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Update: Cathay Pacific has extended the transfer bonus until February 28, 2017!
In this post, Million Mile Secrets contributor Andy digs into the limited-time 30% transfer bonus from hotel points to Cathay Pacific!
Andy: You can get a great value out of Cathay Pacific miles if you know how to use them. And because Cathay Pacific is currently offering a 30% bonus when you transfer hotel points to Asia Miles until December 31, 2016, you could get a terrific deal!
Cathay Pacific has some of the least restrictive routing rules among major airlines, and you can have up to 5 free stopovers on the same ticket. You can even backtrack and stay in the same place twice if you want. Try to do something like that on Delta or American Airlines! 😉
But Cathay Pacific might seem a little complicated compared to major US programs.
I’ll explain how the charts work, how to build your itinerary, and how to get Big Travel for fewer miles than other airlines.
Single or Mixed 2 Carrier Awards Chart
Asia Miles has 2 different award charts: the Single or Mixed 2 Carrier Awards Chart and the oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart
The chart at the top of the page is a Single or Mixed 2 Carrier Awards Chart. You can use it when you fly:
- Only Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon
- Only one Cathay Pacific partner airline
- A partner airline and Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon
You can’t fly 3 airlines or more on this award.
There is an additional restriction. You can’t use a mixed award on Bangkok Airways, Air China, and S7. In other words, you can’t mix either of them with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon.
1. Calculating the Cost of an Award: Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Bangkok
To calculate the “Award Zone” (which determines the price) your award flight falls into, you must calculate the distance of all segments in one direction.
For example, if you want to fly from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, it’s the distance between Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
But if you’ll fly Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Bangkok in one direction, you need to calculate the distance of 2 segments: Los Angeles to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong to Bangkok.
Note: You can use the Great Circle Mapper to find the distance between 2 points.
For example, the distance between Los Angeles and Hong Kong is 7,260 miles, so for a round-trip flight you’d look at Award Zone “D”, which applies to flights 5,001 to 7,500 miles in length:
- 60,000 Cathay Pacific miles in coach
- 72,000 Cathay Pacific miles in Premium Economy
- 120,000 Cathay Pacific miles in Business Class
- 180,000 Cathay Pacific miles in First Class
However, if you want to fly to Bangkok (with or without a stopover in Hong Kong), you will need to calculate 2 segments: Los Angeles to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong to Bangkok (because neither Cathay Pacific nor any of its partners flies non-stop from the US to Bangkok). So:
- Los Angeles to Hong Kong: 7,260 miles
- Hong Kong to Bangkok: 1,049 miles
The total distance is 8,309 miles (7,260 miles from Los Angeles to Hong Kong + 1,049 miles from Hong Kong to Bangkok). So to calculate the cost of an award flight, you’d look at Award Zone “E” (flights between 7,501 and 10,000 miles in length):
- 90,000 Cathay Pacific miles in coach
- 108,000 Cathay Pacific miles in Premium Economy
- 145,000 Cathay Pacific miles in Business Class
- 220,000 Cathay Pacific miles in First Class
A. Use Starwood Points With 30% Bonus for a Flight to Hong Kong
Folks on the West Coast can fly to Hong Kong in Business Class for 120,000 Cathay Pacific miles round-trip.
Using Starwood points with the 30% hotel point transfer bonus to Cathay Pacific, you could transfer:
- 60,000 Starwood points = 75,000 Cathay Pacific miles (with 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 Starwood points transferred)
Then, multiply 75,000 miles by 1.3 to factor in the 30% bonus. You’d end up with 97,500 Cathay Pacific miles.
That’s not quite enough for a Business Class award ticket from the West Coast to Hong Kong. You need another 22,500 Cathay Pacific miles.
You could transfer an additional 20,000 Starwood points to earn 32,500 Cathay Pacific miles (when you factor in the Starwood 25% and Cathay Pacific’s 30% bonus). You’d end up with a grand total of 130,000 Cathay Pacific miles (more than enough for your ticket).
If you don’t want leftover Cathay Pacific miles, divide 22,500 by 1.3 and add 60,000 to get the actual amount of Starwood points you’ll need to transfer. You’ll arrive at ~77,308 Starwood points. That’s how many Starwood points you need to transfer for your 120,000-mile award.
However, if you transfer 80,000 Starwood points, just ~3,000 points more, you’ll get 130,000 Cathay Pacific miles (with both bonuses) or 10,000 miles more. So, if you are planning on using Asia Miles in the future, it’s a no-brainer.
Be careful, though, because you can only transfer 79,999 points in any 24-hour period, and you won’t get the 4th 5,000-mile bonus for transferring another 19,999 miles. You need to transfer the full 20,000 points.
So transfer 60,000 points first, then wait for 24 hours and transfer another 20,000 points or more.
2. Calculating the Cost of an Award: San Francisco to Hong Kong to Hanoi
If you live in San Francisco, you can visit Hong Kong and Hanoi for the same amount of miles. Travel between San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Hanoi are in the same Award Zone “D” — under 7,500 miles. And the Asia Miles award rules allow up to 2 stopovers. So you could fly on Cathay Pacific from San Francisco to Hanoi via Hong Kong with a stopover in both cities.
- San Francisco to Hong Kong: 6,927 miles
- Hong Kong to Hanoi: 526 miles
If you live on the East Coast, you will pay more – but you have more options, too. If you fly from New York, you can visit Hong Kong and Tokyo for 145,000 Cathay Pacific miles and ~$150 for taxes and fees. You can fly on Cathay Pacific or use a combination of Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.
If you live on the West Coast, using Cathay Pacific miles for award flights to Asia can be great bargain. To compare, American Airlines charges 140,000 miles in Business Class for a flight to Hong Kong and does NOT allow stopovers. United Airlines charges 140,000 to 160,000 miles and allows 1 stopover (called the “Excursionist Perk”) in the same region. And Delta charges 160,000 miles (no stopovers).
With the Cathay Pacific Single or Mixed 2 Carrier Awards Chart, you can get up to 2 stopovers, 2 transfers (Cathay Pacific’s name for a transit flight), or an open jaw.
For example, you can fly from New York to Bangkok via Hong Kong in one direction, and from Bangkok to New York via Tokyo on the way back. And, if you want, get a free stopover in Hong Kong or Tokyo.
A. Use Starwood Points With 30% Bonus for a Flight to Hong Kong With a Stopover in Tokyo
You’d need a total of 92,000 Starwood points to book a flight to Hong Kong with a stopover in Tokyo on the way back.
Here is a reminder of how we get to 92,000 Starwood points:
- 80,000 Starwood points = 100,000 Cathay Pacific miles (Starwood 25% bonus)
- 100,000 Cathay Pacific miles x 1.3 (30% transfer bonus) = 130,000 Cathay Pacific miles
- Then you’ll need another 12,000 Starwood points (again taking into account the 30% bonus) to get your award (12,000 Starwood points x 1.3 = 15,600 Cathay Pacific miles)
Or, if you think you’ll use Cathay Pacific miles in the future, transfer 100,000 Starwood points and get 162,500 Cathay Pacific miles with both 25% and 30% bonuses. Just remember not to transfer over 60,000 points in a 24-hour period.
Oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart
The oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart allows you to fly on 2 or more oneworld airlines or 3 and more airlines when Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon is included.
You’ll find the chart at the bottom of the Cathay Pacific award page.
This time you calculate the mileage differently. You need to add the distance of ALL segments in each direction.
So, when you book a round-trip, you must include all outbound and inbound flights. This is different from the Single or Mixed 2 Carrier Awards Chart where you only need to count “one-way distance between the origin airport and destination airport” including all segments.
Cathay Pacific oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards Chart Is a Huge Value
When you use the Cathay Pacific oneworld chart, you can have up to 5 stopovers, 2 transfers (transits), and 2 open jaws.
So, you’re only limited by 3 things:
- Your vacation time
- Your budget for taxes and fuel surcharges
- Your willingness to deal with the Cathay Pacific agents, because some might be poorly trained for the task.
1. Calculating the Cost of an Award: Flights to Asia
For example, you can book the following journey with stopovers in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Tokyo:
- New York to Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific)
- Hong Kong to Bangkok (Qatar Airways)
- Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Airlines)
- Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo (Japan Airlines)
- Tokyo to New York (Japan Airlines)
The total trip distance is just under 20,000 flown miles, which puts it into Award Zone “10” (18,001 to 20,000 miles). You’ll need just 140,000 Cathay Pacific miles for an award ticket in Business Class!
Using the same math as the previous example, you’d need ~90,000 Starwood points for the ticket when you include the 25% and 30% bonuses.
You could add a 5th stopover, but it would bump you into a higher award zone and your trip would cost more Cathay Pacific miles (depending on the length of the segment).
Note: You’ll have to pay fuel surcharges on Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, and sometimes they are pricey. For example, the flight between Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo on Malaysia Airlines adds an extra ~$397 in taxes and fees.
However, if there were available award seats on Japan Airlines for that segment, it would’ve likely been $100+ cheaper, because Malaysia Airlines adds a high fuel surcharge.
2. Calculating the Cost of an Award: Flights to Europe
It’s harder to find flights to Europe without significant fuel surcharges, but it’s possible. Cathay Pacific doesn’t add surcharges to Air Berlin award flights, but you need to add at least another airline to book a Multi-Carrier award with up to 5 stopovers.
You could book something like this:
- New York to Düsseldorf (Air Berlin)
- Düsseldorf to London (Air Berlin)
- London to Paris (British Airways)
- Paris to Berlin (Air Berlin)
- Berlin to Prague (Air Berlin)
- Prague to New York via Berlin (Air Berlin)
This flight with 5 stopovers falls under 10,000 miles per round-trip and will cost you 95,000 miles in Business Class. And British Airways just adds a small flat fee in Europe instead of fuel surcharges.
This award will only cost you 60,000 Starwood points if you factor in 25% and 30% bonuses. In fact, you’ll get even a little more Cathay Pacific miles:
- 60,000 Starwood points x 1.25 = 75,000 Cathay Pacific miles
- 75,000 Cathay Pacific miles x 1.3 = 97,500 Cathay Pacific miles
3. Calculating the Cost of an Award: Flights to South America
Cathay Pacific doesn’t add fuel surcharges to its partners in the Americas. For flights to South America use American Airlines and LATAM.
You can fly:
- Miami to Cusco / Machu Picchu (LATAM or American Airlines and LATAM)
- Cusco to Lima (LATAM)
- Lima to Iguazu Falls (LATAM)
- Iguazu Falls to Rio de Janeiro (LATAM)
- Rio de Janeiro to Miami (LATAM or American Airlines)
You can easily add the 5th stopover because the rules allow it, but this routing still keeps us under 10,000 miles. So, you’ll pay 95,000 miles or 60,000 Starwood points for a Business Class ticket. The same calculation applies:
- 60,000 Starwood points x 1.25 = 75,000 Cathay Pacific miles
- 75,000 Cathay Pacific miles x 1.3 = 97,500 Cathay Pacific miles
Other Ways to Earn Cathay Pacific Miles
There are other ways to earn Cathay Pacific miles if you need more for an award ticket.
And in 2017, Cathay Pacific will launch a US credit card from Synchrony Bank, though we don’t have any details yet about the perks or sign-up bonus.
The current Cathay Pacific 30% hotel point transfer bonus promotion can be a terrific way to boost your Asia Miles account balance. And Cathay Pacific miles can be used to fly all over the world.
The Cathay Pacific frequent flyer program allows up to 5 stopovers on one award ticket, and there are only mild routing restrictions. You can backtrack and even have a free stopover in the same city more than once.
By transferring Starwood points to Cathay Pacific with a 30% bonus, you can book otherwise expensive award tickets for relatively few miles. Especially compared to what US airlines would charge. But you may pay higher taxes and fees, depending on the airline.
Next, I’ll show you how to book a Cathay Pacific award with multiple stopovers.