After inadvertently selling roundtrip premium cabin tickets at economy class fares on New Year’s Day, Cathay Pacific announced it would honor the bargain basement bookings, but now the travel site Simple Flying is reporting that the airline’s decision may make some upgrades and rewards bookings hard to come by in the coming months for passengers with elite status.
Cathay Pacific avoided a public relations misstep last week when the airline announced that it would honor mistake fares published on New Year’s Day. Because fare classes were listed incorrectly, some eagle-eyed passengers were able to book premium cabin roundtrip flights between John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Da Nang International Airport (DAD) for as little as $675. The airline says the already steep discount was intended to only apply to around 16,000 economy class seats, but many air travelers were also able to book premium cabin seats at the sale price.
Gulf carrier rival, Etihad recently earned more than its fair share of negative headlines over its decision to simply downgrade a passenger who purchased a first class mistake fare. Both the airline and the passenger say Etihad issued a business class ticket rather than the first class ticket he had booked.
Cathay’s decision to honor the tickets as booked (even if that means selling a roundtrip first class transatlantic seat for less than the cost of most economy class tickets) looked at first to be a win for the airline: a PR boon and good news for customers who stumbled across a ridiculously good bargain. Simple Flying, however, reports that there might be some unintended consequences as a result of Cathay Pacific’s goodwill gesture.
The airline has reportedly scaled back the number of reward bookings allowed on the affected flights. Passengers with status will also likely find it difficult to upgrade seats on those flights.
According to a report published this week, the inventory of Cathay Pacific premium cabin seats between Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) and JFK has nearly dried up entirely since the too-good-to-be-true fares were published on January first. To be sure, it is still possible to book full-fare premium class tickets, but the ability of passengers with status to upgrade to the front of the plane will likely be hampered for some time. The mistake fares were sold for a travel period extending between January and September and could keep business and first class cabins full for most of the next nine months.
[Image: Cathay Pacific]