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Cathay Pacific goes big on baggage allowances, but most award tickets miss out

You'll be able to haul 64kg of baggage on a Cathay Pacific Business Class fare, or 96kg in First Class, with the airline's latest baggage allowance enhancements.

Most award tickets won't benefit though, retaining their current limits.

Cathay Pacific has announced some changes to its Economy Class tickets, with mostly positive news among the tweaking to its three fare categories in this cabin, which start to come into effect this week and will be progressively rolled out network-wide by early 2022.

Full details of the new Economy Class fares are available at the Cathay Pacific website.

Our new Economy fares will be introduced progressively across our network. Initially, they will be available for flight tickets originating from Malaysia, South Korea or the Taiwan region from 28 September 2021, before extending to the rest of our markets over the next six months. If you’re flying from Hong Kong, you’ll be able to book the fares during the first quarter of 2022.

Cathay Pacific

Baggage allowances

As part of these new changes, which have already rolled out on some routes and will progressively apply to all tickets issues across the Cathay Pacific network, the airline is also changing its baggage allowances in all four cabin classes.

IATA publishes recommended practices for checked baggage and carry-on luggage weight and dimensions limits, and most member airlines comply with these.

That means you’ll typically find that an airline follows one of two concepts when it comes to checked baggage allowances.

The weight-based concept

Generally, each passenger is permitted to check in an unlimited number of bags, provided the total combined weight is less than or equal to a limit dictated by the airline and based on travel class / ticket type / frequent flyer status.

Most airlines allow passengers travelling together who check in at the same time to pool their allowances, for example if one passenger has slightly more than the limit and the other has slightly less.

The piece-based concept

Passengers are permitted to check in a specified number of checked bags, each of which has a limit of:

  • 23kg in Economy / Premium Economy
  • 32kg in Business / First

The number of bags per passenger is based on travel class / ticket type / frequent flyer status.

The piece-based concept is mandatory in North and South America, so airlines following the weight-based concept for other flights have to default to this concept for tickets including flights to or from this region.

What is Cathay changing?

Cathay Pacific is progressively moving from a weight-based concept (except on USA / Canada flights where it already uses the piece-based concept) to a piece-based concept on all flights.

In addition to redesigning its Economy fares, Cathay Pacific is also shifting its baggage policy from a weight-allowance to a piece-allowance system that provides a more generous baggage allowance in the majority of fare types and cabin classes. These changes will apply to all cabin classes and will be gradually rolled out worldwide as the new Economy fares are introduced.

Cathay Pacific

Here’s how the allowances will look network-wide once the changes have come into effect over the coming months, for newly issued tickets.

Cathay Pacific Baggage Allowance Changes

Cabin Class Fare Type Baggage Allowance
Old New
Economy Light
(was Save)
30kg
(max. 2 pieces)
23kg
(1 piece)
Essential
(was Core)
46kg
(2 x 23kg pieces)
Flex 46kg
(2 x 23kg pieces)
Premium Economy Essential
(was Standard)
35kg
46kg
(2 x 23kg pieces)
Flex
Business Light
(was Save)
40kg
64kg
(2 x 32kg pieces)
Essential
(was Standard)
Flex
First Flex
50kg
96kg
(3 x 32kg pieces)

Note: Cathay Pacific applies different baggage allowances for tickets solely between Hong Kong and New Zealand (e.g. HKG-AKL, but not SIN-HKG-AKL). See the baggage calculator for details.

As you can see only those booking Economy Save fares (which will be renamed Economy Core) will lose out – with the ability to check-in only a single piece of baggage up to 23kg in weight once the changes take effect (previously 30kg, up to two pieces).

Those needing extra will have to pay an excess baggage fee, or consider one of the new Economy Essential or Flex fares, which come with a generous 46kg allowance across two pieces in total per passenger.

In Premium Economy it’s an 11kg increase in total allowance from 35kg to 46kg, while all Business Class passengers get a 60% hike to 64kg and in First Class a whopping 96kg – nearly double the previous level.

This will also represent a big increase for First Class passengers flying to and from the US and Canada under the existing piece-based system, since they currently receive the same allowance as Business Class (64kg).

Cathay Pacific First Class passengers can look forward to a 96kg luggage allowance network-wide. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The only downside? The piece-based concept means those who regularly fly with several smaller bags or packages to check in may be disadvantaged.

For example flying in Business Class with two 15kg bags and one 10kg box is included in the old allowance (40kg, unlimited bags), still in force on most routes. Once the new system kicks in for your route, however, you’ll be charged for an additional checked piece, since you have three items in total, even though you have not exceeded the overall upper weight limit (64kg).

Your baggage allowance is listed on your ticket itinerary and in Manage Booking.

Remember, if your flight class was upgraded with Upgrade Bid, your baggage allowance is still based on your original ticket allowance.

This beats many competitors, including SIA

While US carriers and European airlines already typically use the piece-based baggage allowance system, it bucks the trend in Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

As a result, Cathay Pacific will be offering its passengers flying on revenue tickets a much more generous allowance than many competitors, once the changes have taken effect.

Here’s how it looks for those flying in Business Class or First Class.

Baggage allowance comparison

Airline Travel Class
Business First
Cathay Pacific 40kg
64kg
50kg
96kg
British Airways 64kg 96kg
Lufthansa 64kg 96kg
Singapore Airlines 40kg 50kg
Qantas 40kg 50kg
Emirates 40kg 50kg
Qatar Airways 40kg 50kg
Etihad 40kg 50kg
Turkish Airlines 40kg n/a

For many of our readers based in Singapore, taking large volumes of luggage on a Europe trip in Business Class has meant being restricted to British Airways or Lufthansa, for their generous 64kg allowance per passenger.

Cathay Pacific pulls ahead of many regional rivals for non-US luggage limits, including Singapore Airlines. (Photo: Sorbis / Shutterstock)

Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Middle East carriers all have poorer luggage limits.

Pro Tip: JAL still has the most generous Business Class luggage allowance we know of, with 3 x 32kg bags (96kg total) per passenger, more than double the allowance offered by Singapore Airlines!

These new changes will put Cathay Pacific up there among the best in terms of checked luggage.

Award tickets miss out

If you were thinking this is a great way to carry a significant amount of checked baggage on an award ticket, like a Singapore – Frankfurt Business Class redemption for 65,000 Asia Miles, there’s some bad news unfortunately.

Rather than matching the baggage allowance of award tickets to one of the existing fare categories (e.g. Flex in each cabin class) – Cathay Pacific will retain the weight-based concept for award tickets.

This includes those redeemed using Asia Miles and through partner programmes (e.g. with British Airways Avios points or Alaska miles).

  • 30kg in Economy
  • 35kg in Premium Economy
  • 40kg in Business
  • 50kg in First

For example if you redeem a Business Class ticket from Singapore to Hong Kong using Asia Miles you’ll get a 40kg baggage allowance, even for tickets issued after the route switches to the piece-based concept in the months ahead (when revenue tickets will then get a 64kg allowance).

There are a couple of tweaks for award tickets on routes to and from the USA or Canada, however.

Cathay Pacific Baggage Allowance Changes
Award Tickets
USA / Canada routes

Cabin Class Fare Type Baggage Allowance
Old New
Economy Award 46kg
(2 x 23kg pieces)
46kg
(2 x 23kg pieces)
Premium Economy Award 50kg
(2 x 25kg pieces)
46kg
(2 x 23kg pieces)
Business Award 64kg
(2 x 32kg pieces)
64kg
(2 x 32kg pieces)
First Award 64kg
(2 x 32kg pieces)
96kg
(3 x 32kg pieces)

Note: Cathay Pacific applies different baggage allowances for tickets solely between Hong Kong and New Zealand (e.g. HKG-AKL, but not SIN-HKG-AKL). See the baggage calculator for details.

As you can see for award tickets in Premium Economy the 2 x 25kg limit on US/Canada routes will be amended to 2 x 23kg under the new system (overall drop from 50kg allowance to 46kg allowance).

First Class gets a boost though, once the changes apply to a valid US/Canada routing in the months to come, with 96kg for award tickets.

These limits apply to full mileage award redemptions. The baggage allowance of upgrade award tickets and cash fares partially offset using Asia Miles will follow that of the underlying revenue ticket issued.

What about excess baggage fees?

Cathay’s extra baggage fee schedule is available here, and allows you to check rates based on the weight system and the new piece system, depending on your ticket issue date / type and routing.

These charges will continue to follow the baggage allowance of the ticket, i.e. per kg charges if the ticket is issued under the weight system, and per piece charges if the ticket is issued under the piece system.

What about status holders?

If you have Gold or Diamond status in the Marco Polo Club, you’ll be entitled to one additional piece of complimentary baggage over and above that provided for the fare class booked under the new piece system, giving you:

Extra baggage for status holders
(Piece-based system)

Fare Type Usual
Economy Light 23kg
(1 piece)
46kg
(2 x 23kg pieces)
Economy Essential / Flex 46kg
(2 x 23kg)
69kg
(3 x 23kg pieces)
Premium Economy 46kg
(2 x 23kg)
69kg
(3 x 23kg pieces)
Business 64kg
(2 x 32kg)
96kg
(3 x 32kg pieces)
First 96kg
(3 x 32kg)
128kg
(4 x 32kg pieces)

These enhanced allowances also apply to oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status holders.

(Photo: Cathay Pacific)

For tickets issued under the weight-based system, which in future will only apply to award tickets, additional baggage allowances for status holders will be:

  • +10kg for MPC Silver
  • +15kg for MPC Gold / oneworld Sapphire
  • +20kg for MPC Diamond / oneworld Emerald

Unfortunately the 10kg additional baggage allowance for those with Marco Polo Silver status does not translate to any additional allowance under the new piece-based concept.

If you’re redeeming miles for your ticket, however, the 10kg bonus is applied for these status holders travelling on non-US/Canada routes (weight-based concept).

For example, a Marco Polo Silver member redeeming an Asia Miles award in Business Class from Singapore to London will still be entitled to 50kg total baggage allowance (40kg + 10kg), even after the new system is introduced for this route.


 

 

Summary

Cathay Pacific’s network-wide move to a piece-based baggage allowance system is good news for those booking cash tickets with the airline, with some generous new upper limits in store like 64kg in Business Class and 96kg in First Class.

These compare well against regional competitors, and will gradually be rolled out in the coming months. They have already taken effect for tickets issued this week in some markets (though notably not yet Singapore or Hong Kong).

For those redeeming miles for Cathay Pacific award tickets the baggage allowance will remain status quo almost across the board, which is unfortunate because as these new allowances are rolled out they are a nice boost for those booking revenue tickets on the majority of the network.

This differentiation effectively devalues award tickets on the airline, compared to revenue bookings, but at least the weight-based allowances currently enforced aren’t being reduced.

(Photo: Cathay Pacific)

Also, speaking as someone who rarely checks in more than 20kg of luggage for any trip, the regular allowances for those redeeming are probably still more than adequate for most travellers.

For those redeeming in Premium Economy to or from the North America, there’s a slight drop in the free luggage allowance, but redemptions in First Class on the same routes do get matched to the new revenue allowance at a very generous 96kg.

(Cover Photo: Cathay Pacific)

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