Using credit card points and air miles to fly business class is the smartest way to fly.
Residents of Hong Kong and Singapore have the advantage of being connected to world’s best aviation hubs, and also enjoy access to valuable rewards programmes through their local airlines.
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles programme, and Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer, are two of the most popular frequent flyer programmes in Southeast Asia.
While the price of flying business class can be more than four times higher than an economy ticket, using the right redemption points can bring down the cost significantly.
iFLYflat, a company that helps users upgrade to business class through mileage points, has been helping individuals and businesses use rewards points or miles to fly business class at economy level prices for over six years.
With most major credit cards, you are earning either 1 KrisFlyer mile or 1 Asia Mile per US$1. If you’re smart about how you use them to redeem flights, you can get better value.
Flying between Hong Kong and Singapore
Winner: Cathay Pacific, Asia Miles (business class)
The route between Hong Kong and Singapore is one of the busiest in the world. To fly economy class on this route (round trip), you need 30,000 KrisFlyer miles or 30,000 Asia Miles. To fly business class on this route (round trip), you need 55,000 KrisFlyer miles, or just 50,000 Asia Miles.
Earning points from flying: a Hong Kong to Singapore round trip earns 3,118 air miles with an economy flexi return ticket on a Singapore Airlines flight, or 3,184 Asia Miles flying with Cathay Pacific. This means that you would need to fly the route 17.6 times with Singapore Airlines to get a free business class round-trip ticket, but only 15.7 times with Cathay Pacific. Combine these air miles with your credit card points and you’ll be able to fly further or sooner (or both). Just don’t tell your boss.
Flying to America
Winner: Cathay Pacific, Asia Miles (business class)
From Hong Kong you can fly with Cathay Pacific direct to New York (round trip) with 145,000 Asia Miles in business class. To fly economy class on this route, you need 90,000 Asia Miles (round trip). If using American Airlines AAdvantage miles, you need 140,000 for business class and 75,000 for economy class, to fly either with American Airlines or Cathay Pacific. But you need to be holding the AAdvantage “currency”.
On Singapore Airlines, a round-trip seat in business class between Singapore and New York requires 184,000 KrisFlyer miles, flying via Frankfurt. For economy, you need 80,000 KrisFlyer miles. If using the United Airlines Mileage Plus programme, you need 150,000 miles to fly business class and 80,000 to fly economy class, if flying only on a United Airlines aircraft.
Earning points from flying: a Singapore to New York round trip earns 14,300 KrisFlyer miles with a standard economy class return ticket on Singapore Airlines (12.3 flights earns enough points to fly the same route business class), or 16,118 Asia Miles flying with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong (nine flights earns enough points to fly the same route business class). So if the company is paying for my flights, I would choose to fly Cathay Pacific on this route to get the best points return.
Flying to Europe
Winner: Cathay Pacific, Asia Miles
Cathay Pacific has daily non-stop flights between Hong Kong and London. For a business class seat (round trip), 120,000 Asia Miles are required, while 60,000 are needed for an economy class seat. If flying British Airways to London, you need 180,000 Avios to fly business class, or 60,000 Avios for an economy class seat.
From Singapore, you can redeem 170,000 KrisFlyer miles for a business class round trip, or 76,000 miles to fly economy class. If flying by Thai Airways via Bangkok (stopover possible), you can redeem 170,000 Royal Orchid miles for a business class round trip, or 95,000 for an economy class trip.
Earning points from flying:
A Singapore to London round trip will earn 10,142 miles from a standard economy return ticket on Singapore Airlines (earning you a business class ticket on this same route after 16 flights) or 11,968 Asia Miles flying Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong (earning you a business class ticket on this same route after 10 flights).
Flying to Australia
Winner: Singapore Airlines, KrisFlyer (free Singapore stopover)
A business class round-trip seat from Singapore to Sydney requires 116,000 KrisFlyer miles, or 58,000 to fly in economy class. If using Qantas Frequent Flyer points, 120,000 miles are needed for a business class seat and 56,000 for economy. If using Virgin Velocity points, 130,000 are needed for a business class seat and 70,000 are needed for an economy class seat.
Cathay Pacific flies direct between Hong Kong and Sydney, and a seat in business class (round trip) requires 80,000 Asia Miles, and 45,000 for an economy class seat. If using Qantas Frequent Flyer points, 120,000 are needed for a seat in business class and 56,000 for economy. If using Virgin Velocity points, 119,000 are needed for a seat in business class and 55,600 for economy class.
While flying with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong requires fewer miles and less time, a benefit of using Singapore Airlines to fly Hong Kong-Singapore-Sydney is that it allows for a Singapore stopover for the same 116,000 KrisFlyer miles (for a business class round trip) as are needed to fly from Singapore to Sydney.
There is no charge if you’re booking a return trip, and a US$100 per passenger fee if booking only a one-way trip. This allows you to squeeze in meetings or explore Singapore for no extra travel cost.
Earning points from flying: a Singapore to Sydney round trip earns 5,868 miles with a standard economy class return ticket on Singapore Airlines (earning you a business class ticket after 19.7 flights), or 9,184 Asia Miles flying Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong (earning you a business class ticket after 8.7 flights).
Cathay Pacific has recently announced a shake-up to its Asia Miles loyalty programme, with changes taking effect from June 22. Stay tuned for another article on what this means to you as a frequent traveller.