The New Ultra-Luxury Way to Get to the Maldives on Miles

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Cathay Pacific has initiated four-times-weekly flights from Hong Kong to the Maldives with an A330 aircraft with fully flat business class (but no first class.)

The route opens up an exciting ultra-luxury way for Americans to get to the Maldives with a combination of American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios on Cathay Pacific flights.

Cathay Pacific First Class

What’s the optimal use of your miles on these flights?

Cathay Pacific is a Hong Kong-based member of the oneworld alliance, which flies to the US with what many people consider to be the world’s best First Class product and a business class product that all the smart airlines are copying.

I just booked myself two flights in Cathay Pacific First Class with my American Airlines miles, and I’m extremely excited to fly them. As a member of oneworld, Cathay Pacific flights can be booked with American Airlines miles, British Airways Avios, or other partners’ miles.

Cathay Pacific just started a four times weekly service between Hong Kong and the Maldives.

Hong Kong (HKG) to Male (MLE): 5:15 PM – 9:25 PM (7hr10min) departing Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday

MLE to HKG: 11:35 PM – 8:55 AM +1 day (6hr20min) departing Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday

Currently there are a few ways to get to Male, where the international airport is, with oneworld miles.

  • You can fly British Airways from Gatwick and pay massive fuel surcharges.
  • You can fly new member Malaysia Airlines, though it is a bit tough to get to Kuala Lumpur since Malaysia Airlines only flies to Los Angeles (via Tokyo).
  • With American Airlines miles, you can redeem for flights on non-oneworld partner Etihad. Unfortunately Etihad publishes few fares to the US (see Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards), so this usually ends up needing to be booked as two awards.

Cathay Pacific is an exciting new option to the Maldives because Cathay Pacific flies to major cities, convenient to much of the US–New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles–and publishes fares to many other cities.

The Problem

As I covered in the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards, American Airlines has very strict routing rules about which continents an award can traverse. Male is considered Middle East/Indian Subcontinent and the AA chart requires awards to that region to fly transatlantically and either fly directly from the US to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent or have layovers in Europe.

Connecting in Asia, like in Hong Kong, would split the award into two awards that priced as two awards: US to Hong Kong + Hong Kong to Male.

So instead of the already expensive prices to Male listed on American’s chart, 45k/67.5k/90k miles each way in economy/business/first, an award through Hong Kong would cost 35k/55k/67.5k each way for the US-Hong Kong segments + 22.5k/30k/45k each way for the Hong Kong-Male segments.

Add it Up

Imagine a New York-based flyer. If he flies Cathay Pacific from New York to Hong Kong to Male roundtrip and uses American Airlines miles, it will cost him 170k miles total in business class or 195k miles for the long flights in first class and short ones in business class.

Those are huge amounts of American Airlines miles! There are a few things we can do to drop that amount.

  1. Fly Etihad. The award routing would be valid and would price as one award. Flying Etihad would cost 135k miles roundtrip in business class or 180k roundtrip with the long legs in first class and the short ones in business class. Unfortunately business class from Abu Dhabi to Male means recliner seats, while Hong Kong to Male is a fully flat bed.
  2. Use Avios for Hong Kong to Male. Then the roundtrip to Hong Kong would be 110k/135k AA miles in business/first. The business class roundtrip from Hong Kong to Male would be 50k Avios + $254, of which $220 is a fuel surcharge. This saves 60k American Airlines miles at a cost of 50k Avios and $220 extra out of pocket. For me, that’s very close to a wash, but based on your balances and preferences, one could be a better deal than the other.
  3. Fly the route as part of an Explorer Award. You cannot simply fly the Cathay Pacific roundtrip as an Explorer Award because Explorer Awards require flying two or more oneworld partners (not counting American Airlines.) But you could fly New York to Hong Kong to Male to London to New York with stops in each for only 130k American Airlines miles plus substantial taxes departing London and substantial surcharges flying British Airways out of Male. Or you could fly some other around the world award including these segments and get fantastic value for a few extra miles.

Booking the Awards

If you’re booking multiple people to Male from multiple accounts, make sure you see this guide on Booking Multiple Awards from Multiple Frequent Flyer Accounts.

Beyond that, follow the basic way to book Cathay Pacific flights with miles.

  1. Search for the awards on ba.com. I’ve explained how to do that here.
  2. If booking with Avios, book on ba.com. If booking with American miles, call American at 800-882-8880 to book the space you find at ba.com. American Airlines will have access to the same award space.
  3. Avios awards will have taxes plus fuel surcharges. American Airlines awards will have the same taxes plus a $25 phone fee per ticket but no fuel surcharges.

See also Bill’s previous guide on Getting to the Maldives on Etihad using American Airlines Miles.

Recap

Cathay Pacific has started a four time weekly service to the Maldives, which makes getting there much easier for Americans.

The bad news is that the space cannot be booked as part of one American Airlines award from the US to Male because of American’s routing rules. The good news is there is abundant award space in the flat bed business class at the front of the plane, and there are several economical ways to book the award including with Avios or as part of an Explorer Award.


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17 COMMENTS

  1. Is it possible to use just Avios from the US, otherwise we have Chase UR and Amex MR. Is it possible to use those to fly Cathay?

    • Both MR and UR transfer to BA, and MR also transfers directly to CX. However, all of the aforementioned methods will incur heavy fuel surcharges.

      Otherwise, you can transfer MR to Aeroplan and then use points.com to transfer the Aeroplan miles to US Airways miles at a ~15% cut. Then you’d have to wait for AA and US to merge.

  2. how many AA miles for biz and first class on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles. Can you have stop over in hong kong?

    • The same amount of miles are required from LAX-MLE as NYC-MLE.

      Yes, you can have a stopover in HKG if you book as two separate awards, LAX-HKG and HKG-MLE.

    • I just booked this routing on CX First (USA-CMB). I considered the Avios for CMB-MLE but realized it’s 4,500 Avios + $27.50. You can actually just buy a non-stop direct for $69 including tax. If you’re really looking for a fun adventure, you can book Emirates on this SHORT flight segment and try out their 777 First for $486. 😉

  3. Just this weekend I booked 2 tickets to the Maldives Round-The-World. Managed to get the outbound using 67,500 AAdvantage with Cathay.

    OUTBOUND:
    DFW-ORD (AA – First)
    ORD-HKG (CX – First)
    HKG-SIN (CX – First)
    SIN-CMB (CX – Biz)

    *Purchased a $100 Korean Flight to bridge the small gap between CMB-MLE which allows me to cross-over the AAdvantage region between Asia 2 & Middle East.

    Due to the “published fare” requirement, the return required 90k + 25k for the one-way trip home. Essentially 25k for MLE-AUH and then 90k for the AUH-IAD-DFW segments for 115k sub-total.

    RETURN:
    MLE-AUH (EY – Biz)
    AUH-IAD (EY – First Suites)
    IAD-DFW (AA – First)

    Total:
    182,500 AAdvantage Miles + $68.50 taxes (per-person)
    22,500 flown miles
    48h20m in-flight duration

    Not too bad for a RTW trip in mostly First class where possible. Pretty good luck finding availability with 2 seats for my preferred dates 8 months out. And taxes that were really bearable. If you’re looking to use less AAdvantage miles you could just fly back with Cathay via Colombo and get First class for 135k/per person.

  4. Another reason I am dedicated to Alaska. This is one award on CX, business class to Male is 125K AS miles. First would be 145K.

  5. Quote:

    “Cathay Pacific has started a four time weekly service to the Maldives, which makes getting there much easier for Americans.”

    I believe Cathay doesn’t start flying this route until the end of October, 2013?

  6. Random note, but Alaska has awards for 22.5K each way in cathay business intra-asia. Not sure if maldives is considered Asia or outside for Alaska, will find out shortly.

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