Asia Miles is giving its miles earning and redemption mechanisms a major overhaul, with the new effects set to kick in on June 22 this year.
The rework will see a number of changes take place, from a revamp of the way miles earning is calculated, to an expansion of the number of seats available for members to redeem. But, it will also see the number of miles required to redeem some award tickets shift, in both positive and negative directions.
So, what exactly do the changes entail, and who stands to gain and lose with these new changes?
More miles earned on 80 per cent of flights
Calculations for how miles are accrued for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights have been given an overhaul, such that they are now based on a combination of cabin class, fare class and a distance zone.
This marks a departure from the current system – which will remain in place for Asia Miles’ other airline partners – that calculates miles earned based on a percentage of the actual miles flown, as determined by cabin and fare class.
Overall, this change will result in 80 per cent of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights awarding more miles, according to Asia Miles.
For example, flying Hong Kong to Sydney in economy (fare class S, N or Q), currently awards 1,148 miles, but under the new system will award 2,300 miles, nearly double.
“It cuts across the board, not just on economy, but premium economy, business and first,” Stephen SY Wong, CEO of Asia Miles, told Business Traveller Asia-Pacific.
There are some destinations where the number of miles accrued has gone down though, such as business class (D, I) to San Francisco (8,643 miles to 8,310 miles), or economy (M, L, V) to Manila (711 miles to 590 miles).
“There are a small amount of routes that will actually get slightly less, but the reduction is actually very minute,” said Wong. “You look at business class on San Francisco in D and I – the reduction is about 300 miles. But if you fly on S, N or Q, which is economy is an economy class ticket, to San Francisco, the growth is from 1,729 to 3,330. That’s approximately 90 per cent improvement.”
At least 20 per cent more seats available for redemption
Asia Miles is introducing a new three-tiered awards system that members can choose from when redeeming award tickets. These include: Standard Award, Choice Award and Tailored Award.
Redeeming in each category will set you back a different number of miles, with the more flexible awards requiring more miles.
Standard Award is the least flexible, but is the most value driven, with greater seat availability for Choice Award tickets and maximum seat availability year-round for Tailored Award tickets.
Under this system, Asia Miles says at least 20 per cent more seats will be available to redeem for Standard Award alone.
“Choice and Tailored is over and above that [20 per cent], so there’s a lot more capacity being made available,” said Jason Adessky, Asia Miles’ head of strategy and coalition development.
Cheaper economy class award ticket redemptions
All economy class award tickets will either cost the same amount of miles to redeem as they currently do or will become cheaper to redeem. There will also be business class tickets on some routes will also remain the same or be less expensive to redeem. Hong Kong-Tokyo Narita, for example, will go from 30,000 miles to 25,000 miles to redeem one way in business class, while a return fare in that class will remain the same, at 50,000 miles.
Redemptions to become one-way
All award ticket redemptions are going to change to one-way rather than return. The aim here is to provide greater flexibility when redeeming, so members can travel in different classes on different legs of their journey.
A redesigned user experience
Asia Miles is overhauling its software as well to make the flight award booking system more intuitive and easy to use. This will entail redemptions being streamlined to a four-step process, while checking availability for flights at a chosen date, cabin class and award type will be simpler.
More expensive redemptions for premium cabins, especially on long-haul
This is where the changes are likely to hurt the most. Under the new system, redemption costs for premium cabins, particularly on long-haul routes, are for the most part going to go up.
This is particularly the case when redeeming in premium cabins on both the outbound and returning legs.
For example, redeeming a business class award ticket to New York JFK one-way will remain the same, at 85,000 miles. However, redeeming on both legs will cost 170,000 miles, up from the current 145,000.
Meanwhile, a first class ticket to London Heathrow is slightly cheaper to redeem one-way – from the current 105,000 miles to 100,000 miles under the new system. But redeeming a first class ticket on both legs will go up from 180,000 miles to 200,000 miles.
“I wouldn’t agree with the statement that we are penalising anyone,” said Wong. “The objective of this change was to holistically make sure the majority of members actually benefit.
“There are many ways we’ve improved, so it depends on your routing. Firstly, any time you fly with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon, 80 per cent of the routes whether long or short-haul and regardless of cabin, you earn more miles.
“Then you have more choice on a redemption. If you have chosen economy, of course you get a much better deal. But because you are earning a lot more miles, if you’re a frequent flyer you will be better off. On top of that, it’s not just about that award, it’s about if you want to spend more and get more access, our new options on Choice and Tailored Awards can allow you to do so.”
Limited advance seat reservation for economy award tickets
With the introduction of the new three-tier award system, redeeming economy class fares can mean no seat selection ahead of check-in.
Members redeeming either Standard Award or Choice Award tickets will only be able to select their seats in advance if they are redeeming premium economy or higher.
Advance seat selection is only available on all cabin classes when redeeming Tailored Award tickets.
No foreseeable plans for miles-and-cash system
While Asia Miles hasn’t ruled out the possibility of it implementing a system for partial payment when redeeming award tickets, it also doesn’t have any plans to introduce it any time soon either.
“We’re absolutely aware that there are a number of airlines that employ a miles-and-cash system, but at this stage we are pretty happy with the way things are working,” said Adessky.
“We’re always listening to our members and if there’s much feedback that tells us that’s something that is appealing to them then it is something we will consider.”