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Cathay Pacific

What You Need to Know Before Flying on Cathay Pacific’s Mistake Fare

What You Need to Know Before Flying on Cathay Pacific’s Mistake Fare
Anya Kartashova

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you remember the flutter among travel bloggers on New Year’s Eve. Hours before the ball dropped in Times Square, Cathay Pacific accidentally posted fantastic fares in business and first class between Vietnam and North America—all for less than $1,000 per round-trip ticket. Those who was still sober took advantage of the sale in hopes of flying in style in 2019.

Now that the stress is gone and the airline said it would honor these incredibly-discounted premium-cabin tickets, let’s talk about what you need to know before stretching out in your lie-flat seat in the sky and drinking Cathay Pacific dry of champagne on your way from Southeast Asia.

You Must Obtain A Visa to Travel to Vietnam

Because the fare originates from a Vietnamese airport, you already know that you have to take two trips to Southeast Asia: one to position yourself for the outbound leg and one to return. If you hold a U.S. passport or a European passport, you will need a visa to enter Vietnam. And because you will be entering the country twice, you will need either two single-entry visas or one multi-entry visa, depending on the length of time between the two trips. (Citizens of many ASEAN countries don’t need a visa to enter Vietnam.)

You can obtain a visa on arrival ($25 for one-time entry or $50 for multiple entries) or apply for an eVisa online. Of course, you also can apply for a visa at a consulate, but the fees are much higher:

  • $135 for one-month multi-entry visa
  • $160 for three-month multi-entry visa
  • $180 for a six-month multi-entry visa
  • $220 for one-year multi-entry visa

Your best bet is to apply for an eVisa or get a visa sticker on arrival each time you enter the country. Make sure to have enough cash on you to pay the fee at the border and obtain a visa approval letter before landing in Vietnam.

Direct Turns Aren’t Permitted

A direct turn is landing at an airport and flying out on another plane without going through immigration first. Such practice is illegal in Vietnam. You must go through immigration before being able to get on another plane, which is why obtaining a visa is so important. For this reason, do not book your positioning flights on the same day as your Cathay Pacific flight. Vietnam is a beautiful destination, so why not stay a bit and smell the roses?

Book Positioning Flights with Miles or Cash

Depending on how soon you’re traveling, you might be able to take advantage of another fare sale to book your flights to Southeast Asia. Such deals pop up all the time, albeit in economy class, but you might be able to align those with your Cathay Pacific flights.

The second option is to use frequent-flyer miles to book your flights to and from Southeast Asia. However, keep in mind that because many travelers jumped on this deal, you might not find any award space on Cathay Pacific itself. Luckily, plenty of airlines operate to the region and you can even combine your trip with another destination, such as Cambodia, Thailand or Singapore.

Credit Your Flight to Program of Your Choice

Since you paid cash for your Cathay Pacific first- or business-class flight, you will earn tons of airline miles for this trip. But which program should you credit the flight to? Where to Credit is a nifty tool that helps you decide which airline’s frequent-flyer number to add to your trip. Simply choose the airline of choice—in this case Cathay Pacific—and class of service, click “Show me!” and you’ll see a list of potential mileage earnings.

Personally, I would credit this flight to Alaska Mileage Plan as it earns 350% redeemable miles on first-class flights, but the final decision is yours, of course. Keep in mind that Cathay Dragon flights don’t credit to Alaska Mileage Plan, which is most of the short-haul flights between Da Nang and Hong Kong, and only the long-haul leg (Hong Kong to U.S.) will earn the full credit.


Did you book this New Year’s Eve sale by Cathay Pacific? When and where else in Southeast Asia are you going?

[Image: Cathay Pacific]

View Comments (9)


  1. GetSetJetSet

    January 8, 2019 at 2:25 am

    Book positioning flights with miles or cash? What else would they pay with? Magic beans?

  2. pschafer


    January 8, 2019 at 2:56 am

    Yes – I got one of these and never expected it to be honoured. Will spend about 10 days in Vietnam (doing side trips from Hanoi to Sapa and other areas). Travelling ex-SYD and using Lifemiles points to travel SYD-BKK-HAN and return. Will spend 3 weeks in Canada (booked to YVR) and US national parks.

  3. JoeDaejeon

    January 8, 2019 at 3:26 am

    [quote]A direct turn is landing at an airport and flying out on another plane without going through immigration first. Such practice is illegal in Vietnam. You must go through immigration before being able to get on another plane, which is why obtaining a visa is so important. [/quote]

    Since when has this rule gone into effect? I transited numerous times in Vietnam without a visa and without going through immigration. I’m not challenging whether this is now in effect, just stating that it most certainly wasn’t a rule, or at least wasn’t enforced several years ago the last time I transited in Vietnam.

  4. CaliforniaSteve

    January 8, 2019 at 5:33 am

    Maybe it’s too early in the morning for me as I read this, but I don’t understand why you’d need a multi-entry visa if you fly to Vietnam, stay for however long within the country and the fly out again. Wouldn’t you just need a single entry visa?

  5. blandy62

    January 8, 2019 at 5:41 am

    Quite a lot of European don’t need visa to enter Vietnam for short stay. I did turn around in SGN twice before. Did not to clear immigration. Transfer desk issued my boarding pass and that was it

  6. toz100

    January 8, 2019 at 6:44 am

    You are not correct wrt visa. Citizens of 10 European countries may travel visa free to Vietnam for 14/15 days. however if you come back a second time no later than 30 days after you left the country than you need a visa for the second entry

  7. drewguy

    January 9, 2019 at 11:34 am

    @CaliforniaSteve – the “mistake” fares originate from Viet Nam, which means you need to fly in to get on the first flight (to wherever) and then fly back to Viet Nam (on the return of the mistake fare), and then on to whereever you came from.

  8. jctech

    January 9, 2019 at 11:45 pm

    Beware of scams offering Vietnam visas through online agencies!

  9. Matt4

    January 12, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    I did turn around in HAN twice (flying BKK-HAN on QR and flying back to BKK on the same aircraft and never had a problem and didn’t have to enter Vietnam and the last time was in August 2018) and as stated before, connecting in Vietnam without going through immigration isn’t a problem at all. Just think about all the people flying VN and transiting in HAN or SGN without going through immigration like almost all airports in the world (USA excluded of course).

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