Cathay Pacific Business Class Award Space Wide Open to and from Asia

One of the big mistakes people make booking awards is to assume that when you want to travel you go to your frequent flyer program’s website and enter where you’re flying from, where you’re going to, and you’ll be presented with your options.

If you go to the American Airlines website and say you want to go to Bangkok there will be no availability, ever. And that’s not because there’s no availability, although that’s what most people assume it means. It’s just that American Airlines doesn’t fly to Bangkok, and partners who do — like Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and SriLankan — are not searchable on American’s website. That’s true even though American has a revenue-sharing anti-trust immunization joint venture with JAL.

At the same time that’s a benefit for those of us who know what we’re doing, because there’s less competition for the award space. You’ve lopped off the majority of AAdvantage members from ever knowing about Cathay Pacific awards which right now are really really available when booking in advance.

Award space between the US and Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific gets to be pretty good in the fall and is outstanding for winter. You can use American or Alaska Airlines miles and your flights beyond Hong Kong are included in the award for no additional miles. You can use British Airways or other foreign frequent flyer programs and if your destination is Hong Kong (or several destinations to the North in Asia) there won’t be fuel surcharges.

Here’s availability for two passengers between both New York JFK and Newark and Hong Kong in business class in February.

Here’s Boston – Hong Kong for two passengers in each direction.

Here’s Chicago – Hong Kong for two passengers in business class each way in February.

And Los Angeles – Hong Kong for two passengers in business class:

Finally check out San Francisco – Hong Kong for two:

Toronto has good business class award space. Availability on the new Washington Dulles – Hong Kong flight exists, but isn’t as good. There’s also only limited availability on the Vancouver – Hong Kong route though more than DC.

Search for the space on the Qantas or British Airways frequent flyer websites, and ring up your favorite frequent flyer program to book if it’s one that doesn’t support Cathay availability online.

And enough of this ‘American Airlines miles are useless’ at least if you want business class awards to Asia, and you weren’t really looking for coach travel to Florida on American Airlines planes with your miles were you? Finding award space to the international gateway city, of course, may be another issue.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Meanwhile, if you want a flight inside N America or a flight to Europe, your AA miles are still useless.
    And this is by design. The Clowns at Aadvantage continue on their mission of greed.

  2. I’ve had luck a few times on that route ( san/bkk) booking on line with AA web site, I just use the all airlines option. last 3 trips got jal business class no problem. ( only problem is the bad seats on jl65/707/708/66 flights )

  3. @Alan Maybe but for those of us who like international premium long haul AA miles work quite nicely. I understand not everyone can or wants to use them that way though and if that was my redemption goal I probably wouldn’t even collect AA miles.

  4. “And enough of this ‘American Airlines miles are useless’ at least if you want business class awards to Asia’….What the hell is wrong with you? Did you get out of the bed on the wrong side this morning? Just because they have something open to HKG a year out, you seem to talk down to us as if AA has suddenly become benevolent. Mind your language!

  5. AA miles might not be useless but they are beyond frustrating to use. And even when you do find award space, it tends to be the most inconvenient, annoying flights.

    I was able to find a saver award over the summer to Europe one -way… I took it but it does involve three flights to my destination including an overnight in Helsinki. Getting back from a different destination was basically impossible. AA blames partners for holding space for their frequent flyers (or to sell). I’d bet that AA does similar tactics.

  6. I don’t understand how this works, since Gary leaves out key steps that he ASSumes we all get.

    Do I search on Cathay’s site? How do I do this as an AA member? What site is he getting screenshots from?

    I’m sitting on about 350,000 AA miles and would love to book something overseas. ex-YVR there’s lots of CX and JAL options for me.

    Someone educate me? Please?

  7. I used my BA FF account to search OneWorld availability on Cathay intending to use my AA miles. I made mistake when calling AA to book Cathay biz space. The AA agent said that space may not be available, but I mentioned it was when I checked BA. She gave me a LONG lecture on how using other airlines sites to check award space should not be done since one carrier awards different amounts of space to other carriers, and just because BA has space, AA might not. When she was done in essence berating me, I asked if my preferred flights (showing available on BA) were available using AA miles, and she said yes. Lesson: hide you source of knowledge when calling AA.

  8. I’ll just echo Rich’s comment above. I’m sitting here with around 250,000 AA miles & a 2-3 week travel window in Oct, willing to go with my wife to any of a # of places. Preferably international. Just how do I use these miles for travel that has 2 seats together, doesn’t force connections that have me sitting in airports for hours & doesn’t cost me hundreds of dollars for BA fuel charges? If I decide to go to Hong Kong (since that’s the example given) & go to Cathay’s site, I need to be a Cathay member to use any kind of miles, correct? If I go to AA’s site, Cathay doesn’t show up as an option (as Gary states). If I go to BA’s site to see Cathay, I need to be a BA member to view Cathay’s flights (so I can try to use AA miles to fly Cathay – absurd), right? Yes, I’ve tried calling AA to discuss these options and most of the reps. mean well but aren’t either knowledgable or interested in spending the time needed to talk about flights, seats & connections on a partner airline that doesn’t easily come up on their screens either. Am I really supposed to use the aggregate sites (many of which require payment) to do the research, then call AA to argue that these sites tell me flights are available? And get charged for the phone call ($40 is minimal, but still…). I’d pretty much say that this qualifies as useless.

  9. @Rich @SteveR I have used my AA miles several times for award flights on Cathay Pacific and JAL (and I’ve also booked flights in the future on Qatar this way). I just go to the BA site (yes, I created a free account) and search for flights. When I find availability (and BA normally tells you exactly how many seats are available in each class), I call AA and feed the customer service rep those exact flights. No phone booking charge since I can’t do it online. In each case, AA was able to secure the same flights I saw on the BA site, but YMMV. I was then able to go onto the web site of the airline that actually flies the route and choose seats (sometimes there is a different record locator number, but you can ask AA for it).

    This method is far superior to asking AA if they can see any availability, since an uncaring AA customer service rep may look up one or two flights and then just say nope. AA also partners with Fiji and in that case, I found space available on the Alaska Airlines web site, called AA, and they booked it with AA miles, again with no booking fee. I was not a member of the Cathay, JAL, Fiji or Qatar frequent flyer programs when I booked all of these tickets.

    Echoing Gary’s comment, if you are patient, a bit flexible and take the time to work the system, you can actually book some amazing international trips this way. Also completely agree that it is a shame that is has to be this complicated. Further agree that if anyone’s goal is to get from metro New York to Miami during Christmas school break using AA miles, they will probably be disappointed.

  10. lol at the grandparents on here looking how to spend their AA. Miles. It’s your cluelessness (and sheer laziness…you ever hear of google?) that keeps this inventory wide open.

    Keep whining and thinking this is “useless.” I’ll keep seeing the world in J.

  11. Yeah, this is the typical opening up a 10 to 11 months out, it will then open up 2 to 4 weeks prior to travel as usual. No significant change from my experience as far as I can tell.

  12. @Rich I prefer to look on British Air’s site but you have to be an Executive Club member (free): They’ll show availability of both Cathay Pacific & Japan Air.

    You’d go through Executive Club, book a flight, then give departure city, destination city and date. I’d use one way unless you need to fly on certain dates. It’s much easier to find availability one way, then the return than to find both at the same dates. I’d also use ‘1’ as number of seats you’re looking for. BA will show the number of seats available in any case, and if you are trying to book multiple seats you may decide it’s better to book one Business Class & one Premium Economy than not book at all.

    The site will show availability, if any. You may need to keep trying different dates until you find one that works.

    Once you find a trip that works for you, copy down dates & flight numbers and airline, and call American Air. Most airlines charge a telephone booking fee, but most will waive the fee if the flight can’t be booked on line. It never hurts to ask.

  13. The little comment about gateway flights is the thing. If you live in a city that you can’t easily drive to a Cathay gateway, then getting those AA connecting flights is almost impossible, at the SAAver rate. This is true of Delta as well. If you can easily get to the gateway, then Air France, Korean, KLM, etc. business seats are usually available, at the lowest rate. Luckily Cathay keeps adding new US cities, so not needing a connecting AA flight is possible for most Americans. Except Dallas, cus AA has a DFW-HKG flight. Sucks to live in Dallas, I guess.

  14. @Rich

    Gary is just click-bait trash—-most of his articles he doesn’t even write, but his name is coined next to it. You readers have got to stop reading and clicking his crap simply because you’re “wishing you could fly like him.” Well, he’s in super debt that doesn’t pay itself back.

    If you won’t know the “tricks”, stay away from Gary. He’s trapping the “new millennials” that think their new bright ideas to flourish in life haven’t been tried. Wake up, Gary is an Internet fraud like the trash that run FlyerTalk

  15. Steve R. Based on your questions you are very close to cracking the code. With just a little more digging though Gary’s posts exclusively, you can learn 1)How to avoid BA metal 2) How to find AA reps who know how to look for partner space 3) That you need to diversify away from AA and, as such, should have BA accounts and Asia Miles accounts already 4)That you can avoid $40 AA phone fees by just asking nicely. Thanks to Gary’s post I just booked 2 clients from non-AA US hub to Australia/New Zealand with 24 hour stopover in SYD using AA miles

  16. So pardon this for many of you with extensive experience but as a newbie just getting into this with some Alaska Airlines flyer mileage; is it as easy as just going to the Cathy direct review availability and then call up Alaska to book with miles?

    Thanks in advance!

  17. BA sometimes shows phantom availability. I do a quick check also on QF and JL before calling AA. Booked 2 J seats for next March last week with AA miles.

    Fewer AS miles needed for CX redemption but AS doesn’t always get or see the same availability as the oneworld partners and has other nuances.

    Patience and flexibility are always key to maximizing miles and points.

  18. Gary is helping out by explaining how to redeem miles for biz class great seats on best planes at mile saver level. I don’t understand the animosity.

    In simplest terms, you go to BA or Qantas website and find availability and then call American and book.

  19. I just found a valuable bit of helpful information in this article and have written it in my award flight notebook . This will help us with future travels .
    Thanks , Gary

  20. Need to transfer spg Points to JAL and then Book 2 Business Class tickets to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania with Quater Airlines from Montreal. How do I go about and do it.

  21. @Gary

    Given that CX hasn’t actually started flying IAD-HKG yet, it’s a little soon to assess award availability trends, no? What used to be “amazing” space would be consistent with the typical space they usually release when the schedule opens.

  22. I recently booked two Cathay Pacific flights through Alaska Airlines from Hong Kong to JFK. They charged me $25 in booking fees. Could this have been waived upon request? If so, what are the chances of getting the fees reversed?

  23. For AA miles, I use You have to pay for searches (it is not that much) but it is worth it. If I want to fly from BKK-JFK in business and first, I will set up a email search for the dates I want to fly for those classes of service. For AA, I select BA, but sometimes I use it for other searches. Then I wait. Before you know it, there is availability. For example, suppose I want to fly BKK-JFK from May 31 to Jun 5, my search would be BKK-JFK May 31, 5+ days. It would automatically search all those days and send me an email. If I did not find much availability, I might add BKK-EWR (usually a separate search), BKK-ORD, BKK-LAX, and BKK-SFO. Once I find availability on ORD, LAX, or SFO, I go to the American flight to find a connector. If there is no connector, then I will book and check American for a connector later. I should mention that right now, BKK-ORD is the most convenient, because there is always a cheap saver first connector from ORD to LGA or EWR. I also should mention that sometimes BKK-EWR is a separate search. You may say, why spend the money when BA website (and KVS which uses the BA Website) is free. Because it saves you hours for each award found.

    Right now, I have a flight in business on Japan Air BKK-JFK, I really would not mind splurging for 1st class. So I have an Award Nexus 1st class search only. So far no luck, but I think the odds are in favor.

    Actually, Gary has already mentioned various tools (including Award Nexus), see the following link:

  24. Tim,

    No. Alaska charges a nonrefundable partner award booking charge to all members booking partner awards, whether online or by phone, and even to MVP Gold members.

  25. We, 2 Seniors would like to travel in Business Class to Mumbai, India and return to SAT, TX on Cathay Pacific, using partly AA, Alaska Air, BA miles and Cathay Pacific miles as well, between April to June 2019.

    We will appreciate your help in finding these two tickets and email us these Itineraries so that we can book them in as much Advance as possible.

    Thank you,
    Gaurang J Mazumdar.

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