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 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.
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?
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)
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:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
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.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
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.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.