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American Airlines miles can get you a last second seat in economy, flat bed Business Class, or super-luxurious First Class to Asia. Partners Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines both offer phenomenal products, routes to tons of destinations, and great award space near departure.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® and CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard® are each offering 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. Don’t be thrown off by the word “Platinum.” Both cards have no annual fee the first 12 months, and then $95.

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Get both cards and meet the $6,000 total spending requirement to have over 106,000 American Airlines miles, enough for a flat bed roundtrip to anywhere in Asia with one way in Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines First Class.

Award Prices

American Airlines awards to Asia are way under-priced compared to United and Delta awards. For one way awards, American charges:

  • 25,000 miles in economy to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia from October to April each year
  • 32,500 miles in economy to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia the rest of the year
  • 35,000 miles in economy to the rest of East and Southeast Asia
  • 50,000 miles in Business Class to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia
  • 55,000 miles in Business Class to the rest of East and Southeast Asia
  • 62,500 miles in First Class to Japan, Korea, and Mongolia
  • 67,500 miles in First Class to the rest of East and Southeast Asia

Taxes to East Asian countries are low, mostly in the $50 to $100 roundtrip range. There are no fuel surcharges on any American Airlines awards from the United States to Asia. There is no phone fee for booking Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific flights by phone. There is a $75 fee for ticketing an American Airlines award within 21 days of departure, which is what this post focuses on.

The Products

Japan Airlines First Class on its 777-300ER is a world class flat bed enclosed in a suite.

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I haven’t flown the product personally, but everything looks top notch and Asian airlines have the best service in my experience.

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Here’s a tour of the plane.

Cathay Pacific First Class is an extremely wide seat/bed with amazing food and personalized service.


Here’s my review of Cathay Pacific First Class.

Award Space

Where They Fly

Japan Airlines flies from seven American cities to three Japanese cities with connections throughout Asia.

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Cathay Pacific flies from seven North American cities to Hong Kong with connections throughout Asia. Cathay Pacific, and its subsidiary Dragonair (also bookable with American Airlines miles), serve many more Asian destinations than Japan Airlines if you want to fly into smaller cities like Chiang Mai, Thailand or Da Nang, Vietnam.

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Last Minute Award Space

Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines both have incredible award space in the last few days before departure. You can search both airlines’ award space on Any award space you see there can be booked with American Airlines miles.

Today’s flights from New York to Hong Kong have 9 total First Class award seats and 19+ total Business Class award seats. (I reviewed First Class on the route here.)

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Cathay Pacific is famous for releasing Business Class award seats 11 months before departure and then tons of Business and First Class seats in the days before departure.

Japan Airlines similarly offers fantastic award space for the next four days in First Class on its San Francisco to Tokyo-Haneda flight.
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And it offers some Business and First Class space on its Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita flights for the next two days.Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.19.02 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.36.29 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.37.03 AMFour Japan Airlines flights from Honolulu to Tokyo have award space today in Business Class (the highest cabin on the route.)

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Practical Application

In January, I will travel through Southeast Asia for a few weeks, probably starting my journey in Thailand. I don’t have my outbound ticket booked (though I have my return from Chennai, India in Etihad A380 First Class booked), and I am not worried at all.

I have 67,500 American Airlines miles ready to book me a First Class award in the days before departure. My date flexibility–I can leave any time between late December and mid-January–plus my cabin flexibility–I want First Class but will fly Business or economy if I have too–means I am almost guaranteed a great award.

I might leave from Honolulu or Los Angeles, so I checked award space today from those cities to Bangkok as a kind of test run to see what award space I might find in January for a January flight.

Out of Honolulu I saw several award options. The shortest duration was this one with a 75 minute layover in Tokyo on my Japan Airlines Business Class itinerary to Bangkok.

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Out of Los Angeles, I see Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific award space today to Bangkok. These are the two shortest itineraries. The Japan Airlines itinerary has Business or First Class space. The Cathay Pacific itinerary only has Business Class space.Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.53.20 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.53.37 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.53.44 AMScreen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.53.56 AM

This dry run has me very confident that my American Airlines miles will get me to Southeast Asia in comfort in January.

Booking the Award

To book Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific award space, call American Airlines at 800-882-8880. Give the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each segment you found on plus the same information for any American Airlines, US Airways, and Alaska Airlines award space you need to fly to connect to the international award.

Make sure the agent is NOT charging you a phone booking fee.

Purchase your ticket with your Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the award taxes and fees on this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases.

Bottom Line

The best mile to East and Southeast Asia are American Airlines miles, and one of the best times to book the awards is in the last few days before departure when partners Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific open up tons of award space. Both have fantastically luxurious First Class products.

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement. That’s enough miles (75k-82.5k) for a roundtrip from the United States to Japan with one direction in Business Class.


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Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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