Award Trip Breakdown: Business Class Cathay Pacific Vancouver to New York (YVR to JFK)

Our Alaskan cruise ended Friday morning at 7am in Vancouver and to maximize our time spent in Vancouver without spending the night, I looked for a redeye flight home back to New York. Cathay Pacific had the perfect flight for us leaving Vancouver at 10:50pm and arriving in New York at 7am. Even better, there were several ways to book this flight with miles and there was availability in either economy or business class. I ended up booking business class with lie-flat beds for Andrea & I for a total of 25,000 British Airways Avios each – an unbeatable deal I’ll explain in more detail below.

A little champagne pre-departure helps you fall asleep right?

A little champagne pre-departure helps you fall asleep right?

Sleeping Andrea (ok pretending to sleep for the photo)

Sleeping Andrea (ok pretending to sleep for the photo)

Cathay Pacific is part of the Oneworld Alliance which includes airlines such as American Airlines, British Airways, and now US Airways. As experienced travel hackers will know, by being in the same alliance you can book a partner member’s flight even if you don’t have miles in that specific program. For example, I have no Cathay Pacific Asia Miles but I have American Airlines, British Airways and US Airways miles and all of them could be used to book this Cathay Pacific flight! However it is important to determine the cost in miles in each program and any other restrictions associated so you can book the flight for the fewest miles possible. Let’s run through my options:

Option 1.  American Airlines AAdvantage Miles – American charges 25,000 miles per person for a one way business class flight from Canada to the lower 48 US states or 12,500 miles for an economy class seat. There is no restrictions on booking just a one way flight.

Option 2 – US Airways Dividend Miles – US Airways charges 50,000 miles per person for a roundtrip business class flight with no option to book just a one way flight. This stinks because I only need a one way flight and I would not be able to book this flight for half the amount of miles due to US Airways rules on award travel. Since I want just a one way flight, this option is out.

Option 3 – British Airways Avios – British Airways has a unique award chart in that the price in miles of the flight depends on the distance of the flight flown. So I needed to figure out how far the distance was between YVR (Vancouver Int’l Airport) and JFK. You can check this at Global Circle Mapper (it returned a distance of 2,449 miles) or to avoid this step, simply use the British Airways Avios Calculator tool on their website to determine the Avios cost in miles. My cost would be 25,000 miles one way and there is no restriction on booking just a one way flight.

British Airways Distance Based Award Chart

British Airways Distance Based Award Chart

My decision came down to using AA miles or BA Avios – both of which I had a healthy balance of – and I decided to use Avios since they are best for direct, shorter flights (based on the unique award chart above). I’d rather save my AA miles for longer trips possibly to Asia or Australia where BA Avios would be a poor use (since these trips generally require connections and that would raise the mileage cost for Avios).

You might be wondering why I decided to pay double the cost in miles to fly business class for a short 4 1/2 hour flight. There a few reasons in which I’ll outline below:

1) It’s a short redeye flight and my goal is to maximize sleep. After a long day in Vancouver, I guessed (correctly) that we would be exhausted and I wanted to hit the ground running the next day (as best I could on ~4 hours of sleep). I don’t have to tell you this but lie-flat seats make a big difference.

2) Cathay Pacific is a world class airline, recently voted #1 airline in the world, with great reviews for service and food. I tried to stay up for the dinner service but was too tired so maybe this wasn’t as important in the end but still went into my decision making process

3) This was an unbeatable value in terms of a redemption of miles. Generally for domestic and Canadian flights it is hard to average more then a cent or two per mile (i.e. $250 flight that cost 25,000 in miles has a redemption of 1 cent per mile). In this case, business class seats were pricing at $2,000 a seat!! That’s a redemption of 8 cents per miles (2,000/25,000) which is phenomenal!

4) I just wanted to do it. As I’ve said before, points & miles allows you to take and have opportunities you would have no chance to experience otherwise. Could I ever pay this for business class flight? Hell no. But with miles it’s easy – it was only an extra 12,500 miles per person which is nothing in the grand scheme of things considering signing up for a credit could get you 50,000 to 100,000 miles in one shot!

The Final Tally: 25,000 British Airways Avios (transferred from my American Express Memebership Point balance) + $71 in taxes. Not too shabby for a $2,000 flight!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with some additional pictures of the seat (sorry for the poor quality but its the best I got for this trip).

Catahy1 Cathay2 Cathay5


Check Your Snail Mail for 15,000 Bonus US Airways Miles + Tips to Get Offers Like This!

While going through today’s mail, I noticed a sealed flyer from US Airways for my wife that at first glance seemed to be some sort of spam or otherwise useless piece of junk mail. However, being neurotic about points and miles, I agreed in my head to waste the 10 seconds to open it and I was pleasantly surprised to find a bonus offer for 15,000 miles!

Thank you Barclays/US Airways!

The offer was for 15,000 bonus US Airways miles if I spent over $500 a month on my wife’s US Airways Mastercard in August, September and October. So for a total of $1,500 of spending over 3 months (which is easy for us to do), US Airways will give her 16,500 total miles (1,500 miles for spending $1,500 + 15,000 bonus miles). If I can manage to spend exactly $1,500 over the 3 months, she will earn 11 miles per dollar spent! Try getting that on another credit card for your next $1,500 in spend.

My best guess on why she was targeted for this offer was she never uses this credit card and Barclays is hoping she will put this card in her wallet to use for everyday spend. I do not recommend this card for everyday spend but I do recommend to get it for its great initial signup bonus of 40,000 miles for buying a cup of coffee (literally). You can earn more US Airways miles per dollar spent with other cards like the Starwood American Express which earns 1 Starwood point that converts to 1.25 US Airways miles if converted properly.

Now the question you’re probably asking is how do I get targeted for offers like these? Here are a few hints:

1) Opt in to all communications from the major banks (American Express, Chase, Barclays, Bank of America, Citibank, US Bank) – This one is simple enough. If you willingly prevent the banks from sending you promotions and other offers via mail and email, then you won’t get these offers. Yes, you will get a fair share of spam as well but it takes only one of these offers to make up for it.  Below is an example of how to do change these settings at American Express (go to Profile and then General Marketing Emails. Each bank should have a similar menu somewhere in your profile or account settings).

Yes Please to New Card and Credit Offers

2) Don’t go Paperless – I hope the environmentalists won’t kill me here but I receive all my statements and other notifications from the banks via the postal service. I have no anecdotal evidence to support this but those famous 100,000 and even 150,000 point American Express Platinum offers have always come by way of mail – I’ve never seen a report of someone getting one via email. Additionally, I always make a point to go through all my physical mail but there is a chance the spam filter on your email might catch some of these offers and you’ll never know about them. Sorry Al Gore but I’ll continue to receive my notifications via the old fashioned way.

3) Have Some Sort of Relationship with the Bank – Another simple but easy one to fulfill. If you’ve never had a relationship with American Express in any capacity, it would sort of difficult to get targeted for an offer (though not impossible). If you have a banking relationship or simply another credit card from that bank, your odds to get targeted offers are increased.

4) Don’t be an Amazing Customer – Seems counter-intuitive but this is exactly how Andrea was able to receive this offer from Barclays for her US Airways Mastercard. By not using her card, the bank is hoping to jumpstart the relationship with this lucrative offer. If she was already using this card for everyday spending, I doubt she would be targeted for this offer (simply look at the headline in the flyer “make this card the only card for everyday spending.” Sometimes it pays to only be an average customer.

**Disclaimer: I DO NOT have affiliate credit card links nor will I. This is an inherent conflict of interest with my consulting services in which I recommend credit cards to consumers and help them earn miles for a future trip. I have included links to credit cards for readers to learn more about that card and understand what I am writing about. Please email me if you have any questions or would like help deciding what card(s) to apply for at ralph AT**