Beware: American Airlines Is Showing Phantom Cathay Pacific Award Availability

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As of yesterday Cathay Pacific awards can now be booked on the American Airlines website but it looks like American may be having a few integration issues that travelers should be aware of – not all the awards you’ll see on are actually available to book.

With offering a very useful award search facility it didn’t take me long to head over to American’s website to search for Cathay Pacific First Class award availability after the news of the search upgrade broke.

The first route I checked was Zurich – Hong Kong as this is a route that has served me well in the past and on which I have frequently seen First Class award availability open up.

My first search revealed what appeared to be pretty good award availability for the end of March 2020…

a screenshot of a computer screen …but I was a little surprised to see that the awards on offer included a routing through London:

a screenshot of a computer

I then remembered that Cathay has changed the aircraft it uses on its Zurich – Hong Kong route to an A350 and Cathay’s A350’s don’t offer a First Class cabin. That makes it hardly surprising to see an indirect routing being offered.

As it happens, a departure out of London would be far more convenient for me than a departure from Zurich so I reperformed the search with London as my starting point.

The results were puzzling.

a screenshot of a calendar There was no First Class Cathay Pacific award availability showing for departures out of London and, under normal circumstances, this wouldn’t have surprised me with London – Hong Kong premium cabin awards usually being notoriously hard to find…but what was going on? The Zurich search suggested otherwise.

I reperformed the original search one more time (with Zurich as my starting point) and this time I tried to book the awards that were on offer.

Each time the results page reloaded with an error message at the top of the screen.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

“The flight you selected is no longer available. Please modify your request”.


I then performed another search with Paris as my starting point to see what would happen and, once again, I got some favorable results:

a screenshot of a calendar

This time around I was offered a non-stop routing between Paris and Hong Kong but, if you look closely, you see that the phantom awards out of London are showing in these search results too.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

The Paris – Hong Kong award turned out to be legitimate as I was able to price it up and go through to a booking page, but all the other options being displayed generated error messages.

a screenshot of a credit card

Bottom Line

American Airlines may iron out these issues pretty quickly or they may be around for a while so, for the time being, don’t assume that the Cathay Pacific awards you see on are bookable unless you can (at the very least) get past the screen displaying your routing options.

Better still, double-check that an award you’d like to book is genuinely available by using a second site like

I’d hate for a reader to make a decision to buy some Alaska Miles (flash sale now running) or AAdvantage Miles on the strength of a set of search results that aren’t actually showing real inventory so please be careful before assuming that an award you see online is actually bookable.


  1. American has been showing phantom availability on multiple carriers for well over a year. It’s simply appalling that it’s permitted.

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