A LoyaltyLobby reader was in touch about the abysmal level of customer service that Cathay Pacific’s new “lifestyle” program, Cathay, provides to its members.
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A reader messaged us about difficulty getting in touch with Cathay Pacific, and I asked them to put the experience on a note and send it to us:
I attempted to contact Cathay Pacific (CX) for a membership query ahead of an upcoming flight and would not have imagined this process to be so laborious.
Be it through the hotline, WhatsApp, Twitter or Messenger, getting in touch with CX is anything but plain sailing. Hotlines at CX have always been understaffed even pre-COVID, they now are overwhelmed. This whole issue has further amplified when Asia Miles and Marco Polo merged under the newly launched Cathay. With the reopening of Hong Kong’s borders, it seems to have reached a tipping point. I have tried to reach out to them through different channels, and here was my experience:
First, I contacted the airline through Twitter direct message. I received an auto-reply stating that it would take longer than usual to get a response. After 24 hours, I received a link to a satisfaction survey without my query being handled. Mentioning @cathaypacific does not seem an option either. Tweets from customers are either ignored or they get an template response telling them to send a DM (which in my case went unanswered).
With no hope on Twitter, I sent an email to the loyalty department. I received no acknowledgment. At the time I am writing this grievance, it’s been a week and still nothing.
Let’s start with a positive spin. The service menu is quite easy to navigate, recognising the number you call from. Things get more tricky when it comes to prioritisation. Calls are queued based on membership level. If you are Cathay Green (basic), chances are you may need to wait for up to an hour and that is if the call doesn’t disconnect after half an hour. In some instances, customers have experienced waits of 2 hours. Having not flown CX for 5 years, I must be at the very bottom of the priority list. Membership related queries appear to get faster response than reservations. When I managed to get to an agent, I asked if he could see my email. He told me he isn’t able to see emails that are sent to their inbox but would send a note to the relevant department to tell them to follow-up. I guess the person I talked to is outsourced and has no access to tickets created by email.
It can take up to 12 hours to get a response so there was no point in even trying. WhatsApp is meant for live conversations and if a company isn’t able to handle it, they better scrap it and focus on hotlines.
They previously had a live chat option, it seems gone now.
Last option to find out whether my query has been recorded was Messenger. There are two handles: “Cathay” and “Cathay Pacific”. When trying to message “Cathay”, I got auto-responses in Chinese characters. No way to get something in English. When trying “Cathay Pacific”, I received a response after 3 hours. Then, I was told that since query is membership related, it would need to be transferred to another agent. This other agent responded after 4 and a half hours telling me that I would get an email response within 48 hours. The 48 hours have passed and guess what, I haven’t received anything!
I have no idea if my case was ever recorded and whether I will ever hear back from CX. The minimum one would expect from an airline charging premium fares is to have properly operating contact channels. It is obvious that many customers are feeling abandoned and helpless. Simply have a look at Twitter to understand customer sentiment. My case is membership related so it’s not affecting my travel but it surely is disappointing to see such lack of care coming from a 5 star airline. I wouldn’t want to be in the place of those customers with more pressing matters like lost luggage or overcharging. Senior management is aware of those problems. They have publicly pledged to allocate more resources in their call centres. We are yet to see the effects.
Twitter is full of Cathay members voicing their frustration:
It seems that nothing has changed with Cathay Pacific from 17 or so years ago when I had to call AsiaMiles to issue a partner award, and you had to call pretty much when the call center opened to have any chance of speaking to a live person.
Airlines should allow members to issue, modify, cancel, and refund all kinds of reservations online without having to call.
My personal preference is to deal with companies that offer good online services so that I am in control without having to contact them (not sure what has recently been going on with my AA award tickets that you can cancel online, but it doesn’t ensure that the taxes and miles are actually refunded without calling them).
Cathay Pacific must have let most of the customer service personnel go when Hong Kong was basically closed for international travel for two and a half years. So it will be difficult for them to ramp up the services that were never good.
I enjoy Cathay Pacific in the air and their ground services in Hong Kong, but I am staying away from their frequent flier program because I have no time to deal with customer contact center “headaches,” which the reader experiences when better options exist.
I hope that the reader can get their issue resolved.
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