Cathay Pacific and Dragonair's seat promotion website, fanfares, has attracted 3 million page views since its launch in October, but travel agents call it a gimmick and even the airlines admit they offer so few cheap seats that it has no impact on company earnings.
At 8am every Tuesday, the airlines release up to 2,000 round-trip tickets to 11 locations, which could be as nearby as Hangzhou or as faraway as Toronto.
Eighty-five per cent of the tickets sell out within the day, and popular regional destinations such as Singapore and Shanghai usually sell out within two hours.
A HK$490 round-trip ticket to Taipei has been one of the site's cheapest offers so far. The best deals are usually tickets with last-minute departure dates.
"It's a gimmick. They offer too few seats to hurt the budget travel industry," said a spokeswoman for Hughes Travel, which runs local budget travel website, aerohkg.com
But Cathay Pacific marketing manager Grace Cheung said: "We just wanted to offer opportunities for people in Hong Kong to enjoy the outstanding services of both Cathay Pacific and Dragonair at very attractive prices." The company acquired Dragonair as a subsidiary in 2006.
Travel agencies said customer interest in fanfares' promotions exceeded the number of tickets available. "If the clients decide fast enough, we can help them book the airfare. But usually by noon, they're mostly sold out," said Flight Centre spokeswoman Cecilia Yee.