This will be the first post in a series of Beginner’s Guides I plan on doing for some of the more popular airlines/redemptions. While many people know that their American AAdvantage miles can be redeemed for Cathay Pacific flights, they do not know how to find that inventory or how to book it. This guide should help get you going!
Let’s say you jumped in on the Citi AAdvantage World Elite loophole and have ~160,000 AAdvantage miles that are just burning a hole in your award wallet. You want to go to Bangkok, but when you search the AA website for an award flight from your home airport Orlando (MCO) to Bangkok (BKK), you keep coming up with this screen:So you try a different set of dates. And a different set of dates. And a different set of dates. And no matter what sets of dates you enter, you get the message that there are no awards available. So what gives?
The problem is that AA does not load Cathay Pacific (or JAL, Qatar, etc.) inventory to their award search tool, even though Cathay Pacific (and JAL, Qatar, etc.) are “participating award carriers” as AA calls them. That means that you have to look elsewhere for Cathay Pacific award space.
Where To Look For Award Space
There are 3 main options for looking for Cathay Pacific award space – 1) the British Airways search tool; 2) the Qantas search tool; and 3) the JAL search tool. Each of these airlines will require that you have a frequent flyer account with them before you can search, but each airline offers their frequent flyer program for free to U.S. residents.
The British Airways Search Tool
The British Airways search tool is probably the tool that I use the most. It used to not be great, and although it has improved over the last year, it still has its quirks like showing phantom award availability if you do not search segment-by-segment (which I previously wrote a post about and which will be discussed later). I recommend using the British Airways search tool if you’re looking for a small grouping of specific dates as it does not allow for a calendar type search like Qantas does.
To get to the British airways search tool, go to the British Airways homepage.
If you already have a British Airways Executive Club (“BAEC”) account, log in by entering your login ID and pin/password in the upper right hand corner.
If you do not have a BAEC account, click on the ‘Register now’ button in the upper right hand corner and fill out the requested information to register.
Once you log in, you will be taken the BAEC homepage, which looks like this:
From there you want to scroll down and click on ‘Spend Avios’.
That will take you to the Spending Avios section of the BAEC website, which looks like this:
Scroll down the page and click on “Book a reward flight”.
That will take you into the BAEC search tool (I would recommend you bookmark the page as it is easier to get to that way).
From there it is as simple as doing a segment-by-segment search (discussed in great detail later) for your flights!
The Qantas Search Tool
The Qantas search tool is what I use when I am looking to travel to a destination, but have no particular date(s) in mind as it allows you to see a calendar of availability. Generally speaking, the Qantas search tool does not suffer from the phantom award availability issues that the BAEC search tool does, so I tend to consider it more reliable.
To get to the Qantas search tool, go to the Qantas homepage.
If you already have a Qantas frequent flyer account, log in by clicking the ‘Log in’ button in the upper right hand corner.
If you do not have a Qantas frequent flyer account, click on ‘Frequent Flyer’ in the middle of the top bar, and follow the instructions for signing up.
After logging in, you will be taken to the Qantas frequent flyer homepage, which looks like this:
From there it is as simple as entering your flight information into the ‘Search Airfares’ box and clicking search. Just make sure you have the ‘Search Classic Flight Rewards’ box checked!
The JAL Search Tool
The JAL search tool is probably my favorite as I think it is the most accurate. With that said, JAL announced in December that the U.S. Mileage Bank website would be down for maintenance for 3 months (!?). Once the new site is live, I will update this post with how to use it, but for the time being your best bets are the BAEC and Qantas search tools.
How To Look For Award Space
Now that you know how to access the various award search tools, the next step is to know the city pairs you are going to be looking for. As I explained in my post about how to avoid phantom award availability, the best way to ensure the space you are seeing is bookable is to search segment-by-segment. What I mean by segment-by segment searching is instead of just entering MCO-BKK, you would have to break it down to MCO-JFK-HKG-BKK and then search MCO-JFK, JFK-HKG and HKG-BKK separately. While this can be a pain, it will also save you a lot of time and aggravation down the road when you call in to AA to book your flights.
Before you can start to look segment by segment though, it is important to know where Cathay Pacific flies and which of those routes feature a first class cabin (in case that is what you are looking for). Cathay Pacific flies Boeing 777-300ERs on all of their U.S. routes now. These 773s come in 2 configurations – only one of which offers a first class cabin. The routes you want to look for are as follows:
|Flight Number||Departure||Arrival||Frequency||First Class Cabin?|
|811||Boston (BOS)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Su, Tu, W, F||Su, Tu, W, F|
|899||Newark (EWR)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||No|
|845||New York (JFK)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|841||New York (JFK)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|831||New York (JFK)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|889||New York (JFK)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|829||Toronto (YYZ)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||No|
|825||Toronto (YYZ)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Su, W, F||No|
|806||Chicago (ORD)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|881||Los Angeles (LAX)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|897||Los Angeles (LAX)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|885||Los Angeles (LAX)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Su, Th, F, Sa|
|883||Los Angeles (LAX)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|893||San Francisco (SFO)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Su, W, F||Su|
|879||San Francisco (SFO)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||M|
|873||San Francisco (SFO)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|889||Vancouver (YVR)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||Daily|
|837||Vancouver (YVR)||Hong Kong (HKG)||Daily||No|
If you do not know in particular when you want to go, I recommend that you start with the Qantas search tool to determine what dates your desired class of service are available. Make sure you select ‘Classic Flight Rewards’ before you do your search! When you do, you will get a table of results like this:
Once you know what dates have availability for your desired cabin (hopefully business or first!), you have two options. Option 1 is to select the date on the Qantas search tool and pull up the particulars of what is available, which will look like this:
If you find something that will work for you, then go back to the search tool and check for your other connecting flights (in our example, MCO-JFK and HKG-BKK). If you find availability for all segments with times that work for you, write down the flight numbers and times and then call AA at 800.882.8880 for them to book your flights.
Option 2 is to switch over to the BAEC search tool to fine tune your itinerary. The BAEC search tool allows you to change days by selecting the dated tabs on the top of the page.
As with the Qantas search tool, you will want to check for your other connecting flights (MCO-JFK and HKG-BKK), write down the flight numbers and times, and then call AA at 800.882.8880 for them to book your flights.
A Caveat About Domestic Connecting Flights
I will make one caveat with searching for domestic connecting flights (i.e., your MCO-JFK flight in our example) – do not trust the inventory that shows on the BAEC, Qantas and JAL search tools for these flights. This applies more so to economy class availability than it does domestic first class availability, but I would still recommend that you search the AA website for your domestic connecting flights. Any flights that you find that will work for your time(s) that are at the ‘MileSAAver’ level are going to be bookable by AA with your award ticket. The levels you are looking for availability on are outlined in red below:
You can ignore the rates quoted for these flights as they would be included in your award ticket cost. For example, MCO-JFK-HKG-BKK will cost the same number of miles as JFK-HKG-BKK would cost. You are simply using this as a tool to verify availability for your domestic connecting flight(s).
Hopefully this guide helps you navigate the ins and outs of finding award space on Cathay Pacific that is bookable using your AA miles. Stay tuned for my next installment where I will focus on JAL redemptions using AA miles!
What is your favorite way to search for Cathay Pacific award space?
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