As you probably know, we will be departing on our luxury round-the-world trip in less than a week and one of the things that I am looking forward to is experiencing Cathay Pacific’s First Class Product from Los Angeles to Hong Kong for the first time.
Unfortunately, when I booked the flights, there was only one award seat available in First Class. I booked that flight and “settled” for two additional seats in Business Class with the hopes that more First Class award seats would open up for award redemption.
I wrote an entire series on Close-In Availability that concentrated on Star Alliance airlines but Cathay Pacific is a OneWorld Partner Airline so I had no first-hand experience about whether or not they had active inventory management. Active inventory management is when an airline watches to see if revenue tickets for a flight get sold prior to the flight. If they remain unsold, the seat is released for award redemption. The theory here is that if the plane is going to go out empty, they might as well get some award points off their balance sheet.
In the past, Cathay was pretty reliable in releasing award space but things have changed. Now it seems that there’s not much rhyme or reason as to how and when they release seats except to say that if First Class seats get released, it’s usually very close to the date of travel.
Today we are T-5 (5 days to the date of travel) and I checked Cathay’s website to see if there was any award availability for my flight. Low and behold, it was available. I could not tell how many seats were available but I knew that there was at least one seat available for redemption with Cathay’s Asia Miles. The problem is that just because the seat is available to Cathay doesn’t mean that it’s available to partner airlines.
As I had booked my original ticket with Alaska Airlines (which was an amazing deal BTW), I needed to call in to see if Alaska could see the availability.
Unbelievably, the Alaska agent could see that two seats were available so as you can imagine, we snatched them up straight away.
How Much Did It Cost?
Because we had already had 2 seats reserved in Business Class, the incremental cost was only 20,000 Alaska Miles per seat. There was also an additional cost of $5.90 USD for some reason. It didn’t make sense to me why there would be an additional $5.90 fee because this is typically the U.S Passenger Facility Charge, something I would have paid for when I booked the Business Class ticket. As the amount was small, I wasn’t going to argue.
How I Did It
Travel Hacking takes persistence, patience, and a spot of good luck. In order to set yourself up for success, you need to do your due diligence so that you have a better chance of coming away with the right outcome.
I chose to depart out of LAX because I knew that Cathay Pacific has three daily non-stop flights from LAX-HKG, which gave me a greater chance of finding First Class availability on at least one of the flights. I also strategically chose a flight that business travelers may not prefer due to the arrival time of the aircraft.
In addition to choosing the most likely flight to have First Class availability, I also used ExpertFlyer to see if any revenue tickets had been sold for First Class. Up until today, not a single seat had been sold!
Having done as much as I could to set myself up for success, I could only wait for the Award gods to smile upon me, and smile they did.
How Rare Is This?
In a word; exceedingly.
Cathay’s 777-300ER features 6 First Class seats in a 1-1-1 configuration and finding even one seat is sometimes pretty difficult. Two is almost next to impossible. Three? Forget about it.
Photo credit to Lucky at One Mile at a Time
When I asked the Alaska Airlines agent if he had ever seen anything like this before, he said that in all his years, he has never experienced 3 First Class Award Seats on the same Cathay Pacific flight.
Why This Is Amazing
As I had mentioned, there have been no First Class seats sold on revenue for our flight, so there is the distinct possibility that my wife, my daughter and I will be the only souls in the First Class cabin, making it feel like our own private jet.
I have once had a Business Class cabin all to myself on South African Airways but it was on a short regional flight.
This would be a first time experience for me and I LOVE the fact that I get to experience it with the two people I love most in the world.
Also published on Medium.