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Some lessons in redeeming miles and points from our Easter trip to Asia

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If all goes to plan, we will be flying to Hong Kong next week for a whistle-stop tour of Asia over Easter.  Whilst there will, at some point, be a slug of flight and hotel reviews published, I thought I would do an introductory piece in advance to explain how I put the trip together and what I learned.

Lesson 1: be flexible

This all started back in November when my wife decided that it might be fun to go to Japan for Easter. She has never been (I’ve been twice) and, as our youngest is almost 6 now, it seemed manageable.

My British Airways American Express 2-4-1 voucher was already in the bank.  My wife was a few thousand pounds short of triggering hers, but luckily she had to make a major purchase that week which sadly ended up being returned – but we had the voucher regardless.

The first thing we found is that getting 4 premium seats to Tokyo on British Airways over Easter, which coincides with the prime ‘cherry blossom’ period this year, wasn’t going to happen.  We had to be flexible.

The good news is that getting around Asia on Avios is easy due to Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, Malaysia and JAL being oneworld members.

We quickly found four Club World seats to Hong Kong.  My wife has never been there either and, for kids, it probably has more options than Tokyo – or at least more options closer together.  That was the outbound sorted.

The return was trickier.  With Tokyo off the radar, Seoul looked like the nearest departure point home which had availability.  However, we also found four seats out of Beijing.  You can now get a 72-hour transit pass for most major Chinese cities so we wouldn’t need a visa.  My wife also has a friend working there, so that settled it.

What was originally meant to be a Japan trip became Hong Kong – Japan – 48 hours in China, booked on British Airways using 2 x 2-4-1 vouchers.

The dates were still not perfect.  I would have preferred to leave one day later (to preserve a day of my wife’s holiday allowance) and come back a day later on Easter Sunday and not Easter Saturday.  Given that we booked in November, fairly late by Avios standards, I am pleased enough.


Lesson 2:  Avios offer excellent value for internal Asian flights

The connecting flights around Asia were easy to book – you can do it on

An additional benefit is that some airlines use long-haul aircraft for intra-Asia flights.  I will be taking my first ever Premium Economy flight when we fly on JAL from Hong Kong to Tokyo on a Boeing 777.  This was just 15,000 Avios and £15 taxes each.

From Tokyo to Beijing, I have done even better and got four long-haul Business Class seats on a new JAL Boeing 787 for the four hour flight.  This cost 20,000 Avios plus £16 each.

I was slightly annoyed that I couldn’t get Business Class from Hong Kong to Tokyo.  I expected something to open up but, apart from a Cathay option which required a stop in Taiwan, nothing has.

Hong Kong skyline

Lesson 3:  Pay cash if it means you’ll get a better experience

In Hong Kong, we are booked into the main InterContinental.  There are better hotels in Hong Kong, but none has a better view than the IC, sitting as it does directly on the harbour facing Hong Kong Island.   The view from the harbour-side rooms is roughly what you see in the picture above.

You can redeem IHG Rewards Club points to stay here, but only for street view rooms.  This is utterly pointless.  If you are staying at the InterContinental, you stay for the view.  The hotel will never upgrade you to a room with a better view – if you book city side, all you get is a better room on the city side.

(EDIT: feedback from the comments below is that booking a street view on a reward night and then paying for Club access – which gets you the view from the lounge – is a good compromise.)

Rooms to sleep four were disproportionately expensive so I booked us into two Deluxe Harbour View rooms for cash.  As we are there over a weekend, I am using my InterContinental Ambassador free weekend night voucher to get one night on the house.  We also get a guaranteed upgrade which, in this case, means to a Junior Suite.  I also signed up my wife for Ambassador so she also gets a free night (the $200 Ambassador fee was more than covered by the value of the free night) and Junior Suite upgrade on her room.


Lesson 4:  If you need to be somewhere at the peak tourist season, points really come into their own

Once we leave Hong Kong, everything is on points:

In Tokyo, we are the Conrad using Hilton Honors points.  I really wanted  to stay at one of the Hyatt properties – Hyatt has fantastic coverage in Tokyo – but there was no availability.  Cash rates were well over £500 per room per night (peak tourist season, remember) so it was excellent value as a redemption for 95,000 Hilton points per room per night.

In Kyoto, we are at The Ritz-Carlton.  This was selling for a ludicrous £1,100 per room per night including taxes (peak, peak tourist season – and it is now showing as sold out) so using 70,000 Marriott Rewards points per night made sense.  This redemption was only possible due to the acquisition of Starwood by Marriott, which let me transfer my Starwood Preferred Guest points to  Marriott Rewards at the generous 1:3 ratio.

In Beijing, we are at the Waldorf-Astoria.  This was a more marginal ‘cash vs points’ call but I still got a better deal for points (67,000 Hilton Honors per night, this one was booked after the February 2017 changes) than I would from a Hilton redemption in Europe.

(By the way, I fully accept that these are not necessarily the best hotel choices for getting a genuine feel for the real Tokyo / Kyoto / Beijing.  They are good choices for not paying a fortune when travelling at peak periods, however, and good choices if you only have a couple of days in each place.)

So …. it should be fun.  Most of the above will be reviewed on Head for Points during April.  I might even do a bullet train review.  By coincidence, Anika is in Tokyo over Easter reviewing ANA’s business class product, so there will also be a review of that plus the ANA InterContinental Tokyo where she is staying.  If you follow our Instagram feed you will be able to keep track of us.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

Review of the British Airways Terraces Lounge at Newcastle Airport
Bits: new BA flights with Avios seats to LA and Rio, The Westbury on Bond Street joins SPG

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  1. Rob, what sort of rooms did you book (outside of Hong Kong) -I’m doing a similar trip, 2 adults 2 kids in May. Not much showing up when you enter the above numbers for 1 room.

  2. Stewart says:

    Small query (apologies if asked before, but only started collecting points back in Dec!). Myself and my partner are close to getting a 2-4-1 BA companion voucher and were also looking at Asia late this year in BC (availability dependent).

    I had believed, however, that a restriction of the companion voucher was that it would have to be used on a return flight (paid in Avios, and therefore generating a free “return flight” for the companion voucher? Is this not the case? And if not, what’s the process for essentially booking a different return flight using the same 2-4-1 voucher as the outbound? (Link will be fine, but don’t recall seeing this anywhere on the site)

    Thanks in advance

    • Genghis says:

      You mean booking an open jaw (ie into and out of different airports)? Look for availability first on BAEC then you need to call up to make the booking.

      The 241 essentially means you pay the avios for one person but taxes for both.

    • This is possible. Eg Fly to San Fran, drive to LA, return flight from LA…. did this using 2 x 241s for my family of 4….. Just had to phone BA to make the actual bookings. Not sure it is doable on line….. I searched on line first to make dummy bookings so I knew the relevant redemptions were available on the 2 flights…..

  3. Is there any way to book Sri Lankan and Malaysian intra Asia flights so cheap using Avios ? I find BA add on so many taxes it makes it better to pay cash.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      My experience with MH domestic/regional is that it’s actually that the cash fares that are so cheap that it’s not worth doing a redemption. Avios is fixed price per distance, so if the cash cost per mile is cheaper then it’s hard to make a redemption go around.

    • Regional flights should not have surcharges attached, unless linked to a connecting BA flight.

      • James A says:

        BA is adding YQ to MH redemptions these days. I got stung for £120 or so of BA YQ on a PER – KUL J redemption.

      • That’s not correct. MH, UL, RJ and others have significantly higher taxes and fees attached to Avios redemptions that CX especially (partly because of HK rules barring fuel surcharges on reward flights). Redemptions on MH in particular, since their pricing has gone quasi-LCC in Asia, are TERRIBLE value with Avios, and the cash element can often be higher than just buying a ticket

        Before MH was integrated into OW, the quid pro quo was that redemption flights booked into a paid fare class, so you at least got some credit and TPs for it, but that stopped quite quickly after MH joined – BA went so far as to reversing several of my credited MH redemption sectors that had legitimately booked into paid fare classes…

        And CX is great value in cash terms, but, as well as the blocking issues for BA redemptions, on many routes, Y and J fill up really quickly, so you have to pay the premium for PE, which, regionally, is basically Y with a marginally larger seat. Given the excellent recognition of OWEs by CX in Y (seat block, better service etc), IMHO PE isn’t worth it…

    • A problem with MAS is they mostly seem to only release one avios redemption seat per cabin per flight.

    • Also forgot to say that intra Asia seriously consider Air Asia (book some food for the flight), great airline and on a recent journey they were far better than MAS.

      • Depends how much you value your time. The flights are fine while you are in the air. AirAsia occupy some pretty grim AirCraft hangers. I’ve done 80 minute flights then 2 hours in a scrum at immigration.

        Avoid the flights that use the low cost terminals especially as there is so much competition from other local carriers.

  4. Colin mackinnon says:

    When we stayed at the IC HK we were on points and offered cash upgrade to harbour view.

    We thought: we sleep with our eyes closed. Let’s spend the money on snacks and cocktails in the fab lounge!

    Staff, drinks, food and view were fantastic!

  5. Paul Jones says:

    Travelling to Thailand in August – I have plenty of AVIOS. Does anybody have any means of travelling on AVIOS from Bangkok-Koh Samui-Phuket. Struggling to locate any availability Thanks

  6. Hi Rob,

    Any chance of an article on Avios redemptions around Asia? Sweet spots/taxes/where to book etc?


  7. “You can redeem IHG Rewards Club points to stay here, but only for street view rooms. This is utterly pointless. If you are staying at the InterContinental, you stay for the view.”

    Sorry Rob, I have to disagree with you here. We stayed for 6 nights on points in their basic room and just paid for lounge access which gave us all the views we needed during breakfast, afternoon tea and early evening. Probably the best club lounge we’ve ever experienced and, in my opinion, a far better use of money than upgrading the room to get the same view.

    • That is also an option, yes. Doesn’t really work for us as young kids and lounges tend not to work – and no chance of getting up there for a quiet drink in the evening unless we paid a babysitter!

      I have, twice before, stayed on the harbour side at the IC and it is very impressive.

    • I have to second Rob, plus, go beyond that: You stay _in Hong Kong_ for the view!
      I cannot imagine staying in HK w/o enjoying the views (which do not have to be straight to the water, anyways).
      I have stayed at 99 Bonham, facing the island – that was fun, too. east offers excellent views both ways, too – though, we chose harbour view there 🙂

      What is the price for the Club?

      • From memory I think it was 1280HKD per day per room for lounge access. Well worth it if you are not in a harbour view room. They’re not shy with the champagne and both the breakfast and afternoon tea is superb!

      • I stay in hong kong for the food scene and nightlife. 😉

    • I never get bored of the view, and it is simply stunning! However, I personally think it is still a very good value to redeem 60000 points for staying at IC HK even without the harbour view. The rooms are all well kept and the service are usually very good at this hotel. Elite treatment has been so much better compare to the past. IHG members will also get the welcome drink vouchers that can be used at the lobby lounge with the view. Having saying that I certainly recommend to stay at the harbour view room at least once.

  8. Gareth Oakley says:

    If you’re staying in Hong Kong – I can strongly recommend Hotel ICON. It’s run by trainee students at the University School of Hotel Management who all seem really eager to please. The rooms and interior are great and the top floor bar offers a great view of the nightly lights display on the harbor. I’ve always felt you get a good deal more for your money here than at other hotels.

  9. Vivian says:
    • ankomonkey says:

      I’m looking forward to rob’s bullet train review, with particular focus on how staff enter each carriage.

      I also look forward to Rob’s or Anika’s reviews of the Curry Museum and the Ramen Museum in Yokohama (just down the road from Tokyo)…

      • One for Anika when she is there, I think!

        • The Ramen Museum in Yokohama is a great place to visit, the IC Yokohama is not too far from there either, the cash rate could be very good sometimes. Perhaps Anika could do a combined review. I was not too impressed by the IC at the time, but they may have improved and rooms may have all been renovated by now

  10. Awesome trip Rob. The family will love Tokyo!

    All booked via BAEC or some AsiaMiles?

  11. Amazing Rob, this is a very similar trip to what I plan to do next easter, just having a bit more time to plan and collect points 🙂

    Will be great to see your updates as you go along

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