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Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly business class to Asia for just 50,000 miles

July 10, 2022
6 min read
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Editor's Note

This post has been updated with the most recent information. 

Editor's note: This post has been updated with the most recent information.


Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are some of the most valuable on the market. They typically clock in at 1.8 cents apiece in TPG’s monthly valuations, which is much higher than most other airline miles. The reason for this is not necessarily the Alaska flights that you can redeem for, but rather the program’s generous partner award charts.

Today we'll focus our attention on a sweet spot for booking award flights to Asia. Specifically, we’re going to discuss how you can fly Cathay Pacific business class to Asia for just 50,000 miles each way.

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Although some countries in Asia — including Hong Kong — still have strict entry requirements, knowing these tricks can save you lots of points and miles when it’s time to book. Thankfully, most passengers can once again transit Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) to another destination.

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Why it’s special

Business-class flights to Asia can get pricey. Cash rates usually start at $2,000 each way, while most loyalty programs charge at least 70,000 miles each way for award tickets. So, being able to book these flights for just 50,000 miles each way through Alaska Mileage Plan is a great deal.

Plus, It’s the same rate regardless of your departure city in the U.S. and destination in Asia. Most other programs, on the other hand, price awards either by distance or zones.

Aside from a low rate, another perk of booking through Alaska is that the program allows you to enjoy a free stopover in Hong Kong, including on one-way tickets. Again, this isn't practical for many travelers right now, but it's worth keeping in mind once the country completely reopens for tourism.

Cathay Pacific is known to have one of the best business-class products around. It consistently offers excellent service, delicious food and comfortable seats. Plus, the lounges are fantastic, especially in Hong Kong.

Related: Round-trip business class to Asia for 75K miles

Cathay Pacific A350-900 business class. (Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)

How to book this award

Now for the not-so-fun part: actually booking these awards. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific awards are not bookable through Alaska’s website. You’ll have to find award space through another Oneworld search engine first and then call to book your ticket. But don’t worry, the process isn’t as difficult as it might seem.

Step 1: Find award availability

Some of the best websites for searching Oneworld award availability include American Airlines, British Airways and Qantas.

I like American's website as it allows you to search with a calendar view that shows all available flights. The inventory you see on these sites should match what Alaska can access. Unfortunately, you can’t search for Cathay Pacific award space on ExpertFlyer (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures).

If you're using American's website to find award space, start by entering your desired itinerary on the homepage and clicking the "Redeem miles" box.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

You can view all available flights at the center of the screen. Keep an eye out for flights operated by Cathay Pacific and note the dates and flight numbers. You can access the calendar view by clicking the "Calendar" button at the top of the screen.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

If you plan on taking advantage of the free stopover benefit, make sure to search for all of your flights separately. Also, keep in mind that Alaska doesn’t let you mix partners on an award ticket, though you can add a connecting flight operated by Alaska to get to an international gateway.

Step 2: Call Alaska to book

Once you find a flight you'd like to book, call Alaska Mileage Plan at 800-654-5669 to book. To expedite the process, it’s best to have your desired flight numbers and departure times at hand when calling. Also, note the department’s hours of operation before calling.

Alaska’s phone agents tend to be quick and knowledgeable. Since these awards aren’t bookable online, they should also be able to waive the $15 phone booking fee. Unfortunately, there’s no way around the $12.50 partner award booking fee.

All in all, the entire call should take 15 minutes or less.

Related: How to quickly reach an airline customer service agent

How to earn miles for this award

Aside from being some of the most valuable, Alaska miles are also among the hardest to get.

The easiest way to quickly earn a large chunk of Alaska miles is by signing up for one of Alaska’s cobranded credit cards. For instance, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card currently has a limited time offer of 50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Of course, you can also earn Alaska miles through flying, booking rental cars and hotels through travel partners, using the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping portal and taking advantage of Mileage Plan Dining.

Related: How to earn miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

The only transfer options come from hotel programs. You can transfer points from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. Based on our tests, these transfers take around four days to process.

Related: When does it make sense to transfer Marriott points to airlines?

Bottom line

If you’re looking to fly to Asia in style then redeeming Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific is a terrific option. Not only does Alaska charge fewer miles than most other Oneworld airlines, but you can also add a free stopover in both directions. Although these awards can’t be booked online, it’s still fairly easy to book them over the phone. The only hard part is earning the Alaska miles you need.

Additional reporting by Andrew Kunesh.

Updated on 9/7/22

Featured image by (Photo by Wallace Cotton/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees