Air points are something that I view with deep suspicion. Airlines offer them. Credit card issuers hand them out. But when do you get to use them? In the case of Asia Miles (Cathay Pacific's mileage programme), the answer used to be very very seldom, My own personal experience was that it was pretty much a waste of time trying to redeem Asia Miles for a "free" flight and the best that could be hoped for (but not expected) was to use them for upgrades. My experience was far from unique.
The recession has brought with it a downturn in air travel. As a result, I am hearing increasing numbers of people say that they have succeeded in redeeming their Asia Miles for free flights at off peak times. My own recent experience in successfully using points for an upgrade was also met with a much quicker response than I have come to expect.
This is another example of their being some upside to the recession.