Many people I know rave about flying Cathay Pacific first class. I haven’t yet tried it, but of course I want to (I stupidly didn’t book the infamous mistake fare from Vietnam!). So, for an upcoming trip, I booked business class, but also waitlisted for first class awards. I’ll happily pay the change fee ($100) if it means flying first class.
In the course of searching for first class awards, I stumbled upon something very interesting. Cathay Pacific Asia Miles averages award prices when an itinerary involves multiple classes of service. This is very similar to how Avianca Lifemiles prices their mixed cabin awards (see: Avianca LifeMiles’ awesome mixed-cabin award pricing. First Class for less).
This means that you can save miles by flying farther. Here’s an example…
Save by going farther in business class
First class from JFK to Hong Kong costs 125,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles:
Suppose you don’t want to stop in Hong Kong? Suppose you really want to fly JFK to South Africa via Hong Kong? Cathay doesn’t currently offer first class from Hong Kong to Johannesburg, so you’ll fly the first segment in first class and the second segment in business class. The total for this trip comes to only 106,900 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. You will actually save over 15,000 miles by adding on the Hong Kong to Johannesburg business class flight!
Save more by going farther in economy class
Cathay charges a lot less to fly economy than business or first class. So, I figured that flying JFK to Hong Kong in first class and onward to Johannesburg in economy would drop the overall price by quite a bit. I was right. I couldn’t price this online, so I called Asia Miles (+852 2747 3838) to price the award.
The total mileage price for flying JFK to Hong Kong in first class and then to Johannesburg in economy comes to only 87,500 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. Remember that JFK to Hong Kong first class by itself costs 125,000 miles. You will actually save 37,500 miles by flying farther. The addition of the Hong Kong to Johannesburg economy class flight makes the whole thing cheaper!
How this works
The first key to this trick working is the fact that Cathay Pacific cuts off their award chart at 7,501+ miles. Longer flights beyond 7,501 miles don’t cost more. You can fly 15,000 miles for the same price as you’d pay to fly 8,000 miles. But it gets better…
Great Circle Mapper shows that the flight from JFK to Hong Kong is 8,072 miles and the flight from Hong Kong to Johannesburg is 6,631 miles. This means that the first segment is approximately 55% of the total.
To price this award, Cathay averages the cost based on the percentage of the total distance flown in each class of service. For example, when flying JFK to Hong Kong in first class and Hong Kong to Johannesburg in business class, we can calculate the award cost as follows:
- JFK to Hong Kong First Class: 125,000 miles x 55% = 68,750
- Hong Kong to Johannesburg Business Class: 85,000 miles x 45% = 38,250
- Total = 107,000 (Cathay actually priced it out at 106,900)
And when flying JFK to Hong Kong in first class and Hong Kong to Johannesburg in economy class, we can calculate the award cost as follows:
- JFK to Hong Kong First Class: 125,000 miles x 55% = 68,750
- Hong Kong to Johannesburg Economy Class: 42,000 miles x 45% = 18,900
- Total = 87,650 (Cathay actually priced it out at 87,500)
Given the above, we can estimate other trips. Suppose, for example, that you decide to return in business class to Hong Kong and then fly economy to New York (note that our own Stephen Pepper actually enjoyed flying over 15 hours in Cathay Pacific’s economy class). Let’s estimate the total cost:
- Johannesburg to Hong Kong Business Class: 85,000 x 45% = 38,250
- Hong Kong to JFK Economy Class: 42,000 miles x 55% = 23,100
- Total = 61,350
It works with some other partners too!
Below you’ll see that Cathay uses mixed cabin awards not just for their own flights, but for British Airways flights too. I don’t know if it works with all partners or if British Airways is special. Either way, this opens up many interesting possibilities (I’ll leave those as a fun exercise for the reader). Note though that if you add two partners to the same award they’ll price the whole thing in a completely different way and with a different award chart (the Oneworld multi-carrier award chart).
Why do we care?
You may be aware that Alaska offers better first class award pricing for flying Cathay Pacific and that both Alaska and AA offer much better business class pricing for flying Cathay Pacific. So why bother with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles? Two reasons: Cathay Pacific Asia Miles are easier to get, and they give you better award availability.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles are easy to get
As shown in our Transfer Partner Master List, you can transfer to Cathay Pacific from Amex (1 to 1), Citi (1 to 1), Marriott (60K to 25K), or Capital One (1,000 to 750). Chase Ultimate Rewards is the only major transferable points program that doesn’t support transfers to Cathay Pacific.
Plus, Cathay offers a credit card (found here) where you can earn miles through the welcome bonus and through spend. Those who spend a lot of time away from home may find it very interesting that this card earns 1.5X on all purchases outside of the US.
Cathay Pacific offers better award availability to their own members
Unlike Singapore, which sometimes offers excellent award availability to Alaska’s members, Cathay keeps most of the good stuff for their own members. I’ve often found awards available with Cathay Pacific Asia Miles when nothing was available to their partners. Don’t get me wrong: first class awards are very hard to find. But they’re more likely to be found with Cathay miles.
Plus, they allow waitlisting for awards with their own miles. In order to do so, you need to have 70% of the required miles in your account. Fortunately, Asia Miles can now be kept alive indefinitely with regular account activity, so it’s not a terrible waste to transfer some over, especially if you do so when a transfer bonus is in effect. Also, the miles are not deducted from your account when you waitlist so it’s possible to waitlist for multiple awards at once.
Current Transfer Bonuses
If any current transfer bonuses to Cathay Pacific exist, you’ll find them here:
|Transfer From||Transfer Bonus Details||End Date|
I tried this out and am thinking I did the math wrong because they charged me more miles than I calculated.
LAX-HKG – Normally 110K in First
HKG-KUL – Normally 25K in Business
LAX-LUL via HKG is 125K in First (but first isn’t available for HKG-KUL)
Using gcmap, 82% of the total flight is LAX-HKG.
So, I figured the math would be (125K * 0.82) + (25K * 0.18).
That equals 102,500 + 4500 = 107K
But they charged me 117,800 miles.
Any idea why? Is my math wrong?
Originally I thought this would have been 110K * 0.82 so it would have been even less.
The only problem is where you used the 25K number for the business portion. You need to look up the biz price from LAX-KUL and then calculate 18% of that.
Ahh, that makes complete sense! Thanks for the tip!
What are the best options for finding first class award availability? I’m looking for 2 seats for late next year. An suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Sorry, I don’t have any recent experience with this. In the past the best option was to wait until about a week before the flight. I don’t know if that will still work.
[…] the gaps with no fuel surcharges. In terms of Oneworld, Greg has written about the sweet spots in Cathay Pacific Asia Miles quite a few times and Etihad offers great pricing on AA flights. SkyTeam is covered with Air France […]
Well this has been shut down because of you publicizing it
I just tested it and it still works. What makes you think it was shut down?
It will be shut down starting April 1st https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/cathay-pacific-marco-polo-club/2013542-devaluation-no-more-stopover-one-way-tickets-effective-1-a.html
It looks like it’s stopovers on one way awards that are ending not the mixed cabin trick described in this post
[…] I posted my profitable reserving within the TPG Lounge Fb group, a member pointed me to a current Frequent Miler article the place Greg noticed the identical counterintuitive pricing I […]
[…] Executive Traveler reports that Japan Airlines has adjusted its schedule to add flights with a first class cabin between Tokyo and Sydney beginning on September 1, 2020. These flights are widely available for 60K American Airlines miles one-way and many have 2 seats available in first class. This is a great opportunity to enjoy a long first class flight for a bargain price if you have travel planned between the regions. You may even find a chance to snag the award even more cheaply if you’re able to use Greg’s hacking skills a la Cathay Pacific Asia Miles mixed-cabin award pricing. First class for less. […]
Thanks for your article. I did not think of CX as a possibility to use my credit card points but now I’m interested, mainly because miles could be extended indefinitely. Could you say something about when waitlist likely to clear (days before flight time), how to cancel a wait list, and what happens if I want to cancel a cleared flight because the clearing happens too late as I already booked an alternative flight? Also CX website says there is a more expensive scheme that requires more miles. Do you know how much better chance this can bring?
I don’t yet have much experience with the waitlist feature (I’ve scheduled a number of them, but none have cleared yet). Unfortunately, it looks like they cancel themselves three weeks before departure. This is a huge problem if true because many seats open up within a week or two of departure.
If your waitlist clears, you are not automatically booked on the flight. Instead, the spot is held and you are given a certain amount of time to complete the booking.
Thanks Greg – that was a real eye opener. We are booked to fly on Cathay in June and have signed up for their program. It has been years since I travelled with them as I had a nightmare trip with them from LHR to HK which really put me off. We are finally dipping our toe back in the water and I am really keeping my fingers crossed that we enjoy the trip with them as they have a great network and I am a bit over the Middle Eastern airlines which tend to dominate in our market here in Australia.
Great article, Greg! However, you might wanna update the FM best offer page for the CX credit card since the FM review for that card still mentions that Asia Miles expires 3 years with/without activities which is not true anymore for miles earned in 2020 onwards
I’m sorry for being dumb but I just played around w/ the online Asia Miles system and couldn’t figure out how to price a mixed cabin 1-way. Do you just have to call it in?
Online, you can’t force it. When one of the segments isn’t available in first, the system automatically suggests business class for that segment. To force mixed cabin, yes, you need to call it in (as far as I know)
GOTCHA! Kinda like the old priceline trick when the area didn’t have a 5* hotel. Makes sense now. T/Y! Saigon/BKK here I come.
[…] Cathay Pacific Asia Miles averages the cost of a mixed-cabin award so if you add a business class (or even economy) segment to the end of a first class award that actually brings the price down. This creates interesting opportunities for throwaway segments on awards (if you aren’t checking bags) to get a flight for less, similar to how Avianca LifeMiles works. […]
Although this isn’t the type of flying I would do, I do find it interesting and it is probably useful for many of the FF people out there. I tend to do one trip every other year and usually to Europe. That is about as long as I care to fly, even in luxury.
Pray tellw what drugs was Stephen on when he flew economy from HKG to JFK? That’s about the only way I could thoroughly enjoy economy.
There’s also the matter of my $5000/ hr fee for long flights
That lad is Tested Tough sleeps on concrete floors and travels by bus to save $5 ..I was getting ready to book LAX>SYD (15.5 hrs) in Cheap class but it’s burned Up ..
When you say , “it’s burned up” are you referring to the entire country of Australia?
Where I want to Go !! go look @ the current fire charts I watch like an hr a day . I could do a 12 day cruise now for $400 and the snow on the New Zealand Mts. are brown ..I almost booked a flt to SYD for $547 but @ that Flt. date SYD’s air was like smoking 4 pack’s a day . I could stay for free in Perth or Brisbane as in NO thanks ..I Love the place but Aruba and SB for New Years already booked hotels and air I have to wait by AA .
I can’t wait to buy a season pass @ the Australian zoo where I was but need to wait till 3/1 so maybe I can use it .
Hi, thanks for the great article.
I did a breakdown of a trip:
JFK to Hong Kong First Class: 125,000 miles x 73% = 91,328
Hong Kong to Male Business Class: 45,000 miles x 27% = 12121
Total = 103,450
However, when I priced out the trip on Cathay Pacific my total cost was 114,200 – a whopping 10,750 miles more. Any thoughts on that?
Your calculation should have been:
Hong Kong to Male Business Class: 80,000 miles x 27% = 22,950
Total = 114,200
That’s because JFK-HKG-MLE biz class is 80k, not 45k.
This was a great write-up by the way. I can’t imagine packing 10 days of clothes in a carry-on to end the trip in HKG , but don’t you get 2 carry -ons for first?
Just be a smelly backpacker
I can, but if you can’t, laundry service exists!
u meet lots of nice locals there who can help with the area too.
You’re using the wrong mileage for the business class segment. 27% of the overall trip is in business class so you should be using 85,000 miles (7501+ bucket) for 27% of the trip. By using 45,000, you’re double-counting the shorter leg.
125,000 x 73% + 85,000 x 27% = 114,200
Very informative! Now would a routing like that (JFK-HKG-MLE, or to Johannesburg, for that matter) allow you to stop in Hong Kong for a few days?
Would you recommend applying for the Synchrony card now or wait for a better offer?
There’s an enhanced offer right now: 40K instead of the usual 30K, so I’d go for it now if you’re interested.
Any issues with throwing away the last leg on a one way?
I’ve rarely done it on AA, but just wondering if CX is more strict.
I don’t have any info one way or another about that. With any airline, I’m sure you could get away with it once or twice, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it regularly.
Great write up! I have yet to use any Asia miles. I’m deterred by the long transfer times from amex MR.
Thanks! Actually transfers are instant to Cathay Pacific from both Amex and Citi (I’m not sure about Cap One)