Avios Redemption University – Lesson 16 – Using Cathay Pacific for low-tax Avios redemptions to Asia

The “Avios Redemption University” series is a good starting point for beginners, although I hope everyone will learn something from them.  Click here to see the other articles.

Today I want to take a look at how you can make substantial tax savings – although not Avios savings – when flying to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific.

You can’t use a British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher on Cathay Pacific so this strategy is better for the solo traveller or someone who has already used their annual voucher.

Cathay Pacific Avios

Cathay Pacific is a fellow member of the oneworld alliance, alongside BA, so you can redeem your Avios for their flights.  Availablity is generally very good – insanely good out of Dusseldorf, where you will usually find eight Business Class seats available.  Only some routes have First Class.

Let’s look at BA redemptions first

When booking redemptions to Hong Kong on BA there is one vital fact to remember.  By law, there are NO fuel surcharges on flights originating in Hong Kong.  This does not apply to return legs of flights starting outside Hong Kong.

What this means is that you MUST book Hong Kong BA redemptions as 2 x one-way flights.  If you do this, there will be no fuel surcharge on the inbound flight.  If you book it as a return flight you will pay a fuel surcharge on the inbound flight.

The snag, of course, is that by booking 2 x one-ways you cannot use your British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher ….

The impact of booking 2 x one-way redemptions on British Airways

British Airways business class RETURN flight, London to Hong Kong – 180,000 Avios + £487

Or when booked separately:

BA outbound – 90,000 Avios + £332

BA inbound – 90,000 Avios + £10

Total – 180,000 + £342, saving £145

These numbers are based on peak day redemptions.

Save a little tax when you fly Cathay Pacific from London

If you choose to fly Cathay Pacific instead of British Airways from London, you will make a further saving:

Cathay Pacific business class (London to Hong Kong):  180,000 Avios + £198

You save £144 over a British Airways redemption.

This is based on a peak day redemption.

Ex-Europe is even more interesting!

Cathay also flies to Hong Kong from Manchester and various other European starting points.  The tax numbers are exceptionally good, as low as £29 return!

Manchester to Hong Kong:  180,000 Avios + £168

Amsterdam to Hong Kong:  180,000 Avios + £29

Dusseldorf to Hong Kong:  180,000 Avios + £61

Frankfurt to Hong Kong:  180,000 Avios + £77

Madrid to Hong Kong:  210,000 Avios + £31

Milan to Hong Kong:  180,000 Avios + £34

Paris to Hong Kong:  180,000 Avios + £83

Rome to Hong Kong:  180,000 Avios + £44

Zurich to Hong Kong:  180,000 Avios + £36

As you can see, there are some big savings to be made here compared to the British Airways surcharges of £342.  You need to factor in the cost of getting to and from your departure airport, of course.

The snag …. off-peak pricing

There is one thing which may make you think twice about Cathay Pacific.  If you book on a peak day (which, for 2017, will be every school holiday day for a start) there is no difference in the Avios required.

Fly on a British Airways off-peak day and the Avios required fall to 150,000 per person, return, in Business Class.  This offsets the saving in taxes and charges.  Cathay Pacific, of course, still has arguably a far superior product as a look at online reviews will show.

Bits: BA 'enhancing' First Class menus, final call for Azimo £10 Amazon voucher and 'buy SPG points' deals
Bits: Radisson / Park Inn / Park Plaza taken over by Chinese group, Radisson's new family package
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  1. rossmacd says:

    “Cathay Pacific, of course, still has arguably a far superior product”

    There is no arguably about it – CX is streets ahead of BA in all areas!! :-)

    • Since the CX LHR lounge is currently closed, then the lounge options at T5 flying with BA are arguably better…

      • I’m silver so I don’t really notice any difference in the BA lounge at T3 or T5. In fact if I’m not hungry or just fancy a beer and want some space I prefer the AA lounge at t3 which has only ever been a ghost town!

      • So in mean time you would use aa or gc t3. I prefer that to gc t5 whenever I’ve been its been quieter.

      • flyforfun says:

        CX flyers are currently using the No1 lounge at T3, much to the annoyance of PP cardholder who get turned away!

  2. I flew CX HKG-AMS in January on a avios booking (pre devaluation) and it couldn’t fault it. The Wing lounge at HKG is also excellent.

  3. Living in Southampton a flight to Amsterdam (depending on the layover) would be more convenient than one from Heathrow. Could even get an avios redemption on the flybe hop to Amsterdam.

    I last flew business on CX in November from Doha to HNK the seat was great but both legs my choice of food wasn’t available which was slightly frustrating. However Doha to Penang return was only £700 (with 320 TPs).

  4. Thank you. That explains a lot.

    I used a companion voucher last week for the first time.

    Booked first class to Singapore then waited for Hong Kong flights to become available. Before ringing up to book return leg. Noticed on the web site flights from Hong Kong were only £10 so was half expecting that would be what it cost. When I booked the return leg the agent could not explain why the return was so much more than the £10 on the web site, but I was so pleased to get my return booking business class on the date I wanted that I did not worry to much as I still think I got a great deal,although I was confused!

    I now understand.

  5. I am in the process of changing from Amex Plat to the BA Amex card for using my miles in Asia…

    Some great prices, what i liked the best was BOM to MNL via HKG for 20,000 miles plus £20 in fees..

    • forgotten to say on the same route, i could book with MH, but due to the tax i don’t think you would (Over £100 i think).

  6. Just a data point on Cathay Pacific – I flew business class from Hong Kong to Tokyo a couple of weeks ago.

    Given all the praise about Cathay Pacific standards I was keen to try them out. Overall I was pleased with the choice, but not overwhelmed.

    The CX lounge was smallish with a limited range of food and drink – OK but nothing special.
    There didnt appear to be any fast tracking through to the plane.
    On board the cabin crew were very good – attentive but not too much, food was reasonable but not especially gourmet standard.

    I’d say they were ahead of BA business on most things but not streets ahead.

    • Barry cutters says:

      The emerald lounge is awesome at Hkg

    • There are 5 lounges in HKG…

      HKG has no fast-track security but that’s not CX’s fault, CX provides it at airports where it is available. You can register for fast-track immigration at HKG if you are a frequent visitor and hold airline status.

      Anyway for CX regional, the proper comparison is Club Europe, and there really is no comparison there.

  7. When travelling around Asia with CX do bear in mind they use a mix of ‘regional business’ cabins and the lay flat long haul versions, it’s worth checking what your flight will be. The long haul flights include a premium economy cabin which makes it easy to identify. I have always really enjoyed CX, great cabins and service but sometimes their food in Business doesn’t look any better than BA. CX First still do caviar :-)

  8. sprout7 says:

    Many thanks for a very interesting article!
    Presumably if you have 2x 241 vouchers (or you have 1 and your partner has one) then you could book the 2 legs separately saving £290 in total? This effectively values a 241 voucher at £290 – would this be considered good value for the voucher?

  9. …off topic. In the no1 lounge now. Is busy but plenty of seats. Ordered my bacon roll, took 15 mins.

    • flyforfun says:

      Who did you fly with? I’ve tried 2x to get in using my Priority Pass card and told it was too busy. Once was around 10am on a weekday morning. The other around 7pm on a weekday evening. Flying through there in a few weeks again and want to be able to use my pass!!

      • was with BA on a business ticket

      • Gavin says:

        I’ve been in the T3 No. 1 lounge twice in the last two weeks using my Priority Pass – busy both times but no issues.

  10. Do we book via BA website? I don’t have enough Avios for business redemptions, how do I find out how many Avios + tax if I booked from Europe?

    • Sorry I should have clarified, I meant for Economy redemptions. Presumably I just use BA search, and select cathay

  11. I paid £195 plus 180,000 Avios one way LHR – HKG – PER in first and business. I could have gone ex EU but couldn’t be bothered given that I will have a lot of luggage. By the time I go the CX F lounge at LHR will be open and I will have F lounge access in HKG.
    Despite the high Avios price I think this is a pretty good deal :)

    • Note originally I was going to do a crazy route, getting to Perth the wrong way around. I had booked CX F JFK – HKG 140,000 Avios plus £3!!!!! Not bad for a 16h 10 min flight.

  12. Most of us have Amex Membership Rewards points.
    If fly Cathay the best option is of course transfer points to Asiamiles then redeem.
    You can save both miles and charge compare with BA Avios redemption!!!

    • Please give examples. Taxes on CX via Avios look more than reasonable to be honest..it is far more easy and flexible to use Avios than be stuck with moving thousands to AsiaMile. not sure people are after that.

      • You may be right for people who generally travel only to Europe and America, but if you are sure you will be taking a certain return flight then you might as well use Asia Miles if it’s available.

        Asia Miles redemptions for premium cabins are cheaper than the equivalent Avios price
        Asia Miles are redeemable for HK 5 cents each at a Hong Kong supermarket

        Asia Miles expire after 3-4 years
        One-ways cost more than half a return
        CX has a HK$50 mystery charge on asia miles redemptions (won’t break the bank)
        Changes can’t be made online
        There are significant penalties for cancellation

    • There is a trade off though, because if you end up cancelling you are stuck with a pile of Asia Miles (obviously you can use them for BA but not necessarily ideal).

  13. Barry cutters says:

    Off topic Heading over to t3 Lhr now. Gold card traveling on American at 12.25 . Which lounge should I use . Cathey is still closed I think? So guess it’s a desision between ba first or aa lounge. Haven’t been to t3 since December so not up to speed . Any recommendations?

    • AA huge but empty, BA probably busy. Would go for BA purely because I found it weird being alone in a football pitch sized AA lounge.

  14. It is slightly misleading to say that HKG has no fuel surcharges by law.

    By law, the current fuel surcharge is set at HKD $0.

    This amount is reassessed every month. When OPEC starts reducing output then the amount of fuel surcharges will start going up again.

  15. The best redemption I have ever got was for this coming Jan syd-dxb-lhr in J with Qantas at 68quid each……..
    I did CX from Ams to Hkg in Jan past and the seat is amazing but I agree the food portions are rather small but only a tiny problem. I stand by Eithad J as I believe it is the best I have travelled on

  16. can’t beat 85,000 Alaska miles for CX J return between Europe – Hong Kong

  17. Raffles, more a hypothetical question, if you book a return (not 2 singles) the fuel surcharges that BA load on an outbound HK flight, where does that go? Not to the relevant HK tax authority… Why aren’t BA able to reflect lower taxes in a return ticket? This doesn’t seem right to me!

    • Because they don’t have to.

      Try this question – American Airlines does not charge fuel surcharges. An AA flight from London to the US just incurs APD when using AA miles. BA, however, whacks on a £300 fuel surcharge when you use Avios to book the same AA flight. Where does that money go? Into BA’s pocket of course.

    • Evidence right here that the decade of marketing diversionary tactics by BA have worked. Where a customer thinks someone other than BA is charging the fuel surcharge.

  18. I still think given the frequent Qatar and other airline J sales, you would hard pressed to get much value by booking this route at 180k avios return + tax, regardless of the tax amount. I suspect if you worked it all out, you would often be getting less than .5p an avios of value with this redemption, compared to an avios earning cash booking. Depends if you are avios rich I guess (I am not)

    • Fair point …. £1629 for cash in Cathay J in the current sale so you are looking at not much more than 0.5p. Valuation is partly driven by how you earned them though …. if they all came from business travel with no effort on your part then you’d probably be happy.

  19. Andrew H says:

    O/T – just got my 2000 avios in Iberia account. Check your accounts.

  20. Anything similar for tokyo rather than hkg?

    e.g. BA (UK) vs. JAL/ANA (ex-EU) I forget which is a OW member.

  21. Scallder says:

    Slightly OT – BA quarterly results included this:

    “Revenue trends in quarter two have been affected by the aftermath of the Brussels terrorist attacks, as well as some softness in underlying premium demand. As a result, IAG has moderated its short term capacity growth plans.”

    I wonder what the growth plans were which they’re putting on the shelf?

    Some softness in underlying premium demand – sounds a poor way of saying we’re losing out to our competitors. Not surprising given the high cost and comparatively poor product compared to ME3/CX etc

  22. Cathay also (rather bizarrely) fly from New York to Vancouver. Recently booked this, seemed like lots of availability on this route. Couldn’t get uk-Vancouver flights on BA so booked lhr-jfk with Virgin then Cathay after a few hours in the lounge.

  23. WilliamPH says:

    Booked a Premium Economy flight using Avios from SIN to HKG, and aircraft change/ overbooking means that we are in business this morning. According to the FT Cathay board this is a regular occurrence on the route. And if we hadn’t been upgraded could have coped with PE on Cathay – no worse than Club Europe

  24. Bariummeal says:

    Two weeks ago I flew LHR – HKG in Business and back in First with Cathay – 210k avios and around £180 charges. Would have started in AMS to get chsrges down to £19 but didnt have time. Business was great – though lounge closed so did a tour of AA, BA and then a rammed Number 1 lounge (which Cathay temp use). However, First was exceptional – beautiful PYE pajamas, service and food really fabulous. The lounge – The Pier which is run by Peninsula Hotel is beautiful with very high quality food in the full service restsurant. The return flight time was ideal – 2pm flight landing in LHR at 8.30pm – so enjoy the service, land go to bed and wake up ok for Monday.


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    How to redeem Avios on Cathay Pacific