If you’re searching for Cathay Pacific award flights via the Asia Miles website, there’s one thing you’ll no longer see in the search results – the option to waitlist on selected services with the airline, for cases where an immediate standard award redemption is not available.
Asia Miles announced to members on 21st October 2021 that it was removing the feature, effective the following day (22nd October 2021), so from now on you’ll either be able to redeem miles on your preferred flight… or you won’t, without any option to waitlist.
The policy applies to all members, regardless of status level in Cathay’s Marco Polo Club scheme.
Waitlisting using Asia Miles was only ever available for Cathay Pacific flights, but not for partner airlines.
Why waitlisting on Cathay Pacific was useful
While the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer waitlist system is regularly flawed, not clearing waitlisted bookings before making the same award available for immediate redemption to all without any notification to those on the waitlist, or approving waitlisted bookings out of date / status sequence, Cathay Pacific’s system always seemed much more solid.
Asia Miles waitlisted awards on Cathay Pacific:
- would clear immediately and apparently automatically once award space was released, and
- were automatically confirmed for you (removed from general award inventory) for around 4 weeks.
It was also possible to waitlist with only 70% of the required miles in your account (you could then top up with a points transfer once the award was held aside for you), while for KrisFlyer you need 100% of the required miles to waitlist (though the miles are not actually deducted when you do so).
Historically (pre-COVID), additional award space on Cathay Pacific was predictably offered with relative certainty in the weeks and months leading up to departure date, for flights with commercial space still available.
We’ve even seen lots of Business Class seats (up to nine sometimes) suddenly appear just days before departure in the past, even on popular routes like Hong Kong to London, presumably as the airline’s revenue management system predicted it would no longer sell the remaining seats in that cabin.
The beauty of the waitlist system meant you didn’t have to keep checking every day to see if this had happened.
The problem with the SIA waitlist system is that you still need to check regularly because, as we know, it’s sometimes happy to bypass your waitlist and just release awards to all and sundry – without telling you anything! That never seemed to be an issue with Cathay Pacific in our experience.
Existing waitlists remain intact
If you’re currently waitlisted for a Cathay Pacific award redemption, which means you must have done so on or before 21st October 2021, there’s no need to worry.
“Waitlist bookings will no longer be available from 22 October 2021. Current waitlist bookings are still valid and will be confirmed if redemption seats become available.”Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific clearly wants to drive customers who would have waitlisted for an award redemption to its new “Miles Plus Cash” option, which sadly offers terrible value of around 0.66-0.79 Singapore cents per mile in most cases.
“You can book your tickets with Miles Plus Cash on the Cathay Pacific website. This gives you instant booking confirmation, and more freedom and flexibility when you are looking for your ideal flights.”Asia Miles
This definitely isn’t the way to be using your Asia Miles, so you’re better off continuing to monitor standard award availability for your preferred flights, since regularly comes up closer to the departure date on many Cathay flights.
Asia Miles already removed some award types
When the “Miles Plus Cash” option first appeared earlier this year, Asia Miles also removed two of its award categories for Cathay Pacific redemptions – choice and tailored.
Tailored was always a poor option, but option was an acceptable compromise for many Asia Miles members when booking busier flights, as an acceptable trade-off between cost and increased availability, especially when travelling during holiday periods.
This was therefore seen by many as a devaluation of sorts – also pushing members to use the dreadful ‘Miles Plus Cash’ option.
Upgrade and companion awards
Some good news for the Asia Miles waitlist system – it’s not going away completely.
You can still waitlist for an upgrade award, where you hold a confirmed ticket on Cathay Pacific in Economy, Premium Economy or Business Class and wish to redeem miles to travel in the next higher cabin (or move from Economy to Business Class on aircraft without a Premium Economy cabin).Pro Tip: This can be particularly useful for upgrading on work trips – for example when your company books you in Premium Economy from Hong Kong to London, but you’re happy to part with 25,000 of your own personal Asia Miles to travel in Business Class.
Waitlists are also still available for companion ticket awards, allowing you to bring someone else along in First Class or Business Class when you purchase a cash ticket for yourself.
It’s only available for round-trip bookings (e.g. HKG-FRA-HKG) on Cathay Pacific in an eligible fare code, and gives you a 25% discount compared to the miles you (or your companion) would usually pay to redeem a standard award on the same flight.
Is Asia Miles good value?
Yes, if you’re redeeming in the award “sweet spots”!
From Singapore you can redeem to six of Cathay Pacific’s regular European destinations in Business Class for 65,000 Asia Miles one-way – nearly 30% less than SIA charges for a non-stop option (92,000 miles).
The airline also prices its mixed class awards at a discount, based on how far you have to fly in a lower cabin class to enjoy a higher one, meaning routings like Singapore – Frankfurt (Business Class followed First Class) come in at a reduced rate compared to the award chart.
That’s highly competitive compared to KrisFlyer’s 125,000 miles saver rate in this cabin, though Cathay does levy a fuel surcharge on award tickets, so be prepared to part with an extra S$150 each way for that.
Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club merging
The removal of waitlisting, plus the axing of ‘choice’ and ‘tailored’ awards and the introduction of a ‘Miles Plus Cash’ option, aren’t the only changes happening to Asia Miles in the coming months.
In early 2022 we should see a rebranded loyalty scheme, combining Asia Miles (Cathay’s frequent flyer currency) and Marco Polo Club (Cathay’s loyalty scheme) into a single programme, with no name yet announced.
Your Asia Miles and club points will certainly be safe, since they will be carried over to the refreshed programme, but exactly what other changes may be part of the revamp remains unclear.
Given the latest changes, we’re frankly not too hopeful that Asia Miles will represent the valuable scheme it once did for our Singapore-based readers once it emerges with a new name (and perhaps new award chart structure) early next year.
Waitlisting on Cathay Pacific flights using Asia Miles was a generous and convenient option, saving the need to regularly check award space since the airline would contact you if a redemption became available.
It was always a better version of SIA’s waitlist system which continues to be, shall we say, “unreliable”.
With the function also not offered to members of other frequent flyer programmes, it does seem like Cathay Pacific is shunning its own members here – who will now have to regularly check award space for their preferred flights.
The deeper motive is likely to be the airline’s desire to push its latest ‘Miles Plus Cash’ redemption option – great for Cathay but terrible for the Asia Miles member.
What do these gradual changes mean for the Asia Miles scheme going forward? Watch this space… all should become clear early next year.
(Cover Photo: Luke Lai)