Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly business class to Asia for just 50,000 miles — and even add a free stopover

Aug 8, 2021

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Sweet Spot Sunday is a weekly series highlighting the best-value award redemptions across loyalty programs.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are undeniably 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’re going to 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. Plus, you’ll get to add a free stopover in Hong Kong (HKG), even on one-way tickets. Although much of Asia remains off-limits for Americans, knowing these tricks can save you lots of points and miles once it’s time to book.

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In This Post

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. It’s the same rate regardless of your departure city in the U.S. — whether you’re flying from the East Coast or West Coast — 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 (HKG), including on one-way tickets. This way, you can spend a few nights and explore a new city before continuing on to another destination in Asia — essentially getting two free vacations for the price of one award.

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
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 personally like American and Qantas in particular as they allow 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).

AA Cathay Pacific award calendar
(Screenshot courtesy of 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 availability for the flights you want, call Alaska Mileage Plan at 800-654-5669 to book. To expedite the process, it’s best to have the 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, though. 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 is currently offering 40,000 bonus miles, a $100 statement credit, and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) when you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. Note that the companion fare (from $121) is also an annual benefit rewarded each year on your account anniversary.

If you’re a business owner, you can pick up the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card and get 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s CompanionFare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. (There’s a $50 annual fee for the company plus $25 annual fee per card).

Both the personal and business cards earn 3x miles on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases.

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

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature
(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.

Again, the easiest way to boost your points balance is with Marriott Bonvoy credit cards. Here’s an overview of the current offers available for new Marriott Bonvoy cardholders:

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.

For rates and fees of the Amex Marriott Brilliant card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Marriott Business card, click here.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Updated on 5/4/22.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.