AAdvantage Cathay Pacific Award Shenanigans?

Premium cabin awards on Cathay Pacific have traditionally been one of the best ways to redeem AA miles, and for some time this was relatively easy to do. While awards couldn’t be booked online, searches could be easily run with the BA site (or QF/JL), and after finding availability a quick call to AA for ticketing was all that it took.

Cathay Pacific B777-300ER first class

Cathay Pacific A350 business class

Over the past ~10 months, it seems that premium cabin Cathay Pacific awards have been getting harder and harder to book. First, BA stopped showing close-in award space ~10-14 days out. Additionally, phantom space became much more prevalent than it previously was. More recently, reports have indicated that award space on certain routes is now blocked from BA as far as three weeks prior to departure. Up until this point, however, AA agents were always still able to see and book award space that BA agents couldn’t see.

Over the past several weeks, I and a number of colleagues and friends have encountered a different problem, with AA agents being unable to see Cathay award space. For instance, on a recent award booking for 4 passengers in business class, the JAL, BA, and Qantas award searches all showed availability, as did the CX site.

Yet several different AA phone agents in US that I spoke to did not see any space at all.

As with booking the Etihad Apartments, calls to certain AA international numbers sometimes work for booking Cathay premium cabin space. For the example above, an agent on the New Zealand AA phone line was able to easily see and confirm the award space, while several other numbers worked for various other bookings. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason as to which premium cabin transpacific routes can be booked through US-based agents and which can’t, as I’ve still had success calling US lines on several bookings.

Several US-based AA agents have told me at various times over the past few weeks that AA “can’t see” the same award space that BA sees. As the award space should be partner-available saver-level space, I’m not sure how true that is. Granted, Alaska is known to have access to less award space than Cathay’s oneworld partners, but the fact that AA agents at international offices can see the award space that US agents can’t suggests what I’ve been told isn’t true. Yet as evidenced by the changes with BA, it is clear that Cathay is manipulating partner access to award space to some degree.

There is some discussion on Flyertalk that this may be a point-of-sale issue and that carriers are able to restrict what award space is shown depending on the location of the person searching. If that is indeed the case, this issue likely won’t resolve anytime soon and booking Cathay Pacific awards may require calling an international AA phone number.

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