We all know that influencers get a lot of “free stuff.” The government also knows this, and that’s why influencers and bloggers are taxed for the things they receive, whether in cash or kind. But an influencer from Hong Kong may have stepped too far in asking for “freebies,” that she was banned from ever flying on Cathay Pacific again.
Who is the influencer?
According to a report, an influencer who formerly worked for Cathay’s parent company, Swire Resources, booked a flight on Cathay Pacific in May, for a trip that would take her from Taipei to New York. She then filled out a form asking for a free upgrade to a business class seat from the Premium Economy seat that she paid for.
She allegedly received the following letter in response, which was furnished by online advocacy website Elliot Advocacy.
source: Elliot Advocacy
The letter above showed that she was assured of a Business Class upgrade if there were still any seats available during check in. The letter was allegedly signed by the Marketing Manager of Cathay Pacific.
It was specifically stated that she was being given the privilege of the free upgrade due to her “social network.”
According to the details of the case on Elliot Advocacy, she presented the letter but the airline denied that there was any such arrangement at the check-in counter. When the agent saw the email, they simply said that the arrangement couldn’t happen, and she flew on the seat that she paid for without any incident.
She peddled the same letter with a different email address on the return flight
She checked into her return flight a day before, and printed out her premium economy ticket. When she got to the check-in counter, though, she showed a printed copy of the email again, and this time she got a different response. The agent went to a supervisor and thirty minutes later, the influencer was being served with a ‘refusal of carriage letter’ and was told that her email from Cathay was fraudulent. The supervisor insisted that the company did not send any such letter.
She tried to negotiate her original seat on the flight without the upgrade, but the airline personnel did not want to budge on the matter. She was forced to buy another ticket from a different airline just to go home.
Influencer demanded a refund, Cathay demanded metadata
Instead of asking privately-hired lawyers to help her with her problem, she went to a consumer rights’ group to ask how to recoup the losses of the flight she wasn’t allowed to board. She sent a short email as per the instructions of Elliot Advocacy. She got a list of demands instead.
Here is part of the letter Cathay sent her a few weeks after her initial email:
Dear Ms [redacted]
In the case that you are certain of the authenticity of your emails, please facilitate our further investigation by sending us:
1. A copy of the email you sent to us prior to boarding of your flight on 07 June 2019 as mentioned in your email to Swire on 27 June 2019;
2. *The “.eml” document of the two upgrade emails you received from us. You may follow the steps as detailed in the attached document;
3. Any other supporting information. (Cathay Pacific)
Cathay said that the letters she presented to the check-in counter were fraudulent since no such letter was sent from their official email account, but that if she could provide evidence that the emails she received were genuine, they would review her claims.
“Talk to my lawyer,” and more of her mistakes
She did not provide any of the requests that Cathay asked for, and even said that the things they were asking were not relevant to the matter at hand. She also told the company to speak to her lawyers instead, which got her a more pointed letter full of accusations, as presented by Elliot Advocacy.
On 30 May 2019 and 07 June 2019 when you checked in at our Taipei and New York airport counters respectively. You presented two different emails with the same reference number, asking for upgrades on flights CX495 and CX890 on 30 May 2019 and flight CX865 on 07 June 2019. The offers were made to you by R**** L*** according to the emails you showed our check-in staff.
We verified with R**** and understand that he did not send any such emails to you. We also cross-checked our email systems and confirmed no emails were delivered to you on the date and time as indicated in your emails.
To the best of our knowledge with the information on hand, we concluded that the emails you presented for upgrades were not issued by Cathay Pacific Airways. The decision was made to refuse the carriage of you given your repeated attempts to present a fraudulent document for upgrading on our flights.
The airline called her bluff, and since she had no lawyer, she could not do anything. Elliot Advocacy also said that once the matter was sent to the airline’s legal team, there was little they could do as a consumer rights’ group.
I’m a good person, you can’t believe I would do this
When she asked the consumer rights’ group to handle her case, she was not able to provide any document proving that the emails she received did come from Cathay Pacific officially. Instead, she said that she worked for Swire Resources, the parent company of Cathay Pacific in 2018, and that she came with high recommendations on her work profile online, as well from the company’s human resources department.
She also boasted that she was one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 National Award, and that any accusations against her character are false simply because of these awards and credentials.
Still no email metadata, though.
Where is she now?
She’s still banned from flying on the airline until she can come up with the legal counsel she’s supposed to have, and the email metadata, of course.
According to a report from 2008, a then-17-year-old girl with the same name was part of their Top 20 Under 20 for helping impoverished children through the NGO World Vision.
Alvinology has redacted the name of the female influencer and her current occupation as per her personal request to us in an email.
Header image from Shutterstock