Finding business/first class award seats on Cathay Pacific or JAL

Cathay Pacific First Class Krug Champagne
First Class on Cathay Pacific

For better or worse you can’t search for award availability on some One World carriers using the American Airlines website. Why is transparency and ease of booking a bad thing? If the average user could easily book an award ticket there would be a lot less availability for savvy users like yourself.

While AAdvantage miles were a lot more valuable a few years ago redeeming them for premium cabin award tickets is still an excellent value proposition.

Let’s take a look at American’s partner award chart. You can fly from New York to Tokyo in JAL’s first class for 80,000 miles. Or you can fly from New York to Hong Kong and on to Bangkok in Cathay Pacific business class for 80,000 miles.

To:Main CabinBusinessFirst
Middle East40,00070,000115,500
Indian Subcontinent~40,00070,000115,000
Asia Region 1 e.g. Tokyo35,00060,00080,000
Asia Region 2 e.g. Hong Kong37,50070,000110,000
South Pacific e.g. Fiji40,00080,000110,000

Once you’ve accumulated the miles and have a rough idea of when you want to travel it’s time to head over to and login to your Executive Club account. If you don’t have one click “Register now” and sign-up:

Login at

After you’ve created an account and logged in arrow over “Book” and then select “Book a flight with Avios”

BA book a flight with Avios

When considering when to book keep in mind JAL opens up award space 330 days out at 10:00 am JST. They release a few seats in first and business at the open of the schedule and then tend to release more a few weeks before the flight if seats go unsold.

Cathay Pacific follows a similar schedule. However, AA does not have a predefined schedule to release Cathay awards, but they usually become available 331 days prior to the flight with more being released a few days before the flight.

When entering in the search criteria I recommend searching one-way at a time. It’s easier to find availability for a single leg of the journey. For example, if you wanted to go from New York to Bangkok via Hong Kong I recommend searching JFK-HKG, finding space and then searching HKG-BKK. If a business class seat is available on the JFK-HKG leg, but only an economy seat is available on the HKG-BKK leg you may want to book that and keep an eye out to see if business class opens at a later date for the shorter flight. You wont be able to book online anyways, but more on that later.

I also recommend selecting “Business / Club.” By selecting “business/club” you’re able to see premium economy, business and first class seats. By selecting “economy” you’re limited to seeing economy, premium economy and business class seats. This is a limitation of the British Airways website.

BA Avios flight search interface

Select the number of passengers traveling and then “Get Flights.” I recommend searching one passenger at a time. You’re more likely to find a single award seat and you’ll be able to see how many seats are actually available in the next screen. You’ll then be brought to another screen asking if you want a “Stopover.” This gives you the option of spending time in London before your connecting flight, but unless you want to connect through London on British Airways select “No.” This is almost never a good option since British Airways charges exuberant fuel surcharges.

BA Avios flight search stopover option

When searching 330 days out I found 2 award seats in both business and first class on JAL’s morning and afternoon New York to Tokyo flight. British Airways doesn’t allow you to see a full calendar view of availability, but you are able to toggle between days.

BA Avios flight search results

Once you found the flight that you want call American Airlines at 1-800-882-8880 or your elite service number. Ask the agent to search award availability on your selected date. They’ll book your ticket, help with seat assignment and charge you a minimal fee for taxes / fuel surcharges.

If you can’t find award availability for your chosen date or in the cabin of your choice I recommend to check again closer to your flight. You can check as often as your want as there’s always a chance space will open up in the interim.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s