I am writing this letter as a warning to others who may be traveling now at the beginning of the summer rush.
Despite my busy teaching schedule, I had to return to San Francisco for a week for my father's memorial, May 18, and to clean up his personal papers.
Seats were only available on Cathay Pacific, through Hong Kong, and on Eva, but the former was much cheaper and the time convenient, so I booked Cathay Pacific for May 13 and 19. Due to family activities, I wanted to stay for one more day ? and lost my
confirmed seat. I thought I would get on within another flight or two by waiting at the airport, and Cathay Pacific had two flights a day. There was no future waiting list; you had to get to the airlines check-in counters about four hours in advance to put your name first on the waiting list for that flight. Finally, in the middle of the night, the check-in desk admitted that it was useless to wait, they had overbooked the flights by 35-55 passengers for every flight (about 380 passengers per plane) for at least the next
ten days! The next confirmed seat available was 20 days hence! Cathay Pacific also refused to make other travel arrangements such as re-routing, or to endorse the tickets over to airlines such as United or Eva that had open seats.
I also met several other passengers who had come from the Midwest or from Texas via other airlines without confirmed seats on Cathay Pacific, who were likewise stranded. One of my
acquaintances from Taiwan that I ran into in the waiting line, Christina Tang, was after waiting a day given a new booking and route through Seattle on Eva by her connecting airlines, American Airlines, with no help from Cathay Pacific. Those overbooked with confirmed seats were, however, given US$400 compensation and seats the next day; from observation, it seemed about a dozen people were thus compensated each flight.
Overall, it seems to be extremely irresponsible and in fact probably fraudulent for an airline to sell tickets for many more people than it can carry. I had no choice but to finally buy a ticket on another airline to return to Taipei for my work, and save the
Cathay Pacific ticket for another trip within six months. It would have cost me over US$2700 to buy the round-trip Eva ticket at the airport, but fortunately my stepmother was able to call around the Chinatown travel agencies and buy the ticket for me for US$1475, just a little more than it would have cost me to buy the Eva ticket in Taipei to begin with. At least it was a direct flight home to Taipei. I'll look forward to seeing my stepmother again in August, but not to seeing the Cathay Pacific check-in counters
Linda Gail Arrigo
Humanities, Taipei Medical University