Cathay Pacific is considering a major overhaul of its Marco Polo Club and Asia Miles frequent flyer schemes with widespread impact ranging from restricting lounge access to awarding points and status credits based on the cost of the ticket rather than the number of miles flown.
In the wake of rumours about impending changes to the airline's loyalty programs, Cathay Pacific has confirmed that revisions would focus on rewarding high-yielding premium travellers who fly in business and first class – an approach similar to that adopted by Qantas in the mid-2014 overhaul of the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
"The overarching belief is that the current approach has to change" the airline told the South China Morning Post.
"Airlines all over the world are recognising the anomalies created by a mileage or sector-based reward and recognition system," it added.
Such a shift would likely see tier-level perks such as lounge access removed from entry-level Marco Polo Club Silver status to alleviate crowding in Cathay Pacific lounges, especially those at its home hub of Hong Kong.
"We are carefully studying the impact of this and the possible implications for the Marco Polo Club in terms of how members earn their status and what benefits and recognition they should be receiving based on the value they bring to the airline" the airline said.
Earning Marco Polo Club perks: an easy task
Currently, any traveller can buy a Green-level Marco Polo Club card for just US$50 to enjoy access to the priority check-in desks and the priority boarding lanes whenever flying with Cathay Pacific or its sister airline Dragonair.
After amassing just 30,000 ‘Club miles’ – the equivalent of one Sydney-London trip plus a second return journey to Hong Kong, even in economy – members progress to Marco Polo Club Silver and Oneworld Ruby status, and also pick up airport lounge access whenever flying with Cathay or Dragonair.
MPC Silver is roughly on-par with Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver, although Qantas affords its own members just one free lounge visit every 12 months rather than unlimited year-round access: a perk saved for the higher Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold tier.
The revamped Marco Polo Club and Asia Miles schemes are expected to resemble Singapore Airlines’ PPS Club + KrisFlyer arrangement – where one program is used to reward the airline’s own highest-spending customers, and the other its most frequent flyers.
Marco Polo Club: dollars over distance
Cathay’s spokesperson also told the SCMP that rewarding travel based on the distance flown or the number of flights taken “(isn’t) always the best measure of value.”
"Airlines all over the world are recognising the anomalies created by a mileage or sector-based reward and recognition system," with other carriers such as Qantas and United recently shaking up their own loyalty programs to reward customers travelling on the most expensive fares.
Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme is also geared towards high spenders – dishing out points within Australia based on the price paid for the ticket rather than the distance flown or the class of service.
- All about Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo Club frequent flyer scheme
- Our guide to Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles frequent flyer program
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