The best redemption values for economy class travel to Asia

I've written extensively about premium class travel awards, but not everyone is addicted to business class, and are fine sitting in the back of the plane with the peasants in economy class.  Although flying in premium cabins typically results in the best value for your award miles, there can still be value found in economy class bookings, which carriers also tend to release more generously.

ANA Mileage Club

ANA is a Star Alliance member has one of the most underrated programs out there, especially when it comes to premium cabin awards to Asia for only 95k roundtrip.  For 60k miles, you can go roundtrip from North America to North Asia with a free stopover.  ANA does impose fuel surcharges, which can add up on some carriers such as Asiana.  However, ANA does not impose fuel surcharges period on partner awards with Air China and Singapore Airlines, and the surcharges are very reasonable with Eva, Thai Airways, and ANA.

As you can see, you'll only be paying $50 in fees for a transpacific booking with a free stopover on Air China, which is typically very generous when it comes to releasing economy class awards on their jumbojet B747s.  All ANA partner award flights can be searched and booked online, and ANA is a 1:1 transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards.

United MileagePlus

United, which is a Star Alliance member. recently moved to dynamic award pricing.  However, their economy class partner awards to Asia are still priced at 35k each way.  With a roundtrip booking for 70k, you also get a free stopover called their "Excursionist Perk".

Even though United miles have been constantly devalued over the years, the 35k partner economy class award pricing from North America to North Asia has stayed pretty consistent.  United MileagePlus is also one of the only frequent flyer programs on the planet that imposes zero fuel surcharges period on all award bookings.  United also has one of the best online search engines for booking award flights online, and they are a 1:1 transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Alaska Mileage Plan

Whereas most of the other frequent flyer programs have underwent numerous devaluations over the years, Alaska Airlines miles have remained by far one of the most valuable currencies on the market.  Although Alaska Airlines is not a part of any airline alliance, they partner with American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Hainan Airlines, and Japan Airlines for flights between North America and Asia.

As you can see, there is great value to be found like 30k each way on Cathay Pacific and Hainan Airlines, which is China's only 5-star carrier.  Alaska Airlines also does not impose fuel surcharges, and you are allowed two free stopovers on a roundtrip booking or one free stopover on a one-way booking.  The downside of Alaska Airlines is that you can't mix partner awards, so you can only book and fly with one carrier on a partner award booking.  There's also no easy way of accumulating Alaska Airlines miles since their only transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio.

Bottom line

Given the choice, everyone would prefer to fly in the front of the plane in the premium cabins.  But business class doesn't work for everyone, especially for those with limited miles or flying with families.  There is still substantial value to be found in economy class award bookings, particularly if you take advantage of your free stopovers.  Additionally, most Asian carriers are very generous with releasing economy class award space, while being very stingy their premium cabin awards.


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