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It's now possible to book Cathay Pacific award flights directly on American Airlines' website. Previously, if you wanted to book a flight on Cathay Pacific using American Airlines AAdvantage miles, you had to call American Airlines customer service.

What this means for flyers

The addition of Cathay Pacific flight awards to American’s search engine is a great development for flyers, as it should make it easier to see at a glance when award space is available. One potential drawback is that this likely means increased competition for award space.

Cathay Pacific is well regarded for its service, especially if you’re traveling between the U.S. and Asia.

Earning miles with American Airlines

It’s fairly easy to earn miles with American Airlines, which flies to nearly 350 destinations in 50 countries. American and Cathay Pacific are both part of the Oneworld alliance, which includes 13 member airlines that collectively fly to 1,000 destinations in 60 countries. Each time you fly with any partner airline, simply input your AAdvantage number into your reservation on the partner airline’s website to ensure you earn American miles for the flight.

Another way to earn miles with American is to sign up for a co-branded credit card. If you need help deciding which American credit card is best for you, check out NerdWallet’s handy guide to American Airlines credit cards.

Cathay Pacific basics

Cathay Pacific is the flagship carrier of Hong Kong, flying to over 80 global destinations in 30 countries. Its affiliate Cathay Dragon reaches over 50 destinations in Asia, with 24 of those destinations in mainland China. Cathay Pacific (and its subsidiary, Cathay Dragon) are both part of Oneworld.

Cathay Pacific is known for its outstanding service and its particularly impressive business and first class cabins. Particularly given the long flight distances between the continental U.S. and Asia, flying on Cathay Pacific is a great experience.

A popular way to fly Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Asia on an award ticket is to use Alaska miles, because this is the cheapest option. However, if you don’t have miles with Alaska, it’s great to know that you could now easily redeem your AA miles for the flight.

How to search for awards

Although the AA website is decent for searching award availability, it was always frustrating when the Oneworld carriers you wanted to fly (e.g., Cathay Pacific) weren’t showing up on the website. Thankfully, AA has been making some adjustments to its website. Earlier in 2019, for example, American Airlines added Etihad and Japan Airlines to its award search functionality.

However, positives don’t come without negatives. Recently, AA redesigned its award search tool making the process a bit more frustrating by taking away the ability to filter by airlines on the results page.

To get around the redesigned results page and easily book Cathay awards, go back to the original screen and click on “Advanced / Multi-city search,” which will bring you to the advanced booking page.

Once you’ve clicked “Search,” on the next page, ensure that the same airports and dates are selected and click “Search” again at the bottom of the page.

You will then see the AA’s former award search calendar, from which you can choose the date you’re looking for.

We selected Oct. 22, 2019, and the following results came up:

As seen above, there are several economy awards available with Cathay on this date for 37,500 miles. Cathay flights start with the code CX and are listed first because they are nonstop routes (and the shortest).

You can easily filter by the airlines and airports you’d like to see on this results page. If you select any of the Cathay flights and go to the next page, you will see the price in miles along with any taxes and carrier surcharges.

For this example, we selected Cathay flight 841 leaving New York-JFK at 10 a.m. and arriving in Hong Kong at 2 p.m., at a cost of 37,500 miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. (One of the benefits of booking with American is that it typically does not add any carrier surcharges on Cathay flights).

Other ways to book Cathay flights

With that said, a more popular (and cheaper) way to book flights on Cathay is still through Alaska Airlines, which requires fewer miles.

Here, we’ve compared the miles needed for an award ticket from JFK to Hong Kong, just like the one selected above. You can see that Alaska requires significantly fewer miles than Cathay or American in every cabin class.

Cathay’s award chart is distance-based, so its flight awards are best used on short distance flights where mile prices will be cheaper. Alaska requires fewer miles, but its flight awards are not bookable online — you will have to call customer service to complete the booking.

If the difference in award miles between Alaska and American seems too high to bear and you’d rather accrue some Alaska miles, considering getting an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card.

Our take

It’s great to see American Airlines making positive changes to its award search tool. Including Cathay Pacific flight awards in its online search engine will make it much easier for travelers to book award flights. Though increased access to award space could result in a reduction in availability, this just means more people will get a chance to enjoy Cathay Pacific flights.

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