OneWorld member, Cathay Pacific has announced wide ranging changes to its Marco Polo Club frequent flyer scheme. The changes affect a number of areas of the program and are set to take effect from April 15, 2016.
Cathay Pacific has a slightly unusual structure in its Frequent flyer programs. Frequent Flyer programs, generally, consist of two parts, the rewards part and the recogintion part. Cathay Pacific splits these into two separate programs:
- Marco Polo Club, which is about elite status and recognition
- Asia Miles, which is the points program
The important thing from the point of view of the changes being made, is that it is the Marco Polo club that is changing – the Asia Miles component is remaining the same.
Generally, then, the changes are about how they measure which status level you are at, and what the various recognition benefits and offerings that are made available at the different levels.
Cathay Pacific is significantly changing the way it determines which status you hold within the program. While the four levels remain, they have changed to a new measure based on Club Points. Club Points will be replacing the existing system based on Club Miles and Club Sectors
The levels, and their associated Club Point requirements are:
The number of Club Points under the new system, depends on the various factors, being the airline you’re travelling with, the class of service, your specific fare type and the distance of your flight. In many ways it is similar to the Status Credit system used by Qantas in determining status in the Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
The new chart when flying Cathay Pacific is as follows:
Generally, premium cabin fares count much more than they used to towards status. In addition, some exonomy fares that currently don’t count, will begin to count. This affects the lower discounted economy fares.
Finally, there is some variation depending on which airline you travel with. In general, the new earnings rate give better earnings on the services of Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air compared to its oneWorld partners. As an example, when flying between Hong Kong and Sydney on a Business Class fare, you’ll get 85 or 70 (depending on exact class) Club Points when flying Cathay Pacific, versus the 60 Club Points you would earn on Qantas.
With the changes in the way status is earned, the formula for reaching a new status, or retaining an existing status changes. Generally the new system favours the more expensive fares more heavily than in the past, ansd as a result, you will have to travel more frequently if on the cheaper fares.
There is a bit of a rebalance occuring into who is able to access the Cathay Pacific lounges and when.
Diamond members lose anytime lounge access
First up, we’ll get the bad news out of the way.
Diamond members are losing a cherished benefit – the ability to access Cathay Pacific and Dragonair business lounges when travelling with any airline. Under the changes, Diamond members will need to be travelling on a Cathay Pacific, Dragonair or Oneworld alliance flight in order to access the lounge..
Now everyone can earn lounge passes
With that out the way, Marco Polo Club is introducing lounge pass earning at various tier point thresholds. This works as follows:
- 1 business lounge pass at 200 points for Green members;
- 2 business lounge passes at 450 points for silver members;
- 2 business lounge passes at 800 points for Gold members;
- 2 first class lounge passes at 1400 points for Diamond members.
Marco Polo will be introducing one-way upgrades for Gold and Diamond members.
A Gold member will be eligible for four free one-way upgrades each year, effectively on regional services. These are specifically the distances that fall under the the ‘ultra-short’ to ‘medium’ length flights.
Diamond members will also receive four yearly one-way upgrades, however, these will be available pretty much system-wide.
There are several other smaller changes that will be coming into effect:
- Joining or renewing Green Status will now have a fee of US$100, a doubling of the fee from US$50
- The ability to put eilite membership on hold for twelve months, if your flying is going to decrease for a period.
- The minimum membership age will decreas from 18 years to 12 years
Overall, the changes can be seen as a bit of a mixed bag – with positives and negatives. Each individuals view will be affected by how the changes impact them personally.
- 4 Free long haul upgrades for Diamond members
- 4 Free regional upgrades for Gold Members
- Faster status earning in high margin premium cabins
- Partner memberships
- Lounge passes
- Low on many routes in most fare classes
- Slower earning on cheap seats in premium cabins
- No recognition/earn at the bottom end
- Loss of anytime access to lounges