Cathay Pacific premium economy upgrade guide

By Chris C., January 16 2017
Cathay Pacific premium economy upgrade guide

If you’re stuck in economy to Hong Kong and beyond with Cathay Pacific, you’ll have a much more comfortable journey by using your Asia Miles for an upgrade to premium economy.

Sensibly and like most other frequent flyer schemes, you’ll need more points to upgrade on longer flights and fewer points for a bump-up to premium economy on those shorter hops.

On most Sydney-Hong Kong jaunts, 15,000 Asia Miles is enough for a one-way upgrade from economy to premium economy with Cathay Pacific.

From Hong Kong, those longer flights to London and Los Angeles can be upgraded one-way for 22,000/22,500 Asia Miles respectively – not bad value for a 13-hour flight.

Here’s what you need to know to turn your stash of Cathay Pacific Asia Miles into a premium economy seat on your next trek abroad.

Cathay Pacific premium economy upgrades 101

For starters, know that if you're flying in economy on an aircraft that also features both premium economy and business class, you'll only be able to upgrade from economy to premium economy: not from economy to business class.

Already flying premium economy? Read: Cathay Pacific business class upgrade guide

Premium economy upgrades are also only possible from the most expensive Cathay Pacific economy fares – in particular, the Y, B, H, K, L, M and V fare classes – while economy Light tickets will keep you firmly footed at the back of the bus.

How to get your premium economy upgrade

Prior to check-in, Cathay Pacific premium economy upgrades can be confirmed immediately through the Asia Miles website provided an upgrade is available on your flight.

That's an important point to note: just because there's a premium economy seat still for sale on your chosen flight doesn't necessarily mean you'll be allowed to upgrade into it.

It's at the airline's discretion, and in most cases the number of upgrades allowed on each flight is limited.

If you’re late to the upgrade table or upgrades are simply unavailable when you'd like to travel, you can also ‘waitlist’ your request for consideration closer to wheels-up.

Travellers who intend to book Cathay Pacific flexible economy tickets with the sole purpose of upgrading into premium economy should also contact Cathay Pacific to ensure an upgrade is still available on their chosen flight before booking their journey to avoid any disappointment.

Cathay Pacific premium economy upgrades at the airport

Didn't get your upgrade before departure day? You can also use your Asia Miles for an upgrade to premium economy at the airport when travelling on any Cathay Pacific flight.

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

This only works for your next onward flight, so if you’re travelling from Sydney to London via Hong Kong, only the Sydney-Hong Kong flight can be upgraded while on the ground in Australia.

You’ll also be charged the standard online ‘one-way’ upgrade rate, each sector at a time.

Free Cathay Pacific premium economy upgrades using Status Points

Cathay loyalists can also look forward to complimentary upgrades to premium economy with Cathay Pacific’s ‘Bookable Upgrades’.

As a part of their mid-tier benefits, Gold and Diamond members receive 4 single-sector Bookable Upgrades when reaching 1,000 and 1,600 Status Points respectively. 

These can then be used to upgrade on flights of 3,700 miles in the case of Gold members, and on flights of any distance in the case of their Diamond counterparts. Again, subject to availability.

Upgrading to Cathay Pacific premium economy with cash

Regardless of being a Cathay member or not, ensure that your current email address is associated with your Cathay Pacific reservation, as it's quite common for the airline to send ‘Upgrade Bid’ invitations around seven days prior to departure.

Just like Qantas' Bid Now Upgrades, Cathay Pacific's Upgrade Bids allow passengers to bid for available upgrades through an auction-style system. However, unlike Qantas, Cathay Pacific only accepts cash bids and does not offer the option to use miles.

Keep in mind that participation in Upgrade Bid promotions is by invitation only at Cathay Pacific’s discretion, meaning that the airline has the final say in determining who is eligible to participate.

A few tips…

Following the trend of most other airlines, if your premium economy upgrade is successful you’ll only earn Asia Miles and Status Points as applicable to your original economy fare.

Also, upgrades aren’t available on flights which were already booked using frequent flyer points, whether through Cathay Pacific’s Cathay scheme, Qantas Frequent Flyer or any other program.

One final tip: if you upgrade on the day of departure, Cathay Pacific's catering team may not have time to load extra meals for you, so your onboard order may be taken after that of other passengers.

It could mean missing out on your first or second meal preference, but if you genuinely suffer from any food allergies, it's best to inform the crew early so they can keep something aside for you.

Also read: Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 premium economy review, Brisbane-Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific premium economy upgrade: FAQs

How do I request a Cathay Pacific Bookable Upgrade?

Log in to your Cathay Pacific account and head to the 'mid-status benefits' section. If you have unlocked the benefit, you'll see a button labeled “Request a Bookable Upgrade”.

Note that requests must be made online at least 3 days before your flight departure.

Once upgraded to Cathay Pacific premium economy, will I get all the benefits of the upgraded fare?

Yes! Once you have upgraded your booking you will be entitled to most of the perks of premium economy, including access to an enhanced in-flight meal service (subject to availability), priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling. 

Keep in mind, however, that baggage allowance and accrual of Status Points and Asia Miles will be based on your original ticket.

Can I use the miles earned on a Cathay Pacific flight booking towards an instant upgrade on that same flight?

Unfortunately not. Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles are only credited to your account once the journey is over, which means that you won't be able to count with the miles of the flight you are currently taking. 

Can I use Asia Miles to upgrade on other Oneworld airlines?

No. You can only redeem Asia Miles for upgrades on Cathay Pacific flights, there's currently no alliance-wide ability to use Asia Miles for an upgrade on other Oneworld airlines

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Cathay Pacific premium economy upgrade guide