Cathay Pacific Honoring First Class, Business Class Mistake Fares

On New Year’s Eve I wrote about $675 business class roundtrips between Vietnam and the U.S. and about first class roundtrips for under $1000.

Up until that I had considered 90,000 Iberia Avios for under $300 to be the ‘deal of 2018’ or perhaps the British Airways fuel surcharge class action settlement that returned miles or cash to many of us. Or maybe the Hong Kong Airlines business class mistake fare.

Still I had warned,

[W]e don’t know for certain how Cathay will feel about such a deep discount airfare sale, whether they might get seller’s remorse, so I’d wait a few days after buying additional travel or making additional non-refundable plans around the fare.

The US Department of Transportation no longer requires airlines to honor mistake fares. All they have to do is cover non-refundable costs travelers incur in reliance on a purchased fare if they decide to cancel. And even that could take a fight.

However competitor Hong Kong Airlines honored their $560 business class Los Angeles – Asia fare over the summer. And they’ve had bad publicity recently from a major data breach. And historically many mistake fares have been honored in any case.

The amazing news for everyone who took a chance and booked these tickets is that Cathay Pacific is honoring the deal.

I don’t think airlines should have to honor mistake fares as long as it’s only the most egregious errors that are cancelled and customers are notified promptly. However I also think it’s totally acceptable to book a fare that seems like a mistake, the airline will choose to honor or they won’t. And when an airline is going to provide first class roundtrip travel between Asia and North America for under $1000 I want to be one of the people that gets to take those flights.

Did you get in on one (or more) of these tickets?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It wouldn’t shock me if CX are insured for this. Posting mistake fares really not much different than “fat-finger” mistakes in other industries (securities) for which such insurance is available. It could be that insurance is the reason why mistake fares have been getting honored more frequently lately (including HK Airlines).

  2. Congrats to all who did book this! Gary and estimates on how many did and it’s implication for F redemptions in 2019?

  3. CX seldom released F award space more than a week or two on most North American routes so it’s likely they reviewed the bookings made on this fare and decided to take the hit on award inventory for which they’d generally book at 10% of the full F fare, so the actual loss given empty seats on the route (I’ve flown F several times and there has only been one or two others in the cabin…one of the reasons capacity for the cabin has been reduced by half in recent years.)

    More curious are the fares on the HKG-DAD route which were showing as HKG$4,500 one way in economy when I was checking positioning options last night.

  4. This is excellent news. I booked DAD-JFK with enough in between to take two trips. Unfortunately, I booked in J before I heard F fares were part of this too.. But heck, 700 rt in J with 12 hrs in HKG…not complaining.

  5. Gary
    On an unrelated topic as I do not know where to publish this:
    You should know about Air France travel award on line.
    Look at month of June 2019 ,almost everyday the lowest mileage fare ,for JFK to CDG shows on the site as available between 22000miles or 25500 miles plus tax and fees, (which incidentally on AF awards are higher than any other airline award travel for same routes ,).
    However when one tries to book a June round trip JFK/CdG , after filling all information, One gets an error message. When one calls AF frequent flyer desk , one is told that it is because award travel is not available at this level .
    The offered travel with miles is double to quadruple the mileage level indicated on the site. So much for being deceptive.

  6. What can we expect for award inventory in the coming months? I’ve been saving for a long time to fly the 1st class cabin, which was gonna be tough to get anyway. Now THIS! Just because CX screwed up, now I’ll probably get hosed. : – (

  7. @Theodore Smith The chances of booking an award during the time period when they had those mistake fares are probably nil. Maybe something will open up extremely close in but it will likely be way tougher than usual because of this.

  8. “The amazing news for everyone who took a chance and booked these tickets is that Cathay Pacific is honoring the deal.”

    It is amazing.

    It should not be amazing.

    Thank you Cathay Pacific for your exceptional business ethics. It will be remembered.

  9. @Mak ” It could be that insurance is the reason why mistake fares have been getting honored more frequently lately (including HK Airlines)”

    Why insure against a non-loss?

  10. I got two of these, inbound in April and outbound in oct. this is going to be sweet. It was a battle to get them and I really want to honor those that found some one way flights. I do have an interesting situation. on one of the flights, there are two of us but only one available first class seat selection. I will work that out before I start on the other things. Thanks everyone for putting the word out.

  11. @rod, they hold back two of the first class seats from seat selection (2A and 2K, I think), however, anytime I have called in, they have been willing to let me select them on the understanding that I might have to be moved. If you can get 1A and 2A it is pretty much like having a cabin to yourself.

    Quite a contrast between Cathay Pacific honoring this mistake fare and Marriott and Al Maha resort changing the terms of reservations that were already booked with full board and activities or with breakfast included to make them room only and refuse to return them to their former status. I know which one I will be trying to work with.

  12. CX is my favorite OW airline. A year or 2 back they reversed their policy of not thru checking luggage on 2 separate tickets (QR will do, too). I vote with my butt in the seat of these 2 airlines whenever possible. (I just booked CX SYD-LHR vs QF just for this reason).

  13. I’m not quite sure I understand. I was about to hop on this but then thought, “Why am I going to shell out $1,000 to book a flight I don’t need to take?” I understand if one had plans to go to Vietnam or if one had a vacation in mind but not yet a destination in mind. But why shell out $1,000+ for Cathay first class if you have no reason to go to Vietnam? Is it for the experience of it? Is it for the AA miles?

  14. @Jay – you could use this as a one way back from Asia if you were going to travel to Asia. Say you were taking a trip to Thailand. Instead of redeeming miles you could hope over from Thailand to Vietnam for your paid ticket flight home, save your miles redeeming an award, earn miles for the ticket instead.

  15. I didn’t book any tickets, even though I found flights. I just cannot get my vacay schedule to accommodate another trip by the end of 2019. I wonder how many truly were booked? The itinerary was just Vietnam to NYC and LAX. I played with lots of other cities in the US and they didn’t work. I’ll wait for the next one….

  16. @JohnB
    BOS and EWR also were available.

    There are people who look at this as a cheap way to earn OneWorld status (and the miles which are not free). Though Vietnam does not allow back to back return so those doing this with short turn around would find themselves being stuck in Vietnam and not able to board their immediately turnaround flights.

    As Gary said if one has a plan to visit SE Asia, one can use this as a return back to US (may disregard the return back to Vietnam portion), essentially replace the miles with cash payment, pretty much a wash, if you factor in the cost to obtain the miles, plus you earn miles on the flight.

    Other than that, however “great” CX F is, if you dont have a plan to visit SE Asia in 2019 or you dont need to earn a OneWorld status, it does not make much sense to shell out $1K for the “bargain”, regardless how “nice” the products are (they actually deteriorate a lot in recent years from previous standard, but of course still far nicer than flying coach to your destination).

    Otherwise, there is really no reason to shell out $1K for an unnecessary trip, not to mention there are other expenses, plus the time needed to do the trip…

  17. Given that several thousand tickets were booked I am wondering if CX will end up degrading first class service in F. If most of the people sitting in F are only paying this mistake fare then CX might just decide to turn it into a glorified economy seat. Unless they have a massive insurance policy they are going to have to cut somewhere at the airline to make up for this massive loss of revenue.

  18. miafll – concur 100%. I could have jumped on this deal when first reported but I skipped to the next post as soon as I saw flights could not originate in USA. Yes it’s a good deal but I have no interest in finding a positioning flight to Vietnam, and no time on my 2019 for a TPAC vacation (though would like to visit Hanoi some day). A great deal for those in Asia who can position to ‘nam but pretty useless to the rest, particularly working stiffs with families.

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