Our Compensation Clinic case this week showcases a flight I had with Cathay Pacific about a month ago where a last minute equipment switch caused the aircraft to suddenly feature a regional configuration Business Class.
I tend to always check the seat map before each flight because if there is a flight available with a nice long haul configuration or sometimes even a First Class cabin available for seat selection that’s always a great touch.
When booking this flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok I decided to use 15,000 British Airways Avios for the booking as it was a direct connection from the United San Francisco flight. After flying Las Vegas – San Francisco – Hong Kong and the trip at that point took 17 hours already I felt like flying the last segment as comfortable as possible especially with a 22:00h departure.
The flight was supposed to have the long haul 1-2-1 configuration I looked forward to and was very disappointed when I entered the aircraft and it was a regional configuration. I didn’t do an online check-in this time as I arrived on United from SFO and had to visit the transit counter anyway to route my baggage which has been interlined (thanks UA!).
Cathay Pacific’s Regional Business Class is super uncomfortable and basically the same seat they offer as Premium Economy on long haul flights. There is not a single comfortable position you can move that seat to and to sell it as Business Class is really terrible (of course still better than what the European carriers offer on regional flights – essentially just an Economy seat).
Nevertheless I was pretty upset about this and decided to complain to Cathay Pacific about this aircraft change and another problem at the check-in. I was surprised they responded within 10 days and offered a cash compensation which is something I haven’t seen before from them.
… Thank you for contacting us. Your feedback is extremely important to us as it gives us an opportunity to improve our services.
I am sorry to learn about the situation and understand the reasons for your request. …
While we do not offer compensation or reimbursement in such instances, but as a goodwill gesture, I would like to offer you USD100 in cash. I sincerely hope that this will go some way to restoring your faith in us. Please fill in the attached form in the link below and return it to me within three weeks, and I will be happy to arrange payment for you. …
The process was straight forward as they provided a payment form:
After completing this form the money arrived within a week which was very expedient and actually quite generous considering it was an award ticket.
I didn’t have a customer care case with Cathay for several years now but this is the first time I heard that an airline offers an outright cash compensation without the customer having direct out of pocket expenses or an EC261 case that warrants cash payments. Usually airlines give miles or vouchers when customers have a complaint case that is to be compensated.
The award cost me 15,000 Avios + $31.00 so getting $100 in cash back is a very decent compensation. Would I have known in advance this was Regional Business Class I’d have just booked Economy. The entire Business cabin had only 3 passengers either way. I’d never pay money for that, even when booking the low fares going from Bangkok to Hong Kong.