Yes, it’s true, the Cathay Pacific’s business class seat we paid for the 20 hour journey across the Pacific was only USD 33.80, much less then our usual dinner tab eating at a restaurant. We couldn’t even believe it.
Here’s how we did it…
Booking the Flights
It required several attempts (around 4 or 5 to be exact) to finally scored my husband his seat in Cathay Pacific’s Business Class from Los Angeles (LAX) to Jakarta (CGK) via Hong Kong (HKG).
A few months prior to his departure date I did a search using ba.com (British Airways website) for award flight redemptions and it kept showing no availability in Business or First class on any of the airline partners – our options were to fly Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines or Malaysia Airlines (all are One World Alliance members).
At this point, I didn’t want my husband to fly Malaysia Airlines – for reasons most people are already aware of. Even Economy Class was not available on any airline for the date he wanted since it was during high season and close to Christmas.
Award redemption flight search using ba.com for March 2016 – Availability in Economy Class and no availability in Business and First Class.
Finally on one fine lucky night, I called American Airlines customer service to check on seat availability and they said there is one seat available in Business Class with Cathay Pacific.
I immediately booked him on this flight using my 55,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles and paid only USD 33.80 in taxes and surcharges.
American Airlines allows you to book award flights for spouses and family members using your own miles without having to transfer the miles to the passenger’s frequent flyer account.
I had received a bonus reward points of 50,000 miles a few months before just by signing up to the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Credit Card – first year annual fee was even waived.
I also use this card quite regularly which made my miles to increase quite quickly and I don’t even fly American Airlines that often. So far AA currently offers the best award redemption program, it’s kinda hard to beat.
So here I am the frequent credit card user and my husband the American Airlines’ frequent flyer, it’s like a match made in heaven for avid miles collectors like us.
If we were to pay for his business class seat in cash, it would cost him USD 3,843 on a weekday or USD 5,271 on a weekend for a one way trip. A round trip cost flying Cathay Pacific Business Class is ranging between USD 6,200 to USD 8,000.
If it’s not a company expense, I’d say just forget about flying business and just opt for a Premium Economy seat instead.
Here’s a tip: if you want to fly in premium cabin, they say the lowest fare is generally on a Tuesday or Wednesday because business travelers usually fly out to travel on a Monday or Sunday evening.
He did fly out on his award seat ticket on a Wednesday and there was no seat on any other days that week, which just proves my point. If you ever considered about purchasing miles, airlines such as American Airlines and Singapore Airlines allows you to buy miles directly from their website which eliminates any third party commission.
For example, at the moment American Airlines has an offer until 29 January 2016 for their members (or even non-members who decide to become members) to buy miles and receive up to 50% bonus miles on top of the purchased miles.
To purchase 50,000 miles with a bonus of 22,500 miles (total of 72,500 miles) will cost you USD 1,475 or to purchase 100,000 miles with a bonus miles of 50,000 miles (total of 150,000 miles) will cost you USD 2,950.
If you think about it, with a total of 150,000 miles you could book 3 international one-way trips in Business Class or 1 international round-trip in First Class for the price of less than USD 3,000.
For instance, Cathay Pacific’s first class seat for the route LAX to CGK round trip would cost over USD 11,000.
So this is a pretty good deal, bear in mind though with award flight redemptions there are always limited seats and you need to have some flexibility in selecting the dates.
We personally have never purchased any miles, however this is not such a bad option if we are ever short of miles in the future.
Cathay Pacific seats are also redeemable using Asia Miles – if you happen to be a Marco Polo member, however the required miles for redemption will not be the same as American Airlines’.
If you are a frequent flyer member of one of the One World Alliance members, you should also be able to redeem miles on Cathay Pacific flights from your respective airline.
Los Angeles – Tom Bradley International Terminal (LAX)
Cathay Pacific First & Business Class check-in counter at LAX – barely any line.
Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX
Thanks to my husband’s Executive Platinum status with American Airlines, which is equivalent to One World’s Emerald status, he has access to the Qantas First Class lounge even though he was only flying Business – I believe he would have the same privilege even if he was flying in Economy.
This is the same lounge we had access to for our previous flight from LAX to London flying British Airways.
Inside Cathay Pacific Business Class
Flight CX 897: Los Angeles to Hong Kong International Aiport
Flight Duration: 15 hours non-stop
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat Configuration: 1-2-1Pitch (Lie Flat): 81″ (205cm), Width: 21″ (53.3cm)
When this booking was made, the customer service immediately assigned him to seat 11A which is one of the best seat option available because row 11 & 12 are located in a mini-cabin just behind the First Class cabin, which would make the cabin more private and you’ll be one of the first to exit at arrival.
Row 12 would be a little more noisy because of its’ close proximity to the service galley where the cabin crew would prepare for meals and chat during the flight. So if you could select a seat at row 11 or even in the next business class cabin but not too close to the galley, it would be a much better option.
Compartments, control buttons and personal mirror Business Class Lie Flat position (photo credit: Cathay Pacific)
Business Class amenities bag
Flight CX 797: Hong Kong International Aiport (HKG) to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK)
Flight Duration: 4.5 hours non-stop
Aircraft: Airbus 330-300 (Regional)
Seat Configuration: 2-2-2Angle Flat Seat, Pitch: 45″ (114.3cm), Width: 20″ (50.8cm)
Seat Number: 12A
Cathay Pacific Business Class Regional (photo credit: Cathay Pacific)
Cathay Pacific operates several versions of their Airbus 330-300, and for short to medium-haul flight such as the Hong Kong to Jakarta route, they normally fly the Regional version with a two-class cabin of Business and Economy class.
Nothing special on the business class seat other than it does offer you a wider seat and extra leg room. A different version of the Airbus 330-300 does offer flat bed seat withherringbone configuration of 1-2-1 similar to the international long-haul aircraft setup.
The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong International Airport
What impresses my husband was not exactly the flight but more on the experience in one of the many Executive Lounges in Hong Kong International Airport.
Since his gate was close to The Pier Lounge and this lounge also has a First Class Lounge, he chose to visit this one before boarding on his next flight to Jakarta.
All areas of the first class lounge were quite impressive, the food was delicious and overall it was a very satisfying lounge experience even though it was only for a short layover.
When flying between Jakarta and USA (West Coast – LAX), we recommend flying one of the following airlines (in no particular order):
- Cathay Pacific (via HKG)
- Japan Airlines (via Tokyo)
- All Nippon Airways / ANA (via Tokyo)
- EVA Air (via Taipei)
- Singapore Airlines (via Tokyo & Singapore)
The shortest travel time will be flying via Tokyo because the flight duration is spread into 9 hours between LAX-NRT and 8 hours between NRT-CGK.