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The ability to use miles earned with one airline to book flights on another is one of the most helpful benefits of a frequent flyer program. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, an American Airlines oneworld partner, is a Skytrax 5-star airline that offers comfortable seats and the highest level of service in all classes.
Redeeming AAdvantage miles on Cathay Pacific for flights to Asia is one of the smartest things you can do with your miles. Here is what you need to know about finding award space and booking your flight.
Cathay Pacific flies to 8 cities in North America: Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (JFK, EWR), San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver. With the connection in Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Dragon Air will take you to almost 90 other destinations around the world.
Since American Airlines doesn’t display Cathay availability, there are a few other ways to look for it. You could search for award space on the Cathay Pacific website, but that won’t give you an accurate picture, as Cathay Pacific doesn’t share all its award availability with the partners. Searching the Qantas or British Airways sites will give you a better picture, and of these two we prefer the British Airways website. Keep in mind, however, that in some instances the Cathay Atlantic award space you find on BA.com may not be available with AAdvantage miles, although usually it’s not the case.
You won’t normally have a problem with Economy Class awards, but if you are looking for Business or First, your best bet is to search either far in advance or closer to the date of your departure. If you can wait and book within a month from your departure (you still need to be flexible, though), this is what your availability looks like.
However, if you can book far in advance, things get much easier.
Just beware that within a week before departure, the British Airways site doesn’t reliably show Cathay award space, which is a time when it often opens up, especially for First and Business Class, so you’ll need to use the Qantas site or call AAdvantage to check space.
Another neat and, most importantly, free way to search for Cathay Pacific award flights is the Award Flight Finder, a Chrome extension that allows you to semi-automate your search. If you search for several dates, it can take a long time, but it’ll work on the background while you can do some more important things. We reviewed this excellent app here.
Note that unlike Cathay Pacific that allows its own members to book an award 360 days out or British Airways (355 days out), you can only book an award seat with American AAdvantage miles 331 days out. So make sure not to search too far in advance.
If you want to use Cathay Pacific on an AAdvantage award departing the U.S., there are only two regions you can fly: Asia Region 2, which includes Hong Kong and most of Southeast Asia. And the Indian Subcontinent, which is a special exception AAdvantage makes for connections from the U.S.. which is a recent change.
That’s very good news for the West Coast travelers, as they now have an option to fly to India or the Maldives over the Pacific, while in the past they had to go East via Europe or the Middle East.
Otherwise, going for example from Los Angeles – Hong Kong – Japan (which is in Asia Region 1) will cost you two awards, and going from Los Angeles – Hong Kong – Sydney (which is in the South Pacific) will cost you two awards.
These are the countries you can reach with Cathay Pacific on an AAdvantage award from the United States:
You will be charged two awards if you use any other routing or connection to other countries. For more details, check our guide to AAdvantage routing rules.
Using AAdvantage miles on Cathay Pacific in Business Class for flights to Asia or the Indian Subcontinent is one of the best redemptions you can get. The recent devaluation didn’t hit these particular redemption levels too hard, and you will pay only 70,000 miles for the privilege of spending 12-15 hours in one of the better Business Class seats in the world.
Here are the costs. via the AAdvantage OneWorld / Partner Award Chart.:
U.S. – Asia 2: 37,500 in Economy; 70,000 in Business; 110,000 in First.
U.S. – Indian Subcontinent: 40,000 in Economy; 70,000 in Business; 115,000 in First.
Another good option is a Fifth Freedom flight between New York and Vancouver – clocked at around 6 hours, this flight would cost you 15,000 miles in Economy, 30,000 miles in Business and 55,000 in First.
This is what you pay for flying between the U.S. and Asia 2 or the Indian Subcontinent.
Cathay Pacific has excellent product in all classes of service, and there are dedicated Cathay Pacific fans who believe it has the best First Class cabin in the world. While that statement may not resonate with everyone, this tiny, six-seat cabin does have the flair of privacy and exclusivity. The Cathay Business Class cabin is nothing to sneeze at either. It features reverse herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 configuration with aisle access from every seat.
Premium Economy cabins on long haul routes are excellent too, and they rival Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class seats. Unfortunately, you can’t yet redeem AA miles for the Cathay Pacific Premium Economy product.
Also, Cathay Pacific doesn’t offer Wi-Fi on any of its flights, although they have been promising WiFi on the new A350 aircraft. The problem is, all Cathay Pacific U.S. destinations are currently served by 777’s. This is a real bummer because flights between the U.S. and Hong Kong are among the longest in the world.
Interestingly, the carrier is considering launching nonstop flights between Miami and Hong Kong on an A350 – although they would need an even bigger plane modification for that. When and if it happens is currently unclear.
You can’t book Cathay Pacific flights on AA.com, so the only way is to call AAdvantage on 1-800-882-8880. Since the flight can’t be booked online you won’t have to pay the phone booking fees.
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