Unlike most airlines, Cathay Pacific has separate loyalty programs for earning and redeeming miles, as well as for earning status. The Asia Miles program is free to join and allows you to earn and redeem miles for flights with Cathay Pacific and its partners. But to earn status with Cathay Pacific, you’ll need to join the separate Marco Polo Club.
The Marco Polo Club has a USD100 (~AU$146) joining fee. After paying this fee, you’ll receive an entry-level green membership for 12 months. You’ll then need to fly with Cathay Pacific or other Oneworld airlines to work your way up to Silver, Gold and Diamond Marco Polo Club membership by earning club points (Cathay’s equivalent of status credits).
Cathay Pacific offers some generous benefits to Marco Polo Club members. Even with an entry-level Green membership, you’ll receive priority check-in and priority boarding when flying with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon. And in addition to the usual Oneworld benefits, Marco Polo Club Silver members receive lounge access when flying with Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon. There are very few frequent flyer programs that offer unlimited lounge access to Silver members!
Club points are not cumulative
Although the benefits are good, Cathay Pacific also makes it particularly difficult to earn Marco Polo Club status – at least initially.
After joining Marco Polo Club, you’ll receive Green membership for 12 months. If you fly Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon at least once, and earn at least 20 club points each year, your Green membership will automatically renew. However, you’ll lose your Marco Polo Club membership if you don’t fly Cathay Pacific for more than 12 months.
To upgrade to Silver membership, you’ll need to earn at least 300 club points and fly Cathay at least once within 12 months. But – and here’s the catch – your club points will be reset to zero whenever you upgrade or downgrade membership tiers. This means you’ll then have to start again from scratch and earn 600 more club points over the following 12 months to upgrade another tier to Gold.
This isn’t so much of a problem if you already have Marco Polo Club status and simply renew your status each year. But it does make it harder to get started with the program.
If you’re new to the program, and already have top-tier status with another airline, Cathay Pacific may offer you a status match if you can prove you’re a genuine frequent flyer and are going to be a loyal customer in the future. But the match is never to a status level higher than Silver… so you’ll still need to invest some time in working your way up the status ladder. (See some of the recent posts on the Status Matcher website for more on Cathay Pacific status matches.)
In addition, there are no “soft landings” with Marco Polo Club. If you fail to requalify for your status level or don’t take at least one Cathay flight during your 12-month renewal period, you’ll be downgraded all the way back to Green membership (or may even lose your membership altogether if you haven’t earned at least 20 club points).
How many club points do you need to earn Marco Polo Club status?
Here are the number of club points you need to earn in 12 months to attain or renew Marco Polo Club status:
|Minimum Cathay Pacific/Dragon flights||
There are also some benefits available if you reach certain other thresholds during your membership year. For example, you’ll receive a complimentary single-use lounge pass at 200 club points, and there are additional benefits for Diamond members that earn more than 1,400 club points during their renewal year.
Earning club points for flying
You can earn club points on all Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific and Oneworld airline flights. You can also earn club points on Cathay-marketed flights between Hong Kong and Auckland that are operated by Air New Zealand.
However, the number of club points you’ll earn with Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon are higher than the earn rate for flights on partner airlines. (Qantas also penalises its members for flying partner airlines… if you want a program that awards status across all Oneworld airlines equally, look no further than British Airways Executive Club.)
The number of club points you’ll earn is based on the distance of each flight sector. Here are the earn rates for Cathay Pacific flights:
For comparison, here’s what you’ll earn for Qantas flights:
See the Cathay Pacific website for more on earning club points.
Beware that not all booking classes on Qantas and other partner airlines are eligible to earn club points at all. With Qantas, for example, most red-eDeal and Economy sale fares are not eligible. So, make sure you check the fare class before booking!
Should I join Marco Polo Club?
It doesn’t really make sense to join Marco Polo Club if you mostly fly with Qantas, especially if you regularly fly on Economy red-eDeal fares.
It would make the most sense to join Marco Polo Club if you usually travel with Cathay Pacific from Australia to Asia, Europe, the Middle East or North America at least a few times per year. If you do, getting lounge access even as a Silver member is a great benefit – especially if you’re flying out of Hong Kong, where Cathay Pacific’s lounges are excellent. But as you can only use this benefit when flying Cathay Pacific – and you need to take at least one Cathay flight every year to renew your membership – it makes the most sense to join Marco Polo Club if Cathay Pacific is your main airline.
Want to learn more about Oneworld frequent flyer programs?
Frequent Flyer Solutions will host a webinar on Oneworld alternatives to Qantas Frequent Flyer at 8pm (AEDT) next Wednesday, 11 December 2019. If you’re thinking about joining Marco Polo Club, or just curious to learn about other Oneworld frequent flyer programs, you won’t want to miss this! Learn more about this webinar →