I Was Downgraded from First Class to Business Class on Cathay Pacific

Last Saturday, I was about to hop on my very first International First Class flight on my return from my Asia trip. I used 13,500 British Airways Avios to fly from Taipei to Hong Kong in First Class on a 3 cabin Cathay Pacific 747-400 plane. I was so excited that I checked in 48 hours earlier on Thursday and chose seat 1A. I received an e-mail confirmation and mobile boarding pass on my phone soon after.

On Saturday morning, I went to double check the status of my flight and find out what time I needed to be at the airport. I clicked on the mobile link on my phone and the boarding pass displayed “Error.” I thought this was strange since it was working on Thursday. I checked flightaware.com and saw that the flight wasn’t called and still on time with the same plane configuration.

I went on cathaypacific.com to “Check my booking” and lo and behold, it said Business Class with a different seat number. It was raining pretty hard in Taipei and I was ready to get out of the city even though I had a late 4pm checkout. I bought a $4 USD bus ticket straight to the airport from the Taipei City Hall Bus Station. The journey took about an hour and I arrived at the airport 4 hours before my scheduled flight.

I approached the Cathay Pacific First Class counter at Taipei International Airport (TPE) and let them know that I was involuntary downgraded and if there was any compensation due. The agent said the equipment swap happened overnight and apologized for the inconvenience. She also stated that I would receive compensation (even on an award ticket). She handed me an envelope of $500 HKD ~($64.50 USD) for the apparent involuntary downgrade in class of service.


The agent asked me “Why are you at the airport so early?” I told her that I had to check out of hotel and was going to spend the rest of my time in the lounge. She proactively told me that there was “black rain” in Hong Kong which is causing a lot of delayed flights and asked me if I wanted to go on an earlier flight. I said, “Sure I would be happy to get into Hong Kong earlier.” I thought that was a nice gesture and I’d hate for my original downgraded flight to be delayed because of the black rain.

It turns out that my original downgraded flight was delayed from 6:45pm to 8:45pm getting into Hong Kong at 11pm. I was thankful that the agent put me on the earlier flight which got me into Hong Kong at 8pm, just in time for my 10pm TurboJet ferry connection to Macau. Had I gone on the original flight, I would’ve missed the last ferry to Macau out of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).

Since I used 13,500 British Airways Avios this First Class flight and 9,000 Avios is the cost for Business Class, I am due a difference of 4,500 Avios. I tried to reach British Airways customer service and they gave me a phone number to Customer Relations. Every time I call Customer Relations, I get a voicemail box which says that the “voicemail box is full”. I might be SOL on getting the 4,500 Avios back, but I won’t stop fighting.

Have you ever been involuntary downgraded?


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11 Comments on "I Was Downgraded from First Class to Business Class on Cathay Pacific"

  1. Is 4500 not 4000, even better 😉 (4.5K, 9K and 13.5K for Y/C/F)

  2. Brian (@CTravlr) | May 18, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Reply

    Hm…..I don’t think you would be due 4500 avios from BA as the fault was on the operating carrier Cathay Pacific, for switching equipment, though still worth pursuing I suppose. $64 seems low, but it may just have been the price difference between business and first. I know a lot of intra-Asia flights are cheap, especially something short-haul like TPE-HKG. Either way, interested in seeing what happens.

  3. CX are notorious for this intra-Asia. We had a similar situation doing HKG-SIN and got 2000 HKD between two of us along with refund from AA of the additional miles

    • I didn’t realize CX was notorious for downgrades intra-Asia until I got one on my end. Seems like it’s common per the threads on FT. Wow, 2,000 HKD compensation is quite good!

  4. 1hr 40 flight would have me in coach. That would have saved me 9000 avios and eliminated the risk of being downgraded 🙂 So not that it would happen to me based on that, but I’d allow the $65 to cover the wasted 4500 avios and you are made good (pretty much) and next time get your butt to the back of the bus and save another 4500!

    • I knew it was 4,500 avios one-way, but I wanted a simple taste of International First Class for this short flight. I’ve never flown intl first class before and this was the cheapest intl F ever! Needless to say, Business Class was pretty good on the 2-class Airbus from TPE-HKG.

  5. Yes. Was invol DG’d from f to j on SQ so Ambassador Mark Palmer and his lady friend could sit in F some years back. Moderate compensation from SQ and DL (this was a DL award ticket!)…and a bouquet of flowers for my wife on the plane.

  6. Same thing happened to me on an HKG-MNL flight, got the same 500HKG compensation.

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