Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How to book low-tax Avios redemption flights on Cathay Pacific to Asia

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In this series

Today I want to take a look at how you can make substantial tax savings – and potentially Avios savings – when flying to Hong Kong and beyond on Cathay Pacific.

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

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 British Airways, so you can redeem your Avios for their flights. Availability is generally good outside London (you can often see six Business seats on Amsterdam and Manchester dates out of season) but note that only some routes have First Class.

Let’s look at British Airways redemptions to Hong Kong first

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

This regulation was reportedly dropped in late 2018 but, so far, most airlines have not changed their pricing.

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 + £590

Or when booked separately:

BA outbound – 90,000 Avios + £389

BA inbound – 90,000 Avios + £36

Total – 180,000 + £425, saving £165

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): 185,500 Avios + £338

This is £87 cheaper than redeeming on British Airways, based on a peak day redemption, and for a superior business class product.

Cathay A350 business class

Ex-Europe is even more interesting!

Cathay also flies to Hong Kong from various other European starting points.  Dublin is the newest route but there are plenty of other options.

Cathay Pacific also flies directly from Manchester which, whilst not offering a huge saving on taxes, will be more convenient than Heathrow or Gatwick for many readers.

It is not certain, at present, whether all of these routes will restart after coronavirus.

The tax numbers are very good, as low as £130 return.

Amsterdam to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £137

Brussels to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £140

Dublin to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £160

Frankfurt to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £225

Madrid to Hong Kong: 210,000 Avios + £135

Manchester to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £293

Milan to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £137

Paris to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £209

Rome to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £149

Zurich to Hong Kong: 185,500 Avios + £130

You may find it is slightly cheaper booking a return rather than two one-ways.  If there is a risk of cancelling, booking a return will save you money on cancellation charges as there will only be one £35 fee to pay.

As you can see, there are some big savings to be made here compared to the British Airways surcharges of £425. 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 there is no virtually difference in the Avios required whether you fly BA or Cathay – it is 180,000 Avios on BA vs 185,500 Avios on Cathay, 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.

There are other factors to consider as well.  You will obviously need to get to your starting point which will incur additional costs.  Depending on the flight times, you may also need an overnight stay.  The Dublin flight, for example, departs at 11am in Winter which is pushing it if you want to connect from the UK on the same day whilst building in a big enough buffer in case your first flight is delayed.

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

Want to learn more about how to maximise your Avios redemptions?

You can see the full list of all 15 articles in the ‘Avios Redemption University’ series here.

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

25,000 Avios and the famous annual 2-4-1 voucher Read our full review

British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four airport lounge passes Read our full review

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Run your own business?

We recommend Capital on Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

10,000 points bonus – plus an extra 500 points for our readers Read our full review

There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and an annual £200 Amex Travel credit Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and FREE for a year Read our full review

Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (14)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Sam G says:

    If you are using transferable points from Amex MR or HSBC Premier MC then it’s also worth looking at Asia Miles – flights 5000-7500 miles are only 130k return. So this easily covers London-Hong Kong but can also get you a connection into Asia – Vietnam, Thailand etc as well – 1 stopover in HK on a return flight is possible.

    From what I understand there has recently been a lot of funny business with married segments – so connections are often available where direct seats only to HK on the same London-Hong Kong flight aren’t.

    Cathay are eliminating fuel surcharges on all tickets from May 1 2020

    • Andrew M says:

      Does a stopover on a return Asia Miles booking really work? Asia Miles recently withdrew the stopover option. Initially it seemed to apply to all bookings but it seems now that it might be possible to have a stopover on return itineraries. Has anyone managed to book a stopover recently using Asia Miles?

      • Sam G says:

        Haven’t booked one with a stopover but that is the official rule and is written on the website, so I don’t see how they could refuse. The only issue could be the availability as you’d need ex-HK not married segments

        • Andrew M says:

          There was a report on FT from someone who couldn’t get an itinerary with one stopover to price correctly when trying to book a return after the new rules came in. I think there was a “too many segments” error message. Maybe the IT isn’t configured correctly yet.

  • Wally1976 says:

    Does the MAN-HKG flight still stop at AMS? It did when I took it 21 years ago!

    • Kip says:

      No. It’s been direct for years. No F class at MAN using the A350 and sadly nothing like the CX T3 lounge at LHR.

  • Matthew says:

    VS are 57,500 miles one way standard pricing on the HKG route (plus £33 taxes/fees from HKG) and I’ve also used AS miles on Cathay from LGW-HKG for only 42,500 miles and about £220 taxes/fees.

  • Mikeact says:

    I think I would look at the BA Multi Carrier option if using a partner, to really maximise the mileage/cost benefits.

  • Kevin says:

    Can the Lloyd’s upgrade voucher be used for 2 separate one way booking for London – Hong Kong and HK – London. Or Avios would force you to book as a return?

    • the_real_a says:

      It must be return, but check the tax`s because its always been discounted for me starting the trip HKG side.

    • Mikeact says:

      2 Persons One Way , or 1Person Round Trip. 1

  • oliver says:

    How about using Avios on Cathay within Asia? Whenever I have tried to look at Cathay routes via the BAEC page it shows flights in one direction only (HKG out) but not a return…? For example; SGN-HKG return doesn’t quote on Avios or cash.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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