Reader Story: Downgraded From First Class By Cathay Pacific On Vietnam Error Fare Due To Equipment Change – Significant Cash Compensation Received


Today we have an interesting Reader Story pertaining to the Cathay Pacific First Class Error Fare that was available on New Years Eve and which Cathay decided to honor in full, however the reader was downgraded due to an equipment change on the day of departure.

Remember that you can always email us, send a message via Facebook or use Twitter and include photos too. We’ll try to cover Reader Questions & Comments here several times a week.

We have covered the Cathay Pacific First Class Error here on LoyaltyLobby and many passengers have since flown this fare successfully, but they did encounter significant problems in changing dates on this ticket.

The fares were available in First Class as well as in Business Class from various departure points in Vietnam to all of Cathay Pacific’s North American Gateways.

This week our reader Michael from San Francisco wrote:

Dear loyaltylobby –

thanks again for the cp vietnam heads up that I ended up booking for my wife and I.

Something interesting happened last week when we flew the first part of this ticket originating hanoi via hong kong to SFO:

Upon arrival in hong kong we were met by an agent at the gate who escorted us to the first class lounge and where a manager informed us that due to a change in aircraft there wouldn’t be a first class on the flight that day. We were obviously disappointed and the manager offered a re-routing through los angeles or a cash payment for the downgrade. I can’t stand los angeles airport and considering we paid so little for our ticket and this was an overnight flight we decided for the cash payment.

I totally forgot to ask how much cathay pacific would give us and was surprised when the manager came back 20 minutes later with an envelope full of cash containing 15,000 hong kong dollar for each of us. That is US$1920 and almost double what we paid for the entire ticket. We exchanged the money to US dollar at the currency booth at a rather unfavorable but not horrible exchange rate and were obviously delighted having won the lottery this way.

Now my question: Is this going to affect our return flight in any way? How about the miles for this flight I was planning to credit at american airlines?

Thanks, Mike

Wow! The first thought when I read this was that this is simply amazing. The passengers really hit the jackpot here.

Cathay Pacific was more than generous in this situation, considering they could have come up with an excuse like carriers often do and state there is no monetary fare difference for the downgrade and at the maximum provide an upgrade voucher or some miles after the passenger complains.

The downgrade on the outbound flight won’t have any impact on the return as far as validity of the ticket and transportation in First Class (as booked) is concerned.

Michael didn’t mention if the miles from this flight have already credited to his AAdvantage account but should they indeed credit as Business Class only then he should request original routing credit with American Airlines and forward documents to AAdvantage to prove he was ticketed in First and was subsequently downgraded to Business.

Such documents would include the original ticket receipt, copies of the initial boarding pass in the booked class of service and a receipt issued by the airline confirming the downgrade. I assume that they had to sign some release form in exchange for the cash at HKIA.

Talking about the cash, exchanging the money at Hong Kong Airport where they have the terrible TRAVELEX booths likely cost the passengers quite a bit of money. Maybe they could have asked Cathay to exchange it for them and applying a realistic exchange rate.


Equipment changes that include eliminating an entire class of service are rare but they do happen especially nowadays where airlines have more and more planes that don’t feature a First Class anymore. This is very annoying for the passenger as it’s usually difficult to obtain an adequate refund in the case one really paid a lot of money for First Class. Airlines often just downgrade to a flexible Business Class fare and then refund a small difference.

Cathay Pacific apparently felt compelled to issue a standard compensation amount for such a case which seems to be 15,000 HKD. In this case as the passengers were on an $1000 Error Fare that was a jackpot but imagine your ticket costs US$ 14,000 and all the airline reimburses you is a tiny fraction of that!?

I’m also traveling on one of these fares this month but I won’t hold my breath that this will happen on my itinerary. I’m already happy if there are no significant delays as the connection time in Hong Kong isn’t much and the next flight to Vancouver would indeed only have Business Class available.