Hong Kong free flights giveaway slammed for “disastrous” execution
Canadians and the rest of North America jumped at the opportunity to get free flights to Hong Kong on Wednesday but were instead met with what many called “a disaster.”
In a major campaign called “Hello Hong Kong,” the city is giving away half a million free airline tickets in an attempt to attract international visitors after two years of strict COVID measures.
Distributed by Cathay Pacific Airways, a limited number of round-trip economy class tickets became up for grabs to Canadians on May 17 at 9 pm ET.
Unsurprisingly, it was like fighting to get tickets to a Beyoncé or Taylor Swift concert.
People took to social media to express their frustrations at Cathay Pacific.
One hopeful traveller said they were near the front of the queue, only to be bumped all the way back with over 100,000 people ahead of them.
“@cathaypacific Your execution of the rediscover HK promotion for tickets from the USA to HKG was disastrous,” the person tweeted.
“Despite being near the front of the queue, I got nothing but error messages, denied access, etc. When I tried again, I went from position 645 in the queue to 110,000+.”
@cathaypacific Your execution of the rediscover HK promotion for tickets from the USA to HKG was disastrous. Despite being near the front of the queue, I got nothing but error messages, denied access, etc. When I tried again, I went from position 645 in the queue to 110,000+. pic.twitter.com/LK0DHnNNfv
— Larry Alberts (@evopumplarry) May 18, 2023
Many had similar experiences of receiving an error message and then being pushed to the back of the line.
“Entered the queue as soon as it opened for @cathaypacific World of Winners and got this error then got bumped back in the queue with over an hour wait 🙃,” tweeted another frustrated person.
Entered the queue as soon as it opened for @cathaypacific World of Winners and got this error then got bumped back in the queue with over a hour wait. 🙃 pic.twitter.com/jHh0Z4oI4e
— pillsbury dough woman ♡ (@n0rnbear) May 18, 2023
This person showed a video of the Hong Kong giveaway page on Cathay Pacific’s site crashing.
Quite a debacle at @cathaypacific. Try to redeem flight award by their system crash. First 2 times they log us at the moment we were done with the waiting queue. Now we’re caught in a loop…. Then “Error loading chunks”…. pic.twitter.com/7RSqSGbPiM
— Rich (@RichQCCA) May 18, 2023
Others were angry about the hours-long wait times.
“@cathaypacific your ticket giveaway for N. America is a disaster. [Queue] system failure, was logged in for two hours and just got kicked out,” said one person in a tweet. “Now back to [queue] again. What a mess! Don’t run a campaign if your IT isn’t ready.”
@cathaypacific your ticket giveaway for N. America is a disaster. Que system failure, was logged in for 2 hours and just got kicked out. Now back to Que again. What a mess! Don’t run a campaign if your IT isn’t ready.
— Stanley Wong (@realstanleywong) May 18, 2023
We’ll there goes an hour of my life. I was in then it kicked me back out to the waiting room. #CathayPacificAirways #cathaypacific pic.twitter.com/pfYcVtItVD
— Dannah Mcmichael (@Dannah_Mc) May 18, 2023
While it seems like a majority of Hong Kong holiday hopefuls didn’t get tickets, there were some lucky winners.
“Got the Cathay Pacific tickets from YVR!! Paid CAD$434 oh, my God this is surreal!!” tweeted a successful Vancouverite.
got the cathay pacific tickets from yvr!! paid 434cad oh my god this is surreal!!
— cee (@nctsworlds) May 18, 2023
@cathaypacific thank you I love you pic.twitter.com/lpKYSzNB1f
— Awan (@issamawan) May 18, 2023
Just won a fucking free flight to Hong Kong @cathaypacific 🥳🥳🥳🥳 pic.twitter.com/94uf5FqThc
— alayna (@AlaynaIrby) May 18, 2023
Daily Hive has reached out to the Hong Kong Tourism Board and Cathay Pacific for their responses to these criticisms.
We have also asked how many tickets are still available for Canadians to nab.
Journalist Kris Pangilinan reported that the airline had “exhausted” all free tickets from Toronto to Hong Kong on Wednesday at 9:51 pm ET. It’s not clear if this is the same for other cities.
#UPDATE: Cathay Pacific says as of 9:51pm EST, all free tickets to Hong Kong from YYZ (Toronto) have been “exhausted” pic.twitter.com/eooyvaIkpl
— Kris Pangilinan (@KrisReports) May 18, 2023
One Twitter user summarized the overall experience perfectly.
The price of “free” is extreme stress and anxiety @cathaypacific
— Marie (@marieelliscook) May 18, 2023