Do you want to get the best value out of your Asia Miles? A lot of people redeem Asia miles for flights with Cathay Pacific or Dragonair. Sometimes, however, there can be better value using Asia Miles to make a different type of redemption.

For example, if one wants to redeem a return flight in economy class between Hong Kong and London, it would cost 60,000 110,000 Asia Miles. (The award chart is here). If making the same booking as a “priority award”, with supposedly higher chance of getting a seat on popular routes or in peak season, it could cost 120,000 190,000 or a staggering 175,000 285,000 Asia Miles.

However, for 110,000 Asia Miles you could redeem what is called a One World Multi Carrier award. This would be eligible for up to 25,000 miles of travel – enough not only for the return trip to London, but for another such trip at a different time, and perhaps a short regional trip into the bargain.

The award chart for multi-carrier awards is here. There are several things it helps to be aware of if planning or booking a One World multicarrier award. I booked and used such an award this year and share some tips below based on that experience.

Planning your trip

Minimum three carriers – The trip must include at least three One World carriers (for these purposes, Cathay and Cathay Dragon are treated as one). This is fine if you want to try different carriers but otherwise can be difficult to plan, especially if the overall length distance is not great and fairly limited geographically. I was going to add in a Bangkok to Hong Kong flight on Sri Lankan just to meet this requirement, but I couldn’t get an available one which matched the other parts of the itinerary. Instead I ended up using part of the award to book a domestic British Airways flight in the U.K. in economy class, just to meet this requirement.

Critically, the rules require a “maximum of five stopovers, two transfers and two open-jaws at either origin, en-route or turnaround point”. This applies independently of how many miles there are in the relevant itinerary. This can be problematic with longer itineraries. I was booking an itinerary which permits up to 25,000 miles of travel and found it hard to meet these rules – for a 50,000 mile itinerary it would be even harder.

Allowed mileage

It’s not exactly clear how Cathay calculates the mileage on a given journey. You can estimate roughly based on the distance between cities, but for example, of Tokyo’s two airports, Haneda is quite a few miles closer to Hong Kong than Narita. If you are trying to maximise the miles you fly within your bracket this can add up to a critical difference, but you end up shooting in the dark. I ended up flying from Newcastle not Glasgow because the phone agent told me I had enough miles within my bracket for the former flight but not the latter, but she was unable to tell me how many miles each sector was to help me plan more efficiently in this way.

TaipeiHong KongCathay PacificFirstopen jaw
BangkokHong KongSri LankanBusinessstopover
Hong KongTokyo HanedaCathay PacificFirsttransfer
TokyoJakartaJapan AirlinesFirststopover
JakartaTokyoJapan AirlinesFirststopover
TokyoParisJapan AirlinesFirstopen jaw
LondonTokyoJapan AirlinesFirststopover
Tokyo HanedaHong KongCathay PacificFirststopover
Hong KongTaipeiCathay PacificFirst

What in the end I took, as I could not change much on the dates, was:

TaipeiHong KongCathay PacificFirstopen jaw
Hong KongTokyo HanedaCathay PacificFirsttransfer
Tokyo NaritaJakartaJapan AirlinesFirststopover
JakartaTokyo NaritaJapan AirlinesFirststopover
Tokyo NaritaHong KongCathay PacificFirstTransfer
Hong KongParisCathay PacificFirstopen jaw
NewcastleLondon HeathrowBritish AirwaysEconomyTransfer
London HeathrowTokyoJapan AirlinesFirststopover
Tokyo HanedaTaipeiCathay PacificBusinessstopover

Fees and taxes

Different operators and flights have dramatically different fees and taxes. As with all award bookings, it is worth considering this when planning your itinerary. For example, on my booking the fees and taxes came to $3,539. Cathay is very poor at explaining this – they use acronyms without a key to explain the acronyms.

The breakdown on my booking was as follows:

HKHong Kong air passenger departure tax $    240
OIJapan passenger security service charge $    114
UBU.K. passenger service charge $    477
YRAirline charge $       10
TWTaiwan airport service charge $    119
D5Indonesia passenger service charge $       88
YQAirline charge $    312
SWJapan passenger service charge $    450
GBU.K. air passenger duty $ 1,629

You will note that the U.K. fees came to a whopping $2,106 despite there only being one domestic economy class flight there and one first class departure.
By the way, it’s especially shocking that the U.K. charge is so high as theirs was the worst service of any airport I visited, including for example a charge of around $10 at Newcastle airport if one wanted a transparent bag for security.

Booking your trip

I had heard that booking by telephone takes ages and so asked at the Marco Polo desk at the airport whether I could book there face to face but they said no. I then sent an itinerary by e-mail to the Marco Polo club but they replied that it was not available without specifying any more detail so I called the Marco Polo hotline. This was the same month as the first flight, but about three months before the majority of the flights.

Booking took about two hours and the agent was very helpful. We had almost completed the booking after half an hour, but there was poor availability with Cathay from Asia to Europe (Japan Airlines availability was all excellent). The additional hour and a half all stemmed from this, as for example changing the flight as from Tokyo to Paris to Tokyo to Hong Kong to London had possible implications for the rules about stopovers etc.


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