Reader Dee asked,
I’d love to know more about how to transfer points from one airline to flying on a partner (example: AA to Cathay Pacific). Sites seem intentionally vague on how to do this and how many points it would cost. Am looking to fly ORD-PEK roundtrip as an example. THANK YOU
This is actually a very simple point but one that’s often misunderstood. You do not transfer points from one airline to another when you redeem points to travel on an airline partner.
When redeeming a partner award, the number of miles you need depends on where you’re going, and it depends on the frequent flyer program whose miles you are using.
For instance, a frequent flyer program like United has a zone-based award chart. That means you look up the region of the world you are starting from, and the region of the world you are traveling to, and that determines the number of miles you need. And that’s true regardless of the airline partner you’re flying.
You don’t go to the partner airline’s website to determine the number of miles you need, you don’t use the partner’s award routing rules. You use United’s in both of those cases.
Here are the three things to understand about your miles before we get started using them to travel the world using your miles on your airline’s partners.
- You can use miles you have to book travel on any airline that is a partner of your frequent flyer program. You may have United miles, or Air Canada’s Aeroplan miles, or Asiana Club miles for instance or even miles in the EVA Airways Infinity MileageLands programs. And you can book travel with those miles on any airline that is a member of the Star Alliance, if the flight you want has award space available. You can use your AAdvantage miles to book travel on any oneworld airline, or any airline partner that isn’t a member of the oneworld alliance.
- You cannot combine miles from different programs towards a single award ticket, at least in any reasonable way (that is, without paying to transfer miles through a service like points.com that’s almost never worth it). You can’t use some Aeroplan miles and some United miles to get one ticket (although you can book a one-way ticket using United miles, and book your return to the U.S. using Aeroplan miles).
- How many miles your ticket will cost, and how you go about making the award reservation, will depend on the frequent flyer program you have miles with. You will also go to United (whether their website or over the phone) to use United miles, no matter whose planes you want to fly. You don’t call the airline you’re trying to fly to book the ticket. And you will pay the price that United charges for the travel you want. For instance, a roundtrip Chicago – Tokyo on All Nippon might cost 90,000 of ANA’s miles for business class. But if you are using United miles, you will book on United’s website or by calling United and you will pay United’s price of 150,000 miles roundtrip for those same All Nippon flights..
Booking Cathay Pacific With American Miles
To book Chicago – Beijing using American miles on Cathay Pacific, you need to:
- Find available award space on the Cathay Pacific flights. The best places to look for this space are the British Airways and Qantas award search websites (since the AA.com site does not currently support Cathay Pacific searches) or just call American.
- Then you need to deal with American AAdvantage over the phone to book the award tickets.
- For Chicago – Beijing it will entail flying to Hong Kong and connecting onto a flight to Beijing, on Cathay Pacific or their sister airline Dragonair.
It’s really quite straightforward once you understand that you always talk to the program whose miles you have, regardless of whom you wish to travel.