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Trip Report: Hong Kong and South Africa on Cathay Pacific (CX) First | Part 1

Thanks for reading this trip report! Because I am posting the numerous parts of this report while I’m travelling, they will be published over the course of the next couple weeks. Enjoy!

Part 1: How I booked it

Part 2: Kingston YGK-Toronto YYZ-New York City JFK AC Y

Part 3: New York City JFK-Hong Kong CX F

Part 4: Life in Hong Kong

Part 5: Hong Kong HKG-Johannesburg JNB CX F

Part 6: South Africa

Part 7: Going home! JNB-HKG-ORD CX F and ORD-YYZ AA Y



This was a simple Aeroplan booking, and 15k per person (we’re a party of two). About $80 of taxes and fuel surcharges. All flights are on Air Canada.


Evidently the most interesting flights of the trip are on Cathay Pacific First Class. To book these, all you need is 70K each way (JFK-HKG-JNB) to fly in First, or 140k round-trip, booking with Alaska points. I collected 280k Alaska points by churning the MBNA Alaska card (this is not a referral).

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.30.00 PM
Alaska award chart on Cathay to Africa.

Note that starting August 2nd 2014, Cathay Pacific will be stopping First class service to JNB. I will be on one of the last First class flights to JNB on Cathay! 😀

To book a Cathay award using Alaska points, look at availability using BA Avios, and call Alaska Customer Service to book. You cannot book Cathay with Alaska online.

Cathay used to publish a lot of First Class award inventory, but lately, that inventory has been dwindling. When I booked this trip, I was just at the beginning of when Cathay was pulling First class inventory. I was amazed to find F seats on JFK-HKG-JNB-HKG without a problem, but the return to the USA only left me with 1 seat available in First to ORD. My partner decided he’d be OK flying in J while I was in F for this last segment, so I called Alaska to book. The customer service agent was able to find a second F seat for that flight (which was not appearing on the BA Avios search). Lesson is: if you’re only finding 1 F seat available, might as well call Alaska to see if they can find you more!

Taxes per person were about $54 for the round-trip!


This was an easy one: I used 4500 BA Avios points per person + ~$5 in tax for two one-way flights on AA to YYZ.


This is a round-trip flight on South African low cost carrier, Kulula.com (yes, there’s a ‘.com’ in their official name!) This wasn’t the easiest flight to book: whenever I tried to use a Canadian credit card, my company would block the charge as fraud. Even after I called them, they continued to block it. The only card I had that would take the charge was my AMEX (which sucks, cause’ they charge a total of ~5% FOREX fee).

I had to change my flights, and MN has a very reasonable $35 per-person change fee which I happily paid.


      1. YGK-YYZ-JFK

        This was a simple Aeroplan booking, and 15k per person (we’re a party of two). About $80 of taxes and fuel surcharges. All flights are on Air Canada.


        1. With the AS card, it was all churning to get the points… I’m already close to another CX F redemption again!

          1. Do you go through GCR or directly MBNA? If you are doing more frequently than every 6 months does not affect your credit rating?

  1. Have you done a blog regarding the Alaska churn process? I couldn’t find anything. Seems like a lot of points in 6 months. Thanks

  2. I’ve always overlooked this card as I did not see to much benefit with 25,000 points, but the info you provided is great. Do you normally have more than 1 Alsaka air cards at a time or call and cancel when you are done with 1?

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