Cathay Pacific mulls revamp of Marco Polo Club, Asia Miles

By Chris C., January 19 2015
Cathay Pacific mulls revamp of Marco Polo Club, Asia Miles

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.

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Water will always find its level. There will always be opportunities to maximise value at the lowest possible cost. If measures like these seek to weed out the complacent, stubborn or ignorant then FF programmes would be the better without them.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1379

Yes but the game changes...

In a mile based system, optimisation is achieving the correct number of miles/SCs etc for lowest $$$

In a $$$ based system, you could optimise by shortest miles flown, or smallest number of flights, but the $$$ spend is the same

Agreed. In fact by declaring the dollar amount required to hit a tier, the airline has made it easier to plan and budget. 

Part of the problem of the mileage system was the variability of pricing. So as you set about your itinerary for the year, the price variability may be quite substantial, particularly with higher forex risk.

In a way, while defining the spend amount, the airline is showing its hand and thereby facilitating planning and budgeting, whilst reducing uncertainty.

Question is, is the price too high? This is where people need to actively jump ship to deliver an equilibrium to the system.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 704

It could not come sooner

They need to get rid of all perks for their Club level membership

The prority boarding lines are now longer then economy class lines


That is factually inaccurate. Qantas Club members do not get priority boarding.


03 May 2012

Total posts 114

Henrus was obviously referring to the entry level (Green) of the Marco Polo Club which does get priority boarding. 

Good point! My bad!

Sorry henrus! The joys of brevity!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 704

Well they kinda do when Cathay does their boarding all you have to do is flash a oneworld card and they are happy

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 700

I'd actually support a move to determining status/points on spend alone, because it is ultimately fairer to all (the airline and consumer) - you always get what you paid for/are paid for (flying deeply discounted tickets offers little profit for airline). Obviously those who work all the quirks will be annoyed, but they did achieve benefits over the odds. The only area I see problems with such a model is Lifetime statuses, because you don't want to move the goalposts too often here (if based on spend, inflation would require more than just once in a decade changes, which is too often - although I note some hotel programs who have spend based lifetime statuses manage this).

The significant upside is that point (or point and status credit) earn on dollar value are almost always generous - I certainly do well from VA's 10 points per dollar spent domestic earn (as a Platinum J class flyer).

i agree that there is a danger in spreading status benefits too widely, in that they can actually remove any benefit at all (overcrowded lounges, priority lanes longer than non-priority lanes, etc) - that hurts everyone. Getting the balance right is the key.

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