Chef and Companions Each Compensated $5,100 For Nine-Hour Flight Delay?

Chef Wong Wing-chee. Photograph courtesy of http://hkmdb.com.

Chef Wong Wing-chee was reportedly compensated $40,000.00 cash in Hong Kong dollars — slightly greater than $5,100.00 in United States dollars — plus awarded an upgrade and given incidentals as the result of demanding compensation while complaining about an approximately nine-hour delay of Cathay Pacific flight 255 due to technical problems.

The celebrity chef and restaurant chain owner was to travel in the economy class cabin with five companions. However, upon learning at check-in at Hong Kong International Airport that the flight — originally scheduled to depart at 1:00 in the morning — would not depart until 10:00 in the morning, the chef demanded compensation, claiming that he and his companions would miss business appointments.

Cathay Pacific Airways initially offered the chef and his companions taxi fare or accommodations at a hotel property for one night. However, as he contacted a local newspaper, Cathay Pacific Airways reportedly accepted his demands of $40,000.00 cash in Hong Kong dollars compensation for each of the six passengers — $240,000.00 cash in Hong Kong dollars total, or approximately $31,000.00 in United States dollars — plus incidentals. Even after the chef was upgraded to a seat in the business class cabin, he reportedly was still not satisfied and vowed to fight for additional compensation after the trip was completed.

Although a spokesperson of Cathay Pacific Airways declined to comment on the actual amount of compensation paid out, this was apparently not the first incident of alleged overcompensation on the part of Cathay Pacific Airways, as evidenced by this discussion of an entire family of four being upgraded and given a courtesy shuttle ride to the aircraft after an altercation with ground staff as the result of them being late to the gate for their flight. Although some FlyerTalk members believed that Cathay Pacific Airways made the correct decision to placate the family, many others expressed their outrage, questioning whether or not Cathay Pacific Airways created a precedent from which the airline might not be able to recover.

That is not to say that there is anything wrong with respectfully requesting compensation as opposed to demanding it in an unreasonable manner. However, who is to determine the subjective question of what is reasonable as compared to unreasonable? In this case, the decision of the airline was the determinant — and rightfully so, as they freely have the right to set what they believe is appropriate compensation. If I find myself in a similar situation on a future Cathay Pacific flight, then I should receive similar compensation for my companions as well as myself — right?

Well, although I cannot completely and definitively rule this scenario out, I do believe that it is safe to say that if I was the passenger in question instead of Chef Wong Wing-chee, I would not have been granted the amount of compensation that was granted to him — but then again, I believe he was unreasonably demanding on that day, and I like to think that I am not an unreasonable person. I am also not a celebrity.

I am vehemently against celebrities being given preferential treatment, as I firmly believe they are no more important than you or I. It is my belief that the compensation was indeed excessive for the situation endured by Chef Wong Wing-chee and his five travel companions.

What do you think?

Comments (Showing 4 of 4)

  • thetravelabstract at 1:55pm January 22, 2012

    Disagree. Different levels of elite get different treatment. This is a hard fact of flying these days. People like me who have no status are not equals to higher elites, that is plain to see.

    Why should that not extend to other levels of “elite”?

  • Canarsie at 2:11pm January 22, 2012

    If the celebrity earned status as an elite member in the Cathay Pacific Asia Miles program, I would agree with you.

    Would you feel the same way if neither you nor the celebrity were elite members of Cathay Pacific Asia Miles and flew simply as passengers on the same delayed flight, but the celebrity received preferential treatment and you did not?

  • HMPS at 5:03pm January 23, 2012

    I disagree. Simple, all of us put on our pants one leg at a time.

    If he gets it, you should get it too.

    He got it because there was an implied blackmail of talking negative to the media

  • Marco Polo at 3:25pm January 27, 2012

    Cathay’s coddling of star chef weighs heavy on lost-luggage case

    LAI SEE
    Howard Winn
    Jan 28, 2012 http://www.scmp.com

    Cathay Pacific (SEHK: 0293)’s recent moment of madness in agreeing to outrageous compensation claims from celebrity chef Wong Wing-chee has unsurprisingly triggered considerable responses from the public, much of it on the internet.
    Readers will recall that Cathay offered Wong and five companions HK$10,000 after their flight was delayed for nine hours. But the airline raised this figure to HK$40,000, along with an upgrade, after Wong threatened to contact the Apple Daily newspaper.

    A reader, Yin, writes that after a recent flight from Hong Kong to London, his baggage didn’t make it onto the baggage carousel despite being tagged a priority. Like the chef, Yin is a Marco Polo Club Gold member – but unlike Wong, he didn’t threaten to notify Apple Daily.

    Yin said he was sent away with only the phone number of Cathay’s London baggage services. The next day, he left two messages at the number but received no reply. After he made two international calls to Hong Kong, the bag was eventually sent to his London flat, but was left in the care of a flatmate without a signature or confirmation of identity. Yin fired off an e-mail complaining to Cathay early this month, but did not get a response. “It really saddens me that Cathay has sunk so low,” he said.

    The moral of the story, given the chef’s case, is if you want a favourable outcome when complaining to Cathay, threaten to call Apple Daily.

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