Air China First Class Award Space New York To Beijing

Filed Under: Air China, Awards

Air China can be a funky airline when it comes to releasing award space. I find that they’re quite generous with releasing premium cabin award space, but irrational at the same time.

Air China first class

For example, historically they’ve released tons of first and business class award space on their routes out of Houston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to Beijing, while I don’t think I’ve ever seen a first class award seat on their flight out of New York.

Also, while most airlines release first class award space close to departure nowadays (when it’s unlikely that seats would otherwise still be sold), Air China does the opposite — they’ll release a lot of award space in advance, but often won’t have any award space close to departure, even if the cabin is completely empty.

Air China business class

It seems that Air China is now releasing a lot of first and business class award space on their New York to Beijing flights.


They offer two daily flights, both operated by the Boeing 777-300ER. Looking at award space next year, they have first class award availability almost every day. Typically I’m seeing anywhere from two to six first class award seats per flight. Given that the cabin has just eight first class seats total, that potentially means you can get 75% of the cabin on miles this far in advance.

What’s odd is that this award space seems to be one-way only. There’s tons of space from New York to Beijing, but virtually no space from Beijing to New York.

Air China 777-300ER

Now, admittedly Air China first class isn’t the best in the world. It’s not ANA, Cathay Pacific, Korean, Singapore, etc. They do have an excellent hard product, while the food and service leaves a lot to be desired. I was actually pleasantly surprised by my flight with them from Paris to Beijing in business class last year, and would love to try their first class (regardless of whether the experience is actually good, or ends up being like China Southern).

So how much does a one-way award in Air China first class cost you?

  • Air Canada Aeroplan between the US and Asia 1– 105,000 miles
  • Avianca LifeMiles between the US and North Asia — 75,000 miles
  • United MileagePlus between the US and North Asia — 120,000 miles

Regardless of which program you book through, there should be no fuel surcharges. Obviously LifeMiles would be the most attractive program to book through, at least until their award chart devaluation kicks in two months from now.

Bottom line

More than anything I find this to be an interesting trend. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly Air China first class “just because,” but if you are looking at flying a whole family from the US to China, this option is almost impossible to beat, in my opinion.

(Tip of the hat to @Olman Melendez-Pál)

  1. You’re giving them much to much credit for their hard product. I flew it last week and the seat was falling apart and hadn’t been cleaned in quite a while. Also their “mattress pad” is a joke. It’s a nice looking hard product but I’d place it below just about any other Star Alliance F seat I’ve flown, except old LH F….you can feel the empty grooves as the seat expands. I’d rather fly NH C than CA F, if that says anything.

  2. Just a FYI that USAirways is still partners with Air China so that’s another option for booking an award ticket. Not an option for an one way award but roundtrip is there…


  3. I love how you didn’t put the $ amount for the cost of a roundtrip JFK-PEK Air China first class trip ($12,000). 😉
    Does Air China use a similar type of sparkling wine that China Southern uses for its First class?

  4. They serve Cattier Brut in F as well. Our flight from IAH-PEK on CA in F was good but not great. Hard Product was comfortable (except the IFE which was limited). The crew tried very hard, though some of the english skills were limited (I asked for a Cognac and got a Tonic Water). Food was average. Would I fly LH F before CA F, yes. Would I fly CA F before flying LH C, absolutely!

  5. It is the Air China First class availability only for next summer? I checked from now until December. I did not see any availability from JFK to PEK 🙁

  6. @Gary
    My experience was very similar to the blog you posted. I am thankful we were able to get 4 last minute business class seats, however I would advise anyone with a choice to look elsewhere. On both Air China flights I’ve been on (in F and C), the smell of cigarette smoke has filled the entire cabin 2-3x when the pilots are having a smoke.

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