Business class for two: Cathay Pacific Companion Ticket Awards

Cathay Pacific Business Class Companion Ticket Awards

Update: This post references an American Express Business Platinum benefit that has changed. As of June 1, 2017, the pay-with-points rebate has changed to 35% for your chosen airline or any airline in business or first class. Additionally, there is a cap of 500,000 rebated points annually.

Thanks to Cathay Pacific’s ho-hum new credit card, I spent some time looking at Cathay’s award charts and I stumbled upon something potentially very interesting…  Companion Ticket Awards.  Companion Ticket Awards might be an awesome way to book a couple into one of the best business class products around.

Here’s the relevant section of the award chart:

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Award Chart Companion Ticket Awards

The existence of these awards immediately brought a number of questions to my mind…

  • What are the requirements of the primary ticket in order to get a companion ticket?  Can you book the primary as an award?  If they must be purchased, do discount fare classes count?
  • If we must buy the primary ticket, are there any requirements to how we buy it?  For example, could we pay with points with an Amex Business Platinum card in order to get a 50% point rebate?
  • Are companion tickets capacity controlled in the same way as regular awards?
  • Are there limits to the number of companions you can add?
  • Can these awards be booked with partner airlines or just with Cathay Pacific?
  • How big of a discount are these companion ticket awards compared to regular awards?

I was really excited about this because it seemed like a way to save a lot of points, and it may be a work around to limited business or first class award availability.  And since the Amex Business Platinum card has made it possible to pay with points at a reasonable rate for discount business class tickets, this could be a huge win.  Imagine finding an international business class fare on Cathay Pacific for, perhaps, $3000.  In that case, a couple that travels together could do the following:

  1. Use the Amex Business Platinum card to buy the first ticket for 150,000 points (initial price would be 300,000 points, but half would be returned).
  2. The primary passenger would then earn miles for the flight.  It would be really great if they could earn miles with a lucrative program such as Alaska Airlines, which is a Cathay partner (see: There’s A Mileage Run Renaissance Thanks To Alaska Mileage Plan!)
  3. Purchase a Cathay Companion Ticket Award for maybe 75,000 points.  The point price depends upon the one-way distance of travel even though this is a round trip award.  The companion would cost no more than 115,000 points for the longest possible itinerary.

Depending upon how cheap of a flight you can find, and how many miles you earn, the net result could be a very cheap way for a couple to fly business class and without having to worry about award availability!  Or, so I thought.  I then started researching…

How big of a discount?

I compared the free ticket awards to the companion ticket awards and found that the discount ranges from 25% to 38.9%:

Business Class Awards vs. Companion Awards:

Award Price 30K 40K 50K 80K 120K 145K 175K
Companion Price 20K 25K 35K 50K 75K 95K 115K
% Discount 33.3% 37.5% 30% 37.5% 37.5% 34.5% 34.3%

First Class Awards vs. Companion Awards:

Award Price 40K 55K 70K 120K 180K 220K 260K
Companion Price 30K 35K 45K 75K 110K 145K 160K
% Discount 25% 36.4% 35.7% 37.5% 38.9% 34% 38.5%

One Companion Per Primary Ticket

I then found a couple of details in the Asia Miles Glossary page.  Only one companion is allowed per primary ticket:

Companion Ticket Award

This award allows your family or friends to travel together with you in First or Business Class as a companion. The “companion” does not need to be listed in your Redemption Group. You must buy a First or Business Class ticket for yourself before redeeming a ticket for your companion. Only one companion is allowed per ticket and the companion must travel on the same date, flight and class of service as you.

Bookable Online for Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon flights

I then found that the Asia Miles FAQ suggests that Companion Tickets can be redeemed online:

23. How do I redeem a Companion Ticket Award or Upgrade Award?

You can redeem a Companion Ticket Award or Upgrade Award online with Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon at www.cathaypacific.com up to 3 hours before the scheduled departure time. Please click here for further details.

Primary ticket must be purchased

The Asia Miles Terms page had more detail.  You must purchase the primary ticket — award tickets are not eligible.  Tickets that do not qualify include “Redemption, prize, group, industry/agency discount or other free tickets”.

  1. If Members purchase a First or Business Class ticket for travel, they can also redeem Mileage Credits for a companion to accompany them. The companion must travel on the same flight, date and class of service. Companion Tickets are only applicable on round-trip flights.
  2. Mixed class and mixed carrier Flight Awards are not applicable.
  3. The companion passenger need not be a Nominee in the Member’s redemption group.
  4. A Member can redeem one Companion Ticket for every purchased ticket that is printed with the Member’s name.
  5. When making a claim for a Companion Ticket, the Member must provide all his/her travel details and ticket details of the fare paying ticket to AML.
  6. Redemption, prize, group, industry/agency discount or other free tickets cannot be used to qualify for redemption of a Companion Ticket.
  7. The rules governing purchased tickets also apply.

I found it very interesting that the terms do not say anything about limited availability of companion ticket awards.  Contrast that with the terms for Upgrade Awards, which state: “Upgrade Awards are subject to availability at the time of Upgrade Award reservation.”

Is it possible that these Companion Ticket Awards act like the Southwest Companion Pass which has no availability restrictions?

More availability than standard awards, and discount fares OK

Google didn’t uncover much about these awards, but I did find an old, but somewhat helpful Flyertalk thread.

christep wrote:

It books into the award bucket, although empirically I seem to recall that it somehow had a higher priority than a straight award or upgrade ticket, so there’s quite a good chance of getting the seat even if the system is showing no availability.

And kittiyut wrote:

1. You don’t have book “FULL FARE” Biz or first to qualify for companion eligibility. Even “I” fare will do.
2. All you have to have is a reserved reservation to start the process.
3. Once you’ve booked your companion seat, you’ll have 1 week to pay for the primary ticket and issue the award.
4. Nobody mentioned miles… you do need Asia miles you know? Just not the full shebang. Roughly half. For instance, HKG-LHR-HKG in biz requires 75,000 miles
(instead of the normal 140,000)
5. You pay airport tax – same amount as you would for the primary ticket.

If christep was right, then the bad news is that there does have to be award availability, but the good news is that it may have higher priority than regular awards.  And if Kittiyut was right, discount business class tickets qualify.

Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, and British Airways?

I think I found the answer to whether other airlines are included right on the Cathay Pacific Award Charts page.  This table suggests that Cathay Pacific (CX), Cathay Dragon (KA), and British Airways (BA) are eligible.  That assumes that the heading “First and Business Class companion travel” means the same as Companion Ticket Awards.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Award Chart Companion Ticket Awards Eligible Airlines

Tentative Answers

I’m hoping that readers with real experience booking these (or attempting to book these) will chime in with additional details.  I’ll then update this as needed.  For now, though, here are the tentative answers to the questions I first asked:

 

Q: What are the requirements of the primary ticket in order to get a companion ticket?  Can you book the primary as an award?  If they must be purchased, do discount fare classes count?

A: The Primary ticket must be purchased — it cannot be an award.  Discount fare classes are fine.

Q: If we must buy the primary ticket, are there any requirements to how we buy it?  For example, could we pay with points with an Amex Business Platinum card in order to get a 50% point rebate?

A: I don’t believe there are any restrictions in how the tickets are purchased.  Buying through Amex Travel with points should work.

Q: Are companion tickets capacity controlled in the same way as regular awards?

A: Maybe. It appears that they are capacity controlled, but there may be more award availability for companion tickets that for regular tickets.

Q: Are there limits to the number of companions you can add?

A: Yes, you can only add one companion per paid ticket.

Q: Can these awards be booked with partner airlines or just with Cathay Pacific?

A: It looks like they can be booked with Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, and British Airways (but I’m hoping to get verification for the latter).  Keep in mind that British Airways charges massive fees on award tickets and these will most likely be passed along.  Cathay Pacific fuel surcharges tend to be much more reasonable.

Q: How big of a discount are these companion ticket awards compared to regular awards?

A: Discounts range from 25% to 38.9% fewer points, but most are around 35% off.

 

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. I’m a CX Diamond member and have frequently used this companion ticket award. It is one of the best ways to use Asia Miles. What I usually do:
    1. Call CX to make a reservation for revenue business ticket (all business/first fare classes are eligible), and at the same time notify them that I intend to book a companion ticket award as well.
    2. CX will check availability for both the revenue ticket and the companion award. There is more availability for companion award than normal awards. In my experience, as long as the flight is not super full, CX is happy to release a companion award for you.
    3. Assuming there is availability for both the revenue ticket and companion award, you can hold both tickets for a few days (sometimes up to a week), then call again once you want to issue the ticket.
    One thing to note is that if possible, always ask for the availability of companion award before ticketing the revenue ticket. Always hold the companion award ticket first before issuing the revenue ticket.

    • Josh,
      Awesome info, thank you! Here’s a couple of follow-up question for you…

      Q1: Booking CX
      If you go through steps 1 to 3 and hold the tickets, could you then book the revenue ticket elsewhere (via Amex Travel, for example), then call up and have your held companion ticket issued?

      If not, do you think the following would work?
      1. Call to find out which flights have availability for both tickets
      2. Book the revenue ticket with points via Amex Travel (or however you want to do so)
      3. Call CX to book the companion
      4. In the unlikely case that the companion award is no longer available, call Amex Travel (or whoever you booked with) to cancel for free within 24 hours.

      Q2: Have you ever looked into the possibility of booking a BA companion award via Cathay? Any info you have about that would be appreciated!

      • Q1:
        That might be tricky, as that would cause you to have two separate bookings for the same flight under one name and FFP# (because you’re going to have one revenue ticket booked with CX and another revenue ticket on the same flight booked elsewhere) and there’s a (very) small chance it gets picked up by the system.
        If you must book elsewhere, your workaround would work anyway.

        Q2:
        Unfortunately I haven’t booked BA companion flights this way, since I wasn’t even aware of it… I suspect in that case CX wouldn’t have better availability for companion tickets. In general, CX releases more availability on CX/KA flights to its own Asia Miles members than other OneWorld partners.

  2. By purchasing a business class ticket can anyone automatically request a companion ticket, or does one need the Cathay credit card to qualify?

  3. I’ve seen these before but they didn’t seem to make sense until this post .
    The issue you could run into in booking with AMEX is many of Cathay’s best fares are only available on their website– for example CMB-LAX is $6400 roundtrip on an OTA and $2900 on cathay’s site

    • Good point. I just confirmed your example with Amex Travel. I’m pretty sure that if you called Amex Travel and told them about the price discrepancy they would either find a way to give you that price, or (more likely) let you pay directly with Cathay and redeem points after the fact.

  4. greg, if you decide to be a DP and get huge value from it, please dont post details. the deal will be killed and it will be all your fault greg! haha. nice post btw. given its a revenue fare (even at discount), im curious how much stacking you would need to really make this worth it vs other methods like the amex bus plat 50% pts or using other metal like delta companion (depending an route).

  5. I was able to Book a Hong Kong to Sydney award Business Class for two for a total of 60,000
    miles and $180.00 using Alaska miles for Nov 2017. Wonder what the cost would be using a revenue and companion ticket . Do not think it could come close to what I paid.
    The value of the two cash tickets is approx $9,418.. Note that you can transfer Elevate Miles to
    Alaska which is Asia Miles partner. Using TPG valuation for Alaska Miles my cost is $1,140.
    If you can accumulate Alaska miles this will be the best way to travel using Cathay.

    • Yep if you can find award tickets that’s definitely the better deal. This is mostly interesting for situations where two people want to travel together and:

      1) one person is booking a revenue flight anyway (for work, perhaps?), or
      2) Award tickets aren’t available for two, or
      3) revenue tickets are relatively cheap and the primary flyer wants to earn miles, including elite qualifying miles.

  6. Is it possible to claim the companion award using asia miles and subsequently change the primary FF mile to a non-asiamiles number for crediting purposes?

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