Cathay Pacific’s New Website and Unclear Pricing

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Cathay Pacific has recently revised its website. One of the consequences of this is that it has become less user friendly when it comes to pricing.

Unlike many airlines, Cathay often doesn’t show its best pricing other than on its own website, so this is especially frustrating as passengers are relying on the Cathay website to help them get a clear understanding of their prices and the revised website fails to do this consistently. Below we outline three ways in which the website pricing is confusing, of which it pays to be aware. This post is meant as a watch out to help you avoid some of Cathay’s invidious pricing tricks.

1. Not all prices shown are actually available.

As a simple example, look at the search below for a Hong Kong to Vancouver return in economy class around Chinese new year. The first thing which jumps out is how heavily the airline is price gouging around these dates, but that is not our point here. Selecting a 28th January departure and 4th February return, there seems to be a fare of $11,980 available.

Cathay pricing 1 (HK Travel Blog)

The new graphic heavy layout makes it harder to display a page on one screen, but scrolling down to the bottom of the page the same price as selected is shown.

Cathay pricing 2 (HK Travel Blog)

The next page suddenly shows the price as “from $11,980”, which is a very different thing to “$11,980”. But, as you scroll down (which I must to see the flight options), the box is compressed and just shows “$11,980” again. We’ll return to that point below.

Cathay pricing 4 (HK Travel Blog)

Scrolling down, there are two direct flights in each direction, but as both return flights indicate “Requires fare change”, the $11,980 fare is unavailable. Clicking on the icon to show indirect flights simply routed outbound flights through Vancouver but did not resolve the pricing anomaly.

Cathay pricing 5 (HK Travel Blog)

So, the $11,980 flights simply do not appear to exist.

2. Not all prices available are actually shown.

We previously outlined in our post about booking cheap Cathay flights originating in Thailand that Cathay excludes some offers from its search results, so unless you know to search through a specific offer page the search function won’t necessarily give you the best results.

The updated website retains this sharp practice. Consider as an example a flight from Hong Kong to Xiamen, advertised at the time of this search as a Fanfare at $590, showing availability for 28th January outbound and 1st February return.

Cathay pricing 10 (HK Travel Blog)

Yet searching on the Cathay website for the same dates, the cheapest economy fare is shown as $6,490 – more than ten times as much (and another example of price gouging around the holiday season, given that this is basically a one hour flight).

Cathay pricing 6 (HK Travel Blog)

3. The price shown is not always the actual price

This problem stems from the more graphic heavy interface Cathay has now adopted. Let’s stick with Xiamen as an example, but this time for two passengers. The cheapest flight within a similar timeframe again seems to be departing on 27th January and returning on 29th January, at $1,250 per passenger.

Clicking on the box does not move through to the next screen as in the old website, one now needs to scroll down to the bottom of the page, where the price is again given as $1,250.

 

Cathay pricing 7 (HK Travel Blog)

On the next page, the fare box indicates “from $1,250” when fully expanded. But fully expanded, I can’t see all the flight options on my screen. Once I scroll down, the fare box only states “HKD 1,250” and I can select the flights.

Cathay pricing 8 (HK Travel Blog)

A flash at the top of the screen initially states what flights are selected. It then changes to include the price. One has to scroll down to the bottom of the screen again to continue to payment, and only there at the bottom was it clear to me that the price had increased from $1,250. As Cathay typically excludes taxes and fees from its fare prices until the checkout stage, I am used to seeing a jump in the price at that stage. As the jump here was significant I realised that the base fare must have been different to what I thought it was ($1,250) but if the fare difference had been a few hundred dollars only, I may well not have noticed unless I had looked at a breakdown of the additional taxes and fees.

Summary

Hopefully Cathay will fix its website so its pricing is clearer. It would also be good if they reined in their price gouging. Meanwhile, be aware of these watch outs when using the Cathay website.

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