Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 8b – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using Japan Airlines’ Website

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Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro:

In yesterday’s post, Gary Leff, who has redeemed more than 100 million miles worth of awards, Phil & Arizona Guy commented that the Japan Airlines website may be easier to use than the British Airways website.

So here’s a post on how to use the Japan Airlines website to find Cathay Pacific award availability.  Thanks, Gary, Arizona Guy & Phil!

The easiest free way to check Cathay Pacific award availability is by using the  Japan Airlines website to check Cathay Pacific award availability.

You can also check the Cathay Pacific website itself for award availability, but it may show you award seats which cannot be booked by partner airlines such as American Airlines.  That’s why I prefer checking the website of a partner airline such as Japan Airlines and then calling American Airlines to make the booking.

However, occasionally the Japan Airlines website will show Cathay Pacific availability which can’t be booked by American Airlines, so double check by using the British Airways website as well.

Cathay Pacific is one of the nicest airlines in the world, and is a great way to spend your American Airlines miles.

Using Cathay Pacific to fly from the US to Hong Kong makes it much easier to get to Asia using American Airline miles because not only can you fly on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong, but you could then connect to other Cathay Pacific flights (including its Dragon Air subsidiary) to get to other destinations in Asia.

You can also fly on American Airlines or Japan Airlines to Japan and then connect on either Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and from Hong Kong to other Asian destinations.

Japan Airlines Award Website quirks

The Japan Airline is a bit quirky in that the website isn’t easy to navigate for the 1st few times.

You also have to apply for a free Japan Airlines Membership Bank account and then search for award flights.

Cathay Pacific Departure Cities

Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong from the following North American cities:

  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • New  York
  • San Fransisco
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver

Here’s a link to the Cathay Pacific route map.

How to find Cathay Pacific Award availability

Let’s say I want to find 1 seat from Nashville, TN to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on October 16, 2012 in First Class.

I can search on, but it won’t show Cathay Pacific award availability, and will prompt me to call the reservation department.

So I break up my flight into segments.  I’ll first look for award availability from:

  • The US to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific using the British Airways website
  • Then Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur on Cathay Pacific using the British Airways website
  • Finally the award from Nashville to the US departure city of my Cathay Pacific international flight on

All these segments will cost me a flat-rate of 67,500 miles for a 1-way First Class award, 55,000 miles in business class, and 35,000 miles in economy using American Airlines miles because American Airlines doesn’t charge by segment.

Step 1 – Signing up for a Japan Airlines Membership Bank account

Sign up for a free Japan Airlines Membership Bank account.  Be sure to click the “Americas” or region where you live to get to the right form.

Step 2 – Log into your Japan Airlines Membership Bank account

If you stay in the Americas, sign into your Japan Airlines account here with your membership number and PIN.

If you stay in Europe/Middle East/Africa, sign into your Japan Airlines account , and if you stay in Asia/Oceania, sign in here.

Step 3 – Finding availability from the US to Hong Kong

Click on “JMB Partner Airlines Award Ticket Reservation” on the left side.

Cathay Pacific Award

Step 3 – Click “JMB Partner Airlines Award Ticket Reservation”

Step 4

Enter “Cathay Pacific” under the Partner Airline drop down box.

Select your “Class of Service” – First, Business, or Economy.

Cathay Pacific Award

Step 4 – Enter in your flight details

Select your Departure and Arrival cities and the date of travel.

Your departure cities should be either Chicago, Los Angeles, New  York, San Fransisco, Toronto or Vancouver if you’re searching for a flight to Hong Kong from the US.

Click on “Next

Step 5 – Viewing the results

We soon see the results and find 1 seat from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific flight 0883.

So instead of relying on the American Airlines agent to find this flight for you, you can feed this specific flight to the agent to book.

Cathay Pacific Award

Bingo!  Award seats are available

At this point, write down the flight details.  For example, I’d write down:

CX 0883 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) departing at 23:50 on October 16 and arriving in Hong Kong on October 18 at 5:40 am in First Class

Segment 2 – Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur

Repeat steps 4 & 5 to find award availability from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur.

Actually, the Japan Airlines website seems to be smart enough to find award flights from Los Angeles to Kulala Lumpur, Malaysia without having to search segment by segment.  But I still like to search segment by segment.

Cathay Pacific Award

Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur

I’d write down my flights and then ask the American Airlines agent to book the sequence of flights for me.

Taxes and Fees

Booking a Cathay Pacific award using American Airlines miles is very cheap.  For example, it costs only $2.50 in taxes and fees for an award ticket from Los Angeles to Hong Kong in First Class on Cathay Pacific.

And $35.50 for the return flight from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in First Class.

You’ll have to pay a $25 telephone booking fee, but it is totally worth that fee to get access to partner airlines.

Calling American Airlines to make the booking

I’d then call American Airlines (1-800-433-7300) and ask them to put on hold (for up to 5 days) these specific flights which I found.

Bottom Line:  The Japan Airlines website is great for searching for award seats on Cathay Pacific quickly.  Write down the flight numbers and information and call American Airlines to book the flight.


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88 responses to “Book American Airlines Award Flights Like a Pro: Part 8b – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using Japan Airlines’ Website

  1. thank you so much for this!a question though is there any special way to find a specific fare class in cathay because im trying to maximize AA miles that i will get on my flight next using cash.

  2. I heard, but not have yet experienced, that Qantas is the preferred site to search for OneWorld. How does Qantas compare to JAL?

  3. Thinking of combining HKG and Bali in 2013. So, 70k AA miles get me to HKG round trip in coach. How many miles will it be to get to Bali from HKG and back? I agree with Cheaplee…how does the JAL website compare with Quantas for OW award searches?

    • @chris – I’m not sure I understand your question.

      @Cheaplee – I like Qantas for searching for Iberia flights, but not for Cathay because it sometimes shows availability that’s not available for booking via American Airlines.

      @gpapadop -Here’s the AA award chart, though you could also burn BA Avios miles. You would only need a 1 way award from Hong Kong to Bali, because if you’re flying back to the US from Bali without a stopover in Hong Kong, you wouldn’t need a separate award from Bali to Hongkong.

  4. That JAL is one F’d up website.

  5. Narayana sundaram

    Would american allow an award ticket to be booked from jfk-hkg-bom

  6. I like the QF web site better because they have a 30 day calendar view which makes searching pretty fast and navigating back and forth is pretty seamless. Their website remembers your previous searches so you can cut down the fill info. Downside is that it does not have all the cities loaded. BA website is not bad, but slooooowwww and can search only 7 days at a clip.

    • @Billy Frame – It does take a bit of time to get used to the JAL website.

      @Narayana sundaram
      – You could do it as 2 separate awards – 1 from JFK to HKG and the other from HKG to BOM. Or on a distance based oneworld award if you use more than 2 oneworld airlines besides AA.

      @Lelee – Agreed. The Qantas website is easier to use!

      @travel_junky – You may have to call AA and ask them to search specifically for LAX – NAN, but the Qantas site should also display it if available.

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  8. I love these posts you are doing. Do you have incite on booking Air Pacific flights such as LAX-Auckland with stop in Fiji (Nadi)?

    I’m booking a large trip (LAX-NAN-AKL-SYD-MEL-DPS-KUL-HKT-USM-SHA-LAX) and the only award flight combo I find available for LAX-NAN-AKL is going LAX-Honolulu on American, HNL-NAN on Air Pacific by searching on Quantas, then NAN- AKL on Air Pacific searching through Quantas. Any ideas?

  9. Or you can just use to search even easier

  10. The British Airways site is a real pain in the ass for me. I swear they do it just to annoy us.

  11. I’m a new, big fan of your site! Since the above postings, I’ve searched both the BA and JAL sites for award tix. Specifially PUS-HKG-HKT and back in mid-late August (for my husband and me). However, I can’t find award availability on one segment of the journey (return journey HKT-HKG). Plus, the other legs have only 2 or 4 seat award seats left. So, should I go ahead and book the available segments and just pay cash for the short segment without award availability? Or is there a chance more seats will open later in the game? This is only my second-ever award booking! Eeek! Thanks so much.

  12. BTW, I’m using Avios miles, if that matters. And award seats are with Dragon Air.

  13. I want to say also that I really appreciate these posts. I’ve been collecting miles for about a year and a half now, but haven’t started using them and the process does seem daunting.

    I wish AA could show more partner availability, the award calendar on their site is so much nicer than what I’m finding on BA or JAL. I’m just wondering, I’m searching for tix for a simple roundtrip in June from ORD to Hong Kong. I can’t seem to find much of any availability for CX on JAL. How scarce are these types of tix usually? Thanks!

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  16. Is there any reason not just searching in CX website?

    • @Lynnie – Award seats keep on opening up, but I don’t know if and when they will open up for your flights. Since Avios lets you book only by segment, you could book the flights you want now and either pay cash or wait for the other segments to open up.

      @Lyssa – I agree that the AA website is much nicer. You don’t necessarily have to fly only from Chicago to Hong Kong. You’ll get more options if you search for Cathay departures from Los Angeles, New York, San Fransisco, Toronto, & Vancouver. You can always then add in a segment from Chicago to the Cathay Departure city for free.

      @cw – The CX website may show you award seats which are available to only their members, but not if you’re redeeming miles through partner airlines such as AA.

  17. What’s the best way to search for award availability on Dragon Airlines? I was not able to find any availability using BA or JAL website. Thanks.

  18. First of all, thank you so much for all the posts and knowledge sharing. I am going on a trip to Paris next month with small money thanks to all your tips.

    I’m also planning a trip to Asia at the end of the year. I was so lost in all the airline mileages/points, award flight booking…, etc, until I saw this post. I have a question I hope that you can help me clear. As in your screenshots in this post, it costs 160,000 miles per person for the trip you selected. Will it be the same amount of miles required if booking the trip through American Airline using American miles?


    • @Winnie – We’re using the JAL website just to find Cathay Pacific award availability, but since you’re booking the flight using AA miles, you’ll pay the amount shown in the AA chart which is 35K, 55k, or 67.5K in coach, business, or first class 1-way.

  19. Quick question. This is only for on way. I am assuming I will have to do similar thing for coming back from KL to HKG to LAX?

    Thank you


  20. I’ve just called an AA agent trying to book my flight from JFK-NRT using JAL. However, the agent told me JAL no longer fly out of JFK, they are now flying out from Boston, is that true?

  21. I booked from LAX-MAA going through HKG with AA miles in Business/First. The flight was broken into segments 55k from LAX-HKG and 30K from HKG-MAA. I was told that by going the western route on CX could not be done for 67,500. I had the reservation on hold at the lower mileage, but when I booked it, I was told that it was done wrong and it was the higher rate. Three supervisor confirmed this and tried to find other routing, but unable. My return in on Etihad, through Abu Dhabi and JFK and that was 67,500.

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  24. I have an American Airlines frequent flier account. In the near future, I may be flying extensively in Asia, most likely on Cathay Pacific. Would you advise that I open a Cathay Account or continue to use my AA account when I fly Cathay? Pls advise

    • @UK – Depends on how you redeem your miles, but you won’t pay fuel surcharges if you use AA miles for Cathay award flights. But you will pay them if you accumulate Cathay miles and redeem through their frequent flyer program.

      However, if you value elite status and will be flying enough to earn it, you may be better of earning Cathay’s elite status since you will be flying their airline.

  25. Looks like something has changed with how Cathay allows the usage of miles for first class.

    I’ve searched for a first class flight from LA & Chicago to Hong Kong every day from Aug 1st through Sept 30th. Not a single day has availability using either this JAL technique or your previously posted BA method. 🙁

    Are you aware of any recent changes?

  26. Great site and thanks for all info! Have been following you since 01/12, but this is my first contact/query.

    My wife wants to travel SFO-BOM R/T from 10/30 – 11/8. I used JAL site to check CX availability and then called AA to book it (using your tips!). I just put on “hold” following CX tickets: SFO-HKG-BOM CX (economy) on 10/30 and BOM-HKG-SFO on 11/8 (with 20 hr layover — not needed, but shorter connection is not available). Total cost: $63.02 (includes $25 AA booking fee) + 115K AA miles (35K miles each for SFO-HKG R/T leg and 22.5K each for HKG-BOM R/T). Note that, my wife only has ~106K AA miles (so she will need to purchase 9K AA miles if we go with CX). In addition, she has 50K BA miles and I have 46K AA miles and 64K UR points.

    My question: If I book online on AA site and fly BA, total cost is $657.12 + 90K miles. Is this better than the CX option @ $63.02 + 115K miles, which will require 9K miles purchase? Btw, her travel dates are somewhat flexible. Thanks a ton! Hope to meet you @ Chicago Seminars.

  27. For this trip, isn’t it true that you have to be originating from an airport where CX has a published fare? My problem is I won’t be starting out from a Cathay destination like JFK or SFO. How do I find out if I can redeem AA miles from my home airports (TLH or JAX) to HKG?

  28. Anyone have a clue about the previous post I left? Thanks.

  29. Great, thanks for your help.

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  33. Hi! Do you have an opinion on 1st class in Cathay vs 1st class in aa? My searches for a trip next year found ord-beijing direct on aa, vs a connection with Cathay. Think it’s worth it to connect to be on that carrier? I am planning to fly Cathay from hong kong to JFK so I will experience the airline for sure on that route…any advice is appreciated. Feel overwhelmed trying to figure this all out on my own!

  34. Colleen,

    Most definitely you should fly ORD-HKG-PEK on Cathay Pacific. First Class on CX is no comparison to F on AA. The service, seat comfort, amount of space, IFE, in seat power (if you need) food, drinks, lounges (in HK) on CX First are million times better than AA First. The other inconvenience is AA leaves at 6.30 am in the morning requiring you to go to the airport really early, and AA lands in Beijing really late (close to midnight).


  35. this is an amazing find! already on the jal website – thank u soo much! and agreed on the first class on cathay –
    its amazing (i love my pjs 🙂

  36. been checking the site since i found your advice on – already have two first class cathay tickets on hold for a trip return to singapore and just found one yesterday for the departure date, american airlines even tried lieing to me and telling me the 1st class seats were not there…I insisted they look again because i said bluntly that i knew they were there and then they miraculously appeared! shocker! so glad i have this resource rather than having AA lie to me about availability. thanks again! Kelly

  37. Daraius,

    Does American lump connections within through SE Asia as the same reward? If flying from Bangkok to Chicago (looks like JAL is my only option, but correct me if I’m off there), on the return can you tie a extended one way in Hawaii on the return award?


    • @Sean – You can also fly Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong to Bangkok. You may be able to have a free one way depending on your North American gateway city. See the Milevalue blog for more details on free 1 way awards.

  38. Hi Daraius,

    I have a question about the AA segment thing. You said I could fly from let’s say NYC to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Kuala Lampur all in 1st class for only 67,500 AA miles since AA doesn’t charge by segment. Does that also count if I decide to stay in Hong Kong for just a few days to explore the city? e.g. NYC to Hong Kong in 1st class, stay in Hong Kong for a few days, then fly from Hong Kong to Kuala Lampur in 1st class (would the total cost still be 67,500 AA miles?)

    • @Brandon – You’d have to pay for 2 1-way awards if you fly from NYC to Hong Kong and stop in Hong Kong for more than 24 hours. AA doesn’t allow free stopovers except in the international gateway cities.

  39. How do I search on JAL’s site for CX availability for more than 1 passenger? The flights I found happened to show 1 for Seat Availability. I’d like to begin my search for 2 people if that’s possible. Thanks!

  40. What a great article. I am a bit confused. I understand finding the flights on JAL. I understand calling AA and putting the reservation on hold. What I don’t understand is how to then use my AA miles? Do I call JAL and ask them to pull from AA? It would seem that AA would tell me to take a hike using the AA miles after they told me they had no award seats available. Your response would be greatly appreciated. I have a trip planned to HKG in February. Everyday I call AA and they say Cathay has nothing open.

    • @Paul G – Once you find the flights you want, you can call American Airlines to ticket the flights. Feed them the flights segment by segment and they should be able to book the award for you…even though they couldn’t find it themselves.

  41. I am planning a one way first class award trip on Cathay using AA miles. I am in Orlando and from my research, expect to be routed through ORD or JFK. However, there is a chance I may be in NYC at the time I start the trip. My question is, if I route my trip MCO-JFK-HKG and I later simply want to eliminate the MCO-JFK leg, will I have to pay a change fee? Also, is the change fee the same for one way awards?

  42. Do you have to have miles to search? I just created an account with JAL without any miles in it. I tried to search the LAX-HKG route and it always showed all flights Unavailable no matter which dates I put in.

    • @George – There is a change fee if your origin or destination changes, so you would have to pay that fee.

      @Alice – You don’t need miles in your account to search. The British Airways site has been revamped and searching for Cathay flights over there is now easier, so you could try seeing if the BA site shows you the same availability.

  43. Hi Daraius,
    I plan to have a trip to China in the near future. Do you know if I can use aa miles and be able visit more than one city in China using one award? Or do I have to book it to a certain city and open jaw it. Then visit city in between by paying out of pocket for one way on airline in China? Thanks a million for your secret!:)

  44. Worked like a charm. Thanks so much for writing up such awesome instructions!

  45. So i tried searching from BKK to LAX and then KUL to LAX, Hanoi to LAX but everything is unavailable. I’m heading to SE Asia in March and have those tickets booked but seems like there is nothing available for return. I’m really stressed out about it. I was on the phone with American for about an hour and seems like no major city in SE Asia has any award flights available from any of the partner airlines. That’s really weird. I didn’t have this much trouble with the return flights before. Has anyone seen this before? Do you think they will eventually release these seats? I would hate to get stuck in SE Asia or having to buy tickets to come home despite having miles:(

  46. I dont have miles in another program unfortunately. I checked JAL’s website after signing up and they are all sold out. AA reps told me that Cathay flights are all sold out from HK as well. I was told to keep checking back. Hopefully I will find somenting.

  47. Hello, I’m not savvy with online searches, esp. with flights and deals, but would like to start familiarize self with some ‘tricks & bends’. Thanks to your blog site, I think it’s a perfect place to start this somewhat overwhelming process.

    Have you advices for such routes (starting end of July 2013 with approx. 1 week stay between destinations): Jakarta to Osaka (Kansai) to New York City to Marseille (France) to Abu Dhabi to Hochiminh City?

    Thank you in advance for your insight.

    • @Thuy – You can post on Flyertalk for more suggestions, but you could fly on Malaysian, Cathay, or JAL to Japan and then to NYC. From NYC, British Airways/AA/Air Berlin to Europe and Etihad from Europe to Abu Dhabi. Or you can have an award booking service do the work for you. Good luck!

  48. First of all, thank you so much for the great tips. However, I’ve tried to book a flight from LAX to HKG today and it turned out the AA rep didn’t see any seat available on the flight I see 4 seats available on JAL website. Then he also saw seats available on the flight that was shown no seat available on the JAL website. Is this normal? Unfortunately it’s the day that I can not travel so I have to keep trying.
    From your experience, how likely Cathay would release more seats (any class) to the flight 1 month ahead of today?? ( I need to fly the beginning of May) If it is not likely, then I would have to pay for it.

    Your answers would be greatly appreciate it.
    Thank you in advance..

    • @Kent – Check to see if the flights on the JAL website match what you see on the British Airways website. If so, hang up politely and chat with another rep. I can’t predict when an airline will release more award seats since it depends on a lot of factors including if they can sell seats at the regular price.

  49. I am having the same experience as Kent. Have tried several calls but although there are 4Y seats available on JAL, AA rep says there are none.

  50. Same for BA…

    • @clayd333 – Very strange, though it should work. Is the flight early in the morning? The agents could be searching for different flights and make sure they are searching segment-by-segment.

  51. Hi,

    I tried booking a flight from LAX to Tokyo on Cathay via AA, but when I gave the agent the routing, which goes through Hong Kong, she told me this wasn’t regular routing and it would be booked as two seperate trips, meaning I’d have to pay more miles. Any ideas?

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  54. Thanks for the great post! I found the award tickets from Cathay Pacific: LAX to Bangkok connecting through Hong Kong easily.. However, the agent told me it is gonna be 47500 miles if I fly from Boston and use LAX as a stopover instead of 35k Is that the case?

    I tried many times flying from Boston to PVG, China with LAX as a stopover, and it only costs 35k. I understand Bangkok might be a little farther away distance wise, but it shouldn’t be that different…

  55. I am trying to figure out how to get from New York to Saigon and back using points.
    When I go on JAL I see flights to Hong Kong or Bangkok — how do I find flights all the way through to Saigon and back? And what city should I fly through? I am hoping for Cathay Pacific. Any suggestions?

    • @YiChen – It could be because there is no published route so you have to get 2 awards which increases the price.

      @Miranda – Search for flights to Hong Kong and then search fro flights from Hong Kong to Saigon etc.

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  58. I wish to fly from ORD – HKG. Try to have as much time in HKG as possible then fly HKG – MAA. But then I would like to get a separate ticket from MAA – BKK. Then continue my round trip leaving from BKK – HKG (another fun day) HKG – ORD. This would obviously require an open jaw on my round trip. Is this allowed using AA miles flying Cathay Pacific planes anymore? Is 1 one way from ORD-HKG-MAA for 67500 miles in business then 1 one way from BKK-HKG-ORD for 55000 miles in business the way you would go? This would save me 12500 miles. What do you think is the best option for the extra flight from MAA-BKK? Thanks

  59. Thanks for the tip! So I just did this exact same thing – on the Japan Airlines site, my desired flights (ORD-HKG, BKK-HKG-ORD) shows as 60,000 miles required. I just called American, gave them the exact same flights and they said it was 70,000 miles – no explanation for the discrepancy. I had them put it on hold. Any ideas why the difference?

    Additionally I have some random Air Berlin miles that I’d like to use either in combination with my AA or transfer to AA. Customer Service agent said they can’t be converted – is this true? Kicking myself for not having those put on my AA account when I earned them.

  60. Thanks so much for this! We were able to redeem three business class tickets for our upcoming trip to Beijing by following this guide. One question I had, we were going to look into last minute 1st class availability as we’ve read Cathay often releases all but one 24-48 hrs before the flight. However, when I log into the JAL site to search for awards, it doesn’t let me see any flight that’s less than four days away. It also seems BA doesn’t accurately show the current availability. Is there a trick to see if Cathay has released seats? I guess I can just routinely call AA and ask if they see any availability on their end.


  61. I just found a C Pacific First class ticket from LAX to BKK on the JAL website searching for C Pacific award availability. I found one flight in July, called AA to book and they said that they could not find it and book it for me because they “dont have the same availability as the other airlines” I really dont understand this… why would they tell me that ? Thanks.

  62. @Jurnus I was told exactly the same thing last night. I saw a CX 1st award that I wanted to snatch up, it showed on both BA and JAL websites, I call AA and they told me that they don’t have the seat to give out only those airlines do. Makes it all the harder to redeem these trips and I am still trying to find my award flight.

  63. Hi,
    I am trying to book a round trip first class/business from ord to hkg using aa miles. I have no luck finding open seats. I called aa hotline and no luck. Any ideas? My dates are open

  64. I am trying to use this. However it appears that the JAL site is down until the spring due to system improvements. Are there any other airlines that allow me to use AA miles to travel on Cathay Pacific? Thanks!

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