December 7, 2017 — Though I routinely employ the Amazon app on my Samsung smartphone to order and purchase an array of useless junk, I’ve shied away from large buys like airline tickets except on my laptop. That is, until now.
Last week I attended a two-day transit conference in Richmond and didn’t think I’d need my computer. I’d already seen the Cathay Pacific super-sale offer that dropped like a gift from the heavens on Black Friday. Cathay’s eye-popping roundtrip deals to Hong Kong and beyond in Premium Economy were as low as $1,184, and in Business starting at $3,187, all priced the same from any U.S. gateway city.
The enticement to spend a few lovely days in Hong Kong again and to ride there and back in Cathay Pacific’s superb Premium Economy cabin for so little money excited my wife and me, but with a kid in 9th grade, we remain tethered to the school calendar and just couldn’t find dates that would work. Though the fare sale extended through the following Wednesday, my wife and I failed to hit pay dirt after spending the weekend feverishly comparing calendars. So I drove up to Richmond Monday afternoon with my cell phone and no laptop, certain that we weren’t going to Hong Kong on this sale.
Meantime, I spread the word hither and yon among my friends about Cathay’s extraordinary sale and the world-class service we had experienced with the airline over the 2016-17 Christmas-New Year’s holiday in Cathay’s PE cabin. The wide date range for outbound travel allowed on this fare sale (January 1 to May 23) and liberal return policy (up to six months from date of departure) persuaded a number of folks I alerted to buy tickets on Cathay for no reason except to experience Hong Kong and to see what Premium Economy was like on the way there and back.
Most of those friends who bought passage during the sale were already aware of Cathay Pacific’s great business class comfort, privacy and top-notch service. They were also impressed with the ultra-low three grand fare in business. However, none had before flown Premium Economy aboard any carrier, let alone in CX’s superior compartment. They took my word that it was grand and bought tickets to satisfy their curiosity about PE while enjoying all the charm and food delights that Hong Kong has to offer at a very reasonable fare. One told me he couldn’t NOT go at those prices!
By the time I reached the Marriott in Richmond on Monday afternoon, my phone was constantly buzzing with questions from friends and colleagues interested in leaping on the great Cathay deal before the clock ran out on Wednesday. Sharing their thrill was not quite the same as the exciting prospect of booking my own trip, but I was resigned that we couldn’t go this time.
Then Tuesday afternoon my wife emailed with a tiny travel window that would work for us. Her plan, however, required leaving on the very last day of the outbound travel range, May 23. My calendar showed May 23 to be the date of the regional transit authority’s Board of Trustees meeting. As a Board officer, I’m honor-bound to attend meetings, which begin at noon. Allowing for time to get to RDU airport, fly to JFK, and then get to our gate after the Board meeting meant that we could only book a late evening Cathay flight JFK/HKG. Was there one? Even if so, it seemed unlikely that Premium Economy seats would be available on the last flight on the last outbound legal date of the fare sale. Our temporary joy was dashed.
Crestfallen, I opened the Cathay sale site on my Samsung S7 browser and scrolled through all the departures available on May 23. And there it was: CX889 JFK/HKG, departing at 21:55 (9:55 PM) on May 23.
But were there Premium Economy seats remaining at the dirt-cheap sale price on the last flight on the last allowable outbound travel date? Scrolling around with my fat fingers on the tiny screen I determined that, yes indeed, PE seats at $1,1,84 round trip were available. I hit the “book” button for two seats with trepidation, my digit swaying nervously over the itty-bitty screen.
Boom! Cathay accepted the booking and asked for payment. Did I dare give it my credit card over the loosey-goosey Marriott guest wifi? Well, hell, I thought, I had no choice because I wasn’t going to get home to my computer until the time had expired on the Cathay fare sale. I could either do it or let the sale pass.
But I wouldn’t do it on an open wifi network. Careful to keep my browser window active, I turned off the wifi radio on my smartphone in order to conduct the credit card processing via the cell phone network rather than the Marriott guest wifi, which I suspected was as holey as Swiss cheese. Steadying each finger, I punched in my account number and other data, and Cathay issued the ticket, my first-ever via a smartphone. Pretty soon an e-ticket email arrived for both of us.
Our flights stop in Vancouver in both directions, which will mean being trapped in a brightly-lit, glass-walled box in the middle of the night for 90 minutes inside security while the plane is serviced and boarded there. That’s not going to be fun, but since this was the sole schedule that worked for us, and since we are paying next to nothing to fly 16,142 miles in comfort, who’s complaining?
And, happily, there have been no reported dishonest charges on the credit card I used to purchase the Cathay tickets via my smartphone.