Some lucky fliers just bagged $16,000 first-class seats for only $1,100

cathay pacific hack hits nearly 10 million of its customers a boeing 777 300 aircraft seen at the gate in
Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Travelers searching Cathay Pacific’s website for flight tickets between the U.S. and Vietnam couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw first-class seats selling for just $1,100 instead of the usual $16,000.

No, it wasn’t a generous New Year’s sale by the Hong Kong-based airline. It was an error with its computer systems.

Cathay was quick to remove the incorrect ticket fare when it appeared on Monday, December 31, though not before a number of quick-witted travelers hit the buy button.

But they had to wait several days to find out if the airline would honor their reservations at the absurdly low price. To their delight, Cathay announced on Wednesday it’s allowing the bookings to go through.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the airline said: “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!”

The error saw first-class seats for flights between New York and Hanoi in August being offered for just over $1,000, a fraction of the $16,000 usually charged for such seats. To save even more money, those who spotted the bargain fares could’ve bagged a return business class flight between a number of U.S. cities and Da Nang in central Vietnam for $675, a big discount on the usual $6,000 price.

Cathay declined to say how many people managed to take advantage of the erroneous fare before it spotted the blunder, but with travel bloggers and social media helping to quickly spread the word, it’s possible plenty were snapped up within minutes.

Such errors do occur from time to time. If the seat reservation is made directly through the airline, there’s always a chance that it will honor the booking, just like Cathay Pacific did this week. But sometimes the carrier will simply cancel the ticket and offer it at the full fare.

This was the case in 2015 when United Airlines refused to honor incorrectly priced first-class tickets sold on its Danish website for flights between New York City and London. United said it sold “several thousand” seats for as little as $74 each, instead of around $5,000, before the error was spotted. The American carrier explained that the mistake happened because “a third-party software provider applied an incorrect exchange rate and was misquoting the airline’s properly filed fares.”

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