Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Top 8 Ways to Fly to Asia in Business Class with Miles

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.

Winter is a great time to visit Asia thanks to milder temperatures, fewer crowds and great fares, not to mention decent award availability. As a follow-up to his post on the Top 5 Ways to Fly to Asia in First Class, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen rounds up some of the best business-class cabins you can fly to Asia in at the moment.

While many travelers tend to think of business- and first-class awards to Europe as the holy grail, those who turn toward Asia have some delightful surprises in store. Not only do Asian carriers like Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines boast some of the industry’s best business-class cabins, but US carriers like American and Delta are also hurrying to catch up.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of potential business-class experiences, and it’s not merely a measure of the best seats. I took other factors into consideration — primarily award availability. For example, you (and I) might think American Airlines’ new 777-300ER business-class seat slightly edges out Cathay’s older version. But American only flies it on its route from Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG) and there are rarely award seats available, so it doesn’t make this list for the moment.

However, there are still plenty of great choices to cross the Pacific in style, and here are some of the best.

1. ANA

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
ANA offers a top-notch business-class product aboard its 777-300ERs. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

This Japanese carrier is a member of Star Alliance and flies to the following US airports:

  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • San Jose (SJC)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Washington DC (IAD)

You’ll find its newest business-class aboard most of its 777-300ERs (not the 777-200) and on one version each of the 787-9 and the 787-8, where there are three classes: business, premium economy and economy. Look for seat maps with the following staggered seating in the business-class cabin:

ANA seat map

There are between 52-68 of these seats per plane on the 777. Each has 62 inches of pitch, is 21 inches wide, and is configured in a 1-2-1 pattern. The configuration on the 787 is the same, except some middle rows have just a single seat in them rather than two, and there are just 46 seats with a pitch of 59 inches and width of 19.4 inches.

When passengers want to sleep, their seat can be “made up” into a lie-flat bed with a Nishikawa Sangyo Air Cyclone bed pad that’s designed to keep passengers from getting too hot or too cold, and to prevent them from slipping down on the seat. Passengers are also given comforters and pillows by the same designer.

ANA's business-class seats are in a staggered configuration. Photo courtesy of ANA.
ANA’s business-class seats are in a staggered configuration. Image courtesy of ANA.

Each seat also has an in-flight entertainment screen that’s 17 inches wide, plus universal adapters, USB ports and iPod connections to keep passengers powered up.

The menus in business class are overseen by the airline’s panel of 26 “Connoisseurs” — a cadre of outside chefs with their own restaurants in Japan and abroad, along with the airline’s chefs and beverage specialists such as wine and sake sommeliers — and guests are treated to a choice of Japanese or international/Western menus.

ANA's menus are created by a panel of 26 "Connoisseurs."
ANA’s menus are created by a panel of 26 “Connoisseurs.” Image courtesy of ANA.

Amenity kits contain L’Occitane products including lip balm, face serum, and the other incidentals such as an eye mask, tissues, earplugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste.

ANA actually tends to open up a decent amount of award availability — not only at the last minute, but even a few months in advance. I regularly find seats on its flights from New York JFK to Narita like these two:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.45.02 AM

As well as on its San Francisco — Narita route:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.45.58 AM

And even sometimes on its Houston — Narita route:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.46.51 AM

Don’t forget to look at less-obvious routes like Seattle and San Jose, either.

Using miles: You can definitely use ANA’s own miles by transferring points from American Express Membership Rewards (if you have a premium card like the Platinum Card from American Express and the American Premier Rewards Gold Card) into your ANA mileage account. A round-trip business-class award from the US to Japan will cost you 85,000 miles, but taxes and fees can range up to almost $1,000. Instead, you might want to use United miles (also a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Ink Plus Business Card) at a rate of 75,000 miles in each direction and $5.60 in taxes and fees.

2. Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific has long had one of the best business-class cabins around.
Cathay Pacific has long had one of the best business-class cabins around. Image courtesy of Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific is widely regarded as one of the world’s best airlines, thanks to great service, an up-to-date fleet of planes that include the new 777-300ERs and some of the best business- and first-class seats in the skies. You can read my recent review of Cathay Pacific business class here, but here are the other basics.

Its North American destinations include:

  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Toronto (YYZ)
  • Vancouver (YVR)

Cathay was among the first airlines (after US Airways, if you can believe it) to adopt the popular reverse-herringbone Cirrus style of seat manufactured by Zodiac, and it introduced the model on its planes in 2011.

Cathay's seats were among the first of the popular reverse-herringbone style out there. Photo by Eric Rosen.
Cathay’s seats were among the first of the popular reverse-herringbone style out there. Image by Eric Rosen.

Seats are laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration and each reclines to a full 82 inches, and is 21 inches wide. Each seat also has a 15-inch in-flight entertainment screen. Its current amenity kits were designed by Hong-Kong brand Seventy Eight Percent and contain a toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask, booties and ear plugs, plus three Jurlique skin products.

Cathay's current amenity kits contain Jurlique products.
Cathay’s current amenity kits contain Jurlique products.

The food and beverage service aren’t quite as high-ranking as some of the others up here, but you certainly won’t go hungry with multi-course meals and dozens of wine and spirit choices!

In terms of award availability, I’ve found that you have to look either very far in advance or be willing to accept the uncertainty of waiting until just a few days out to book your awards when the airline tends to open up a lot of seats. I use British Airways’ site to search for awards since AA.com does not display Cathay award availability.

My best luck has been on the route from Hong Kong to Los Angeles (there are up to four flights a day):

CX LAX HKG

As well as to/from San Francisco, on which there are sometimes three flights a day:

CX SFO HKG

The route to/from Chicago also usually has some awards available:

CX ORD HKG

And Boston sometimes opens up as well:

CX BOS HKG

Using miles: Though Cathay is a transfer partner of both Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards, if you have a card like the Citi ThankYou Premier Card or the Citi Prestige, the redemption rates are not terribly attractive. Your best bet is probably to redeem either 50,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles or 55,000 American miles each way, though that American number is going to go up to 70,000 each way come March 2016.

3. China Airlines

China Airlines' Premium Business Class aboard their new 777-300ERs
China Airlines’ Premium Business Class aboard the carrier’s new 777-300ERs

China Airlines is a SkyTeam carrier based in Taipei, Taiwan. It made headlines last year when it unveiled its all-new 777-300ERs. The airline flies its new planes twice daily from its hub in Taipei (TPE) to Los Angeles (LAX) and once daily each to San Francisco (SFO) and New York (JFK).

The new Premium Business Class aboard these planes is laid out in a reverse herringbone 1-2-1 configuration with 78-inch lie-flat seats, 18-inch IFE screens and Bulgari amenity kits. Passengers also have access to the “Sky Lounge” galley bar with a tea-tasting area, a coffee area and a bar with spirits and tapas.

The business-class Sky Lounge aboard China Airlines' new 777-300ER. Photo courtesy of China Airlines.
The business-class Sky Lounge aboard China Airlines’ new 777-300ER. Image courtesy of China Airlines.

I use Delta.com to search for award availability, and have found some awards on the SFO and JFK routes, but much more from Los Angeles to Taipei:

LAX TPE CI

Using miles: If you want to book this flight as an award, you’re probably best off using Delta miles. Delta will charge you 70,000 each way and about $160 in taxes and fees. For more, check out this post, Using Miles to Fly China Airlines’ new 777-300ER.

4. China Eastern

China Eastern is getting 20 new 777-300ERs. Photo courtesy of Boeing.
China Eastern is getting 20 new 777-300ERs. Image courtesy of Boeing.

This Shanghai-based carrier is a member of SkyTeam. It flies to the following airports in North America:

  • Honolulu (HNL)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Toronto (YYZ)
  • Vancouver (YVR)

Like China Airlines, China Eastern is beginning to take delivery of a fleet of new 777-300ERs. The carrier put them into service on its route to New York-JFK in November, and it plans to begin flying it to Los Angeles in February and Toronto in March.

China Eastern's new business-class cabin. Photo courtesy of China Eastern.
China Eastern’s new business-class cabin. Image courtesy of China Eastern.

The new planes have 52 seats in two business-class cabins. The first is a small two-row cabin right behind first class, and the second contains the rest of business class behind the lavatories and galley. Each has 75 inches of pitch and 23.6 inches of width and reclines to a full length of 78 inches.

A side view of China Eastern's new seats. Photo courtesy of China Eastern.
A side view of China Eastern’s new seats. Image courtesy of China Eastern.

They are arranged in the ever-more-popular reverse-herringbone configuration of 1-2-1, with seats on the sides facing toward the exterior, and those in the center angled toward each other. Each has a 16-inch IFE screen, in-seat power and Wi-Fi access for a fee.

The good news is that there seems to be plenty of award availability on the New York route over the winter:

JFK PVG Feb Mar

And you can actually find awards on both China Eastern flights on many days like this one:

JFK PVG MU

The LA route has a bit tighter award availability, but it still exists (and you can always opt for Delta instead):

LAX PVG Delta MU

Using miles: You can check out this post for how to book China Eastern awards on Delta.com, but the gist of it is that your best option is to use Delta SkyMiles at a rate of 70,000 each way.

5. EVA Air

Taiwan-based carrier EVA Air offers a great business-class product.
Taiwan-based carrier EVA Air offers a great business-class product.

EVA Air is a member of Star Alliance and its hub is in Taipei, Taiwan. It flies to the following North American destinations:

  • Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Toronto (YYZ)
  • Vancouver (YVR)
EVA Air's stylish Royal Laurel cabin. Photo courtesy of EVA Air.
EVA Air’s stylish Royal Laurel cabin. Image courtesy of EVA Air.

You can read TPG’s full review of the airline’s flagship Royal Laurel business class, which the airline offers on its 777-300ERs. Like many of the other products on this list, these seats are in a 1-2-1 reverse-herringbone configuration. Each has 78 inches of pitch and reclines to 81 inches, and is 26 inches wide. They also offer 15.4-inch IFE touchscreens as well as AV-input outlets, USB and iPod ports and universal power ports.

EVA’s amenity kits come in collectible Rimowa cases and contain products by Thai spa brand Harnn, including lip balm and moisturizer. Meal service generally features several options including a healthy menu, a multi-course Western-style menu and an Asian menu with Taiwanese classics.

From my experience, I tend to see the most EVA award space on its flights to/from Los Angeles, like the following:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.48.28 AM

But you can often find close-in availability at its other destinations, including Houston:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 9.50.15 AM

Using miles: Most folks will probably use United miles to book these awards at a steep rate of 80,000 miles in each direction. The good news is that taxes and fees outside the 21-day close-in booking window tend to be less than $100. Remember that United is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards.

6. Japan Airlines

JAL's 777s and some 787s feature its newest business class.
JAL’s 777s and some 787s feature its newest business class. Image by Zach Honig.

Japan Airlines (JAL) is Japan’s other main carrier, and is based mostly out of Tokyo Narita (NRT). From there, it flies to:

  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas (DFW)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Diego (SAN)
  • San Francisco (SFO to Tokyo Haneda HND)
  • Vancouver (YVR)

The airline has installed a new Sky Suite business class on its 777-300ERs and certain 787s (the ones that are flying to Dallas and New York at the moment). You can read TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig’s review of his experience in the Sky Suite on a 777 flight from Tokyo to New York, but here are the details.

Thanks to a staggered configuration, all seats have direct aisle access.
Thanks to a staggered configuration, all seats have direct aisle access. Image by Zach Honig.

The 777 has a mini-cabin of just one row (row 5) and then a main business-class cabin with six rows. Each row is configured in a 2-3-2 pattern, which doesn’t sound all that nice, but the seats are staggered in such a way that each has direct aisle access. Seats have power and USB ports, liquid-crystal touch-panel controls and 23-inch IFE monitors. They are 25.5 inches wide and have 74 inches of pitch. In bed mode, the seats are padded with airweave mattress pads for extra comfort.

The Japanese menu starts with nine appetizers! Photo by Zach Honig.
The Japanese menu starts with nine appetizers. Image by Zach Honig.

Passengers are given Tumi amenity kits with Tumi eye masks and otherwise generic products. The menus include Western and Japanese options. The Japanese menu usually starts with a selection of nine chilled small bites and a hot main course of fish, along with some sides like miso soup and steamed rice.

I generally tend to search for JAL award availability through British Airways, since Qantas’ site tends to be a bit wonky when looking for JAL flights, and American’s site does not display JAL availability.

While it can be difficult to find a lot of awards between two weeks out to far in the future, I find that a lot of seats tend to open up at the last minute — up to seven per flight!

Here are some recent awards I found on routes from New York-JFK:

JL JFK NRT 787 777

Chicago:

JL ORD NRT 777

San Francisco to Haneda:

JL SFO HND 777

Using miles: JAL is part of Oneworld, so you can use your American Airlines miles to fly it. AA will charge you just 50,000 miles to fly business class each way until its award chart changes in March, at which point, awards will be 60,000 miles each way.

7. Korean Air

Korean Air
Korean Air makes this list thanks to fantastic award availability. Image courtesy of Eric Salard via Flickr.

Korean Air flies from Seoul to the following US airports:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW)
  • Honolulu (HNL)
  • Houston (IAH)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • Washington, D.C. (IAD)
Korean Air's nicest business-class cabins are aboard its A380s. Photo courtesy of Korean Air.
Korean Air’s nicest business-class cabins (Prestige Class) are aboard its A380s. Image courtesy of Korean Air.

In terms of business-class cabins, you want to look for those aboard its A380, 747-8 and certain 777 aircraft. For now, let’s just look at the ones aboard its A380s.

You can check out my review of the experience, but as a reminder, the cabin on the A380 takes up the plane’s upper deck. The 94 seats are all forward-facing in a 2-2-2 configuration, and have two USB ports, universal adapter plugs and 15.4-inch IFE screens. They have 74 inches of pitch and are 21.6 inches wide.

Meal options include Korean and Western menus and a selection of European and US wines and spirits. In between meals, passengers can gravitate to the back of the plane for cocktails and canapés in the Celestial Bar & Lounge.

Business-class passengers can hang out in the A380's Celestial Bar. Photo courtesy of Korean Air.
Business-class passengers can hang out in the A380’s Celestial Bar. Image courtesy of Korean Air.

Amenity kits are stocked with DAVI cosmetics, including face and hand cream, eye gel and lip balm, along with other standard inclusions like toothbrushes and toothpaste, eye masks and earplugs.

While Korean Air has blackout dates on its awards that affect partner redemptions, the good news is that its SkyPass program is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, and the airline tends to open up tons of award space to its own members. You can find award seats open on most days on its flights to/from Los Angeles:

Korean Air LAX ICN

And it’s even pretty decent on its routes to New York:

Korean Air JFK ICN

Using miles: Delta will charge you 70,000 miles each way to fly Korean in business class from the US to Seoul, but Korean will only require 62,500 miles, so you’re much better off redeeming those if you have Chase Ultimate Rewards to transfer to the airline’s SkyPass program. For helpful hints, check out this post on booking Korean Air awards.

8. Singapore Airlines

Singapore's A380 is the airline's only aircraft to offer Suites class. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Business-class seats on Singapore’s A380 are among the best in the world. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Singapore flies from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita and from San Francisco to both Hong Kong and Seoul Incheon. It flies its flagship A380 on the LA route and 777-300ERs from San Francisco.

The business-class seats both look the same, but vary just a little bit. All are in a spacious 1-2-1 configuration, though those aboard the A380 are 30 inches wide with 55 inches of pitch. The airline is putting a new business class on its new 777-300ERs and plans to retrofit its old ones. The seat dimensions are similar, but the finishes are all new. If you want to tell if you’re on one of the new planes, the first-class cabin will have just four seats in a single row. The new business-class seats are 30 inches wide with 51 inches of pitch, and 28 inches wide with 55 inches of pitch on the older version (this one tends to be on the Seoul route).

Singapore's business class offers loads of personal space. Image courtesy of Singapore Airlines.
Singapore’s business class offers loads of personal space. Image courtesy of Singapore Airlines.

Business passengers can take advantage of the airline’s “Book the Cook” service and pre-order from a menu of more than 60 dishes. Singapore maintains a list of menu options for each destination, but to give you an idea, flights to Hong Kong are currently offering options like braised abalone with mushrooms in an oyster sauce with flat noodles, lobster wonton soup and pan-fried lamb rack with mustard-rosemary sauce.

Singapore Airlines employs a panel of celebrity chefs to create its menus.
Singapore Airlines lets business-class passengers pre-order meals created by its panel of celebrity chefs. Image courtesy of Singapore Airlines.

First the bad news: Awards on the Los Angeles route on which the airline flies its flagship A380 can be almost non-existent, though they do open up at the last minute. You can always waitlist an award and keep your fingers crossed.

Tight, but not impossible, as this last-minute Los Angeles — Tokyo award I found demonstrates:

SIN LAX NRT

I find there’s usually more advanced availability on the San Francisco — Hong Kong route:

SIN SFO HKG

And the San Francisco — Seoul route has the best award availability of all:

SIN SFO ICN

Using miles: Because Singapore opens up more award space to members of its own KrisFlyer program — and you get a 15% discount on miles for booking online — your best bet for booking these awards is to use Singapore’s own KrisFlyer program. You might not have any KrisFlyer miles yet, but remember that KrisFlyer is a 1:1 transfer partner of all four major points programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Flying from LA — Tokyo and San Francisco — Seoul will end up costing you 65,875 miles each way, and San Francisco — Hong Kong will be 63,750.

Bottom Line

Clearly, there’s no shortage of options for traveling to Asia in business class, no matter which destination you have in mind. If you’re looking to book any of these flights as awards, keep in mind that having a card that earns transferrable points — such as American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points — can help you get to your redemption faster.

What’s your favorite business-class seat to Asia? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named a 'Best Credit Card' for Travel Rewards by MONEY Magazine
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit