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Since it launched in 2013, replacing ART HK, Art Basel Hong Kong has become one of the premier events in the art world calendar. This year’s public shows take place March 29 from 1pm – 9pm, March 30 from 1pm – 8pm and March 31 from 11am – 6pm at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Private viewings will be held on the 27th and 28th. Ticket prices start at $250 HKD (~$32 USD).
The exhibition will feature booths by 248 galleries representing 32 countries and territories around the globe. As is the standard, half the exhibition spaces will be taken by galleries from the Asia-Pacific region in an effort to showcase an in-depth cross-section of the region’s arts and historical diversity.
If you’re interested in attending this year, there are still ways to use your points and miles to get to Hong Kong and book into one of the city’s many hotels so you can save money while enjoying the art on display. Here’s a look at award availability across the three major airline alliances and beyond, plus a snapshot of award nights still open at hotels in order to help you strategize your visit.
Before we jump in, if you don’t have enough miles to book one of these options, we have seen airfares to Hong Kong dip below $400 recently, so keep your eye out for deals.
Hong Kong’s largest airline, Cathay Pacific, is part of the Oneworld alliance and operates the most flights between the US and Hong Kong International Airport (HKG). What’s more, there are some fantastic ways to redeem various kinds of points and miles for award flights on the carrier.
Cathay Pacific currently flies to Hong Kong from six US cities and two in Canada:
- Boston (BOS)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- New York (JFK)
- Newark (EWR)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Toronto (YYZ)
- Vancouver (YVR)
The airline offers several flights daily to Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, specifically. If you fly out of San Francisco, Newark or Vancouver, you might have the option to fly on one of Cathay’s new A350s. Eventually (but not in time for Art Basel Hong Kong), the airline will fly an A350-1000 to Washington Dulles (IAD).
To search for awards on Cathay, especially since we’re just talking about a limited date range, your best bet is likely the British Airways website. Though it is a bit clunky, BA’s site remains one of the best ways to see Oneworld award inventory. Plug in your dates and desired class of service, and your results should pop up.
Based on a quick search, I found the following awards available. For now, availability to and from Los Angeles on Cathay Pacific is limited to premium economy on March 26-27 and April 1-2, but out of San Francisco, there are several economy awards on March 26, including on the A350.
And plenty of awards in economy and business class on March 27, including on CX 851 aboard the A350.
There are only premium economy awards on the return on April 1-2, though space might open up in other cabins closer to the dates of Art Basel. Specifically, I do expect first-class awards to open up to and from Los Angeles closer to these dates, so if you’re interested, keep checking BA every day to see what becomes available.
If you’re coming from New York, you have plenty of options already. There are awards in economy, premium economy and business on most of the flights from JFK on March 26, plus economy and premium economy from Newark.
There’s even a first-class award open that day from JFK on the night flight.
There’s space in premium economy from Newark and in all classes on from JFK on the 27th, too.
Right now, I could only find economy and premium economy awards on the return on April 1.
But also some business class availability on April 2.
Like I said, I think we’ll see more awards open up in various classes as we get closer in.
Once you have found the award you want on BA, your next step is deciding what type of points or miles to use in order to book an award. Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Redemption rates tend to be high, though you get a slight discount for booking round-trip awards rather than one-ways.
For example, Los Angeles to Hong Kong is 7,260 miles. Per the program rules awards would require 40,000 miles each way, or 60,000 miles round-trip in economy, 48,000/72,000 in premium economy, 70,000/120,000 in business class and 105,000/180,000 in first class. Not a bargain, but it’s actually better than using American AAdvantage miles in some cases.
The AAdvantage program is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest. American requires 37,500 miles each way in economy, 70,000 in business class or 110,000 in first class. A better option might be Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles, if you have them. The program is also a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest. It requires just 30,000 miles each way in economy, 35,000 in premium economy, 50,000 in business class and 70,000 in first — a relative steal!
In order to use either American or Alaska miles, you’ll have to find the award space on BritishAirways.com and then call into their respective awards desks in order to book. They should be willing to waive the phone booking fee since these awards are not bookable online.
Apart from Cathay, American Airlines flies to Hong Kong from both Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX). Here’s what I found award-wise around the dates of Art Basel. There are economy seats available on both routes March 26 for just 32,500 miles one-way…
And the same on March 27.
There’s business-class availability from Dallas on March 27 for 70,000 miles.
And in first class on both routes on March 26 and 27 for 110,000 miles.
On the return, I found economy awards to LAX on April 1.
And to both LAX and DFW on April 2.
I did not find any business-class availability on April 1 or 2, but there were awards to LAX on April 3.
And in first class to both LAX and DFW on April 3.
Due to recent changes to their partnership, Alaska now charges the same amount of miles as American charges for its own flights for saver-level awards (but no off-peak awards anymore). Here is a sample of the award availability and redemption levels on March 26.
There are some decent options with SkyTeam carriers…usually. Unfortunately, though, award availability seems to be extremely limited for the dates of Art Basel Hong Kong.
Delta flies nonstop to Hong Kong from just one US gateway: Seattle (SEA). Here’s the award availability I found on Delta’s own flights around the dates of Art Basel Hong Kong.
As you can see, a round-trip economy award is going for just 56,000 miles around these dates, which is a great deal. Here’s a sample round-trip nonstop award from Seattle.
If you go from another city, like Detroit in this example, the round-trip award redemption seems to jump to 70,000 miles.
However, the lowest business-class redemptions I could find were 174,000 miles round-trip, which is not astronomical these days, at 87,000 miles each way, but is still not that tempting.
In terms of partners, your two best bets within SkyTeam are usually China Airlines and Korean Air. China Airlines flies from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco to Hong Kong via its hub in Taipei (TPE). Korean Air flies to the following airports:
- Atlanta (ATL)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW)
- Las Vegas (LAS)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- New York (JFK)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Washington Dulles (IAD)
Now for the bad news. Korean Air used to have phenomenal award availability, but it seems to have dried up lately. Here’s a look at award availability just from Los Angeles to Seoul and back in March/April…there’s practically none at all.
What’s interesting is that I did find this mixed-cabin award from San Francisco to Hong Kong via Seoul using Alaska miles, but with the long-hauls in economy, you’d still be redeeming at business-class levels for a total of 120,000 miles round-trip, so I’d avoid this option.
Likewise, I did not find any awards on China Airlines even to its hub in Taipei. I’d normally suggest considering Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles, too, since the program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. But I found no awards on multiple searches from both the East and West Coast around the dates of Art Basel, so that would appear to be a bust as well.
Star Alliance has 28 member airlines, so you have myriad options both for flying to Hong Kong and for using your miles to do so. To make it simpler, let’s just stick to the major mileage options.
United MileagePlus is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest at a 2:1 ratio. The program will charge you 40,000 miles each way in economy and 75,000 in business class on its own flights. On partner flights, economy awards are the same, though business class costs 90,000 miles each way and first class is 140,000 miles.
Aeroplan, the mileage program of Air Canada, is transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. According to its chart, the redemption levels for awards from North America to Hong Kong are 37,500 for economy, 62,500 in premium economy, 75,000 in business and 105,000 in first. The one thing you have to look out for are high taxes and surcharges on Air Canada’s own flights and on some partners like ANA, though not United.
Speaking of ANA, your best option might just be All Nippon Airways’ Mileage Club, which is a transfer partner of Amex and SPG. The program offers some phenomenal values when it comes to mileage redemptions, though you do have to book round-trip awards on partners. The program has an award chart that is sort of like a distance-region hybrid. Let’s say you’re coming from Los Angeles or San Francisco. The program would charge you 60,000 in economy, 95,000 in business class and 180,000 in first class, though beware of sometimes-high taxes and surcharges.
My go-to sites for searching Star Alliance award availability are United.com and Aeroplan.com. To keep things simple, I just searched United.com to see what’s available at the moment, and then you can decide for yourself what kind of miles to redeem for these tickets.
United flies to Hong Kong from Chicago, Newark and San Francisco. The only one of these routes that features the new Polaris business-class seats (not just amenities) is the one from SFO. Crazily enough, when I searched, there were economy and business-class awards available on this flight on March 27, just in time for Art Basel.
As you can see, there were also economy awards available on Singapore Airlines’ flight from SFO to HKG that day as well as via Taipei on EVA on March 26…
And on a strange combination of Asiana and Ethiopian Airlines via Seoul Incheon (ICN) in economy, business and first class on March 26.
Unfortunately, there were no saver-level awards back on United or its partners as far as I could see on April 1, but on April 2, at least there are some saver awards on partners like Air India, Asiana and Air China.
There’s availability on United’s own Newark flight in both economy and business on March 27.
Though all the returns I found were circuitous like this one.
You can get from Toronto to Hong Kong via Seoul in economy or business on a combo of Air Canada and Asiana on March 27.
I didn’t find great options available on the return April 1 and 2. But on April 3, you can at least get back on Air Canada and/or Lufthansa.
You’ll usually find awards on ANA via Tokyo Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND) as well, but none seemed to come up in my searches around these dates.
One special route I wanted to mention is on Singapore Airlines from San Francisco to Hong Kong, which the airline flies en route to Singapore, as you saw in the example above. This might be worth looking into if you live in the Bay Area or can get yourself there because the airline uses a 777-300ER with some of its latest first- and business-class seats. The aircraft also has a premium economy section in addition to economy.
Singapore tends to release more award seats to members of its own KrisFlyer mileage program, which is a transfer partner of Amex, Chase, Citi and SPG, so there are plenty of ways to top up your account. Each way, the airline will charge you 33,000, 60,000, 82,000 or 92,000 miles for economy, premium economy, business or first, respectively from the West Coast. From the East Coast, those numbers are 48,000, 85,000, 100,000 and 135,000.
Here’s the same economy award I found on United for 66,000 miles and $100 in taxes/fees.
A business-class award is not available right now, but at least you can waitlist for it.
Finally, don’t forget about Hong Kong Airlines. The upstart rival to Cathay now flies to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver (with future service launching to and JFK). While the only type of miles you can currently redeem for award flights on the airline are its own Fortune Wings program, we might see some cheap fares pop up between now and Art Basel.
Hong Kong is home to nearly 300 hotels, so you have choices galore. Here’s the award availability at some of the most popular points properties around town.
For Hilton Honors members, your top choice is probably the Conrad Hong Kong. Rooms there are going for $344 per night, or 80,000 points.
The Grand Hyatt is a great choice, as it’s just a short walk from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Room rates there are $605 per night.
The only award availability I found was for Club Rooms at 33,000 points per night, but standard room availability might open up closer in.
The Renaissance Hong Kong is quite close to the Exhibition Centre but seems to be sold out over the event dates. The nearby JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, meanwhile, has rooms available starting at 45,000 points per night, or $551.
Across Victoria Harbour, the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong has rooms available for 70,000 points per night, or $522.
Also on Kowloon, the InterContinental Hong Kong has easy access to the Star Ferry to Wan Chai, where the convention center is. Rooms there are available for $325 per night…
Or 50,000 points plus $15.
Finally, to round out our Kowloon trio, the W Hong Kong has rooms available for $333 per night.
The good news is that there are award nights available starting at 20,000 points.
Those are not all the choices by any means, but at least it’s a brief snapshot to show that award availability is still open at properties across the city, so it’s not too late to make your bookings.
Art Basel Hong Kong has become one of the world’s most significant art events, and its exhibitions are open not just to those who work in the art world, but to visitors and casual enthusiasts as well. Though it takes place in just a few weeks, there are still lots of ways to use points and miles to travel to Hong Kong and stay there for a few days to see the art on display. Just be sure to weigh your options and choose the best strategy for maximizing both your miles and your time.
Featured image by Yongyuan Dai/Getty Images.
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