This post is not to attack Cathay Pacific. By all means, they did a great job by honouring these fares, and I greatly commend them to have the courage to do so despite their financial situations. However, there is a “catch” to how they “honoured” the fares that little noticed. And I am just a boring guy that did a little dig into it. Update 9 Jan 2018: Cathay has begun releasing tickets for C/D and A classes.
There is a discussion thread on Cathay FT, check it out here.
As all of you know from my previous post, I was deterred from flying from Da Nang to Newark on one of the mistake fare tickets I bought because of my illegal transit in Vietnam (I tried to do a direct turn without Visa but was not allowed). Since then, I had cancelled my flights and left the ticket in an “open” status but was never able to rebook them at any date without a price change.
I kept on getting the same response from Cathay Pacific Ho Chi Minh Office:
We do not see any availability to your fare class on any dates (all the way to November)
And I was offered the following options:
- Get a full refund, with cancellation fee waived.
- Change the booking with a repricing.
As you may recall, the Cathay Pacific Mistake Fare for Business Class is booked into either C or D class and the First Class tickets are booked into A class. These fare codes all allow change without repricing before the flight, given the same fare bucket is available for the date you want to change to.
At first, I seriously considered option 1, as I will lose nothing from cancelling the ticket. However, it made no sense to me that there is not a single ticket in D or C class all the way to November. Considering the fact that C and D fall in the flexible fare bucket, there should be an abundance of them compared to the more restrictive fare bucket like I fares. And this is what I saw after some digging:
While We Rejoice Over The Tweets, Cathay Did This
After some initial frustration, I decided to go on ExpertFlyer to check out the availability of each fare classes myself. This is the query I input on Expertflyer to search for the fares:
I used all random dates till the end of the schedule to search for the fares. To my surprise, I see all available Business and First tickets on Cathay Pacific from all Vietnamese cities (DAD/SGN/HAN) to be priced in the highest fare bucket J and F fare classes throughout the schedule.
Da Nang (DAD):
Ho Chi Minh City (SGN):
Then, I made some cross-reference to 3 other cities that Cathay Dragon serves using the same aircraft types they use for Vietnam flights (A333, A321 and A320). I chose Chengdu, China (CTU) (a mix of A333/A320 services), Yangon, Myanmar (RGN) (full A320 service) and Hangzhou, China (HGH) (full A321 service). These are the search results for these cities:
What Does These Mean
As you can see from the comparison above: Cathay Pacific is now pricing all Business/First flight that includes a segment between Vietnam and Hong Kong into the highest fare class possible (F for First and J for Business). Since the mistake fares are booked into C/D class for Business and A for First, any changes you wish to make at this time is only possible if you reprice your ticket to these higher fare buckets.
When I remove the segment to or from Vietnam and change it to the three different cities I showed above, you can see that it is showing tickets being priced at the lower C/D/I and A fare buckets. This means that there is definitely an abundance of Business/First availability out there for TPAC segment but Cathay deliberately priced all segments between Hong Kong and Vietnam to the F/J fare classes in order to force any mistake fare ticket holders to re-price if they want to make any changes.
This applies even if you are booked in Vietnam Airlines metal on interline agreements.
Cathay Pacific is effectively blocking mistake fare holders to make changes without repricing even though they are holding a flexible ticket. Thus creating this scenario where they “honoured” the fares but exercised a textbook example of “Asymmetric Information” by pricing all tickets to the highest fare possible.
I have to say this is some smart move from Cathay. They deterred us from making any changes without breaking and rules in their ticket contract. However they have to bear some losses to0.
We have reached out to Cathay Pacific and requested for a response
What Cathay Pacific Is Losing In The Process
While pricing all tickets to the highest J/F class will deter Mistake Fare holders like us from making changes. It also means Cathay will almost definitely be giving up most of premium cabin revenue on flights to and from Vietnam for the rest of the year. By pricing all Business/First tickets between Hong Kong and Vietnam in the highest fare classes will have unintended consequences.
For example, I search a PEK-HKG-SGN/DAD/HAN Business Class flight, the ticket will also be priced out as J fares as a result of what Cathay did. Hence not only does this deterred us from making flight changes, but it also deterred other fliers from purchasing Business/First Class to and from Vietnam on Cathay Pacific due to the extreme prices in these fare classes.
Mistake Fare Ticket Holders – Your Options
If you want to change your flight date without repricing, all you can do is wait. Currently, with what Cathay’s fare inventory is showing, there is nothing you can do. You can cancel your existing flights without charge to avoid any no-show fee and wait to see when will Cathay Pacific restock their fare inventory with your applicable fare classes.
All of our tickets have a one-year validity, which is calculated from the original date of purchase (1 Jan Vietnamese time, as the ticket is issued by CX SGN office). Right now, on ExpertFlyer I can only see tickets till Christmas, so our best bet is to wait and see if Cathay Pacific will restock the lower fare classes from now until our ticket expiry. Alternatively, cancellation is 250USD and can be waived on a case-by-case basis (as per my email).
I truly appreciate Cathay Pacific’s gesture to honour these tickets. But what they did with the fare inventory is slightly despicable. I am a little disappointed that this is how Cathay intended to “honour” these mistake fare tickets. But again, I can’t really complain because they actually are “honouring” my ticket.
I understand that us taking advantage of the mistake fare definitely caused disruption to their operations and the company is trying its hardest to protect revenue and investor interest. But by altering fare inventories is just not the way to do things in my opinion. Cathay is simply abusing its position as a corporation and deterring us from exercising our rights given by the ticket contract that Cathay said they will honour. If you do not intend to fully honour, say it, don’t do these little tricks behind the back.
But still, smart move from Cathay Pacific. I would have never thought about that.
Anyone of you expected something like this to come? Leave a comment below