Cathay Pacific: What to Know

This Hong Kong-based airline and Oneworld partner runs two loyalty programs for frequent flyers.
Rachel Morgan Cautero
By Rachel Morgan Cautero 
Edited by Meg Lee

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Regarded as one of the world’s best airlines, Cathay Pacific is the unofficial airline serving Hong Kong International Airport. The carrier flies to more than 71 locations throughout mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Europe and the Middle East. Cathay Pacific flies both Boeing and Airbus planes, and is also a member of the Oneworld Alliance.

You may have heard about Cathay Pacific’s excellent customer service and top-tier eats (both on board and in its lounges), not to mention its attention to detail and comfort, especially in first and business class.

This guide will walk you through the basics of this highly-regarded carrier, from fare types to main routes, plus the details of its loyalty program.

About Cathay Pacific

Here’s a quick overview of some of the most well-known features of Cathay Pacific.

  • Fare types: The carrier offers three major tiers of fares, including business class, premium economy and economy class.

  • Main U.S. routes: Cathay Pacific flies to several major U.S. cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

  • Points currency and loyalty program: Cathay Pacific used to stand out from other airlines for running more than one loyalty program: Asia Miles, its travel and lifestyle rewards program, and the Marco Polo Club, its elite status loyalty program connected to the Oneworld Alliance airlines. But that changed in 2022 when the company merged these two programs into one single program called, simply, Cathay.

How to earn Asia Miles

Earn by flying

Even though Marco Polo Club and Asia Miles are now one program, you'll still earn Asia Miles when you fly Cathay Pacific or any of its 20+ airline partners, which include the 13 Oneworld Alliance airlines — a nice perk.

You can also earn by flying:

You can refer to the airline’s earn calculator to determine the number of miles you could collect on your next trip.

Earn by spending on a co-branded credit card

With the Cathay Pacific Visa card, cardholders earn 2 Asia Miles per $1 spent on flight purchases on Cathay Pacific flights, 1.5 miles on dining spends both in the U.S. and abroad, 1.5 miles on international purchases, and 1 point per dollar on all other domestic purchases.

This card also touts a few other bonuses, like no foreign transaction fees, roadside assistance, emergency cash disbursement or card replacement, and complimentary green tier Marco Polo club membership.

Other co-branded credit cards eligible for earning Asia Miles include:

  • American Express® Cathay Pacific Elite Credit Card.

  • Standard Chartered Asia Miles Mastercard.

  • American Express® Cathay Pacific Credit Card.

  • American Express® Cathay Pacific Elite Corporate Card.

  • American Express® Cathay Pacific Corporate Card.

Terms apply.

Earn by transferring

You can earn Asia Miles by transferring points from a multitude of other loyalty and rewards programs.

For instance, if you have at least 1,000 points in your American Express Membership Rewards points bank, they can be transferred to Asia Miles at a solid ratio of 1:1. Similarly, any Citi ThankYou points burning a hole in your pocket can become Asia Miles at a ratio of 1:1.

Other ways to earn:

Because it's a travel and lifestyle rewards program, Asia Miles presents a variety of partners you can earn through, particularly outside of the travel space. These include earning opportunities like:

  • Hotels. Stay at partner hotels, like Ibis and Best Western, among others.

  • Car rentals. Rent cars through one of its 11 partner agencies.

  • Travel. Book travel with partners, including Booking.com.

  • Dining. Dine at partner restaurants in Asia.

  • Shopping. Shop at partner stores, including telecommunication company SmartOne.

  • Wellness. Purchase wellness services at partner gyms, spas, etc.

How to redeem Asia Miles

Fly Cathay Pacific

You can redeem Asia Miles for three types of award flights: Standard Awards, Choice Awards and Tailored Awards; each allows mixed cabin redemption. Note that Standard Awards are also available for flying on partner airlines while Choice and Tailored Awards are for flights on Cathay Pacific only.

Standard Awards and Choice Awards allow advance seat reservation for Premium Economy Class or above cabins, whereas Tailored Awards allow advance seat reservation in all cabins (excluding extra-legroom seats). Choice Award and Tailored Award flights give you a better chance of booking a seat on Cathay Pacific, even on popular routes or during peak seasons.

Single-carrier or mixed-carrier redemption awards are available, but round-trip redemption cannot be made across two different award types. For this reason, some travelers opt to book one-way award flights with their Asia Miles to get the best deal.

You would be wise to refer to the Cathay Pacific distance-based award charts to examine the minimum points needed to fly specific award types. As an example, an economy ticket on a short-flight will cost you 10,000 miles for a Standard Award, 15,000 miles for a Choice Award and 10,000 miles for a Tailored Award.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You can choose to pay for flights and any extras, like extra baggage or legroom, with miles only or a mix of miles and cash.

Fly partner airlines

Standard Award flights are available for partner airlines, but the amount of Asia Miles needed to book varies. The default is for travelers to rely on any mileage requirements quoted at different redemption channels, so it will be up to you to find exceptional redemption opportunities.

You can consult the Asia Miles Partner Award Charts to see which types of awards are available for Asia Miles holders. It also publishes a standard Oneworld multi-carrier award chart, which is helpful for estimating miles requirements across fare types for eligible flights.

Other ways to redeem miles

  • Travel. Cash miles in for hotel stays, car rentals and travel experiences.

  • Experiences. Use miles for concerts or other events, or even celebrity shout outs to loved ones.

  • Shop. You could also redeem your miles for various items for purchase across categories like electronics, home, food, wine, health and sports.

  • Charity. Donate your miles to an eligible cause.

  • Convert them. You can always convert your miles into points at qualifying loyalty programs if there are more attractive redemption opportunities elsewhere.

Cathay elite status and Status Points

Not to be confused with Asia Miles, Status Points can be earned by Cathay members to move up the airline's elite status ladder.

How to earn Status Points

You can earn Cathay Status Points by flying Cathay Pacific and other Oneworld airlines or by spending with one of the airline's co-branded credit cards. Earn higher status and enjoy more benefits as you earn more club points.

Status Points are calculated through a combination of airline, cabin, fare class and distance traveled. The carrier divides flights into six categories: ultra-short (1-750 miles), short (751-2,750 miles), medium (2,751-3,700 miles), medium-long (3,701-5,000), long (5,001-7,500) and ultra-long (7,501+ miles).

For example, flying first-class on an ultra-long flight (7,501 miles or more) will earn you the most Status Points — 150:

Flying economy on an ultra-short flight of 750 miles or less will get you between 3 and 25 Status Points:

Traveling business class on a medium-length flight (between 2,751-3,700 miles) will earn you between 50-60 Status Points:

Status levels

The Cathay elite status program has four levels — green, silver, gold and diamond — and each comes with various benefits. These include perks like extra legroom on flights, priority boarding, baggage allowance and lounge access.

Club members also get privileges on all airlines in the Oneworld Alliance. Green tier has no earning requirement, just join, but you'll need to earn 300 Status Points to upgrade to Silver, 600 for Gold and 1,200 for Diamond, the carrier’s top tier.

Benefits of each tier

Perks for each elite status level are as follows.

Green

  • Extra-legroom seat redemption opportunities.

  • Extra baggage allowances, including checked baggage allowance for most flights and checked baggage allowance on flights to the Americas.

Silver

Green tier benefits, plus:

  • Extra-legroom seats.

  • Advanced seat reservations.

  • Priority waitlisting.

  • Preferred seating and boarding benefits on Air New Zealand-operated flights.

  • Business class check-in counters.

  • Heavier luggage limits for checked and cabin baggage.

  • Priority baggage handling.

  • Cathay Pacific business class and Air New Zealand business class lounge access.

Gold

The above, plus:

  • Guaranteed economy class seat.

  • One piece of additional checked baggage for most flights.

  • Business class lounge access for status holders and a guest.

  • Access to the arrival lounge (guests not allowed).

Diamond

Diamond club level gets all the many aforementioned benefits, with the following additions:

  • Guaranteed premium economy and business class seats.

  • Even heavier luggage limits.

  • Access to Cathay Pacific lounges.

The bottom line

For travelers flying internationally (especially to Asia), Cathay Pacific is a well-regarded airline that offers luxury and impeccable service at nearly every turn. It also boasts a robust loyalty program, Cathay, making it even easier for seasoned travelers to earn upgrades, flight awards, hotel stays and other rewards.

All information about the American Express® Cathay Pacific Elite Credit Card, American Express® Cathay Pacific Credit Card, American Express® Cathay Pacific Elite Corporate Card and American Express® Cathay Pacific Corporate Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The American Express® Cathay Pacific Elite Credit Card, American Express® Cathay Pacific Credit Card, American Express® Cathay Pacific Elite Corporate Card and American Express® Cathay Pacific Corporate Card are no longer available through NerdWallet.


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