Since I do expect a devaluation with AAdvantage in the next couple of months for the award chart to Asia, I’m looking for options to redeem my miles on Cathay Pacific. I flew Cathay Pacific in first class last October and then just two weeks ago and I’m still so impressed that I’m having trouble finding anything that can improve on it!
Cathay Pacific releases ONE first class seat 12 months out for most flights and usually fills up the cabin with available award seats about a week before a flight. For business class, the airline releases up to 5 seats 12 months out.
You should have no trouble finding seats from most US destinations to Hong Kong in first or business class.
Before we can go searching, it is necessary to learn about the Cathay Pacific US destinations:
– San Francisco (SFO)
– Los Angeles (LAX)
– New York (JFK)
– Boston (BOS – starting May 2nd 2015)
– Chicago (ORD)
– Newark (EWR – no first class)
– Vancouver (YVR – it’s in Canada but can be used for our purposes just like any US airport)
Now to find availability, you should be looking at the segment from the US airport that is closest to you (or has the most AA/US flights).
Since I live in San Francisco, that is my first choice, but I can easily connect through LAX or YVR (AAdvantage also allows redemptions on Alaska Airlines).
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Use ba.com to find Cathay Pacific First Class/Business Class availability)
You need a British Airways Executive Club login (but you don’t need points) for a search. You can register for an account here.
I punched in SFO and HKG for the search 11 months out (AAdvantage allows you to book only 11 months out, while ba.com shows flights up to 12 months out).
While not every day shows seats available, many days have ONE first class seat and up to 5 business class seats.
Once you have confirmed your leg from the US, add your leg (or two or three) in Asia . This can be Cathay Pacific/Dragonair or Malaysian Airlines, which has a huge network in Southeast Asia). All these airlines will show on ba.com.
Now if you are searching for seats up to 6 months out, ba.com won’t have much availability left.
The one award seat in first class might have been taken in the meantime, so time for another tool.
Use qantas.com.au to find Cathay Pacific First Class or Business Class availability
You need a Qantas Frequent Flyer login (but you don’t need points) for a search. You can register for an account here.
Now search for your segment of choice with the flexible option checked.
For West Coast departures, qantas.com.au works pretty well out of the box, but to be sure, double-check the calendar results with ba.com.
For East Coast departures, you will get a lot of ‘false positives’ from other Qantas partners (namely BA and Emirates).
To avoid that, you can search for PNH instead (the capital of Cambodia).
This will reduce the results quite a bit and ONLY WORKS FOR BUSINESS CLASS and when flights are available all the way, but it ensures that a Cathay Pacific flight (and not a partner flight) is available.
For searches in March 2015, I found about 1-2 seats per month per US-HKG flight. You will need to be flexible!
Call AAdvantage to make your booking
Once you have noted down your preferred flights, call AAdvantage and read the flights to the agents. The good news with Cathay Pacific flights is that there is usually very little ‘phantom availability’ – what you see on ba.com is what you get with AAdvantage.