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Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles loyalty program is an unsung hero, especially among Oneworld alliance programs. There’s a lot of value within the program both for award tickets on Cathay Pacific and on partner-operated flights. It’s fairly easy to earn enough Asia Miles for great redemptions through American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and SPG point transfers, as well as by holding the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature Card from Synchrony Bank.

The card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 60,000 miles, broken down to 35,000 miles after spending $2,500 in the first 90 days and 25,000 miles when you spend an additional $7,500 within the first 12 months of account opening. With a generous bonus available, assuming you can spend the full $10,000 in a year, it’s worth looking at how to maximize those 60,000 miles in the program.

Asia Miles Basics

We did a full run-down of everything you need to know about the Asia Miles program, so be sure to refresh your memory on the various partners, award charts and routing rules. It’s definitely not the easiest or most intuitive loyalty program.

There are two basic award redemption strategies to focus on: standard awards and Oneworld multi-carrier awards.

Standard Award Chart

This chart applies to your itinerary any time you’re flying a single carrier, whether it’s Cathay Pacific or one partner. It also applies if you’re flying two carriers when one of the two is Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon. These awards allow 2 stopovers (one is the destination), 2 transfers (connections) or 1 open jaw, unless you’re flying exclusively on Air China or Iberia, which allow no stopovers or open jaws.

Asia Miles works differently than most distance-based programs when it comes to calculating which award zone an itinerary will price into. For a simple round-trip itinerary with no stopover or open jaw, your “distance in actual miles” is based only on your one-way distance. Your award price will be the economy, business or first-class price listed for the length or your one-way distance, not the cumulative total distance of your itinerary. Example: Philadelphia (PHL) to Venice (VCE) is 4,248 miles in length, costing 45,000 miles one-way in business and 80,000 miles round-trip in business, based on Zone C.

Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart

This chart applies to itineraries that have two partner airlines not including Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon, or three or more Oneworld carriers including Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon. These tickets allow a maximum of 5 stopovers (one is the destination), 2 transfers and 2 open jaws at either origin, en route or turnaround point, subject to airline partners’ terms and conditions.

Hurdles to Maximizing Asia Miles

Asia Miles is a unique program that has overly complicated routing rules, one-off partner rules like no stopovers or open jaws on Air China and Iberia and poor language used for terms and conditions making it difficult to know what is and is not allowed — all of which is compounded by call center agents who, in my experience, are uninformed, poorly trained and unaware of how to find partner award space or even which airlines are partners. The call center hold time is routinely 45+ minutes, at which point you may be met with a phone agent who tells you something like American Airlines doesn’t operate flights between Atlanta and Dallas. That’s a tough pill to swallow after an hour on hold.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The often overlooked Asia Miles online booking engine is great for many situations, and if you do get a competent phone agent, you can book very valuable award itineraries. One word of caution for the online engine: Make sure to click through all the way to the final checkout page to get the actual miles required — the initial calendar may give you the wrong price.

Let’s look at some top ways to maximize the 60,000 miles from the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature Card.

Best Ways to Use 60,000 Asia Miles

Flights 2,500 Miles Or Less in Distance

Business-class tickets in Zone B of the standard award chart cost 50,000 miles round-trip. This cost applies to itineraries where the one-way distance is between 1,201 and 2,500 miles. Any destination within the highlighted 2,500-mile circle from Cathay’s hub in Hong Kong is eligible for this price:

The 6.5-hour flight from Hong Kong to the Maldives is included in this range, a flight regularly priced at ~$3,800, giving you 7.6 cents per mile. Tokyo, New Delhi and Mumbai are also great redemptions for round-trip business in this zone to or from Hong Kong.

Remember the standard award chart applies to any single-carrier award ticket, including partners. This means any American Airlines itinerary with a one-way distance between 1,201-2,500 miles will also be 50,000 miles round-trip, and a stopover is allowed. Atlanta – Dallas – Seattle is 2,392 miles one-way, meaning the itinerary round-trip in domestic first class would be 50,000 Asia Miles.

This is the same price American would charge, except here you can have a stopover in Dallas whereas American does not allow stopovers. There are almost endless American itineraries you can complete in the US, Canada and Mexico that come in under 2,500 miles one-way and would allow a stopover in American hubs along the way.

New York-Vancouver Round-Trip 

Cathay’s popular fifth-freedom route clocks in at 2,449 miles one-way, making it fall just within Zone B on the standard award chart. The flight, which has availability in business on Cathay’s 777-300ER almost every day, will cost 30,000 miles one-way or 50,000 miles and ~$84 round-trip.

One-Way Business to Europe With a Stopover

Award tickets that qualify for the standard award chart and are between 2,501 and 5,000 miles in length cost 45,000 miles one-way in business. Like Alaska Mileage Plan, Asia Miles allows stopovers on one-way awards. This means one-way flights from all points east of Texas in the US to dozens of destinations in Europe are bookable for 45,000 miles one-way in business class, and you can complete a stopover in Europe as long as your additional leg does not make the one way itinerary exceed 5,000 miles.

The following partners are bookable for one-way business-class flights from the US to Europe for 45,000 miles one-way:

  • American Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Aer Lingus
  • Austrian Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Lufthansa
  • Swiss

There’s also great news when it comes to the typical fuel surcharges on British Airways flights: They can be 50% less with Asia Miles.

For Atlanta to London on the British Airways nonstop flight, American charges 57,500 miles and $506.40

Asia Miles, on the other hand, charges just 45,000 miles and $266 for the same flight:

In addition, you can stopover and see London and add an additional British Airways segment to Europe for no additional Asia Miles as long as it does not cause the entire itinerary to exceed 5,000 miles in length. The possibilities for this with Lufthansa are also phenomenal: Lufthansa business class from the US to Frankfurt or Munich, a stopover seeing those cities and then continuing to another destination all for 45,000 miles is wonderful.

Bottom Line

60,000 miles is a terrific bonus from the Cathay Pacific Visa Signature Card, and there are plenty of itineraries that maximize those miles. 60,000 miles can also be a really great start to an even bigger Asia Miles account balance, if you can transfer American Express, Citi or SPG points into your account. Plus, the Oneworld multicarrier award chart, which allows more stopovers than standard awards, gives you potential for amazing around-the-world awards for a very reasonable amount of miles. Don’t overlook this program.

Featured photo by Frogman1484/Getty Images

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