WOW: Cathay Pacific Will Honor First Class Mistake Fares

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

On New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day (depending on where in the world you are), Cathay Pacific had some insanely low premium cabin fares for travel originating in Vietnam.

For example, from Vietnam to the US, you could fly roundtrip in business class for under $700, or roundtrip in first class for under $1,000.

As I shared after the fact, it looked like a ton of people booked these fares, and Cathay Pacific first class cabins were in many cases sold out altogether months and months in advance.

The airline said that they’d make a decision on Wednesday about whether or not to honor these fares, and sure enough, they have. Cathay Pacific will be honoring all of these first and business class mistake fares — WOW!

As they Tweeted:

Happy 2019 all, and to those who bought our good – VERY good surprise ‘special’ on New Year’s Day, yes – we made a mistake but we look forward to welcoming you on board with your ticket issued. Hope this will make your 2019 ‘special’ too! #promisesmadepromiseskept #leassonlearnt

I have to be honest. I didn’t want to put negative energy out there, but I thought the odds of Cathay Pacific honoring the first class mistake fares was slim, so I’m extremely pleasantly surprised by their decision.

Back in the day I felt like I had gotten pretty good at predicting whether or not mistake fares would be honored, though nowadays I really feel like it’s anyone’s guess.

I’ll go so far as to say that I think this might just be the mistake fare of the decade. I can’t think of another widespread case where an international first class fare this low was honored.

Kudos to Cathay Pacific for honoring these tickets, and for quickly they’ve come out to reveal that they plan on honoring them. Cathay Pacific is one of the airlines that does the least discounting of their first class, so it’s pretty remarkable that they’re honoring this.

What a start to the year!

Were you able to take advantage of this fare, and are you surprised to see Cathay Pacific honoring?

  1. Yay! Btw, I am stuck ion DAD now becus of visa issue hahahaha
    Cancelled one of my J trip today.

    PSA: In Vietnam Direct turns are illegal, dont be like me!

  2. Hey lucly! Got one on HAN-JFK return in F, but around $1400, nevertheless thrilled! And I’m (as you put it) extremely pleasantly relieved.. I couldnt sleep well last night hahahahah

  3. What are the Vietnam rules for entry? So direct turnarounds are not legal for anyone? 24h minimum stay?

  4. @Lucky, This will be my first time flying on first class. Thanks for the discovery of the decade. Indirectly, this might mean Cathay Pacific may have turnaround their financial woes from prior years.

    @Hans Christian, Sam Chui covered this situation pertaining to Dominicus about direct turns. Vietnam law does not allow direct turnarounds. You must have a visa to enter the country and a paper boarding pass.

  5. @Michael
    Ben doesn’t actually need cheap fares to fly Cathay in first-class.
    If you have flexibility and know how to look you can find availability in Cathay in first. But for most people that’s not true. This was a pure flight you book with cash with great availability. Meaning the common person can now sit up front. A truly once in a lifetime experience for them.

  6. @James, yes, Ben knows better than any of us how to use miles to fly CX first class. The (big) benefits of having booked this mistake fare are the huge elite and redeemable mile bonuses that come with it, especially with AS.

  7. Hey Lucky!

    How about sharing where to credit and how much the miles could be use to redeem for something?

    You are the best at this!

    Cheers from Singapore!

  8. I bought two one way HAN-BOS for $1172 each. wish I would have thought of EWR which would have been easier and it seems less expensive. I already had the J IAD-BKK on Cathay just needed the AA calendar to open up for the return. Now I don’t have worry about availability of two in F for the transpacific return.

    Thanks Lucky, glad I looked at your post just before going out on NYE.

  9. Incredible development!

    Does anyone know if 4 digit Cathay Pacific flight #’s, flights operated by Cathay Dragon earn Alaska Miles?

  10. Now comes the fun part of reposition from the US. This is gonna be the pilgrimage to Mecca for frequent flyers. Vietnam’s tourism will be so high they’ll wonder what they did right.

  11. Does anyone else have an issue with their booking not showing on the app and only finding it (once logged in) by searching the PNR? I note my credit card hasn’t been charged yet either although it has been ticketed

  12. Hi Lucky,

    Thanks for the great post. Wondering if you can write a follow up post about where to credit these fares, A, J, D to either AS, AA and other OW programs.


  13. Hi Ben/Lucky,
    I’d really like to take a moment to thank you for posting this fare on behalf of all the more casual av geeks out there. Thanks to your post my family and I will be able to take a wonderful trip this summer.
    Much appreciated and keep on writing … we really enjoy your perspective.

  14. There goes award space for the entire year. Sucks for those of us who rely on miles for trips to HKG.

  15. I missed the QR Vietnam deal in 2017 and the HX BKK/PVG deal in 2018, so I’m glad I got this one! I bought a R/T in J because I prefer the A350 over the 77W and think CX’s first class hard product is outdated.

  16. To be honest….. this could be cathays way to take a breather from redemption tickets.

    Cathay been complaining in the past how it easy to use AA points to book Cathay, but not the same in reverse.

    By doing this, they essentially wipe out all the HKG to USA redemption tickets for the whole 2019……

    And they get 1200 USD instead of 300 dollar for tax 🙂

  17. I’m a planning on flying in on Friday and leaving the same day. I will need to clear immigration to get my bags and then check in with Cathay. I have my visa already. Domincus, are you saying this is illegal?

  18. Cathay is a serious company and I was quite sure they would have honored the hard discounted tickets. For them like most of the major airlines it’s reputation (we made a mistake and we are ready to take responsibility for the same). Moreover it’s an opportunity for good marketing. Not only we honor whatever mistake we made but you get an opportunity to be pampered with our premium hospitality, so next time you will be ready to pay for flying with us. Excellent marketing stunt and great attitude. I always liked Cathay and this just confirms my perception.

  19. Can we now stop speculating about the Cathay’s choice? People write pages on how sure they are the airline will definately (not) honour tickets. It’s done. Go and fly 🙂

  20. Wow! I got two! Obviously should have bought more.

    Hey Lucky, Post idea… What is the protocol and implications around dropping legs of a flight. I get some of the obvious stuff with hand checked luggage. Is mileage earning at risk if you no show the final 4th leg? Do you not get for that leg or can it jeopardize the flight?

    Also, just being polite would you tell them? I can think of plenty more issues.

  21. Congrats to all who booked it! Lucky is it correct that it blows out all redemptions for 2019? Any estimates on how many tickets were actually booked? Thanks

  22. Kudos to everyone who booked it! I also thought CX wouldn’t honor it especially since the carrier has lost money the past 2 years. Anyway, I’m guessing this is possibly one of the easiest/cheapest ways to get Oneworld Emerald status?

  23. Thank god I booked my avios award HKG-JFK in F long ago!!

    Was able to take advantage of 40% transfer bonus from Amex as well!

    Just quickly searched for June and see maybe 1 or 2 business seats available and zero in F.

  24. What if I held the booking for 72 hours and I made the payment after the airline said they will honour it? I managed to ticket it but when I try to manage the booking it says please enter a valid eticket number

  25. Unless you like flying for the sake of it, I don’t see the big deal here. It’s great if you live in SE Asia. But for the average US resident it will cost a fortune to position there, and position back afterwards, pus hotels, food etc.

    What’s the point?

    More generally fares TO the US always seem to cost less than fares FROM the US. I make use of that by sourcing my tickets overseas and booking the return up to a year ahead of time.

  26. Haters going to hate but for those of us who pay full price for their first class tickets, for the next year CX F will now be full of plebs stuffing their faces with caviar and swilling as much Krug as they possibly can!

  27. Congrats to those who got in. As a consultant, I think it is a HUGE mistake by Cathay, but that’s a different discussion.

  28. I am very happy for folks who got in on this and kudos to Cathay. It didn’t fit with my plans for this year so I didn’t jump in. That said I am beyond glad I am not trying to book any North America > Asia premium cabins on points this year. Going to be fun as folks suck those up for their positioning flights especially now that Cathay has essentially sold out.

  29. @Ben CX gets compensated by AA for award redemptions, they get much more than the tax the flyer pays at time of booking.

    Likewise they also pay AA for all the AAdvantage miles earned for these.

  30. @Robert it might be outdated however for the price difference and AS miles that I believe you can count easily you were just scared of honoring so you bought J and now you sad you didn’t get F but try to look happy.

  31. Hi one question: after my return flight (Vancouver- Hong Kong) I have a layover in Hong Kong of 2.5 hours before flying in business back from Hong Kong to Hanoi.
    Am I still entitled to use the first class lounge in Hong Kong (since the ticket basically is a first class ticket) or only business class lounge (since the next flight is on business- but only since there’s no first available from Hong Kong to Hanoi)?

  32. Im sure they did a cost benefit analysis of having completely sold out F cabins going forward for months compared to whatever their average load factor is, coupled with the good PR, and figured it only made sense to honor it. In this case the pure volume of tickets booked may have actually helped the case of honoring it. Nice influx of cash to start the year for them as well. Not a bad play. Well done to everyone who booked one (or two or three or four) 🙂

  33. Tom, for US based flyer you can, as I did, use a one way to Asia redemption. With AA miles Cathay business class is 70k. First is 110k but Cathay only opens up one seat perflight until 10 days before. With Alaska miles it’s 50k and 70k for a one way.

    They seem to have been selling one way Vietnam to US tickets for the same cost as the R/T. so it’s not as big a deal but still a huge savings on the the one way for example I bought two HAN-BOS in first, (listed as A class I believe) for $1172 each. When I looked at HAN-ORD the one way was priced at $8900. That saved me redeeming 110k AA miles plus it earns AA miles for the CX flights in my case HKG-BOS. Even better a CX first class earns 350% if attributed to Alaska Airlines FF program.

  34. Does anyone know if you don’t make the first leg of the roundtrip ticket that the 2nd leg would be cancelled? I know that is the case for most US airlines, not sure on CP.

  35. I got DAD to YVR in first as a one way returning from am award redemption I had already booked, so I don’t need the return to Danang. It would be great if I could give those return flights back to them to resell. Normally wouldn’t be an option, but I would guess that if they thought about it, they would be happy to have it.

  36. @Nico actually no, I had pages open to book both J and F but made a very rational and sober decision to choose J. I got in on the deal a few minutes after it broke, but never considered changing my mind in the subsequent hours.

  37. Shortly after I booked my HAN-JFK-HAN j class, I checked to see my options for changing dates and it allowed me to change for only $100 fee. Appears now all changes are $100 + fare difference, so at least $15k-$20k to change. Is this correct?

  38. @John – yes, if you don’t show for the first leg your second leg will almost certainly be cancelled.

  39. I am shocked. Way to nail it, Ben. You broke this (I think) and a lot of happy people today. I couldn’t nail down the logistics and admit I never thought this would be honored. So, China Southern and JAL (and, uggh, American) for me I guess this year, lol. This while I wait for all of you to work through the F availability for redemptions until 2020.

    Also, this bodes well for CX in PR. It was a classy move and kudos to the team there for doing something they did not have to do.

  40. Thinking through this and people’s experience with award availability in the past and what availability remains, CX may take a pretty small hit from this. It seems to me that they have just sold what would have been taken up by awards and the difference in price to what they get for award seats doesn’t seem that much. And I think that they will likely be able to accommodate their normal cash paying customers with what’s left available. Upgrades for their frequent flyers will likely be impacted and certainly Alaska and American points awards will be nearly wiped out, but that is always a risk for those of us booking awards, that there will be no availability for one reason or another.

  41. Wonder about the poster who said he bought 19 of these tkts to fly thru most of 2019 since he had residences in both. If also get airline credit making out big time.

  42. Bloggers spoil all the good deals 😉 Ben posting this surely killed it and caused Cathay to cancel all those ticketed reservations who got in early.

    OH WAIT! You mean thousands are benefiting from Ben posting this?????

    Hopefully the trolls who want to keep opportunities locked up in a secret flyertalk room can slink back into the shadows now.

  43. Having traveled with Cathay Pacific several times, I am not surprised that they honored the reservations. What a wonderful airline…flawless service. I fly Business Class and can’t imagine wanting for any flight experience better than that. Well done, Cathay Pacific…can’t wait to fly with you again.

  44. I was going to comment that when you get excited, your grammar mistakes increase. But then I read some of the reader comments, which are almost incomprehensible. You must be extremely pleasantly surprised indeed.

  45. JFK to HK to DAD, can you throw out DAD leg and stay in HK? Does that impact the redeemable miles to AS? Does that count as a “no show”?

  46. Does anyone know if I can access the first class lounges when transiting through Hong Kong without having to go through immigration and leave the sterile areas?

  47. Dropping the last leg : be careful as CX is fully aware where most of these tickets have been purchaed, if you drop the last leg – ie: stay in HK and not turn up for your last leg to Vietnam, CX has the legal right to pursue you as you have violated/not honored the full terms of the reservations/ticket contract and could/will seek the full price of the ticket us$15-us$25k. Anyway, its up to the traveller if they want to skip the leg, but watch out, note CX has been actively pursuing travellers who orginate their flights in TPE for U.S. flights and dropping them , obviously this error has cost CX alot of money, so they will be looking at legal ways to minimalize their loss.

  48. I was hoping that Cathay would offer some compensation in return for forsaking the ticket. You know, like 25,000 miles or something. I thought that would make sense for them.

  49. I tried to book about 50 minutes after you posted and couldn’t get it to come up on the Cathay Pacific website. As a Canadian I was also worried about the needing to eat the Forex and holding $4000 for a couple of months while it all got sorted out.

    Someone told me it was still bookable on Priceline.

    Glad people who gambled won on this one.

    Thanks for posting. One day I hope to get un on one of these deals

  50. @lucky all I can say is thanks for posting and sharing the initial Blog.
    Now I can tick A class off my bucket list. I am one stoked Aussie today!!

  51. I really wished I could’ve gotten F tickets instead of C, I’m traveling with a 3 year old boy and it seems Priceline system wouldn’t accept booking a minor in first class. Because when I search for two adults I can see flights with 3 or 4 availablility, but when I enter the kid I can no longer see those flights.

  52. @JRL, you might get lucky if you ask for manual credit. Sometimes they don’t catch these codeshare flights.

  53. Ben, thank you so much for sharing this info. I saw your post early on Jan. 1 and immediately booked First Class tix for me and my daughter from Hanoi to New York for the summer. It will be the first time either of us have ever flown CX First. We are both very excited. And thank you also for telling me about the Fogo Island Inn – I went there last year on your recommendation and it was the most amazing place I’ve ever been. You’re my hero!

  54. If I don’t fly the 4th leg, do I lose the miles on the 3rd leg? My route is DAD-HKG-JFK, EWR-HKG-DAD. I’m wondering if I can miss the HKG-DAD and just fly back home on Qatar air

  55. Beware… if you try to change the dates for these flights you will be charged not only the $100 change fee but ALSO the fare difference (at least $15k). So if you bought speculatively and hoped to iron out dates later on and just change the date, it will cost you big $$ (and good luck finding any remaining A/J availability, you may only be able to change to business).

    Also, you can play around with changing dates on the Cathay site without actually making any changes. Clicking new dates and then confirming will only take you to another page that then requires you to confirm payment for the change. BUT, BE AWARE, if you try playing around with the cancel option and click confirm, there is no additional page that will show you information about refund (or no refund). As soon as you hit cancel your reservation will be cancelled and rest assured Cathay is not going reinstate it. If you do cancel one of these fares, they said they will refund the full amount minus a USD $300 fee.

  56. I think many of us would like to know if we can drop the last leg.

    Can we just drop the last leg without a fine?

    or should we cancel while we arrive in Hong Kong?

    And do we still get the miles when we drop the last leg?

  57. WELL DONE all those of you that booked the CX flights .
    Such a great airline , I lived in Hong Kong 25 years and travelled Business class with CX all over Asia

  58. Lucky many tks for yr amazing New Year day gift:), unfortunately at peak time of offer in south italy we were celebrating our usual 4 hours dinner at New Years day altough manage to block a Han/Vancouver for 848 usd in march with free cancellation.

    But really aware you for yr next trip on Cathay because if discover u was one of big promoter of this offer could be unpleasant time for u on board :):).

    Kudos for Cathay for honoring, it will worth and respect them for future plans so that all airlines can learn lesson and respect passengers rights.

    But keep on share pls 😉

  59. Nobody has suspected that this could be a huge publicity stunt by Cathay?? Probably their cheapest and most effective advertisement/press exposure ever!

  60. I guess Emirate and Malaysia Airlines can count as ones that don’t make good on their mistake.

    I just got an email today that my first-class flight from/to Kuala Lumpur to Dubai on Emirates (bought through Malaysia Airlines) got canceled because of “This is due to an error where incorrect first-class fares”. Worst of all, the cancellation comes 10 days after I booked the flight!
    The following is what I got! Malaysia Airline / Emirates are terrible!
    “On behalf of Malaysia Airlines, this email is to advise you that your booking between KUALA LUMPUR and DUBAI issued between 01JAN-06JAN 2019 has been cancelled. This is due to an error where incorrect first-class fares were created and published on online travel agents (OTA).
    Due to the discrepancy with the fare price advertised, we are unable to proceed with any tickets issued on this fare error. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused and Malaysia Airlines has authorized a full refund. On your behalf, refunds have been processed to original form of payment. “

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