A luxe flight route that’s on many avid travelers’ bucket lists is finally returning to New York City.
For the first time since the pandemic, Cathay Pacific is resuming flights at New York JFK with planes that feature its beloved first-class cabins. The cabin is a favorite option for savvy travelers looking for a glamorous and comfortable way to get from the East Coast to Asia.
During the pandemic, the airline grounded all of its Boeing 777 planes outfitted with first-class cabins. In 2022, it began to bring the service back to a few select cities, including Los Angeles International airport, which is currently the only other gateway in North America where the cabin is available. The limited service makes a first-class seat on Cathay a rare treat that few travelers can access.
The cabin class will make its triumphant return to JFK on March 31, 2024. Operated by the carrier’s Boeing 777-300ER plane, the route is nonstop from New York to Hong Kong—meaning the 16-hour flight leaves plenty of time to soak up every amenity this rarefied travel experience has to offer.
What to expect onboard Cathay Pacific first class
Although the Cathay Pacific's first-class seats don’t have fully closing doors like some newer cabins, the space still feels private and exclusive. There are just six seats in first class, and each lie-flat seat is angled away from the aisle for maximum privacy. The seats are configured in a 1-1-1 layout. Passengers will first notice small thoughtful details, such as an orchid at each seat and hand-written welcome notes.
The opulence continues at meal time. Cathay is known for its fine dining: Think caviar and blinis washed down with Krug 2004 vintage Champagne. Other signature dishes include authentic dim sum like wonton noodle soup and bean curd rolls filled with boneless pork in strawberry sauce—all served alongside jasmine rice cooked fresh in-flight. There’s an “All Day” menu, meaning passengers can order anytime they like. Come breakfast, flight attendants can provide dishes like eggs made to order, fresh smoothies, or congee with a side of dumplings.
When you’re ready for sleep, a flight attendant will turn down your seat into a fully flat bed, which, at a width of an astounding three feet, is one of the widest available on commercial planes. The bedding from Bamford is nothing short of sumptuous, with 600 thread-count linens, a substantial mattress pad, a choice between firm or soft pillows, and even a pillow mist laced with lavender to help you doze off more easily.
Other perks include an amenity kit featuring large-format bottles of Bamford’s organic skincare products, pajamas and slippers by Hong Kong-based cotton brand Pye, and Bose noise-canceling headsets. Plus, Wi-Fi is free for first-class passengers.
On the ground, first-class fliers also have access to Cathay’s top-notch lounges, including The Pier in Hong Kong. Amenities at this newly refurbished lounge include Day Suites for napping, free spa services including massages, and shower suites. It's also home to a gourmet restaurant with a seasonally rotating menu. (The restaurant, called The Dining Room, is currently offering a tasting menu curated by the Rosewood Hong Kong.)
How to book Cathay Pacific first class with points and miles
If paid in cash, the first-class fare is prohibitively expensive for most travelers. (It can range up to tens of thousands of dollars.)
Instead, the best option is to book with points. Cathay charges a lot for these first-class fares—160,000 points for a one-way ticket, to be exact. But its Asia Miles loyalty program is quite flexible, making the lofty redemption a bit easier to achieve.
Cathay’s Asia Miles program is a transfer partner for several credit cards, including American Express, Citi, and Capital One. All three credit card companies have a transfer ratio of 1:1, meaning it’s one credit card point for one mile with Cathay.
There’s a lot of first-class award availability from New York in Cathay’s Asia Miles program in April and May, points and miles expert Gary Leff writes on his site View From The Wing. Look for flight number CX831, which departs JFK at 2:55 p.m. and arrives in Hong Kong the next day at 6:55 p.m. For booking the return, you’ll want flight number CX830, which departs Hong Kong at 9:05 a.m. and arrives in New York the same day at 1:15 p.m.
The airline is also a member of the Oneworld alliance, making it a partner of American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, British Airways, and Qantas. Travelers can use frequent flier miles they’ve accrued on any of these airlines to reserve a first-class seat on Cathay Pacific. This is one of the best strategies for booking your first-class award seat, as partner airlines often charge fewer points. (Alaska, for instance, charges just 70,000 miles for a one-way in the first-class cabin.) But first, you’ll have to search through the partner airlines’ websites—or in some cases, call the airline—to see if seats are available in Cathay’s first class. If there is, you may have just snagged one of the most coveted airline seats in the sky.