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, there are numerous ways to use points and miles to achieve your chosen goal. 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||Bilt Rewards 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 charges a relatively high price for many awards to/from Asia, but they offer the most partner airlines, thereby increasing the chances that you'll be able to put together an award that works for your trip. The real value in the program is 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. By contrast, India and Central Asia are in the Atlantic Zone. Lap infants are only 2,500 miles.
- Miles required: The Pacific Zone ranges from 55K-115K 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-110K (though getting to destinations classified as Asia likely requires 85K or 110K miles each way before stopover whether your Asian destination is classified in the Atlantic or Pacific zone).
- 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. A stopover can be booked online provided your itinerary has no more than 4 segments. More complex awards must be booked via phone (see Nick's 6-country 5-airline 5-day Aeroplan award and Aeroplan plans for future dream trips for more).
- No fuel surcharges on: Aeroplan no longer charges fuel surcharges.
- Transfer from: Amex, Bilt, Capital One, Chase, 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, though keep in mind that they ditched award charts in late 2022 and pricing will likely become more variable over time.
- Miles required: Award prices vary by partner. Historical values have been business class to/from Asia on Cathay Pacific or Hainan Airlines for 50K each way, business class on Japan Airlines for 60K/65K each way, or first class on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines for 70K each way. Korean Air business class for 105K RT to North Asia or 120K RT to Southeast Asia has also been a very good value, but awards on Korean must be booked round trip. Note that the old separate partner award charts are gone and the new chart introduces dynamic pricing, so awards may cost more or less than these figures. Finally, it's worth adding that Alaska has expanded award availability with Qatar Airways, but awards on Qatar come at a very high premium.
- How to find awards: Award space from most partners shows on the AlaskaAirlines.com website.
- How to book awards: Book online for many partners, though some awards (and more complicated routings) must be booked over the phone.
- Key warnings: Finding premium cabin space on any of these partners can be a challenge and may require a constant eye on availability. Alaska has changed its award charts without warning several times in recent years and no longer has set award pricing, making it harder to know what to expect and to plan for how many miles you'll need for an award.
- Transfer from: Marriott
American Airlines AAdvantage
- The short story: American charges a reasonable number of miles in business class between the US and Asia. Unlike Alaska Mileage Plan, American does not allow a stopover, but American Airlines miles can be quite easy to amass.
- Miles required: 60K miles each way in business class to Asia 1 (Korea or Japan) or 70K miles each way in business class to Asia 2 or the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent.
- How to find awards: Search for available space at AA.com.
- How to book awards: Book online at AA.com or over the phone.
- Key warnings: Finding space can be tough, but if you can find it this can be an excellent use of American Airlines miles.
- Transfer from: Bilt, Marriott Bonvoy
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 booked round trip, but a stopover and/or open jaw 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 round trip to China/Hong Kong/South Korea/Philippines/Taiwan or 136K miles round trip to the rest of Asia. Fuel surcharges are passed on, but some carriers serving Asia do not have any such surcharges. See the full award chart here.
- 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 both search and book round trip (it is easiest to find space using United.com or AirCanada.com and then enter dates with known space at ANA). High fuel surcharges are assessed by some carriers, including by ANA on its own flights, 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: United (no surcharges to Europe; unfortunately, they do have charges on some flights 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, Turkish
- Transfer from: Amex
- The short story: Avianca LifeMiles increased redemption rates in 2022, but business class awards may still be a good deal since they are semi-hackable by finding the right partners and/or adding a long economy class leg.
- Miles required: From 90K each way in business or 120K each way in first class, no fuel surcharges. Those prices are not very good, but note two things: first, there is sometimes variance by partner or city pair (See: The secret LifeMiles award chart); second, it is possible to pay less by combining a long-haul premium cabin flight with a long-haul economy class flight. See: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing: First class for less).
- How to find awards: Search for available space at LifeMiles.com (you’ll need to create a free Avianca LifeMiles frequent flyer account). Note that you may need to toggle between "Smart Search", "Star Alliance", and a specific airline in the drop-down menu above city pair to find availability.
- 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. In a pinch, you can try a manual booking, though that process is quite slow and is best used when you aren't concerned about award availability changing.
- 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 (and keep in mind the need to toggle between Smart Search, Star Alliance, and an individual airline when searching to see all availability). 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. Cathay also releases more availability to its own members than to partners.
- 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 Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One Miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy
- The short story: Etihad Guest offers excellent value for flying on American Airlines in premium cabins, using rates known by long-time hobbyists as AA's "old award chart" for its own flights, though AA is not known for releasing plentiful award space. Etihad also very good value for flying in business class from the West Coast on ANA or Asiana.
- Miles required: Pricing on American Airlines is 50K business class to Asia 1 (Japa/Korea) or 55K to Asia 2. First class is 62.5K Asia 1 / 67.5K Asia 2.There are no fuel surcharges for travel on American Airlines. Etihad uses distance-based award charts for ANA and Asiana. The sweet spot on ANA is Seattle to Tokyo for 54K miles in business class. On Asiana, you can fly from Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles to Seoul for 59K miles in business class. I believe that Etihad collects fuel surcharges on both ANA and Asiana, but those surcharges are known to be mild on Asiana (likely ~$100 one-way).
- How to find awards: Search for award space at United.com.
- How to book awards: Call Etihad Guest at 1-877-690-0767.
- Key warnings: Etihad phone agents have historically had trouble booking partner awards, though the new call center in Serbia appears to be quite competent. If your agent appears to be having trouble, you might want to HUCA (hang up, call again). Note also that Etihad Guest does add fuel surcharges. The best way to find the total in taxes & fuel surcharges is to check ITA Matrix.
- Transfer from: Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott
EVA Air Infinity MileageLands
- The short story: EVA's award chart features fairly average pricing at 75K or 80K each way from the US to Asia in business class, but EVA 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 on EVA (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 (87.5K / 97.5K each way). Best use is for EVA flights since they release more award space to their own members.
- Transfer from: Capital One Miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards
Qantas Frequent Flyer
- The short story: Qantas offers good partner pricing for El Al flights to Israel.
- Miles required: 90K points in business class on El Al between Tel Aviv and Boston, Newark, and New York JFK. 104.5L points in business between Tel Aviv and Miami. 119.2K points in business between Tel Aviv and Los Angeles. With a transfer bonus, these rates can get better. No fuel surcharges for travel on El Al. See the full award chart here.
- 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: 107K / 111.5K from the West Coast / East Coast to Singapore in business class or 146.5K / 148.5K 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 now instant from Amex Membership Rewards and typically take around 7 hours from Capital One and Chase (slightly longer from Citi). Waitlisted itineraries that do not clear by 14 days prior to departure will get canceled.
- Transfer from: Amex, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Marriott
Turkish Miles & Smiles
- The short story: Turkish offers very competitive Star Alliance business class award rates to various parts of Asia, which can be particularly attractive for one-way awards on partners that don't have extra surcharges.
- Miles required: 47K one-way to the Middle East, 52.5K one-way to Central Asia (Indian Subcontinent), or 67.5K one-way to what they dub the "Far East" (defined as Brunei, Cambodia, China (except Hong Kong and Macao), China Taipei, Hong Kong - SAR of China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam).
- How to find awards: Search for available space at united.com and call or email Turkish to book or go to turkishairlines.com, log in to your account, go to "Miles transactions" to find the Star Alliance booking tool and click "book now" to go to that search tool (not the tool on the home page at turkishairlines.com). Note that there may be bookable options that do not appear on the site (hence checking United and calling when necessary).
- How to book awards: Book online at turkishairlines.com using the instructions above or over the phone at 1-800-874-8875 or book via email
- Key warnings: Turkish is sometimes unable to see Star Alliance availability for no explicable reason. However, Turkish allows a hold for long enough for points to transfer. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you get your desired itinerary on hold via phone or email before transferring points. No fuel surcharges on Air Canada, most United routes, Avianca, or SAS. Low fuel surcharges on LOT Polish. Moderate surcharges on Turkish.
- Transfer from: Bilt Rewards, Capital One, Citi Thank You, Marriott Bonvoy
United Mileage Plus
- The short story: United charges 72.6K miles for business class on its own metal or 88K to 92K miles on partners. They allow the mixing of partners and cabins, which adds more possible awards given its number of partners in Asia.
- Miles required: 72.6K miles each way in business class on United metal.
- 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 see some variance in award prices between United and Star Alliance flights as well as a difference between close-in booking and farther than 30 days in advance.
- Transfer from: Chase Ultimate Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy
Virgin Atlantic (for ANA)
- The short story: Virgin Atlantic offers incredible value for ANA business class and while they devalued first class awards in March 2023, they still offer a very good value for first class between the US and Japan.
- Miles required: 72.5K / 85K one-way for first class between the US West Coast / US East Coast and Japan or 45K / 47.5K miles in business class
- How to find awards: Search United.com to find ANA partner award space. You may also be able to use SeatSpy on routes served by both United and ANA (see this post for more detail).
- 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, which as of 2023 are about $360 from the US to Japan or $450 from Japan to the US (or around $730 if booked as a round trip).
- Transfer from: Amex, Chase, Bilt, 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|
(and transfer time)
|Chase Transfer Ratio|
(and transfer time)
|Citi Transfer Ratio|
(and transfer time)
|Capital One Transfer Ratio|
(and transfer time)
|Bilt Transfer Ratio
(and transfer time)
|Air Canada Aeroplan||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (~1 Minute)|
|American AAdvantage||1 to 1 (1 Day)|
|ANA Mileage Club||1 to 1 (~1 day)|
|Avianca LifeMiles||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (Instant)|
|Cathay Pacific Asia Miles||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (4 to 5 days)||1 to 1 (~1 Minute)|
|Etihad Guest||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (~1 hour)||1 to 1 (Instant)|
|EVA Air Infinity MileageLands||1 to 1 (Instant)||1000 to 750 (~1 day)|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (~1 day)||1 to 1 (~1 day)|
|Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (~17 hours)||1 to 1 (~1 day)||1 to 1 (~7 hours)|
|Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles||1 to 1 (~1 day)||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (~1 Minute)|
|United MileagePlus||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (~1 Minute)|
|Virgin Atlantic Flying Club||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (Instant)||1 to 1 (Unknown)||1 to 1 (~1 Minute)|
Booking SQ is also available from Alaska website which is not listed in your article here. I booked SIN to SFO one-way business for 100k which I think is not that bad considering how difficult it is to find availability sometimes.
Great article with all possible ways listed. Would be great to have a table format for a quick view.
Thanks for your great work!
Any thoughts on what’s the best intra-asia flights mileage program?
AA (for Oneworld) and EVA Air (for Star Alliance) have solid pricing for intra-Asia awards.
This article is such a joke and waste of time. There is no availability in premium class tom Asia with the low saver fares. Seats to Asia are listing at 200k+ one way. So don’t waste your time or worse move any points over. They occasional unicorn shows up but be ready to travel solo because you will never find more than one seat and be ready to fly at the worst times of the year. Been looking 11 months out since 2022 and nothing
Someone needs a hug
Pure click bait. Nothing new here.
Saver availability changes all the time, but just last week we booked 5 seats on one flight in ANA first class for 55K Virgin Atlantic miles each one way (as did many readers):
Then this week, we booked 5 seats on one flight in business class on Japan Airlines for 60K American Airlines miles each one way:
Just the other day I was looking and seeing sporadic availability on EVA via Star Alliance carriers (and they release more space to their own members). It was widely reported recently that Singapore Airlines had as many as 8 seats available some days in business class between Singapore and the US.
Air Canada partners with so many different airlines that there are frequently options to get to/from Asia if you don’t mind a circuitous route (which can be fun given their unique partners).
You definitely can’t find saver availability on every route all the time, but if you keep hunting things out, it’s out there to be had!
I am hopeful that Hainan Air will return to Seattle one day and I can once again use Alaska to fly to PEK in business for 40k miles
Why is Korean Air not here? That seems like a huge oversight. Wait. Korean Air has a humongous devaluation beginning on April 1. North America to Thailand one way goes from 95K to 195K in F. That’s more than DOUBLE. Nevermind….
Quick thing – it looks like Chase is missing as a transfer partner option for Aeroplan.
You don’t seem to have updated the United section from pre-pandemic times. 72K on their own metal??? And thanks for marginalizing AA. That keeps the riff-raff out, and leaves fabulous awards for fans of AA miles (which aren’t really hard to get unless you’re running on referrals).
Yup. That’s the saver price. Take a look at almost any route to Asia in February (close-in) and you’ll find saver awards on at least some dates for that price.
“pm Asiana, you can fly from Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles to Seoul for 59K miles in business class.”
What does pm stand for here?
I wasn’t sure, either. Then I looked at my keyboard and noticed that “p” is one letter to the right of “o” and “m” is one letter to the right of “n”. As it so happens, the word “On” makes a lot more sense there. Thanks, fixed.
It stands for use your brain, it’s obviously a typo
I think you should be the one using your brain. We know it’s a typo. We just want to know what it stood for. Clearly, you don’t belong here. Get outta here, turd.
Thank you for this extremely opportune post! I’m looking for J (or F) seats from Tokyo-Taipei-US and this post gave me some new places to look!
Doesn’t Aeroplan transfer from Chase now too?
Yes it does! Thanks, I’ll update that.
This is great! Thanks so much!
Is there any thought that changing and redepositing will become more difficult if airlines realized people would pay cash for many of these tickets if they were fully refundable…but the cheapest biz and first fares typically have many more restrictions than award tix?
Was doing some random award chart research and found a decent sweet spot I haven’t heard covered much. Asiana business class from the west coast (LAX and SFO) to South Korea (ICN) for 59,000 Etihad miles. Etihad uses a distance-based chart for Asiana and business class on flights under 6000 miles is 59k. LAX and SFO just make the cut. Any transfer bonus to Etihad would make it a great deal.
Good luck with Etihad booking a partner award that is not AA.
Let us know if you’re succesful in booking an Asiana flight with Etihad miles.
Have you ever tried booking Asiana with Etihad? Miles are useless if you can’t use them.
I had not tried booking Asiana with Etihad. I simply saw what seemed like a decent award chart sweet spot and thought I would share. I didn’t have the need to book at the time, but thought the information could be useful for the FM community. A little disappointed some folks here would react negatively to it being shared without doing a little due diligence to find out whether it’s actually bookable or not.
After seeing the comments on this I decided to briefly look into it. It took me about 20-25 minutes to figure out that this award can indeed be booked. That includes some online research and two phone calls. I used United.com to find award availability.
Here’s what I learned:
-When calling the regular US customer service number listed, I was routed to an agent who could not see any award availability throughout the entire calendar.
– When calling the regular UK customer service number listed, I was routed to an agent who COULD see award availability that matched what I found on United. He also priced the roundtrip (see next note) correctly at 118k. Note that I am not sure whether this actually routed me to a different office or if I simply got lucky by getting a more knowledgeable representative.
-According to the UK agent, only roundtrip bookings can be made on Asiana.
-Availability Searching Tip: Since United flies the same route you can use the SeatSpy searching tip Nick outlined in his recent ANA First Class post to search the SFO-ICN route. Asiana seats should show a cost of 88k (or 92k for close-in bookings).
-Caveat: I didn’t proceed to ticketing the flights, as I didn’t want to unnecessarily tie up 118k transferable points in Etihad. I suppose there’s a chance that it won’t ticket, but the UK agent seemed to be confident that it would.
So Qantas section talks more about El Al and Tel Aviv. I am guessing this must have been a copy paste error when curating this article…
[…] has only thus far made it into two of our “Best ways to get to” series posts: the Best ways to get to Asia using miles (premium cabins) — that inclusion is thanks to the more favorable rates and better availability on their own […]
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[…] Best Ways to Get to Asia Using Miles shows you how to use points to fly business class to Asia. […]
Why no American Airlines where you can book Cathay and Japan Airline tickets.
I left them out because they are not transfer partners with any of the transferable currencies. I’d generally rather collect points that I can use with transfer partners so that I can top off an account or put miles together from multiple programs.
Alaska made the list because in addition to their credit cards you can transfer from Marriott (potentially useful for someone who travels frequently for work and as a result earns tons of Marriott points).
I did not include programs like AA or Japan Airlines Mileage Bank since their points are less convenient to amass via multiple avenues.
Still, many readers will have AA miles, so I will likely add AA to the list here.
With as popular a program as AAdvantage is, I would agree that you should put them on here Nick.
AFAIK, you can still transfer Marriott points to American (just as you can transfer them to Alaska). The only difference with AA is that you won’t get a transfer bonus since last November if you transfer 20,000 or more.
I was expecting to see something about Virgin Atlantic’s precarious financial situation in the key warnings section.
I mean, I wouldn’t recommend transferring to any airline partner *today*. This guide is meant as a reference so you know which points to collect. For example, you can quickly see that Chase only has 3 transfer partners on this list and two of those overlap with Membership Rewards (which has 7 on the list). If you’d like to travel to Asia, you’re probably better stocking up on Membership Rewards, which will give you your pick of transferring to Virgin Atlantic, Asia Miles, ANA, or whoever it is that makes sense due to availability and your starting location. At the time when you book is when you’ll need to consider each airline’s financial state, and I wouldn’t recommend booking with anyone today since we have no idea what flights will be operating or which airlines will be in business or which countries will be open to foreigners and when. I’d generally hold off on booking for at least a few more months to get an idea as to what the future holds.
In terms of Virgin Atlantic specifically, I share Greg’s expectation that they are very unlikely to completely liquidate and therefore I am not more concerned about Virgin Atlantic miles than many of the other airlines on the list. But I also agree with Greg that I wouldn’t transfer more miles to Virgin Atlantic today for no good reason. Nor would I transfer to anyone else without an imminent plan.
Many thanks for this article. Possibly the best one I’ve ever read on the subject. Many thanks! Booked-marked!
Thanks for another top notch post! Very informative. Just a question or request (sorry if too much), could you put these data into a simple spreadsheet so we can glance at and/or sort based on min miles needed to redeem? Afterall buz class tickets need a lot miles that do not come by easily. Thanks,
Good suggestion. I’ll see what we come up with. It’s a little difficult because some programs require awards to be round trip (and it isn’t always universal — Korean awards with Alaska miles have to be round trip, but Cathay awards with Alaska miles don’t for example) and sometimes there are different prices depending on carrier (ANA flights on their own metal are cheaper than awards on Star Alliance carriers and even for ANA flights there is a low season price, a regular season price, and a high season price) and then not everyone defines regions in a uniform way (some programs have a price to “North Asia” vs “South Asia”, others call them “Asia 1” vs “Asia 2”, some programs consider India part of Asia and others consider India its own region, etc). Add on to that not every program publishes an award chart and it can get complex.
Still, worth thinking about. Thanks for the suggestion!
Thanks for the followup. I understand it and agree, it is a complicated system from multiple systems. I made a simple one for me (USA-SE Asia, USA-NE Asia), looks bloated, rough. I have a few columns: Biz Oneway, Biz-Return, 1stClass-oneway, 1stCalss-Return. Airline availability is another concern as many of the non-USA airlines only offer direct flights out of east and west coasts. You probably cannot create a matrix to serve all residents, but a sample matrix would help readers to customize their own matrix. In my case in Detroit, I will mainly focus on Delta, United, Canada flights. I could add a Spend column, which should make Amex come out first, followed by Chase/Cap1. (I am heavily into Chase, so no Citi prem cards to pair with Doublecash).
Thanks so much for this post! I’m planning a retirement trip in 2023, so I can start building up my stash of points using this guide.
Here’s what I struggle with, as someone who has had to cancel travel on points on EVA, Asiana and Thai, and who has fall travel scheduled on points on Etihad–all in J. Is it worth it during the next year or two, even when things open up a bit? Do I want to use my hard earned points on luxury air travel when the lounges are closed and the service on the plane is sub-normal? Leaving aside the safety implications (which obviously are of primary concern), if a large part of the experience is excellent food in such quantities that you just need to stop eating, premium alcohol, and flight attendants who are attentive and try to take care of you, does it make sense to take those 20-hour+ trips in J (including connections) when those parts of the travel experience will be missing, or is it better to hoard miles and use them later when these flights will be more memorable?
I probably wouldn’t bother booking anything for 2020. For 2021, I imagine lounges will be open and service will be whatever the new normal becomes. That probably won’t be the same as in the past, but I am at least hopeful that operations will be normalish in 2021 (though clearly nobody knows for sure right now). Still, they will eventually be normalish — so I’m happy to hoard miles for now with my eye on some specific awards.
In terms of does it make sense to redeem miles if travel is safe but the travel experience is sub-optimal compared to today: the answer there is very subjective. I love all of the intangibles that come with premium cabin travel — great service, good food, lounges, etc — but if premium cabin travel came with all of those things but had an economy class seat (or even the equivalent of a domestic first class recliner-style seat), I wouldn’t bother redeeming miles for premium cabins. The reason I redeem miles for premium cabins is primarily for a spacious, comfortable seat. I didn’t know how much I would appreciate that until I started redeeming miles for premium cabin travel. Now I mostly ignore the super cheap fare sales to Asia because I just don’t want to fly that far in economy class when I have miles available to me. So if I’m going to travel to Asia, it makes sense to me to redeem miles for premium cabin travel.
Whether or not and when travel makes sense is something I can’t answer at all. I wouldn’t fly halfway around the world when it isn’t safe (obviously), but neither would I be in a hurry to fly halfway around the world if things like museums and restaurants and beaches and cultural experiences and hotels are either closed or limited-access in a way that seems unenjoyable. I don’t know when that stuff will return to normalish (I keep using that word so as to differentiate from what we previously knew as normal), but I’m sure there will be a time when I’ll be interested enough to get back on the horse so to speak.
For what it’s worth, I think the types of trips I take will likely be different for a while. For example, this isn’t Asia, but I could imagine going back to Australia to drive The Great Ocean Road or re-do my road trip between Cairns and Brisbane or to drive the outback. I’ll be less interested in being packed in on Bondi Beach, but there is plenty of wide open space in Australia and a lot of it can be really enjoyable in a road trip / nature appreciation form. I could also envision going to a secluded resort in the Maldives or Bora Bora where I’d have less contact with others by design and the purpose of the trip is to lounge rather than to experience the local culture. Will I be in a rush to go to Tokyo to stand at Shibuya Crossing or to cram into a small street food stand in Bangkok? Probably not for a while just for fear of exposure to too many people in a confined space. On the other hand, perhaps those places will institute measures that drop risks significantly. It’s hard to predict.
But still, I’ll collect eyeing some of these sweet spots as I imagine by 2022 we’ll have a vaccine (fingers crossed) and if I spend a year collecting I’ll be ready to spend the better part of a year working remotely from beaches somewhere around the world. Maybe. Hopefully. We can dream, right?