Time to Redeem British Airways Miles for Cathay First Class
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Hilary Stockton
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My Award Booking Service helps travelers book first class and business class with miles and points. As an independent affiliate of Cadence, I also have access to Virtuoso, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Ritz-Carlton STARS, Starwood Luxury Privileges and other 5-star hotel partners, so I can book, for no extra cost, your perfect luxury hotel or luxury cruise with VIP amenities not available anywhere else. Become a client and upgrade your stay!

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Cathay Pacific First Class

 

We've written about the changes coming to the British Airways Executive Club, and if you love getting the most bang for your buck by using BA Miles to fly Cathay Pacific First Class or LAN Business Class to Easter Island with stopovers, the changes don't look good. 

Since we accrued 300,000 BA Miles from the BA Visa 100,000 mile sign up bonuses and through the 50,000 bonus for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (which transfers 1:1 to British Airways) we decided it was time to cash in and book 2 first class tickets on Cathay Pacific to Bali, with a stopover in Hong Kong. We covered this award in Tips for Booking Award Tickets to Bali, I thought it would be helpful to relate my experience booking this award, from a novice perspective.

First off was figuring out the rough itinerary. We toyed with the idea of going to Chiang Mai, Thailand then somewhere else in the region, such as Malaysia, Singapore or Bali. Ultimately though, we decided against moving around too much, since we'd have our 4 year old with us, and for a truly relaxing vacation, it's nice to spend enough time to really get to know a place. Another consideration was the weather; since it will be the wet season in the places we were considering going in Thailand, we decided to go Bali, which will not be in monsoon season during that time. Finally, since I've been to Bali before, I know what to expect and have a head start in planning where to stay and what to do.

Irrespective of our final Asian destination, I knew the bottleneck would be getting 2 First Class seats on the NYC-Hong Kong and Hong Kong-NYC flights, so that's what I searched first. 

I first logged into the BA Executive Club as usual using my member number and PIN. Then I clicked on 

Check Reward Flight Availability-British Airways

 

I then saw the screen Ben mentioned in How to Find OneWorld Award Space, where BA says "Choose Your Stopover." I ignored this, since I wanted to avoid being shown BA flights that stop in London, and clicked "Continue" in the bottom right:

Ignore Choose your stopover and Click Continue-British Airways award search

 

I then saw this screen, which displays BA availability in a calendar. I ignored it and in the blue Partner Airlines box on the left, I clicked Search.

 

How to include Partners in British Airways Award Search

 

Since I was shown a screen with a flight that went through Toronto, I selected "Search 7 days after" to see if I could find 2 reward tickets on a direct flight from Hong Kong to NYC. Nothing against Toronto (spent months working there Monday-Friday on a project) but when you're planning a family trip with a 4-year old, you really don't want to extend your flight times any more than you have to.

Search for Oneworld awards 7 days earlier or later using British Airways search

 

Number of reward seats left

 

I then called British Airways at 800-452-1201 to ticket the reservation. I actually have never managed to get through by pressing option 3 (it just tells me that all operators are busy and to call back later), to book a new flight, so I always press 2 to "change an existing booking" so that I at least get placed into the hold queue. My wait times both times were about 8 minutes.

Although I had no problems getting the $20 phone ticketing fee waived for the outbound flights, I did get some grief when booking the return flight. The agent had her manager check and she claimed that it was possible to book the return flight, with stopover in Hong Kong, online (I didn't figure out how to do this) but her manager allowed her to make this "one time exception" and not charge me the $20 phone ticketing fee. In any case, I did finally get it booked, and selected seats as well.

That said, if you somehow are going to get charged the phone ticketing fee but have found your perfect award availability, I would just swallow it and get those seats, before someone else does. After all, if you're ticketing a U.S. to Asia First Class roundtrip, you're talking about a ticket that normally costs close to $20K.

Now, as Ben and other frequent flyers point out, the true award value is what you would pay to actually fly the award ticket, not the full retail value (which most people, including us, would never pay). Still, it's hard to imagine better value for $190: the $95 annual fee for 2 BA Visa credit cards and then putting the required spend on those and the Chase Sapphire Preferred cards to earn 300K BA Miles.

Cathay Pacific First Class NYC-Bali is almost $20K

 

Tips:

  • If you know you want to go first class from the U.S. to Asia sometime in the next year or so, I would start searching Cathay Pacific award space immediately, especially if you're looking for an award between now and August 2012. Cathay loads award space 350-360 days out, so you have a little time to plan if you're looking at a September or October 2012 award. 
  • The British Airways call center in the U.S. seems thinly staffed. Try not to call too close to the 8pm ET closing time--you'll just get cut off and have to wait until the next day.
  • Note that when booking by phone, you will need *2* credit cards--they will charge 1 of them, and the other (which must have the same billing address as the card charged) is used as a means of security, to avoid fraud, since this is a "card not present" transaction.

Our trip is about a year away, but looking forward to it already. Here's a nice slideshow of Cathay Pacific First Class, although in this case from San Francisco:


Related Posts

Cathay Pacific First Class Review: Hong Kong to New York

Cathay Pacific First Class Review: New York to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific First Class Bali to Hong Kong Review

Cathay Pacific Business Class Review 747-400: Hong Kong to Bali

Cathay Pacific Business Class Review: 777-300ER NYC to Hong Kong


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Photo: Richard Moross

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Comments
Picture?type=large Angela R. commented 14 Sep 2011

Hi Hilary!  Thanks for this posting.  I am wondering how you handled the fuel charges with this booking?  I am trying to use my BA miles to book RDU -> London and BA wants $560 for taxes, fees, and fuel.  I can buy a ticket for $700, so I don't really see how the miles are doing a heck of a lot fo me.  Any thoughts are appreciated.

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 15 Sep 2011

Hi Angela, actually for Cathay Pacific, the taxes and fees for the two first class tickets were less than $400, so <$200 per ticket, which I view as reasonable. The problem is when you book on British Airways itself to London, because British Airways charges significant fuel surcharges on all its own long haul flights. The best redemption values by far for British Airways miles are not on BA's own flights, but on Oneworld partners, such as Cathay Pacific and LAN, especially if you fly biz or first class--these awards will all increase in 2 months, although we don't know by how much as BA hasn't released the new award chart. I realize this is cold comfort if you only want to use your BA miles for a U.S.-London flight in economy. I'd recommend paying cash to go to London, and using your BA miles for a premium award on a Oneworld partner, if you can book before the award chart increases in November. You can book awards up to 355 days in advance, and you can change the dates for a $70 fee, as long as the routing doesn't change.

Picture?type=large Ehtesham Q. commented 16 Sep 2011

Good posting Hilary. One quick question. If you book an award on Cathay Pacific using BA miles 355 days in advance and then close to lets say 60 days you change your mind and want to advance this reservation to another 120 days may be. Provided the seats are availible, can that be done now or then BA will ask us to follow the new rules 

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 16 Sep 2011

Hi Ehtesham, glad you liked the post. I think BA might well reprice the award if you try to change it to a date beyond November 2012. You can always take a chance, but if I wouldn't count on being able to fly on the current award charts past November 2012, and of course you'll need to ticket it before Nov. 16 2011.

Picture?type=large Angela R. commented 19 Sep 2011

Hi Hilary!  Thanks for your response.  Would you happen to know if Cathay Pacific and Lan the only two One World partners that don't charge a fuel surcharge?  I have looked all over for a list of partners and the corresponding yes/no on fuel surcharges but can't seem to find one.  Any info you can provide is appreciated. Thanks!

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 20 Sep 2011

Hi Angela, actually the fees I mentioned above for Cathay Pacific do include some fuel surcharges; it's just much less than British Airways. Fees are actually less on Cathay Pacific awards if you use American Airlines AAdvantage miles, since I believe they don't pass Cathay (or other Oneworld Alliance partner) fuel surcharges on to you, but right now it's BA miles that are going to be devalued soon, so that's what I wanted to use.

LAN does not charge fuel surcharges (YQ) so they are one of the best award redemptions, if you can snag availability--many others have the same idea though, so it's getting tougher to put together those multi-stopover itineraries to Easter Island.

I know BA is charging fuel surcharges on most other Oneworld partner flights, it's just a question of how much. Apparently since Aug. 1 2011 fuel surcharges are even higher on BA's JAL awards than Cathay, for similar routes per FlyerTalk.

If you were going to Australia on Qantas, an SFO-Sydney rt award in business would run you around $525 in total taxes/fees; it would be about $425 in coach.

In Iberia, you'd pay more taxes/fees for a rt coach ticket from the East Coast to Barcelona; in general, the fuel surcharges make it such that using BA miles, even on AA or other carriers, is not a good deal going to Europe. Hope this helps!

Picture?type=large Angela R. commented 20 Sep 2011

Thanks Hilary!  It does help a lot. :O)

Picture?type=large Geneyem B. commented 21 Sep 2011
Hilary, thanks for an awesome write-up. One clarifying question though, you said your 4-year-old was going on the trip with you, but then you only talked about getting two tickets, will your little one be lap sitting, or will you have to get a third ticket?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 21 Sep 2011

Hi Geneyem, glad you liked it! I actually booked the first class award seats for my husband and 4-year old, who needs to be booked into the same class of service as either my husband or me, and I still need to buy a coach ticket for me for the same flights. I'm hoping though to sit with my 4-year old for much of the time--we'll see if they're nice and allow that. The first class seats, from what I've seen, in addition to being wide enough for 2 people to sit side by side, are very private, so I can't imagine my 4-year old sitting for long times (or really much time at all) by himself.

Picture?type=large Ehtesham Q. commented 21 Sep 2011

Will you consider writing about Bali for a newbie like me in travelsort for one of your future blogs?

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 21 Sep 2011

Hi Ehtesham, sure, happy to write more about Bali as I plan the trip! Since Ben already wrote on additional tips for booking award tickets to Bali, are you interested more in the hotel options and things to do? We'll most likely spend some time near the beach, and some in Ubud, Bali's artistic and cultural center. I think our visit also ends around the time of Galungan, a major religious holiday, so hope to see some of the preparation for that. Let me know what's most of interest and will look to cover it in a future post!

Picture?type=large Ehtesham Q. commented 22 Sep 2011

I read Ben's article and found it to be very useful. Just your own observations will be fine like what time of the year is best and when is worst weather wise. Which places to avoid like they are simply tourist traps or safety wise and ofcourse where to get best value for your money accomodation wise starting from the most expensive to the cheapest ones.

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 22 Sep 2011

Sounds good, I'll plan a Bali post on that for next week!

Picture?type=large Chris G. commented 23 Sep 2011

Hi Hilary, While searching BA I searched for all one way awards, LAX/HKG, HKG/DPS, DPS/HKG, HKG/LAX and found availability on days that work for me. If I look at the miles it's 75k from LAX/HKG each way and then 40k from HKG/DPS each way. So if I call britisg Airways and provide them with the flight information will it price out as 1 round trip for 150k miles in First? or will there be an issue?

 

Thanks for the help

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 23 Sep 2011

Hi Chris, yes, that will price out at 150K miles in First, plus the fees/taxes. If you found award availability that works for you, simply call up BA (try to avoid calling too close to 8pm ET so you don't get cut off) and tell them the flight details. Since you're stopping over in Hong Kong and partner stopovers can't be booked online, ask them to waive the phone booking fee. Note though that the HKG/DPS legs will be in Business, since they don't ticket award travel on those segments in First, so if your agent has trouble finding the availability you're looking at, make sure s/he's searching for business for those legs.

Picture?type=large Tlaw F. commented 30 Sep 2011

Hi Hilary, how were you able to find Cathay flights out to DPS?  I can't seem to even find the airport when searching through the website.  Did you map that out before you called or just asked for availability on the phone?

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 30 Sep 2011

Hi Tlaw, if you're logged into the British Airways site, and on the first screenshot I show (in my example, Hong Kong to NYC), try putting in From: Hong Kong To: Denpasar, Bali (make sure you type in Denpasar--I initially made the mistake of typing Bali, which didn't yield anything!). You'll then get a screen that informs you that British Airways does not fly this route. Click the red "Include Partners" button, and you'll then see Cathay availability. I just double checked this, trying Aug. 25, 2012, and see that 7 reward seats are available. It could be that you are trying a date that has no award availability. As I mentioned, you'll only see Business class, because it's not possible to prebook an award in First between Hong Kong and DPS. Hope this helps!

User_avatar_default eucen f. commented 08 Oct 2011

I was pricing out 2 award business RT tickets from LAX to DPS (using BA miles) and was getting overall charges of about ~$720 ... was anyone else getting something similar?  I can't imagine that NYC to DPS would've been cheaper in fuel surcharges and such than LAX to DPS

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 08 Oct 2011

Hi Zug, that is correct; I paid <$200 each way in charges per first class ticket, so <$400/rt ticket, which I view as reasonable given that each ticket retails for almost $20K. Taxes would be less if using AAdvantage miles to book Cathay, but it was worth it to me to use up BA miles, given the upcoming devaluation.

Picture?type=large Graham W. commented 11 Oct 2011

Great blog Hilary - many thanks

 

My wife has  103 k BA miles & I have 202 k BA miles - would like to go to Rio or Buenos Aires then possibly on to Capetown SA

Any advice on using these miles LAN or CAthay Pacific to fly from the E coast appreciated for the above routes ?

 

BA award changes are to occur November 1 - is that correct ?

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 11 Oct 2011

Hi Graham, glad you like the blog! Cathay doesn't actually fly to either Rio or Buenos Aires, so if you want to use BA miles, you should use LAN. Roundtrip in business class would be 80K each, so a total of 160K for the two of you. If you have no interest in flying Cathay to Asia (you have enough for 2 business class tickets), then LAN is probably the best use of your BA miles.

South Africa would be a separate trip, and not a good deal using BA Miles for Cathay: business class would be 180K, whereas via Alaska Airlines, you could use 140K miles to fly *first class* on Cathay to South Africa. Note that Cathay only flies as far as Johannesburg, and you'd then do a quick hop on their codeshare partner, Comair, to Cape Town.

Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 11 Oct 2011

Oh, and in terms of BA award changes: these are slated to happen November 16, when the new Ts & Cs go into effect: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/ec-terms-and-conditions/public/en_us

Unfortunately they haven't made available the new single Oneworld partner award chart, which is why so many of us are booking these trips now. You can view the single partner award chart for flights originating in the U.S. here (multiply x2 for biz and x3 for 1st): http://www.britishairways.com/travel/partnertable/public/en_us

Picture?type=large Graham W. commented 11 Oct 2011
Thanks Hilary  Great responses in such a short time If I may, a follow up Q - just slightly off topic - Can we use our BA Mileage for a LAN stopover award from E Coast - to Rio with stopover - to Buenos Aires then return say a week later to the E Coast ??
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 12 Oct 2011

Graham, you could book two 1-way awards, departing from one of LAN's East Coast gateways (NYC or Miami) to Rio (GIG) and then a return from Buenos Aires (EZE). The problem is you won't be able to include Rio to Buenos Aires (or vice versa) as there isn't a LAN direct flight between them, only ones that connect via Santiago (SCL), which would be backtracking and not allowed in the award. So to visit both Rio and Buenos Aires you'd need to buy a ticket between Rio and Buenos Aires, say on Gol (which you could get as an award flight with AA miles, assuming availability, but not BA miles).

User_avatar_default สุภา ว. commented 21 Feb 2012
Great report, very informative. Overall, it looks like BA really sticks it to their members with additional charges on a redemption ticket. I recently booked san/bkk/san with AA miles, getting first class on lax/hkg/lax section, and business on the hkg/bkk routes . travel in sept / oct 2012, total fees AA charged me was $47 and 135 k miles.
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