Cathay Pacific

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Cathay Pacific frequently releases five Business Class and one First Class award seat on its flights between the United States and Hong Kong 11 months out. If you miss those, there are often up to two First Class and up to nine Business Class seats within a week of departure.

You can book these fantastically luxurious products with American Airlines miles and Alaska Airlines miles. Of the two, Alaska’s redemption prices are much better post-American Airlines’ devaluation.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.28.16 AM
Cathay Pacific First Class Throne

American charges:

  • 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia in Cathay Pacific Business Class
  • 110,000 miles one way between the United States and Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia in Cathay Pacific First Class

Alaska charges:

  • 50,000 miles one way between the United States and Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia in Cathay Pacific Business Class
  • 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Hong Kong, China, and SE Asia in Cathay Pacific First Class

Alaska’s prices are so cheap that Delta charges more miles to book Business Class to Asia than Alaska Airlines charges to book Cathay Pacific First Class.

Neither American nor Alaska Airlines charges fuel surcharges on Cathay Pacific awards, you will only pay the standard taxes that apply to every award (plus $12.50 per one way when redeeming Alaska miles to fly a partner.)

How to Get Alaska Airlines Miles

25,000 Alaska miles is the public sign-up offer for both the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card. The personal card gives you the bonus upon signing up, and the business card after one purchase. Although this is planned to change in May, when the sign-up bonus for the personal card will increase to 30,000 Alaska miles after spending $1,000 within three months of the account opening.

There are other offers out there as well at the moment:

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And as far I can tell, all signs point to these cards still being churnable–for now.

Product

Cathay Pacific Business Class is a stunner with fully flat 6’10” beds.

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Cathay Pacific First Class is an even wider and more spacious bed, mixed with very personalized service, and great food. Here’s my trip report of Cathay Pacific First Class.

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Cathay Pacific First Class Bed
Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.28.37 AM
Cathay Pacific First Class Caviar

Award Space 11 Months Out

Alaska Airlines allows bookings 330 days out. Right now that means through March 24, 2017 according to alaskair.com’s calendar.

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I searched Cathay Pacific’s American routes for award space on ba.com as it is not searchable on alaskaair.com (read this to learn how to search ba.com). I looked for availability on March 24, 2017 to see what space you can book 11 months out to Hong Kong. (Cathay Pacific space is available with Avios even further out than 330 days in advance, but almost all of that space is still available 11 months out.)

San Francisco

There are three Business Class seats on one flight, and one First Class seat on the same flight.

header

SFO to hkg 11 mnths out

Los Angeles

There are five Business Class seats on one flight and one First Class seat on two separate flights. These are the maximum amount of premium cabin award seats I’ve seen on any of Cathay Pacific’s American routes 11 months out.
headerlax to hkg 11 mnths out

New York

There are up to five seats in Business Class available. However New York doesn’t have First Class seats open on any single flight on March 24, nor on nearby dates.
headerJFk to hkg 11 mnths out

Chicago

It looks like five Business Class seats is Cathay Pacific’s pattern for releasing Business space 11 months out. No First Class seats are available on March 24, 2017 but there are First Class seats (up to one per flight) open on nearby dates.
headerord to hkg 11 mnths outBoston

Boston has five Business Class seats and one First Class seat available.

headerbos to hkg 11 mnths out

Newark

Note the different headings for the cabins–Newark does not have First Class cabins. It offers five Business Class seats like most of the Cathay Pacific American routes.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 9.42.00 PMewr to hkg 11 mnths out

Conclusion

11 months out is the second best time to book Cathay Pacific award space between the United States and Asia. Many flights have five Business Class seats that you can book for 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles each. Many flights have one First Class seat you can book for 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles each. But if you’re flexible, you’ll see even more award space open up right before departure.

Award Space Within a Week of Departure

If you miss booking space 11 months out, there is still space six months out, but it isn’t nearly as plentiful. I didn’t see any space in Business or First Class three months out.

If you have the flexibility to wait until the last minute, the best time to book Cathay Pacific award space is within a week of departure. They release more premium cabin award space close in to the travel date (up to nine Business Class Seats and two First Class seats) than they do 11 months out (five Business Class seats and one First Class seat). I took a look at award space today through a week from now in both directions on Cathay Pacific’s five American routes with First Class.

Note that days displayed below are not the only options within a week before departure, but they are the days with the most premium cabin space.

New York

Up to nine seats in Business Class (on the flights that just say “Available” without a qualifier that only X seats are left), and up to two in First Class. That’s the most I’ve seen on any search so far.

headerjfk to hkg april 30
The flights from Hong Kong to JFK have less space with up to four Business Class seats and two First Class seats available May 2.
header

hkg to jfk may 2

Chicago

There are seven Business Class seats open May 4 and one First Class seat May 5.

headerord to hkg may 4ord to hkg may 5

From Hong Kong to Chicago, there are no Business Class options within a week of departure, but on May 2 there are two seats available in First Class. 

header

hkg to ord may 2

Los Angeles

From Los Angeles, there are six Business Class seats on a flight May 1, and two First Class seats on the other flight that day.

header

lax to hkg 72 hours out

From Hong Kong to Los Angeles, there are six Business Class seats on a flight May 6, and one First Class seat on the other flight that day.

header

hkg to lax may 6

San Francisco

From San Francisco, there are up to two First Class seats to Hong Kong. On May 4 there are eight and nine Business Class seats on different flights.

headersfo to hkg may 2

sfo to hkg may 4

There are eight Business Class seats May 4 from Hong Kong to San Francisco, and two First Class seats May 6.

headerhkg to sfo may 4

hkg to sfo may 6

Boston

From Boston, there are two Business Class and two First Class seats available May 5.

headerbos to hkg may 5

There are three First Class seats from Hong Kong to Boston on May 2! This is the most seats (and only time) I’ve seen that many seats available for Cathay Pacific First Class. I do not think that is normal, although I would love to be proved wrong (anybody?). There are also five Business Class seats open on May 4.

header

hkg to bos may 2 - 3 first classhkg to bos may 4

Conclusion

Award space is better within a week of departure compared to any other time that I’ve seen, and it looks like it’s the only time you can book two people in First Class. You’ll have to tough it out in Business Class if you’re a party of two that can’t wait until the last minute to book.

Bottom Line

Cathay Pacific Business and First Class are two of the most luxurious ways to get to Asia, and using Alaska Airlines miles is by far the cheapest way to book the premium cabins.

Cathay Pacific Business and First Class are widely available 11 months out. Think five Business Class seats and one First Class seat on most flights. Premium cabin space is even more available within a week of departure. Think one to nine Business Class seats and one or two First Class seats on some flights.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

You can now redeem American Airlines miles to the Indian Subcontinent via Cathay Pacific or American Airlines flights that connect in Hong Kong.

Until today, you could only connect in Europe or the Middle East. Routing via Asia would break your trip into two awards–USA to East Asia + East Asia to Indian Subcontinent. This additional routing option is very welcome, especially for folks who live on the West Coast, for whom routing via Hong Kong is faster than routing via Europe or the Middle East.

The change appears on American Airlines’ award chart.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.43.22 PM

The new tilde on the chart is explained in the footnotes.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 2.43.35 PM

The wording makes it clear that the routing via Hong Kong is only allowed to the Indian Subcontinent and not to the Middle East. Unfortunately, the AA award chart doesn’t separate those two regions.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 3.11.20 PM

However, The Points Guy has confirmed with an AAgent that the following countries are considered to be the Indian Subcontinent:

  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Kazakhstan
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan

Unfortunately since the March 22 devaluation, awards to the Indian Subcontinent in First Class are insanely expensive:

  • 40,000 American Airlines miles one way in economy
  • 70,000 in Business
  • 115,000 in First

Economy and Business are decent values, though Alaska charges only 62,500 miles one way in Cathay Pacific Business to India and 70,000 miles in First.

Bottom Line

To get the Middle East on a single American Airlines award, you need to:

  1. Fly directly there
  2. Connect in Europe

To get to the Indian Subcontinent on a single American Airlines award, you need to:

  1. Fly directly there
  2. Connect in Europe
  3. Connect in the Middle East
  4. New Option: Connect in Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines flights

All other one way trips to the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent–like Los Angeles to Tokyo to Mumbai on Japan Airlines or Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Dubai on Cathay Pacific–will require at least two awards.

For more information on American Airlines’ award routing rules, see “AA Award Rules & How Many Miles Do You Need.”

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

You can book yourself a tour around Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia stopping in four places for only 100,000 miles total with nearly half the trip in a flat bed. By stopping in four places, I am referring to actual destinations, not connections that have to be under 24 hours.

Much like the Mega Trip to the Caribbean and South America I wrote about a few days ago, this deal relies on piecing together some sweet spot awards (and this time also a low cost carrier flight within Europe) into one big trip. Even if you never take a trip like this, knowledge of the sweet spot awards is useful.

For the purposes of this example, this will be the route we examine:

Chicago > Paris > Istanbul > Doha > Bangkok > Chicago

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 1.54.50 PM

You can tweak the route to your liking and keep the same prices as long as each destination falls in the right region for the pricing of the award.

What does that mean exactly?

  • Chicago could be replaced by anywhere that American Airlines flies to.
  • Paris could be replaced by anywhere that is in Europe, but that will affect the cost of the low carrier flight to Istanbul.
  • Istanbul could be replaced by any nearby city with low cost carrier flights from Europe, although this would affect the out of pocket cost as well as the miles price which will probably go up if you choose a different city since the following award is flown with distance-based Avios to the Middle East.
  • Doha can really only be replaced by Amman as the two oneworld hubs in the Middle East.
  • Bangkok could be replaced by a different Asian city that is anywhere from 3,001 to 4,000 miles away from Doha or Amman.
  • Chicago could be replaced by anywhere that Cathay Pacific or Alaska Airlines flies to.

United States to Paris

Before American Airlines devalued their award chart, you could book economy flights to Europe for 20,000 American Airlines miles during the Off Peak season (October 15 – May 15). With American Airlines’ devaluation, the price went to 22,500 miles one way and, more alarmingly, the available dates were dramatically reduced. However you can still use Alaska or Etihad miles to book American Airlines flights in economy to Europe from October 15 to May 15 for 20,000 Alaska or Etihad miles. Here is such a flight on alaskaair.com:

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You can search for and book award space right on alaskaairlines.com’s home page, just check the “use miles” box in the search tool. You don’t even need an account with Alaska’s Mileage Plan loyalty program.

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There is space every day of November.

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You can book this same award flying American Airlines flights for 20,000 Etihad miles. 

Some other options you might want to consider depending on what kind of miles you have and where you live:

Paris to Istanbul

Low cost carriers are an economical way of hopping around Europe, especially when you’re trying to save your miles for higher value long distance redemptions.  I found the following flight from Paris to Istanbul with Pegasus Airlines for under $100:

pegasus flight

As is often the case with these discount airlines, the catch is that you have to watch how much you pack. You get one free carry on that can weigh 17.5 pounds. I am a proponent of one bag travel, but understandably you might want a little more room if you’re going on a trip with as many climates as this one. Luckily it’s only $6 more to bring about 44 pounds of luggage.

Istanbul to Doha

The next two legs are Avios awards. Why? Avios are ideal for short, direct, economy flights, especially between regions on award charts. Why pay 20,000 American Airlines to fly Istanbul to Doha (the same price that London to Delhi would be), when you can pay 10,000 Avios?

You can book a one way ticket between Istanbul and Doha in Economy for 10,000 British Airways Avios and $86 in taxes and fees.

avios price

You can search search and book this award right on ba.com– here’s how use the search tool. There is space in Economy every day I checked between these two cities.

avios award space

Doha to Bangkok

It costs 20,000 British Airways Avios and $62 in taxes and fees to fly from Doha to Bangkok, Thailand.

doha to bangkok price

You can search and book this award right on ba.com– here’s how use the search tool. There is space in Economy every day I checked between these two cities.

doha to bangkok avios space

Bangkok to United States

You can fly Cathay Pacific’s Business Class featuring a fully lie flat bed for only 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles…

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.35.25 PM

…and about $55 in taxes and fees. The following screenshot is from ITA matrix, which breaks down the costs of a normal revenue ticket. Alaska Airlines does not collet fuel surcharges on Cathay Pacific awards, so we know that the amount of out of pocket expenses will be approximately the sum of the taxes and other fees:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.41.40 PM

You cannot search for Cathay Pacific award space on Alaska’s website. Use British Airways’ search tool instead– here’s how to search ba.com. The easiest time to find award space in premium cabins on Cathay Pacific flights is immediately prior (a couple weeks or less before travel) or about 11 months out from travel. For example, the availability shown below is for about 11 months from now, and five out of the seven days displayed have three to eight Business Class seats available each day.

bkk to us

bkk to us

Cathay Pacific flights can be booked by calling Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan at 1-800-654-5669.

What Do Those Awards Add up to?

     United States to Paris = 20,000 Alaska Airlines Miles and $19

     Paris to Istanbul = $80

     Istanbul to Doha = 10,000 British Airways Avios and $86

     Doha to Bangkok = 20,000 British Airways Avios and $62

 +  Bangkok to United States = 50,000 Alaska Airlines Miles and $55


    100,000 Miles and $302  

Or, if you wanted to fly the leg between the United States and Paris in Business Class it would cost an additional 30,000 Alaska miles for a total of 130,000 miles and $302.

How to Get the Miles Needed for this Trip

Alaska Airlines Miles

The Alaska Airlines credit cards from Bank of America are churnableEach one has a 25,000 mile sign-up bonus for simply signing up– no minimum spending requirement. For the Business Card you have to charge one purchase to earn the bonus.

While I can not directly link to the current Alaska Airlines credit card, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card by American Express, personal and business versions, both are offering 25,000 Starpoints each for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively within three months of the accounts opening. SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Alaska miles with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. SPG Starpoints also transfer 1:1 to British Airways Avios.

Etihad Miles

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Etihad is a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points.

Application Link: Citi Prestige® Card

British Airways Avios

Cards that earn Ultimate Rewards are ideal, since they transfer 1:1 instantly to British Airways Avios miles.

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the best personal credit cards on the market. It offers:

  • 50,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months
  • 5,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards for adding an authorized user
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar on travel and dining purchases
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • no annual fee the first year and $95 thereafter

While I can not directly link to the current Sapphire Preferred offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

The Ink Plus is easily the best business card on the market. It offers:

  • 60,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $5,000 in the first three months
  • 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services
  • 2 Ultimate Rewards per dollar at gas stations and hotel accommodations
  • 1 Ultimate Reward per dollar on all other purchases
  • $95 annual fee

While I can not directly link to the current Ink Plus offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Bottom Line

You can see four destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for 100,000 miles and $302 with about half the trip in a flat bed. The deal relies on using Etihad or Alaska miles to fly American Airlines off peak economy to Europe; using a low cost carrier in Europe; using Avios for direct, region-connecting flights; and using Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific home.

The exact destinations in this post are mostly guidelines and can be subbed out for your preferred spots, as long as you understand how these sweet spot awards work.

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to East and Southeast Asia. Awards to East and Southeast Asia are some of the best value awards with American Airlines miles.

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Hiking the Great Wall of China outside Beijing in September

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.44.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.59.13 PM

Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles. You can earn these miles to redeem on the current chart with the current rules, which are in effect until March 21, 2016. On March 21, 2016, you can book travel through February 16, 2017 that is “locked in” at current prices and will not be affected by the subsequent devaluation. Starting March 22, American Airlines will have a new worse award chart.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Asia 1 and Asia 2

This post deals with American Airlines awards to what it calls “Asia 1″ and “Asia 2.”

Asia 1 is Korea, Japan, and Mongolia.

Asia 2 is:

  • Bhutan
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Guam
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • the Philippines
  • Saipan
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

The Indian Subcontinent is part of the Middle East region, which I cover here.

The Partners for East and Southeast Asia Awards

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, awards to Asia 1 and Asia 2 must fly directly from North America to East Asia. They cannot transit Europe, the Middle East, India, or any other continent. That means I’ll focus just on airlines with direct flights to East Asia and within East Asia.

To East Asia, American Airlines miles can be redeemed on:

  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Malaysia Airlines (does not fly to North America)
  • Japan Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines (does not fly to North America)
  • any combination of the six

Award space on American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Award space on Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Japan Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Pricing

To Asia 1 (Korea, Japan, Mongolia), American Airlines charges:

  • 25,000 miles one way in economy from October to April
  • 32,500 miles one way in economy from May to September
  • 50,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 62,500 miles one way in First Class

To Asia 2, American Airlines charges:

  • 35,000 miles one way in economy
  • 55,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 67,500 miles one way in First Class

The off peak awards to Korea and Japan are a steal. The premium cabin awards year round are outrageously cheap. Consider that you can fly Cathay Pacific First Class to China or Southeast Asia for only 67,500 miles one way.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 1.42.22 AM
All Smiles in the Huge Bed in Cathay Pacific First Class

Cathay Pacific First Class is one of the nicest First Class products in the world (read my review), and for inferior products, Delta and United charge more miles.

  • Delta charges 70,000 miles one way to Southeast Asia in Business Class. Delta miles cannot be used to book international First Class.
  • United charges 80,000 miles one way to Southeast Asia in partner Business Class and 130,000 miles in partner First Class.

American’s under-pricing of awards to Asia relative to its competitors is one of the main reasons that American miles are the best miles to Asia.

Booking the Awards

To book an American Airlines award to Asia that features only American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines flights, you can book right on aa.com.

If you want to include even a single segment on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, or SriLankan Airlines, you need to call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. There is no phone fee to book awards that can’t be booked online. I recommend searching award space on ba.com before calling and feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight with award space instead of relying on the agent’s searching skill.

Routes and Award Space

To Asia 1 (Korea, Japan, Mongolia), the possible routes are on Japan Airlines, American Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines.

You cannot fly Cathay Pacific to Asia 1 because you cannot transit Asia 2 en route to Asia 1. (For instance, Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Seoul would price as Los Angeles to Hong Kong plus Hong Kong to Seoul. Read the award routing rules post.)

American flies:

  • Dallas to Tokyo-Narita
  • Chicago to Tokyo-Narita
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita
  • Dallas to Seoul

Japan Airlines flies:

  • Boston to Tokyo-Narita
  • New York to Tokyo-Narita
  • Chicago to Tokyo-Narita
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Narita
  • Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita
  • San Diego to Tokyo-Narita
  • Vancouver to Tokyo-Narita
  • San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Los Angeles to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Nagoya-Cetrair

Hawaiian Airlines flies:

  • Honolulu to Seoul
  • Honolulu to Tokyo-Haneda
  • Honolulu to Osaka-Kansai
  • Honolulu to Sapporo-Chitose (Japan)
  • Honolulu to Sendai (Japan)

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 11.28.18 PM

The American Airlines flights to Asia 1 have good economy award space, especially during the off peak window, and terrible Business and First Class space.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 5.37.22 PM

I used to find some Business and First Class Saver award space in the last few days before departure, but now even that is very rare.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 5.41.33 PM

The Japan Airlines flights show more Business Class than First Class award space. The best route is probably San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda, which has award space two days in First Class the first week of March and one day in Business Class. I found award space on every route I searched, though, so with flexibility, you can fly Japan Airlines Business Class or First Class with American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 6.03.11 PM
First Class Award Space San Francisco to Tokyo on Award Nexus (Searching BA.com)
Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 6.03.18 PM
Business Class Award Space San Francisco to Tokyo on Award Nexus (Searching BA.com)

To Asia 2, you can route via Asia 1. That means you can fly any of the transpacific flights above and connect on intra-Asia flights to Southeast Asia. Or you can fly directly to Asia 2 on American, Hawaiian, and Cathay Pacific.

I’m going to focus on Cathay Pacific’s award space “rules” because it has one of the nicest Business and First Class products in the world and the most consistent award space.

Cathay Pacific Routes

Cathay Pacific has eight current North American destinations. All routes offer First Class except Newark and Toronto, which top out at Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.35.03 AM

Cathay Pacific Business Class Award Space Rule

Cathay Pacific opens up 2 Business Class award seats on a ton of flights when the schedule opens 11 months in advance. I ran a search 11 months from now on the following routes:

  • Boston, New York, and San Francisco to Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong to Los Angeles and Chicago

Over the seven day period I searched (June 12-18, 2016), all the routes had multiple flights with 2 Business Class award seats except San Francisco to Hong Kong, which had one.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 8.21.36 PM Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 8.21.45 PM

Many days had multiple flights with award space.

To get Cathay Pacific Business Class award space, try to book 11 months in advance. Space gets worse from that point, though it does reappear in the last few days before departure.

Cathay Pacific First Class Award Space Rule

Some Cathay Pacific First Class award space is available throughout the schedule but not a ton.

Within 36 hours of departure though, Cathay Pacific releases all but one unsold First Class seat on every flight. This usually translates to 1-4 more seats on almost every flight.

Here are tomorrow’s flights from Los Angeles to Hong Kong. The far right column shows that the flights have 0, 4, 1, and 0 First Class seats respectively.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 8.27.18 PM Here are tomorrow’s flights from New York to Hong Kong with 0, 0, 2, and 0 First Class award seats respectively.Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 8.29.28 PM

Seven of the eight flights shown have at least 2 Business Class award seats.

If you can wait until the last 48 hours, your chance of booking Cathay Pacific’s mind-boggling First Class is very good, and if you can’t, you can probably book Business. Review of Cathay Pacific First Class.

Just because you want Cathay Pacific First Class doesn’t mean you want the stress of not having any flights booked until 48 hours before departure. That’s not what I’m recommending.

American Airlines does not charge a change fee to “upgrade” an award reservation, so a great strategy is to book two Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific when the schedule opens and then change the award to First Class in the last two days. This would cost 55,000 miles each way per person when first booked and 12,500 more miles per person at the time of the change. And if the plan fails, your consolation prize is Cathay Pacific Business Class–hardly a loss.

Beyond Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific and its affiliate Dragonair–both bookable with AA miles, both searchable on ba.com–offer excellent award space from Hong Kong throughout China and Southeast Asia.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are by far the strongest miles to East and Southeast Asia. First, American charges way fewer miles than its competitors–as low as 25,000 miles one way to Japan and Korea and only 67,500 miles in First Class to Southeast Asia. Second, American partners with very nice products on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.

Cathay Pacific award space, which is useful to China and south, is widely available in Business Class 11 months out and First Class 36 hours out.

Japan Airlines Business Class award space is available on all its routes if you have date flexibility.

American’s own flights have good economy award space, but Business and First Class are rarely available.

To fly to Asia 1 (Japan, Korea, Mongolia) on a single award, you must fly directly there from North America without connecting in any other region. To fly to Asia 2 (China and Southeast Asia) on a single award, you must fly directly there or connect in Asia 1. You cannot connect in Europe or the Middle East on a single American Airlines award to East or Southeast Asia from the United States.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months, plus 10% rebate on miles redeemed up to 100,000 redeemed each calendar year
  • CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

9 1449

Cathay Pacific First Class is one of the nicest in the world.

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The service is amazingly attentive, including a hand-written note to go with your meal.

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The food is amazing and completely made to your specifications like when I asked for every breakfast side and nothing else on one plate.

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The bed is my favorite in the air for how much longer and wider it is than most flying beds.Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 2.01.42 AM

Not only is Cathay Pacific First Class great, but historically it has been very easy and cheap to book with American Airlines miles.

American Airlines charges only 67,500 miles each way in Cathay Pacific First Class between North America Southeast Asia. For comparison, United charges 120,000 miles for its partners’ First Classes to the region and doesn’t have any partners with a product to match Cathay Pacific’s.

Cathay Pacific has historically opened up all but one unsold First Class seat on its flights between the United States and Hong Kong in the last few days before departure. It was very common to see 3-4 First Class seats on a single flight that were bookable with 67,500 American Airlines miles.

Unfortunately that has not been the case for a few weeks. Award space is not completely gone in Cathay Pacific First Class at the last minute, but it is severely diminished. I searched Cathay’s six American routes to and from Hong Kong for award space from now through November 13 (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York-JFK, Newark, and Boston).

Here is all the award space, with each entry representing a flight with at least one First Class award seat.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 6.10.54 PM

 

Now that might not look all that bad as there are at least seven flights with at least one seat in the next three days. But over that period there are dozens of flights in both directions, and very few have all their First Class seats, or all but one, sold. Under Cathay Pacific’s old system, there would be dozens of flights with award space in First Class, many with multiple seats.

Those days have been over for a few weeks. I don’t think they’re coming back, but we can sure hope that they do.

Bottom Line

Cathay Pacific First Class award space is still very much bookable with 67,500 American Airlines miles, but there is less of it than there used to be. That’s a real shame since the product is awesome, and American Airlines miles are easy to get.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Meet both minimum spending requirements for 106,000 American Airlines miles.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.44.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.59.13 PM

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

From February 1, 2016, Emirates will fly daily between Dubai and Panama City, which will be the longest scheduled commercial flight at over 8,500 miles. The flight is blocked for 17:35 heading west. Hopefully the flight will be bookable with Alaska miles, and it will definitely be bookable with Japan Airlines miles.

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I have a special interest in long flights because when I am flying an ultra-luxurious First Class, I don’t want the flight to end. Eight hours–a typical transatlantic flight–are not enough. I want 12 hours, maybe 16 hours.

Right now the top ten longest flights include five that are bookable with American Airlines miles. That’s important because American has the cheapest award chart, and for a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. One of these flights costs only 67,500 miles in First Class.

  • #1: Dallas to Sydney on Qantas: 8,578 miles and 16:55
  • #3: Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles on Etihad: 8,390 miles and 16:30
  • #7: Abu Dhabi to San Francisco on Etihad: 8,168 miles and 16:15
  • #8: Dallas to Hong Kong on American: 8,123 miles and 17:05
  • #10: New York to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific: 8,067 miles and 16:15 (my trip report)

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What’s the Award Space on These Ultra-Longhauls?

#1: Dallas to Sydney

The longest current flight in the world is operated by a Qantas A380. “That’s awesome!” you might be thinking since the Qantas A380 has a fantastic First Class product.

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Yes, but Qantas releases almost no First Class award space on its A380 routes to America.

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Right now there is decent economy award space in both directions on the route. And there are exactly two days with a Business Class award seat from Dallas to Sydney in the next 11 months. (Here’s my review of Qantas Business Class on the A380.)

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When First Class space does appear, it is usually 8-11 months out and a single seat. It costs only 72,500 American Airlines miles one way.

#3 and #7: Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles and San Francisco

Award space in First Class is pretty good (and sometimes great) on Etihad’s flights to California. You can search on etihad.com as described here. All Guest Seat award space can be booked by calling American Airlines.

The Los Angeles flight is operated by a 777-200LR (trip report here).

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Award space is mainly available this week and next Spring, though award space is scattered throughout the calendar. Look for days that say “Miles 144,024.” You will not pay that price because American charges only 90,000 miles one way in First Class between the United States and the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent.

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San Francisco is operated by a leased Jet Airways plane (trip report here).

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Award space is very available on this route–this week next Winter, and next Spring.Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 6.59.07 PM
Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 6.59.42 PMNearly every day has award space in Etihad First Class on the San Francisco route.

#8 Dallas to Hong Kong

American Airlines has released zero Business and First Class on the route for the next 11 months. It is being very stingy with longhaul premium cabin award space on its own flights at the moment. Thank god for partners.

The award would cost 67,500 American Airlines miles one way.

#10 New York to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific releases tons of Business and First Class award space on its several daily fights from New York to Hong Kong.

The best times to look are in the few days before departure and 11 months out on ba.com. Then book by calling American Airlines.

Tomorrow, unfortunately, there is no First Class space on the route, though one flight has six Business Class seats.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.02.43 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.02.50 PMLooking 11 months out, we see a pretty predictable pattern. Most flights have 1-5 Business Class seats, and some flights have 1-2 First Class seats.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.02.43 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.04.10 PMAmerican charges 55,000 miles one way in Business Class and 67,500 miles in First Class on the route.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.02.43 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.04.36 PM

I flew this exact route and loved it. I slept for eight hours early on and enjoyed the service and entertainment for about eight hours. (See my trip report.)

IMG_0051

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles can book five of the world’s 10 longest flights, each 16 hours or longer. If you can snag one of these flights in Business or First Class, you are in heaven. You’ll enjoy a full night sleep, two full meals, and plenty of time to take advantage of the entertainment options.

Award space varies on the route from zero (AA’s DFW-HKG flight) to very little (Qantas’ DFW-SYD flight) to tons (Etihad’s California routes and Cathay Pacific’s JFK route.)

Right now, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That’s enough miles to book several of these routes one way.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

15 2507

American Airlines miles can get you a last second seat in economy, flat bed Business Class, or super-luxurious First Class to Asia. Partners Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines both offer phenomenal products, routes to tons of destinations, and great award space near departure.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 6.44.51 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.59.13 PM

Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles, enough for a flat bed roundtrip to anywhere in Asia with one way in Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines First Class.

Award Prices

American Airlines awards to Asia are way under-priced compared to United and Delta awards. For one way awards, American charges:

  • 25,000 miles in economy to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia from October to April each year
  • 32,500 miles in economy to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia the rest of the year
  • 35,000 miles in economy to the rest of East and Southeast Asia
  • 50,000 miles in Business Class to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia
  • 55,000 miles in Business Class to the rest of East and Southeast Asia
  • 62,500 miles in First Class to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia
  • 67,500 miles in First Class to the rest of East and Southeast Asia

Taxes to East Asian countries are low, mostly in the $50 to $100 roundtrip range. There are no fuel surcharges on any American Airlines awards from the United States to Asia. There is no phone fee for booking Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific flights by phone. There is a $75 fee for ticketing an American Airlines award within 21 days of departure, which is what this post focuses on.

The Products

Japan Airlines First Class on its 777-300ER is a world class flat bed enclosed in a suite.

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I haven’t flown the product personally, but everything looks top notch and Asian airlines have the best service in my experience.

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Here’s a tour of the plane.

Cathay Pacific First Class is an extremely wide seat/bed with amazing food and personalized service.

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Here’s my review of Cathay Pacific First Class.

Award Space

Where They Fly

Japan Airlines flies from seven American cities to three Japanese cities with connections throughout Asia.

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Source: gcmap.com

Cathay Pacific flies from seven North American cities to Hong Kong with connections throughout Asia. Cathay Pacific, and its subsidiary Dragonair (also bookable with American Airlines miles), serve many more Asian destinations than Japan Airlines if you want to fly into smaller cities like Chiang Mai, Thailand or Da Nang, Vietnam.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.51.59 AM
Source: gcmap.com
Last Minute Award Space

Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines both have incredible award space in the last few days before departure. You can search both airlines’ award space on ba.com. Any award space you see there can be booked with American Airlines miles.

Today’s flights from New York to Hong Kong have 9 total First Class award seats and 19+ total Business Class award seats. (I reviewed First Class on the route here.)

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Cathay Pacific is famous for releasing Business Class award seats 11 months before departure and then tons of Business and First Class seats in the days before departure.

Japan Airlines similarly offers fantastic award space for the next four days in First Class on its San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda flight.
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And it offers some Business and First Class space on its Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita flights for the next two days.Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.19.02 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.36.29 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.37.03 AMFour Japan Airlines flights from Honolulu to Tokyo have award space today in Business Class (the highest cabin on the route.)

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Practical Application

In January, I will travel through Southeast Asia for a few weeks, probably starting my journey in Thailand. I don’t have my outbound ticket booked (though I have my return from Chennai, India in Etihad A380 First Class booked), and I am not worried at all.

I have 67,500 American Airlines miles ready to book me a First Class award in the days before departure. My date flexibility–I can leave any time between late December and mid-January–plus my cabin flexibility–I want First Class but will fly Business or economy if I have too–means I am almost guaranteed a great award.

I might leave from Honolulu or Los Angeles, so I checked award space today from those cities to Bangkok as a kind of test run to see what award space I might find in January for a January flight.

Out of Honolulu I saw several award options. The shortest duration was this one with a 75 minute layover in Tokyo on my Japan Airlines Business Class itinerary to Bangkok.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.50.30 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.50.55 AM

Out of Los Angeles, I see Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific award space today to Bangkok. These are the two shortest itineraries. The Japan Airlines itinerary has Business or First Class space. The Cathay Pacific itinerary only has Business Class space.Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.53.20 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.53.37 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.53.44 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.53.56 AM

This dry run has me very confident that my American Airlines miles will get me to Southeast Asia in comfort in January.

Booking the Award

To book Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific award space, call American Airlines at 800-882-8880. Give the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each segment you found on ba.com plus the same information for any American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines award space you need to fly to connect to the international award.

Make sure the agent is NOT charging you a phone booking fee.

Purchase your ticket with your Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the award taxes and fees on this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases.

Bottom Line

The best mile to East and Southeast Asia are American Airlines miles, and one of the best times to book the awards is in the last few days before departure when partners Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific open up tons of award space. Both have fantastically luxurious First Class products.

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement. That’s enough miles (75k-82.5k) for a roundtrip from the United States to Japan with one direction in Business Class.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

16 1822

Cathay Pacific is considering offering more award space to its own club members than to partner airlines like American Airlines.

Cathay Pacific is to set aside more free seats for its seasoned frequent fliers, under the latest proposal to revamp the award-winning airline’s loyalty scheme.

The plan is to slash the number of free air tickets available for partner airlines and to reallocate those to Cathay’s own Marco Polo Club members, sources close to the ongoing review say.

Right now Cathay Pacific First Class and Business Class award space is wide open to American Airlines members if you know how far out to search for each. American Airlines charges a ridiculously low price for the award space considering some of the flights are 16 hours long, and you can connect throughout Southeast Asia for zero extra miles:

  • 55,000 AA miles one way in Cathay Pacific Business Class between the United States and Hong Kong/SE Asia
  • 67,500 AA miles one way in Cathay Pacific First Class between the United States and Hong Kong/SE Asia

Cathay Pacific Business Class gets rave reviews, and Cathay Pacific First Class is one of the nicest in the world. Here’s my trip report of flying New York to Hong Kong in First Class last year. I was particularly impressed by the humungous bed, the ability to customize my meal so much, and the desire of the flight attendants to make it my best flight ever.

IMG_0051

So What about Cathay Pacific’s New Proposal?

Cathay Pacific’s new proposal to withhold some award space looks aimed squarely at American Airlines, which was recently offering 50,000 bonus miles on its personal and business cards at the same time as offering 50,000 miles on the US Airways card.

At present, Cathay lets clients of partner airlines book flights using air miles accrued through their own flier programmes. But these passengers can redeem Cathay flights at much cheaper rates than Marco Polo Club members, putting its own privileged customers at a disadvantage.

One such partner carrier is American Airlines, which at the same time gives away tens of millions of free miles to flyers each year via credit card schemes.

I get Cathay Pacific’s complaint. It really doesn’t make sense for them to have more AAdvantage members than Marco Polo Club members booking Cathay Pacific awards. And I understand why they’re feeling confident enough to consider changes now that would end that.

The sources say Cathay believes it is time to stop allowing external redemptions when the airline is capable of filling aircraft with paid passengers – boosting long-term profitability.

But I don’t think the methods make sense. Instead of blocking space to partners like Swiss does with its First Class award space, and Singapore does with its Business and First Class seats, I’d prefer Cathay Pacific to do nothing.

According to the experts and me, we’re only a few months away from American Airlines announcing an increase in the number of miles needed to book an award on Cathay Pacific. By December 9, 2015, we expect booking Cathay Pacific Business Class awards (Asia 2) to rise more than 10,000 miles to 65,000 miles one way and First Class awards to rise more than 13,000 miles to 81,000 miles one way.

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Such an increase would lower the number of awards booked by partners, solving or, at least, ameliorating the problem.

If Cathay Pacific wanted to do more, it could increase the number of dollars it charges American Airlines for American Airlines award bookings. This could make the deal better for Cathay Pacific, and could further limit AAdvantage award bookings if it caused American Airlines to increase the miles price of Cathay Pacific awards further.

What I really hope to avoid is a complete blocking of Cathay Pacific First Class or Business Class space when using American Airlines miles. More palatable but still very bad would be a partial blockage of that award space when using American Airlines miles.

Bottom Line

Have you dreamed of using your American Airlines miles to fly Cathay Pacific to Asia to fly some of the world’s nicest First and Business Class prices for very few miles? Book your trip as soon as possible.

Cathay Pacific is considering limiting the space AAdvantage members can book. And if it doesn’t go through with that proposal, American Airlines is likely to jack up the prices of these awards by early next year.

Hat Tip The Points Guy

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

16 3068

For only 42,500 Alaska Airlines miles one way, you can fly in Cathay Pacific Business Class between Hong Kong and 10 European destinations. These are 13 hour flights in 6’10” long beds on one of the world’s most renowned airlines for just a few miles more than you would expect to pay for economy travel.

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Here are some questions this post will answer.

  • How do Alaska Airlines miles work and how can you get them?
  • Where does Cathay Pacific fly in Europe?
  • How good is Cathay Pacific Business Class?
  • How can you search for these underpriced awards?
  • How can you book these sweet spot awards?
  • Which routes have the best award space and what are the award space patterns?
  • How are these awards useful for an American?

How Alaska Airlines Miles Work and How to Get Them

Alaska Airlines is not part of any of the three major airline alliances. Instead Alaska Airlines partners with 14 airlines from SkyTeam, oneworld, and outside the three alliances. You can use Alaska miles on any of the following partners:

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For each partner, Alaska has a unique award chart for each region. Here is the chart for Cathay Pacific flights booked with Alaska miles between Hong Kong and Europe:

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What strikes me is how insanely good of a deal the Business Class awards are on this chart! They are only 12,500 miles more than economy awards on flights that can be as long as 13 hours. For comparison, American charges a bit more in economy and Business Class between Hong Kong (Asia 2) and Europe.

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Alaska Airlines miles are extremely easy to get over time.

Both cards have a $75 annual fee that is NOT waived. You can get both cards over and over every 91+, even without closing previous cards.

You can also transfer SPG Starpoints to Alaska miles at a 1:1 rate with the customary 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

Where Does Cathay Pacific Fly in Europe?

Cathay Pacific flies or will fly to the following destinations in Europe:

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Source: gcmap.com
  • Paris
  • London
  • Moscow (ends June 1, 2015)
  • Dusseldorf (begins September 1, 2015)
  • Manchester
  • Amsterdam
  • Frankfurt
  • Zurich
  • Milan
  • Rome

The westbound flights are slower because they fly into the wind. Several of the destinations in Western Europe are 13 hours or just short of that from Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific Business Class

Cathay Pacific Business Class is widely considered the nicest or one of the nicest in the world.

The newest iteration of the Business Class looks like it has thought of everything. In addition to “standard” business class offerings, the seat can move forward 11 inches (independent of the recline feature) to make speaking to a companion easier. Your phone can plug into the entertainment system, so you can play your own content over the 15″ TV screen.

But most important are the bed and service.

The 6’10” bed also allows the armrest to be lowered and an extension pops out at arm/hip level to make the bed much wider than most Business Class beds.

The food and service on Cathay Pacific are legendary.

Searching These Awards

Cathay Pacific award space is not searchable on alsakaair.com. Search the award space on ba.com; here’s how. Alaska Airlines reps will have access to all the space you find there.

Booking These Awards

Once you find award space on ba.com, note the flight number, date, and cabin and call Alaska Airlines reservations at 800-252-7522 to book the awards. You will pay 42,500 miles per person one way + taxes + $12.50 for booking a partner award + $15 for booking by phone.

Award Space

The Gimme: Manchester

The best award space I found was to Manchester. There are a lot days with 2 Business Class or 5 Business Class award seats like these four days in early September.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.41.53 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.42.04 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.45.18 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.45.45 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.46.44 AMThe Surprising Non-Gimme: Moscow

The Moscow route is being cut June 1, presumably for lack of passengers. That usually equates to lots of award space, but I couldn’t find good award space between now and May 31 on the route in Business Class.

Last Minute Award Space

Often Cathay Pacific opens up good award space at the last minute. That varies by route to Europe.

London and Rome have no award space at all for the next 10 days in any cabin.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.47.58 AM

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Paris shows some good award space in the next week including 7 Business Class seats one day.
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CDG

Zurich has even more award space in Business Class on upcoming days including 9 Business Class award seats on a few days.
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ZRH 9
ZRH 9

Milan also has good award space in the next few weeks.
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MXP

11 Months Out: As usual, the goldmine

The goldmine of Cathay Pacific Business Class award space on most routes (including USA to Asia) is 11 months out. That’s no different between Europe and Hong Kong.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.41.53 AM

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If you want to book these 42,500 mile awards, try to book them 11 months in advance.

Usefulness for Americans

Most readers of the blog live in the United States. Here are some ideas for getting to Hong Kong or Europe as part of a trip that encompasses these cheap awards.

Bottom Line

Alaska Airlines charges only 42,500 miles one way in Business Class between Europe and Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Business Class.

Alaska miles are super easy to get.

Award space is excellent 11 months in advance, excellent to Manchester, and excellent on some routes at the last minute.

World travelers will find plenty of uses for these awards as part of larger, perhaps RTW, trips.

 

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

I’ve covered what I think are the underpriced awards on the United (6) and American Airlines (5) award charts. But I also keep a keen eye on foreign, obscure programs for gems on their award charts.

With the proliferation of transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Americans have access to cheap awards through tons of foreign programs.

Here are five underpriced awards on other award charts and how to get the miles needed to book the awards.

1. Singapore Awards Between Hawaii and the Americas

Singapore Airlines puts Hawaii and Central America–you know, those two places that are thousands of miles apart–into one region. This leads to awards “within” the region to price out at a ridiculously cheap 17,500 miles each way and 30,000 miles in Business Class.

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Roundtrip Award Prices

Similarly, Hawaii to South America is only 25,000 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in Business Class.

This is huge even if you don’t live in Hawaii because roundtrip Singapore Airlines awards allow for one free stopover and up to three more stopovers for $100 each.

That means you can book a roundtrip from Hawaii to South America with a stopover at your home airport in both directions for 50,000 miles + $100 + taxes. That would give you a roundtrip to South America plus two one ways to and from Hawaii on three separate trips.

Full details:

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

2. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Southern South America

Virgin Atlantic has a number of partners including Delta. On Delta, to anywhere in South America costs only 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip or 90,000 roundtrip in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.37.46 PM

Compare that to the 60k or 125k Delta miles the same flights to Southern South America would cost.

Everyone disparages Delta award availability, but I find decent economy award space to South America on the carrier.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

3. Promo Awards to Europe with Flying Blue Miles

Every month, Air France Flying Blue offers awards to Europe for 25% and 50% off from select cities. Here are the current offers.
Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.38.02 PM

There are fuel surcharges, but I think the deal is still too good to pass up in economy.

I also really like Promo Awards from Brazil to Europe because flights leaving Brazil have no fuel surcharges by law. These enable a THINK BIG trip like your home airport to Brazil to France to your home airport.

Full details on Promo Awards: Fly to Europe or Israel for 12,500 Miles

Flying Blue miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

4. Alaska Awards to South Africa on Cathay Pacific

Alaska Airlines charges a very reasonable 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Asia on Cathay Pacific First Class.

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.38.40 PM

It charges the same amount to Africa from the United States in Cathay Pacific First Class.Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 1.01.45 PM

Hong Kong to Johannesburg is now served by a plane without First Class, but you can still get 16 hours in First Class from the USA to Hong Kong plus 13 hours in Business Class more to Johannesburg for only 70,000 Alaska miles. If you love flying, this is the deal for you.

Alaska miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. You can also get Alaska Airlines miles from their churnable personal and business credit cards.

5. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Europe in Economy and Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $131!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $131 and return from a low tax country to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

You can also fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Plus there is the “90k offer” on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Your Turn

Did I miss any of your favorite awards on the obscure foreign award charts? Tell me about it in the comments.


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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

Aspire to Cathay Pacific Business Class.

  • It is one of the world’s nicest Business Classes, featuring a fully flat bed on flights of up to 16 hours between the United States and Hong Kong.
  • It is dirt cheap at 55,000 American Airlines miles one way or 110,000 US Airways miles roundtrip. This is just 10% more than flying half the time in a far inferior product to Europe.
  • Award space is widely available. Cathay Pacific releases 2 Business Class seats on a ton of flights 11 months in advance.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 3.35.18 AM

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

Cathay Pacific Business Class serves fascinating destinations like Southeast Asia, the Maldives, and Australia.

There are better products in the world (like Cathay Pacific First Class for instance), but for excellence, cheapness, ease of finding award space, and ease of getting the miles, I anoint Cathay Pacific Business Class the best premium cabin product in the miles world.

  • Where does Cathay Pacific Business Class fly?
  • How can you book it?
  • How many miles do you need?
  • What is the award space picture?
  • Why is booking Cathay Pacific Business Class then changing to First Class a good deal?

Where Cathay Pacific Flies in North America

(Boston Starts May 2, 2015), from gcmap.com
(Boston Starts May 2, 2015), from gcmap.com

If you don’t live in one of the above cities, connect on American Airlines or US Airways flights to one of the cities. You can fly in domestic First Class on an international Business Class award for zero extra miles.

Booking Cathay Pacific Business Class

Search for Cathay Pacific Award Space on ba.com. Here’s how.

The best time to book the award space is 11 months out, when it is released, because Cathay Pacific loads their schedule with 2 Business Class award seats very often.

Here’s a search I ran on ba.com (via Award Nexus) for 2 seats in Business Class from Los Angeles, Newark, JFK, Boston, or San Francisco to Hong Kong 10 months from now. There is space on at least one route on 10/15 days, and 14 total flights in the 15 days with award space for 2 passengers in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.51.30 AM

Once you find award space, you need to call American Airlines or US Airways to book the space depending on which miles you want to use.

American Airlines charges:

US Airways charges:

  • 110,000 US Airways miles roundtrip to Hong Kong, anywhere else in North Asia, or Australia in Cathay Pacific Business Class
  • 120,000 US Airways miles roundtrip to Southeast Asia, the Maldives, or the Indian Subcontinent in Cathay Pacific Business Class

You can connect in Hong Kong to Cathay Pacific’s or its subsidiary Dragonair’s flights. Both are searchable on ba.com. Between them, they cover much of Asia plus Australia and the Maldives.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.52.33 AM

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 1.52.11 AM
Cathay Pacific and Dragonair Flights from Hong Kong

Cathay Business as a Path to Cathay First

The most reliable time to find Cathay Pacific First Class award space is within 48 hours of departure when Cathay Pacific releases all but one of its unsold seats as First Class award space.

Most people don’t want to wait until 48 hours before departure to book award space.

Book 2 Business Class seats 11 months out, and if space opens up in the last day or two, you can switch to First Class for just the difference in miles plus a change fee.

  • American Airlines generally charges no change fee to upgrade an award like this, however the stated change fee is $150 for first passenger plus $25 for each additional passenger on the same record locator.
  • US Airways will charge $150 per ticket to change an award, but doesn’t even allow changes to the return once you’ve flown the outbound.

Getting the Miles

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 30,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months

Application Link: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®

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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

25 1619

I went to Angkor Wat this February, and I was blown away.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 11.22.44 PM
View from Inside Angkor Wat

The 900 year-old Hindu-turned-Buddhist temple just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia is up there on the list of the most impressive historical sites I’ve visited with Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China.

And it isn’t just Angkor Wat. The rest of the Angkor Temples like Angkor Thom and Banteay Srei are just as amazing and all within a short drive of the very lively Siem Reap.

Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 11.21.25 PM
Admiring a Gate of Angkor Thom

Beyond the destination, Southeast Asia happens to be one of the best places to go with miles in a premium cabin for five reasons.

  1. It’s super cheap! American Airlines charges just 55k miles one way in Business Class or 67.5k miles one way in First Class
  2. Cathay Pacific–an American Airlines partner–has one of the world’s best Business and First Class products.
  3. Award space is abundant in Cathay Pacific premium cabins.
  4. The flight between the United States and Hong Kong is around 16 hours, meaning you get to fully enjoy your flights and arrive rested.
  5. The  Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® are both offering huge bonuses, the two types of miles will be combined in early 2015, and American Airlines has committed to keeping the cheap prices I just quoted at the time of combination.
IMG_0052
Lounging in Cathay Pacific First Class

Right now is an amazing time to plan a 2015 vacation with luxurious flights to Angkor Wat.

  • Where can you search Cathay Pacific award space?
  • How can you book Cathay Pacific award space?
  • What are the very regular rules that Cathay Pacific Business and First Class award space follow?
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

16 2591

Cathay Pacific First Class is:

  • awesomefull trip report
  • cheap: 67,500 American Airlines miles one way between the United States and East Asia
  • easy to book with miles

Cathay Pacific operates six-seat First Class cabins between the United States and Hong Kong, so there aren’t many seats to give away, and yet Cathay Pacific manages to regularly offer one seat up to 11 months before departure on tons of flights.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 1.42.22 AM
Me in Cathay Pacific First Class about to catch some ZZZZs

Cathay Pacific is also one of the airlines that releases a lot of its unsold premium inventory as award seats as departure approaches. (United and Lufthansa are two other airlines like that.)

I wanted to figure out the pattern for this last-minute release of award space, so I checked Cathay Pacific routes between the United States and Hong Kong for the next two weeks.

  • What is the pattern of Cathay Pacific First Class award space between the United States and Hong Kong for the next two weeks?
  • How can you search for Cathay Pacific award seats?
  • How can you book Cathay Pacific award seats?
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

7 2014

Cathay Pacific is a Hong Kong-based member of oneworld with a mind-blowing First Class and a top-notch business class.

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 1.42.22 AM
Cathay Pacific First Class Bed

Cathay Pacific flies from six North American cities to Hong Kong (and from there to the rest of the world), plus Boston to Hong Kong starts in May 2015.

from gcmap.com
from gcmap.com

Cathay Pacific flies 777s between the United States and Hong Kong, which have only six First Class seats. Because of that, you rarely see more than one First Class award seat per flight.

But lately Cathay Pacific has been increasing its capacity to the United States so much that there are occasional flights with award space available for two out of the First Class cabin’s six seats.

  • What are the new routes/services from the United States to Hong Kong?
  • What is the pattern for Cathay Pacific First Class award space?
  • Which flights have two seats?
  • What are the best miles to book Cathay Pacific First Class award space?
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

10 1053

This is the fifth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Hong Kong.

In late February, I flew into Hong Kong International Airport for a 23 hour layover that I spent in Macau. (Don’t worry, I’m going to Hong Kong proper in a few weeks!)

I flew into Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class and out of Hong Kong the next day in Cathay Pacific Business Class. Waiting for that Business Class flight, I headed to The Wing, which is Cathay Pacific’s flagship lounge.

Anyone flying Cathay Pacific in a premium cabin can access the lounge, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed into the First Class area since my only First Class flight had landed the day before.

I presented my First Class boarding pass upon entering the lounge and asked: “I flew in in First Class. Can I access the First Class part of the lounge?”

I was allowed into the First Class area and headed straight for the dining room.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.08.29 AM

The dining room is large, but the tables are packed in tightly. The room was practically empty, so I would have preferred fewer tables for a more spacious feel.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.08.37 AM

A waiter came and presented the a la carte menu, which featured standard Western breakfast dishes like eggs, sausage, bacon, and hash browns.

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I don’t like eggs, so I asked for an order of every side dish, all of which I love. I also ordered an orange juice.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.08.01 AM

While I waited for my a la carte order, I checked out the breakfast buffet. The breakfast buffet has pastries, meats, and several Chinese dishes.

  • How is the food?
  • The lounge?
  • The bar?
  • The Cabanas?
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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.

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