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Cathay Pacific has started emailing out members of its Asia Miles program to let them know that two of the three award options they have grown accustomed to having are being eliminated and that the option to use Miles Plus Cash is being introduced and is being brought to the Cathay Pacific website.
Cathay Pacific Eliminates Choice & Tailored Awards
Asia Miles has traditionally offered three different award choices – Standard, Choice, and Tailored – with the Standard awards offering the cheapest options and with Choice and Tailored awards only available for travel with Cathay Pacific.
There are other differences between the award types too but there’s little point in discussing those differences because, from 30 March 2021, the option to book Choice Awards or Tailored Awards is being removed.
Customers who are currently on the waitlist for a Choice Award or Tailored Award and who don’t receive a confirmation that their award request has been processed by 30 March 2021, will have their waitlist booking cancelled. Choice/Tailored awards will still be changeable after 30 March by contacting Asia Miles through one of the usual channels.
Miles Plus Cash Coming To Cathay Pacific
Cathay Pacific has announced that it is bringing the “Miles Plus Cash” option to the Cathay Pacific website from 30 March 2021 meaning that customers will be able to pay for any available seat option using a mix of Asia Miles and cash when booking through the Cathay Pacific website (up until now, the Miles Plus Cash option has been limited to Cathay’s “Lifestyle Awards” and HK Express).
Miles Plus Cash bookings will not require awards to be available (the miles used are given a cash value and are used in place of cash) and customers will be able to make bookings using as few as 5,000 miles.
After selecting a flight and seat on the Cathay Pacific website, customers will be presented with a slider bar that will allow them to decide exactly how many Miles they wish to spend – ranging from a minimum of 5,000 miles to the value (in miles) of entire ticket purchase.
This option will be available for partner airline bookings as well as for bookings on Cathay Pacific and flyers will earn miles and club points for their Miles Plus Cash bookings based on the fare rules of the ticket booked.
Cathay Pacific hasn’t said what sort of value customers can expect to get out of their Asia Miles balances when making Miles Plus Cash bookings but it doesn’t look as if it will be a one size fits all valuation – the airline’s FAQs confirm that “[t]he conversion rate may vary by origin, destination, fare, cabin, date or any combination of these factors“.
If you’ve been accustomed to using your Asia Miles for Choice and Tailored Awards (because Standard award availability has been considerably harder to find) the news that these awards are being eliminated probably isn’t what you wanted to hear.
Anyone who’s happy to use more miles (than the cost of a Standard Award) to get to where they want to go will now have to use the Miles Plus Cash option, and although this option doesn’t require customers to find award space, it’s likely to be an option that offers flyers less value per mile used (we’ll have to wait and see what values Cathay Pacific assigns to its miles).
Effectively, the introduction of the Miles Plus Cash option allows Cathay Pacific to move the Asia Miles program closer to a dynamic award pricing model and further away from the traditional award chart model and, as a rule, that’s not good news for flyers.
Traditional awards (based on distance flown) will still be available via Standard Awards but I’m willing to predict that award availability will be suitably constrained in an effort to push customers into using the Miles Plus Cash option.
If you have just a handful of “orphaned” Asia Miles, the ability to use as few as 5,000 miles to reduce the cost of a cash booking will probably be a welcome new option, but for those of us who enjoy looking for outsized value from our mileage balances, the introduction of the Miles Plus Cash option probably doesn’t bode well.
We won’t know more until we see the Miles Plus Cash option working on the Cathay Pacific website and we see what kind of value the airline is willing to give customers for their miles – a follow-up post will appear here on TFM once this option goes live.
Cathay Pacific has announced the elimination of Choice and Tailored awards and the introduction of a Miles Plus Cash option from 30 March 2021. Cathay Pacific hasn’t given any indication as to what sort of value customers can expect to get out of their Asia Miles when making Miles Plus Cash bookings but we know that the value offered will probably vary by origin, destination, fare, cabin, and even the date of travel.
What do you think of these changes announced by Cathay Pacific?