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.