TALKING POINT | As Cathay Pacific plots a sweeping review of its Marco Polo Club loyalty scheme, the airline is reportedly looking to set aside more free seats for its own frequent flyers – but fewer seats for members of Oneworld 'partner' airlines such as Qantas, American Airlines and British Airways.
The move would be most keenly felt in the business class and first class cabins, where the supply of seats is at a premium to begin with.
Citing "sources close to the ongoing review, the South China Morning Post reports "the plan is to slash the number of free air tickets available for partner airlines and to reallocate those to Cathay's own Marco Polo Club members."
Cathay Pacific is believed to be particular sensitive to the seemingly limitless millions of miles which members of American Airlines' Aadvantage reward scheme can earn through credit card schemes and then use to snare seats ahead of even top-tier Marco Polo Club members.
"The sources say Cathay believes it is time to stop allowing external redemptions when the airline is capable of filling aircraft with paid passengers, boosting long-term profitability" writes the SCMP's Danny Lee.
At the same time, the airline is also said to be considering raising the miles-per-seat redemption rates.
Cathay Pacific won't be drawn on this aspect of what's tipped to be a wide-reaching revamp of the Marco Polo Club, with a spokesperson for the airline telling Australian Business Traveller only that "this is a comprehensive review and no decisions have been made regarding specific enhancements that we may introduce to our programme."
It's an interesting issue, and one which in theory could put an airline at odds with its erstwhile partners.
(And it's worth noting that Qantas' dramatic changes to its frequent flyer scheme in 2014, which slashed the number of status credits earned through its Oneworld partners, was clearly intended to reward loyalty to Qantas first and other airlines second. And some would argue this is exactly as it should be.)
We'd suggest that most Qantas Frequent Flyer members would expect to have first dibs on redeeming their points for a business class or first class seat, ahead of members of any other airline.
if that's so, then is it unreasonable for another airline to follow the same practice, and for that airline's own home-grown frequent flyers to have the same expectation?
In other words: to what extent should an airline look after its own loyal customers, ahead of anybody else's?
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