In two and a half hours, I sold out 500,000 free tickets to Hong Kong!

In two and a half hours, I sold out 500,000 free tickets to Hong Kong!
In two and a half hours, I sold out 500,000 free tickets to Hong Kong!

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Zachary Kosin was ready. The New Yorker has pre-set the date in its calendar months. Kosen checks Hello Hong Kong every day to keep abreast of new information, hoping to get a free plane ticket.

The Hello Hong Kong initiative was aimed at attracting tourists and reinvigorating the city’s tourism industry, which has taken huge hits after it was nearly impossible to get into the financial hub for three years, due to Covid measures.

But during a showcase event in February 2023, city officials announced that some 500,000 free airline tickets would be distributed to locals eager for a city break and international travelers wanting to visit Hong Kong.

It sounded too good to be true for Kosin, who had never been to Hong Kong, and felt that with the high cost of air travel from the US to Asia he would not be able to afford the visit on his own.

Supply and demand

Tickets were distributed in stages, depending on the country or region. On May 17, residents of the United States and Canada could try their luck.

To be eligible for the free card, users had to sign up for an account with Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s national carrier, and then sign up to receive promotional emails from the airline. On the day of the ticket distribution, the hopeful travelers needed to log into their Cathay account, then wait to receive a promotional code, which they could then use to book a free ticket.

But the overwhelming demand means that long digital queues form even before tickets become available.

Kosin told CNN he only waited half an hour to log into his account, but received the wrong message when he did. He returned the ball again, to be placed at the end of the waiting line, and was told that he had more than an hour to wait. In the end, he was not lucky enough to get the coveted free card.

A representative for Cathy told CNN that tickets sold out in two and a half hours.

“We are very encouraged by the enthusiastic response from our Cathay members who have signed up for the exclusive ticket offer to Hong Kong,” he added. “As the main transportation company in Hong Kong, we are excited to support this campaign to welcome visitors from all over the world to discover the beauty of our beloved city,” he added.

As for Kosin, he said, “I was completely obstructed.” He noted that he had heard “the same story from other people. They waited in a huge digital queue, couldn’t sign in, and if they did they couldn’t find the promo code.”

“The cost of air travel is very high at the moment, and going to Hong Kong is expensive. It (the free pass) would have been a good deal and would have determined my holiday destination for this year,” he said.

Instead, Kosin decided to buy a cheaper ticket to Portugal.

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