points on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines.
  • Increased rates only apply to shorter routes (less than 2,000 miles).
  • Business Class redemptions in the 650-1,150 mile zone bear the brunt of the devaluation, increasing by around 50%. Example routes include Singapore to Bangkok (CX) and Fukuoka to Sapporo (JL).
  • The short (under 651 miles) intra-Japan domestic ‘sweet spot’ in Economy Class, priced at just 4,500 Avios one-way before 2019 and 6,000 points more recently, is effectively dead – now costing 7,500 Avios per sector.

Good news is that our searches for Malaysia Airlines, SriLankan Airlines and Qantas redemptions all turned up the usual award pricing in accordance with the 2019 Avios rates. It’s only some Cathay Pacific and JAL itineraries that have been bumped up.

Only Cathay Pacific and JAL flights appear to be affected by the change. (Photo: Beckett Pfahler)

That’s strange because it would represent the first time, to our knowledge, that Avios has priced some partner airlines (oneworld carriers at that rate) differently to others on identical routings.

Avios CX / JL Redemption Rate Changes

Distance
(miles)
Economy Business Example
Routes
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1 – 650 6,000
7,500
(+25%)
12,500
16,000
(+28%)
12,500
(same)
HKG-TPE
HND-ITM
FUK-ITM
651 – 1,150 9,000
10,000
(+11%)
16,500
25,000
(+52%)
16,500
24,000
(+45%)
SIN-BKK
HKG-TPE
FUK-CTS
1,151 – 2,000 11,000
(same)
22,000
25,000
(+14%)
22,000
24,000
(+9%)
SIN-HKG
HKG-PEK
HKG-NRT

In the worst example, an Avios award from Singapore to Bangkok (or vice-versa) on Cathay Pacific, which was 15,000 points in Business Class prior to the 2019 devaluation then 16,500 points between 2019 and 2021, now costs a whopping 25,000 points.

That’s 67% more than the rate applicable just two years ago and a 52% increase practically overnight.

Indeed it will now set you back the same number of Avios points to fly from Singapore to Bangkok in Business Class as it will on the higher distance zone Singapore to Hong Kong flight, with the latter harmonised to a 25,000 point level in an apparent new 651 – 2,000 mile ‘band’.

Singapore to Bangkok in Cathay Pacific Business Class was a good Avios redemption at 16,500 points (15,000 points until mid-2019) , but not anymore at 25,000 miles! (Photo: MainlyMiles)

JAL flights in Business Class covering the same distance zone, including Fukuoka to Sapporo and Hong Kong to Tokyo, increase to a slightly lower 24,000 points rate, still a large increase on the shorter flights.

Redemption rates on longer flights of 2,001 miles or greater appear to be unchanged for these airlines.

Asia Miles is now better for Cathay flights

For our readers based in Singapore, Avios was often a good alternative to Asia Miles when redeeming Cathay Pacific flights to Bangkok or Hong Kong, requiring fewer points and also representing a saving on the KrisFlyer award rate for Singapore Airlines flights.

This devaluation means the Avios award rates now mostly match those of Asia Miles on these routes, also meaning KrisFlyer offers a cheaper Business Class redemption option to and from Bangkok.

Avios vs. others from Singapore

Route Avios
(CX)
Asia Miles
(CX)
KrisFlyer
(SQ)
Singapore – Bangkok
(Economy)
9,000
10,000
10,000 12,500
Singapore – Bangkok
(Business)
16,500
25,000
25,000
21,500
Singapore – Hong Kong
(Economy)
11,000
10,000
15,000
Singapore – Hong Kong
(Business)
22,000
25,000
25,000
30,500

As you can see there is no longer any benefit to redeeming Avios on these Cathay Pacific routes from Singapore, since they now mostly match the Asia Miles rate, and the latter programme opens up more award space to its own members than it does to partners.

The intra-Japan ‘sweet spot’

Avios points were a great way to redeem domestic (and shorter international) Japan Airlines flights, with 4,500 points previously needed on routes up to 650 miles like Tokyo to Osaka and 7,500 points on 651 – 1,150 mile journeys like Fukuoka to Sapporo, with little or no taxes to pay.

Unfortunately these rates got hiked to 6,000 points and 9,000 points respectively in the Avios 2019 partner devaluation, but what we’re seeing this time is an increase to 7,500 points and 10,000 points.

Redeeming JAL domestic Economy Class flights using Avios isn’t the ‘sweet spot’ it once was

That pretty much kills off the ‘sweet spot’ on these flights, though it does still come in better than redeeming KrisFlyer miles on ANA, at 12,500 miles on one-way domestic Japan flights in Economy Class, and may therefore still make sense if there is Avios award space with JAL on particularly expensive days.

Is there still any value in Avios?

There’s no doubt that this sudden devaluation of Avios points on shorter Cathay Pacific and JAL flights has dented the attractiveness of this frequent flyer currency in this part of the world, but there are still some decent redemption options with other oneworld carriers.

Here’s a few examples where we’d still aim to use Avios points:

  • Japan Airlines Economy SIN-HND 20,750 Avios (KrisFlyer 25,000 miles)
  • Malaysia Airlines Economy SIN-KUL 6,000 Avios (KrisFlyer 7,500 miles)
  • Malaysia Airlines Business SIN-KUL 12,500 Avios (KrisFlyer 19,000 miles)
  • Qantas Economy SIN-PER 13,000 Avios (KrisFlyer 20,000 miles)
  • Qantas Economy SIN-SYD/MEL/BNE 20,750 Avios (KrisFlyer 28,000 miles)
  • Qantas Economy SYD-PER 13,000 Avios (KrisFlyer VA 20,000 miles)
  • Sri Lankan Economy SIN-CMB 11,000 Avios (KrisFlyer 18,500 miles)

Intra-Europe flights on Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling are also good value using Avios points, almost always coming in cheaper than using KrisFlyer miles to fly on Star Alliance carriers like Lufthansa.

Therefore if you still have some Avios – don’t despair. Remember that Avios points remain valid for 36 months (3 years) and your entire balance gets a fresh 3-year validity period whenever you earn or redeem at least one point (activity based).


 

 

Summary

Avios points have been a great way to redeem short-haul intra-Asia flights, even in Economy Class at times, plus there is the option to transfer credit card points from American Express and Citi cards in Singapore into the programme.

This apparent devaluation is bad news for most of our readers redeeming Avios points on Cathay Pacific flights and on those great intra-Japan routings, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that this one is potentially a glitch and will revert to the previous rates in due course.

Otherwise, there are still some other ways to get good value from Avios points, so not all is lost.

(Cover Photo: Edwin Leong)

2 comments

  1. Avios goes downhill really fast. Most left is economy redemption….waiting for the new Alaska Mileage Plan redemption chart.

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