Cheap Cathay Pacific Business Class Via Alaska Promo

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As I originally posted about a couple of weeks ago, Alaska is offering up to a 40% bonus on purchased miles through April 3, 2015.

Alaska-Buy-Miles

The bonuses are tiered, meaning the more miles you buy, the bigger the bonus you get, as follows:

  • Buy 5,000 – 9,000 miles: get a 10% Bonus
  • Buy 10,000 – 19,000 miles: get a 20% Bonus
  • Buy 20,000 – 39,000 miles: get a 30% Bonus
  • Buy 40,000 miles: get a 40% bonus

This promotion only comes around twice a year

If history is any indicator, Alaska offers a bonus on purchased miles four times per year. Two times per year they offer up to a 35% bonus on purchased miles, while two times per year they offer a 40% bonus on purchased miles. At least that’s what the trend has been as of late.

So while patterns do always change, I wouldn’t expect for it to be roughly six months before this promotion is offered again.

There’s no limit to how many miles you can buy

In my opinion, this is one of the things that makes Alaska’s promotions on purchased miles especially compelling. There’s no limit to how many points you can purchase, meaning you could literally buy a million miles if you wanted.

There are only two limitations:

  • You can purchase a maximum of 40,000 miles per transaction, though you can make as many transactions as you’d like
  • You can use the same credit card for at most four points.com transactions per 30 day period (they process Alaska mileage purchases)

A vast majority of airline loyalty programs limit how many points you can purchase per calendar year, so Alaska really is quite unique in not having such a limit.

Alaska miles have gotten tougher to redeem

There are lots of great uses of Alaska Mileage Plan miles, and they remain one of my favorite mileage currencies out there, given that they have partnerships with several different airlines spanning the alliances.

Alaska-Partners

Despite that, there’s no denying that a few of my favorite uses of Mileage Plan miles have become more difficult:

Cathay Pacific business class is a great option to Asia and beyond

There are lots of new people in this hobby, and in many cases their goal is to find ways to get premium cabin travel for less. That’s my general travel philosophy, for what it’s worth. I don’t want to travel for “free,” but rather want to get as good of a value as possible on luxury travel.

If you’re looking to redeem miles for travel to Asia in business class, one of the very best options is Cathay Pacific:

  • Cathay Pacific has a great business class product with reverse herringbone seats
  • Cathay Pacific releases a ton of business class award availability in advance — often five seats per flight when the booking window opens

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class

For example, looking in advance between New York and Hong Kong, you’ll see that on many dates every flight has five business class award seats:

CX-Avail-1

The same is true in the other direction, from Hong Kong to New York:

CX-Avail-2

Here’s why buying Alaska miles makes so much sense

The good news is that Alaska Mileage Plan partners with Cathay Pacific, and they have among the most lucrative redemption rates. Keep in mind that Alaska Mileage Plan allows stopovers on one-way award tickets. Nowadays most airlines don’t even allow stopovers on roundtrip award tickets, let alone on one-ways.

Alaska Mileage Plan also has among the most lucrative redemption rates of any program.

One-way business class between North America and Asia will cost you 50,000 miles (~$1,050).

CX-Asia

One-way business class between North America and Australia/New Zealand will cost you 60,000 miles (~$1,260).

CX-Australia

One-way business class between North American and Africa, India, or the Middle East, will cost you 62,500 miles (~$1,310).

CX-ME

Keep in mind that in all of the above cases you’re allowed a complimentary stopover in Hong Kong enroute to your final destination. So this is a great way to visit two continents on a single award.

Bottom line

If you have millions of miles spread across a variety of programs, is this how you should be funding Cathay Pacific business class travel? No.

But if you don’t have huge mileage balances or are looking to travel with a group of people, I don’t think there are many better values out there than booking Cathay Pacific business class through Alaska Mileage Plan. The fact that Alaska lets you buy as many miles as you’d like and also allows stopovers on one-way awards is really the icing on the cake.

In this case we’re talking about $2,000-2,600 for roundtrip business class to the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Australia, etc. That’s tough to beat!

So I do still think it can make a lot of sense to buy Alaska miles, even if it’s not for travel in Emirates first class.

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Comments

  1. I wonder how the sale is going given the lack of EK F space. Wasn’t that one of the main partner redemption choices?

  2. How does this work out ex-EU? The AS award charts are really bad, i.e. they only mention the price to HKG (42.5k oneway J).

    Also, to participate, does one need to have an account or can one create a new one and participate?

  3. Hey Lucky,

    Question from an earlier post (http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/03/10/best-uses-of-alaska-airlines-mileage-plan-miles/) – “The one major downside is that Alaska doesn’t let you mix airlines on an award ticket, with the exception of Air France and KLM (they’re considered the same airline for the purposes of redemption).” –

    As far as I know, Cathay uses Dragon Air for HKG-BLR (planning on a ORD-HKG-BLR route). How would the India award work using Alaska Miles if Cathay does not let you mix carriers?

    Thanks,
    Arun.

  4. Ben,

    Two months ago, everything was wide open for summer and fall 2015 on Alaska’s Award Calendar and now practically nothing is avaialble — lots of MIXED ITENERARIES — which is code for “The over-the-water portion is in COACH.”

    I don’t see how you can recommend the program anymore. I have 250K miles and it’s so hard to redeem one seat. Perhaps Cathay in J on some flights are available, but this program has gone downhill faster than Skypesos.

  5. @ Michael — Ultimately they have no control over partner availability. You’re right that there are many options which aren’t as readily available anymore, but for some specific airlines they hands down have the best redemption rates in the industry.

  6. @ Arun — Unfortunately Alaska miles can’t be used for flights on Dragonair. There are other destinations in India served by Cathay Pacific, though.

  7. @ Travelista — If originating in Europe, you can only redeem Alaska miles for travel to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. Any other flights would count as a separate award.

  8. @ Ivan Y — It definitely was, though I think there are still several other great options. I’m sure it has impacted sales, though.

  9. Luis,

    Alaska does allow transit to AU via HKG. I actually just booked this itin:

    LAX -> BNE -> SYD (on Qantas Business class using AS Miles)

    SYD -> ADL (Qantas Business Class using Avios)

    ADL -> HKG -> LAX (CX Business to HKG, CX First to LAX using AS Miles)

  10. @ Chris K — Not a ton, but if you plan in advance it’s not usually too difficult, in my experience. Also be sure to check their secondary Australian destinations.

  11. why no mention of the fact that Alaska only has access to a fraction of award seats AF/KLM makes available to flyingblue members?
    absolutely no availability (not even coach) on these Airlines via Alaska award on VIE-NYC from now till the end of summer, i didn’t bother to search later dates, probably the same result.

    I have over 250k Alaska miles as well… pretty useless now. I refuse to churn their cards any more because of this.

  12. Hi Ben.
    Just read your latest Alaske airmiles report I was waiting to get c class EK A380 US-DXB but seem impossble after end of this month – so I had to look somewhere else.and I am really so happy/excited that I got 2 tkt YYC-SEA-JFK-AS-HKG-STOP-DXB CX is a great alternative CX C CLASS EXCEPT HKG-DXB 1 TKT IS Y CLASS.
    It is really amazing for 152.86 usd tax/fee and only 62.500 miles takes you all the way.
    Now I am just stuck in DXB to get to Europe
    Hoping EK A380 C (DXB-BCN) or QR A380 Via DOH-LHR – any idea Feb 2016)?
    Buy Avios from BA seem to much and wait to transfer pint from AM account can take time so what other options do we have – Thanks for all your great advise

  13. I just picked a random date in november and did a search.

    First time, i got LAX-MEL in qantas business class one way for 55,000K + tiny tax.

    Very good deal if you ask me.

  14. @james – what date in november? I don’t see any availability in business class to Australia in November. The longhaul is always in coach.

  15. @ Jorgen/yyc — I’d just keep an eye on space, it’s very likely to open up eventually. Otherwise if you’re redeeming American miles then you can always book something with a connection now, and if a nonstop opens upy ou can switch to it without paying a fee.

  16. @ Lantean — For what it’s worth, none of Air France/KLM’s partners seem to have access to “full” space anymore.

  17. Also, don’t rule out actually purchasing business class tickets. I am not sure if it is from the low fuel prices, or just a market trend, but more and more I am finding reasonable business class flights for just a few dollars more then purchasing frequent flyer miles. For example, I was looking at going from Seattle to Korea in July. I was going to purchase Alaska Airline miles, to redeem on a partner as coach prices were about $1800.

    I used google flights and noticed that I could fly Delta in Business class for only $2500. Sure Delta is not Cathay Pacific, but for $2500 I earn Alaska miles and status. And the times work better for my schedule. So as well as using this buy miles opportunity to get a business class ticket, also don’t rule out looking for deals in business class too.

  18. Hey Ben,

    You mentioned that MileagePlan allows for one stopover for one way journeys. If I’m redeeming CX from New York to Hong Kong, would they allow me to stopover in Vancouver for 70k miles from the NA to Asia chart or would I have to redeem a separate ticket from New York to Vancouver then Vancouver to Hong Kong?

    Thanks

  19. @Lucky,

    I’ve been meaning to ask you this question for a while, and this thread comes at a great time. Planning a trip for MBA program in early Oct. Trip begins in Vietnam and ends in Singapore. Assuming I’m doing the math correctly, I’ll need 120,000 miles + $90.20 in fees to book Business Class via Korean Air (Cathay availability wasn’t showing up, but maybe that’s because it’s not open yet?). If I use the Alaska Airlines promotion to buy all the miles necessary to book the trip, it’ll be $2420 (2 x $2200 = 112,000 miles + 1 x $220 = 8800 miles)? Economy tickets are $1000-1800, and while it would be nice to earn the miles, flying comfortably and paying slight more seems totally worth it. But just want to make sure I’m not missing something? Oh, and I have Amex Platinum, so I could designate Alaska to get the $200 credit? Let me know what you think when you have a chance. Thanks, Sean

  20. @ Sean T. — If you designate Alaska as the airline for your AmEx Plat then buying miles wouldn’t count, since points purchases are processed by points.com.

    Cathay availability actually doesn’t show up on Alaska’s website, but should be bookable for 100K roundtrip in business class. You can use BA’s website to search space:
    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2014/04/01/use-british-airways-award-search-tool/

    And if you see Cathay space, it should be bookable by phone with Alaska.

    Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!

  21. Hello Lucky, under what circumstantce can Alaska miles only be redeemed for flights originating in the US for one-way? For e.g., if I wanna book a one-way trip from Hong Kong to New York on Cathay Pacific non-stop biz/first class, is that doable? Thanks!

  22. @ Kira — Yep, absolutely is possible. Doesn’t matter if you’re traveling to or from the US.

  23. @ John — No, as long as all travel is completed within a year of the date the ticket is issued.

  24. Will be in Europe in October (have outbound on AF business already) but have not booked return. Could we fly Cathay FCO -HKG – YVR on a single reward using Alaska miles?

  25. Finding an open F award seat on CX these days is getting harder and harder. Too much competition and seems to be like what Benny said is true about CX only releasing one award seat at a time. Also close in availability isn’t like what it was before. I don’t see the massive award seat availability on dates one week before departure. Times are changing.

  26. CX availability between HKG and AUS is horrible. I checked 11 months out (that’s when AS has access to CX inventory), for next Feb, there is only 1 business class seat for the whole month from BNE! Nothing from SYD, and even coach is hard to find.

    Either CX has closed all it’s award space to AUS to partners (following SQ, BR’s move to make AUS the hardest award to redeem) or people simply snatched it before AS has access to it.

    For someone living in Australia, it is so frustrating that every time we have to struggle to try to find an award space.

    IMO, currently the only airlines that still had wide open award space between AUS and US are VA, OZ and CA. TG has lots of awards to AUS but not to US.

  27. I just opened an account for the promotion, but later realize I have to wait 10 days in order to purchase miles…Hope next time comes sooner.

  28. Hi Ben – I live in Sydney. Is there any way you know of to purchase Alaska Miles without being a US resident at this stage? Thanks!

  29. @Lucky, I just checked, and doesn’t look like Cathy is showing space during the October period I want to travel (used the BA website to check). Does space usually open up at a later date, closer to October travel period, or should I try to book with the Alaska miles and fly on Korean?

  30. @ Sean T. — Have you checked all the routing possibilities? In general Cathay Pacific is fantastic about opening more award space as the departure date approaches, so I’d probably continue to monitor, as space will almost certainly open up with a bit of flexibility.

  31. Lucky,
    This is very interesting. I’ve got a trip from lax-hong kong-Jnb using Avios, this summer on Cathay Pacific. I have lax-hong kong in first for 2! Then two days later two business class seats to Jnb. Because I’m using avios I am spending a fair amount on their ridiculous fees. Would Alaska miles be a better option. Any idea how many I would have to purchase as I only have a few in my account. I’m only going one way on CX (to Jnb). Any advise on this would be greatly appreciated!

  32. @ Garrett speirs — Yes, it would be a much better value, if you can find award space. It would cost just 70,000 miles per person in each direction, and there would be no fuel surcharges.

  33. Thanks Lucky,
    Just one more question. Since I already have the seats reserved how long does it take for the seat availability to repost and become available again? I would hate to loose these coveted seats. Any advise would be great!
    Thanks again
    Garrett

  34. @ Garrett — With Cathay there’s no guarantee the seats will go back into inventory. They might, they might not.

  35. @ Lucky,

    Probably not skillful enough to look at all the routing options, but not seeing any space to book with Cathay on my outbound or return flight (tried looking a couple of days before and/or after my preferred travel dates). Via Alaska Airlines website, I can book return flight in Business class using 60k points + $64 on Korean which still sounds like a good deal. I guess my last question is, if I book the return on Korean, but then find space on Cathay, does Alaska permit you to cancel and rebook? Let me know if you think of any other ideas before tomorrow. Will likely buy the Alaska miles tomorrow.

    Thanks,
    Sean

  36. @ Sean T. — Yeah, that’s still a good deal, and you could rebook for free up until 60 days before departure. Within that timeframe you’d just pay the change fee.

  37. @ Lucky

    Of course when I went to book the flights, the Korean Air option @ 60K had vanished. Was able to book Emirates @ 75K, so still a deal. Thanks for your help, enjoy the Maldives.

  38. @ Lucky

    Well, should have followed your advice from the beginning…just booked return flight on Cathay for 25K less miles than Emirates option. So while I don’t get 16 hrs. in Emirates A380 business class, figured the more direct routing home would be worth it…will have to make a Dubai trip at some point in my life. Thanks for your help!

  39. @Lucky – so living in Texas, and planning on booking 11 months in advance
    – if I need to get to Sydney with a free stopover in Hong Kong,
    – which is my US exit city for Cathay ? LAX , Dallas ?
    – Is Cathay more viable given my location or Etihad ?
    – From your experience for business class for 2 tickets, which airline would I stand a better chance ? – Cathay or Etihad ?

    Thanks Ben !

  40. Quick question. I am new to all of this but very excited! So is it true that the only way to find cathay pacific award availability is by using the BA website? I can never find anything open. I am hoping to fly to CPT via HKG with them but can’t find any open dates! is this usual or am i just searching wrong? Thanks

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