Why You Should Book Cathay Pacific Awards NOW

Filed Under: American, Awards

As I’ve written about several times before, American AAdvantage miles are being devalued for bookings as of March 22, 2016. So you have a bit over a week to lock in awards at the old prices.

Yesterday I outlined the best strategy for speculatively locking in awards. American doesn’t charge fees if you’re just changing the dates or flights on an award, so you can speculatively book something now, and then keep making changes at no cost up until a year from the date the ticket was issued. However, the origin and destination, as well as general set of airlines, need to remain the same.

Why lots of people will lock in Cathay Pacific first class awards

Realistically speaking, I think the most number of speculative awards are going to be made for Cathay Pacific first class. Why?

For the above reasons, I expect there will be a lot of people trying to lock in awards on Cathay Pacific before the devaluation.


Why you should lock in Cathay Pacific awards now

We know what kind of changes will be allowed after March 22 (at least in general), without causing awards to be repriced. I have lots of American miles to burn, and am trying to keep my planning as simple as possible.

I’m aiming to book the exact routing I eventually want to fly, so I can easily make award changes after March 22.

So a few days ago I started looking at award availability between Los Angeles and Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific first class (I used British Airways’ website to search for space). Historically Cathay Pacific makes one first class award seat available on some (though not all) flights out of Los Angeles.


I started looking at availability for next year (figuring booking way in advance would make it easier to find space), and had to search availability for three weeks before I found a date with one first class award seat available between Los Angeles and Hong Kong.

There’s very little Cathay Pacific first class award space out there, and availability will likely only get worse over the coming days. So you’ll want to lock that space in as soon as possible, assuming a Cathay Pacific first class award is your goal.

What I ended up booking

I booked a couple of Cathay Pacific awards, including to Bangkok and Singapore. I actually intend to visit other places in Southeast Asia, so why did I book the awards to/from Bangkok and Singapore?

  • Hong Kong to Bangkok/Singapore are both high frequency routes, so I know I won’t have issues finding availability for the intra-Asia flights when it comes time to book; meanwhile to smaller markets, finding availability on the connection can easily be the hang-up, and you don’t want to make this process more difficult than it has to be
  • For awards from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Bangkok/Singapore, you can no show for the last leg if you’re not checking bags (that only works when going to Asia, and not on the way back)
  • Once you’re in Thailand or Singapore, it’s cheap and quick to get to Cambodia, Vietnam, etc.


Bottom line

Even if your goal is to just speculatively lock in awards, availability is very limited. While I hate unnecessarily using up award space that others could use, realistically this is the only way to lock in Cathay Pacific first class awards at pre-devaluation prices. So if you’re eying first class awards on Cathay Pacific, I’d recommend getting them locked in by this weekend at the latest, if possible, before availability has completely dried up.

What’s your strategy for trying to lock in last minute AAdvantage awards?

  1. I booked SFO-HKG-HAN this week for 2/2/17. Got the SFO-HKG space the night it opened.

    Will be booking just HKG-SFO return as close to devaluation date as possible.

    Lucky: Looking at the Qantas site, I’ve seen WAY more availability for the eastbound flights back to US West Coast from Hong Kong as there were going into Hong Kong. Any quick explanation for why that is?

  2. No vacation. What’s the effing point.

    I have one booked on cx f and one on jal f. My cx f is night time flight. Do they still serve and entire bottle of Krug on the night time fight?

  3. Here is a better strategy I think: If you want HKG-LAX in CX F, you should book HKG-TYO-LAX with the first leg as CX or JL F and the second leg as JL J (or even Y). This will price as a 1st class award, but doesn’t actually require F space on CX on some future date. You can then wait for your HKG-LAX F flight to open up and switch the dates without changing the type of award, since your original award was an F award with a voluntary downgrade.

    If you can’t find HKG-TYO F, you could even do something like HKG-TPE-TYO to get an F leg

  4. I’m looking award ticket from Saigon, Vietnam to Tampa, Florida but don’t know how to find available seat. Can you please guide me how to find and book that ticket? I would appreciate for your help.

  5. I thought people were already doing that. I burned my points on CX and it did seem like the tickets were being reserved a lot sooner than before. If I didn’t book them when they became available it seemed like they would usually be gone. Luckily I was able to snag some and will be taking some family to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Also decided to burn my AS miles and two of us are flying back via Emirates F.

  6. @ Lucky I am having a difficult time finding space for First with CX or JAL. I am thinking of booking BOS-BKK (using AA from BOS-ICN and CX from ICN-BKK), my question is if I keep my original departure and arrival city, can I change this to all CX if I find availability @ 67.5K miles?

  7. I flew the HKG-BOS route in F couple of weeks ago. Slept 10 hours, what a waste of Krug drinking time.

  8. Wouldn’t it be possible to book a last minute award spot, cancel it and not redeposit the miles. Then you have one year to change the ticket when you want to take it and see award space on that route? Ex Plat have all fee’s waived…

  9. @Mo

    I just took a trip ex JFK, CX F on the way out and JL F on the way back and I had the same problem. Their beds were so comfy for sleeping that I couldn’t rouse myself for more Krug/Salon. I felt like such a failure. Granted I had very minimal jet lag problems so maybe it wasn’t all bad…

  10. I have searched the entire year from LAX-HKG in CX F. There is not a single date that is available that coincides with my time off. Further I don’t see any dates that have two seats?

    What do you do about booking flights if you want to travel with someone?

  11. DFW-NRT and DFW-ICN on AA F is pretty wide open for 2 people on most days – use this paired with a CX business intra-asia ticket to lock in that F pricing.

  12. Quick question regarding this statement.. “American doesn’t charge fees if you’re just changing the dates or flights on an award, so you can speculatively book something now, and then keep making changes at no cost up until a year from the date the ticket was issued.” …Does this mean it doesn’t matter if the # of miles needed to book the award ticket is greater than the # you used, as long as there is any award space available?

  13. @Greg,
    Be flexible with your dates and be prepared to only confirm the date 1-2 days in advance. There are two F seats on the 12:15am flight from HKG-LAX this Sunday for example. They were not there yesterday.

    There is no other way to do it.

  14. If I book a J award for, say Nov, and F space opens up later, can I just pay the additional miles to change the award to F? If so, would it be at the old 67,500 rate or the new 110,000 rate?

  15. I booked SFO-HKG-DSP for March of next year. In the past I’ve been able to upgrade service class without reissuing the ticket. Would that be applicable here post devaluation (or even before)?

  16. @Sagar You can upgrade post devaluation without any problems. However, if business class is the highest class of service on your current ticket, you would be charge the difference in miles between the old business class rate and the new first class rate when you upgrade. Many people are trying to secure a leg in first class so that it will be charged as a first class award for the entire itinerary, and if seats open up to upgrade other legs without having a reprice.

  17. @ Joe – If your origin and destination remain the same and you don’t switch airlines from Oneworld to non-Oneworld partners, for example, you should not be charged the new, higher redemption rates for any changes that you make.

  18. @Benja,

    Good Lord, you want someone to take some time out of their day to advise you on how to book up a simple Tampa to Ho Chi Minh City award seat?

    The reason I can do this myself is because I’ve developed the skill – you know, like how my IT department has developed the skill to manage my computers. For those who don’t care to develop the skill, you should note that people like Lucky do get paid for this at http://pointspros.com/ and similar services at quite fair prices.

  19. There is not a single F seat on JFK/LAX-HKG… There are some on BA metal.. Would it be possible to change BA to CX later?

  20. Tempted to book CX flights before devaluation, but I have a question for lap infant. For flights on CX redeemed using AA miles, do I have to get the lap infant tickets thru AA (10% fare) or CX (25% fare)? The answer will definitely change our seat class selection…

  21. @carverg I believe that this would be two different segments and would cost you a boat load of miles.

  22. I don’t have enough points to book 1st class now as i just spend the majoirty of them (on Cathay 1st) for a flight that i have already taken.

    Should i buy more points on AAdvantage to lock in now?

  23. @pat – When we looked at lap children on CX, it was the CX policy even when you use AA miles. So 25% (or whatever it is) of the full first class fare. Make you want to book another seat.

  24. I tried calling American to take advantage of this opportunity. They told me that you have to complete travel within 1 year of the issue date. So, that would mean travel needs to be completed by March 2017. How would you reschedule this for the Summer?

  25. The other day I booked CX JFK-HKG F for 67.5k miles and return in J for 55k miles; ten day trip in October.

  26. Anyone have an idea on how long or if canceled CX award seats go back into award inventory? I’ve got 4 CX F JFK/HKG (2 round trips) that I’m going to cancel and it seems other readers are looking for space.

  27. Anybody found seats available on F in Nov/Dec2016 through Jan/Feb 2017 timeframe? I am not able to find any leaving from either SFO, or LAX. I did see quite a few dates in Jan/Feb 2017 for J class though. (using BA.com site to check availability)

    @Ben, if this is the case, what is your suggestion for booking F class ticket? Could I book J class for now, and when F shows up (usually several days before the departure), then do the upgrade to F at that time …? But would they charge based on the new rule (to pay for the mile difference) for that kind of ticket that are purchased prior to March 21, 2016? Thanks!

  28. @ Abe – There are a few F spaces here and there, even in popular routes like JFK-HKG, and good availability in J. They just won’t be for your specific dates.

  29. @ JG – As most people are discovering, you are a little late. There are a few seats leaving from JFK in February. There may be others. Not too hard to fly from NY instead of West coast and you get to enjoy CX F for a little longer.

  30. @Pete. I have seen them go back into available BA inventory almost immediately when I have cancelled. Other times, they never went back into available BA inventory.

  31. @ chancer, thanks! I was able to see the availability in Feb 2017, as soon as I change from 2 to 1 passengers. I was looking at 2 passenger, which explains why it would not show. Anyone with any luck with 2 passengers, (round trip from SFO/LAX/JFK to HKG) please let me know! Thanks!

  32. ticketed a flight from sav to bkk in nov with milesaver award business/first returning in jan.
    I got my first 50000 aa miles on the citi mc, found 45000 expired aa miles and bought 122000 miles so we could come back in biz class too. The biggest problem was finding 2 awards to get to bkk.
    I was starting to think i would have to fly to syd or awk and add another country to me itinerary.. I was seeing lots of awards to austrailia/new zealand and very little to thailand. The aa agents that helped me researve and book the tickets were great at finding available flights and then finding better combinations from savannah. I researved an itinerary without my return from lax to sav and was able to find award space in first within a week. The international award agents were a big help getting my first international award booked and ticketed.

  33. Hoping you can help these questions:
    – Want to go through HKG to another Asia Region 2 country but would like to spend 3-4 days in HKG. Is there any way to do this without booking two separate tickets? Does Cathay allow a stopover for a fee? If so how do you book this?
    – What routes offer the best F class availability to HKG? Last time I booked this was 2 years ago and was able to find two F tickets through Chicago. Still possible?
    – Any experience traveling through/around the Philippines? Am considering Hong Kong + Langkawi vs Hong Kong + Philippines for a total of ~ 2 weeks

  34. @ Brian – You wouldn’t need two awards if your stop is less than 24 hours. Otherwise, try a low cost carrier. SFO will be less popular than LAX. JFK is always hard to find, but since it’s getting to be last minute and people are grabbing whatever they can find, you just need to hit the BA search box. Search for one pax only or your results will be zero availability.

  35. @Ben, I need two tickets to HKG on CX F class. I saw some F still available in Feb for one traveler. Could I book one F class, the other J class for now, and when/if it opens up later on then upgrade the one on J class to F? Question is how many mileages would that cost at that point (does it calculate based on before/after devaluation rate)?

  36. @ JG — You’d be better off booking F on two different flights, unless you can book a connecting flight that has F. Otherwise it will reprice from a business class award to a first class award.

  37. @jfhscott,

    I’m not mean asking someone who searches and gives me the results. I would like to learn and that’s why I read this blog as well as others. I just has not been ever book AA award ticket before, and I would like to know the tips, so I can search and book the ticket for myself.

    I tried so many times to book AA award ticket from Southeast Asia to North America but the website keeps telling me that it can’t find any award seat available.

    Thank you for your reading my comments but please don’t t assume that person who is lazy or want to be help without paying just by reading his few sentences on the blog like this.


  38. I was able to book a flight for myself on Dec. 14 (BOS-JFK-HKG-BKK) in F class and for my wife on Jan. 23 (BOS-JFK-YVR-HKG-BKK) in F also. Game plan is to find another date, but at least we are locked in. Now we need to find something for the return.

  39. Was able to lock in JFK-YVR-LAX-SFO-HND on Cathay F, AA F, and JAL F. Was curious to see of AA would allow me to route that way since I was changing from a JFK-ORD-NRT more direct route, but they allowed the change without a redeposit switching from NRT to HND.

  40. Hi Lucky! I’ve been reading and learning a lot from your blog these past few weeks, and have really been enjoying your thorough posts. I am a bit late in searching for Cathay flights, and have found only a few award availabilities JFK-SIN or vice versa, and each are single seats. Would you recommend searching for award space closer to departures, or are the award spaces already booked by others? I’m looking at booking and then moving the dates to around December. Also, is there a method to book a flight that has a long layover in Hong Kong? The flight routes through Hong Kong but the layovers are only 2 or so hours; can I book a business award from SIN to HKG and an F award to JFK on the next day and have it count as one 67,500 mile award? Thank you for your help!

  41. I would appreciate some clarification with regards to the statement ” … if you’re just changing the dates or flights on an award, so you can speculatively book something now, and then keep making changes at no cost up until a year from the date the ticket was issued.”

    Assuming that a ticket was issued on March 15, 2016 for a travel date on February 8, 2017, would you be able to later, let’s say on December 1, 2016, change the travel date to, say, April 1, 2017, assuming route, carrier and class are available without redepositing the ticket and reissuing at the higher points rate? Or, is it a matter that, once the ticket has been issued, you can not extend the date of that ticketed departure?

    Basically, I am asking if the departure date can be extended, after the ticket has been issued.

    I appreciate the information provided by the author and those posting in the comments. It has been very helpful.

  42. @ james — Once the ticket has been issued it’s valid for a year, so in your example you’d have to complete all travel by March 14, 2017.

  43. This has been mentioned in one comment, but I thought I’d reiterate it in case someone else is reading this post now and worrying about not being able to find any CX F availability on any date. Simply book an award in Y or J over the water on AA, CX, or JL and a connecting flight on CX or KA to a destination that offers F service intra-Asia. HND, TPE, MNL, BKK, and PEK are the ones that come to mind, but there may be others. These destinations typically have multiple seats available and will get you the 67.5k F award you need issued. You can then just cancel the award without redepositing the miles and have a ticket valid for a year that can be changed to the desired CX F routing close-in.

  44. @ breweSEA Thank you for the tip. I just booked a flight for my wife from BKK-HKG on F, then HKG-JFK on J

  45. Is there a phantom availability problem with BA’s site and C class on CX? BA showing 2 seats and AA can only see 1. Thanks!

  46. Done and done – thank you for the reminder post and suggestions. I’ve had the March 21, 2016, AAdvantage devaluation booking deadline on my calendar for weeks but your post helped me finally envision and book an amazing redemption on CX.

    After a couple hours of searches on the BA website I was lucky (ha) enough to find the one-way F award I wanted this Spring and booked a return one-way F award in 2017 (each at the 67,500 mile level).

    My game plan will likely be to change the date/time of my return ticket closer to the beginning of or during my trip, assuming CX’s pattern of releasing last-minute F and J award space continues (fingers crossed).

    PS – Tiffany, I just re-read and took notes from your “Anatomy of a Delay” post today, which was one of your best posts. Looking forward to your future posts and always great to see you interacting in the OMAT comments section.

  47. I booked an itinerary of CLT to ORD (AA) to HKG (CX) to MNL (CX) and returning MNL (CX) to HKG to SFO(CX) to CLT (AA) all in F. I am very grateful to Lucky, Tiffany and the others who have added such useful information.

    It is probably quibbling, but I wanted to ask if it was appropriate to be charged a $ 40 fee for booking this over the phone. Somehow, I thought that this fee was waived since the flights can’t be booked online. Perhaps it was adding the AA legs that triggered it. Not complaining, but I would like to know.

    Thanks again everybody!

  48. @ James — You definitely shouldn’t have been charged a phone booking fee. You can call and have that refunded!

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