We regret to say that the story about a passenger using his first class plane ticket to get a free meal nearly every day for a year is in fact just a rumor that fooled several Western media outlets (including us). So don’t try it at home.
According to reports, a Weibo user named 范峻_kelvin created a post saying that China Eastern Airlines had found a strange record in the system indicating that a first class ticket set out from Xi’an was changed over 300 times in a year. The post said that after investigation, staff found someone had used this ticket to get into the VIP room almost every day that year to enjoy free meals and drinks, then cancelled it before expiration for a full refund.
The Weibo was re-posted thousands of times online and picked up by news outlets like Kwong Wah Yit Poh, then by several English-language media outlets.
Eventually, the user created another post saying that he heard this from someone else, and wasn’t sure about the authenticity of this story.
China Eastern Airlines has explained in reports that the free-meal-loophole is not as easy as it sounds. The company says that even if you have purchased a full-priced first-class ticket, with which the flight date can be amended any time within a year from your original flying date, to enter the VIP lounge area you’ll have to exchange your booking confirmation for a boarding pass and also get through the security gates. Meaning, once your itinerary has been changed, you can’t cheat the system to switch it back again.
China Eastern Airline staff have also reminded passengers that, in most cases, if flight tickets have been bought at a discount of 30 percent or more the flight date can’t be amended.
If you buy a full-priced ticket you can do a change of date for free up to two hours before your flight. If you change it less than two hours before the flight, it is subject to a 5 percent admin fee. A refund below two hours would incur a 10 percent admin fee (of the original flight price).
By Isabel Quan and Yuen Sin
[Image via Matt @ PEK // h/t Mark W.]