While COVID-19 has almost completely shut down international travel for the time being, there will one day be a time when it is safe and enjoyable to travel once again. If you find yourself daydreaming about the snow monkeys in Japan, the hawker centers of Singapore, the ancient history that abounds around Asia, or just a really long flight in a comfortable seat with free-flowing champagne, now may be a good time to plan the points to collect to make that trip happen when travel opens back up. In this post, you’ll find the best values for travel to and from Asia using miles collected from transferable currencies. We have previously covered the best ways to Europe, Africa, the Caribbean / Central America, and Australia / New Zealand / the South Pacific, so see those posts for other regions.
If you want to use airline miles, it’s great to have transferable points. Transferable point programs let you transfer your points to any of a number of airline programs. This is great because it gives you the freedom to book many different flights through many different methods, some of which are strikingly cheaper than others. If you’re not familiar with transferable points programs, please check out our guides:
|Amex Membership Rewards Complete Guide||Capital One “Rewards miles” Complete Guide||Chase Ultimate Rewards Complete Guide|
|Citi ThankYou Rewards Complete Guide||Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide|
Best ways to Asia using miles (premium cabins)
The deals below are sorted alphabetically. Remember that the lowest price isn’t the entire picture: be sure to consider which airlines levy fuel surcharges and the ease of amassing the miles for your chosen award. See each description for where to search, how to book, and which partners you can use to transfer. It is always best to confirm availability before transferring miles to be sure that the award you seek can be booked with the miles you intend.
Air Canada Aeroplan
- The short story: Aeroplan offers decent pricing for awards to and from Asia, but the real value in the program is now the ability to add a stopover on a one-way award for 5,000 additional miles, making it possible to combine two destinations on one award. The Pacific Zone includes most of Eastern Asia and also Australia and New Zealand. India and Central Asia are in the Atlantic Zone. Lap infants are only 2,500 miles.
- Miles required: The Pacific Zone ranges from 55K-105K one-way in business class (plus 5K miles for a stopover), which can be a particularly good value for awards combining Asia and the South Pacific in one itinerary. The Atlantic Zone ranges from 60K-100K (though getting to destinations classified as Asia likely requires 85K or 100K miles each way before stopover).
- How to find awards: Search for available space at Aeroplan.com (you’ll need to create a free Aeroplan frequent flyer account to search)
- How to book awards: Book online at Aeroplan.com. Can also book via phone. Lap infants must be added to your reservation over the phone.
- No fuel surcharges on: Aeroplan no longer charges fuel surcharges.
- Transfer from: Amex, Bilt, Capital One, Marriott
Alaska Mileage Plan
- The short story: Alaska has excellent rates to Asia on several nice partners and you can include a stopover for free on a one-way award.
- Miles required: Each partner has a separate chart, but the best values are business class on Cathay Pacific or Hainan for 50K each way, business class on Japan Airlines for 60K/65K each way, or first class on Cathay Pacific for 70K each way. Korean Air business class for 105K RT to North Asia or 120K RT to Southeast Asia is also a very good value, but those awards must be booked round trip.
- How to find awards: Japan Airlines, Hainan, and Korean award space shows up at AlaskaAir.com. Search BritishAirways.com for Cathay Pacific space, but be aware that Alaska may have access to one fewer seat than shown by British Airways.
- How to book awards: Book online for Japan Airlines, Hainan, or Korean (use multi-city for a stopover) or book over the phone for Cathay Pacific
- Key warnings: Finding premium cabin space on any of these partners can be a challenge and may require a constant eye on availability.
- Transfer from: Marriott
ANA Mileage Club
- The short story: ANA offers fantastic rates for business class between the US and Japan on its own flights and offers similarly terrific value for partner awards between the US and Asia. Awards must be round trip, but a stopover is allowed.
- Miles required: 75K round trip in business class between North America and Japan in low season, 85K regular season, 90K RT in high season for flights on ANA. Fly ANA to most of Asia, including the Indian Subcontinent, for 100K or less round trip in low season. Star Alliance awards are just 95K miles RT to China/Hong Kong/South Korea/Philippines/Taiwan or 136K miles RT to the rest of Asia. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but can be quite reasonable in some cases, especially now that ANA has removed fuel surcharges on many/most of its own flights.
- How to find awards: Search for available space at ANA’s website. (you’ll need to create a free ANA Mileage Club account and log in to search for space)
- How to book awards: Book online at ANA’s website.
- Key warnings: You must book round trip. High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, others have none or low fuel surcharges. The ANA website interface is not particularly user-friendly or modern-looking, so it may take some time to get used to the search features. Low and regular season pricing only applies to itineraries entirely on ANA. Star Alliance awards or those mixing ANA and Star Alliance carriers price at high season rates. Note that transfers to ANA are not instant. Transfers typically take 2-3 days from Amex Membership Rewards or a week or more from Marriott, so there is risk of award space disappearing while you wait for a transfer.
- No fuel surcharges on: ANA (many/most routes, though a few still have surcharges) United (no surcharges to Europe; unfortunately, they do have charges to Asia), Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, Avianca, Copa, Ethiopian, TAP Air Portugal, or Singapore
- Low fuel surcharges on: LOT Polish
- Moderate surcharges on: Asiana, LOT Polish, Turkish (higher than the others but low by comparison to some)
- Transfer from: Amex
- The short story: Avianca LifeMiles offers decent pricing to Asia with no fuel surcharges. Business class awards may be semi-hackable by finding the right partners and/or adding a long economy class leg.
- Miles required: From 75K each way in business or 90K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Note that there is some variance (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart). Also see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less for ways to fly first class for even fewer miles).
- How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account)
- How to book awards: Book online at LifeMiles.com. Can also book via email. Phone bookings are known to be a hassle but also possible.
- Key warnings: Availability at LifeMiles.com does not always match what you’ll find at United.com. Phone agents generally do not see better availability than what is shown at LifeMiles.com. Always check the LifeMiles site before transferring points. Keep in mind that the mandatory $25 booking fee (added to all bookings) is the same whether one-way or round trip, so book round trip to save.
- Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
- The short story: Cathay Pacific has reasonable pricing for business and first class on long itineraries, but it can get quite a bit better if you're able to pair the long-haul flight with a long leg in a lower class. See: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles mixed cabin award pricing. First class for less.
- Miles required: 85K miles each way in business class or 125K each way in first class on itineraries over 7500 miles (less for some itineraries from the West Coast and less yet with mixed-cabin pricing as shown above)
- How to find awards: Search for available space at AsiaMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Asia Miles frequent flyer account to search)
- How to book awards: Book online at AsiaMiles.com. Can also book via phone.
- Key warnings: Fuel surcharges are moderate depending on route and origin.
- Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
- The short story: EVA offers fairly average pricing at 75K or 80K each way from the US to Asia in business class, but offers what is widely regarded as one of the best business class products in the sky. The best value is booking round trip since EVA allows 2 stopovers (one each way) on a round trip (max 6 segments, no stopover on a one-way).
- Miles required: 75K / 80K each way from North America to Asia (80K from Chicago, New York, Houston, or Toronto)
- How to find awards: Search EVAAir.com
- How to book awards: Book simple awards online at EVAAir.com. Must call and book over the phone for stopovers.
- Key warnings: Star Alliance pricing is higher (87K / 97K each way according to Travel is Free). Best use is for EVA flights since they release more award space to their own members.
- Transfer from: Capital One, Citi
Qantas Frequent Flyer
- The short story: Qantas offers good partner pricing for El Al flights to Israel.
- Miles required: 78K points in business class on El Al between Tel Aviv and Boston, Newark, and New York JFK. 92K points in business between Tel Aviv and Chicago, Miami. 104K points in business between Tel Aviv and Los Angeles or San Francisco. With a transfer bonus, these rates can get better. No fuel surcharges for travel on El Al.
- How to find awards: Search for available space at Qantas.com (you’ll need to create a free Qantas Frequent Flyer account)
- How to book awards: Book online at Qantas.com.
- Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Citi, Marriott
- The short story: While award prices are high, Singapore KrisFlyer has much better availability in premium cabins for their own members. They also offer a stopover on a one-way award.
- Miles required: 95K / 99K from the West Coast / East Coast to Singapore in business class or 130K / 132K in first class (see the full award chart here).
- How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com (Note: Do not log in — logging in may show you expanded availability based on your credit card or elite status that is not available for partner bookings) or SingaporeAir.com
- How to book awards: Book online at SingaporeAir.com or over the phone with Singapore KrisFlyer. Can waitlist as many options as you’d like as long as you have enough miles to book the award being waitlisted.
- Key warnings: Note that transfers to Singapore KrisFlyer are not instant. Transfers typically take 12-24 hours (from all major transferable currencies) and Singapore does not hold award tickets. Waitlisted itineraries that do not clear by 14 days prior to departure will get canceled.
- Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Marriott
United Mileage Plus
- The short story: United business class for 70K each way and allows the mixing of partners and cabins, which adds more possible awards given its number of partners in Asia.
- Miles required: 70K miles each way in business class.
- How to find awards: Search for available space at United.com
- How to book awards: Book online at United.com
- Key warnings: United has eliminated its award chart, so we may eventually see many different prices for award tickets. The $75 close-in booking fee for flights departing within the next 21 days reduces the value of United miles for bookings near departure.
- Transfer from: Chase, Marriott
Virgin Atlantic (for ANA)
- The short story: Virgin Atlantic offers incredible value for ANA first class between the US and Japan (and decent value for business class).
- Miles required: 110K / 120K round trip for first class between the US West Coast / US East Coast and Japan or 90K / 95K miles in business class
- How to find awards: Search United.com to find ANA partner award space.
- How to book awards: Call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at 1 800 365 9500.
- Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so this award is best for direct flights. They also add fuel surcharges for ANA flights, though total taxes and fees are still quite reasonable (about $270 round trip at the time of writing).
- Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Citi, Marriott
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (for Delta)
- The short story: Virgin Atlantic used to offer very competitive pricing for Delta business class between the US and Asia. Unfortunately, in early 2021 Virgin Atlantic moved to a distance-based award chart which has increased prices dramatically. They may still offer better pricing than Delta does and in some cases you may find six or more seats available in business class, so this can be a useful option for those looking to fly many passengers (though it is pricey and availability is inconsistent and unpredictable). Taxes leaving the US are just $5.60 one way.
- Miles required: From 105K miles each way in business class from the mainland US. 80K each way in business class from Hawaii to Northern Asia (Honolulu to Tokyo, Nagoya, or Osaka). See the distance bands here and use a tool like gcmap.com to calculate distance between airports.
- How to find awards: Search VirginAtlantic.com to find Delta award space.
- How to book awards: Book online at VirginAtlantic.com or call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at 1 800 365 9500.
- Key warnings: Virgin Atlantic charges each segment separately, so this award is best for direct flights.
- Transfer from: Amex, Bilt, Chase, Citi, Marriott
How to get the miles
The following chart shows the available transferable points programs for each of the above airline frequent flyer programs:
|Rewards Program||Amex Transfer Ratio||Chase Transfer Ratio||Citi Transfer Ratio||Marriott Transfer Ratio||Capital One Transfer Ratio||Brex Transfer Ratio|
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1 to 1||1 to 1||60K to 25K||1 to 1|
|Alaska MileagePlan||60K to 25K|
|ANA Mileage Club||1 to 1||60K to 25K|
|Avianca LifeMiles||1 to 1||1 to 1||60K to 25K||1 to 1||1 to 1|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1 to 1||1 to 1||60K to 25K||1 to 1||1 to 1|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||1 to 1||1000 to 750|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||1 to 1||1 to 1||60K to 25K||1 to 1||1 to 1|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1 to 1||1 to 1||1 to 1||60K to 25K||1 to 1||1 to 1|
|United MileagePlus||1 to 1||60K to 27.5K|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1 to 1||1 to 1||1 to 1||60K to 25K||1 to 1|