Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

How to Book Cheap Cathay and Emirates Business Class Awards

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

I don’t often recommend buying airline miles because frequent flyer programs often charge around 3-3.5 cents per mile, a value that can be hard to recoup on most awards.

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 9.02.08 AM

However, Alaska Airlines is currently offering a promotion now through April 3 where you can get up to a 40% bonus on purchased miles that might be worth it in some cases. As with most promotions on purchased miles, this one is tiered in the following way:

  • Buy 5,000-9,000 miles: 10% bonus
  • Buy 10,000-19,000 miles: 20% bonus
  • Buy 20,000-39,000 miles: 30% bonus
  • Buy 40,000 miles: 40% bonus

Miles normally cost 2.75 cents each ($27.50 per 1,000) plus a 7.5% excise tax. If you max out this bonus and purchase 40,000 miles, you will end up with 56,000 miles for a total cost of $1,100. That breaks down to 1.96 cents per mile.

You can purchase as many miles as you like, just in transactions limited to 40,000 miles each. These transactions are processed by Points.com, so you will not earn any airline or travel bonuses by using a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex Premier Rewards Gold.

Here’s why purchasing miles at that price might make sense: Alaska partners with some great airlines including Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Air France and Emirates, so you have some amazing award opportunities at your fingertips.

For instance, you could use your Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and beyond. Alaska will require 50,000 miles to fly business class each way from North America to Hong Kong on Cathay, and 70,000 miles each way in first class.

Why not redeem your miles for Cathay's stellar business class?
Why not redeem your miles for Cathay’s stellar business class?

Here is a sample award search (using the British Airways site) for award flights from Los Angeles-Hong Kong in September. As you can see, two of Cathay’s 4 flights that day have business class award availability.

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 9.21.51 AM

Purchasing the 50,000 miles necessary to book one of these would cost you $982.15 during this promo. If you were to book the same ticket with Cathay, it would cost you $3,927.80.

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 9.24.35 AM

That represents a potentially huge savings if you really plan to maximize your miles, and don’t forget, you can do so by adding in a stopover in Hong Kong and continuing on to another part of the world like Australia, India or the Middle East from there for only slightly more miles than simply getting to Hong Kong thanks to Alaska’s flexible routing rules and generous award charts.

You can also use your Alaska miles on Emirates business class awards.
You can also use your Alaska miles on Emirates business class awards.

Cathay isn’t the only carrier where this might make sense, though. Alaska is also partners with Emirates and there is often a decent amount of award availability in business class (first class is now scarce). Flying from North America to Dubai requires 72,500 miles in each direction as you can see from this award search in June:

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 9.12.01 AM

Purchasing those miles through this promo would cost you $1,424. However, if you were to book this flight through Emirates and just pay for it, you’re looking at a ticket that is nearly $10,000!

Screen shot 2015-03-25 at 9.14.14 AM

Obviously, this is an extreme example, but there are a lot of creative ways to maximize the miles you purchase on premium partner redemptions. Many do involve a fair outlay of cash, as you can see from above, but compared to the price of the tickets you can redeem those miles for, you are still coming out way ahead.

Do you plan to purchase miles with this promo? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Hat tip: One Mile at a Time.

Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express

Apply Now
  • Receive 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases. Terms and limitations apply.
  • No matter where you're traveling, when you use your Premier Rewards Gold Card there are no foreign transaction fees from American Express.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline.
  • There is a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $195.
  • Terms and limitations apply. See Rates & Fees
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Balance Transfer Fee Credit Rating
N/A Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195 See Terms Excellent Credit