Using your Qantas Frequent Flyer points to book flights is naturally one of the best ways that you can spend them – and for some high flyers, that means using points to travel with Qantas' Oneworld alliance partner Cathay Pacific.
Offering flights between Australia and Hong Kong and onward to a host of destinations across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America, Cathay Pacific is a favourite of many travellers for two key reasons: reward availability is generally quite good (especially if you plan ahead), and the amount you pay on the side in dollars is quite low.
To counter that, the number of Qantas Points needed to book Cathay Pacific flights is marginally higher than needed to make a comparable booking with Qantas and some of its closer partners like Emirates, although there's still value to be had.
For example, I recently needed to fly from Paris to Brisbane, and wanted to book business class. I could have flown with Emirates via Dubai for 128,000 Qantas Points, but booked Cathay Pacific instead for 139,000 Qantas Points, because the fees and charges associated with the booking were around $400 less.
When booking multiple seats – such as a return journey for yourself or tickets for others to join you on the same flight – those cash savings can really add up, so if you don't mind spending a few more points to enjoy some significant savings, here are some of the ways you can use your Qantas Points to fly with Cathay Pacific.
Booking Cathay Pacific flights with Qantas Points: key routes
In Australia, Cathay Pacific offers non-stop flights between Hong Kong and Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Cairns, along with Auckland-Hong Kong services for our friends in New Zealand.
Beyond Hong Kong, the airline offers connections to places like China, Taiwan and Philippines in Asia (among other destinations), plus Israel (Tel Aviv) and some key cities across Europe, including London, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Zurich, Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Manchester and Milan, to be joined by Barcelona and Dublin this year.
Some travellers also use Cathay Pacific as a roundabout way of flying between Australia and places like Los Angeles, New York and Vancouver, but these aren't routes we'll cover: ditto Johannesburg, where flying via Hong Kong would take twice as long as flying straight out of Sydney with Qantas.
Booking Cathay Pacific flights with Qantas Points: how many points you'll need
To start planning your next trip, here's how many points you'd need to book a one-way flight between Australia or New Zealand and Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific. For a return ticket, double these figures:
|To/from Hong Kong (one-way)||Business class||Premium economy||Economy|
|65,000 Qantas Points||52,500 Qantas Points||35,000 Qantas Points|
|Cairns||53,000 Qantas Points||42,000 Qantas Points||28,000 Qantas Points|
|Auckland||78,000 Qantas Points||63,000 Qantas Points||42,000 Qantas Points|
Want to fly onwards from Australia/NZ to Shanghai via Hong Kong as part of a connecting journey? Here's now many points you'll need in total for your booking:
|To/from Shanghai (one-way)||Business class||Premium economy||Economy|
|78,000 Qantas Points||63,000 Qantas Points||42,000 Qantas Points|
|65,000 Qantas Points||52,500 Qantas Points||35,000 Qantas Points|
|Auckland||92,000 Qantas Points||75,000 Qantas Points||50,000 Qantas Points|
Because the overall distance of your flights determines the number of points needed to book them, there's a sweet spot here for Perth-based travellers, who can sneakily fly Perth-Hong Kong-Shanghai for no extra points than needed to book only Perth-Hong Kong.
Travelling further afield, such as to Europe? Here's how many points you'd need for a one-way flight to London – again, double these numbers for a return trip:
|To/from London (one-way)
||First class||Business class||Premium economy||Economy|
|179,000 Qantas Points||139,000 Qantas Points||112,500 Qantas Points||75,000 Qantas Points|
|Cairns||167,000 Qantas Points||121,000 Qantas Points||97,500 Qantas Points||65,000 Qantas Points|
|Auckland||203,000 Qantas Points||139,000 Qantas Points||112,500 Qantas Points||75,000 Qantas Points|
Note that Cathay Pacific doesn't offer first class on flights to Australia or New Zealand, but does offer first class on other routes, such as between Hong Kong and London. The first class figures above assume you'll fly business class between Australia/NZ and Hong Kong, and first class from there to London.
In addition to points, you'll be asked for a monetary payment to cover any airport and government fees, charges and taxes, which varies by route and sometimes also by travel class, but will be made known when you book your reward flight, which is the next step.
Booking Cathay Pacific flights with Qantas Points: making that booking
Cathay Pacific reward flights can be booked online using Qantas Points – you don't need to call – so it's as easy as logging into your Qantas Frequent Flyer account on the Qantas website, clicking 'Make a Reward booking', and keying in the details of your proposed trip.
For example, we'll hunt for a one-way Sydney-Hong Kong flight in early May, ensuring that the "Use points - Classic Flight Rewards only" box is selected:
On the next screen, you'll see a red icon on the days which have economy class reward flights available on any airline – so for premium economy and business class, you'll need to go and tick the boxes at the top, and then click 'Go', to update your search:
Doing so reveals that premium economy is available on many of the days in the calendar (indicated by the yellow icon), and that business class is available on nine of the days (shown by the gold icon):
Keep in mind though that this reflects availability on all Qantas partner airlines and connecting routes, not just Cathay Pacific and non-stop flights.
On May 10, for example, only one of Cathay Pacific's flights actually has a premium economy reward seat available, with the rest of its flights, along with both of Qantas' non-stop Sydney-Hong Kong services, having only reward seats in economy:
So where did that earlier business class icon come from, then? Scrolling down the page, we find that there is a business class option available, but upon closer inspection, involves flying to Melbourne first, spending the night (at your own cost), and then flying with Qantas from Melbourne to Hong Kong. Sneaky!
We'll try again on a different date – this time, Tuesday April 24, and find better luck with both premium economy and business class rewards on Cathay Pacific's daytime Sydney-Hong Kong flight:
To complete the booking, you'd simply click on the flight you want, check the number of points required at the bottom of the page (and the amount you'll need to pay on top on the next screen), and complete the booking like any other by entering in your details.
Booking Cathay Pacific flights with Qantas Points: tips and tricks
While securing your seat in advance is always the best idea if you're able, booking last-minute can also bring some extra options, as Cathay Pacific sometimes makes flights available to passengers booking using points in the few days before departure.
For example, we ran a search on Thursday March 29 and found that while Cathay Pacific didn't have too many reward flights available in the following weeks, its flights over the next few days were wide open in business class and premium economy...
... in most cases, with reward seats available on every flight – pefect for last-minute trips:
The number of points needed remains the same whether you book one day or one year in advance, so once you've found a suitable flight open for points-based bookings on the dates you need to travel, dive in and book!