Award Space Wide Open: Take Your Whole Family to Asia in Business or First!

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:

(HT: @hungariannomad)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Go for first if you can.

    Unquestionably it is not the world’s #1 business class, but if you are trying to get your whole family business class awards you probably would jump on this.

  2. Avianca’s pricing for 1 way JFK-PEK in F is 75,000 Lifemiles, not 85,000 as you mention in your post. When you have a chance, please correct this. Thanks!

  3. And likewise, pricing for J is 62,500 not 65,000. Sorry for being so stuck on details but I am OCD and cannot help myself.

  4. @Michael this great award space is for JFK-PEK.

    @Michael yes of course, and i even put the correct pricing in my earlier post on the lifemiles chart i link to, not sure what i was looking at when i wrote this way to early 🙂

  5. I recently flew Houston to Beijing in first and was very impressed with the first class product. Language barrier was a little challenging but not overcome and food was better than expected. The hard product is very very comfortable. I flew Cathay Hong Kong to Chicago on the way back on the same trip and while the language was easier and food options were better, the overall experience was very similar.

  6. I’ve flown Air China first class LAX-PEK. It defiantly wasn’t worth the extra points. The food was okay, entertainment selection was limited, and the seat was nice but felt a little beat up (despite being less than a year old). The FA’s English was very limited and a couple times we weren’t able to communicate. Maybe the problem was because the only other first class I’ve flown is Cathay and that was spectacular.

    Also I ended up with a rash/bug bites/hives on my lower back that was exposed to the seat.

  7. Gary – would you please list your latest link that discusses your current miles and points valuations. Would you also please discuss issues we travelers should start considering/addressing in anticipation of most airline frequent flier programs transitioning to a revenue based FFP.


  8. I flew CA SIN-CTU in their domestic 1st on a UA Biz itinerary and was pleased with their soft product. However, their angle seat was TERRIBLE. It was only a 4.5 hour flight, but I was already uncomfortable less than an hour into the flight. Excellent service, terrible seat.

    I’ve heard a lot about CA award flights disappearing, especially from UA itineraries from US to China or China to the US. Not a risk I’m willing to take.

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