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Video Sunday Reader Question: American First Class or Cathay Business?

by on June 3, 2012 · 22 comments

in American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Oneworld, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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TPG reader Seth brings up an interesting question about how to choose which airline in an alliance to use your miles on. Especially when it means a difference in class of service. In this particular case, choosing between American Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Here’s his question:

“A quick question for you: Flying from Bangkok to New York, would you rather fly Business Class on Cathay Pacific (connecting in Hong Kong), or First Class on American (connecting in Tokyo with a Japan Airlines flight from Bangkok to Tokyo)?”

Cathay Business all the way. Whether you get the old or new business class, I feel like the experience is better than American Airlines first class for the following five reasons:

1) Better food
2) Better service
3) Better lounges
4) Longer flight, so less time in regional business/first
5) Better product: even though it’s a smaller seat, Cathay has better in flight entertainment

Don’t get me wrong- American First Class isn’t bad, per se, but it’s just not worth the premium in miles over Cathay Pacific business class. The first class seat is bigger and longer on American, but the Cathay business class seat is private and also comfortable. Plus, the amenities and service far surpass American- even in First Class- especially since American only had DC (cigarette plug) power.

I think the real question should be Cathay Pacific business vs. Cathay first class. In which case, I’d say splurging on first class is totally worth it, since it’s such a memorable experience and using miles to attain it is the ultimate “beating the system” redemption. But whatever you decide, it will be fine, because the point of award redemptions is the travel and the experience – both of which you’ll have whether you fly business, first or even coach!

Am I being a little Cathay obsessed here or do most of you agree?

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Mike

    I’ve flown both, and generally agree. The main attraction of AA First would be the outstanding Japanese-style kaiseki meal, but everything else is better on Cathay.

    Plus, would you have to switch airports in Tokyo, or is there a JAL flight from Haneda?

  • Test

    Cathay First Class is heaven. Complimentary pajamas, Krug champagne, caviar, a seat big enough for 2 people, amazing lounges, and flight attendants who will do nearly anything you want

  • Max

    AA first class is better than Cathay business, imho.First to first, I would choose CX, however.

  • Shorty

    I just booked Cathay business with my dad exclusively for this reason. Great to hear I made a good choice. Can’t wait, and thanks to TPG for making it a reality.

  • HC

    I have read your fabulous review of of CX First. I have never sat in first, but did in Biz. Aside from having a larger seat, what makes CX First so much better than CX Biz?

  • Seth

    Thanks for the post TPG. I asked the original question and there’s slightly more to the story: I had an American First award and had been trying to switch to Cathay First, but only Cathay Business was available. For all the reasons you mentioned, I made the switch to fly on Cathay using a First award redemption to fly Business (can’t downgrade class without reinstatement fee). Of course I keep trying to bump up seat to Cathay First, but no availability yet. So the real question is which would you rather fly, American First or Cathay Business, assuming cost was the same? Sounds like you still prefer Cathay

  • Seth

    Yes, Haneda, no need to switch airports

  • thepointsguy

    Still Cathy but keep checking availability- they open up first class awards close to departure

  • thepointsguy

    Calling it a seat doesn’t do it justice- you basically have a bed with personalized service and better wine and food. For the nominal differece in AA miles it’s a no brainer. Avios on the other hand is a bigger difference, but I say f you have em, burn em!

  • cityasa

    Surfers/windsurfers, etc. beware- Remember to check baggage fees as excess baggage (over 80″ total dimensions) on Cathay can be $600 to Asia from US each way while AA is more like $100. We’d gladly change our first class award seats on Cathay to Bali at the end of the month for some business seats on American…$1200 in baggage fees isn’t worth the ‘better’ experience.

  • Worldtravelsone

    I just returned from Bangkok on Cathay Biz Class and I totally agree!! Feels like First Class on any US carrier.
    Whenever I travel to Asia, I almost exclusively opt for Asian-based carriers for all the reasons listed and many other reasons. Naturally, weighing all factors that are important to your journey (including all applicable fees) is important. I value in-flight service and amenities very highly, so Cathay Biz Class

  • RobertHanson

    The new Cathay business class looks wonderful to me, and I’d keep the extra miles in my account for next time. But if it was a choice of old style business, or more points intensive FC, I’d rather spend the points.

    I’m totally flexible in my dates of travel. Is there anyway to know when booking which product you are going to get, or is it just the luck of the draw. Since I’ll probably not be going until Fall 2013, will all the planes be upgraded by then anyway? Or is this like the new AA product that will be phased in over the next four or five years ?

  • Mike

    By the way, when I did this, one of my two flights on Cathay between Bangkok and Hong Kong had the international-style flat bed Business Class, despite being a short haul. The other had a perfectly decent standard Business Class non-flat seat. So you might get lucky.

  • Carl

    Cathay first class is pure heaven. Have never tried their business product, because i usually only redeem first awards, but would go with their business class over American F. Based on everything i have read, second only to SQ business and by far the best of the OW carriers.

  • Trey

    100% agree with Cathay. Last November my wife and I flew (on points!) Chicago – Hong Kong on Cathay Business and then Beijing back to Chicago on American First. The comparison isn’t even close. The Cathay plane was new, and the service is outstanding. American is just not the same – just didn’t feel as luxurious, and agree with your original points.

  • CU

    I agree. Cathay rocks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3431439 JP Cross

    what did they do for you exactly?

  • git

    Concur trying upgrade to CX F closer to departure, including at the last min but not at the gate as they make you call your FFlyer account desk to get the seat changed even if you’ve prepaid the miles. One other method is to ensure CX F capacity available at airport checkin, do not check-into CX Biz but go to the CX Ticketing Desk at the airport and have them talk to AA crew about making changes on AA computer.

    Re the platitudes about CX Biz:

    CX longhaul (JFK-HKG/back or Aus-HKG) 2 class or 3 class cabin new Biz is an inward facing W arrangement and a noticeable downgrade from prior versions.

    1. It is harder to reach the window if on window seats and harder to avoid feet getting bumped by aisle traffic if in any seat (5′ 11″ size).
    2. Cannot avoid being rewarded with across-the-aisle passenger’s midriff / socks view while seat is not in full recline position – esp if one is not interested in the entertainment systems.
    3. Storage has also reduced.
    4. Overall there is reduced privacy as voice travels easier than before and the seats felt narrower/crowding in, but that may be perception not data. Factually, there is no privacy screen to speak of unless reclined.

    Easier to understand the context/contrast for those who’ve flown BA Biz and the old CX Biz this is a big downer…

    5. Above lack of privacy or footsie probably not an issue if flying with family/close friends seated in the same row.

    Granted BA F in 747s is now crappy (777′s still good) and CX F can’t be beat on OneWorld and I’ve only flown AA F once when they used to have black leather swivel desk/seats with work-desks etc (massive space great seat lousy inflight service and that product may no longer be around).

    Bottomline, if you have the miles keep trying for CX F or downsize expectations for CX Biz.

  • Tt

    cathay really need to issue slippers in J. come on, socks but no slippers????

  • Yoyo6713

    I should have read this earlier. I was trying to decide between CX F and AA F. I decided on CX F. It added 3 hrs to my trip and I cannot get a window seat on CX but I hope it is worth it.

  • Kennethchen76

    just came back from CX F. It’s awesome! way better than AA F on my outbound

  • johnathome

    Just flew CX F from HKG to JFK. Fantastic experience. Flown United in GF and BF several times to Asia and just can’t compare.

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