Book American Airlines Awards Like a Pro:
- Part 1 – Introduction
- Part 2 – Types of Awards & Charts
- Part 3 – How Much Will My Award Cost?
- Part 4 – One-way, Openjaws, Stopovers, & North American Gateway Cities
- Part 5 – American Airlines, Alaska Airlines & Hawaiian Airlines for North American awards
- Part 6 – International Award Routes
- Part 7 – Finding British Airways Award Availability
- Part 8 – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using the British Airways website
- Part 8b – Finding Cathay Pacific Award Availability using Japan Airlines’ Website
- Part 9 – Finding Iberia (& European) Award Availability using the Qantas Website
- Part 10 – Finding LAN & South American Award Availability
- Part 11 – Finding Air Tahiti Nui Awards to France & French Polynesia with FlightStats
- Part 11b – Finding Air Tahiti Nui Awards to France & French Polynesia with ExpertFlyer
The best free way to check Cathay Pacific award availability is by using the British Airways website. Alternatively, you could also use 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 British Airways and then calling American Airlines to make the booking.
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.
British Airways Award Website quirks
The British Airways website will display award availability for ONLY British Airways if there are award seats on British Airways flights available.
For example, if you are flying from the US to Hong Kong and British Airways AND a partner airline both have award seats, the British Airways website will initially display ONLY the British Airways award seats (and not show the partner award seats).
This is pretty useless if you’re trying to fly to the Far East from the US, because British Airways awards will always route you via London (the opposite direction!) and won’t show you partner airline availability (on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines etc.) if there are British Airways flights available.
So we’ve got to trick the system by searching for flights on days when there is no British Airways award availability.
Because if you search for flights on days when British Airways has no award availability on their own flights, they will give you the option to search for award flights on partner airlines (such as Cathay Pacific).
The British Airways site is also moody and will sometimes refuse to work. I recommend practicing finding award seats even if you don’t have a specific booking to familiarize yourself with the website.
I still get a thrill when I find award seats which the telephone agents say are not available!
Cathay Pacific Departure Cities
Cathay Pacific flies to Hong Kong from the following North American cities:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- San Fransisco
How to find Cathay Pacific Award availability
Let’s say I want to find 1 seat from Nashville to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on October 16, 2012 in First Class.
I can search on AA.com, 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 AA.com
All these segments will cost me 67,500 miles for a 1-way First Class award using American Airlines miles.
Segment – Los Angeles to Hong Kong
Log into your British Airways account account by entering your membership number and PIN in the top right side of the screen and click “Log in.”
If you don’t have a British Airways Executive Club account, sign-up for a free account here.
Click on “Spending Avios” on the left hand side menu under “Executive Club.”
In case you’re wondering, Avios is the new name for British Airways miles.
Click on “Book Flights with Avios”
Let’s say I want to check availability from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on October 16, 2012.
I enter “Los Angeles” in the “From” box and “Hong Kong” in the “To” box and select my class of service.
I then enter my departure date and click the “One way only” box because I like searching segment by segment. 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”
If you’re given the option for a stopover, select no stopover, because the only option for a stop over is in London (according to the British Airways website), and we don’t want to see routes via London because those flights will be on British Airways (and we’re trying to see partner airline availability)
If you’re lucky and British Airways doesn’t have award seats on their flights, you will get the option to search for partner airlines (skip to step 6c).
Step 6 a
If you do get a routing via London only, click on “Search up to 7 days earlier” or “Search up to 7 days later”
Why? Because we’re trying to find out the days when British Airways has no award availability on their own flights, so that we can get it to look for partner award availability.
We’re trying to force the British Airways website to find a date when there is no availability on British Airways flights so that it shows us the option to search partner airlines.
I click “Search up to 7 days later” and the next search result is for October 23rd.
This means that British Airways has NO award seats available on their OWN flights between October 16 and October 23rd.
So if I search for an award flight (step 4) from Los Angeles to Hong Kong between October 16 and October 23rd, I will get an option to search for partner award seats because British Airways has no availability on those dates.
Since I now know that British Airways has no seats available on their flights on October 17, I click “Start Again” and search for flights from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on October 17 (Step 4).
Again, we’re trying to find a day when British Airways has NO award seats on their own flights via London, so that you get an option to search for partner airlines.
Looking at the calendar, we see that British Airways has no award availability on their own flights on the 17th (we knew that from step 6b), so we click the “Search” button under “Partner airlines” to search for flights on Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and other partners.
We then see award availability for partner airlines on October 17th. Bingo!
But remember that we originally wanted to see award availability for October 16th, so we click the “Search up to 7 days earlier” which takes us to award availability (including partner airlines for October 16th).
Once you see partner airline award availability in the search results, clicking the “Search up to 7 days later” or “Search up to 7 days earlier” will still show partner availability in the search results.
After clicking “Search up to 7 days later” we see award flights on October 16 from Los Angeles to Hong Kong in First Class on Cathay Pacific along with the British Airways options we first saw in step 6a.
You now know that there is 1 First Class award 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.
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 2 through 7 above to see availability for flights from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur.
Finding award flights within Asia is much easier, since the British Airways website doesn’t usually try to route you via London on a British Airways flight.
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.
British Airways charges high surcharges and fees on award flights made using BRITISH AIRWAYS miles. So IGNORE the taxes and fees you see on the British Airways website, because American Airlines won’t charge you those fees for Cathay Pacific award bookings.
British Airways wanted 105,000 Avios points and $156.90 for the flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and another 105,000 Avios points and $182.86 for the flight back from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.
But you will pay much less if you use American Airlines miles to book your Cathay Pacific ticket
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 British Airways award website is quirky, but with a little practice, you’ll soon be able to search for partner airline awards seats.
The British Airways website is great for searching for award seats not only on Cathay Pacific, but also for other partner airlines, in particular, Japan Airlines, LAN, and Royal Jordanian.