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Technically the two airlines aren’t partners
Everyone wants to fly Cathay Pacific First Class. It’s incredible. But, what if you want to fly onward or originate elsewhere, and transit through Hong Kong? To book that sort of ticket with Alaska Airlines, for just 70k miles, you’d need the entire ticket on Cathay Pacific metal. Yes, Alaska and Cathay Pacific are partners, and yes, Cathay Pacific owns 100% of Cathay Dragon, but NO, you can’t redeem Alaska miles on Cathay Dragon. So how did I do it?
As you can see in the picture above, Cathay Dragon First Class is very similar, in hard product, to the business call you’ll find on Cathay Pacific longhaul business class. Lie flat, nice IFE, reverse herringbone, and just 8 seats in 1-2-1 configuration.
I was traveling back from Shanghai through Hong Kong to Chicago on a #weekendwarrior trip. We’d booked Cathay First on the longhaul from HKG to ORD with a stop in Hong Kong for a night.
My buddy, Dave, had redeemed Asia miles for his redemption, and I had booked mine with Alaska miles. When I found the flights and routing for our trip back, we were restricted by my Alaska miles, and had to stick to Cathay metal all the way through. The 777 that flies from PVG to HKG we were booked on has no first class and features the following business class. Not bad for a 3 hour flight, but not the best we could do.
I had an idea that would require a day of, at the airport switch, and had been tracking the load of earlier flights via expertflyer. Seats were open in First Class on a Cathay Dragon flight that departed 2 hours before our flight, and would give us more time in Hong Kong along with a much better ride for the 3 hour flight.
If you paid for first class, you are entitled to first class if the space is available from end to end.
This is something that a lot of people don’t realize. If you booked a multi-leg itinerary, and at the time of booking the cabin you paid for isn’t available, but is at check-in, you should always request to be moved to the better cabin.
I knew that Alaska Miles couldn’t technically be redeemed for Cathay Dragon, but also surmised that at check-in that probably didn’t matter. I tested that theory first.
When Dave and I were in the middle of check-in, I requested that we both be moved to the earlier Cathay Dragon flight. I’d seen the business class cabin was roughly half full, and only 2 of the 8 first class seats were taken. Without a hiccup buttons were clicking, and she moved us. This confirmed my suspicion that it could be done without much effort, and that there wasn’t anything hardcoded onto my ticket that would prevent it.
Once we had been moved, I then requested that both of us be moved to First Class.
I figured that asking for both at one time would be overwhelming, and wanted to get each step achieved independently. Since we weren’t continuing on directly, the gate agent didn’t quite understand why that should happen. Once I explained to her the situation, and she pulled up the rest of our itinerary, she made a call. Within a minute or two we had our new seats. Incredible.
A quick peek at our Cathay Dragon First Class ride from Shanghai to Hong Kong.
One cool thing that I saw the staff do, which is just exemplary of the excellence provided by Cathay Pacific, had to do with lint from a blanket. One passenger was wearing a dress and the blanket had left quite a bit of lint on it. Once brought to the attention of the crew, a lint roller and sticky replacements were brought, and a female attendant assisted the passenger in removing the lint. How amazing is that?!