Avios Redemption University – Lesson 14 – Using Cathay Pacific for low-tax Avios redemptions to Asia

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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 – and potentially 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 good outside London (I saw 6 Business seats on the random Amsterdam and Manchester dates I checked for November) but note that 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 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 want to save money. If you do this, there will be no surcharge on the inbound flight. If you book it as a return flight you will pay a 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 + £561

Or when booked separately:

BA outbound – 90,000 Avios + £365

BA inbound – 90,000 Avios + £32

Total – 180,000 + £397, saving £164

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 + £280

This is £117 cheaper than redeeming on British Airways, based on a peak day redemption, and for a superior business class product.  You need to book the Cathay flight as 2 x one-ways to get this pricing.

Cathay A350 business class

Ex-Europe is even more interesting!

Cathay also flies to Hong Kong from Manchester and various other European starting points. The tax numbers are very good, as low as £100 return!

Manchester to Hong Kong: 180,000 Avios + £254

Amsterdam to Hong Kong: 180,000 Avios + £100

Frankfurt to Hong Kong: 180,000 Avios + £155

Madrid to Hong Kong: 210,000 Avios + £103

Milan to Hong Kong: 180,000 Avios + £106

Paris to Hong Kong: 180,000 Avios + £163

Rome to Hong Kong: 180,000 Avios + £118

Zurich to Hong Kong: 180,000 Avios + £107

All taxes are based on booking 2 x one-way tickets.

Cathay is also adding three new European routes this year, all served with brand new A350 aircraft:

Brussels – launching 25th March, 4 x weekly, 180000 Avios

Dublin – launching 2nd June, 4 x weekly, 180000 Avios

Copenhagen – launching 2nd May, Summer only, 3 x weekly, 150000 Avios

As you can see, there are some big savings to be made here compared to the British Airways surcharges of £397. You need to factor in the cost of getting to and from your departure airport, of course.

Note that Copenhagen is just 150,000 Avios return because, being nearer Hong Kong than the other European destinations, it falls into a cheaper Avios pricing band.  This makes it cheaper in both Avios and taxes than British Airways on a peak date and the same in Avios (and lower in taxes) on an off peak date.

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 there is no difference in the Avios required whether you fly BA or Cathay – it is 180,000 Avios return, apart from Madrid which is more.

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 unless you can find availability from Copenhagen.

Cathay Pacific, of course, still has arguably a far superior product as a look at online reviews will show, but if you looking to travel at off-peak periods the discussion is more about quality than overall savings.

(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.)

This weekend: BA Holidays Club Europe flash sale, £15 off Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific flash sale
Gatwick bits: £1 Premium Security offer, Norwegian to increase routes and add Premium seats
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  1. By using Air China miles to redeem Hong Kong to Europe flights on CX KA
    First class only 110000 km in return 60000 km in one way
    Business class 95000 km in return 52500km in one way

    • New Card says:

      Is this an easy program for non-Chinese speakers to navigate? As I recall when I last looked this was quite tricky and also required cash-paid AC flights to have been taken before any redemptions.

      • Plus u need 4 CA/ *A segments

      • I signed up to air China’s phoenix miles programme when I went to Australia with them a couple of years ago. I couldn’t work out how any of it worked and I’m still getting emails from them written completely in Chinese

      • I remember someone put some sort of secret link which allowed U.K. Members to get an Air China CC…and that rewards were pretty decent. Wasn’t fully clear at the time though

  2. We’re flying out from LGW on the Cathay A350 in J on Thursday then on to Hanoi a couple of days later. Taxes on top of the Avios only totalled £550 for two people, compared to BA which would’ve been well over a grand.

    • But you need many more avios, by not being able to use a 241. But your plan is a very good saving on taxes of course.

    • IndiaCharlie says:

      Fwiw I’m in the jw marriott Hanoi atm and it is exceptional. Booked a base room for £58pn over New year and upgraded (marriott gold. Via spg gold. Via Amex!) to exec room with club access. Even next week when we return from halong bay for a night before leaving its only £80pn. Its a bit out of town but cabs are cheap and to be honest Hanoi has been a bit of a let down compared to the rest of Vietnam.

  3. Will this series cover Australia and Qantas? Flew last minute to Sydney from Melbourne on Friday for 4500 avios and £10 in tax.

    • A great way to get around Aus and NZ…if you can get seats. With free roaming back to the UK, we were able to book after searching the Qantas inventory for availability. Flexibility was again the key word, ie ‘We don’t have to go to Hobart this week, we’ll go next week instead.”

  4. I recently booked a great deal to TYO ex MAN. MAN-HKG-HND on CX in J, returning HND-LHR-MAN on JAL in Y. 100k avios £279 tax.

    • Great…….until that ‘Y’ appeared

      • The Economy on JAL is probably the best I’ve ever flew. Its almost an incorrect price this fare I feel as if return in Premium it becomes 150k avios. 50k seems a steep bump for one way TYO-LHR PE upgrade from Y so I didnt bother.

  5. The_real_a says:

    If you need to return to asia within 12 months its possible to nest a hkg-lhr-hkg return flight in the middle of two one way tickets. Then use a cheap KUL or CX avios Y redemtion to where you need to be. I do this ever year with my llyods upgrade voucher and pay zero tax on the flight orig hkg.

    • This sounds really interesting, please could you expand on the idea and give an example with approx dates and costs? Thanks.

      • I believe this is frowned upon by airlines, not that I’ve ever had a problem flying around N A, particularly if the annoying Saturday night stay is required. Probably best to avoid a TA for bookings and just ‘do it yourself ‘ .

        • the_real_a says:

          BA have no issues with nesting even on revenue tickets, its mainly the American airlines according to flyertalk. Since these trips are in sequential order there is no risk at all.

    • the_real_a says:

      Heres my trips from last year

      Ticket 1
      LHR – PEK (First class) 37,000 Air China using Virgin miles and about £300 tax
      But you could use an economical one way ex-EU, using Robs examples here or BA/Virgin from the UK

      Ticket 2
      HKG – LHR – LBA

      LHR – HKG

      Total cost: Lloyd’s upgrade voucher 78,000 Avios RETURN in club world. Tax £263 (or £223 if I dropped the LBA connection)

      Ticket 3
      HKG – LBA (one way) Virgin this time / 67,500 miles (peak) plus £35 tax in upper.

      To get to and from HKG I use Cathay or Malaysian 4,500 or 7,500 Avios Y awards. Tax is usually £5-15

      The savings for me are circa £400 across the two trips.

  6. ‘Cathay Pacific, of course, still has arguably a far superior product’ – no argument about it, the CX business class is far better than BA’s. CX First class is an absolute treat, the level of service form the staff is outstanding – they dont all disappear after meal service.

    • BA crew don’t ‘disappear’, they retreat to the galley to eat, half have a break at a time, and get things ready for arrival or the second service. But have you ever actually had an issue getting a drink/snack/whatever by going to the galley or pressing your call bell? I’d rather that than have overworked and unrested Asian crews, thank you very much.

  7. Off topic, I recently used avios for BKK-HKG-BKK on Cathay Pacific as a paid economy ticket costs well over 600 euro’s. I travelled outbound in Economy and inbound in Business which would cost me 22500 avios but my BAEC-statement shows a redemption of -19848 avios. Looking back at earlier redemptions (British Airways flights) I see other bookings with some discrepancy but not quite like this one. Any thoughts?

  8. Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

    LHR T3 has a great CX J lounge – do any other European options have a similar offering?

  9. Rob, are the reward flights from HKG to CPH available for booking now? of so I can’t find any availability for early May

  10. I’m looking at a bit of a trip around Asia, is there an easy way of finding availability for partner flights?

    Using Avios for example going from NRT / HND to HKG, HKG to SIN, SIN to BKK or something like that.

    At the moment I’m having to search each individually and try each date on the BA site. Have I missed something or is this the only way?

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