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Update – Searching Last Minute Cathay Pacific First Class Award Seats

The image shows a Cathay Pacific airplane in flight against a clear blue sky. The aircraft is a large commercial jet with its landing gear extended, indicating that it is either approaching for landing or has just taken off. The Cathay Pacific logo and branding are visible on the side of the plane.

Over the course of the past year, I have been working to book 2 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan partner awards for my wife and I to fly to Tokyo on Cathay Pacific. I knew I needed premium cabin (either Business Class or First Class) since I my wife has previously made perfectly clear her preference need for lie-flat seats when traveling to Asia.

At the time of booking, there were 2 Business Class seats available – and I pounced! 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.

The image shows a Cathay Pacific airplane in flight against a clear blue sky. The aircraft is a large commercial jet with its landing gear extended, indicating it is either approaching for landing or has just taken off. The logo and branding of Cathay Pacific are visible on the fuselage and tail of the plane. The image is credited to "Aero Shots" in the bottom right corner.
Image – Courtesy of 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!

Ever since I booked those Business Class seats I have been actively searching to hop up to a First Class redemption. I mean Business Class is great and all… but wouldn’t you prefer first class!? I knew my best chance was going to be “close-in” (within a week or so), as it is customary for Cathay Pacific to release open First Class seats to partners for award redemptions.

Each passing day brought me closer and closer to the close-in window, and each morning, noon and night I searched the Qantas site for my desired Cathay First availability. Then, it happened!

First Class Seats Available!

YASSSS!!! Exactly a week out from departure, Cathay Pacific made 2 award seats available to partner airlines for the exact flight I already had reserved in Business Class! PERFECT – Qantas is showing 2 seats available – exactly what I need!

Alt text: A screenshot of the Qantas website showing flight options from New York to Hong Kong. The page displays flight details including departure and arrival times, flight duration, and available classes (Economy, Premium Economy, Business, and First). The "Select your flight" section is highlighted, and it shows that there are no seats available in any class for the listed flights. The website header includes the Qantas logo and navigation options. The time on the device is 5:59 AM, and the battery is fully charged.
Up before 6:00AM and checking Cathay First award availability!

Award Seats Are Available! But, will Alaska have access…

As excited as I was about the availability I found on Qantas site, I have been through this before in my previous “test” search. I knew that Alaska Airlines would probably not have full access to both of the award seats found in the above search. With fingers crossed, I dialed up Alaska Airlines and was quickly connected to a friendly representative.

The image contains contact information for reservations. It includes the following text:

"Reservations contact information

Find answers for pre-flight questions or issues, flight reservations and changes, award travel, seat assignments, or First Class upgrades.

1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522)
Hearing and speech impaired (TTY): Dial 711 for relay services
Accessible services: 1-800-503-0101"

I provided the agent the JFK-HKG flight and was happy to hold while she completed her search.  After a minute or two, the agent returned…

The Mixed News

Of the 2 first class award seats I saw on the Qantas website, just one of them was showing as available to Alaska Airlines.  I knew that this was very possible outcome that we may encounter, and luckily cleared the issue with my wife ahead of time. We agreed that in the event only one seat was available, we would separate and pay the additional 20k miles to bump one of the award tickets up to First Class, while keeping the other Business Class award ticket.

Now, as far as who will get to sit in First Class and who will be “stuck” in business class – heavy emphasis on the sarcastic air quotes that is yet to be determined…

Final Thought

My hard work paid off! I had been searching and monitoring that First Class availability for months now and as soon as that week-out/close-in window opened, I was ready to act! I am super pumped that either my wife or I will get to experience Cathay Pacific First Class for the first time!

It’s a bummer that Alaska Airlines did not have the ability to book both award seats that opened up, but I will keep searching these last few days before flight departure, since as of this writing there are still 2 First Class Seats for sale on this flight…

The image shows a screenshot of a Google Flights search results page. The search is for flights from New York City to Hong Kong. The departure date is set for June 1, and the return date is June 15. The search results display flight options, with the first option highlighted in a red box. This option shows a flight costing $35,099, operated by Cathay Pacific and American Airlines, departing at 10:30 AM and arriving at 2:35 PM the next day, with a duration of 17 hours and 5 minutes. The flight is non-stop. There is also a map on the right side showing the route from New York City to Hong Kong.
Cathay still selling a pair of First Class seats!

I won’t keep my hopes up to high that another award seat a) opens up to partner airlines and, b) Alaska Airlines can view the award availability and book the ticket, but I’ll be ready to strike just in case!

Have you ever flown Cathay Pacific First Class? What was your favorite part about it?

Happy Travels!


The image shows a simple white line drawing of a paper airplane on a blue circular background.


  1. Did you have to pay the $125 change fee for being less than 60 days or do they waive that since you’re going up in class of service like AA does?

    1. They did in fact waive the fee since I have MVP Gold status, though I explicitly asked the question on whether I would be charged a fee if I did not have the status, and the agent responded no – considering it was a change to go up in class.

  2. We did Cathay First to HKG back in Feb 2016. It was amazing, but my favorite part about it was probably just having my own personal roomy pod. Service was amazing as well, down to the handwritten notes welcoming you aboard. I can’t wait to get back to Asia, hopefully on Cathay again…

    C’mon, if that 2nd seat in First never opens up, you know the wife will be sitting up front. Happy wife, happy life, right?

    1. Thanks for the note! And you are so right… though I am working on a post now to put it to a vote and let the people decide!

    1. AS doesn’t have access at 355 any longer. Only CX/Asia Miles do. Always better to redeem Asia Mles to get access to all available award space.

      The wife sits in back unless she actively participates in MS and other activities.

      1. Haha she participates in granting me access to her credit score in order to churn credit cards… so she is definitely deserving of F!

  3. you’d better give your wife the F seat if you wanna avoid a divorce lawsuit and custody battle


  4. couple of questions…

    1) were these on separate locators? e.g. you only upgraded one ticket… did you split locators?
    2) doesnt Alaska require the whole itinerary to be available to upgrade… if changing jfk-hkg-lax and you were willing to accept/ wanted only hkg-lax to F, but there wasnt another jfk-hkg in business… you could not make the change? without canceling the entire tix (and hoping jfk-hkg would be available? thx

    1. Thanks for the questions – these tickets were booked separately into business class with miles from each of our accounts. Subsequent to the initial booking they were joined under a single record locator. When it came time upgrade one of the tickets to first, the records were split again and miles were taken from one account to cover the upgrade.

      In my case Alaska did not require the whole itinerary to have availability in order to upgrade. Only the JFK-HKG portion of the ticket is in F, while the HKG-NRT segment remains in J due to lack of F availability. I was allowed to make the change without any cancellation. Keep in mind that I still pay the full 70k miles despite the mixed cabin. Also note that this was a one-way award ticket with a stopover, rather than a roundtrip/multicity…


      1. awesome… i might try it. i see one F seat in an itinerary i have with CX. And i presume it will go to the wife as well. Thanks… (also thanks for understanding i meant jfk-hkg-nrt, not jfk-hkg-lax).

  5. Unless you’re really dying for caviar & Krug Champagne, first isn’t worth the extra miles required IMO because the business seats are so good.. On our last two trips from HKG-JFK we flew in the mini-business cabin, just two rows of 1-2-1 seats, directly behind first. We sat along the right side, one in front of the other, which is great. You’ll get your meal order taken first but, unlike Qatar Airways for example, there’s no dining on demand and they won’t hold your choice. I lucked out in that the only meal available later was the one I would have chosen. So, either load up in one of the lounges before the flight, eat when served or eat later without much choice. After QR, CX is my favorite business class.

    1. Thanks for the note! Well since it seems the pair of is will each experience a different cabin, we should be able to definitively determine if the extra 20k AS Mileage Plan miles are worth it! Looking forward to experiencing Cathay for the first time.

    2. CX biz seats are tight across the shoulders. I don’t care about anything but the seat and CX F are nice and wide – allowing me to get some shuteye, which I find difficult in J.

  6. I just had my first CX First Class experience when I flew SFO-HKG and HKG-SFO for a two week trip to Asia.
    Last year I took the same flight on SQ. Both were on 777’s . Here is my comparison:

    1. Seat: CX seats are more comfortable than SQ, both for sitting and sleeping.

    2. Amenity kit: SQ blows away the simple CX amenity kit. SQ gives you full fledged Ferragamo products while CX gives you tiny little tubes of Aesop products. The SQ case is also far nicer. It’s no comparison.

    3. Pajamas: CX blows away the cheap SQ pajamas (I threw them away). The CX pajamas are high quality and made by Pye whereas SQ pajamas are low quality and poorly designed.

    4. Monitor: SQ is better.

    5. Seat storage: CX is better.

    6. Food: SQ is far better. I think the CX food selection is sparse and the quality is mediocre, definitely inferior compared to SQ.

    7. Boarding: SQ consistently allows First Class to board first before Business Class and other FF’s. In SF, CX made First Class board with Business Class and other FF’s at the same time in a big crowd – it felt like I was boarding in economy class. In HK they did let First Class board first.

    8. Crew: This is what in my opinion makes or breaks a flight. I have found SQ cabins crews in all 3 classes to be consistently excellent. With CX I found them to be excellent about half the time. On my SFO-HKG flight the CX crew was mediocre. Thankfully the crew on the HKG-SFO leg was exceptional. On SQ the crews were exceptional on every First Class flight that I flew on.

    9. First Class Lounge: The Pier in Hong Kong is much nicer than the Private Room in Singapore. Both for First and Business Class, the CX lounges in Hong Kong are better than the SQ lounges in Singapore.

    Lastly, on one of my intra-Asia flights they cancelled my First Class flight and down graded me to a flight with only Business Class. While I love the CX Business Class seats, that was a real disappointment to me because I was really looking forward to flying CX First Class the entire trip.

    I have flown CX many times and I find them less reliable than SQ. CX is not as consistent as SQ and I hate that I can’t count on getting an exceptional experience every time I fly them, whereas I feel that I can count on an excellent experience most of the time with SQ.

    1. Wow thanks for the detail! I have experienced SW Suites but never their 777 First Class product, but this will be a great reference data point once I have a CX flight under my belt!

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