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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)."
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.
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.
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