I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

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)

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.34.50 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.25.48 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.33.16 PM

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.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.25.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.26.07 PM

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).

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.00.12 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.00.05 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 6.58.33 PM

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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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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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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.

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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Included in the $450 annual fee, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers Admirals Club lounge membership, meaning you can access over 90 American Airlines Clubs in airports around the world whenever you’re flying–even if you’re not flying on American. Plus you can bring in any two guests for free OR your spouse and all children under 18 for free on each visit.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.29.48 AM

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 5.29.36 AM

Here’s a tour of the plane.

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

IMG_0051

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.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.46.37 AM
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.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.19.02 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.19.08 AM

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.
Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.19.02 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.33.26 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.33.47 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.34.08 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.34.50 AM

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.)

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.42.35 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.42.42 AM

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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Earn 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines Admirals Club membership for super-cheap economy awards and ultra-luxury First Class awards.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

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.

IMG_1568
Hiking the Great Wall of China outside Beijing in September

What You’re Reading

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.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 2.52.22 PM

Included in the $450 annual fee, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers Admirals Club lounge membership, meaning you can access over 90 American Airlines Clubs in airports around the world whenever you’re flying–even if you’re not flying on American. Plus you can bring in any two guests for free OR your spouse and all children under 18 for free on each visit.

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® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®, please use my link. 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)
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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.

The following screen shots come from November. The snow storm on the East Coast today is messing up Cathay Pacific First Class award space.

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.

Hawaiian Airlines Business Class is widely available if you don’t mind routing through Hawaii.

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.

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.

————————————————————————————————————
Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 1.54.19 PM

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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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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

13

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 3.35.18 AM

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:

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 3.03.05 AM

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:

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 6.14.00 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.49.38 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.49.56 AM

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:

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.38.44 AM
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

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.57.00 AM

Paris shows some good award space in the next week including 7 Business Class seats one day.
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.41.53 AM

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.48.39 AM
CDG

Zurich has even more award space in Business Class on upcoming days including 9 Business Class award seats on a few days.
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.41.53 AM

ZRH 9
ZRH 9

Milan also has good award space in the next few weeks.
Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.41.53 AM

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.57.53 AM
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

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 5.36.24 AM

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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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 an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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Cathay Pacific frequently releases 5 Business Class and 2 First Class award seats on its flights between the United States and Hong Kong 11 months out. If you miss those, there are often 1-2 First Class and 8 Business Class seats on the day before departure.

You can book these fantastically luxurious products with American Airlines miles.

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

 

American charges:

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

Delta and United charge more miles to book Business Class to Asia than American charges to book Cathay Pacific First Class.

You can currently get American Airlines miles by the boatload. American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

Product

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

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.22.04 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.28.29 AM
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

American Airlines allows bookings 331 days out. Right now that means through February 4, 2016 according to aa.com’s calendar.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.04.00 AM

I searched Cathay Pacific’s American routes for award space on ba.com on February 4, 2016 to see what space is available 11 months out. Cathay Pacific space is available with Avios even further out than 331 days in advance, but almost all of that space is still available 11 months out. (For more information on searching ba.com and where to search all American Airlines partners for award space, see Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 2 — Where to Search Award Space for All Partners.)

San Francisco

Wow! 5 Business Class seats on two different flights plus 2 First Class seats on one.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.58.27 AM

Los Angeles

Again wow! 5 Business Class seats on three flights and up to 2 First Class seats available.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.58.59 AM

New York

I’m going to stop saying “Wow!” because it seems like releasing 5 Business Class seats is Cathay Pacific’s pattern right now. New York doesn’t have 2 First Class seats open on any single flight on February 4, but it does on other nearby dates.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.59.30 AM

Chicago

5 Business and 2 First Class seats.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.00.16 AM

Boston

Note the different headings for the cabins–Boston and Newark do not have First Class cabins. Boston has 2 Business Class seats available on February 3. (This is a 4x weekly flight that doesn’t operated on February 4, 2016.)

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.38.00 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.02.36 AM

Newark

Newark scoffs at Boston’s 2 Business Class seats. It offers 5 like most of the Cathay Pacific American routes.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.38.00 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.03.38 AM

Bottom Line

Eleven months out is the best time to book Cathay Pacific award space between the United States and Asia. Many flights have 5 Business Class seats that you can book for 55,000 American Airlines miles each. Many flights have 1 or 2 First Class seats you can book for 67,500 American Airlines miles each.

Award Space Today and Tomorrow

If you miss booking space 11 months out, there is still space 6 months out, 3 months out, etc, but it isn’t as plentiful. The second best time to book award space with American Airlines miles is within 48 hours of departure. I took a look at award space today and tomorrow in both directions on Cathay Pacific’s four American routes with First Class.

New York

Not a ton of space from JFK to Hong Kong today, but there is one First Class flight tonight.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.20 AM

The flights from Hong Kong to JFK have a ton more space with up to 8 Business Class seats available to American Airlines miles on a single flight.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.31 AM

Chicago

No Business or First Class seats today, but 5 Business Class seats tomorrow.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.49.51 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.50.11 AM

From Hong Kong to Chicago, there are 8 Business Class seats today and tomorrow and a First Class seat today.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.50.27 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.50.52 AM

Los Angeles

From Los Angeles, there are two flights today with 2 First Class seats each! Business Class space is sparser, though one flight today has 3 seats.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.52.44 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.53.06 AM

From Hong Kong to Los Angeles, there are several flights today and tomorrow with 2+ Business Class seats and 1-2 First Class seats.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.53.17 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.53.45 AM

San Francisco

San Francisco has the worst space today and tomorrow, with no Business or First Class space on any flight to Hong Kong.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.54.46 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.55.11 AM

There is 1 First Class seat tomorrow from Hong Kong to San Francisco.Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.48.14 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 10.55.37 AM

Bottom Line

Space is better 11 months out, but space can be very good within 48 hours with many flights having 2-8 Business Class seats and 1-2 First Class seats available to American Airlines miles.

What You Need to Know

  • Cathay Pacific Business and First Class are two of the most luxurious ways to get to Asia
  • Using American Airlines miles to book Cathay Pacific premium cabins is cheaper than using Delta or United miles to get to Asia in Business Class
  • Cathay Pacific Business and First Class is widely available 11 months out. Think 5 Business Class seats and 1-2 First Class seats on most flights.
  • Cathay Pacific Business and First Class is widely available–but less available–within 48 hours of departure. Think 1-8 Business Class seats and 1-2 First Class seats on some flights.

Key Links

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 12.38.15 PM
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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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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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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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?

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

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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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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.07.42 AM

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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Recently a friend came to me with an award request along the lines of what I have done for hundreds of clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service.

He wanted to visit Sydney during its summer and Hong Kong on the same trip. He wanted to fly in some of the world’s nicest airline products. And he wanted to maximize his weekends because he could only budget seven vacation days for the trip.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 3.40.00 AM

Through several rounds of Free Credit Card Consultations, he had built impressive six-figure balances with United, American, Delta, US Airways, and Ultimate Rewards.

I suggested that we use his US Airways miles now–before they are devalued next year–to get him into Cathay Pacific First Class and Qantas First Class, two of the world’s nicest First Classes. I helped book him an 11 day trip that uses only seven vacation days, gives him time in each city, and costs only 140k miles roundtrip.

He had gotten all of his US Airways miles from The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, which currently offers 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase.

  • How did I know that using US Airways miles would be the best value?
  • How did I search for the very rare Qantas First Class space on an A380 between the United States and Australia?
  • How did I search for Cathay Pacific First Class?
  • With what routing rules did I have to comply?
  • What were his options for a free oneway?
  • How exactly did I book the award?

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Update 5/27/14: A winner has been picked for the $200 Visa Gift Card. You can still enter the contest for two roundtrips to HKG in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy at www.loungebuddy.com/cathay/

Two awesome giveaways for your Aloha Friday:

  • One MileValue reader will win a $200 Visa Gift Card
  • One entrant (not necessarily a MileValue reader) will win an incredible trip for two to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy from Cathay Pacific and Lounge Buddy.

Screen Shot 2014-05-23 at 1.59.43 PM

How do you enter the two giveaways?

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After a few days in New York last month, I took a 16 hour flight in Cathay Pacific First Class from New York-JFK to Hong Kong. It was the second best flight of my life (behind only Emirate First Class); I can’t recommend Cathay Pacific First Class highly enough.

That said, the ground services in New York were abysmal. (To skip them and get to the flight review, click here.) When I showed up at the Cathay Pacific check in area, I only saw Economy Class counters and this line out the door:

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An agent directed me to the First Class check in area that British Airways operates for Cathay Pacific.

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Check in and security were smooth, and I made my way to the British Airways First Class lounge.

The British Airways First Class Lounge is one of the worst First Class lounges I’ve been in.

It’s a lot better than your basic airport lounge, but it didn’t have the things First Class lounges around the world have:

  • Food to order, awesome buffets, or both
  • Waiters
  • Fantastic seating areas
  • Showers
  • Nap rooms
  • Quiet and seclusion (exclusivity)

Instead, it was a room a room with dozens of people in tight quarters who had access to a lackluster breakfast buffet and a small self-service bar.

The best parts of the morning buffet were the berries and the instant noodles.

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There was a good alcohol selection, but it was 7 AM, so I didn’t test it out.

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Everyone else in the lounge working hard, so I grabbed some fruit and cereal and used the speedy wifi to download a few shows for the flight.

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When it was almost time to board, I headed to the gate and saw the 777 waiting for me.

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Unfortunately boarding continued the theme of atrocious ground service. No queuing was evident as the mob waited. The ground staff was not able to board First Class first, and I was stuck behind 15 people on the way down the jet bridge.

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Finally, I got to the aircraft door though, and that’s where the story changes. If the ground services were worthy of Ryanair, the flight itself was worthy of the hype accorded to Cathay Pacific First Class, one of the world’s best commercial flying experiences.

Cathay Pacific 841
New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 9:00 AM on Thursday, February 20, 2014
Arrive: 2:20 PM on Friday, February 21, 2014
Duration: 16hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2K (First Class)

The next 16 hours were spent relaxing, sleeping, eating, and being doted upon by an incredible crew.

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How was the seat, bed, food, entertainment, and service? (with tons of pictures)

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