This isn’t necessarily a step by step guide on how to book, but I figured I would share my experience with booking seats on Cathay Pacific using my Alaska Airlines miles.
Initial Routing (US to Asia)
We had initially been planning on visiting Asia over Thanksgiving 2017. One of the beauties about Alaska’s routing rules is that they allow stopovers on one ways and re-positioning flights can also be booked on the same ticket. There are a few other routing rules to keep in mind, but I won’t go into too much detail. You can learn more about these routing rules from blog posts by Travel Codex.
So Cathay Pacific has several different flights from the North America to Hong Kong. The routes I primarily was focusing on were: SFO – HKG, LAX – HKG, and YVR – HKG. I preferred these routes since we’re based on the west coast. Here is the Alaska Airlines award chart for Cathay Pacific:
For Cathay Pacific, Continental US to Asia is 30k for Economy, 35k for Premium Economy, 50k for Business, and 70k for First. Obviously, the most bang for your buck (or in this case miles) would be first class seats. However, first class availability is somewhat limited especially if you’re searching for two people. For this reason the rest of this blog post will focus on business class seats since that’s what I booked.
Adding Additional Flights
As I mentioned above, you can add a re-positioning flight to your ticket. Keep in mind this flight has to be on Alaska Airlines. For instance, SEA-SFO-HKG would price out at 50k miles plus taxes/fees. I could also do SEA-LAX-HKG for the same price. This gives you a bunch of different options when looking for flights from North America to HKG since you can re-position for free.
But wait it gets better. You can also add a stopover in Hong Kong, which is basically an extended layover (over 24 hours). For instance, I can book SEA-SFO-HKG (stay for 4 days) -PEK (Beijing). This is obviously just an example, but as you can see there are many possibilities since Alaska’s definition of Asia is pretty expansive.
You can book this routing in business class for only 50k miles (plus taxes/fees) each way. This ticket would cost up to $5,000 if you paid in cash.
Well as you may have figured, this was the routing I wanted to book for our Thanksgiving trip to Asia.
Finding Award Availability
If you search on Alaska Airlines website, you won’t be able to find any of these routes. Unfortunately, Alaska doesn’t show Cathay Pacific award availability on their website, which means you’ll have to search elsewhere. You can’t simply look on Cathay Pacific’s website either because they only release a few award seats to their partners.
Therefore, you’ll have to search on either Japan Airlines, Qantas, or British Airways. If you’re trying to search over multiple dates, Qantas is probably the easiest to use. If you have specific dates, I find it easier to use British Airways for award searches. You’ll want to search segment by segment (i.e. if you want SFO – HKG – PEK, search SFO – HKG first then HKG – PEK).
As you can see on the SFO – HKG flight, there are 3 premium economy seats, 5 business class seats and 1 first class seat remaining. The further out you look the better the award availability will be. Keep in mind that Cathay Pacific does release some seats closer to the actual flight date.
Next I searched the HKG – PEK route and found the following availability:
Availability has to be on Cathay Pacific NOT Cathay Dragon to be bookable on Alaska Airlines.
Calling To Book CX Award
I jotted down all of these flight times and numbers before placing a call to Alaska Airlines. I called the following number, 1-800-252-7522, and waited on hold for about 10-15 minutes before I was connected with an agent. Next, I informed the agent I wanted to fly SEA to PEK with a stopover in HKG. I had her start the search with SEA to SFO, then SFO – HKG, then HKG – PEK. As expected, she was able to find availability on all the flights that I had previously searched.
After that, she confirmed the flights, took down my payment/passenger information, and read the terms and conditions. I received confirmation within a couple hours and the 100,000 miles were deducted from my account. It was a pretty easy process since I knew exactly what flights were available prior to calling.
Changing the Award (Europe to Asia)
Fast forward to a few months later, we had a slight change of plans. My wife decided to go back to school and get her masters degree. This meant that traveling for a whole week before finals wouldn’t really be possible. For this reason, we had to move our trip to the summer before she started classes instead of Thanksgiving weekend.
Since this flight was more than 60 days out, we were able to change it without any penalties. However, we also decided to change our routing because of some other places we wanted to visit. Therefore, we decided to book CDG to HKG instead.
You may notice that Alaska’s award chart for Europe to Asia is actually only to Hong Kong not the entire continent of Asia. Therefore, you can’t have a stopover in HKG on the same ticket. Keep in mind though that business is only 42,500 miles instead of 50,000 miles one way.
I was able to find two business seats available on the CDG to HKG flight. I called into Alaska and waited about 10 minutes to speak with an agent. This first agent had a difficult time figuring out how to change the award so she actually transferred me to another agent who specialized in partner awards. This second agent was able to change the flight without any issues I had to pay about $30 extra dollars per person in taxes/fees. Since this route cost less miles, 15,000 Alaska miles were deposited back into my account.
In the end, I paid 85,000 Alaska miles and $198 in taxes/fees for two Cathay Pacific business class tickets from CDG to HKG. You can read more about our flight experience in this blog post. This flight typically costs around $2,450 per person. Therefore, I got roughly 5.5 cents per mile/point on this redemption. That’s pretty good value if you ask me!