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Searching Last Minute Cathay Pacific First Class Award Seats

Over the course of the past year, I have been working to accumulate Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles to redeem for a trip with friends to Tokyo! I was able to construct us a very nice itinerary flying Cathay Pacific Business Class JFK-HKG-NRT,  showcasing Alaska Airlines very generous award ticket stopover policy to stopover in Hong Kong.

Cathay 777! Pretty bird! Photo Cred – aero-shots.boardingarea.com/

From what I hear, Cathay Pacific long-haul Business class is great! It features 1-2-1 configured reverse herringbone seats, a solid entertainment offering, and an impressive meal service.

And yet, I yearn for something more…

Cathay Pacific First Class!

I mean, if you have ever read a review of Cathay Pacific First then I am sure that will you want it too! It is an experience I am sure I will overwhelmingly enjoy, and now all I have to do is find an open seat!

Business to First has a 20,000 mile difference…but I think it will be worth the premium!

The first class cabin features just 6 seats – it’s this intimate setting that makes availability so tough to find! Plus, in general it seems that Cathay Pacific First Class awards have been less and less available these days, especially when redeeming oneworld partner and/or Alaska Airline miles.

Note: For non-elites, Alaska policy does include a $125 change/cancellation fee for changes made less than 60 days prior to ticketed flight departure. If you are merely upgrading class of service (for instance, business class to first class) then this fee should not apply!

But, I know what I want and I am willing to put forth some good ‘ol fashioned effort to get it!

Time to put Close-in First Class Award Searching to the Test!

While my flight is still a couple weeks away, I wanted to test out the process to make sure I am ready to search and book when the time comes!

Step 1 – Searching Paid fares via Google Flights

If there are no first class tickets to buy, there for sure will be no seats to release for award tickets…

I chose March 6th (which is today, but 2 days from when I am writing this post) and was able to see 4 of the 6 first class seats still available for purchase. Unless Cathay sells $70k of first class tickets in the next few hours, there is a great chance that these seats will be available for award bookings!

Searching for Award Seats

Availability accoring to British Airways

There are 4 open seats! Now we just have to determine if those seats are available as awards to partner airlines!

British Airways site has always been my go-to when it comes to searching award availability for oneworld partner airlines (make sure to create a frequent flyer account in order to search award seats). Unfortunately, it seems that Cathay has been blocking close-in award seats from the British Airways search tool, rendering ba.com completely useless for my search!

No availability on direct flights = no availability on Cathay Pacific!

Availability according to Qantas

My next favorite oneworld search tool is the Qantas site (also requiring a frequent flyer account). If you are interested in close-in Cathay award space, Qantas is the place to be!

Qantas is showing 3 first class seats available for the March 6th JFK-HKG Cathay Pacific Flight 831!

Award Seats Available, but will Alaska have access…

I knew that Alaska Airlines wouldn’t have full access to all 3 of the award seats found in the above search. In order to test the search results I dialed up Alaska Airlines and was quickly connected to a friendly representative.

I provided the agent the March 6th JFK-HKG flight and was happy to hold while he completed his search.  After a minute or two, the agent returned…

And just as I suspected!

Of the 3 first class award seats I saw on the Qantas website, just one of them was showing as available to Alaska Airlines. This response has been consistent with my personal, and suggests that Alaska Airlines does not have full access to Cathay Pacific partner award seats.

Even when my travel dates become close enough for Cathay to release award space, there is the chance that Alaska will not have access to them. But if they do, I know I will be prepared to pounce on any availability there is. All I can do in the meantime is hope!

Well, hope and keep searching…

Award Nexus Automated Searches

Rather than just wait around for close-in award availability around my travel date, I set up Award Nexus automated alerts just in case some random series of events unfolds that results in awards opening up prior to a week before travel! I set the Award Nexus alert to pull information off of the Qantas and Japan Airlines websites. While I could just search the Qantas/JL websites each and every day (sometimes I still do), it’s nice not always having this as a to-do!

Note: Award Nexus is a paid service. I did have to shell out some cash to purchase credits that I can use to set up alerts, but it is a small price to pay if it results in me booking Cathay First!

Final Thought

In the end, I hope my efforts pay off! I will be a bit bummed if I cannot manage to find first class award seats, but I cannot wait to experience such a quality airline in Cathay Pacific and know that I will be blown away by the business class product!

And look on the bright side, if I am stuck in business, at least I can hang onto some more of my Alaska Mileage Plan miles for a future adventure!

Have you ever flown on a Cathay Pacific First Class award ticket?

Happy Travels,




  1. Er, you linked to a review of business class on CX when you were discussing first class…

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