American Improves Cathay Pacific Award Routing Rules

Filed Under: American, Awards

All things considered, American Airlines has fairly strict and complicated routing rules on award tickets. That can be frustrating, because the flights which have award availability might not be possible to book under a single award. In the past I’ve outlined how American award routing rules work, though the exact details are constantly changing.

To give an example of American’s ridiculous award routing rules at times, American doesn’t let you transit “South America Zone 1” enroute to “South America Zone 2.” That means you can’t route from New York to Santiago via Lima, even though that’s an extremely direct routing. You could, however, route from New York to Santiago via Sao Paulo, even though it’s a much more indirect routing (since Sao Paulo is also in “Zone 2”).


Anyway, American AAdvantage has just made a very positive change to their routing rules for travel between the US and the Indian Subcontinent. Under the old policy, you could only travel from the US to the Indian Subcontinent via a transatlantic routing.

This means you could fly on British Airways, Etihad, Iberia, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, etc. That’s ultimately not too bad since Etihad and Qatar Airways are good about making award space available. However, back in the day before American partnered with Etihad and Qatar Airways, you were typically stuck paying the terrible fuel surcharges on British Airways if you wanted to fly to India.

There are hefty fuel surcharges for redeeming AAdvantage miles on British Airways

American has now added an exception to their award chart — you can now fly from the US to the Indian Subcontinent via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American on a single award.

Cathay Pacific first class

Here’s the new footnote in the award chart:

Transpacific travel to the Indian Subcontinent permitted only via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines. Travel on other partners to the Indian Subcontinent is Transatlantic only.


In practice this now means you can route from the US to Hong Kong to anywhere Cathay Pacific flies in the Indian Subcontinent. For example, you can now fly the following on a single award:

  • Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Male
  • San Francisco to Hong Kong to Delhi
  • Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Mumbai

Those are just a few examples. This is a great change, since in many cases flying via the Pacific is faster than flying via the Atlantic. For example, Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Male is slightly fewer miles than Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi to Male.


Back in the day traveling to Asia Zone 2 was significantly cheaper than traveling to the Middle East/India. Though with American’s recent award chart devaluation, that’s no longer the case. Nowadays American charges the following one-way mileage for business class out of the US:

  • 70,000 miles for business class to Asia Zone 2
  • 75,000 miles for business class to the Middle East/India
  • 110,000 miles for first class to Asia Zone 2
  • 115,000 miles for first class to the Middle East/India

So marginally the values are excellent, as you’re only paying an extra 5,000 miles for the connecting flight. Then again, since you’re not allowed a stopover on award tickets, that’s not really the way to view it, since you’d just be connecting in Hong Kong as a means to get to your destination.

The redemption values continue to be much better through Alaska Mileage Plan, as they allow stopovers on one-way awards, and also have lower redemption rates.

Cathay Pacific business class

Bottom line

American has slowly been tweaking their routing rules lately. The way I see it, this is the most significant single improvement they’ve made to routing rules in a while. It’s just too bad that this change is only happening after American greatly devalued their award charts.

Still, business class redemption rates continue to be quite good, and I think a lot of people will find value in routing to the Indian Subcontinent via Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific 777

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. It very clearly only calls out the Indian Subcontinent as an exception – are you sure that the whole ME region is included?

  2. Lucky, think you have a typo. The chart says 70K miles in business both for Asia 2 & ME/Indian. You’ve got 75K miles to ME/India. Its 75K miles in business to Africa.

    This is good news for those with miles still to burn. The Maldives just got a lot easier to fly to for me being west coast based.

  3. Sorry I’m confused – aren’t there two rules for that? The Middle East has a *, and says it can only be used transatlantic, and the Indian Subcontinent has a ~, and says can be used for transpacific as well. Dubai is part of the ME…

  4. Awesome news. A few questions. Isn’t ME/India on 70K in business? I think you may have been looking at the rate for Africa, which is 75k.

    Second, I wonder if it’d be permitted to fly SFO-HKG on CX and then continue HKG-CMB on Sri Lankan. Seems like it should, but I admit the terms of the footnote do not actually permit it. Any thoughts?

    Second, you should really also be able to fly SFO-NRT on JAL and then continue JAL-CMB on Sri Lankan or JAL-HKG-CMB on CX. But I’m guessing that won’t be permitted even though there’s no principled reason they shouldn’t.

  5. @Ben – it’s 70,000 miles in J for US – India not 75,000 miles as you’ve listed.

    @Nick – you are correct. This is only for BOM/CMB/DEL/DAC. CX does not serve any parts of the Indian subcontinent.

  6. I wish they would fix flying Africa to Africa routings that take you through the Middle East and allow that to be one award as well (since no other options exist). I’m flying JNB to Seychelles on EY this summer and since Abu Dhabi and Doha are the only cities you can fly through, I had to pay for two awards.

  7. Interestingly, under the old rules they had Sri Lanka in Asia 2, so you could get to CMB via HKG on CX. But now it’s been moved to India/ME where it belongs.

    I just wish they’d let you route to Asia via Europe or the ME. But I expect to be using Alaska more now anyway.

  8. Is it possible to book USA-HKG-India using Alaska miles? I thought I had read that Alaska will let you redeem miles on Cathay Pacific, but not its Dragonair affiliate (which serves most (all?) of the India routes), whereas AA specifically lists Dragonair as a partner you can redeem on.

  9. This is one of the best news for sometime now in the miles world, although Flying Mumbai to Singapore to Hong Kong on A380 suites for 53,125 KrisFlyer Miles and then Cathay First Class from Hong Kong to New York with 70,000 Alaska Miles seems like a better travel experience.

  10. They really need to change the Asia 1 routing rules so that they would allow CX in the routing. JL AA to Japan and Korea is an extremely limited choice considering how big those two markets are.

  11. Yeah I’m curious abt many of the same Qs above. Are ME destinations/airline partners specifically restricted in practice or could you route HKG to DOH on QR? Or HKG to AUH on EY? Etc etc

    Also can you make use of fifth freedom routes here or does it specifically have to be a nonstop exHKG to your destination?

  12. Really, please stop taking click bait lessons from VFTW.

    AA has NOT changed it’s routing rules for Cathay, as I excitedly and mistakenly thought from the title of this post. As you correctly stated once I clicked on the post, AA has only changed the routing rules “for travel between the US and the India Subcontinent”. You could have just as easily titled this “American Improves Award Routing Rules For Travel Between The US and the Indian Subcontinent”. No false expectations, no quashed hopes, probably almost as many of us clicking thru….

    OK, full disclosure, I probably wouldn’t have clicked thru, since the “Indian Subcontinent” is not aspirational for me. But overall, surely my not doing that would not be a large hit to your blog’s bottom line. I do go out of my way to use your affiliate links whenever possible. And pass them on to my friends and acquaintances as well. All I ask is to not be tricked into reading posts that are of no interest to me.

  13. I would agree with @DJ in wishing/hoping for a single award US-HKG-Australia destinations on CX or JAL. JAL has better availability on this route, due to the excessive number of miles required I suppose. I could even live with an (up to) 24hr connecting time in HKG/NRT/HND. Qantas has pretty much vacated this general route by very rarely offering J/F awards via OW programs (only its own).
    If AAdvantage is trying to sweeten up their program given the huge devaluation, this sort of thing is the way to go. Maybe stopovers on a single award ticket would be another.

  14. Agreed with Robert Hanson above.

    Misleading headline coupled with an “article” that takes 8 paragraphs to say what could be said in 5 sentences.

  15. How about from Europe to Indian Subcontinent ? Can we go via HGK/DOH ? or would have to go direct to Indian Subcontinent ?

  16. Am I crazy? I’ve searched AA and CX for months at a time and never see award travel available in F or J. Finally found two seats HKG to BOS in mid February and have to overnight on the way to MIA. Is there a secret I’m missing!

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