Cathay Pacific first class upgrade guide

By Chris C., January 3 2019
Cathay Pacific first class upgrade guide

If you’re trekking to London with Cathay Pacific in business class, why not use your Asia Miles for a first class upgrade?

While Cathay Pacific’s Australian flights don’t come with first class, you’ll find it on the longer legs from Hong Kong to the likes of London, Paris and Tokyo.

If you find yourself flying on any of these routes, you could use your hard-earned miles to secure an upgraded first class seat, or even upgrade for free as a reward for your ongoing loyalty.

Even if you are not a Cathay member, you may also be able to upgrade at discounted rates by keeping an eye on your inbox roughly one week before the flight.

How many Asia Miles do you need?

The number of Asia Miles you’ll need depends on how far you’re flying. As you’d expect, longer flights require more points, while shorter hops are easier on your hard-earned balance.

Between Hong Kong and London, 50,000 Asia Miles gets you a one-way upgrade to first class when flying with Cathay Pacific. The figure jumps to 55,000 Asia Miles for a similar upgrade to Los Angeles.

Use your Asia Miles for a first class upgrade with Cathay Pacific
Use your Asia Miles for a first class upgrade with Cathay Pacific

In number, that’s now comparable to one-way first class upgrades on Qantas’ own flights from Sydney to Los Angeles, which are a similar distance and command between 49,100 to 61,600 Qantas Points in each direction.

Read: Qantas first class upgrade guide

That’s not quite the ‘sweet spot’ of the Cathay program. On those longer flights to London and LA, you’d only need 25,000 or 28,000 Asia Miles respectively for a one-way upgrade from premium economy to business class, where the difference is much more noticeable than between business and first.

Read: Cathay Pacific business class upgrade guide

But, if you’re already flying high in business class, here's everything you need to know to land a Cathay Pacific first class upgrade on your next journey abroad.

Cathay Pacific first class upgrades

Cathay Pacific upgrades are all one-class, which sees economy passengers moving forward into premium economy and premium economy passengers jumping into business class, but only business class passengers having a shot as a first class suite.

Whether you’ve booked the cheapest sale fare or the most expensive J-class flexible ticket, the number of Asia Miles you’ll need for the upgrade is the same.

The full upgrade award chart is here:

Prior to check-in, Cathay Pacific upgrades can be confirmed immediately through the Cathay website, provided that upgrades are available on your particular flight(s). If they’ve all been snapped up, you can also join the ‘waitlist’, where requests are assessed closer to push back.

You can request your upgrade using an online form on the Cathay website, or you can chat to the Cathay team over the phone to get the ball rolling. Australian residents can call +61 131 747 for assistance, or +852 2747 3333 when overseas.

In any case, not every seat on the plane is open to those who are upgrading – Cathay typically holds back a number of first class suites for high-value sales and displaced customers from other delayed flights, even on departure day.

If that’s a concern, we’d suggest giving the Asia Miles team a buzz to check for available upgrades before confirming your business flights.

Also note, you'll only be able to upgrade when booked on a Cathay Pacific (CX) flight number aboard a Cathay Pacific aircraft (not a codeshare flight).

Cathay Pacific first class upgrades at the airport

Jetsetters can also use their Asia Miles to upgrade at the airport when booked on any Cathay Pacific flight.

At check-in, simply present your membership card and your itinerary, and if a last-minute upgrade is available on your flight, the seat is yours!

You'll be smiling too if you get that upgrade...
You'll be smiling too if you get that upgrade...

Airport upgrades are only available on your next onward flight – so if you’re travelling from Sydney all the way through to London via Hong Kong, you won’t be able to trade in your business class seat as there’s no first class on Cathay Pacific between Sydney and Hong Kong.

(On the return, you could upgrade from London to Hong Kong as it’s the first flight of your journey that day and the aircraft comes with first class.)

If you snag an upgrade at the check-in desk, you’ll pay the usual online ‘one-way’ rate.

Free Cathay Pacific first class upgrades using Status Points

Cathay Pacific's Cathay Gold and Diamond frequent flyers are in for a treat with complimentary first-class upgrades, gifted by the airline in the form of four single-sector ‘Bookable Upgrades’ upon hitting 1,000 and 1,600 Status Points respectively.

Gold members can then use these single-sector vouchers to upgrade flights of up to 3,700 miles, while Diamond members enjoy the flexibility to use them on flights of any distance. 

Again, these upgrades are subject to availability, and they can only be redeemed on flights that are both marketed and operated by Cathay Pacific.

Paying for Cathay Pacific first class upgrades

Out of options? Make sure your current email is attached to your flight reservation, as from time to time, Cathay Pacific sends 'Upgrade Bids' invitations around one week before departure.

Similarly to Qantas Bid Now Upgrades, Cathay Pacific's Upgrade Bids allow you to bid for available upgrades in an auction-like system. However, while Qantas allows passengers to use a combination of cash and points to place bids, Cathay Pacific only accepts cash offers.

Also note that participation in an Upgrade Bid promotion is by invitation only, with Cathay Pacific reserving the right to determine eligibility at its sole discretion.

A few tips…

If you upgrade closer to wheels-up rather than ahead of time via the Cathay Pacific website, the full onboard menu might not be available to you as in-flight catering is often finalised several hours in advance.

When first class is otherwise full, that could see you without the smoked duck with sweet and sour dressings, warmed Lebanese tabbouleh salad or the scrumptious chocolate foundant with dulce de leche, so if you have any food allergies, it’s best to inform the crew before orders are taken.

Don't miss out on Cathay Pacific’s enticing first class dining offerings – upgrade as early as you can!
Don't miss out on Cathay Pacific’s enticing first class dining offerings – upgrade as early as you can!

Also, you’ll only earn Asia Miles and Status Points as applicable to your original business class fare – even If you are lucky enough to wind up at the very front.

To cap things off, upgrades aren’t available when travelling on most frequent flyer award tickets, whether you’ve redeemed Asia Miles, Qantas Frequent Flyer points, or miles through other programs like American Airlines AAdvantage.

Additional material by Brandon Loo.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Can one earn Asia Miles and for instance status credits for QF or EQMs on AA while flying on CX?

As an example, SQ allows you to earn PPS value toward that scheme while crediting miles to an account with another *A or partner airline. I know that's not an exact parrellel.



Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Mar 2018

Total posts 4

Have an upcoming trip on CX and would like to upgrade using AM points, however, currently have my QFF number on the trip as I would like to earn QFF points and SCs. Any idea on how I can request and upgrade using AM points?

05 Jul 2016

Total posts 22

You can either call them or change your FF to AM via manage my booking online, then upgrade with Asia Miles on their Website, and change Back your FF to Qantas anytime prior (or during) boarding

25 Mar 2015

Total posts 30

I presume you mean "...anytime prior (or during) check in".

05 Jul 2016

Total posts 22

No I meant before boarding. You can still change it at the gate. Or perhaps even online after the upgrade was done and before flight has departed but wouldn’t count on that. I always change the FF number at boarding

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jun 2018

Total posts 7

Recently I upgraded to London , they didn’t have the western option to dine and the experience wasn’t that much better seat wise than in business, I didn’t bother upgrading back ! And the Cathay Dragon first class seat photographed here is actually a long haul biz seat - still better than the regional business class product which resembles premium economy ! Hmm

25 Mar 2015

Total posts 30

Would an upgrade from SYD to LHR cost 65,000 AM points? Or would it be considered two separate upgrade requests (SYD-HKG followed by HKG-LHR)?

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