So there’s this story doing the rounds. It tells of an enterprising guy in China who supposedly managed to eat for free for the best part of a year, purely by purchasing a first class ticket, which he then used to access the airline lounge. Once he’d finished eating for free in the lounge, he simply cancelled and rebooked his fully refundable ticket for the following day, and then repeated the exercise 299 times. When the airline found out, he cancelled the ticket and got a full refund.
Now we all like a story of the little guy finding a loophole to get one over the big corporation, but there’s something about this story that just doesn’t ring true for me.
It’s certainly been reported uncritically by churnalists worldwide with column inches to fill and pageviews to generate.
But let’s think about it for a moment. This guy can’t afford to pay for food, but he does supposedly have enough disposable income for a first class plane ticket (even if he gets the money back at the end, he still had to have enough spare cash to have the cost of the ticket tied up for the best part of a year).
And what about getting to the airport? Wouldn’t the cost of transport or parking outweigh the benefits of the free food?
Even assuming our hero works at the airport, or lives nearby, then he’d still have to check in every day and then proceed through security (as far as I can tell from this website, all of the lounges at Xi’an Airport are airside).
I’m not a fan of clearing airport security at the best of times. Is it really worth going through all that hassle every day just for a free feed?
And we’re supposed to believe that he got away with this 300 times? Don’t you think the staff at the check-in desk and at the lounge might have started to recognise him long before his three hundredth attempt?
As far as I can tell the story was first reported in the media in Kwong Wah Yit Poh, a Malaysian Chinese newspaper, from there it was picked up by News Limited, and from there, it spread like wildfire, each report gleefully repeating the same information without a moment’s thought to the fact that none of it stands up to even the most basic scrutiny.
I call urban legend. Total and utter made up rubbish.
It. Did. Not. Happen.
(I did eventually manage to find one other website out there calling this one out: this post on Shanghaiist suggesting that someone in China simply made it up…)