Cathay Pacific has long been heralded as one of the world’s leading airlines. With top-tier offerings both on the ground and in the sky, the airline has long attracted Miles & Points enthusiasts and aviation afficionados alike.
While the airline was significantly affected throughout the pandemic, when it saw its route network severely restricted compared to years past, the ongoing reopening of Hong Kong to world is coming with the restoration of Cathay Pacific’s network.
Fortunately, this also means the gradual return of one of the most sought-after aviation experiences around: Cathay Pacific First Class.
In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know about one of the most luxurious flying experiences that you can attain with a well-rounded Miles & Points strategy.
With an elevated reputation as one of the world’s best airlines, Cathay Pacific delivers an intriguing experience from start to finish.
Whether it’s relaxing in a private bath at one of the flagship lounges in Hong Kong or enjoying a refined meal in a comfortable suite in the sky, you’ll want to make sure Cathay Pacific First Class is on your bucket list of travel experiences.
Cathay Pacific makes sure that its First Class is differentiated as a cut above business class, and you’ll easily notice how there are already differences with the experience on the ground.
Let’s start with check-in. Passengers are always offered a separate area, and in Hong Kong, which is Cathay Pacific’s home base, the First Class check-in area is also connected to a dedicated security line.
With initial formalities taking shorter than usual, more time can be spent at one of Cathay Pacific’s exclusive First Class lounges.
There are two of them in Hong Kong: The Pier and The Wing. These two lounges, a 10-minute walk apart, have separate entrances and sections for business class and First Class passengers.
However, as the airline is still in the process of restoring of its pre-pandemic capacity, only The Wing is open for First Class passengers for now. The Pier First Class Lounge is expected to reopen in mid-2023.
While The Wing has elements that don’t necessarily differentiate itself from other lounges, it offers one particularly notable feature: The Cabanas. These private sanctuaries feature a large bathtub and a day bed, both of which are a godsend prior to or following a long-haul flight.
And aside from The Cabanas, The Wing also notably offers à la carte dining at its restaurant called The Haven, as well as a Champagne bar for welcome drinks.
Once it reopens, Cathay Pacific First Class passengers who visit The Pier will also have access to exclusive rooms in an area of the lounge known as The Retreat, which is also where the lounge’s shower rooms are found.
While the day suites here aren’t nearly as luxurious as The Cabanas in The Wing, you can still avail yourself of a quiet, comfortable place to relax prior to your flight.
If you’re ready to quench your thirst, there’s no better place than the visually pleasing bar located in The Pier.
The Pier also offers à la carte dining in the aptly named The Dining Room. While you may be tempted to order a bit of everything from the menu, you’ll want to save some room for your meal on the plane.
However, if you’re just looking for a beautiful place to relax before your flight, head over to The Library for a strikingly beautiful area to spend time in.
Keep in mind that your Cathay Pacific First Class journey has only just begun, and it gets even better from here.
Whereas most other airlines’ First Class cabins are configured with four seats in a row, Cathay Pacific edges them out with its three-across configuration. There’s one seat at the window on either side of the aircraft, and then one in the middle of the cabin.
This is a bit of a big deal, because you wind up with a First Class suite that seems gigantic compared to others.
And waiting on the seat are Bose noise-cancelling headphones, pajamas by Hong Kong-based clothier PYE, and an amenity kit also by Bamford.
The seat that turns into a lie-flat bed can be turned down upon request, and it’d be laid with British lifestyle brand Bamford’s plush 600-thread-count cotton sheet, a choice of soft or firm pillows, and a duvet cover. A spray of Bamford’s famous pillow mist and a cup of JING Tea complete the ritual.
The onboard dining experience is yet another strong point of Cathay Pacific First Class. For starters, you’ll be elegantly served your food and drink of choice with Noritake porcelain dinnerware, Robert Welch flatware, and Riedel wine glasses.
Shortly after boarding, you’ll have your choice of welcome drink, which is likely to include a high-end Champagne.
Once you hit the skies, there’s enough room in the suite for someone to join you, which is always one of the most satisfying parts of First Class.
As a recent development, Cathay Pacific has started collaborating with Michelin-starred restaurant Duddell’s to showcase Hong Kong’s cuisine.
As a First Class passenger, this means that you get to savour dishes like chilled abalone and cucumber with black vinegar, and pan-fried king prawns in white pepper sauce with spring onions and ginger as you make your way to your destination.
Of course, this all comes after the caviar course and the free-flowing Champagne you’d likewise be enjoying.
If you still happen to be hungry, be sure to order something delicious from the snack menu, such as braised pork noodles or a dim sum selection.
To wrap things up, you’ll have the treat of enjoying a cheese plate, ice cream, a pie, or even all of the above.
Needless to say, you’ll want to come hungry (and thirsty) for your Cathay Pacific First Class flight.
Among Cathay Pacific’s mixed fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes, only select Boeing 777-300ER aircraft are equipped with First Class.
The First Class cabin consists of merely six seats divided into two rows in a 1-1-1 configuration. It’s clearly a contrast from the 1-2-1 configuration in the business class behind, thus providing you with the most real estate on the plane.
Seats 1A and 2A exclusively share the left aside, while the four other seats share the right aisle. Hence, the two left seats are the best ones in the house, and they’re most ideal whether flying solo or as a couple.
Alternatively, if you’d like to sit closer to your companion, your best option may be to choose one of the seats in the middle (“D” seats) paired with a seat on the right side (”K” seats), as these seats open towards each other on the same aisle.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cathay Pacific offered First Class on a handful of routes, including many to North America. But with an extended crash in demand, thanks to Hong Kong’s heavy-handed pandemic restrictions, the airline parked its aircraft with First Class in storage.
The good news is that Cathay Pacific is gradually bringing First Class back, and as of this writing, it’s offered on four routes: Hong Kong to London, Paris, Tokyo (Haneda), and Los Angeles.
We’re optimistic about the gradual return of Cathay Pacific First Class to North America and other routes, and we’ll be sure to update this guide when this happens.
As a Oneworld member airline, you’ll need to look to the loyalty programs within the alliance for the best deals.
Each program has its own pros and cons, so be sure to consider all of your options before booking Cathay Pacific First Class.
Booking Cathay Pacific First Class with Alaska miles has long been known as one of the best sweet spots in the game. However, there have been some recent changes to Alaska Mileage Plan that put the future of this sweet spot in peril.
Alaska miles are relatively difficult to come by. In the United States, you can earn Alaska miles with co-branded credit cards.
The only other option, aside from buying Alaska miles during a sale, is to transfer in Marriott Bonvoy points at the ideal ratio of 60,000 points = 25,000 miles.
If you happen to have a nice stash of Alaska miles, the good news is that a First Class flight between Hong Kong and North America or Europe costs just 70,000 miles!
Of course, you’ll have to locate award availability to score this deal, which is probably going to be quite difficult. If you happen to find a seat, be sure to book it as soon as possible, since we’re not sure how much longer this sweet spot will last.
Bar none, the easiest way to redeem Cathay Pacific First Class is through its own program, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. You’ll also benefit from a greater amount of award availability compared to redemption partners, which tends to be quite sparse for such a highly desired product, and access to seats almost a year in advance.
In Canada, Asia Miles is a transfer partner of RBC Avion at a 1:1 ratio, American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:0.75 ratio, and HSBC Rewards at a 25:8 ratio.
We’ve also seen transfer bonuses of 10–15% offered once in a while, which is a great time to transfer in for a redemption once you’ve located award space.
RBC also issues the co-branded RBC Cathay Pacific Visa Platinum Card that straightforwardly earns Asia Miles on daily spending, although it doesn’t tend to offer the best return for spending.
South of the border, Asia Miles is a transfer partner of American Express US Membership Rewards, Capital One, and Citi ThankYou at a 1:1 ratio.
When it comes time to redeem, there’s no dynamic pricing to be concerned about when redeeming Asia Miles. There are only standard awards, which carry fixed prices based on distance, with values as follows:
The Hong Kong–Tokyo (Haneda) route falls in the “Short” category and prices out at 40,000 Asia Miles for a one-way flight in First Class.
Meanwhile, the European routes as classified as “Long – Type 1” and price out at 100,000 Asia Miles for a one-way flight in First Class, and the Los Angeles route prices out at 110,000 Asia Miles in the “Long – Type 2” category.
If First Class becomes offered again on routes to the Eastern United States, the cost would be 125,000 Asia Miles for a one-way flight.
While this is indeed a steep price to pay, note that you can add on another flight in business class or economy class afterwards and you won’t pay any more miles – in fact, the total price may in fact decrease, as Asia Miles calculates the mileage pricing using a weighted average of the distance flown in each class of service on an itinerary.
Note that Cathay Pacific tacks on moderate fuel surcharges on award redemptions, and amounts are naturally higher for First Class.
American Airlines AAdvantage also features some good prices for Cathay Pacific First Class, although the miles are slightly harder to come by than with other programs.
In Canada, you can transfer RBC Avion to AAdvantage at a 1:0.7 ratio, which isn’t necessarily the most ideal.
In the United States, you can earn AAdvantage miles through various co-branded credit cards issued by Citi.
On both sides of the border, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a ratio of 3:1, if you’re stuck without any other options.
When it comes time to redeem, expect to pay 90,000 AAdvantage miles for a flight between Hong Kong and Paris or London in Cathay Pacific First Class.
A flight from Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda prices out at 40,000 miles.
If you can locate award availability, expect to pay 110,000 AAdvantage miles for a First Class flight between North America and Hong Kong.
Lastly, consider booking Cathay Pacific First Class with British Airways Avios.
In Canada, British Airways Avios is a transfer partner of RBC Avion at a 1:1 ratio, American Express Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, and HSBC Rewards at a 25:10 ratio. There’s also the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite Card, which earns points directly from daily spending.
In the United States, Avios is a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One, and American Express US Membership Rewards.
In both countries, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio, with a bonus of 5,000 Avios if you transfer 60,000 points. There are also transfer bonuses to keep an eye out for in Canada and the US.
As you can see, of all the different points currencies listed above, Avios are arguably the easiest to earn. While they may be easy to come across, you won’t necessarily find the best value by redeeming them for a one-way Cathay Pacific First Class flight.
Rather, you may want to consider it as part of a larger British Airways Avios Multi-Carrier Award booking, which can unlock a significant amount of value.
With only four routes currently flying with First Class cabins, we can expect award availability to be very limited in order to favour revenue passengers.
However, when First Class award seats are released, the first to benefit are those redeeming from Cathay Pacific’s own Asia Miles program.
The downside of having only lower-priced standard awards is the general lack of availability, especially for premium cabins. Therefore, you’d need a little bit more patience when looking for a reward seat in First Class.
In addition, while Cathay Pacific has previously followed a pattern of consistently releasing last-minute availability, this doesn’t appear to be the case anymore – so book early.
It’s also worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be much consistency in the availability between different programs. For example, a flight that’s available through American Airlines AAdvantage might not show up on Cathay Pacific Asia Miles or Alaska Mileage Plan.
Therefore, your best bet is to use the search functions on the different programs, and then once you’ve found a seat, see which program offers the best deal with the points you have at your disposal.
While Cathay Pacific First Class may be difficult to come across for award bookings, there are a few tips and tricks to consider to help you maximize the experience.
Given Asia Miles’s distance-based redemption chart, the best way to redeem Cathay Pacific First Class, put simply, is to fly longer. By doing so, you can fully maximize the upper limit of 7,500+ miles on the chart.
In theory, the longest routings you could plan within Cathay Pacific’s network would be North America to Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa via Hong Kong. Unfortunately, none of these routes currently offer First Class, but you could also consider adding a very comfortable business class flight, or a slightly less comfortable economy flight, instead.
Let’s take Tokyo to London via Hong Kong as an example. Tokyo to Hong Kong covers approximately 1,800 miles and costs 40,000 miles for a one-way seat in First Class, while Hong Kong to London covers approximately 6,000 miles, and requires 100,000 miles.
When these two segments are married together, they total 7,800 miles. But instead of paying a total of 140,000 miles, you’d only need to pay 125,000 miles.
As mentioned above, when booking Cathay Pacific First Class with Asia Miles, tacking on another flight in a lower class of service can also bring down the mileage pricing due to the program’s unique pricing structure.
To help speed up the search process, consider searching for Cathay Pacific First Class with a program that offers a calendar view. Your best bet is likely to go with either American Airlines AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan.
For example, let’s say you had your eye on a First Class flight from Hong Kong to Paris. On the American Airlines page, simply enter in your routing, number of passengers, and a date, and then just make sure you click on “Redeem miles”.
In the search results, click on the “Calendar” button, and you’ll see an entire month’s worth of prices.
To find First Class availability, you’ll want to toggle the results so you’re only seeing First Class, and not economy or business class. Simply adjust the filters at the top to “Nonstop only” and “First”, and then the calendar will only show dates on which there are direct flights in First Class.
This makes it very easy to search for months at a time. Once you’ve found a date, just be sure that it’s available in your program of choice, and then proceed with making the booking.
It’s worth noting that there is a less-useful feature on the Asia Miles website, which shows availability (sometimes) when you’re adding the date.
As you’re entering in the data for a reward search, the calendar will show either a brown seat (low availability) or a green seat (ample availability) when you’re selecting a date.
It’s not as reliable or as fast as other searches, though, but it can be useful to note if you happen to stumble across it.
Cathay Pacific First Class is arguably one of the best aviation products out there. With an exquisite ground experience and one of the most comfortable ways to take to the skies, there’s no doubt that you’ll treasure every moment
Unfortunately, with fewer routes and less availability than before, it’s become even more aspirational than readily attainable, at least for now.
Regardless, if you’re dedicated to building up Oneworld points balances and ready to act when you find an award seat for Cathay Pacific First Class, you’ll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts.