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How You Can Experience Cathay Pacific First Class

Cathay Pacific is easily one of the best airlines in the world and is well-known for having one of the most special first class cabins in the sky. I was pumped to share with you when I was able to book it with miles.

With only six first-class seats, award-winning service, Krug champagne, caviar and a throne seat fit for a king or queen, it’s no wonder why people redeem their American Airlines miles to experience this luxury.

Cathay Pacific First Class “Bed”

Because American Airlines and Cathay Pacific are Oneworld alliance partners, you can redeem AAdvantage miles to experience international first class with Cathay Pacific.

Although you can use miles from Alaska Airlines, British Airways or even Cathay Pacific’s own miles to redeem for First Class on Cathay Pacific, American Airlines actually offers plenty of easy ways to earn the miles you need and that’s why I opt to use them.

That’s because there are several credit cards that earn American Airlines miles with ease. For example:

  • Citi American Airlines Executive – 75,000 American Airlines bonus miles after spending $7,500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Citi American Airlines small business card–  Earn 60,000 American Airlines bonus miles after $3,000 in purchases in the first 3 months of account opening
  • Barclaycard American Airlines Aviator Red– 50,000 American Airlines bonus miles after your first purchase and payment of annual fee within the first 90 days of account opening

Do you have $11,000 for a one-way in Cathay Pacific First Class? Heck no, USE MILES!

Cathay Pacific operates non-stop First Class service to its main hub in Hong Kong from the following 5 US cities:

  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Boston

If you don’t live in any of the above cities, no worries. You can connect for no extra miles from your home airport if there is award space at the lowest level. Or you can purchase a cheap connection flight.

If using American Airlines miles, you will need 110,000 miles one-way to redeem for Cathay Pacific First Class. It may seem like a lot of miles to spend on a one-way flight to Hong Kong but we’re not just talking about a regular flight, we’re talking about a luxury experience in the sky!

Champagne? Yes, please!

If you decide to embark on booking this aspirational award, you’ll need a strategy. The following tips will help you increase your chances at experiencing Cathay Pacific First Class.

1. Start Your Search With British Airways Website

If using American Airlines miles, you won’t find award space by going to You’ll need to use the British Airway website to find award space. Here’s how to search Cathay Pacific Award availability with British Airways:

Step 1

Log into your British Airways account by entering your membership number and PIN in the top right side of the screen and click “Log in.” Don’t have a British Airways Executive Club account? Sign-up for a free account here.

Step 2

Put cursor over “Executive Club” and click on “Spending Avios”

Step 3

Click on “Book a Reward Flight”

Step 4

Enter one of the cities where Cathay Pacific has a First Class like “New York” in the “From” box and “Hong Kong” in the “To” box and select “First Class” as the class of service.

Enter your departure date and click the “One way only” box because searching segment by segment makes it easier.  If you are booking a return trip, just search for the return segments after you find awards for your outbound segments.

And finally, I click on “Get Flights”.

Step 5

You’ll be given the option for a stop over but you will select no stopover, because the only option for a stop over is in London and we don’t want to see routes via London because those flights will be on British Airways (we’re trying to find Cathay Pacific availability).

Now you will get to see if there are any seats in First Class from New York to Hong Kong.

 Step 6

Write down flight information and call American Airlines to book as you will not be using British Airways Avios. You’re just using BA’s website to search for award space. 


2. Start Your Search 331 Days in Advance

Planning your trip 11 months out from the date of travel is the best way to increase your chances at finding Cathay Pacific First Class award space.

That’s because Cathay Pacific usually only loads one First Class award seat on its flights between the United States and Hong Kong, 331 days in advance (when using AA miles).

One First Class seat on 2 of 4 flights from NYC to Hong Kong

Remember that Cathay Pacific First Class is available from five U.S. cities so make sure to check for award space from all five airports.


3) Check Airports With More Daily Flights

Start your search with JFK and LAX as each airport has four daily flights to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific 777-300 Aircraft Departing JFK

San Francisco has three flights but 2 of 3 operate on Sunday and Monday only, not the ideal day to start a vacation.

Boston and Chicago have daily service to Hong Kong but with only one flight a day, demand may be higher so that could mean less award seats. Either way, begin your search with JFK and LAX and go from there.


4) Mix and Match Airports

Since Cathay Pacific First Class is available from five U.S. airports, you can depart from one city and return from another.

For example, I found space OUT of Chicago to Hong Kong but no seats back IN to Chicago. Because I have to connect from Miami anyway since Cathay Pacific only operates their 777 luxurious First Class cabin from five U.S. cities, I’m open to returning to ANY of the 5 cities.

Due to the fact that First Class award is scarce unless you book 300+ days in advance, I decided to book us on the return in business class and side-by-side.

Cathay Pacific Business Class – Not too shabby either!

We found business class space flying into San Francisco and will spend 70,000 AA miles each instead of 110,000 (the cost of First) for a slightly less luxurious experience.


5) Be Flexible

Lastly, be flexible. Cathay Pacific will normally release a few first class award seats closer to departure. If you are flexible (and a good planner) you could find 2 or more first class seats just a few days before your departure date. As a Dad of young children, I’m forced to plan way ahead so this option doesn’t benefit me much. But it could payoff huge dividends if you have the flexibility to wait until close to departure date.

I would encourage you to begin checking award space on the British Airways website 10 days prior to your desired departure date. Check daily and often.


Bottom Line

Cathay Pacific is one of the most desired First Class experiences in the sky. With amazing food, champagne, service and a seat that turns into a comfy bed when reclined flat, this experience is attainable with a little planning and the right credit card sign-ups.


Do you have plans to fly Cathay Pacific First Class using miles one day?

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