Cathay Pacific’s New Year’s Mistake Fare – My Experience

11

Cathay Pacific released a series of mistake fare on the early morning of New Years Day 2019. Where Business Class flights to the US originating in Vietnam was selling for less than 700USD Return and First Class selling lowest at 850USD Return. After 2 days of silence, Cathay Pacific finally released statements on social media that they will honour these AMAZING mistake fares.

Related Link: Da Nang Airport CIP Orchid lounge Review

Statement from Cathay Pacific on honouring the NYE fares

The “guilt-ridden” statement acknowledging their mistakes sounded a lot like how Hong Kong Airlines announced that they will honour their recent mistake fare from Los Angeles for Asia, where their Business Class tickets sold for 600USD. As you can see here:

Previously, Hong Kong Airlines also honoured a mistake fare

But overall, I have to say the response time from Cathay is quite fast (within 48 hours) amid all the strong speculations and the management certainly made a good decision to honour these fares. This will bring lots of good publicity after the data breach incident.

Stefan from Rapid Travel Chai, South China Morning Post and AFP all covered my stories and interviewed me on matters relating to flying to Vietnam and about these fares. If you are interested you can read the Rapid Travel Chai article here, the South China Morning Post Article here and the AFP article (French) here.

What Happened

Mistakes fares happen, and they just happen to appear in the magical land of Vietnam more often than anywhere else in the world. Previously we had Qatar airways offering 650USD Business Class Fare to the Americas out of Ho Chi Minh, and now Cathay made a similar mistake. I won’t go in details about how this fare is discovered and how many went crazy for these and booked multiple return trips. You can check out these links for a refreshed memory of the fanatic hours:

 FlyerTalk (OP)            One Mile At A Time            View From The Wing              South China Morning Post 

Original Post of the fares by jfkeze on FlyerTalk

An agent from Cathay Pacific Ho Chi Minh sales office was just telling me that Business Class fares from Vietnam to the US usually sells for a minimum of 4000USD, and I believe First Class is much higher than that.

By the time these awesome mistake fares are gone, the OP in FlyerTalk has already generated tens of thousands of views. Cathay Pacific is losing out on, I believe at the minimum, one to two million US dollars in revenue.

What Did I Book?

6 Roundtrips to NYC. Yes, SIX tickets.

I booked 5 return flights from Da Nang to New York in First Class and costing me around 845USD each roundtrip and 1 single Business Class return to Newark on the very next day after seeing these fares. Since I am on holiday until the second week of January, I decided to be one of the first to actually fly this ticket and just test the water for everyone else.

My initial booking for 2 Jan, which I ended up not flying

The 5 tickets are expected to earn me nearly 400K Alaska miles when factored in the 50% Class of Service Bonus, 200% Alaska Bonus and my 100% Bonus for being an MVP Gold member. All these miles earned will be used to fund a family trip next year. Hopefully, there will be award space!

My Experience at Da Nang Airport Today

I travelled to Da Nang, Vietnam, from Hong Kong on the very next day after these fares are discovered. However, I was not aware of the Vietnam immigration that prohibits direct turn back to your flight of origin. Unlike many airports where you can just fly back to where you came from either by going through the transfer counter with a confirmed booking, Vietnam simply does not allow that. You are only allowed to transit to a third country through Vietnam. The legalities ensued resulting in me missing my flight back to Hong Kong and then to Newark.

Only after a very long immigration delay before the Vietnamese officials decided that I am free to go. I ended up cancelling my Business Class tickets to Newark as rebooking requires me to pay up the fare difference of nearly 3000USD to the “normal” fare level. The agent on my call did promise to waive my cancellation fee in the end. She said that their supervisor “will see the ticket and understands the case and waive the fee for you”.

I wonder why they are so kind this time 🙂

I also wrote a review of Da Nang’s only airport lounge, check it out here: Review of CIP Orchid Lounge Da Nang

What Next For Me

I still have 5 First Class tickets that are honoured, which will still make it a hell of a mileage run. When you see such fares, as Lucky from OMAAT characterizes it as “fare of the decade”, the instinct is to pounce on it. And I feel really lucky that this time, we got the prey, the Airlines honoured the mistake fare.

All the E-Tickets I received after booking 6 tickets in an hour

Some people were saying that people like me, booking multiple mistake fares are those that will kill these fares. However, I deeply disagree. Nowadays it is impossible to predict if a mistake fare is honoured and there is no fixed formula. To me, when I see a good fare as such that will make a great MR, I jump onto it. Lucky me this time it’s honoured, but sometimes it’s not, this is just how mistake fares work. To be frank, I was betting on Cathay keeping all the bookings all along. They really need good publicity at the moment. Guess I was right this time?

What You Should Consider

Prepare your Vietnamese Visa!

It is crucial to prepare for Vietnamese visa if you are taking advantage of these fares. Vietnam does not allow transfer to flights that are going to your initial origin, such as direct turn flights (which is my case). So it is best to enter Vietnam a day early and depart the following day for your flights. Don’t be like me!

Vietnam Visa Policy Map

You are allowed to transit from a third country to Hong Kong via Vietnam. However, Vietnamese airports tend to be ill-equipped with transit facility and lounges. For examples, Da Nang does not even actively maintain a transfer counter. You have to call Cathay Dragon to pre-arrange your transit to Hong Kong. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city are much better airports with better facilities but I would still avoid spending long hours in them.

Another risk of connections in Vietnam is delays. You will be transferring to Cathay in Vietnam on a separate ticket from a third country. One thing to remember that you will not be able to change your tickets if you miss your flight, as it will go back to the “normal” fare tens of times higher than what you paid for if reissued. If you’re inbound to Vietnam is delayed, your entire trip is gone. I would not be considering risking this much on the line!

Airports like Da Nan only gets one Cathay Dragon flight a day. So make sure you are well prepared for all the immigration formalities before you embark on your trip!

Conclusion

Initially, I thought this would be just a sad New Years for me. I was alone in my house while my family is elsewhere and doing some work over New Year’s Eve. Only until I saw these fares, this New Years became my best ever.

I believe this is a happy ending for everyone, and that is including the airline. Honouring these fares definitely brings them a lot of good publicity. In their current state, the decreasing trust of consumers because of the data breach is clear. Them honouring this fare will give them a huge publicity boost that they really need right now.

For us who purchased these fares, its simple. Fly fly away!

Leave a comment below on your thoughts about Cathay’s boo-boo. You can also find me on Instagram or Twitter, as well as our official Facebook that will notify you of any new posts.

Share.

11 Comments

  1. So, if I have a valid Vietnam visa and officially enter Vietnam, I can still do a same day HKG turn around. Giving that I am arriving HAN in early morning and returning in late afternoon, right?

  2. Hey Dom,

    So basically if you have a valid Visa and enter the Vietnam, you can do a turn around even though you are returning the the same airport (HKG)? I was going to do a direct turn around as you did, but after reading your post, I figure it will be safer to fly on Vietnam Airlines arriving at 3:45pm, enter Hanoi and then recheck in again for my 7:50pm flight back to HK onward to Vancouver. Would it be safe to assume that this would not be a problem? Thanks.

    • Yes, you are good to go! However, I still recommend anyone to get a Visa in advance because VOA may take very long time depending on the queue

    • Yes, Macau is considered a separate Country. For Mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, although it is all “China”, they all maintain their own customs and immigration. Hence considered a different entity by Vietnam and most countries in the world.

  3. Hi Dom, just curious if they will treat Vietnamese citizen differently. You mentioned there is a transfer desk correct?

    • An un-manned transfer desk. They no longer have an active transfer desk in DAD, call the airline you will be connecting to arrange the connection without the need for a visa (or enter Vietnam and the get back into transit area after)

  4. So if you have a valid Vietnam visa, you can technically still do a turn flight? Why did VN immigration not let you enter? Mainly due to no valid entry visa or no flight out of Vietnam?

    • If you have a visa you can enter and directly fly back ( but you have to run for your flight haha)
      I don’t have a valid visa and they would not allow me to use the transfer desk to fly back to my place of origin although I have a valid ticket back. They say it is illegal to fly back without entering Vietnam?

Leave a Reply