What Happened To Cathay Pacific’s Business Class Award Availability?

There’s something strange going on with Cathay Pacific business class award availability that I think is worth discussing, though I don’t yet have a definitive answer as to what’s going on.

Historically Cathay Pacific has been generous when it comes to making premium cabin award seats available. Until recently they often released up to five business class award seats per flight when the schedule opened, and up to one first class award seat. Then closer to departure they’d typically make most unsold seats available as awards. That has made Cathay Pacific a great award option both for those booking way in advance, and those booking close to departure.

As of June 22, 2018, Cathay Pacific made some major changes to their Asia Miles frequent flyer program. Historically Cathay Pacific has mostly released the same amount of award availability to members of their partner frequent flyer programs as they have to members of their own program, which is great for members of Alaska Mileage Plan, American AAdvantage, etc.

We weren’t sure if that would change as of June 22, 2018, or in general if Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles changes would lead to an adjustment in premium cabin award availability. Cathay Pacific claimed they’d release 20% more award availability with the new program, though they didn’t state on what routes or in what cabins that space would materialize.

When the program changes first kicked in I looked at award availability and felt like things were mostly the same as before, so I didn’t see any major changes. However, it looks like that’s no longer the case.

Within the past couple of weeks, Cathay Pacific has more or less zeroed out their business class award availability on longhaul flights. This isn’t just limited to North America flights, but I’m also seeing this to virtually all other longhaul destinations. This is true if booking way in advance, and it’s true if booking last minute. As of now first class award availability trends haven’t changed.

There is still some business class award availability on shorthaul flights, though it doesn’t seem to be as readily available as before.

My first thought was that maybe Cathay Pacific has started restricting award availability to members of their own Asia Miles program, as we’ve seen some programs (like Singapore KrisFlyer) do. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, as Asia Miles doesn’t even show more award availability.

It’s one thing if they stopped releasing award availability way in advance but still did so last minute, but they’re not even doing that. That leads me to believe that something else is going on (either this is a glitch, or some sort of a temporary test, or something), since I can’t imagine long term they just wouldn’t make longhaul business class seats available as awards. That would significantly change the value proposition of their own program.

I’m reaching out to Cathay Pacific in hopes of getting some clarity as to what’s going on. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you don’t see any longhaul business class award seats available.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business Class

What do you think is going on with Cathay Pacific business class awards?

Comments

  1. Thks. Pls post a follow up. I am wondering abt this myself since I sit on lots of AS miles and I plan to use for long haul in CX. I have been checking on BA and see no availability.

  2. I absolutely agree with your observation. All availability for all dates between LAX or JFK and HKG in business class seems to have disappeared. Terrible for those of us who just bought Alaska and American miles during their promotions in anticipation using them on CX! Plus I have a ton of miles racked up on the Cathay-branded Visa card. For those who only fly long haul from the States and have no use for short haul CX availability, this could really screw us over.

  3. Thanks, Lucky! So it wasn’t just me! I noticed this last week and just chalked it up to BA-CX communication error. Hope it does not represent a long-term strategy shift.

  4. The dark clouds gathering ominously in the picture behind the Cathay plane is a good metaphor! Let’s hope it’s just a false alarm and not a huge devaluation like Emirates did with Alaska. And would be without notice too, which is always extra painful.

    I’m really glad I locked in my South Africa booking with Cathay already next year! Sorry for those that are left hanging right now with AA and Alaska miles!

  5. Thank for pursuing this! I also have a bunch of miles I moved from Citi TYP as well as a Cathay credit card for me and my wife. They expire in a couple of years.

  6. @Bob, I have been using the BA app to find availability and it has been basically busted for the last month. The website is better if you are also using the app. In May/June I was searching for Cathay awards in J and Saw next to none of them from Ord to hkg. Ended up picking up three seats in F instead, using Alaska’s miles. Offered a week in advance. Lovely!

  7. told ya, thanks for posting something. honestly can’t believe no one had posted about this yet.

  8. I can’t get BA’s site to even work when searching for the fifth freedom flight between JFK and Vancouver any more

  9. I’ve noticed the same thing—but even on some economy routes (at least the ones I was looking at). Trying to use some Asia Miles to book a flight from HKG to literally anywhere else in Asia and getting almost any availability to show has been nearly impossible… guess I’ll just wait until a few days before I need to leave and see what happens haha

  10. I find when searching SFO-HKG that segments are married. I can find business class SFO-BKK but not SFO-HKG by itself.

  11. Been trying for weeks to book business from HKG-DEL in January but all I am seeing is economy / premium economy. Please follow up 🙂

  12. I searched earlier today for J and F JFK-HKG the last week in April 2019 on BA and found a good amount of open space, though it was not confirmed with AA or Alaska. What dates are people not seeing any availability?

  13. I just booked 2 days ago JFK to HKG IN 1ST for nov and HKG TO SYD in business in March ….but I’ve had a hard time finding any business class from LAX,SFO,ORD,JFK to HKG but I do find a 1st here and there …..I looked on british site and used Alaska miles

  14. O God, thanks Lucky! This explains my frustration yesterday for not being able to find anything available on CX ex-Europe to HKG. Please indeed follow up, as I want to burn my highly devalued Qmiles asap.

  15. It has been going on with almost zero availability since a few weeks BEFORE June 22nd. People were hoping after June 22nd, things would return to normal. Nope. The only thing that has returned to normal, is the close in availability indeed has returned. If you can fly within the next 10 to 14 days, you should be able to find something that would work. Beyond that, good luck, especially if you need 2 tickets – even you dont mind to fly on different flights but on the same day, wont be able to.

    Now all you see from 1 to 11 months out, are PE, and very very sporadic 1F here and there, on almost all long haul routes, not just the US-HKG but also EU-HKG and of course the already very bad Australia/New Zealand-HKG and JNB-HKG.

    Shorthaul routes are also very bad – the formally abundantly available HKG-BKK / SIN, HKG-TPE, now are just as hard to find…

  16. you can search routes transit via hk to see any availability but if origin or destination is hkg the availability wont show up. it’s a glitch.

  17. Try searching Asia miles. The HKG-BKK route for example: July 27 has 12 different award flight times available for Business Tailored award level at 57,000 miles and 3 flights for the Business Choice award level at 40,000 miles. Zero availability on BA.com which is normally 15,000 Avios.

    Before June 22, you saw the same availability on Asiamiles.com and BA.com. I think you can figure now what’s going on.

  18. @Danny

    They’re just blocking out summer peak travel on high load flights. Looking at Sept 15th, availability in J HKG-BKK is extremely plentiful.

  19. I fly to HKG several times per year via CX. But I booked a China Eastern Business Class seat from LAX to HKG because CX didn’t have any available upgrade awards. They are going to lose my regular business if this continues.

  20. @JZ @UA-NYC – glitch or not, it does not help if you try to book with any partner currency because even with the married segment style availability, AA cannot book it.

    They are phantom.

    Even Asia Miles sees very little Standard awards, and in some scenario, booking the Standard awards but the last page would show the Choice or Tailored award – that are much more expensive than the Standard award. Of course partners only have access to Standard award.

    You guys should follow the thread in the CX forum on FT – people who are based in HKG are considering gathering data and file formal complaint with local government on the current CX practice. They also wonder why no bloggers here have picked up the ongoing bad news… Now finally we see the first write up on this.

  21. This is so timely, I spent an hour on the phone this morning checking every North American gateway both to and from HKG from December to April and believe I found 1 Business Class seat. Many PE and even First but nearly non-existent Business Class.

    Please let us know what you find.

  22. On the Asiamiles site, I can price out KUL-DOH-LHR on Qatar without any issues but for KUL-HKG-LHR on Cathay , everything is waitlisted. Very strange.

  23. @Danny
    There is some availability with married segments. For example, HND-BKK on July 27 shows HKG-BKK business availability (when preceded by HND-HKG as a married segement). Searching HKG-BKK by itself shows nada on partners.

  24. Please follow up with Cathay! I have noticed the lack of availability for many months, since end of 2017. In previous years I’ve redeemed 2 J seats many times HKG- FRA/ ZRH ams return (also HKG-DUS when it still existed).

    NOTHING can be found nowadays! My last few award flights HKG- Europe (4 in last 12 months) were all with Star Alliance (one exception) as no availability with One World (Qatar never has availability from HKG to Europe and BA makes no sense, no other good One World options).

    I live in HK and earning Asia Miles is relatively easy but will have to stop using Asia Miles if this trend continues. Krisflyer has devalued but at least the Miles can be used. Mind you not necessarily on SQ as the famed better availability isn’t all it’s made out to be. But you have LH, Thai, Austrian and Eva and others so many more options than in Asia Miles/ One World.

  25. For those with Asiamiles, do waitlist for CX J and they will clear at T-10 days. I waitlisted for a few flights this week and they all clear at T-10 days.

  26. Always have a chuckle when Lucky talks about buying alaska miles, and how Cathay often has five business class seats avilalable (eg yesterday!)

    May need to update that part of the article 🙂

  27. It’s because they tiered their awards. None left at the flex level, not even economy class Hk to shanghai. I was so frustrated a while ago.

  28. @Tai
    I am glad you pointed out that since Dec 2017 the award seats started to dry up for the EU-HKG routes, and actually for the US-HKG routes as well. When I tried to tell those folks on FT CX threads in the AS and AA forum, esp in the AS forum, I was literally told being a liar when people kept saying they were able to book this and that… turned out their bookings were all made before late 2017 and they were still talking about it as examples or templates for current reality… pretty stupid to look at rear mirror for what is happening now.

    Close in, one can still find seats, even with partners, no need to waitlist using Asia Miles. But just how many folks can do close-in travels? I can do it but I dont like doing it. I much like in the past when it is possible to find J seats a few months out. Pity those who are so used to book 330 days out… Nada for them.

  29. They’ve just decimated award availability intra-Asia as well.

    Virtually everything CX does these days is disappointing. Such a shame.

  30. And the surprise is?

    We know many carriers are reducing award space for the programs of alliance partners. Why would anyone wanting an award in Cathay have taken the risk of building miles in American or Alaska? Yes, there might be an arbitrage advantage, but the risk of the miles being worthless in terms of a desired award in a different carrier has been very high for a long while now.

    Originally the value to airlines of cross-alliance award space was to encourage people using awards to experiment with other airlines in the hope that might attract long-term paying custom to that other airline. That isn’t how people have been using awards – in practice people have flown one airline for business but taken award leisure flights on a different airline without any impact on their business travel choice. The commercial benefit to an airline in making award space available to passengers who have credited miles elsewhere is now extremely low.

  31. Well done for highlighting this issue.
    I am a Qantas FF points holder and found this problem earlier this week when searching for J class seats for a 2019 trip from Australia to Europe via HK … but found nothing. There were no problems on our previous trip in 2017 and found CX easy to find seats.
    So, I emailed to both Qantas and Cathay Pacific to ask why the change and whether it was just a glitch. Unfortunately both responses didn’t even admit to any changes and suggested I speak with the other airline!
    Funny, I was writing a response letter to CX when an alert came though from the australianfrequentflyer.com.au forum about your article here on OMAAT.
    Please continue to pursue and answer and return to normal …. the more public urging the better.

  32. In the past few weeks I repeatedly check the CX award tickets on CX/QF/JL/BA, which showed high consistency over the extremely poor availability of award tickets, especially to the flights from HKG to Europe.

    I checked the departure date between April to July in 2019, and in average there are no more than 5 business class seats left in this 4 months, not even standard but also choice and tailored, that’s totally ridiculous!

  33. As an Asia Miles member, I also cant get any aware availability. So its pretty much accross the board.

  34. This happened since 3 weeks ago for myself. Was able to book JFK to HKG continue to KUL on the very last day (6/28) with AA miles for 70K. return flight on 7/17 from HKG to BOS just booked it on 7/14. I think still possible to book last min flight just that no longer 10-14 days but more like 2-3 days before departure.

  35. OMG… I am so glad that I booked my CX flights on 6/21/18. I had no problem that day booking SFO- South East Asia RT in J using the old award chart for March 2019. I made it just as the window was closing.

    Interestingly 2 years ago I was able to also get the same flight in F just as the old AA award chart expired – got the RT for only 140K AA. Just in the nick of time.

  36. I think a lot of the difficulties we have been facing regarding FF programs is due to a knee jerk reaction from the airlines to the massive popularity of the miles and points bloggers. Right or wrong, airlines feel they are either being taken advantage of or think they are losing valuable revenue due to the huge influx of people taking advantage of FF miles and CC points. They are overreacting and sticking it to the consumer by making it as difficult, inconvenient, convoluted, and as expensive as possible to get award seats. FF members are now viewed as “enemies” that need to be stopped to a trickle. The reality is that large numbers of people, like myself are now able to fly inexpensively and the airlines don’t like this one bit.

  37. Qantas has some availability! I just found a Qantas reward ticket to NY including HKG-JFK leg with Cathay business class award availability for February.

  38. I am reading this just after landing with my wife on CX 884 Hkg-lax J booked with AS miles three days ago.

    Here’s what I’ve observed so far :
    1. T-10 or 14 is pretty much dried up, T-2 or T-3/4 seems to be the norm nowadays for J, we found two. For F, T-7 seems to be the norm.
    2. One first seat is easily available on most flights at t-3 or 4 days.
    3. For last minute travel, they are not opening up first and business class on same flight, there seems to be a total no of j+F award seats per flight logic.
    4. Hkg to lax is easier than Hkg-Sfo
    5. BA site accuracy is terrible these days. Use Qantas and JAl to cross check.
    6. AS in most cases seems to see one less seat than Qantas and JAL. Especially flights that show two first awards, AS can only see One. For one seat, it’s been a hit and miss between the sites.

    Hope this helps..

  39. There is CX availability showing up in Qantas website. I checked for SFO-HKG-MAA for Jul 1, 2019 and could see availability in CX via the Qantas website but not in the BA website. Must be a glitch in BA website.

  40. Had the same problem. Just have to check everyday. Paid off… From zero availability to a couple for HKG-YVR.

  41. I am just about done saving 250k AS miles and 350k AA miles for a trip (for 5) next may and have been searching 1-3 weeks out from present day and it looks bad. Hope CX gets back to you.

  42. could it be lots of persons booked with miles far in advance?

    we booked some seats in business class for sept. back in nov. ?

  43. If you checked on any GDS you’d probably see that CX business class flights tend to be sold out on most days/destinations. CX has little incentive in letting people redeeming miles on its metal. Of course, that does not mean it’s right – a balance is always necessary.

  44. No, a key issue is that AAA-HKG-BBB is available for awards, but AAA-HKG is not and HKG-BBB is not. THAT is the “flaw”, nothing about the seats not being available, sold out, low availability, etc.

    So is it them messing with married segments? Punishing HKG O&D residents?

  45. The problem is, even if you are willing to book the married segment, even AA cannot book it. BA of course does not even show it most of the time.
    AS could not even see it as expected.

  46. Award availability from the UK or Oz on CX has always been appalling IME, not seeing much change!

  47. Hey friends, is it possible that paying passengers are filling up those seats? Or that they are selling the seats deeply discounted to companies?

  48. Thanks for the attention! I am an Asia Award member and, unfortunately at this point, have lots of Asia miles. I’ve been trying to get a business class companion award for 2 months and nothing appears to work. Please publish a follow up.

  49. @Marty. The explanation is not paying passengers. Looking on Expert Flyer reveals lots of empty seat on route I have tried to get companion award.

  50. I was able to book JFK to HKG twice and then onto Male and Bali and once on a return from Bali all in First and Business, but this was a couple of months ago. I wanted to switch a HKG to DPS segment to a day earlier with my current booking JFK HKG 2 day layover, DPS for Oct 22 and 25th. BA shows 1 business class seat available but AS does not see it. Tried 5 days in a row. Very frustrating. Please let us know what you find out.

  51. Lucky, although this appears likely to be a glitch on their system at the moment, I am surprised to see no mention here of the tiered award chart system they have introduced. Even if they add back some availability I think we can safely assume they will limit standard award availability and try to shift a lot more into “choice” or “tailored” reward tiers when using Asia Miles…

  52. I suspect that the rush to book speculatively award seats on CX metal in the month leading up to 22 June has affected the usual availability of mid-term stock, and will be a long time before people cancel and rebook. There does seem to be a pattern of CX releasing extra availability late in the cycle, and instead of J releasing around T-21 and F releases around T-20 those timeframes have tightened a bit, and this could be a change from manual release to automated releases. I wonder is there anyon inside CX revenue control that can hint at what is going on?

  53. It is 100% an issue as I have been searching Australia to HKG for travel in two weeks time and nothing in J on any flight. I am fortunate to have a contact who works at CX and they advised me that on one of the flights I was trying to book they had only sold a handful of revenue seats and the aircraft was basically empty. Crazy stuff!

  54. This has happened before. CX flights were departing with near-empty F cabins, and sparse J cabins. Finally someone in CX saw the folly of this and they hit reverse pretty quickly. This scenario will repeat itself.

  55. Absolutely correct. I use Miles to fly business to Cebu every so often and I found absolutely nothing even going 300+ days out. I finally gave up and got business and first class on JAL to Manila. I use AK miles. Emirates has some availability as well.

  56. Lucky any news ? I reached out directly to CX via The Club as I checked every flight for the next 8 months and not one J class seat could be found for redemption.
    They responded generically stating enhancements had been made to the Asiamiles program increasing the number of seats available for redemption by 20%!!!! Emphatically incorrect there are NO seats not 20% more 100% less .This has rendered Asiamiles and The Club superfluous . Every ” enhancement ” made by CX of recent times has been to the detriment of its members no more so than is eveident with this change by removing all J class redemption seats instead of increasing as they clearly stated in their promos .

  57. I don’t think the problems are just with Cathay. Try using Qantas points to book Business with Qatar. They only seem to release on seat at a time and of course many of us travel in pairs. The viability of award points is rapidly declining. I’m getting close to just leaving the schemes and hunting for the best deals I can find.

  58. Yes, you are correct. I tried to use Asia Miles in last 3 weeks to obtain business class seats , No luck. Then I tried economy – also no luck…………….. and this was just a short sector BKK/HGK/BKK .
    In the end I booked another airline

  59. I hope that CX will start restricting the amount of premium redemption seats for non-Marco Club Members. CX is one of the few OW Airlines which treats members from other airlines as they do their own.

    As an airline struggling with profitability it needs to focus on its own revenue base and that means strengthening their own programme.

  60. This is giving me pause for the SPG I was going to transfer into AS. Cathay is far and away the best use of Alaska miles.

    Hopefully some clarity comes before 8/1.

  61. I was able to book a Europe-HKG business class ticket via Iberia (using their 90.000 Avios promotion) last week (and flew last Thu) – reward space wasn’t visible on BA though. CX F seemed to be visible at T-7 and booked JAL instead.

  62. After upgrading their system now everything they are married segments. I tried to search for HKG-Tokyo for this and next month nearly no award availability at all for this, next and the month after, not even for one seat in any class. But if I put in as TPE-NRT-TPE via HKG either via Qantas website and it shows all available.

    Someone has to tell CX or verify with CX what’s going on with this as it is so wrong not to allow their home airport based travellers to redeem anything.

  63. @Anthony

    You obviously have NO CLUE on what is going on. Did you even read the numerous comments here are made by Asia Members who cannot book anything, even a coach award, let alone a premium cabin seat?

    CX does not even release award space for its own members. So what did you say?

  64. If you are a Diamond member + of CX, there is always availability – i mentioned this about 6-8 months ago that they will start restricting award availability for non DM members, – closing the loophole slowly

  65. Monitoring this closely. I have a stash of AS points that will be worthless without CX premium availability. If this is an unannounced long term change to CX award availability this is enough to put me off paying for points and making travel bookings this way. We are talking real cash here to buy the AS miles.

  66. @ global traveller: why is award availability for regular ASIA MILES (not AS or other OW) members a ‘loophole’? I can understand if CX wants to restrict availability to Alaska or other OW airlines but why annoy other customers like me who simply don’t fly enough to ever make Diamond? I still paid for the miles via credit card (could always pay cash as you know in Hong Kong sometimes there’s a discount for cash payments) or use a cashback card or other credit card. Miles are not free so I still have a right to redeem miles.

  67. @ Tai (Ah Tai by any chance?)

    1. HK law will not stop you from buying into something stupid – this is where “world’s freeist economy” kicks in and regulators will belt out Caveat Emptor til your fall into the Sham Chun River River.

    They will stop you from buying something smart, like JQHK.

    2. There is a perfectly rational economic justification for stopping even AM redeemers from redeeming – it’s called demand leakage. It’s been mentioned in the FT Propeller Travel (ex-EU BA travel agency shutdown) thread.

    Simply put, if a business holds a monopoly or close-to-monopoly status, they maximise their profits by charging everyone the maximum they can pay for (price differentiation). Mileage redemptions help airlines with price diffentiation.

    It will eat into their profits if rich customer can somehow buy in a cheaper price, and not pay the highest price he’s willing to pay.

    Redemption availability eats into part of CX’s revenue sales. CX is probably thinking demand is so high these days that it may be possible to clamp down on demand leakage by making redemptions difficult to redeem.

    It’s akin to ticket scalping for sold-out shows, where scalpers rather let show seats go empty than to sell them for whatever price he gets just before show starting time. Both ticket scalping and airline revenue management are yield management – just that CX believes it will benefit from playing hardball.

  68. Thanks for the update! I was recently trying to book 3 biz tickets from NYC-HKG this fall and found absolutely no award availability on CX whatsoever. This was the case both with the asia miles, BA, and AA websites. The same was the case when searching for a mid-trip flight from HKG-KIX where there was also no biz availability at all despite CX operating 6 daily flights. I ended up booking on AA instead JFK-LAX-HKG in biz after topping off miles with the excellent buy miles promotion they are having. I was also able to score 3 reasonably priced biz tickets on Hong Kong Airlines for the HKG-KIX flight. This seemed like a reasonable solution…but CX award availability would have made it so much easier!

  69. I have been looking for business class between HK and USA for the last few weeks on BA website and found nothing. After reading this, I logged into AsiaMiles.com and did a search. It showed availability for the next 3 months without the need for waitlisting, and anything beyond three months has to be waitlisted. The availability of the next three months (up to early October) mainly on Monday through Wednesday departing HKG to LAX, SFO, and JFK. Now, that’s for “standard awards.” You get more availability if you do “choice awards,” and even more with “tailored awards” but they will cost you more miles.

  70. Read on FT that it may be an HKG issue, travel not involving HKG seems to come up with normal(-ish) availability

  71. Was on the line to AS today re my Sept bookings. There were no premium awards available Sept but she could see a few HKG-EUR J in August which is three weeks away. So good to know that CX has released some space to AS close in.

  72. I actually just booked CX HKG – JFK for Christmas/NY on redemption (Business) with no trouble at all. The seats weren’t available previously (I’ve looked for the past week) but now there seems to be some opened up.

  73. I tried to book CX from HKG to SIN and there wasn’t any availability in Y or J. TPE shows availability though. Probably an issue ex-HKG.

  74. So frustrating. Sitting on 600k alaska miles and was looking to book ORD-HKG-MLE. The fact that asia miles doesn’t even have access makes no sense.

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