Cathay Pacific First Class: Don't Count On All Unsold Seats Released as Awards
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Hilary Stockton

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Cathay Pacific First Class: Don't Count On All Unsold Seats Released as Awards


Cathay Pacific First Class is one of the first class awards most requested by my Award Booking clients, along with Singapore Suites on the A380 and Etihad First Apartment. It's interesting to me, because while I certainly love that the seats are huge and there are only 6 of them in first class, it's not the most comfortable bed (that would be Singapore Suites, JAL First Class and even JAL Business Class) and I find the food pretty disappointing, at least compared with Qantas First Class, Emirates First Class, JAL First Class, and the choices offered by Singapore Book the Cook. So Cathay First Class wouldn't be my first choice when flying to Asia, but to each his own.

But on to the subject of this post--a frequent question I get is: Will Cathay Pacific release unsold seats as award tickets? The answer, as is often the case, is: maybe--but don't count on it.

Booking in Advance? Typically Only 1 Cathay Pacific First Class Award Seat Available per Route

If you're booking your award flights far in advance, you'll notice that there's just one Cathay Pacific First Class award seat available (or none, if someone else has already gotten to it, or if it's during a high demand period when Cathay isn't releasing any award seats for a particular flight).


Close to Departure: Some Award Seats Are Released...

Cathay does release some of its unsold first class seats as award tickets about 10 days prior to departure date. Some are released to oneworld partners such as American AAdvantage and British Airways Executive Club, or other airline partners such as Alaska Airlines. So if you're extremely lucky (and flexible) you could conceivably snag 2 or, more rarely, 3 or even 4 first class seats a few days before departure.


...With More Availability for Cathay Pacific's Own Asia Miles Members

There's more award availability for Cathay's own Asia Miles frequent flyer members. This is why it's a good idea to diversify your miles and points, and have AMEX Membership Rewards points and/or Citi ThankYou points that you can transfer to Asia Miles.

Here's an example; earlier today I searched March 4, and there's availability with Cathay Pacific Asia miles for a First Class award on CX841 from JFK to HKG:

Cathay Pacific First Class Award Available with Asia Miles


But checking with British Airways and other partner miles, there was no award availability for that flight.

No Cathay Pacific First Class Award Space on Same Date with Partner Miles


Some Seats Are Never Released as Awards

That said, you can't assume that all seats that are not purchased even a day or hours before departure will be released as award seats. I had clients with one award seat in first class and one seat in business class, who obviously were hoping that Cathay Pacific would open up another first class award so they could sit together in first class. That never happened, even though there were 2 unsold first class seats on that flight, an hour before departure.

Cathay Pacific First Class: 2 Seats for Sale...


Even using Cathay Asia Miles Priority Awards Tier 2 (which at 210,000 miles each way cost double the miles of a standard award) nothing was available even an hour before departure.

No Award Seat Even with Cathay Asia Miles Priority Awards Tier 2


The Bottom Line

If you're hoping to fly Cathay Pacific First Class with a partner, just know that there is a considerable chance that you won't be able to fly it together in first class, even if the flight goes out with one or more empty seats in first class. You have a few options:

1. Fly on separate flights, each in First Class

2. Fly together in business class

3. Book one award and pay for the other First Class seat (an expensive proposition, since even 1 ways can be $17,000 or more)

4. Be extremely flexible and take your trip whenever you happen to see two Cathay Pacific First Class award seats; most likely this will be anywhere from next day to within a few days' time of departure.

Recommended Posts

Cathay Pacific First Class Review, Hong Kong to LAX

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User_avatar_default Angel M. commented 01 Mar 2017
@Hilary: please note that BA is not showing CX availability close to departure (I believe within 7 days). QF does, so that's your best bet asides from Asia Miles. Check 3/5/2017. You'll see CX 831 available on Asia Miles and Qantas site but not on BA. You should still be able to redeem AA, BA or AS miles but you need to call. Just my $0.02 :)
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 01 Mar 2017
Hi Angel, thanks for the comment. Actually at the time I wrote this article there was nothing available with British Airways for March 4 for CX845 (the date in question for the example is March 4, not March 5)--I called to check. But I agree with you that it's good to double check on the Qantas site for partner award space. British Airways currently does show at least some Cathay First Class award availability close to departure. Yesterday at time of writing there was a date within 7 days of departure with 3 Cathay First Class seats, which had disappeared within a couple hours. But most importantly is the fact that not all unsold Cathay Pacific First Class seats are released even to Cathay Asia Miles members, even those willing to pay double miles with Priority Awards Tier 2.
User_avatar_default Angel M. commented 01 Mar 2017
Correct on the dates. I only used March 5th because nothing is available on the 4th (even with Asia miles). Using the 5th, nothing is available according to BA but you can see availability with Asia Miles or QF. AA should be able to book these awards even though they don't show up on!
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