Star Alliance member Air China often has very good premium cabin award space from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Houston to Beiing.
Air China rarely ever has much premium cabin award space from New York (or Washington Dulles) to Beijing.
That’s changed, and award space on their flights — with a new, very good product — is so good that it has to be a mistake and cannot last.
Starting in December you can find award space in a premium cabin almost every day. There are plenty of dates where first class is wide open — not just two seats but four or six. And there are even a handful of dates where eight business class seats are available.
Air China has two daily flights. Here’s a day where I was searching for four seats:
Looking for just two seats, starting in December, the availability calendar looks like this. Premium cabin availability is in blue, and when you see light green there is both economy and premium cabin space available.
Here’s a search for eight business class seats.
For awards between North America and North Asia,
- Avianca’s LifeMiles charges 62,500 miles for business and 75,000 miles for first class each way. (Pricing will be going up in a couple of months.)
- United charges 80,000 miles for business and 120,000 miles for first class each way. Points transfer in instantly from Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Aeroplan charges 75,000 miles for business and 105,000 miles for first class each way. There are no fuel surcharges for Aeroplan redemptions on Air China, and points transfer in instantly from American Express Membership Rewards.
Of course since Beijing is Air China’s main hub, you can connect beyond China (and US citizens can stop in Beijing for up to 72 hours without securing a visa in advance).
I haven’t flown Air China’s new ‘Forbidden Pavillion’ first class, but here’s a video review to get a good sense: