How to Fly Round-Trip to Japan in Business Class for $100: Part 4 – The Secret to Flying Cathay Pacific Business Class

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Using miles & points, I recently flew round-trip from Austin, Texas, to Japan for ~$110 in Business Class.  The retail cost was ~$11,000!  And for 3 weeks of lodging (including some fancy hotels), I spent ~$450!

Japan is a beautiful country, filled with a lot to see and do.  You’ll find everything from high-rise skyscrapers to old temples and hot springs.  I loved Tokyo’s energetic neighborhoods, shopping, and delicious restaurants.  And Kyoto is a fantastic place to ride bicycles, and to explore the bamboo forest and monkey park.

Participating in a cooking class and meeting new friends was the highlight of Osaka.  And a day trip to feed the deer in Nara was unforgettable!  Plus, Okinawa is known for its beautiful beaches and scuba diving.

Japan Trip Report

I Thoroughly Enjoyed My Meal of Beef With Mashed Potatoes and Veggies

Wherever you go, you’re sure to have an amazing time!

In this part of the series, I’ll share my experience flying to Japan in Business Class on Cathay Pacific., and how you can do it, too!  In future posts, I’ll have more about where I stayed and getting around.

How to Fly to Japan for ~$100 Trip Report Index:

Flights to Japan on Cathay Pacific Business Class


I redeemed 190,000 American Airlines miles for 2 round-trip Business Class flights to Japan on Cathay Pacific (95,000 American Airlines miles per ticket), that I booked before American Airlines changed their award chart.

It now costs 120,000 American Airlines miles for one round-trip Business Class ticket!

I wanted to fly First Class over the Pacific, but had trouble finding seats, so instead booked Business Class flights.

I found a route with a few layovers, but it would be a long trip.  So I called the American Airlines customer service line to book the less-than-ideal flights I found, and the agent asked where I wanted to go and the dates I wanted to travel.

I let her know I wanted to fly as close to Okinawa, Japan as possible, and then fly out of mainland Japan.  She was excellent, and found better seats for me than I found for myself!

You Can Do It, Too!


One-way Business Class flights to Japan cost 95,000 American Airlines miles and ~$5 in taxes and fees.

For an even better flight experience, try to find a seat on Cathay Pacific or Japan Air Lines!

We flew American Airlines First Class from Austin to Chicago.  We then had a ~4.5 hour layover in Chicago, and spent most of it in the British Airways Terraces Lounge before our flight in Business Class.

It’s smart to allow plenty of time for the layover, in case your first leg gets delayed.  Because the last thing you want to do is miss your overseas connection!

Japan Trip Report

We Had a Long Layover at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, So Getting Lounge Access With Our Business Class Tickets Was Great!

If you need more American Airlines miles, you could consider cards like:

Cathay Pacific Business Class – Chicago to Hong Kong

From Chicago, we flew in Cathay Pacific Business class to Hong Kong.  The flight was amazing!

The seats were so comfortable and I loved how they were paired.

Japan Trip Report

It’s Fun Being Able to Sit Across From Your Friend or Loved One. Especially in Business Class!

The TV screens were huge, which was perfect for watching a movie (or two or three!).  There was a great selection of TV shows, movies, and music.

Japan Trip Report

The TVs Were Big by Airplane Standards!

Soon after takeoff, we were served our first course.

Japan Trip Report

Alfy’s First Course Consisted of Smoked Salmon and a Salad

For my main course, I had beef with mashed potatoes and vegetables.  It was delicious!  And for dessert, I had a green tea mousse cake and a piece of chocolate.

Japan Trip Report

I’ll Never Turn Down a Slice of Cake!

The seats were very modern and had all the comforts: lie flat beds, outlets for charging your electronics, a large TV, and plenty of storage compartments.

Japan Trip Report

Our Seats Were Incredibly Comfortable

It’s always nice not having to worry about your laptop or phone battery running low!

Japan Trip Report

Keeping Your Devices Charged on Long Flights Is a Must!

There was also a large compartment with headphones and a mirror.  The headphones provided good sound.  But they always seem to be too tight for me and make my ears hurt after an hour or so.  I recently purchased a pair of Bose Quietcomfort headphones and LOVE them!  As an added bonus, I earned ~3 points per dollar I spent by shopping through Chase’s shopping portal.

Japan Trip Report

How Neat Is This Ear Phone Compartment?

Still, it was a very comfortable flight and I would happily ride Cathay Pacific again!

Cathay Pacific Business Class – Hong Kong to Taipei

After our ~2.5 layover in Hong Kong, we boarded our flight to Taipei, Taiwan.

Japan Trip Report

We Had a Short Layover in Hong Kong

Because our first stop was Okinawa, we wanted to fly as close to the island as possible.  The best availability I got was to Taipei, Taiwan, which worked out fine.

The plane was a little bit older and smaller than our previous flight.  But it was a much shorter trip, so we didn’t mind.  It was still very nice!

Japan Trip Report

The Smaller Seats Didn’t Bother Us Because the Flight Was Much Shorter

This was my third flight, so I was pretty excited to get to Taipei for a night of sleep in an actual full-sized bed.

Still, we toasted champagne for our last flight of the night and enjoyed the ride.

Japan Trip Report

Cheers to the Final Leg of Our Journey!

We had tried to sleep on the previous flight, but I find it’s hard sleeping on long-haul flights for some reason.

It could be partly because of the excitement over Business Class and all the delicious food and fun movies to watch.  And at the start of a vacation, all I can think about is getting there!

We were also served food on this flight.  And it was so nice not having to rush for food during our short layover in Hong Kong!

Japan Trip Report

Getting Dinner Onboard Your Flight Is a Treat, Especially With a Layover. Because You Don’t Have to Worry About Where Your Next Meal Is Coming From!

Finally, we arrived at the Taipei airport.  Everything looked so new and modern!

Japan Trip Report

The Taipei Taoyuan International Airport Had a Modern Feel

Overnight Hotel Stay at the Novotel Taipei

We stayed overnight at a Novotel hotel near the airport.  It cost ~$135 on

I like booking on for hotels where I don’t have status or can earn rewards.  That’s because when you stay 10 nights, you get 1 free night.

Japan Trip Report

The Lobby at the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport Hotel

Peach Flight from Taipei to Okinawa

In the morning, we took a regional airline called Peach from Taipei to Naha, Okinawa.  And paid ~$350 for 2 tickets in coach.

The airport was busy in the morning and we had to wait in line for ~20 minutes.  But thankfully, the line moved much faster than we thought it would.

Japan Trip Report

Luckily the Long Lines Didn’t Cause Us to Miss Our Flight

It’s easy to get pretty spoiled when you’re used to priority boarding! 😉

Bottom Line

I used 190,000 American Airlines miles and ~$220 in taxes and fees for 2 round-trip Business Class flights to Japan on Cathay Pacific, which was before the devaluation.

Now it costs 240,000 American Airlines miles plus taxes and fees for 2 round-trip Business Class flights.

But redeeming American Airlines for flights to Asia can still be a great use of miles.  Because the cash price of a round-trip Business Class ticket can cost thousands of dollars!

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19 responses to “How to Fly Round-Trip to Japan in Business Class for $100: Part 4 – The Secret to Flying Cathay Pacific Business Class

  1. I’m surprised you found any business class award seats on American Airlines. Depending on where you fly, it is been my experience that they offer one or two days a month which have business class award seats available

    • @ Brian- It takes a lot of time (hours!!) searching through different sites, dates, departing cities, and arrival cities. I make a spreadsheet to help me keep track of what’s available. It also helps having points in different programs like United and Amex points which will give you even more options. I recently booked a trip for 4 to Europe in business class using a mix of points, including American Airlines miles.

      • @ Emily – Did you use any tools like ExpertFlyer to notify you when an award seat opened up?

        • @ TJ- I did not.

        • FYI..I love ExpertFlyer. For example, tried for 3 months to get a AA miler saver business class to Athens for 2. Nothing until I was at the airport 1.5 hours before my flight and they emailed me to say there was availability! Thanks to the wonderful agents at the Admirals Club, they talked to the phone AA agent and got us upgraded within 1 hour of flight time. Fabulous service…without them there was no way I would have known availability came up. Still can’t believe American does that so close to flight time but Expert Flyer came through. (PS the AA agent on the phone said there was NO WAY I could know that availability came through. I just shut up and asked for the upgrade)

  2. Thanks for the wonderful article Emily! Quick question: Where did you book the awards business class with Cathay? Did you look on Cathay P.’s website for availability first?
    My wife & I are looking to book a RT business class from JFK or EWR next year to Malaysia with a lap child (our first!). Any recommendations on which airline and where to book to maximize our points (350k Chase UR; 110k SPG)?

  3. I found it easier to book CX J using their own AsiaMiles program. My wife and I flew MLE > HKG > SFO using points transferred from Amex MR with $131 out of pocket and 170k miles. Not bad considering that’s 20 hours of flight time with a distance based award chart. Plus I had plenty of time to relax in the best business class lounge in the world, IMO (The Pier). AsiaMiles is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou.

  4. Hi Emily,

    Great read. What’s the best method of going to Japan using chase ultimate reward points and flying business?

    Thank you

    • Also, I’m trying to fly out of LAX

      • John, the best use of the UR points to Japan will be on Singapore Airlines. I flew from LAX to NRT last year on their A380 in Suites class and it was wonderful. Unfortunately they no longer fly the A380 on this route, but they do fly their newer business class product on their 777-300er, which looks to be a great product for a 12 hour flight. Singapore also has very friendly service on board, which is a plus.

  5. “I redeemed 190,000 American Airlines miles for 2 round-trip Business Class flights to Japan on Cathay Pacific” statement is not accurate since one cannot transit in Asia 2 from US48 to Asia 1 unless AA has changed routing rules for award tickets i’m not aware of.

    Did you try to find US-TYO-OKA awards at cheaper (compared to TPE) rates minus cash paid TPE-OKA segment?

    • @ tony kline- I booked it before the devaluation and got 10,000 miles back because I have an American Airlines credit card. And the current price is 120,000 miles round-trip in Business Class. To find an award seat, I searched online. But when I called, the phone agent found even better seats for me. I can’t remember if the Tokyo flight would have been cheaper or not.

      • you are missing the point. You cannot book a single award on CX from US to Japan using AA miles without adding an extra segment paid separately or adding an additional award segment.

        Thus – “I redeemed 190,000 American Airlines miles for 2 round-trip Business Class flights to Japan on Cathay Pacific” statement is bogus.

  6. Your title is false and very misleading. You did not do it for $100 but for $100 and a whole bunch of miles which had some cost to generate (for most of us anyway). You should have added all the miles you used in the title to avoid confusion and to not mimic all the other “click-baiters” out there.

    • Fathiss–I think it’s pretty obvious when a travel blogger says they used/spent a certain small amount of $ for premium flights/inspirational hotels, there’s always points/miles involved. After all, the blogs are about points & miles, not finding unrealistic $100~ business class flights.

    • @ fathis- I’ve explained the exact costs including the miles breakdown in Part 1 of the series.
      My intention was never to be misleading. Let us know if you have any other questions.

  7. Pingback: How to Fly Round-Trip to Japan in Business Class for $100: Part 4 – The Secret to Flying Cathay Pacific Business Class – JapanBiZZ

  8. I LOVE Cathay’s business class! This is mine and my wife’s favorite, even more so than JAL. The food is spectacular and they have more Western choices than JAL. I especially loved being able to order a gourmet cheeseburger with a remote control. The FA came out and asked if it was okay that it would take 18 minutes to cook. It was a 15.5 hour flight so I had plenty of time. On a Cathay business class flight from Hong Kong to Seoul they served us jumbo prawns, assorted cheese and crackers, beef sirloin and ice cream–all on a 3.5 hour flight. It was amazing.

    I’ve never had a problem booking Cathay or JAL business class using AA miles. The key is booking 331 days in advance as soon as they become available. They usually last a week or two before they’re gone.