Cathay Pacific First Class Award Availability Trends

Filed Under: Awards, Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific offers what may just be my favorite all around first class product in the world. Not only are they incredibly consistent, but I think they’re one of the few airlines that scores nearly perfect in all categories.


Great service? Check!
Krug? Check!
Amazingly comfortable seat for both lounging and sleeping? Check!
Krug? Check!
Top notch bedding? Check!
Krug? Check!
One of the best entertainment systems out there? Check!
Krug? Check!
Great food and especially good midflight snacks? Check!

Did I mention they serve Krug? 😉


I’ve flown Cathay Pacific first class about a dozen times, so here are a few of my most recent reviews:


American and US Airways miles are great for Cathay Pacific first class

And the great thing is that for now, it’s possible to redeem both American and US Airways miles for travel in Cathay Pacific first class at a very good rate:

  • Between the US and “Asia 2,” American charges just 67,500 miles for one-way first class
  • Between the US and “North Asia” (which includes Hong Kong), US Airways charges 120,000 miles for roundtrip first class

I have a lot of American and US Airways miles, so if I didn’t have any commitments (or if Cathay Pacific offered inflight wifi) I’d probably just take a month long vacation in Cathay Pacific first class. I don’t think there’s an airline where I arrive more well rested, thanks to their great bedding and ultra longhaul flights.

Why we’re seeing less Cathay Pacific first class award space

Anyway, there’s no doubt that Cathay Pacific isn’t quite as generous about releasing first class award space as in the past. They’re still really good, but just not amazing. Keep in mind that the backbone of Cathay Pacific’s fleet is the 777-300ER, and they have just six first class seats in the cabin. So the fact that they consistently release any space is a miracle and something to be thankful for, in my opinion.


During the recession they would consistently release two first class award seats per flight. It seems crazy to literally make a third of your first class cabin available on awards 11 months out, when those seats could otherwise be sold.

As you might expect, as the economy has recovered, Cathay Pacific has tightened up somewhat on first class award space. They still release a fair amount of first class award space once the schedule opens. In my experience the norm is one first class award seat per flight, while some will have zero seats and others will have two. As a general rule of thumb I find that availability is better out of Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, than out of New York or Vancouver.

For example, looking at award space around 11 months out between Los Angeles and Hong Kong over the course of two days, you’ll see that most flights have one seat, while one flight has two seats.



The trick to snagging Cathay Pacific first class awards

But the real key to easily snagging Cathay Pacific first class award space is understanding just how much award space they release as the departure date approaches. Along with Lufthansa, I don’t think there’s an airline that more consistently and reliably releases first class award space as the departure date approaches.

So what’s the rule of thumb with Cathay Pacific first class award space? Typically within 24-36 hours of departure they’ll make all but one first class seat available for awards.

How consistent are they? Let’s take a look.

Between Chicago and Hong Kong for tomorrow there are four first class seats for sale:


And Cathay Pacific is making three of those seats available for awards:


Between San Francisco and Hong Kong tomorrow they have three seats for sale on the earlier flight and two seats for sale on the later flight:


And Cathay Pacific is making two seats available for awards on the earlier flight and one seat available for awards on the later flight:


Between Los Angeles and Hong Kong tomorrow they’re selling one, five, four, and two first class seats:


And for awards they have all those seats available, minus one, meaning the first flight has no award seats, the second flight has four award seats, the third flight has three award seats, and the fourth flight has one award seat:


The same is true out of Hong Kong. On the flights to Los Angeles tomorrow they have two, zero, two, and two first class seats for sale:


And as you’d expect, they have one, zero, one, and one first class award seat on those flights:


Looking at Hong Kong to New York, they have two, three, two, and two first class seats for sale:


And in terms of awards they have two (yes, they’re releasing all seats on miles in this case), two, one, and one award seat in this case:


As you can see, literally without exception they’re at least releasing all but one first class seat for awards as the departure date approaches.

There’s not an airline as consistent when it comes to releasing award space.

Why do Cathay Pacific’s award availability trends matter?

Yesterday I made a post about airline award ticket change fees, and the growing importance of locking in some award ticket as soon as possible, and then trying to “perfect” it as the departure date approaches. This “hobby” is simultaneously more challenging and more rewarding than ever before. There’s no doubt it’s tougher to find award space than before, but at the same time we’re also redeeming miles for better first class products than ever before.

I think there’s no better example of “locking in” something you’re okay with when the schedule opens than with Cathay Pacific. They release tons of business class award space, so lock that in 11 months out, and then as the departure date approaches you can lock in first class award space. If you book through American, they won’t even charge you to “upgrade” the ticket from business to first class.


Cathay Pacific has well over a dozen flights per day to North America, and of those, ~11 feature first class cabins. While Cathay Pacific has small first class cabins, they generally don’t sell out. So if you’re flexible as to the gateway you fly out of or the exact time you fly, you should have no problem snagging first class award space.

As the departure date approaches, simply look at how many seats are still for sale in the cabin to gauge your chances of space opening up.

As I mentioned above, generally all but one first class seat become available for awards 24-36 hours before departure. But space does open up before that as well — typically about one to two weeks out, Cathay Pacific will open all but three first class seats for awards. I haven’t found an exact science there, but it is clear that they release more space as the departure date approaches, all the way up to 24-36 hours out, when they release all but one seat.

Cathay Pacific bottom line

Cathay Pacific first class is as accessible as ever before. If you’re not traveling alone it can require some flexibility, but the consistency and quantity with which Cathay Pacific first class is available last minute is second to none.

  1. “Cathay Pacific offers what may just be my favorite all around first class product in the world.” Are you sure? Are you forgetting about some German carrier we’ve heard you praise so highly of?

  2. Thx for the tips Lucky!!! I’m planning to fly CX in ORD-HKG next summer. I was planning on using AAdvantage miles but after reading your post, it may be wiser to use my US Airways miles since it’s only 120,000 miles roundtrip versus 135k AAdvantage miles. Do you have any tips on redeeming CX awards using US Airways miles? For example, I’m planning to fly ORD-HKG on July 5th, 2015 and return on July 14th, 2015. Would it be possible to call US Airways today and put the JFK-ORD segment on hold and wait until Aug 15th to book the return HKG-ORD & complete the reward booking? Or do I have to wait until Aug 15th to get both flight segments and just hope the ORD-HKG flight still has reward seats available?

  3. Have you noticed similar (or any other) trends with regard to business class availability? It seems to be inconsistent when comparing your screenshots above…

  4. first class award availability when using (and booking through) aadvantage is not the same as award availability using cathay . i have often been told by aa that there is no first class award availability when the cathay website shows availability for cathay miles.

  5. I managed to snag two first class award seats on CX from ORD-HKG eleven months out using US DM. On the return, there was only one first award seat available so I locked that in and my partner is in business. The problem with using US DM is you can’t make any changes once the trip has begun. Our trip to Asia next year is for 3 weeks. If by the time the trip starts and a first class award seat hasn’t opened up so my partner can be with me in first, I’m SOL, right?

  6. Problem with American AAdvantage is that they are not allowing creative routing to take advantage of available Cathay seats, if for example you don’t live near a Cathay gateway city. Most of us don’t live near JFK, SFO, LAX, EWR or ORD. We have to take AA flights to connect to the Cathay flights. What I have found is that unless you are Ex. Plat., AA will not reserve AA flights period, if the connecting AA flights are not available as MileSAAver awards. The agents then tell you that you must reserve the AA flights as a
    separate AAnytime award for 20,000 miles. I called multiple times with the same explanations. I have had relatives who are Exec. Plat. call and were able to reserve the exact same flights with no issues for 67,500 miles. So, as much as I love Cathay, I am not feeling any love from American. Makes me feel that there will be more changes from this “merger”.

  7. “…what may just be my favorite all around first class product in the world.”

    Gasp! Lufthansa? Et tu Lucky? ☺

    My wife & I took the LH yyz-muc flight in F 10 days ago (thanks to you!) and we’re still in awe! A full on wine tasting with a custom prepared meal?!? It was just us and one other pax in the F cabin, so it was almost like a private charter. Can’t wait to experience it again! Although now you have me itching to see how CX compares ☺

  8. @Pietro – naughty naughty. But perhaps that German carrier’s F product is only fantastic when you know you’re rolling in all that affiliate income?

  9. @ Joey — US Airways only allows 72 hour holds, so that wouldn’t quite work. You’d either need to gamble the space would still be available or pay the $150 change fee to modify the ticket.

  10. @ NB — Availability generally seems good, but the patterns aren’t as distinct, from what I’ve noticed.

  11. Great post! This bodes well for getting two F seats from HKG-ORD on September 9. Cathay cancelled our original flight, which I thought was strange, and now there is only one flight going out that day – CX 808. Guess I will have to be extra diligent to grab those seats!

    We are going to be in economy from ORD to DCA either way, because that is all that had in saver. But the flight is so short it doesn’t matter.

  12. @ JohnB — Executive Platinums have access to additional saver inventory, which is why you’re seeing that discrepancy.

  13. Ben, is there any reason I never see any award on First or even Business award seat between Hong Kong and London? Is this route really so popular that CX won’t release any seat?

  14. Timely post Ben. We’re gearing up for our next adventure and it’s great you were able to see these trends as well. We’ve seen some 2x F space ex-LAX also and are encouraged, even though we won’t be pulling the trigger for a bit yet.

  15. @JohnB
    “Most of us don’t live near JFK, SFO, LAX, EWR or ORD”

    What? Not only is that incorrect, in that most of us do live fairly close to one of those cities, but there’s virtually no place in the entire country–excluding AK,HI– from which one of those gateway cities (or Toronto or Vancouver) is not on the way to Hong Kong.

  16. @Ben–Your strategy sounds great. Especially to take AAdvantage of the current AA oneworld redeption schedule. 135K for F to+from Asia is a great deal; but what might happen if Business is locked in for travel in 2015; and AA “adjusts” their redeption levels between now and the time when CX opens up their F award seats? [If the playing field remained flat, outbound would be fairly easy to monitor and adjust; return flights from HKG might be a challenge once travel has begun.]

  17. @ ll — You’d have to book it as two separate awards, as you can’t route from the US to Asia 1 via Asia 2 using American miles.

  18. @ Stu — That is a potential pitfall, and certainly possible. It’s tough to predict the future, but I do expect with any major changes we’ll get some advance notice, so I guess we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there. 🙂

  19. @ John — I’m afraid there wouldn’t be much to report, Qantas just sucks all around when it comes to releasing award space. 🙁

  20. The ability to book a last minute flight to Hong Kong is only useful to those who don’t have normal lives and don’t have to plan ahead. i.e. nomadic gypsies and Ben.

    I’m planning a trip to SE Asia in January with my son and am already sweating because I haven’t got anything booked yet. Last I checked, there was no CX business class available from YVR, SFO, LAX or ORD!

    Even if I wanted to wait to book flights last minute, my DNA simply won’t allow it. I MUST plan ahead and know when I’m going and, more importantly, when I’m coming back.

    An interesting note to Ben’s flight selection – there are no, none, zero, zip, nada flights returning from HKG to SFO in any class until Aug 26 and 27th and then it’s a few in Y and one in J.

  21. “If by the time the trip starts and a first class award seat hasn’t opened up so my partner can be with me in first, I’m SOL, right?”

    @John – no, but your partner is! 😉

  22. @ Todd — I respectfully disagree. With a dozen flights a day that have first class cabins, you can pretty reliably plan around this even without flexibility. For example, two good friends of mine wanted to go to Hong Kong over July 4 weekend. I booked them a hotel and told them to “trust me” on the flights, and as expected space opened up on exactly the dates they needed. And it almost always does, as long as you’re flexible with how you’re willing to route. And they had no date flexibility, for what it’s worth.

    As far as your point regarding HKG-SFO, there’s plenty of HKG-LAX space. And I actually do see space HKG-SFO in first class on Friday (and didn’t look beyond that).

  23. I’m travelling HKG-SFO using US Airways points but only managed to get J seat for the outbound flight (F return, well Z technically). I guess I could ring US Airways closer to departure date and pay $150 to guarantee an F seat but I really don’t want to loose the F seat I originally booked (although if I do, I could call again and pay another $150 closer to return date). I understand change to US award is done by cancelling the entire booking, redeposit the miles and book a new one. Does CX seats go back to inventory immediately upon cancelling or is there a wait time before it becomes available again?

  24. @colleen, hahaha…at least he will be in first on the outbound. If he’s stuck in biz on the inbound, he can give me a trip report on biz. I’ve heard and read that biz is not too shabby on CX either.

  25. @ Tris — You don’t need to redeposit to make a change. They can make the change in the same record.

  26. I tried to do so in the past (mind you I don’t do US Airways redemption very often) and was told by every agent I spoke to that I have to redeposit and start over. Should I try again then? Is there some kind of keyword or phrase I should use? I’m not keen on cancelling because I’m worried they might refuse the routing that I want due to exceeding MPM (although not by much).

  27. @john – my fingers are srossed that his F clears. Of course I was teasing but I’m sure either way you’ll have a fantastic trip! Wow – 3 weeks! I’m jealous.

  28. @ Tris — Well if they claim the routing isn’t allowed then that may be the reason they’re not willing to make changes. But if the award chart stays the same I’d just call back, as that isn’t correct.

  29. Hi Ben

    have you see any changes lately with emirates availability using Alaska miles? It seems like z2 is pretty hard to find but usually I can find it last minute.

  30. Outside of when the schedule opens up and close to departure, any idea how much space opens up In between? Ive been searching for LHR-HKG space for end of May 2015 and there is zero, even leaving other European cities like FRA, CDG, FCO, MXP. I did find some J space on the 24th out of DME but other than that it’s pretty bare.

    Any idea why the LHR-HKG route is so bare considering it’s got decent frequency.

    Thanks for the post!

  31. @Tris – Just this past weekend, I made a similar call to USAirways to change the outbound flight on CX from J to F. I’ve already secured F on the inbound. The agent told me the same thing that the miles needed to be redeposited and start over. I have a semi-complicated routing and didn’t want to go through that again when I was on the phone with USAirways for two and a half hours when booking the original award ticket. Anyway, I was firm (but nice) with the agent explaining that my award already has a first class for the inbound and already paid for the maximum number of miles needed for the routing and all I’m changing is the cabin class on one of the segments (no changes to dates, routing, destination, etc.). The agent said he’ll check and after being on hold for 25 to 30 minutes, he came back and said that I’m all set that he changed my outbound from J to F. In addition, the best part was I wasn’t even charged the change fee. I am Chairman’s Preferred with USAirways so not sure if that helped my cause a bit.

  32. @ danny — Yep, there’s definitely less space than in the past, they’re getting restrictive sadly. 🙁

  33. @ Tyler — LHR is just tough in general, it’s a high yield route for them. But aside from that usually not a ton of space between when the schedule opens and a couple of weeks before departure. With only six seats, if they release 1-2 when the schedule opens, that doesn’t leave much to open over subsequent months.

  34. Your friends are very fortunate, but as I mentioned, I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. Waiting a couple days before an anticipated departure date to book a flight is one thing, but I can’t imagine doing it and NOT have a return booked.

    I didn’t check for flights on the Friday, Aug 8 since you would have only have just arrived on the 7th. I also didn’t check LAX, but that would certainly be practical, if only for LAX/SFO.


  35. Thanks @John! I’m in the exact same scenario except for two things: (b) I have no status on USAirways or AA although I’m a OneWorld Emerald (QF Platinum) and (b) I was quoted a lower mileage by the agent and managed to ticket it straight away (somehow the ‘discount’ got past rates desk ok). Worth a try I guess.

  36. Hey Lucky,

    I want to take my dad on Cathay First next summer. Do you think it will be easier to snag two first class seats in advance between the US and Asia or between Asia and Europe? How often do you see 2 Seats available 11 months out?

    Thanks, Gabe

  37. @ Gabe — As you can see above, two seats 11 months out isn’t impossible, especially out of LAX. So leaving the US should work fine.

  38. Justin,

    Nearby is 100 miles, so one could drive to that Cathay gateway and not fly on a connecting flight. That way one could fly Cathay all the way to HKG. My comment referred to AA not wanting to ticket for the connecting flights. If, for example, the ORD flight had no F availability, and LAX flights do have F for award travel….American doesn’t want to reserve AA flights to connect to LAX. Some places, like Florida, have no flights to Asia. So an award traveller has to do connecting flights. In your rationale, I guess if I lived in Florida, JFK would be “fairly close”, so I could just drive to JFK…….

  39. Hey Lucky,

    Thanks for your quick reply. Would you call snagging to first class seats between Asia and Europe impossible?

    I looked through all of july/june on the BA search engine and I didn’t see a single first class seat on LAX – HKG. I must be doing something wrong. Is there a setting I must turn off/on??

    Thanks, Gabe

  40. @todd. Use AA miles instead of US Air and book your return in economy. If something else opens up, upgrade without penalty. If not, fly steerage.

  41. @Tris – oh, I didn’t realize you were only charged the J mileage with F included in your routing. Since USAirways manually prices award reservations, I can see how you were charged the J mileage especially if your itinerary includes mixed cabins. Unfortunately, if you make a change, you will probably have to start over because the change will need additional miles than your original booking because it will be all in F and no longer mixed cabin. Also, if you call and keep your original award, hopefully they don’t catch that you were charged the wrong amount of miles. But they should still honor your original award since it was their mistake not yours. Hopefully this was helpful.

  42. Lucky,

    Let’s say you want to fly LAX-HKG on a five day trip. There’s F availability a day out and you book it LAX-HKG but there’s nothing available for the return. Would you chance it that something would open up HKG-LAX close to your return — and risk being stuck in HKG?

  43. @ Michael — I absolutely would. With four flights a day it’s a near guarantee there will be some space.

  44. I’m starting to think about Christmas 2015. Going from the us to Australia using us air miles. Is Cathay (biz or first) still possible in the peak season? Or would Singapore be a better option?

    Obviously I’d love to fly qantas first class again (what an incredible product), but that seems tough without a few hundred thousand ba miles to help me out.

    Any ideas on how to make that work?

  45. Lucky,

    What’s your experience with peak season (end-August) travel when plenty of families/students are returning to home/school? Does that notably diminish close-in CX F award space? Thanks.

  46. @ Noel — Both Cathay Pacific and Singapore should be pretty realistic options if booking right when the window opens.

  47. Thanks for posting this. Looking to use up my US miles soon for next summer. Just waiting for the schedule to open up for July-August.

    I have lots of AA and US miles too.

    AA miles – trouble is last minute CX availability is good, but AA last minute is poor, so I can’t get to the departure city.

    US miles – trouble is US doesn’t let you change your flights easily. So if availability opens up, US doesn’t let you change your ticket to the new flight with available seats.

    Any tips to get around those two hurdles.

  48. @ Greg — Those are indeed the challenges, not really a way around them. I’d go with American given the option, though, as usually there’s at least *some* way to get to the gateway, even if it requires an extra connection.

  49. Hi Ben:

    I am relatively new but I am learning bit by bit.
    When I checked AA website, only the AA flight is available, nothing offered by Cathay Pacific. Am I supposed to call AA to ask for Cathay Pacific availability and book the flight? or do I book the AA flight through AA website and wait until Cathay Pacific opens up space which will show up on AA website and switch to Cathay Pacific?
    Thanks for your help.

  50. @ Marie — American’s website doesn’t display Cathay Pacific award space, so you do have to call American to book.

  51. Any chance that you could put together a ‘trend’ report for LH first class availability? I know in the past you’ve mentioned that you have nearly perfected predicting of close-in availability. I thought that you may have done this in the past but I couldn’t find it with a quick search.

  52. Ben,

    I agree with your analysis in general, but I find that availability for award seats tend to lean more to flights going to HKG rather than leaving out of HKG. I’m traveling with the family and I can find 5 business or even first class seats out of LAX, SFO, ORD or JFK to HKG but but very rarely the other way around. There are 1-2 business/first seats in general but definitely not big batches.

  53. What website are you using to look at what availability CX is actually offering? Is it or Cathay’s site or Qantas?

  54. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks for the availability update

    I’m really struggling to find the availability you mention 11 months out.
    I’ve searched for HKG-ORD/LAX/SFO and also the return, from 24 Jun to 11 Jul 2015 with not even a single seat F? I’ve used BA and JL availability engines… is there something I’m doing wrong??


  55. Lucky so funny you are saying CX has great food. I thought you described their F catering as “Chinese Comfort Food” and Lean Cuisine pasta entrees?

  56. Ben, great post! Are you still experiencing situations where space is available on the BA or JAL websites, but the AAgents cannot see it? Thanks!

  57. Really excellent post and particularly timely as I have been checking every day for F space to open up on an BKK-JFK route in April 2015 (got in on the fuel dump deal to BKK earlier this year). As you recall I asked about JAL routings when you posted about increased space. You advised that space would likely open up. Glad I didn’t change and I hope redemption levels and your studied predictions bear out next year! Woot!

    One question though, without being super connected telephonically in Thailand, what do you think is the most efficient and cost effective way to call the AA call center to make the upgrade change?

  58. @ george — The British Airways tool only displays three cabins at a time, so make sure you’re selecting at least “business” from the drop-down. Otherwise I’m not sure – I see space nearly every day the week of July 5th.

  59. @ Henry Chen — Other people report that, but it’s not something I’ve ever experienced if the space also shows on JAL, so not much insight there, unfortunately.

  60. Ben: You are costing me all kinds of money with your posts the last couple of days. Well done!!! 🙂

  61. @ george — Just pulled up space again, and every single day July 1-11 has first class award space LAX-HKG on BA tool. Very odd. You’re searching for one seat?

  62. This is a FANTASTIC post – thank you.

    I wrote to you earlier this week when 2 seats in F opened up on a JFK-HKG flight (2 available based on Cathay, BA and JAL) but turned out to be phantom award space when I called AA. I’ve been checking availability all week and this morning, 2 seats opened up on my desired flight this coming Friday (grabbed them right away). Seems like an exception to the “rule” because 2 seats were available for sale, but they released both to award inventory – perhaps an unpopular departure time (in terms of likelihood of selling the seats this close).

    This is our second F redemption out of JFK thanks to you. Also, doing HKG-SFO on the back end of the trip (but currently booked HKG-LAX-SFO so will try to do the same a couple of days before departure on our way home!).

    Thanks again.

  63. Lucky, what is the trick if both Qantas and BA show availability online yet AAdvantage customer service can not find it?

  64. Oh no, checking on my flight from HKG to ORD on, it says “Cabin not operated on this flight” for First. Same with the Cathay site if I try to purchase a first class ticket.

    Man, I guess I don’t have any chance upgrading to first for my trip home next month!

    Unless…. Will AA allow me to switch to a HKG to JFK flight on the same day for free? My final destination is DC, so that flight would have to change as well.

  65. @Lucky – Another great post!

    I wonder if you know if it is true that AS charge $100 per transaction to transfer miles from, say, my AS account to my wife’s?

    This person also told me that AS has a transfer limit of 30k miles per transaction, meaning, to transfer 140k miles would cost me about $500.

    On top of that, AS also charge $10 for every 1,000 miles transferred plus a $25 processing fee, so another $1,400 + $25, so before cost of any AS miles & tax, I am already out $1,925!

    Any truth in the above?

  66. @ Lauren — They have two flights a day. One is operated by a plane with first class, one is operated by a plane without first class, so it sounds like you’re on the latter.

    If space opens up you could reroute HKG-JFK-ORD without paying a change fee.

  67. @ Silver — Alaska does indeed charge to transfer miles, though why would you do that (at least in increments of that many miles)? You can also make a booking for someone else out of a frequent flyer account.

  68. Strangely enough, Cathay cancelled one of their flights to ORD that day — CX 806. That’s the flight we were originally on, and I guess the one that has first class, perhaps? Couldn’t pull up the reservation on AA, called them and they said the flight was cancelled and they moved us to CX 808, which has no first class. So, only one direct flight to ORD on Sept 9 for some reason.

    But, there are three flights to JFK with a first class cabin, so I will try and switch us to HKG-JFK-DCA if something opens up close in.

  69. @ Lauren — Hmm, that is indeed odd, but looking at the schedule, you’re right. The service with first class isn’t operating that day.

  70. @lucky/Lauren – if Lauren’t tix were in F and the 3-class was cancelled, wouldn’t AA let her “force” into another day or routing even if no availability?

    I mention because AA cancelled our ORD-PEK flight and just moved our reservation to the previous day, even though there was no availability on the official Saver calendar. Or does the availability of the 2-class kill that option?

  71. @ colleen — Well it seems Lauren was ticketed in business class and was just hoping to upgrade to first class as the departure date approached, unless I misread.

  72. Great post as usual, can you tell me what tool/site you used to see the # of seats available for sale in this post? A site like that should come in handy for all us..thanks!

  73. @ Steven — I was using ExpertFlyer, which is a paid subscription service. But you should just be able to go to an online travel agent or Cathay Pacific’s website and see how many first class seats they’ll still sell you on a flight.

  74. Stole that from FT and made it into ur own idea for a blog? The analysis was posted yesterday on FY

  75. Hi Lucky — with US Airways, you still can’t make changes to an award after travel begins correct? So no hoping for F opening up for the return when you are already in your destination?

  76. The phantoms from BA availability come from searching stuff like BKK-HKG-LAX. If BKK-HKG is there but HKG-LAX isn’t- the BA tool will still report both segments as available when they’re not. The QF tool doesn’t seem to do this.

  77. Another fantastic post as always. Just one question – is there any risk changing a ticket 24 hours out that it doesn’t go through in time? I’m HKG right now, have business class booked back to JFK on Tues., but want to switch to F to ORD tomorrow (hopefully – still three open seats on that flight).

  78. Okay, it seems I have found the exception to the rule. Although HKG-ORD tomorrow (Aug. 12) went from F3 the whole week to F5(!) now, as well as A5, there is still ZERO award availability on it. I’ve been checking the BA site religiously and even called to confirm with no luck. My current 9:20 HKG-JFK is showing F3 but also no awards available. Even HKG-LAX is showing F2 but no awards. Is Aug. 12 just a really unlucky date?

  79. Lucky, are you aware of Cathay operating any flights HKG to LHR without F? I was booked into F on AAward flight 257 or so I thought. I was just told by AA that CX isn’t operating F on this flight. When I check the BA website the same flight flight shows that each day. It certainly wasn’t like that when I originally changed my flight.


  80. @ Mike — Looking far in advance, it does indeed look like two of the five daily flights will be without a first class cabin. That’s unfortunate.

  81. Just wanted to follow up and say that even just a few hours before the flight nothing is showing up for today. So definitely a YMMV sort of thing.

  82. Hi Lucky,

    I was holding a JFK-HKG flight, and later switched it to a day afterwards. I am now having second thoughts and want to switch back to the original date. Availability isn’t there anymore though (but 6F seats for sale still).
    In your experience, how long does it take for the seats to go back to inventory. With most airlines I find that it goes back right away, but this doesn’t seem to be the case here. This is for April 2015 fwiw.

  83. @ acs — Sometimes it goes back right away, sometimes it doesn’t at all. I’d keep checking back, but if it didn’t go back immediately my guess is that it’s not coming back soon. Keep monitoring, though!

  84. @ Lucky, I don’t understand, why on your example of SFO -HKG earlier flight, Expertflyer shows that Cathay still has 3 seats in First class available for award redemption but on the Cathay’s website it only shows 2 seats in First?? if I want to book for 3 people in First class….then it means I cannot book it online from Cathay’s website and have to call and they will charge booking fee? while in fact they do have 3 seats in first available for award redemption.

  85. @ Amanda — ExpertFlyer is showing the number of seats for sale, not the number of award seats. They’re willing to sell three seats on a paid ticket, but for awards only have two seats available.

  86. I see now… the availability on Expert Flyer doesn’t mean that there is award seat available too….have to check it on the airline’s website to confirm about award availability, isn’t it. Thanks so much Lucky!

  87. @ Amanda — Correct, that lists the seats they’re selling for cash, and not necessarily the seats they’re making available on awards.

  88. Hi Lucky – Thanks for the blog – a huge help since becoming a reader about 2 years ago. Does this hold for shorter routes as well? I’ve got F booked using AA miles from US-HKG, but am currently on voluntary downgrade on HKG-DPS segment to Economy as AA can’t find space – really hoping the business space will open or it will be worse than a cold shower when switching planes in HK.

  89. @ AsiaFlyer — Not quite as reliably, but Cathay Pacific is fairly good about opening last minute business class award space within Asia, so I’d keep monitoring.

  90. Lucky i used this method trying ro find f availability but couldnt find any eventhough flight expert shows first class is on sale for 2,3,4 seats. So either avios is having wrong info or cx just wont release f anymore to aa miles

  91. Is it possible for award space being unavailable for the next two months? Cos i searched for the next 60 days and nothing open up for f

  92. Hey Lucky,

    Just wondering, how much were taxes and other additional fees on top of using your award ticket each way cost? First Class versus Business Class?

    Thank you so much for the wonderful post! I am trying to plan out a trip for the family and would love to know the cost before using my awards.

    Thank you!

  93. @ Flyergirl — For Cathay Pacific roundtrip first or business class between the US and Asia? Should be under $100 per person roundtrip.

  94. Hello Lucky, quick question on Cathay award availability. I see on Qantas that there’s first class available on CX 845 leaving JFK on Dec 16. I called AA to book it but was told there’s no availability on that flight at all. have you encountered anything like that before. thanks!

  95. Hey Lucky,

    I’m trying to book CX and I see availability on BA. However when I call AS they can’t see it. What should I do ?

  96. I’m traveling with my wife from ORD-HKG next year. Do you think its best to “lock in” 2 Business awards or 1 Business and 1 First Class? We would obviously much prefer to be in the same cabin. If we do 1 biz and 1 First, and no additional First Class award pops up again, what is the protocol to “downgrade” the 1st class to a Business award via AA?

  97. @ Adam — I would book two business and then later hope for two first to open up. Downgrading would cost money and require a redeposit, so I think you’re better off locking in something in the same cabin.

  98. I’ve got miles in BA Avios and us airways to use on a trip to S. Africa. Which program is best to use….As they are both in transition? I’m hoping to use my miles on Cathay pacific. Also, is it possible to use us air miles on only one way instead of rt?
    Thanks G

  99. I booked 2 roundtrip biz class tickets on the ORD-HKG leg last year for travel in May using dividend miles. With the programs completing their mile merge this week, how would I approach the first class upgrade strategy? I have the advantage miles to do both upgrades, will this be possible even though it was a USAir booking once the programs combine?

  100. I have found seats in BA site and did few HUCAs and all AA agents are saying they can’t see award seats that I see in BA site. How do I approach this?

  101. This is one of the all time epic posts. I refer to it often.

    For me, CX just came through like a charm.

    Was booked HKG-LAX-SFO bit wanted direct. Flight has been showing F2 on ExpertFlyer. I was a little nervous because it was also showing J0 and I wasn’t sure how that might affect their seat allocation.

    Somewhere between T-70 and T-64 one F seat became available and I nabbed it.

  102. Hey lucky! I know this post is old, but I was wondering if you noticed any similar trends about business class? Also do you know what time exactly CX releases additional award space? You say 24-36 hrs out, but I imagine they update the system at midnight hongkong time or something like that for all the flights in that range.

    I was just about to book some business class from HKG to LAX but someone snagged them while I was taking too long to decide 😛

  103. @ Aaleem — There’s not one specific time where they release more space. As far as business class goes, it really is wildly inconsistent. Sometimes they release it further out, but I haven’t noticed a specific timeframe.

  104. So I’ve been following this post and coming back to it every week to ensure my strategy (following this post) has been right. Unfortunately after monitoring HKG to LHR seats for the last two – three weeks, I can officially say that this method does not work!!! Most of the time when there are F seats, all but one is not necessarily released. I’ve been on waitlist for an F seat on a HKG to LHR flight for Aug 31 for months and now finally as we approach the date, I thought I could somehow get a seat since I still see F2, F3, etc. on ExpertFlyer…and nada. Now, I’m left with no flight. Hopefully next time this blog can do research for other major routes (aside from those to/from the US)!!

  105. Hi Lucky – how do you pull that screen on Award Nexus that shows how many revenue seats for each class are being sold on a flight (e.g. F4, J9)?


  106. Hi Lucky, I was wondering if you knew what will happen with American Awards after the March Chart change?

    Specifically, I booked a flight for August on Business class, but am keeping a look-out for first class. Since I booked before the March change, the miles are 55K. But, if I am able to upgrade to First closer to the date, will the cost then be 110K instead of the 67.5K that it would’ve been had I been able to book it now?


  107. Trying to book some CX flights with AS miles. Shows available on BA and QF sites but AS doesn’t see it. Have you seen this?

  108. I just called American today to see about switching to Cathay Pacific. Until now I was told there would be no fee to switch to Cathay assuming the starting and ending cities stayed the same. Today’s rep. told me there would be a $150 fee to switch to Cathay (not terrible, not great). While there are no seats for my trip next month (yet), out of curiosity I asked about tomorrow or the next day. Two days from now there is a seat on Cathay. So probably starting 3 days before my flight I will start calling again.

  109. I am kind of new to booking with AA miles (Only used Chase Portal and United Star alliance before).

    I wanted to book a trip from EWR to BKK in August. On no Business awards are available… Should I book a regular economy award on a Cathay Flight via calling AA, then about a week before the flight, check everyday for more Business awards to become available?

    How likely will it be for me to upgrade to business?

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