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Cathay Blocking Fare Classes to Deter Mistake Fare Flight Changes

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:

  1. Get a full refund, with cancellation fee waived.
  2. 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):
Sample Date Departure Da Nang (DAD)
Sample Date Return Da Nang (DAD)
Ho Chi Minh City (SGN):
Sample Date Departure Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
Sample Date Return Ho Chi Minh City (SGN)
Hanoi (HAN):
Sample Date Departure Hanoi (HAN)
Sample Date Return Hanoi (HAN)

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:

Chengdu (CTU):
Sample Date Departure Chengdu (CTU)
Sample Date Return Chengdu (CTU)
Yangon (RGN):
Sample Date Departure Yangon (RGN)
Sample Date Return Yangon (RGN)
Hangzhou (HGH):
Sample Date Departure Hangzhou (HGH)
Sample Date Arrival Hangzhou (HGH)

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
Cathay Pacific The Wing First Class Lounge Cabana Room (by Dominicus)

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.

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class Seat (by Dominicus)

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).

Conclusion

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

 

25 comments

Leave a Reply

  • Dom,
    I tried to change the date on one of these tickets booked into J and A classes for a return JFK-HAN and the agent kept insisting the itinerary had to be re-priced to a higher fare. Even when I read the T&C to the agent that states the A fare can be changed for the $100 change fee if the origin/destination and fare classes stay the same. The agent again kept insisting that the fare would be reprised to a current fare on the specific dates. Any advice on how to get a date change without having to pay the fare difference? They do not seem to want to honor their own terms and conditions. On a sidenote, they did allow me to cancel a booking I have made and did not charge me the $300 fee.

  • I saw one of your post on OMAAT about skipping the last leg. That’s fine. That’s your business but please don’t encourage this type of practice. If there’s enough abuse to it, we might see less of these ex whatever port specials. It’s one of the reasons why you hardly see any ex Japan specials anymore. Too much abuse. I hope you take this into consideration as I want to see everyone enjoy these ex port specials. Again, skipping the last leg, that’s your business. Thank you

    • You know what is abuse? An airline selling Premium cabin 300% the price from their base city compared to a city an hour away by train. I am simply informing people of their options. That is what I do here as well, being informative. On a side note, if it was my business why are you bothering sending me a comment on my own article?

  • Yes, but Vietnam is not the only place where CX sells its stock. CX’s markets is more than just Vietnam. It has a limited stock of C/D seats for all markets, and therefore divides the limited C/D stock in all such markets. It so happens that the Vietnam stock of C/D seats sold out because of the mistake fare. However, the stock of C/D seats from other markets did not sell out and are still available from those markets. Why would CX re-direct C/D stock from other markets to the Vietnam market? It also needs to make sure other markets are serviced!

    • There are flights showing J8 and J9 where normally it should have allocated at least 4 to 5 into I fares. This is an anomaly compared to other Asian regional routes operated by KA, and as reported by frequent flyer to and from Vietnam, they have never seen this before as well. It is not possible for flexible C/D tickets to “sell-out” as they should always be in abundance.

  • My HAN-HKG segments are in “J” (contrary to the D and C I see most people having). HKG-US is in A. Any chance having the J fare would help me, e.g. if I am willing to change dates and accept a downgrade to J on the HK-US leg. So far I’ve tried changing online and had no luck fwiw. Also wonder how the inventory control is working out for those that booked business class fares – surely they came keep all Vietnam – US business class bookings restricted to full J fare all year long…

  • So I would need to make separate alerts for both “A” and “J” for the individual flights (HAN-HKG in J and HKG-JFK in F and vice versa) for each date? No way to set it so that it alerts over a date range? Again, thank you for taking the time to educate me on this. I will open an expert flyer account tonight.

  • Got it. Thank you, Dom. So it has to be used by 12-31-19. As you said, it will be interesting to see if Cathay Pacific starts to release more space in the A and J fair classes between now and the end of the year. Is it possible to set up alerts in expert flyer that will tell you when does those fare classes start opening up on those routes? I am a bit of a newbie points and miles. Thank you for your time and yours.

    • Yes, it is possible. Go to Set up seat alert and put in the desired fare class, I put D. It is only possible for an individual date and a single fare code so you may want to set multiple alerts at separate dates and separate fare code if you wish.

  • Dom.

    So for the T&C of the tickets, we have 1 year from date of purchase to complete all travel? Say CX opens up J and A space on flights I want this April but they are in March of 2020 when I want to travel and wanted to change the ticket to dates more than a year after 1-1-19, is that not allowed.

    • Not without a fee. You can change after the one-year validity for an upcharge, note this upcharge is a separate fee the airline will quote you depend on your actual booking date (it is not a fare change). However, I strongly recommend you from not changing it to after the one-year validity.

  • I understand that, but point two says “. . . but different booking class”. Doesn’t that suggest moving to F is perfectly acceptable? And together with “provide the best fare to passenger”, doesn’t that also suggest the same low fare should be available?

    • Unfortunately no. I see all tickets issued by CX to not havd the C/D or A fare class. Even if you were booked on an interline on VN.

  • My fare basis is AAARRVN8 where the fare rules state:

    BEFORE DEPARTURE
    —————-
    RE-PRICE WITH BELOW OPTIONS AND PROVIDE THE BEST
    FARE TO PASSENGER –
    1. IF SAME ROUTING AND BOOKING CLASS –
    USE ANY CX/KA HISTORICAL FARE FOR R E-PRICE AND
    NEW TICKET MAY BE EQUAL/HIGHER OR LOWER THAN
    THE PREVIOUS TICKET OR
    2. IF SAME ROUTING BUT DIFFERENT BOOKING CLASS –
    USE ANY CX/KA HISTORICAL FARE FOR RE-PRICE AN D
    NEW TICKET MUST BE EQUAL OR HIGHER THAN
    PREVIOUS TICKET OR
    3. USE ANY CURRENT CX /KA FARE FOR RE-PRICE AND NEW
    TICKET MUST BE EQUAL OR HIGHER VALUE THAN THE
    PREVIOUS TICKET.

    Does point two not suggest that moving to F shouldn’t result in a higher fare, when read in conjunction with the leading statement “Re-price . . . and provide the best fare to passenger”?

  • sorry but it just shows how little you know.
    All fares, even in C/D/A Class and even J and F are capacity controlled.
    So basically you guys screw up the loads ex Vietnam, it is only fair CX limits the damage by restricting the inventory.

    I don’t know why they don’t charge you a cancellation fee

    • Did you see all the J9/J8 ? the flights are empty but all priced to J. I can purchase the tickets with lower fare class with any other city paired to NYC on the same date at C/D/I but not with cities in Vietnam.

  • Thanks for this very useful discussion. For what it’s worth, there was an interesting post at Flyertalk, in the Cathay Pacific forum’s thread that discusses the mistake fare, speculating that this may be a CX algorithm issue, and that after a week weeks of reduced demand for the Vietnam-USA routes the A, C and D fare availability may be restored. I don’t know enough about such things to know whether that is correct, but there’s at least a small chance that one way or another we might see this policy reversed down the line.

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