An airline committed a huge spelling mistake by misspelling its own name on an aircraft – or did it?

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific painted its name as “Cathay Paciic” on the side of the plane. Travelers noted the mistake at Hong Kong International Airport and contacted the airline. The airline said it was a genuine mistake. “Oops this special livery won’t last long! She’s going back to the shop!” the company joked on Twitter.

But some people are suspicious and believe the mistake was an intentional PR stunt.

An engineer for Haeco, a sister company of the airline, said he didn’t understand how the mistake could have happened. “The spacing is too on-point for a mishap,” the engineer told the South China Morning Post. “We have stencils. Should be a blank gap in between letters if it was a real mistake I think.”

Some Twitter users said they were sure the mistake was really a marketing ploy. If the airline sought social media engagement and media attention, it succeeded.  Major publications reported the story, and its tweet garnered more than 5,000 retweets and 13,000 likes within a couple days.

A spokesperson for Cathay Pacific told CNN Travel: “We did not intend to make it a big fuss in the first place, but photos went viral within the aviation enthusiastic groups, so we just shared the hilarious moment with everyone.”

The Subject of Jokes

Most Twitter users seemed to find the mistake amusing and joked about the error, often with off-color references to the missing “f.” Most considered the error a minor issue, but some thought it reflected badly on the airline. They asked:  If the airline could spell its name wrong, what about more important components of the aircraft?

One customer responded: “Not something I think should be so blatantly and proudly publicized on a brand I spend money to support.”

Fixing the error was probably expensive, perhaps several thousand dollars. The airline had previous painting errors, according to the South China Morning Post. A few years ago, one of the earliest planes to receive airline’s new logo had the logo painted back to front.

A Previous Misspelling PR Ploy

Misspelling the company’s name wrong is an unusual but not unprecedented marketing ploy.

Earlier this year, apparel brand Diesel spelled its name Deisel on clothing in a Manhattan pop-up store it created to sell what seemed to be knockoff clothing, Adweek reported. Misspelling the name created authentically fake apparel.

When Diesel revealed the store was full of authentic products, a long line of customers quickly formed the next morning and the brand gained extensive attention from fashion influencers on social media.

Bottom Line: An airline’s misspelled name on an aircraft raised questions about its PR intentions. Was it a genuine mistake or a planned PR stunt? And if it was intentional, was it a wise marketing ploy?