Real funny Cathay Pacific, you can release your award space now…

I may not be good at a lot of things in life, like cooking or tying my shoes, but I’d like to think if there’s one thing I’m good at it’s predicting whether award availability will open up or not (yeah, I know, it’s a really impressive pick up line, isn’t it?). I’d like to think I can with near certainty predict whether an airline will open up award space on a given flight based on looking at the load, especially within a couple of weeks of departure.

I’ve actually gone so far as to make non-refundable hotel reservations in cities halfway around the globe without actually having flights locked in, simply because I was convinced award space would open up. And my “strategy” in this regard hasn’t failed me yet.

Well, shortly I’ll be embarking on a trip with my mom. Some of you may recall that last month I posted about my mom’s upcoming “round” birthday (she’d kill me if I said the number, but let’s just say it ends in -ixty), and the fact that I wanted to take her on a trip. Well, I have it booked for the most part, and I have to say the trip really is “once in a lifetime,” even for me. I’m damn excited.

There’s only one slight issue. I have one segment on Cathay Pacific for which I’m waiting for award space to open up. I tend to think Cathay Pacific is the single most reliable airline when it comes to opening up award space in premium cabins close to departure, almost to a fault. If they have more than a couple of first or business class award seats they’ll almost always make them available for award redemptions within a week or so of departure.

Well, apparently that’s the case for everything except the single most important flight of the itinerary with my mom. The flight is “9s” across the board (meaning they’re selling the highest number of seats available in each cabin), except there’s no award space.

I’m waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Actually, scartch that, I’m not waiting, but rather I’m refreshing the British Airways award search tool. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. And refreshing. I’ve literally probably checked award availability 200 times today. And all I get is the pesky “eff off, there’s nothing to see here” message from British Airways.

I’m writing this post for two reasons:

1) I’m absolutely convinced that as soon as I hit “publish” on this post the award space will open up. That’s just the way the universe works.
2) Does anyone else book trips and bank on award space opening up?


  1. After the trip is over, would be interested what your plan B, C, or even D was (i.e. trip report intro content perhaps ;))

  2. Well, hopefully you will see something over the next few days! Why don’t you use Experflyer to send you an email when award seats open up? Will you be flying on her actual birthday? I believe SQ and KE (and probably other airlines) may give you a complimentary bday cake on board!

  3. @ Joey — Hah, avoiding traveling on her birthday since she doesn’t love flying quite as much as I do.

    Sadly ExpertFlyer doesn’t do Cathay Pacific availability alerts for award fare classes.

  4. There is info on Flyertalk about problems with the BA website today, maybe its time for another fun call!

  5. Hi, lucky, I have two CX first class tickets on Jul. 14, 2013 from SIN-HKG-LAX-SFO, i am wondering if there are two first class award seats open for SIN-HKG-SFO on that day or one day earlier. I do not like spend 4 hours tranfer in LAX. thanks!

  6. I’ve had issues with BA website today as well. No availability for months out. I think the website is malfunctioning.

  7. @ jennifer — I’d suggest keeping an eye on space on the BA website. As of now it doesn’t look like there are two first class seats between HKG and SFO for the 13th-15th.

  8. @ Andrei — Haven’t checked the JAL website, though have checked the Qantas website and they don’t show space either.

  9. @ Tao — They do if space is still available, though in my experience the route tends to sell out with paid passengers, as fares are quite reasonable in both business class and coach.

  10. I did something similar for a trip to London last fall. Award space was available, but we couldn’t finalize our departure times until the last minute. I saw that there were plenty of seats available in all revenue fare buckets, so felt comfortable not booking anything until 24 hours prior to departure. (Worked fine for me; I know a lot of people would have been stressed…fortunately my GF trusts me when it comes to booking air reservations. 🙂

  11. I am also waiting on three O seats NRT-BKK on TG and one seat BKK-KUL on LH for August. It looks like both TG and LH only release two seats on a flight even close to departure.

  12. Hi, lucky, thanks for the info. I did it exactly like you described few months ago, 2 reservations for 3 pax. At this point 3 I on TG, 2 O and 1 I on LH. I plan to keep checking daily two weeks prior departure to see if I can score 3 I on both.

  13. @ Paul — Sorry, just to clarify you’ll never seen three “O” on TG at once. You’ll need to lock in two and then they may open up another one.

  14. Crossing my fingers on a South America *A trip I booked for my parents next year, got everything except the GIG-EZE segment. Reason is, TAM only releases intra-continental seats 90 days ahead. The wrinkle is, they are leaving for OneWorld next year, am hoping it’s after I add the segment!

  15. Actually, if you get a smarter agent, he/she can try a “long sell” (or something like that) that actually lets you get three or more seats under one booking.

    Btw, are you looking for long or short haul business space? Would’ve thought you’re looking for first.

  16. Incredible how you take such risk of purchasing advanced non refundable rates at hotel without securing your flight. You can just wait, wait, wait, wait, wait and keep waiting. You deserve this! Bloody fool!

  17. Lucky, on sunday i was looking at cx F ord-hkg and there was no space for months over the summer so then i was like wtf?? Everything was routing either cx biz or to narita on AA f. I then looked out till like may of 14 and the seats were plentyful. It didnt used to be like this if recall correctly.

  18. @ Troy — For what it’s worth I don’t find that to be especially strange. In my experience Cathay Pacific releases two first class award seats on many flights when the schedule opens, and then again a week or two out releases another seat or two depending on the load. I assume most of the award seats for this summer are already spoken for, and it won’t be till close before departure when they release more space.

  19. Tao: Does TG open up USM-BKK as it gets close to departure?

    @Tao: I booked my Thai First USA-BKK award flights 10 months out and there was no connecting BKK-USM (Koh Samui) at the time. Just setup a ExpertFlyer alert for the award seat. I got an alert randomly 2 months later for the perfect connection (still 8 months prior to departure). The $75 United change fee to add it on was cheaper than the $250+ one-way fare for that 1 hour flight.

  20. Ben, i agree with your strategy, it usually works for CX flights w BA miles, but make sure there’s no big Jewelry or other show or convention in Hong Kong that week, because then no CX flts will open up. I had this in March the week of the jewelry show. i was banking on a CX F class award to JFK but it never opened up. Hours before the flt i gave up and booked a JL F class fm NRT to JFK and did a separate CX J class award to NRT. Hope you get the award you want and your mom enjoys the trip of a lifetime. Have fun !!!

  21. Just to add to it, I’ve recently booked Cathay J award seats via AA miles for HKG-YYZ-HKG. Some of the dates showed availability, however AA wasn’t able to find them. But, I found out that AA agents often found me alternative dates where Cathay’s showing J award availibitliy on their system, but when checking on or on for those alternative dates given by AA, it doesn’t show.
    Also, I found that the Puerto Rico AA agents to be most helpful, with the shortest wait line on the phone.

  22. I’m in the same boat, my family and I are off on a 45 day trip. I’ve got the outbound booked, but must wait until close to the end of the trip (when EK releases F and Biz seats) to book the return. I’ve got a 3-4 day buffer built in (where I’ll spend extra nights abroad if I have to in order to get space).

  23. Can you share how it is you’re able to predict a certain airlines award space with good probability? Someone mentioned this in the comments, what are the “revenue fare buckets”?

  24. @ VK — Airlines have “fare buckets” they publish based on how many seats they’re willing to sell in each cabin. You can find these on ExpertFlyer, KVS, etc. Based on those I can usually tell if it’s likely they’ll open up seats. If they’re selling lots of seats they usually don’t, while if they’re not they do.

  25. Don’t you mean they will open up award availability if they are not selling a lot of revenue seats and keep award availability closed if they are selling a lot of revenue seats?

  26. @ VA1379 — Sorry, it was 6AM when I wrote it and I’m in Hong Kong. That’s absolutely correct, just updated comment to reflect it.

  27. I’ve been waiting forever on either class for CSX-HKG.. 12 days out and still no luck. Tough to make a decision as we’re about to take off on USDM award. I know it’s a big holiday the first couple weeks in October. Any experience with that route?

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