This week’s Compensation Clinic is taking a critical look at Cathay Pacific First Class and a flight I had with them in mid-February from Tokyo Haneda to Hong Kong that wasn’t exactly “first class” at all.
I was thrilled when Cathay Pacific announced that their First Class would be making a comeback on some routes and that long-haul routes would be added soon as well.
Since I had to go on a quick trip to Hong Kong, I decided to book Cathay Pacific and was lucky enough to find First Class availability from Tokyo using Alaska Mileage Plan miles which I thought was a decent investment as the flight was almost five hours.
Unfortunately, there was some chaos at the check-in, and it took almost 40 minutes to get checked in, taking away from my time at the JAL First Class Lounge. Interestingly, Cathay also tries to push First Class passengers to their very own lounge at Haneda rather than telling them that there is an actual First Class lounge of JAL that they’re entitled to use.
On board it was the usual, comfortable First Class seat and good service by the crew, including a handwritten welcome note and a glass of preflight champagne. It wasn’t going to last.
After one glass of champagne, they ran out and served champagne from Business Class. Of course I noticed that immediately and asked what was going on.
Turned out they had only ONE BOTTLE of champagne for First Class catered, and the cabin was full, all six seats were taken, so you do the math. 6x 1 glass, and the bottle is empty.
Who in the world is organizing Cathay’s catering? I wasn’t the only passenger irritated by that, a lady from Hong Kong was even more irate.
Anyway, for me, it was back to my favorite Cathay Delight after this:
What was also strange was that there was no Western dining option on the menu. Not even a Japanese one, just two Chinese dishes, one with fish and one with beef.
I’m not too fond of fish dishes in the air and chose the beef option. Even though the presentation was nice, the flavor wasn’t for me.
I think in international First Class, you should have AT LEAST one international option on the menu, to just have two choices, and both are Chinese dishes is just odd.
The crew promised to forward the complaints of passengers to customer care. After three weeks, I hadn’t heard anything, so I opened a file myself.
After just sending a lukewarm reply not offering anything, I asked specifically what compensation Cathay was offering for this and suggested either a bottle of the champagne delivered by mail or an upgrade certificate as they sent me before (which was rather difficult to use).
Thank you for your latest email.
Having received further communication from our Customer Experience team, as a goodwill they would also be sending you a red wine from the First. As such, you will receive one bottle of champagne and a bottle of red wine.
As the delivery can be arranged swiftly, mailing address in Hong Kong would be preferred. However, it is not mandatory for the address to be in Hong Kong. You may provide us with your preferred mailing address and we will arrange for the delivery accordingly.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
That sounded fine to me, but then there were problems. For one, delivering them to Thailand was apparently not possible as, according to Cathay, the receiver needs a liquor license to receive alcohol shipments in Thailand!? Never heard of that. Paying import duty, yes, but a liquor license?
Their sales office in Bangkok couldn’t take delivery either, as I suggested to them. They also couldn’t ship to Japan.
After like 10 emails back and forth and them really trying to find a solution, they eventually decided to credit 25,000 miles to my Asia Miles account.
Thank you for your email.
As promised, I have arranged to credit 25,000 Asia Miles to your membership account. These miles will reflect in your account within 24 to 48 hours.
Thank you once again for contacting us.
I had actually not used the account for many years, and we had to reset the access and whatnot to get it going again. You can’t just sign up a new account with Cathay, their system is very good at detecting that you actually have an existing account with them, even if you change a few parameters. Frustrating to the max.
Anyway, the 25,000 miles were credited, and now I have to find some use for them. I could probably supplement the miles with a few more from Marriott or American Express and then look for a decent redemption, either intra-Asia or something else.
This was an unexpected Compensation Clinic case as I previously found Cathay Pacific First Class to be rather impeccable, even with their shorter routes in Asia. I knew they wouldn’t serve Krug Grande Cuvee but to actually have ONE bottle of champagne for the entire six-passenger cabin is cost-cutting at its best and totally unacceptable. This wasn’t a case of thirsty First Class passengers drinking the entire stock of several bottles – they only had one, and that’s simply a shoddy way of preparation.
I was also irritated by the lack of meal options and the issues at check-in, but those things were just minor. At least Cathay Pacific owned up to their shortcomings, and I have to say that the Customer Care representative really tried hard to make this champagne delivery work. In the end, it’s not worth running into trouble with that and the miles are probably the most straightforward way of compensating. A lot easier than the paper standby upgrade voucher I got twice in the past and which was difficult to use at all.