Bye Bye Cathay Pacific First Class Awards with AAdvantage Miles?

Will Cathay Pacific Cut First Class Award Availability to Partners?


Cathay Pacific First Class award availability using AAdvantage and other oneworld partner miles may be dying. As most readers know, it's already become very difficult to book Cathay Pacific first class in advance using AAdvantage miles, especially if you're searching for two award seats. This isn't too surprising, given that Cathay's First Class cabin is small, with just 6 seats, and the economy has picked up over the last few years, making it easier for Cathay to sell first class seats to paying passengers.

The result is that for my Award Booking clients with little date flexibility, we often end up reserving one seat in first class and one in business class, then rebooking the business class seat if first class opens up close to the date of departure; or flying JAL First Class or Korean First Class instead, especially if the trip includes North Asia.

For U.S. flyers, AAdvantage miles are currently some of the best miles to have, if you can find award space for your dates. Cathay Pacific First Class to Asia (Asia 2) is 67,500 miles each way, JAL First Class to Japan is 62,500 miles each way, Etihad A380 First Apartment from Abu Dhabi to Sydney and Qantas A380 First Class between Dubai and Australia is 60,000 miles each way, Etihad First Class from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi and Business Class to the Maldives is 90,000 miles each way, and Qatar Business Class from the U.S. to Africa via Doha is 75,000 miles each way. 

The problem Cathay Pacific is experiencing is high demand for its first class award seats from those with AAdvantage miles, with these seats often booked soon after the award calendar opens, leaving no award availability for its own Asia Miles frequent flyer members who may seek to book just a few months before the date of departure. Other programs such as Singapore KrisFlyer and Lufthansa Miles & More have countered this by making premium awards available nearly exclusively to their own frequent flyer program members. Singapore Suites on the A380 and Singapore First Class are only bookable using Singapore KrisFlyer miles, and Lufthansa First Class is only bookable in advance using Miles & More miles, with very few seats available up to 15 days in advance with United MileagePlus and other Star Alliance partner miles.

Per Ben and this South China Morning Post article, Cathay Pacific is also planning to reserve more awards for its own Marco Polo Club members using Asia Miles to redeem for flights, bolding mine:

“…The plan is to slash the number of free air tickets available for partner airlines and to reallocate those to Cathay's own Marco Polo Club members, sources close to the ongoing review say.

However, it is understood the number of points needed to redeem a flight will at the same time go up incrementally.

Cathay had been examining the feasibility of shifting its focus to members of the Marco Polo Club and another rewards scheme, Asia Miles, well before the Consumer Council criticised unnamed carriers last month for operating mileage schemes like “a lucky draw”. No decision had been made yet, the airline said.”


While the airline says it hasn't made a decision yet, I would count on this being just a question of time. Another article notes that Cathay has brought in Jason Adessky, a veteran of Qantas Loyalty who also has worked on Virgin Australia's rewards program, to revamp the Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club revamp. He's likely to bring a more revenue-based component to elite frequent flyer benefits, as well as restricted access to Cathay premium award seat availability for AAdvantage and other partner frequent flyer program members.

Current Asia Miles Award Chart vs. AAdvantage Award Chart

The proposed changes could be good news for my Hong Kong based clients that have large Asia Miles balances and are frustrated by not finding any award availability a few months out. Most of my clients redeeming on Cathay have AAdvantage miles or Alaska MileagePlan miles, so the likely changes are bad news for them. It is possible to transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Asia Miles, and transfers typically take about 1-2 business days. SPG points transfer as well, with a 25% bonus if you transfer in increments of 20,000 points, but transfers can take 2 weeks.

The Asia Miles award chart is distance based, and redemptions are often 30% more to twice the amount you'd pay with AAdvantage miles. 

Asia Miles Award Chart


JFK to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class

  • 67,500 AAdvantage miles each way, 135,000 miles roundtrip
  • 130,000 Asia Miles each way, 220,000 miles roundtrip


LAX to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class

  • 67,500 AAdvantage miles each way, 135,000 miles roundtrip
  • 105,000 Asia Miles each way, 180,000 miles roundtrip
London to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class
  • 70,500 AAdvantage miles each way, 140,000 miles roundtrip
  • 105,000 Asia Miles each way, 180,000 miles roundtrip
Do you plan to redeem AAdvantage miles for Cathay Pacific First Class soon?
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