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Social Influencer Banned for Life for Scamming a Free Upgrade

Have you ever tried to talk your way into an upgrade or even just into a seat with more legroom on a flight? Well, if you have in the past and plan to do so in the future, be careful — airlines are getting savvy to the tricks travelers pull when trying to get upgrades and you could get completely banned.

If you’ve ever tried to trick your way into an upgrade, now might be a good time to never do that again. Some airlines, like Cathay Pacific, have had enough.

One Cathay Pacific passenger says that she found that out the hard way when she reached out to Cathay Pacific for a complimentary upgrade for her roundtrip flight from New York City to Taiwan in May because of her status as a “social influencer.” Cathay responded saying that they’d be glad to extend a free business class upgrade if there were seats available.

“Because of your social network, we would like to formally extend a Business Class upgrade to you on the day of your flight, should any tickets still be available at check-in,” read the e-mail from Cathay that she provided Elliott Advocacy when she contacted them for help, “Feel free to document your travels with us…” So, says Ng, she printed out the e-mail and took it with her as “proof” that she was offered the upgrade.

Ng showed the email to the gate agent for her first flight, was told that they couldn’t accommodate her upgrade, and she flew from Taiwan to New York in her original premium economy seat without incident. But, says Ng, when she showed the agent her upgrade letter the gate agent called for his supervisor who “proceeded to give me a ‘refusal of carriage letter’ 30 minutes later. He stated that security said that Cathay Pacific did not send that email and that I had committed fraud.”

Ng was forced to buy another ticket back to Taiwan, then reached out to Cathay Pacific and their parent company Swire for help. But they responded by agreeing with the gate agent’s supervisor: the letter was fraudulent. But, they offered her the opportunity to prove that her letter was real.

Dear Ms Ng

In the case that you are certain of the authenticity of your emails, please facilitate our further investigation by sending us:

 1. A copy of the email you sent to us prior to boarding of your flight on 07 June 2019 as mentioned in your email to Swire on 27 June 2019;

2. *The “.eml” document of the two upgrade emails you received from us. You may follow the steps as detailed in the attached document;

3.  Any other supporting information. (Cathay Pacific)

That, says Elliot Advocacy, is when “things got a little weird.” Ng refused to provide any proof and told Swire that not only did she not see “the relevance of this request,” but followed up by demanding that all further communication go through her legal counsel. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific stood by their lifetime ban but did refund the unused segment of her flight. Ng says she now plans to get a lawyer to help with her case. Elliott Advocacy warned all readers that airlines seem more willing than ever to put passengers on the blacklist.


Comments are Closed.
downinit September 30, 2019

Influencers should definitely get free flights...on a 737 Max...with an untrained pilot. That would definitely get a few hits on social media!

September 29, 2019

Regardless of what you think of the case, the fact that the influencer was unwilling to share the correspondence they received should speak volumes to the case they had. If I was in their shoes and legitimately received such an offer from CX, I wouldn't hesitate to forward it on to them. If anything such evidence would make CX back-pedal, offer free tickets, award miles, etc. Based on what we've seen so far it would appear that they abused her "influencer" status to get what they wanted. The only difference between them and self-upgraders is they remained in the cabin they were originally ticketed in.

SamirD September 28, 2019

Social Influencer is just another name for 'Free Advertising' for a company. It's not a bad system when not abused, the free advertising is organic and the person doing the review or whatever gets traffic for their platform. SEMA had a program like this call the 'Enthusiast Opinion Leader' that you had to apply for and I was lucky enough to qualify and go. And it was a great experience for sure and a great bit of advertising for the conference and trade show. The problem is that there are always the 'wannabes' that want the goods without the work. Those guys will always be out there, and if this is one of them, then good to see another one 'out of business'.

ksandness September 28, 2019

I've heard of people being taken in by scams like that, but in this case, the court should be able to find out the IP address from which the e-mail was sent and prove that it was either Ms. Ng or some scammer who sent it.

lianluo September 28, 2019

I agree with Crunchie, pulling email logs with IP addresses is easy. The fact that she won't do so tells me she got caught. Anyone one of us who fly and enjoy those precious upgrades would have the sense to keep our emails if we had such an offer and at the slightest whiff of being thought a fraud would clear it up very quickly. I suspect she thought she could pull a fast one and didn't appreciate that airlines have pretty much seen it all.