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Sweet Spot Sunday: Saving big on British Airways surcharges with Asia Miles

Oct. 10, 2021
8 min read
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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.

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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.

Related: Fly business class to Europe with no fuel surcharges

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

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.

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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.

Related: The best ways to travel to Europe using points and miles

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of asiamiles.com)

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."

(Screenshot courtesy of asiamiles.com)

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of asiamiles.com)

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of asiamiles.com)

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 80,000 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 80,000 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 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from 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 offers for new cardholders. Just research which card has the best benefits, points-earning structure and annual fee for you.

Related: Why are transferable points worth more than other rewards?

Bottom line

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.

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.

Featured image by (Photo by EQRoy / Shutterstock.com)
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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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023