Cathay Pacific First Class Awards: Earn Asia Miles or AAdvantage Miles?

Cathay Pacific First Class Awards: Earn Asia Miles or AAdvantage Miles?


For Cathay Pacific First Class awards should you earn Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles or AAdvantage Miles? TravelSort reader Lei comments on my post How We Earned 1 Million Miles and Points This YearYou mentioned you anticipate an AAdvantage miles devaluation–do you have an estimate or related articles on how soon and how bad it will be? I have been accumulating Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and wonder if I should start earning AAdvantage as well, for the purpose of redeeming CX awards. Thanks!”

When is an AAdvantage Award Chart Devaluation Coming?

I've no inside information on when the AAdvantage award chart will be devalued, but I do expect it to occur late this year or early next year. At the moment, the new American Airlines is still busy integrating computer systems; for example, the Reservations Systems are expected to be integrated as of October 17. As of that date, there will no longer be US Airways flight numbers, all flights will have American Airlines flight numbers. For any AAdvantage Gold and Platinum elite members, as of October 17 they'll no longer be entitled to complimentary upgrades on US Airways flights over 500 miles; they'll have to pay for these upgrades using their 500 mile upgrades.

Bottom line, there's good reason why any award chart changes will come after October 17, since American is busy with this last piece of integration. But I do expect a devaluation or the announcement of a devaluation within the next 4-5 months, since Doug Parker is at the helm, so Parkerization and revenue maximization is underway, not to mention AA's competitors, United and Delta, have undertaken award chart devaluations that have left AAdvantage miles by far the most valuable for international first class and business class travel. Heck, even some of my Award Booking clients that are current or former elites with British Airways or Qantas keep AAdvantage accounts because the awards are so much better value.

For example, there have been a number of AAdvantage miles bonus sales pushed, while AAdvantage credit card signup bonuses have declined: no more 100K Executive AAdvantage (best offer is 75K, and with no statement credit), no more 50K AAdvantage Business card, and the regular Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select offer is only 30K (although see the Best Travel Credit Cards page for a 50K offer). Meanwhile Customer Service seems severely understaffed, as it took over 2 months for me to get a reply to my complaint about a non-working seat, and the goodwill gesture wasn't a refund of my Preferred Seat fee or AAdvantage miles, but rather a voucher, of course only valid on American. Meanwhile, passengers such as Paul are getting shafted on their EC 261-2004 compensation by American Airlines reps who outright lie, stating that the regulation does not apply to U.S. residents (see Get American Airlines to Pay EU Compensation for a Flight Delay). 

 

AAdvantage Miles Currently the Best Value for Cathay Pacific First Class But Reduced Award Availability

Currently the AAdvantage award chart offers the best value for Cathay Pacific First Class. Here are examples of the AAdvantage miles charged for commonly booked awards, and comparisons to Cathay Pacific's Asia Miles program, Alaska Mileage Plan and British Airways Executive Club:

NYC JFK to Hong Kong HKG in Cathay Pacific First Class (One Way)

  • 67,500 American AAdvantage miles
  • 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles
  • 130,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (220,000 roundtrip)
  • 140,000 British Airways Avios points

NYC JFK to Hong Kong HKG in Cathay Pacific Business Class (One Way)

  • 55,000 American AAdvantage miles
  • 50,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles
  • 85,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (145,000 roundtrip)
  • 105,000 British Airways Avios points
 
Los Angeles LAX to Hong Kong HKG in Cathay Pacific First Class (One Way)
  • 67,500 American AAdvantage miles
  • 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles
  • 105,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (180,000 roundtrip)
  • 140,000 British Airways Avios points


Los Angeles LAX to Hong Kong HKG in Cathay Pacific Business Class (One Way)

  • 55,000 American AAdvantage miles
  • 50,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles
  • 70,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles (120,000 roundtrip)
  • 105,000 British Airways Avios points

Keep in mind that Alaska miles can be preferable if you want to have a stopover in Hong Kong, since AAdvantage awards don't permit any stopovers; stopping anywhere for over 24 hours will break it into 2 separate awards, at greater cost.

 

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Becoming More Valuable for Booking Cathay First Class in Advance

Given the cheaper award chart using AAdvantage miles, Lei is wondering whether to switch to earning AAdvantage miles. He may well want to, if he can earn plenty of AAdvantage miles quickly, say 75K via the Citi Executive AAdvantage card, credit card spend, and/or crediting upcoming flights on American or oneworld airlines to AAdvantage. I'd just recommend he have a plan to earn and redeem those AAdvantage miles quite soon, ahead of an AAdvantage award chart devaluation.

But here's why he'll also be happy to have the Asia Miles he's already earned in Cathay's own frequent flyer program: Cathay is in the process of reducing the number of Cathay Pacific First Class awards available to partners (see Bye Bye Cathay Pacific First Class Awards with AAdvantage Miles?)

There's no question it's not easy even with Asia Miles to book more than 1 Cathay Pacific First Class award seat in advance, but there is greater availability for dates and flights using Asia Miles. Here are a few examples:

Cathay Pacific First Class Award Availability with Asia Miles for JFK to Hong Kong; None for Partners

No Cathay First Class Awards with Partner Miles

Cathay Pacific First Class Award Available with Asia Miles

 

More Cathay Pacific First Class Award Availability for LAX to Hong Kong; Less for Partners

Only 1 Cathay Pacific First Class Award Available with Partner Miles

Cathay First Class: Several Flights Available with Asia Miles

 

Also keep in mind that Cathay's award calendar opens earliest, 360 days ahead; this is ahead of even British Airways, which opens 354 days ahead, let alone the 331 days ahead for AAdvantage or 330 days ahead for Alaska Mileage Plan.


Best Opportunity to Book Cathay Pacific First Class for 2: the Week Before Departure

As anyone who recently has tried to book Cathay Pacific first class for two people knows, this has become next to impossible in advance for routes to and from the U.S., since only 1 first class seat is typically available in advance, if at all. Instead, you'll want to look for a date where you can book 1 first class and 1 business class in advance, and then monitor closely the week before departure to try to rebook the business class as first class. 


Bottom Line

Most U.S. based flyers will have earned AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan miles from a combination of credit card signup bonuses and spend and flights. But for flyers based in Asia or elsewhere who fly extensively on Cathay Pacific and have earned Asia Miles, those miles are becoming more valuable as Cathay reduces first class award availability to partners, and serve as a means to lock in a first class award even before partner award calendars open. For flyers with ample Asia Miles balances, some AAdvantage miles could be a good strategy, but only if the miles can easily be earned and redeemed within the next few months, ahead of a likely devaluation.

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