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Asia Miles programme changes from 22 June 2018: What you need to know

Most people will be familiar with Cathay Pacific and their loyalty programme Asia Miles as many credit cards across Asia Pacific allow you to transfer miles into the programme, which serves as a good alternative to KrisFlyer and Singapore Airlines, especially if you travel a lot on oneworld carriers.

In particular, Asia Miles is also rather popular with some Australians given its relatively cheaper redemption rates than Qantas Frequent Flyer. Hence this change is likely to impact many members across this part of the world.

AMHP.JPG

Asia Miles to change earn and burn rates from 22 June 2018

In a nutshell, here are some of the changes they will be introducing come 22 June 2018:

Miles earned will no longer be based on distance travelled, but by distance zone, if you are travelling on Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon.

Also, the exact fare class within each cabin class matters too: for the lowest fare classes, you get the least miles. Even in Premium Economy and Business, the cheapest fare class for each cabin will also get you lesser miles.

All routes are now categorised into six different distance zones: ultra-short all the way to ultra-long. These are the same categories used by Marco Polo Club’s tier points accrual, as well as the new redemption charts (more on that below), providing more uniformity across the two programmes.

Asia Miles Earn Chart

Source: Asia Miles

Asia Miles claim that members will “earn more miles on 80% of the airlines’ tickets, including to popular destinations such as Shanghai, Osaka and London.” Obviously this is written for a Hong Kong base, but let’s take a look at some of the common ones out of Singapore:

Cabin

Economy Premium Economy Business

Route

Current New Current New Current New
Singapore- Bangkok

878

1800- 2000 969 2000- 2300 1098

2500- 2700

Singapore-
Hong Kong

1592

1800- 2000 1751 2000- 2300 1990

2500- 2700

Singapore- Taipei

2093

2390- 2650 2302 2650- 3050 2616

3310- 3580

Singapore-
Tokyo Narita

3433

3600- 4000 3776 4000- 4600 4291

5000- 5400

Singapore- Los Angeles

8840

7790- 8650 9724 8650- 9950 11050

10810- 11680

Singapore-
New York

9651

9630- 10700 10616 10700- 14610 12064 13380- 14450

Seems like members are generally better off for a short- to mid-haul trip out of Singapore, but not so for transpacific flights.

If you frequent earn miles on partner airlines, the good (or bad, depending on who you are travelling with) news is that mileage earned on partner airlines remains the same.

Asia Miles will price all redemptions as a one-way, adjusts all redemption rates

Customers familiar wtih Asia Miles will know that it is typically cheaper to redeem a roundtrip ticket on Cathay Pacific/Dragon, but this will change come 22 June 2018.

To simplify its redemption requirements, all redemption tickets will now be priced one-way, so a return ticket will now simply cost twice as much as two one-way tickets. Kudos to Asia Miles for being upfront in saying that long haul flights in premium cabins will now also cost more.

AM-stdaward.jpg

Asia Miles Standard Award Chart (source: Asia Miles)

Also, the redemption chart is now aligned to the Marco Polo Club’s 6 categories of distances, rather than the existing 7. This is a good move because I have seen so many people being confused by the Marco Polo Club tier points earning table and the Asia Miles redemption table.

It wasn’t clear from Asia Miles’ website, but I wrote to clarify if multi-sector itineraries (as most itineraries originating from outside of Hong Kong would be) will be priced as a sum of two sectors under the new charge, or as though its a single sector. Asia Miles confirmed in writing that it will be priced as a single sector. That means, if you are flying from Singapore to New York, it will cost you as much as flying from Hong Kong to New York. This means great value 

Let’s compare some of the redemption rates for routes out of Singapore (one-way, in ‘000 miles) before and after the changes:

Cabin Economy Premium Economy Business
Route Current Standard Current Standard Current Standard
Singapore- Bangkok 15 10 18 18 25 25
Singapore-
Hong Kong
20 10 24 18 30 25
Singapore- Taipei 20 10 24 18 30 25
Singapore-
Tokyo Narita
25 22 30 30 45 45
Singapore- Los Angeles 55 42 66 60 85 85
Singapore-
New York
55 42 66 60 85 85

(All mileage are one-way, in ‘000 miles)

At first glance it look like you will get a better deal off almost every route (except in Business), but that’s if you only redeem one way. Now let’s take a look at redemption for a return ticket:

Cabin Economy Premium Economy Business
Route Current Standard Current Standard Current Standard
Singapore- Bangkok 20 20 24 36 40 50
Singapore-
Hong Kong
30 20 36 36 50 50
Singapore- Taipei 30 20 36  36 50 50
Singapore-
Tokyo Narita
45  44 54  60 80 90
Singapore- Los Angeles 90  84 108  120 145  170
Singapore-
New York
90  84 108 120 145 170

(All mileage are one-way, in ‘000 miles)

You will almost end up paying more for all premium classes mid- and long-haul flights. For instance, for Singapore to LA, this is at 170,000 miles return in Business (at the same level as what KrisFlyer requires), up from 145,000 miles previously.

As a sweetener, Asia Miles has announced that they have made redemption seats more accessible, by increasing availability by 20% or more. While no one is really sure how accurate is this, a comparison of the charts do see a slight reduction in the number of miles overall.

Asia Miles is now introducing two more levels of redemption levels – Choice & Tailor

Obviously you should never be burning miles at these levels, but Asia Miles has now unveiled two additional levels of redemption levels with “improved availability” and also allows you to select your seat in advance. This is similar to the previous Priority Tiers 1 & 2, except that this provides a little better clarity as to what ‘perks’ these higher redemption levels accord, such as advance seat selection.

AM-choiceaward.jpg

Asia Miles Choice Award Chart (source: Asia Miles)

Side note: I’m constantly amused at how seat selection is such a great tool used by airlines to encourage people to spend more money (and miles in this case).

The skeptic in me feels that the bulk of the overall ‘improved’ award availability is going to go to the higher levels of redemption, given that at first glance Asia Miles is giving out more miles than before.

There will be changes to partner airlines redemption rates too

But this will be unveiled only on 22 June 2018. Based on some of the sample itineraries shown, it seems like across the board the mileage required will increase for round-trip itineraries, consistent with what it has applied for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon prices.

More to come on this on 22 June 2018.

My take on the changes

Overall, this change looks good at first glance, in the sense that everyone will end up earning more miles. However, with more miles flooding the market, this will also mean that the miles will lose their value over time and lead to an increase in redemption rates down the road (which is already reflected), or resulting in Standard awards being harder to find.

Furthermore, Asia Miles is one of the few programmes (including Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer) that held steadfast in refusing to accord any status bonuses for Marco Polo Club elite members. Whether you are a Diamond, or a Green, you still earn the same number of miles. So this is somewhat unattractive as compared to some other programmes, such as Qantas Frequent Flyer, that awards a bonus for status holders.

Celebrate for now, especially if you fly a lot on Cathay Pacific because you are about to get a whole lot more miles. However, if I were you I will also not hoard too many miles and try to get award availability as soon as you can – you will never know if prices will rise again.

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