How You Can Still Book Cheap Cathay Pacific First Class Awards

Filed Under: Alaska, Awards
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On Tuesday the American AAdvantage devaluation kicked in, increasing the cost of many of my favorite awards.

Perhaps the hardest hit were Cathay Pacific first class award tickets between the US and Asia, which increased in price from 67,500 miles to 110,000 miles one-way — that’s an increase of over 60% overnight!

That sucks, because Cathay Pacific has one of my favorite first class products in the world, and also is fantastic about making last minute first class award space available. Within a few days of departure it’s easy to book.

62,500 one way using AAdvantage miles

As we look at the new American award chart, it’s clear that the new sweet spot for redemptions is in business class. Business class awards went up in price moderately, while first class awards shot way up in price.

With that in mind, I think it’s worth posting a reminder of how Cathay Pacific first class awards are still attractively priced through Alaska Mileage Plan.

If you don’t have Mileage Plan miles, keep in mind you can purchase them right now with a 40% bonus, which is a fantastic way to buy enough miles for a Cathay Pacific first class or Emirates first class ticket.


Alaska’s redemption rates on Cathay Pacific

Alaska Mileage Plan is unique in that they have different award charts for travel on each of their partner airlines. Let’s look at their Cathay Pacific charts.

Here’s the Mileage Plan award chart for travel on Cathay Pacific between North America and Asia:


And between North America and the Middle East/Africa/India:


And between North America and Australia/New Zealand:


As you can see, the one-way first class redemption rates are as follows:


What makes Mileage Plan miles unique

As you can probably tell, the above rates represent exceptional value, especially when you consider what makes Mileage Plan miles so awesome:

  • Stopovers are allowed on one-way awards, meaning you could stop in Hong Kong enroute to somewhere else in Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, or the Middle East
  • Alaska charges no fees to change or cancel a ticket up until 60 days before departure, so you can lock in a speculative booking now, and then cancel it until close to the travel date

I’d argue that on the whole, Alaska has offered better redemption rates than American for travel on Cathay Pacific all along, and that value remains intact as of now. I suspect we’ll see an Alaska devaluation at some point, though I also think we’ll get some notice of any changes.


Ways to acquire Alaska miles

The reason most people redeemed American miles on Cathay Pacific (rather than Alaska miles) is that the latter are harder to come by, at least inexpensively.

Alaska is fairly aggressive about selling miles, and through March 31 is offering a 40% bonus on purchased miles. The good news is that there’s no limit to how many Mileage Plan miles you can buy, which is rare among frequent flyer programs. So you can literally buy enough miles for the entire family, if you’d like, which is awesome. 40% is generally as good as the publicly available bonuses get, so if you’re in the market for Alaska miles, I’d take advantage of this offer.


Alaska Mileage Plan is also a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner, and points convert at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 60,000 points. This means you can earn points through several cards.

Earn Marriott Bonvoy Points

Lastly, Bank of America also issues the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, which is an easy way to build your Alaska mileage balance.


Bottom line

Cathay Pacific first class is one of my favorite first class products in the world, and I’m sad at just how much the price has increased through American AAdvantage. Fortunately redemption values through Alaska Mileage Plan continue to be excellent, so factor that into your mileage earning strategy if you love the product as much as I do.

Of course I don’t expect Mileage Plan to maintain current redemption values forever, but as of now all we can go with are the current rates and the information we have access to.

Anyone else hoping to still book Cathay Pacific first class using Alaska miles?

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  1. LOL, I was so waiting for this post to come online 🙂
    I am sure the experienced folks already had their minds on this one!

  2. I’m not sure about all of their rules, but you can search easily on thee AS website. It may be that the award has to be on CX metal all the way.

    These are good points though. If you can afford to spend the money to buy the miles, getting a CX F seat for about $1700 (one way) is a pretty good deal.

  3. General rule is you can only fly alaska +1 partner from start to destination. Examples are alaska + Cathay, or alaska +aa, but not all 3.

  4. Too bad Cathay only unloads their premium inventory within 28 days. Go look for any route later this year, and almost no business available anywhere from US, except within the next 28 days. Then you’re stuck paying a pretty stiff change fee with Alaska, and have to buy a cash ticket to the gateway on top of that. Still a decent deal I suppose, but it was better with AA.

  5. @RakSiam CX awards to not show up on AS’s website. The best way to search is via BA’s search tool and you can verify space using JL and/or QF’s search tools

    @KrisTsao CX does not serve IAH and one of the stipulations of the AS award program is that partners cannot be mixed, unless AS is the other carrier. In your situation, you need to find AS award space from IAH to SEA and then from SEA to one of CX’s NA destinations – JFK, EWR, ORD, SFO, LAX, YVR. If there is no award space on the AS legs, I would ticket just the CX segments and then buy a cash from IAH to the CX gateway.

    Lastly, I think its worth mentioning that AS does not partner with Dragonair and those flights cannot be booked using AS miles

  6. Am I the only one who thinks this is kind of slimy?

    Pre-devaluation: The sky is falling, sign up for AA cards and use all the miles while you can!

    Today: Sign up for AS cards so you can still book cheap Cathay awards!

  7. @Flyinglots CX awards to not showup on AS’s search tool, you must use BA, JL or QF to search and then call AS to book.

    @atxtravel CX usually releases 1 F seat at the very beginning of the schedule and the another seat or two very close to departure. They are pretty good about releasing many seats in business class in advance. The issue now is that because of the AA devaluation, many AAdvantage members booked award seats on CX, which is why its hard to find availability.

  8. You don’t like the AAdvantage devaluation? Blame Obama, ObamaCare, and the Fed printing money with zero interest rates. You see, now you have four US Airlines owning 80% of the market with many C-Suite executives on the board of all four—-that’s why the switch to revenue.

    Do the Tango now, Cuba and their communist killers want your FF Miles for 10 months.

  9. Keep in mind that CX does not send F to anywhere in Africa, the Middle East, India, Australia, or New Zealand.

  10. @DavidW — maybe it is due to devaluation, but I spent an hour looking across multiple months and cities to the end of schedule for any CX business seat to Asia, and all I could find were a few from Boston, which is my temp booking.

    I looked out of curiosity for April, and sure enough there was nothing past 4/22, which just happens to be exactly 4 weeks out. I’m sure it’s doable, but it’s very hard to find…definitely not a free-for-all where you can reliably book very close to, or exact, days you need.

  11. @Melissa – You’re right, now I have health insurance but my CX First flight is 220K miles via AAdvantage. Obama truly is a Kenyan Muslim Anti-Christ!

  12. Mr. Ben Luck – can you have your free stopover in a fifth freedom stop? For example, fly LAX-HKG-BKK (stopover) BKK-SIN ?

  13. This post is disappointing in several areas..

    The most glaring failure is, CX only offers business service to Africa / Middle East / South Pacific.

    The only CX F routes are between US and HKG, between EU and HKG. Therefore highlighting the F in the charts where CX does not even have F service is very misleading.

    The other failure is not to mention AS rules in that you can only use AS + 1 partner. It is not at all like any other US airlines programs.

    Finally to those who complain unable to find CX premium cabins – CX releases as many as 5 business seats and 1 F seat on all its US-HKG flight 360 days out but you can only book 330 days out with AS / AA miles because of the limitation of these 2 airlines reservation systems can only handle 330 days out booking.

    Had it not been the AA devaluation, you should not have too much difficulty to find CX premium cabin seats out of the JFK or LAX where they have 3 to 4 daily flights. Other hubs have only 2 or even only 1 daily flight, naturally would be harder to find.

    Currently holding a North America to Africa Award traveling in Aug/Sept – 1 passenger in F 1 passenger in J on the TPAC segments both going and coming, booked in Dec 2015. The J seats did not disappear even till January this year 2 months after AA announcement of devaluation. They finally disappeared about 6 weeks ago when the AA flyers finally started their pre-devaluation booking, naturally.

    Once you pass April 22 2016, you will see CX seats for 2017 availability because for anyone who issued the AA award, the last travel date is Mar 21 2017. No one could extend his ticket beyond the one year mark. Therefore once it passes the booking date of Mar 21, 2017, there would be very little competition for those CX seats.

  14. I would appreciate comment on my Cathay First Class experience LHR-HK on miles. In October 2015 I got stuck on the Glasgow tarmac for 6 hours because of fog in London. When I finally arrived the flight had gone and I was at the back of the standby queue. No hotels available in the area so I spent the night on a departure hall bench. The next day I was told I had virtually no chance to get out because of the backlog and should expect another night or TWO on the bench so I bought myself a First Class EK for the sector and got out that 2nd morning. Now CX are telling me that I will lose the sector because it was only part of a journey unless I pay $25 to reissue the ticket but the new ticket has a shelf life of 30 days. I see this as theft for something that wasn’t under my control. What do people think?

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