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During this COVID-19 crisis, it is certainly not the time to travel. On that note, our team has temporarily ceased taking any non-essential trips for the time being and only encourages travellers to be in the sky when the situation alleviates. Until then, our team will continue to post old travel reviews and new travel deals in hopeful anticipation of the earliest dates we all can take to the skies again!

Asia Miles, the mileage programme of Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific,  has announced the removal of the pesky fuel surcharges on its own flights effective 1 May.

What does this means for us?

Well, for those who are new to the miles world, fuel surcharges are one of your worst enemies to your flight redemptions. To simply explain things, fuel surcharges are additional fees that airlines ‘pass on’ to consumers due to the volatility of oil prices. These fuel surcharges can range from $100-$1,000, which can be a huge dampener for a redemption ticket. You would think that as time passed and as airlines hedged their oil prices, airlines would slowly get rid of fuel surcharges, but that development is unfortunately at a standstill (even with the recent trigger of negative oil prices!) Nevertheless, there are some airlines that have tweaked their programme so that do not pass on fuel surcharges, and they are:

  • Avianca Lifemiles on its own and partner flights
  • Singapore Airlines on its own flights
  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan *except for British Airways and Emirates

These are all valuable airline programmes you should add to your arsenal in being a travel conosseiur. Now, Cathay Pacific has joined this list, albeit only for its own flights.

Sadly, to those who buy tickets, this probably won’t be of much significance to you. That’s because Cathay Pacific has the absolute prerogative to increase its air ticket fare, which is independent of fuel surcharges, to compensate for the possible revenue loss because of this policy change.

However, as mentioned, for those of us who redeem flights, we are going to enjoy some decent savings.

How much are we actually saving?

Well, I personally haven’t redeemed any of my miles from Asia Miles, but based on a casual search, it seems like Cathay Pacific does not pass on that heavy fuel surcharges. For example, for Singaporeans who flew to Milan via Hong Kong before 1 May, you would be looking at a fuel surcharge of $16 for your Singapore-Hong Kong leg and another fuel surcharge of $70 for the Hong Kong-Paris. 

With fuel surcharges abolished, you are looking at savings of $172 per person for a round-trip ticket. Not quite the heights of $1,000, but enough for a candlelit dinner with your significant other at MAIO bar located on the sky floor of the “La Rinascente”, located next to the Duomo. I personally vouch for the Risotto Al Barolo, a white wine and truffle from Tuscany risotto. Throw in some antipasti and save some room for dessert too!

a sweet spot opens

With the removal of these mentioned fuel surcharges, frequent fliers from Singapore (or flyers from South East Asia) can strongly consider adopting Asia Miles as a strong alternative to Singapore Airlines considering its strong international network. This is because of the generous distance chart Cathay Pacific employs, as you will see below. 

Cathay Pacific’s award chart, comparable to Singapore Airlines’ Saver award chart. Cathay Pacific has a Choice Award Chart as well which offers better availability but mediocre rates like Singapore Airlines’ Advantage Chart. For discussion purposes, we will be focusing on its Standard Award Chart.

The chart is rather self explanatory: whatever the distance and cabin class of your Cathay Pacific flight(s), you will match it to the corresponding category. To the uninformed, Cathay Pacific defines Type 1 as any destination in the world excluding USA and Type 2 as any destination in USA. If you haven’t noticed, the real sweet spot lies in the Distance Zone of Long – Type 1. 

The distance between Singapore to Europe is generally a cool 6,000-7,000 miles, which means that an award redemption will fall under the aforementioned category. Since we are comparing this chart to Singapore Airlines, readers will know that Krisflyer charges a whopping 92,000 Krisflyer miles to anywhere in Europe from Singapore.

However, the quoted distance of 6,000-7,000 miles is for a NON-STOP flight, and for the case of flying Cathay Pacific, we will have to transit in its hub city of Hong Kong, before continuing our journey to Europe. 

You can tell here that a trip to Zurich from Singapore via Hong Kong, a total travel distance of 7,364 miles, is eligible to qualify for a redemption of 65,000 miles.

However, a flight to London from Singapore via Hong Kong does not qualifiy for a redemption under Long-Type 1, as the total travel distance exceeds 7,500 miles. This redemption will then cost 85,000 Asia miles, almost comparable to the rate Singapore Airlines charges.

However, there’s nothing stopping you from finessing your way to the British capital if you have some leftover Avios. In fact, 4,000 Avios is all you need to do the quick hop from any European city within 650 miles of London.

Actual product

Pre-COVID, Cathay Pacific operates several flights daily between Singapore-Hong Kong, with different planes such as the newer Boeing 777 and older planes like the A330. Fortunately, most seats feature lie-flat beds and direct aisle access, with the early morning flight CX714 at 0120 the exception being just a reclining seat.

Perhaps the best thing about flying business class on Cathay Pacific out of Singapore is the number of lounge options you have. Cathay Pacific is part of the OneWorld alliance, and since the start of the year, OneWorld has 4 different premium lounges in Singapore Changi Airport!

You have the Cathay Pacific Lounge in Terminal 4 (now closed due to the closure of Terminal 4 effective 14 May 2020), the British Airways Galleries Lounge, Qantas Lounge, Qatar Airways Premium Lounge in Terminal 1. Cathay Pacific was primarily operating from Terminal 4, and now it has been moved to Terminal 1. Anyone travelling in Cathay Pacific business class will have access to the 3 lounges in Terminal 1, and they are as good as any lounge.

After the short hop to Hong Kong, you probably will have a few hours to kill before the connecting flight to Europe. Well, you’re in luck, since Cathay Pacific itself runs 4 different world-class Business Class lounges in its airport. You probably won’t have all the time to explore all since the airport is huge, so I’ll recommend The Pier and The Wing. The Pier has its own designed yoga space for  passengers to relax, while the Wing is the largest lounge out of all four, boasting 24 shower suites and many food options. Both lounges also have individual First Class lounge sections catered to First Class and OneWorld Emerald passengers. If you prefer some Australian flair, you have the impressive Qantas lounge available near Gate 5.

After enjoying your time in the lounges, you make your way to fly with Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 to Zurich. Cathay Pacific is the second operator of the A350-1000s in 2018 after Qatar Airways, and can carry a payload of 10% more passengers compared to the A350-900. It may not stand in the same league as the famed Qsuites, but it is definitely still a pleasant and enjoyable ride to Europe with Hong Kong hospitality. Do note that depending on your destination in Europe, you might find yourself on Cathay Pacific’s flagship Boeing 777.

In any case, the flight will include an amenity kit which you might useful on the flight, unlike Singapore Airlines which does not believe in amenity kits. Moreover, Cathay Pacific is in the midst of revamping its Business and First Class in-flight experience. These changes include thicker bedding by Bamford, refreshed pyjamas and amenity kits, along with much healthier food options for passengers. You can find out more here.

Cathay Pacific New Business Class Soft Products (Photo Credit: Cathay Pacific)
Cathay Pacific New First Class Experience (Photo Credit: Cathay Pacific)

Boy, do they look sleek!

concluding thoughts

Europe has always been a popular destination for many Singaporeans, so this recent policy change by Cathay Pacific is definitely a welcome move. A considerable amount of savings, amounting to 27,000 miles, is always appreciated. That is no negligible amount, since it allows you to travel business class to Bali, or even to Hong Kong in Singapore Airlines Suites, with a small top up.

Moreover, the ongoing revamp of the cabins makes it a win-win situation, although budget cuts seem to be imminent as airlines suffer huge losses because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may delay the reconfiguration process.

Asia Miles are one of the easiest attainable mile currencies since every major bank partners with them, with the exception of OCBC and Standard Chartered Bank.

Prior to the pandemic, I have been planning a Round-the-World trip using my Asia Miles, and this policy change only accelerates my desire to to fly with the Hong Kong carrier. Here’s hoping that we will all be in the skies sooner rather than later! 

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