How to Get to Asia in 2017


It struck me as I booked my New Years trip to Asia that this will be the last time in life I will fly Cathay first. Dramatics aside, TPOL is concerned that flying to Asia on points, his favorite use of miles, has become untenable.

United which used to have the best award program charges 80k for one way in business or 130k in first. American which was my second favorite will charge 70k for one way in business and 110k in first. Delta will charge whatever it feels like charging on any given day depending on the mood of its computers.

This leaves Alaska as the only U.S. air carrier that has partners with international flights. Besides applying for Alaska card after Alaska card and transferring to partners, a strategy that came to an abrupt halt for me, it isn’t easy to replenish the Alaska cache. Transfers from SPG to Alaska are possible but getting SPG points via the churn process is no longer possible. It’s quite remarkable to see that the list of airlines in the US that provide global travel is so limited due to mergers.

An alternative is to fly Singapore Air. The issue with SQ is availability and the fuel surcharges which, like paying for gift cards to hit mins, may become a cost of doing business. If you do find availability on SQ first (suite or 777) from JFK to SIN, the cost in miles for first is 94,000. This isn’t outrageous in comparison to AA or United but the issue is still churnability. MRs, URs, TYs, all transfer to the KrisFlyer program but Amex and Chase have told points people that their business is no longer welcome. Perhaps you’ve accumulated a few hundred thousand of those points but absent a recession, change in policy, or category spend, those currencies are gone once they are gone. While I’ve heard good things about KoreanAir, a Chase transfer partner, transferring points there presents the same problem as flying SQ.

What is the solution apart from flying coach or continuing to complain? First, I need to do more research into other programs that were previously overlooked hoping that this whole time I’ve been missing something. That’s a long shot but I’m left with few options. Next, I need to take a break from flying first and maximize my time in business. For example, SQ from JFK-FRA-SIN is 72,250 KrisFlyer miles and an annoying $397.27 in taxes. Simultaneously and most importantly, I need to forget the old award chart prices. They are gone. The new price for AA business class is 70k with no fuel surcharges. That is starting to sound like a good deal. Finally, 2017 may be a good time to change it up and look to South America for trips. I’ve only been to Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. There are many Country Count destinations that can distract me while I plot my new approach to free first-class travel to Asia in 2018.

Ultimately, if things get really desperate, it may be time to move back to Asia, so long as it is not Mongolia.

Are the airlines telling me I should just move to Shanghai?
Are the airlines telling me I should just move to Shanghai?


  1. As to the Alaska refusal, I hit the same snag. Recently, I was approved after being rejected 5 months before. I just made it a point to close down one of my prior cards a month before applying, and I was approved automatically, with the same credit limit as the recently cancelled card.

  2. South America does represent a sweet spot in the new AA chart. First is not as critical for those trips either. Being under 10 hours for most flights, it’s perfectly doable in business. Also SQ business, is one of the most awesome business products out there. I mean it practically looks like Cathay First with leather. Hopefully that makes the tax on the reward easier to stomach. I like your posts alot and have followed them to great success over the last year while plotting several redemption. One hell of a redemption in particular was mentioned by Gary as a reader success story last week. I appreciate everything you guys do and reciprocate by using links whenever possible for the myriad of apps.
    – Steve S. aka Golden Mile

    • I agree. Anything less than 12 hours makes first class points a waste. And south America I can handle flying coach to upper south then rationalize avios within. Asia is the problem!

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