A couple of days before my scheduled return flight from Chennai to SF I was thinking about the wonderfully uncomfortable economy seat and decided that it would probably be worth it to pay a fee and upgrade to business. This was on a Friday night (flight was on Sat night) and the Cathay Pacific office in Chennai was already closed so I went to their website to see if I could upgrade online. After spending some 20 minutes looking through their website I had to admit defeat and decide to instead give their office a call on Saturday morning to see if I could do the upgrade over the phone instead.
So on Saturday morning I give the Cathay Office a call and ask them how much they would charge to upgrade me. The woman on the phone takes my ticket number and a couple of minutes later comes back saying that is not possible to upgrade me. When I ask why she says that while there was room on the flight, tickets that have been booked via the SFO office can only be upgraded from SF. At which point I incredulously asked her if she understood that I actually wanted to give the airline some extra money for a flight that I was going to be taking anway. By giving them the $$$ I would get a little more comfort and they would get some more money for transporting the exact same person on the same route. While she did understand my point she claimed that the rules were iron clad and that there was no way to actually upggrade without getting approval from SFO which would take at least 2 business days. In the end I just had to give up and put the phone down – no point talking to someone if the rules prevented her from taking my money.
So on Saturday night I finally get on the plane and midway through the Chennai-Hon Kong flight the stewardess comes over to me and says that I have to talk to the ground staff after we land. Apparently there was room on an earlier flight from HK to SFO anf they were moving everyone to this flight (and saving ppl 3 hours off the stopover). Eventually after we land the ground staff collect the 200 odd folks who were moving the the earlier flight and escort us over to the ticketing area to get a new boarding pass. Since I was getting a new boarding pass I decided to once again ask if I could be upgraded. This time the ticketing agent says that while it is possible I would have to pay for upgrading all 4 flights (SFO-HK, HK-MAA, MAA-HK and HF-SFO) even though 3 of the legs were already complete. I ask her how much this would be and she quotes me $4400 to upgrade. This is at a time when I could have purchased a brand new one way MAA-SFO business class flight for just over $2000. Cursing the dumbass airline rules I say I’ll just stick with economy at which point she informs me that all the window and aisle seats are already full and I’ll have to be content with a middle seat. Now at 6ft 1 inches tall I cant really fit in a middle seat so I ask if it would be possible to get an exit row seat. She says that there is a $100 charge for exit row seat which I gladly agree to pay to get some additional leg room. I pull out a crisp new $100 bill from my wallet (long story but I did not have my credit cards with me) to pay for he upgrade when the ticket agent tells me that they cannot accept $100 dollar bills and that $50 is the largest US bill they will accept. Quite annoyed by this new wrinkle I ask for the way to the nearest money changer so I can convert the $100 bill to either smaller USD for to equivalent HK$ when she tells me that all the money changers are behind the security wall and I cannot get to them without a boarding pass and I wont get the boarding pass till I pas the upgrade fee. Incredibly for the second time in 24 hours I had come up to a situation where I had money that I was willing to give to the airline for more comfort but the airline was refusing to take my money!!!! Despite all my pleading there was no way around this new wrinkle and in the end I had to accept a boarding pass for a middle seat. The ticketing agent did take pity on me and said that she would make a note in the system so that her colleagues at the boarding gate could change me to window or aisle seat if they found a vacancy.
When I did go to board the airline the stewardess there stopped me and gave me a new boarding pass for a window seat. I was pleasantly surprised by this change and was absolutely blown away when I get to the seat and find that it was actually a window exit roaw seat. After twice pleading with the airline to take my money for an upgrade I ended up getting upgraded to a more comfortable seat on an earlier flight for free. While I can complain about the upgrade I can only hope that Cathay Pacific realizes that occasionally you will have passengers who are willing to pay for upgrades and they need to make it easy for them to get those upgrades. It is absolutely ridiculous to refuse to upgrade a person because they bought their ticket from a different office or are paying with $100 bills. By upgrading they get some extra money for zero additional fuel spend while the customer gets a more comfortable seat to travel in. By refusing to take my money on an empty flight you just irritated me for no reason and made it very unlikely that I will ever fly Cathay again.