There’s no denying that award redemptions are getting more expensive and more difficult to attain across the board. Airlines are releasing less award space than in the past and increasing redemption rates, which is a bad combination. However, there are still some great values to be had, and some great ways to maximize your miles and points.
For example, there are many things I love about American Express Membership Rewards points, though one challenge can be redeeming them for travel to Asia.
Membership Rewards partners with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, which is an awesome partnership since Singapore only releases much of their first and business class award space to members of their own KrisFlyer program. So it’s a great way to fly Singapore’s Business Class, First Class, or Suites Class product between the US and Asia.
In terms of Membership Rewards’ other transfer partners, even the best options leave a bit to be desired for travel to Asia:
- British Airways has a distance based award chart, so while there are some good values to be had, they’re kind of expensive for travel between the US and Asia.
- Delta in theory has some good partners, though booking with them can be a real pain and they impose fuel surcharges on many redemptions.
This brings me to Air Canada’s spun off loyalty program, Aeroplan. They have decent award rates for travel to “Asia 1” (which includes most of North and much of South Asia) at just 125,000 miles for roundtrip business class. It’s worth noting that this price is only valid through January 1, 2014, because at that point they’ll be devaluing their program and charging 150,000 miles for the same award.
Best of all they allow two stopovers OR one stopover and one open jaw.
The catch is that they impose fuel surcharges for redemptions on most of their partner airlines that fly directly between the US and Asia. There are three exceptions however. Aeroplan doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for travel on Air China, EVA Air, or United, all of which have frequent service (and award availability, for that matter) between the US and Asia. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about redeeming miles for Star Alliance business class, and as I mentioned there, both Air China and EVA Air release a ton of business class award space.
I’ve flown Air China and EVA Air, and enjoyed them both in business class. Here are my trip reports about their longhaul service:
- EVA Air Royal Laurel Class Taipei to San Francisco
- EVA Air Hello Kitty Royal Laurel Class Taipei to Los Angeles
- Air China Business Class Paris to Beijing
I especially love EVA Air due to their reverse herringbone business class configuration and excellent
cappuccinos service in business class.
Anyway, if you have Membership Rewards points it’s tough to beat the value of redeeming them for travel on EVA Air (or Air China, or United) in business class to Asia. Not only are the redemption costs reasonable and there are no fuel surcharges, but it’s a great business class product as well.
For example, as you can see below, an Air China roundtrip between Los Angeles and Beijing costs 125,000 Aeroplan miles plus just $73.70 in taxes:
Meanwhile a roundtrip between Los Angeles and Taipei on EVA Air also costs 125,000 Aeroplan miles plus just $69 in taxes:
While a roundtrip between Los Angeles and Shanghai on United costs 125,000 Aeroplan miles plus just $73.70 in taxes:
It’s worth noting that you can include other airlines that do impose fuel surcharges on the same Aeroplan award, and you’ll only be charged the fuel surcharges for the segments on the airlines which impose them. So a short intra-Asia flight shouldn’t have especially high fuel surcharges, should you want to include a segment on ANA, Asiana, Thai, etc.
Anyway, I realize this probably isn’t life changing, but I figured it was worth posting the reminder given that with United’s award chart devaluation in February they’ll be charging 160,000 miles for business class to much of Asia, and that Aeroplan will also be raising the cost of this award to 150,000 miles.