This is going to be a fairly technical post but I’ll do my best to explain it simply. There have been plenty of reader concerns the last few weeks that Cathay Pacific no longer offers business class award space to American AAdvantage or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members. It turns out there’s just a trick to find and book the space.
Cathay Pacific Zeroed Out Business Class Award Space
Ever since just before Cathay Pacific devalued their award chart last month business class award space on the airline appears to have completely dried up, at least for partners.
If you’re using miles from American AAdvantage, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, British Airways Executive Club and other partner programs you won’t find business class long haul award space.
For instance here’s a search for New York JFK – Hong Kong next June 11 using Qantas miles (search performed with the KVS Tool):
You’ll see there’s first class and premium economy award space on these Cathay flights, but nothing in business class. Here I repeat the search via British Airways Executive Club:
We get the same result, although the BA.com website returns not just whether space is available but the number of award seats available in each cabin.
You Can Still Book Cathay Pacific Business Class With Asia Miles
It turns out that this doesn’t mean you cannot book Cathay Pacific business class awards.
There’s plenty of business class space being offered to Cathay Pacific’s own Asia Miles members.
Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and they have a US-issued co-brand credit card of their own as well.
Book Awards Using American Miles For Travel Beyond Hong Kong
This space shown to Cathay Pacific Asia Miles members is bookable with partner miles. It turns out Cathay Pacific is using married segment logic (HT: TravelSort) which means that non-stop space New York JFK – Hong Kong won’t show available, but if you call and ask for New York – Bangkok or other destinations it will show up as available.
I don’t see the space at BA.com, which appears to be showing availability for each segment individually. Over the phone it should be bookable.
This turns the usual advice to search segment-by-segment on its head. Normally you want to have an agent search for long haul award space you know is available, and then for the onward connection. In the case you want to search for the whole award.
The Trick to Book Non-Stop Hong Kong Flights With Partner Miles
What if you really do just want to go to Hong Kong? Or what if you want to connect on another airline besides Cathay Pacific beyond Hong Kong?
That’s possible too. I called up American AAdvantage and asked for a business class award from New York to Hong Kong. They confirmed what I already knew from the BA.com and Qantas websites, that this wasn’t available.
Then I asked the agent to search for New York JFK – Bangkok. She happily set up an award and put it on hold for me.
I thanked her and hung up. Then I called right back and asked the next agent if she could just end the award in Hong Kong, removing the last segment of the itinerary for me? Again, no problem. Once I held the award the segments were no longer married.
So the trick here is to find available business class award space using Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles website (so you know what’s available) and then call and ask for an award from that city, for that date, beyond Hong Kong to a city with plenty of award space like Bangkok, Singapore or Taipei.
Or just call up your airline’s frequent flyer program and ask them to search the space themselves. Just don’t ask to travel “to Hong Kong.” Ask to go to Bangkok, or to Singapore, on Cathay Pacific.
And then if you don’t want to travel all the way to those cities, have the next agent drop the connecting flight. This is especially easy with American since they allow you to put award space on hold for 5 days without ticketing.