So, I see a lot of you have been booking Cathay Pacific first class awards…

There really aren’t very many better award redemption values out there than first class award tickets on Cathay Pacific, so I went ahead and locked in a pair of first class tickets to Bali for next March using 135,000 American AAdvantage miles per person. Ultimately I can change and redeposit the tickets for free as an Executive Platinum member (which I don’t intend to do), so it seemed like a no brainer.

Anyway, in looking at space for March of next year, I can’t help but notice that a lot of the San Francisco to Hong Kong flights now have two fewer first class seats in inventory than a couple of days ago. While I won’t take credit for all of it, I’m dying to know how many of you have booked/held first class award seats between San Francisco and Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific over the past few days for travel next year?

I guess I might just see some of you in Bali…

It’s funny how small the frequent flyer world is at times, since I relayed the story about how I stayed up to book an award ticket for a client from Melbourne to Los Angeles in Qantas first class, only to find that someone else snagged the space minutes earlier in the wee hours of the night. As confirmed in the comments section of the previous post, it was a reader!

Filed Under: Awards, Cathay Pacific
  1. What site do you look at to see Cathay award space? Specifically redeemable using AA miles?

  2. I use the BA Executive Club Award search engine.

    You know which airline is much easier than CX for F award space?? BA.

    Yes yes the stupid fuel surcharges, I know…

  3. @ Brian — Like Golfingboy, I use the BA website to search award space.

    @ Golfingboy — I agree that BA has more award space than Cathay on the flights on which they do release award space, though in my experience BA doesn’t release space nearly as regularly as Cathay. In other words, Cathay just about ALWAYS has two award seats per flight on several routes, while BA will open up eight seats on one flight and no seats on the next flight.

  4. True true. It is always nice to have an airline in an alliance that we can rely on if all else fails and time constraint is an issue.

    It seems that in *A it is now UA for ex-US awards, but finding F space on TG EU-Asia is as easy as making an apple pie.

    Now, if we could somehow convince QF to start releasing award space more consistently šŸ˜‰

  5. @Brian: I like QF site as it is easy to navigate and shows month of available space although not ALWAYS accurate (consistent)with what AA can see.

  6. Just to testify how easy it is to book award space on CX, I would like to offer the following.

    Back in late January I booked 5 seats on CX in Business for LAX-KUL and on the return 2 in First and 3 in Business coming back to JFK. I called at 0500 EST 331 days out.

    I bragged about my success on Flyertalk and another FTer came back and told me he was looking at the same outbound flight and thought about it just a minute too long and the seats disappeared right in front of him!

  7. Don’t forget that one of the two SFO flights downgauges 77H on September 1, that likely affects availability as well.

  8. @ Gary — True, though my observation is that availability is now “F4” for the 777 flight and “F7” for the 747 flight, so I doubt it has much of an impact here. They seem to still be releasing two award seats in first class on the 777.

  9. I’m contemplating purposely planning our Christmas 2013 vacation in Asia, just for these tickets!

  10. Lucky – were you able to snag seats in the first class cabin for the HKG>DPS segment? It seems that after CX made their reservation system changes, this became available to me, and my wife and I were able to pick seats in this cabin (even though before the first class cabin was blocked for seat selection).

  11. @ Eric — Cathay Pacific only opens up their seatmaps 180 days out, so unfortunately I haven’t been able to select any seats yet.

  12. Could it possibly be related to the Burma sale/error and the Cathay awards are from the States to Burma connecting through Hong Kong.

    I know of a passenger who booked an award ticket on Cathay first class to get to Burma to avail himself of the cheap return ticket. (Not to mention a booked award return ticket in the event that the Burma to USA tickets are rejected during travel.)

  13. I needed to call Cathay, but the phone number listed for USA is always busy. Anyone has idea how to reach them by phone?

  14. @ Sol — Their phone lines are consistently busy. If you call a dozen times or so, you should eventually get through. It takes a LOT of persistence. It really is quite ridiculous.

  15. How easy it is to book an award has a lot to do with how many seats you need at any point in time. I usually need 4 seats and it’s anything but easy. I am about to do the trip AUS-LAX-HKG-DPS and return, and it was very difficult finding availability for 4 seats. I lucked into 4 J awards r/t after tons of reserach on KVSTool 10 months ago, but it was very hard and the dates were not optimal.

    That said, we do get to fly the new J class from LAX-HKG and F suites from HKG-DPS (my kids and wife will be blown away). Unfortunately on the return, we got onto a regional J class product on CX 777-300 from DPS-HKG, but that shouldn’t be too big a deal…

  16. When do they usually open up for last min. award seats using AA miles? Is there any day/time that’s better than others? For example if I was ten days out and there were 6 seats left in 1st and 8 in business would you think that they would release any when economy is sold out?

    Thanks for any advice.

  17. @ Dave — Unfortunately there’s not any particular algorithm that I’ve been able to determine, and it really does vary by route, day of week, and other factors. But generally speaking I find they start releasing a lot of space within two weeks of departure.

  18. I just booked my first CX F award (yay) from JFK-HKK using BA miles and they assigned me a seat 2A (boo for a middle seat). A few minutes later I also booked BKK-HKG-JFK using AA miles but no seats assigned. Weird. I guess I have to wait for the 180 day mark?

  19. @ Rebecca — Congrats! Cathay does indeed only open up their seatmaps 180 days before departure. While BA may have said that they requested a seat for you, if it’s outside the 180 day window it likely won’t confirm.

  20. Thanks! It’s definitely outside the 180 days. The trip is January 2013! Now I just need to get from/to Boston! No miles saver awards outbound and the CX flight arrives at JFK too late for any JFK-BOS flights. Oh well, if I have to pay for a flight it will be worth it!

  21. I plan to book an F award JFK- Bali and can transfer miles from my starwood account to BA or AA. seems like r/t in first on AA is 135K and on BA is 260K. could that be right?

  22. @ Martin — Yep, that’s absolutely correct. BA has much higher costs since they have a distance based award chart.

  23. Just out of curiosity I called CX to see if, as a first class passenger, I could confirm seats for my January 2013 flights. She let me do it no problem so my seats on all CX legs are confirmed!

  24. Their web site still seems a bit off, they don’t show flight times for outbound, return is ok though.

    27 Sep 2012, Thu CX883
    LAX HKG 00:00 00:00 77W 0
    First (Z) R Confirmed 02D

    29 Sep 2012, Sat CX713
    HKG BKK 00:00 00:00
    773 0 Business (U) R Confirmed 14A

  25. I agree with your post. I am trying to get award tickets in first on CX between SFO-HKG. Do you know how many seats they usually release on each flight?


  26. @ mike — Cathay Pacific doesn’t release award space quite as regularly as they did when I first posted, though they often release two first class seats per flight (rarely more, though).

  27. I just stumbled upon the CX connection with AA and booked F from SAN/LAX to Beijing and Hong Kong to LAX/SAN return for a month in China in May 2014. It cost me a whopping $65 and 135K AA miles.

    This must be the best use of FF miles to be sure.Glad I also stumbled upon your site for other travel tips and confirmation that this isn’t too good to be true.

    BTW, your pic I cute too, lol. Thanks, Eric

  28. I’ve had my eye on the HKG-SFO route for two months now, and there’s almost no Business or First availability in the second half of October when I need to travel. I’ve heard (and seen) that Cathay releases more premium seats to BA 1-2 days before takeoff, so I booked an Economy ticket as backup. Planning to book a new ticket if something opens before departure, then cancel the other and pay the fee to get my Avios redeposited.

  29. @ Matt — They tend to open up space right when the booking window opens ~11 months out and then again closer to departure. Often they open space more than 1-2 days out, but more like a week out, so I’d start monitoring closely around that point.

  30. @ Lucky – I noticed that you fly CX into SFO instead of LAX. Since I’m in Houston, if I were to book a ticket on an AA award, flying through LAX is better because there’s a direct LAXIAH flight on AA. Is SFO vs LAX just based on your connecting flights or is one much better than another?

  31. @ Ivan Y — I’d definitely go through Los Angeles then for the more direct routing. I don’t think there’s a substantial benefit to one gateway over the other.

  32. @ Lucky – Thank you! Time to start collecting some AA miles. Have plenty of Avios but will keep using it for S7 flights for family because, as you rightfully point out, AA is way better for longer routes (for HKG-IAH in F, AA=67,500 miles+$35.50; BA=135,000+$172.57).

    Also, in case anyone’s wondering about current CX F space on HKF-LAX, there is nothing October 10 – November 1; good availability on 10/5 & 10/6 and spotty on 10/7, 10/8, 10/9.

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