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This could just be the best mistake fare of all time. You've heard of saving hundreds of dollars on airfare by capitalizing on an airline's pricing error. But tens of thousands of dollars?!
On Monday, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific briefly sold business and first class flights from Vietnam to North America and back at a fraction of their normal cost. We're talking business class for $675 (normally $6,000-plus) and its incredible first class for roughly $1,000 (normally $13,500 or much more). Subscribe to Thrifty Traveler Premium and never miss out on another mistake fare!
And then, the waiting game. Airlines take their time after catching these mistakes to crunch their numbers, and it's becoming ever rarer for carriers to honor a mistake this massive. Unfortunately, the U.S. government allows them to cancel and refund fares if they can prove it was a mistake.
But here we are. Cathay Pacific announced on Twitter Wednesday that it is honoring all of these fares!
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!
— Cathay Pacific (@cathaypacific) January 2, 2019
We're still in shock. This is easily one of the biggest and best mistake fares of all time. We can't remember a larger mistake that was eventually honored in recent history.
This comes just a few months after another Hong Kong-based carrier, Hong Kong Airlines, decided to honor sub-$600 fares in business class from the U.S. to Bangkok (BKK), Shanghai (PVG), and Ho Chi Minh (SGN). But given the savings on a first class booking with Cathay Pacific, this one easily takes the cake.
Of course, it's not as straightforward as hopping on a plane in the U.S. and heading to Hanoi (HAN) or Da Nang (DAD). Your flight has to originate in Vietnam. But at the price of some economy tickets, it's well worth booking a separate flight to Vietnam with cash or miles to fly back in first or business class.
There's no telling how many people booked, but it's easily in the hundreds. We sent this unbelievable deal to our Thrifty Traveler Premium subscribers first, and know some of you booked. Mr. TT himself booked a pair of first class tickets with his wife to get home from an upcoming trip to Vietnam.
Cathay Pacific is indisputably one of the best airlines in the world. Its business class has long been regarded as one of the best ways to make the trek across the Pacific Ocean. And while its First Class isn't as glamorous as Emirates or Singapore Airlines, the seats are insanely spacious, the lie-flat bed is comfortable, and service is impeccable. Caviar and vintage Krug champagne don't hurt, either.
Give me a minute to scrape my jaw off the floor.
Call me a cynic, but I was pretty sure Cathay Pacific wouldn't honor these insane fares. Big savings on business class fares are one thing, but when you start to mix in First Class, the airline is potentially losing millions of dollars in revenue. Though they were on sale for just a few hours, flights were widely available for many months between Vietnam and nearly every U.S. and Canadian gateway.
Perhaps Cathay figured the goodwill from honoring the fare (and the positive press) was worth more than that lost revenue. Maybe they figured they couldn't weather more bad press after a bad data breach last year.
I can't shake the feeling that the Hong Kong Airlines mistake fare last year influenced Cathay's decision. While nowhere near as large nor established as Cathay, Hong Kong Airlines is angling for a share of Cathay's business. And shutting down this mistake fare while Hong Kong honored its own could have set Cathay back.
Whatever the case, kudos to Cathay Pacific for doing right by its cheap and fast-acting customers.
Congratulations to anyone who got in on this amazing deal. You just booked what's almost sure to stand as the best mistake fare of all time.
And while you can't book this deal any longer, sign up for Thrifty Traveler Premium if you want the scoop on the next great mistake fare.