As I mentioned in the Introduction Post, American Express Membership Rewards points (much like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points) are great points to stockpile because they are so versatile. Amex MRs are also fairly easy to earn, which makes them just that much better to use for your dream trip to Asia!
American Express offers many cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including their EveryDay card (which earns 20% more MRs every month you make 20 or more purchases with the card). American Express offers several other card options that earn MRs, so I highly encourage you to head over to the American Express site and check out the options.
Now that you know how to earn the MRs, the more complicated process is how to use those hard earned MRs to get you to Asia! Your MRs will transfer to 17 different airlines across all 3 major airline alliances. Those airlines include:
|Airline||Alliance||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Air France/KLM||SkyTeam||1:1||Same day|
|Aeromexico||SkyTeam||1:1||Up to 7 days|
|British Airways||OneWorld||1:0.8||Same day|
|Iberia||OneWorld||1:0.8||Up to 7 days|
|Cathay Pacific||OneWorld||1:1||Up to 7 days|
|Air Canada||Star Alliance||1:1||Same day|
|ANA||Star Alliance||1:1||2-4 days|
|Singapore Airlines||Star Alliance||1:1||Up to 3 days|
|Virgin America||N/A||1:0.5||Same day|
|Virgin Atlantic||N/A||1:1||Same day|
|Jet Blue||N/A||1:0.8||Same day|
|Hawaiian Airlines||N/A||1:1||Same day|
|El Al||N/A||50:1||Same day|
As I said before, the transfer times are just an approximation based upon data points I could find (as well as personal experiences), but it is important to be cognizant of these transfer times when you are planning your award booking(s).
Another caveat is that although I will be including general advice for getting to Asia on your MRs, your home airport will play an important role in finding availability or determining cost. For example, since British Airways operates under a distance based award chart, the cost for someone traveling from the West Coast is going to be lower than the cost for someone traveling from the East Coast. I will also assume for purposes of this post that you would be flying into Hong Kong (HKG).
Unfortunately, approximately a year ago Delta decided to take down its award chart. Without a published award chart, that means that it is difficult to give a number of miles that it will take to get to Asia. As a general ballpark, from a Delta hub airport, you can expect to see roundtrip award tickets cost approximately 70k in Coach, 160k in Delta Comfort+ and, oddly, 160k in DeltaOne (business class).
It is worth noting that Delta seems to charge the same amount for Delta Comfort+ seats as they do for First/Business class tickets, so if you are searching for Comfort+ award seats, make sure you are checking out the cost of a DeltaOne award ticket as well as the product will be much better. It is also important to remember that Delta will only allow you to book Business class tickets with partner carries, so if you were using Delta
SkyPesos SkyMiles for an award ticket on a Korean Air flight, you would only be able to redeem your SkyMiles for Business class, despite the fact that many Korean Air flights from the U.S. offer a First class cabin.
Alitalia is a SkyTeam alliance member that is based out of Rome (FCO). That means that their route network is not especially well suited for Asian redemptions (especially if you are flying from the U.S.). In addition, you can redeem your MilleMiglia miles for travel on Delta, Korean Air, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern and Vietnam Airlines flights. Alitalia will levy fuel surcharges on partner award tickets, though they are not going to be as bad as the likes of British Airways. The trick to booking Alitalia awards is to have some miles in your account so they consider it active. From there you can call and place your award ticket on hold for about two (2) weeks. You can then transfer the needed miles and then call back to get the ticket booked.
Alitalia has a separate award chart for SkyTeam partner redemptions and breaks Asia into 2 regions – North Asia and Southeast Asia. Those regions are comprised of the following countries:
- North Asia – Eastern Russia, Japan, Mongolia & South Korea
- Southeast Asia – Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Saipan, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
To/from North Asia, award tickets will cost you 60k miles roundtrip in coach and 90k miles roundtrip in business.
To/from Southeast Asia, award tickets will cost you 70k miles roundtrip in coach and 95k miles roundtrip in business.
Alitalia does not allow one-way award tickets on partner airlines, so you have to book roundtrip tickets when utilizing partners. Lastly, while you must book the most direct itinerary, you are allowed one voluntary stopover.
The US phone number for Alitalia is 800.223.5730.
Air France/KLM (FlyingBlue)
Air France and KLM share a frequent flyer program called FlyingBlue. Since FlyingBlue is a SkyTeam alliance member, you can redeem FlyingBlue miles for travel on Delta, Korean Air, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern and Vietnam Airlines flights. FlyingBlue can be finicky to work with, but they offer some very good value for flights to Asia since their network is so large and established in the region. Roundtrip award tickets in coach will cost you 80k miles; in premium economy will cost you 160k miles; and in business class will cost you 200k miles.
One-way award tickets are allowed at 40k in coach, 80k miles in premium economy and 100k miles in business, but no stopovers are allowed. I personally find FlyingBlue slightly easier to use for award tickets than Alitalia, but considering the cost difference and the free stopover Alitalia offers, I would strongly recommend going with Alitalia over Flying Blue. With that said, searching for space via FlyingBlue will give you a good idea of what inventory should be bookable by Alitalia.
Aeromexico is another SkyTeam alliance member, which means you can again redeem Club Premier miles for travel on Delta, Korean Air, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern and Vietnam Airlines flights. Aeromexico is a unique program in several regards. First and foremost, your MRs will transfer to Club Premier at a 1:1 ratio for miles. This is important because Club Premier uses kilometers instead of miles. Your Club Premier miles will be transferred to kilometers at a 1:1.6 ratio, which means for every 1,000 MRs you transfer, you would actually receive 1,600 Club Premier kilometers. I will do the conversion math for you so you can easily reference how many MRs it will cost you if you transferred to Aeromexico.
Second, Aeromexico uses a two-tiered award chart which has a high season price and a low season price. For Asia redemptions, there is not a separate high season and low season price.
Aeromexico also breaks Asia into 2 separate zones – North East of Asia and South East of Asia. Those regions are comprised of the following countries:
- North East of Asia – Japan & Korea
- South East of Asia – Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand & Vietnam
For North East of Asia, Aeromexico charges 120k kilometers (75k MRs) roundtrip in coach and 180k kilometers (112.5k MRs) roundtrip in business.
For South East of Asia, Aeromexico charges 120k kilometers (75k MRs) roundtrip in coach and 240k kilometers (150k MRs) roundtrip in business.
One-way award tickets are allowed and cost half the amount of the roundtrip price.
As you can see, there are much better deals to be had out there for award tickets to Asia than Aeromexico – especially in business class. The only way I would consider this redemption would be if you have a large stash of Club Premier kilometers you need to burn off. Otherwise, look elsewhere for transfer options.
British Airways and Iberia somewhat share an award program where both have a distance based award chart, so your home airport is really going to make the biggest difference here in how much an award ticket to Asia will cost you. Unfortunately, last year American Express and British Airways/Iberia devalued their transfer rate slightly to 1:0.8. As both British Airways and Iberia are members of the OneWorld alliance, you can use your Avios to book Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines or American Airlines flights to Asia.
From the East Coast of the U.S. (New York – JFK) or the West Coast of the U.S. (Los Angeles – LAX), you can expect a cost of 35k Avios for coach, 70k Avios for premium economy, 105k Avios for business and 140k Avios for first for a one-way redemption.
Again, keep in mind that these are price ranges for flights to Hong Kong, so your award ticket cost may vary from these numbers depending on your home airport, number of connections needed and destination. Also keep in mind that British Airways does not levy their usual hefty fuel surcharges on partner redemptions, so from the U.S. you can expect the usual $5.60 in taxes and fees.
Lastly, it is important to remember that the transfer ratio is 1:0.8, so your flight that costs 35k Avios will actually cost you 43,750 MRs. In light of the cost, unless you are based out of a hub airport where you can find a direct partner flight to your Asian destination or have a glut of Avios you want to burn, you are better off transferring your MRs elsewhere for a redemption to Asia – especially if you are looking to travel in a premium cabin.
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program uses a distance based award chart, so this is another airline that will depend on your home airport for redemption costs. Cathay Pacific is a member of the OneWorld alliance, so you can use your Asia Miles to book Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and American Airlines flights to Asia.
From the U.S., you can expect a cost of 90k miles roundtrip in coach, 108k miles roundtrip in premium economy, 145k miles roundtrip in business and 220k miles roundtrip in first.
One-way award tickets are allowed at the rates of: 55k miles in coach, 66k in premium economy, 85k miles in business and 130k in first.
What is wild though is the Asia Miles program allows you to make up to 5 stopovers, 2 transfers and 2 open-jaws at either the origin, en-route or at the turnaround point (destination)! That means you could put together an itinerary where you hop all over Asia, in business class, for only 145k miles total from the US! Depending on how you routed yourself, that could offer some truly exceptional value!
If you can get the stopovers and open-jaws to work for your itinerary, Asia Miles should be a top contender for you to transfer your MRs to for your Asian vacation. If you will not be utilizing the stopovers, then I would say there are better options out there for your MRs.
Air Canada (Aeroplan)
Air Canada is a Star Alliance member, so you can use your Aeroplan miles for redemptions on Air Canada, United, Air China, ANA, Asiana, Eva Air, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways flights to Asia. In other words, you are going to have a ton of options!
Aeroplan breaks Asia into 2 regions – Asia 1 and Asia 2. Those regions are comprised of the following countries:
- Asia 1 – China, Eastern Russia, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea & Taiwan
- Asia 2 – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Micronesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand & Vietnam
A roundtrip award ticket to Asia 1 using Aeroplan miles will cost you 75k miles in coach, 125k miles in premium economy, 150k miles in business and 210k miles in first.
A roundtrip award ticket to Asia 2 using Aeroplan miles will cost you 90k miles in coach, 130k miles in premium economy, 155k miles in business and 215k miles in first.
Aeroplan does allow one-way award tickets at half the cost of the roundtrip award ticket cost. While I do love Aeroplan miles, the redemptions to Asia 1 are decent, but the redemptions to Asia 2 are not great. If you are going to an Asia 1 destination, I would give Aeroplan some consideration. If you are going to an Asia 2 destination, I would look at other transfer partners for your MRs.
ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Mileage Club miles for Air Canada, United, Air China, ANA, Asiana, Eva Air, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways flights to Asia. Again, in other words, you are going to have a ton of options!
ANA breaks Asia into 4 regions – Japan, South Korea, Asia 1 and Asia 2. For flights solely on ANA flights, those regions are comprised of the following countries/cities:
- Japan – Japan (duh)
- South Korea – South Korea (did you guess that one too?)
- Asia 1 – Beijing, Dalian, Shenyang, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Chengdu, Wuhan, Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila
- Asia 2 – Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Yangon, Jakarta, Mumbai, Delhi, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Phnom Penh
ANA uses a Low, Regular and High season award chart for their flights, so you are better off going to ANA’s website to determine your award ticket cost as there are a lot of variables at play.
For partner flights (or even if only one of your flights is on a partner airline), ANA’s 4 Asian regions are comprised of the following countries:
- Japan – Japan (didn’t see this one coming…again)
- South Korea – South Korea (::sigh::)
- Asia 1 – China, Guam, Hong Kong, Macau, Philippines & Taiwan
- Asia 2 – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, British Indian Ocean Territory, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan & Vietnam
For roundtrip flights to/from the U.S. and Japan, it will cost you 50k miles for economy, 85k miles for business and 180k miles for first.
For roundtrip flights to/from the U.S. and South Korea, it will cost you 60k miles for economy, 95k miles for business and 180k miles for first.
For roundtrip flights to/from the U.S. and Asia 1, it will cost you 60k miles for economy, 95k miles for business and 180k miles for first.
For roundtrip flights to/from the U.S. and Asia 2, it will cost you 80k miles for economy, 136k miles for business and 240k miles for first.
ANA does not allow for one-way award tickets (there is a way around this which I have previously outlined here, though I do not think it is necessarily worthwhile unless you have Mileage Club points to burn). ANA can present a very good option for coach or business class redemptions to most of Asia. I would give ANA some serious consideration for your next Asia trip!
Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Kris Flyer miles for Air Canada, United, Air China, ANA, Asiana, Eva Air, Shenzhen Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways flights to Asia. Again, in other words, you are going to have a ton of options!
Singapore Airlines is one of several airlines that utilizes a separate award chart for partner awards. The Singapore Airlines specific chart breaks Asia into 7 zones which are comprised of the following countries:
- Zone 1 – Singapore
- Zone 2 – Malaysia, Indonesia & Brunei
- Zone 3 – Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar & Cambodia
- Zone 4 – South China, Hong Kong & Taiwan
- Zone 5 – North China (Beijing & Shanghai)
- Zone 6 – South Asia (India, Sri Lanka, Maldives & Bangladesh)
- Zone 7 – Japan & South Korea
There are simply too many combinations and options for me to address all of the rates here, however you can easily find your redemption cost using this chart provided by Singapore Airlines. You can expect roundtrip prices of around 70k miles for economy, 160k miles for business class and 220k miles for first class. Keep in mind those rates are for one-way tickets at the saver rate and do not factor in the 15% discount you would receive from booking your award ticket online.
The partner specific award chart on the other hand breaks Asia into 4 regions. Those regions are comprised of the following countries:
- South East Asia 1 – Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore
- South East Asia 2 – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand & Vietnam
- North Asia 1 – Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan
- North Asia 2 – China, Guam, Japan, Micronesia, Palau, Russia Far East & South Korea
For roundtrip flights to/from the U.S. and South East Asia 1, it will cost you 110k miles for economy, 195k miles for business and 225k miles for first.
For roundtrip flights to/from the U.S. and South East Asia 2, it will cost you 110k miles for economy, 195k miles for business and 225k miles for first.
For roundtrip flights to/from the U.S. and North Asia 1, it will cost you 90k miles for economy, 175k miles for business and 200k miles for first.
For roundtrip flights to/from the U.S. and North Asia 2, it will cost you 90k miles for economy, 175k miles for business and 200k miles for first.
If you are looking to fly from one of Singapore’s few U.S. destinations, Singapore Airlines is a program worth looking into. However, if you are looking to fly on a Star Alliance partner or want a connecting flight from your home airport included in your award price, then there are much better redemptions to be had elsewhere.
Virgin America operates out of a very small market in the U.S., but they do partner with Singapore Airlines for award tickets to Asia. The downside is you will need to get to either Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) on your own and even when you get there, your destination options are limited to Hong Kong (HKG) and Tokyo Narita (NRT). That said, the taxes and carrier imposed fees are not very high like redemptions with Virgin America partners usually are.
From either Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) to Hong Kong (HKG) or Tokyo Narita (NRT) you are looking at 40k points for economy, 95k points for business and 130k points for first (all roundtrip). Your taxes and fees will be approximately $40 on a roundtrip, which is extremely reasonable!
Virgin America also allows for one-way award tickets, but the miles rates are slightly more than half of the roundtrip cost.
Although the mileage redemption rates are quite good, it is important to remember that your MRs will transfer to Virgin America at a 1:0.5 ratio, so the redemption costs will actually cost you double the amount of MRs. When you take this fact into account, this makes Virgin America one the worst MR transfer partners for award tickets to Asia and I would highly recommend you avoid this option unless you are just looking to top off your Elevate account and are going to and from their only 2 origins/destinations.
Virgin Atlantic also operates out of a very small market in the U.S., but they do partner with Singapore Airlines, ANA and Delta for award tickets to Asia. The downsides to this program are numerous including: a) you cannot redeem for business or first class on Singapore Airlines flights; b) the destinations offered are limited to Hong Kong (HKG), Shanghai (PVG) and Tokyo (NRT); and c) and the taxes and carrier imposed fees are outrageously high.
For example, from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG), a roundtrip award ticket will cost you 92.5k miles + ~$1,200-1,450 in taxes and fess for coach, 150k miles + ~$1,500-1,800 in taxes and fees for premium economy and 220k miles + ~$1,900-2,500 (!!) in taxes and fees for upper class (business class).
Although the mileage redemption rates (ignoring the outrageous taxes and fees) are actually not horrible, the astronomical taxes and fees makes Virgin Atlantic the single worst MR transfer partner for award tickets to Asia in my opinion. The taxes and fees on a coach ticket to Hong Kong are enough for 2-4 round trips given the fare sales that have been going on lately from the U.S. I would strongly recommend you avoid this option at all costs unless you literally have no other option.
JetBlue does not fly to Asia, so transfers to the TrueBlue program will do you no good. Cross this airline off your list right from the start for an award redemption to Asia.
Hawaiian Airlines flies to limited destinations in Asia and also partner with ANA and Korean Air. In addition to being limited to your destinations, you will also be subject to the outrageous fuel surcharges, taxes and fees that Virgin Atlantic imposes on their award tickets.
For flights from the U.S. to Japan (Tokyo Haneda (HND)/Narita (NRT)/Osaka (KIX)/Chitose(CTS)), Seoul (ICN) or Beijing (PEK), you are looking at roundtrip costs of 120k miles for economy, 210k miles for business and 420k miles for first.
Not only does Hawaiian Airlines offer one of the highest award ticket mileage costs for Asia redemptions, but they also offer extremely limited destinations. This makes Hawaiian Airlines one of the worst MR transfer partners for award tickets to Asia. I would strongly recommend you avoid this option at all costs unless you literally have no other option.
From what I can tell, El Al does publish an award chart for redemptions to 4 Asian destinations, but it is unclear if the award chart is for flights from El Al’s hub at Tel Aviv (TLV) or elsewhere. I believe these are the award ticket costs for flights from Tel Aviv, so you would need to find your own way to Tel Aviv, or book one of El Al’s flights from the U.S. From New York (JFK) or Toronto (YYZ) to Tel Aviv (TLV) you are looking at 1,400 points for coach, 3,000 points for business class and 5,000 points for first class. From Los Angeles (LAX) to Tel Aviv you are looking at 1,800 points for coach, 4,000 points for business class and 5,400 points for first class.
El Al also uses a winter and summer season points system which changes according to your travel dates. The Winter Season (“WS”) is January 1 – March 24 and November 1 – December 31, while the Summer Season (“SS”) is March 25 – October 31. El Al’s 4 European destinations (including award ticket costs) include:
- Beijing (1,400 WS/1,800 SS for economy; 4,500 for business class)
- Mumbai (1,500 WS/1,500 SS for economy; 4,000 for business class)
- Bangkok/Hong Kong (2,000 WS/2,000 SS for economy; 4,500 for business class)
One-way award tickets will cost you half of the prices quoted above. Since El Al is not a partner in any of the airline alliances, it does not appear that it is possible to redeem El Al Matmid miles for an award ticket to Asia on any other carriers.
It is important to remember that your MRs will transfer at a ratio of 50:1 to the Matmid program, so you are looking at 5,000 MRs for every 100 Matmid points. That makes an economy award flight to Hong Kong cost 100,000 MRs, which is pretty horrible – without even factoring in if you would need to route yourself to Tel Aviv as well. That does not include the cost to get you to Tel Aviv. Accordingly, I would look elsewhere for good redemptions to Asia unless you will already be in Tel Aviv.
Emirates uses a zone based award chart, so your redemption cost will largely depend on your departure airport and your arrival airport. If you are looking to redeem for flights on Emirates aircraft, I would recommend you use their Miles Calculator to determine the cost.
Emirates also partners with Japan Airlines and Korean Air, and you can redeem your miles for flights on both.
For roundtrip Japan Airlines flights between the U.S. and Japan, Seoul, Busan or Asia 1 (Beijing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kaohsiung, Manila, Shanghai, Taipei & Tianjin), you are looking at 60k miles in economy, 125k in business and 185k in first class.
For roundtrip Japan Airlines flights between the U.S. and Asia 2 (Bangkok, Delhi, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore), you are looking at 70k miles in economy, 145k miles in business and 215k miles in first class.
For roundtrip Korean Air flights between the U.S. and Japan or North East Asia (Seoul, Gwangju, Gunsan, Daegu, Busan, Yangyang, Yeosu, Ulsan, Weonju, Jeju, Jinju, Cheongju, Pohang, Beijing, Jinan, Kumming, Qingdao, Sanya, Shanghai, Senyang, Taipei, Tianjin, Ulan Bator, Viadivostok, Wuhan, Xian, Xiamen, Ventai, Tokyo (Narita, Haneda), Osaka, Nagoya, Niigata, Fukuoka, Oita, Okayama,Kagoshima, Sapporo, Aomori, Akita, Nagasaki, Komatsu, Guangzhou), you are looking at 70k miles in economy and 105k miles in business class.
For roundtrip Korean Air flights between the U.S. and South East Asia ( Bangkok, Cambodia, Denpasar, Guam, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Penang, Phuket, Singapore, Dalian, Koror, Siem Reap, Cebu, Kota Kinabalu, Shenzhen, Chiang Mai, Da Nang, Yangon), you are looking at 80k miles in economy and 125k miles in business class.
For roundtrip Korean Air flights between the U.S. and South West Asia (Mumbai, Kathmandu, Tashkent, Colombo, Male), you are looking at 95k miles in economy and 140k miles in business class.
It does not appear that one-way award tickets are possible on either Japan Airlines or Korean Air flights. Some of these rates are actually pretty good, while others are not exactly competitive. I would not rule Emirates completely out as a viable redemption option to get you to Asia in style!
Although Etihad is not a part of any major airline alliance, they do have several strategic partnerships with airlines such as ANA, Asiana, Garuda Indonesia, Hainan, Korean Air and Philippine Airlines. The award charts for all of these airlines are distance based, so I would recommend that you go to Etihad’s respective partner pages and to determine your mileage redemption rates.
For reference though, most of your flights are going to run well over 50k miles for a coach award ticket, so I would strongly recommend you look elsewhere to transfer your MRs for an Asia trip.
You can also book American Airlines saver level award flights with your Guest Miles. Like AA, Etihad uses a peak/off peak system for economy award tickets. Off-peak dates between the U.S. and Asia 1 are October 1 – April 30. Roundtrip economy redemptions will cost you 50k miles off-peak and 65k miles during peak times to Asia 1, while business class will cost 100k miles and first class will cost 125k miles. There are no off-peak dates for Asia 2, so roundtrip economy redemptions will cost you 70k miles, while business class will cost you 110k miles and first class will cost you 135k miles. These award rates mirror the pre-devaluation AA award chart, so this could present a nice and reasonably priced option if you do not mind flying on AA metal across the pond.
To redeem for any partner awards you have to contact the Etihad service center at 888-8ETIHAD at least 14 days prior to the intended date of travel.
As you can see, the MR transfer partners offer a lot of options for finding award availability to Asia. Hopefully this guide has helped to shine a little light on how to utilize and maximize your MRs for a trip to Asia!
Stay tuned for the next installments on your best redemption options for TYPs and URs!
What is your favorite way to redeem MRs to get to Asia?
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