Sweet Spot Sunday: Saving big on British Airways surcharges with Asia Miles
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Sweet Spot Sunday is a weekly series highlighting the best-value award redemptions across loyalty programs.
British Airways Executive Club can be incredibly useful for booking Oneworld award flights, particularly on short- and medium-haul routes. However, if you are booking award flights operated by British Airways itself, you will incur some of the highest fuel surcharges levied by any airline. The extra costs for transatlantic awards typically start around $200 one-way for coach and $700 for business class.
What’s more, you’ll even face these steep surcharges when booking British Airways flights using miles from most partners, including American Airlines AAdvantage, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Iberia Plus. But there’s one program that charges far lower surcharvges than the rest: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.
Why it’s special
British Airways does a fairly good job of releasing award availability on transatlantic routes. The only problem? It tacks on hefty fuel surcharges to its awards. Those are in addition to the U.K.’s already high Air Passenger Duty fees, which are mandatory for itineraries beginning in the U.K.
The fees can range from $400 to $1,800 on a round-trip ticket, so your “free” flight can quickly become quite expensive. Most partners pass on these same surcharges when booking award tickets. However, with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, the fees can be roughly 50% less than booking with any other program, which is quite significant.
Asia Miles charges more miles for transatlantic awards than British Airways, but the savings on the surcharges can make up for it, especially if you’re sitting on a lot of transferable points.
The program uses a distance-based award chart – but just to give you an idea, a nonstop one-way award from New York-JFK to London (LHR) costs 27,000 miles in economy, 43,000 in premium economy, 61,000 in business class and 87,000 in first class. Meanwhile, an award from Los Angeles (LAX) to London Heathrow will set you back 40,000 miles in economy, 50,000 in premium economy, 75,000 in business class and 120,000 in first class.
You can check how much an award will cost by entering your itinerary in the award calculator tool on the Asia Miles website.
How to book this award
Only a handful of partner airlines are bookable through the Asia Miles website. Luckily, British Airways is one of them, so the process of booking these awards is fairly simple.
Step 1: Log in to an Asia Miles account
You’ll need to be signed in to an Asia Miles account before you can search for an award ticket. If you don’t have an account yet, you can create one fairly easily. You can also sign in using various social media accounts.
Step 2: Search for award availability
Once signed in, head to the award redemption page and enter your search criteria.
You can also access this page by going to the “Flight awards” page via the “Redeem awards” tab and clicking the “Redeem now” button under “Other flight awards.”
Step 3: Pick your flight
You’ll then be shown all of the flight options available for your preferred date, as well as +/- three days. You can search different cabins by toggling their respective buttons at the top of the screen. If there’s no button for a specific cabin, that means that there’s no award availability.
Step 4: Confirm and pay
Once you click on the flight you’d like to book, you’ll be shown the taxes and fees for the award. The site shows the fees in Hong Kong dollars by default but there’s a currency converter you can use to see the price in U.S. dollars.
When you’re ready to book, click “next” to start the checkout process. Note that you’ll only be able to proceed if you have enough miles in your account. Be sure to pay the surcharges with a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express or Chase Sapphire Reserve so that you’re protected if something goes wrong during your trip.
As you can see, although you’d need 1,000 fewer British Airways Avios for the same flight, the surcharges would be over $500 more!
How to earn miles for this award
What makes this sweet spot so useful is that Asia Miles are extremely easy to earn. You can transfer points to Asia Miles at a 1:1 ratio from both American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards. However, transfer times may vary. Based on our experiences, transfers from Citi are usually instant, while those from American Express can take up to 48 hours. You can also transfer Capital One miles to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles on a 1:1 basis now.
If you’re new to the points and miles world, you can quickly earn a bunch of Amex or Citi points, in particular, by applying for cards such as the following:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases within the first six months of card membership. Earn 5 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly or on American Express Travel on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar; 5 points per dollar on prepaid hotel bookings with American Express Travel; 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases. ($695 annual fee; see rates and fees)
- American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards Points after you use your new card to make $4,000 in purchases in your first six months of card membership. Earn 4 points per dollar at restaurants, 4 points per dollar (on up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1 per dollar) at U.S. supermarkets, 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with the airline or on American Express Travel and 1 point per dollar on other eligible purchases. ($250 annual fee; see rates and fees)
- Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 ThankYou bonus points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. Earn 3 points per dollar on air travel, hotels and at restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets; and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. ($95 annual fee)
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases. ($95 annual fee)
While Cathay Pacific does offer its own cobranded credit card, the American Express and Citi cards often earn more rewards on many purchases. The Amex and Citi cards also offer much more generous welcome bonuses for new cardholders. Just research which card has the best benefits, points-earning structure and annual fee for you.
You’ll always need to pay fuel surcharges on award flights operated by British Airways. However, you can often pay significantly lower fees by booking your awards through Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. You’ll likely end up using more miles, but if your ultimate goal is to pay as little out of pocket as possible, the cash savings will make up for it.
Featured photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock.com.
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