When to look for Cathay Pacific award space

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When to look for Cathay Pacific award space

The pattern used to be very predictable…Cathay would release 2 seats far in advance, more roughly 2 weeks out, and then a wave within a couple days of departure at Saaver rates ( Standard Awards if you’re searching on Cathay). That pattern hasn’t been reliable for roughly 18 months.  Cathay now releases only 1 award in advance and then it’s become far more unpredictable what they will do close-in. To make matters worse, British Airways now blocks all Cathay Pacific award space roughly 6 days from departure. However, I’ve been fastidiously searching Cathay Pacific award space from Boston to Hong Kong. It’s the first Long Haul on my mom’s surprise 75th birthday trip. So when’s the best time to look for Cathay Pacific Award Space.

Months in Advance you’ll see 1 seat available. You can search for this on British Airways, Qantas, or Cathay Pacific.

It was roughly 9 months ago when first locked down flights. Originally my mom was in First Class and my Dad and I were business. The chart looked similar to this

When to look for Cathay Pacific award space

First Class remained sold out…until exactly 10 days in advance of our flight ( as in 240 hours ). Then, all of a sudden, 1 seat popped up for the 8th of April. I moved my dad into that seat. You can still see this on BA, Qantas, and Cathay Pacific

When this seat pealed off the cabin had 4 seats open. I was able to get my dad upgraded through Alaska for just 20k points and the cabin was half full.

When to look for Cathay Pacific award space
This screen cap is for a flight 10 days from the day I wrote this draft.

I’d been tracking flights on both the 7th and the 8th…Last night, at 01:45 EST, exactly 48 hours before the flight… space opened up for the 7th. Under 6 days I use Cathay. You can also see space via Qantas. BA blocks Cathay award space under 6 days.

What’s interesting about this day is 4 seats are open in First Class and Business Class is wide open. Suddenly, last night, 1 seat opened up in First Class. You can’t search for this space on BA because it’s blocked, but on Cathay you can see it.

When to look for Cathay Pacific award space
Screencap from April 5th at 1:45amEST

Can this be relied upon?

Zach Honig at The Points Guy experienced a similar pattern when he booked tickets in 2015: Far out, 10 days, 2 days. It doesn’t look as though it holds up as consistently because Derek from AccountingYourPoints noticed space pop up exactly 2 weeks out, except they weren’t available to Alaska. What seems to be consistent is seats are pealed off within 2 weeks. If at the 14 day mark nothing has moved, check the 10 day mark. I found that 10 days showed seats pealing off with more regularity.

This seems to work on flights that have >1 seat for sale.

We were booked on the flight for the 8th; however, the cabin is completely sold except for 1 seat. The example I used for the 7th had 4 open seats. The last seat on our flight never released which I think plays into the >1 availability.

It used to be that all but 1 seat would open up to award seats. It doesn’t look like this is the absolute trend now, but that more seats do open up within a couple days of departure.

What has your experience been?


Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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  • Sonny March 17, 2019

    Well…I search Cathay award ticket from HKG to LAX and found some dates in the comming days.
    For example..21/03/19
    In BA there’s nothing like you said
    In Alaska neither…(just flying with AA)

    Only found it on Qantas…

    If I look for farther days… like 15/04/19 happends the same… There’s a seat on Qantas website. But nothing on BAEC’s avios or Alaska’s miles.

    The patron is not helping me if I dont’t have Qantas miles.

    • Miles March 17, 2019

      Sonny – hmmmmm. Alaska will never show avail and you’ll have to call in ( they also don’t have full access to CX space ), and BA blocks space the closer it gets to booking ( usually 7 days. ) The other thing to note is Qantas sometimes shows phantom award space, which could be the culprit here…you can cross reference avail on the CX site itself ( but note that CX will release avail to its own loyalists prior to OW partners) In your circumstance, if CX has the space and Qantas is showing avail, call in to AS and see fi they can pull the inventory as it may be a BA issue

  • […] studied how Cathay releases inventory to partners for a long time. 14, 10, 3, 1. That’s the […]

  • lady-kan September 24, 2017

    Hi Miles,

    I’ve reserved two business seats for my family with Alaska Miles (no status with them this year) on Dec 8th, 17. Been trying to search First class seats but no luck. If it opens 10 days before – is there any way I can avoid the change fee with Alaska?

    • Miles September 24, 2017

      Lady-Kan – unfortunately there isn’t really a work-a-round barring some sort of delay or change in schedule. I will say that if the space does open up, it’s worth it not only for the flight, but the lounge access at HKG. First Class passengers can bring in 1 guest. Where are you headed?

      • Rod November 5, 2017

        I thought it was free to upgrade from business to first class, like you just needed the extra points on your account, call and that was it. You have to pay the $125 change fee?

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  • […] also pulled a fast one on my dad and told him that a 2nd first class seat hadn’t opened up. BUT IT DID – about 10 days prior to take off. So I surprised him with his first class ticket and it meant that he and my mom could experience […]

  • Jonathan Shapiro June 16, 2017

    Hello Miles, I have an Expert Flyer account. How do I search for Cathay first rewards in Expert Flyer? Cathay doesn’t appear in the list of airlines in Expert Flyer. Thanks

    • Miles June 16, 2017

      Hey Jonathan – CX awards don’t show on expertflyer unfortunately. you can use awardnexus to set alerts, but that’ll run you a fee. I ultimately just kept checking BA, Qantas, and Cathay’s own site.

  • Kyle May 17, 2017

    Hey Miles,

    Looking into CX First Class for our honeymoon next year, and Alaska is the obvious option. But I’m worried about being able to snag two seats given some of the issues getting multiple first class seats through Alaska. Think it’d be an issue if I started looking out far enough? It would be LAX-HKG-DPS/CGK in mid-September of 2018.

    • Miles May 17, 2017

      Kyle – it’s a total crap shoot. CX rarely releases two seats that far out in the schedule, but I’d use Qantas to search for it. You’ll have better luck looking from JFK and LAX vs say Boston where I recently flew out of. One strategy is to lock in one seat in first and another in biz, set alerts for the first seat with expertflyer. If you’re flying out of JFK there are multiple flights a day so you could always move to the flight that opens avail. Also be aware that AS is partners with CX but not Cathay Dragon. Thanks for reading!

      • Phil June 20, 2017

        Hi Miles,

        My partner and I are currently booked in business on Cathay Pacific on 7/19/2017 from BOS-HKG. What are the changes of 2 first class seats opening up a week out so we can use more miles to upgrade to first or is it more realistic ti think only one of us will be flying in 1st since only one seat will be released. We used AAdvantage miles.

        • Miles June 20, 2017

          Hey Phil – That’s a great question and there isn’t really a definitive answer. AA has access to awards that Alaska doesn’t have access to, and you can change your award ticket up until 4 hour prior to take off – so that’s good news for you…I would monitor the flights on expertflyer and see what the seat map looks like. The old pattern was that all but 1 seat would be released for awards leading up to departure. That’s not the pattern anymore. Cathay will fly with empty seats in first and never release them. Check 14 and 10 days out…then every single day after that for availability. If you’re looking at a cabin with 5 or 6 open seats…I’d say you have a decent change of them being pealed off. If you’re only seeing 2 or 3 seats you’ll be lucky to get 1 seat released…and it’s time for rock papers scissors 😉

          Another option…since you’re on AA as long as your origin and destination stay the same you can alter the routing as much as you like for free. This means you could route through NYC. Tons of flights every day between JFK and HKG and AA operates an A321T with lie flats between boston and nyc. just an option. good luck!

  • Jay April 10, 2017

    Noob question:
    What does “showed seats pealing off ” I don’t understand what you mean by pealing off.

    • Miles April 11, 2017

      Hey Jay – just a way of saying released another seat. thanks for reading!

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