What Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo Club changes mean for Qantas flyers

By Chris C., October 8 2015
What Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo Club changes mean for Qantas flyers

With Cathay Pacific moving to reengineer its Marco Polo Club loyalty program from April 2016, it’s not only Cathay Pacific travel that’s affected: MPC members flying with Qantas but building status with Cathay will also find changes to the way they reach each membership tier.

For the uninitiated, Qantas’ membership in the global Oneworld alliance means you don’t have to earn points with Qantas Frequent Flyer when travelling with Qantas: you can instead opt for the frequent flyer program of any Oneworld airline to build both points and status from your Qantas flying.

Speaking of the impact to Qantas flyers, Julian Lyden – Cathay Pacific’s General Manager Marketing, Loyalty Programmes and Customer Relationships Management – told Australian Business Traveller that "it was about doing what was right for our members.

"We see them as our customers... they’re our strongest advocates and our most ferocious critics, so it was them that we were looking at (with the changes)."

Read: Cathay Pacific overhauls Marco Polo Club

However, Cathay Pacific's website also shares that "the way members earn status no longer accurately reflects their contribution to the airline", so here’s what the changes all mean for Qantas travellers toting a Marco Polo Club card.

Marco Polo Club revamp: the basics

‘Club Miles’, a measure of the precise distance flown on Qantas, Cathay Pacific and other Oneworld airlines – with bonuses for higher-priced tickets – will no longer determine your Marco Polo Club tier.

Instead, ‘Club Points’ take the reins from April 2016 and vaguely represent ‘status credits’ in the familiar Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme, or ‘tier points’ in British Airways’ Executive Club.

Each year you’ll need 300 Club Points to retain Marco Polo Club Silver status, 600 Club Points for MPC Gold and 1,200 Club Points for MPC Diamond, although there’s still no requirement to fly with Cathay Pacific at all during that period: only to accrue as many Club Points on Oneworld airlines.

Cathay Pacific is also unique in that your Club Points tally resets to zero every time you move up a membership tier, so to progress from entry-level Green status through to Diamond for the first time, you'd need a total of 2,100 Club Points – 300 to first reach Silver, a further 600 to upgrade to Gold and then an extra 1,200 Club Points for Diamond.

For simplicity's sake, we'll focus on the travel needed to retain your existing tier, not to reach a new one.

Marco Polo Club revamp: Qantas domestic travellers

Australian domestic travellers can now lock-in their MPC Silver status after 10 return business class trips between Sydney and Melbourne: a slight increase from the current requirement of 8 return trips.

Down the back on most flexible economy fares, the tally also increases from 20 round trips to a harder-to-achieve 30 returns.

On longer flights such as from Sydney to Perth, six return business class trips continues to get you over the Silver line, as does 15 economy trips on eligible flexible fares.

Marco Polo Club revamp: Hong Kong travellers

Flying Qantas from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Hong Kong continues to build status in the Marco Polo Club program, even where Cathay Pacific flights are otherwise available.

Silver remains within identical reach of business class travellers with three return trips enough for that shiny card, yet premium economy passengers require a higher five returns for the same – up from three – and those in economy needing 10 returns on the same route, increased from seven at present.

Fly in Qantas' Business Suite to Hong Kong, earn Club Points in Marco Polo
Fly in Qantas' Business Suite to Hong Kong, earn Club Points in Marco Polo

Maintaining Gold becomes easier in business class needing just five return trips to Hong Kong instead of six, while the other classes mirror Silver with 10 premium economy or 20 flexible economy returns the new norm, increased from six and 14 returns, respectively.

Diamond is secured for another year after 10 return business class jaunts, reduced slightly from the 11 needed today, with 20 premium economy or 40 flexible economy round-trips also doing the trick: higher than the current requirement of 12 premium economy or 27 flexible economy returns.

Marco Polo Club revamp: London-bound high flyers

One return Qantas first class sojourn to London no longer nets Silver status – you’ll instead need to return a second time at the pointiest of pointy ends, or to simply make two return business class trips.

Sitting in premium economy to either destination also requires four returns, increasing London from a slightly-lower three returns, while six flexible economy visits to London is also no longer enough – 12 returns are needed, or one every month.

It's also bad news for Gold-grade travellers who must now visit London three times in first class, four times in business class, seven times in premium economy or 12 times on most flexible economy fares in their membership year: up from two first class returns, three business class or premium economy returns and six flexible economy returns, respectively.

At the top end of the scale, Diamond status requires double the trips needed for Gold being six London returns in first class, eight returns in business class, 14 returns in premium economy or 24 round-trips on the bulk of the Red Roo's flexible economy tickets: a significant increase on the current threshold of four first class, five business class, six premium economy of 12 flexible economy returns.

Also read: Cathay Pacific exec: why it's time to revamp Marco Polo Club

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

12 Apr 2011

Total posts 72

One thing you don't point out is that the new program rewards QF flights less than CX flights. 

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2511

Indeed, as we'd highlighted this in the original article we ran when these changes were first revealed, linked above and also here: Cathay Pacific overhauls Marco Polo Club

('Cathay Pacific, Dragonair flights earn more than Oneworld flights')

This particular article is tailored to passengers who fly often with Qantas but use the Marco Polo Club program instead of Qantas Frequent Flyer.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1380

Albeit I suspect thats a very small number... If flying mostly QF, but not wanting to use QF FF, surely AA is a better program

24 Apr 2014

Total posts 272

But it's still not all things equal in one world. I recently returned HKG to MEL with Cathay. I got 0 points for the trip with QF due to the fare class, so I submitted to Cathay instead and they gave me points.

07 Jan 2014

Total posts 40

I think you have your maths wrong for the SYD MEL J class shuttler.  Under the old rules a single Business Class flight is counted as 1.25 Club Sectors, so a SYD MEL commuter would only require 8 return flights (each return flight netting 2.5 Club Sectors) for the 20 Club Sectors required for Silver status.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2511

Hi Yarki, great pick-up, ta – our calculations had only taken into account Club Miles across the board without factoring in Club Sectors for the shortest routes. We've recalculated the Sydney-Melbourne figure and have updated the article accordingly.

09 Oct 2015

Total posts 3

The hardest part with this change for Marco Polo Club members booking with Qantas is the lack of transparency of Qantas fare types - I spent hours trying to figure out if the Red-e-Deal fare type letter to no avail. Perhaps I'm missing something incredibly obvious, but it seems like it's fare type lotto on qantas.com. (Please let me know if you have any insights here!)

Either way, as an MPC member who has just reached Silver, I'm glad they've kept the lounge access for Silver. Although qualifying again will be harder, my travel is China centric with layovers in HKIA and QFF didn't cater for this.

Even with the changes, I'm still happier to fly CX... 20 years of QFF membership has given me an abundance of points - that are vitually worthless unless your a Gold or Platinum member. Why would I spend 60,000 points booking a return economy frequent flyer seat to Hong Kong when more often than not the taxes and airline charges come to nearly 60% of a regular special fare? Always thought I could use the points for an upgrade, but it's never going to happen while I'm competing with 10 million other members.

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