Cathay Pacific Overhaul: Winners and Losers

Cathay Pacific is overhauling its Marco Polo Club program, with changes to take effect from 15 April, 2016. These changes will make it more difficult to earn high tier Gold and Diamond status, however the benefits of these status tiers will also increase. Among other new benefits, Diamond members can now gift a friend or relative Gold status, and both Gold and Diamond members will receive more free upgrades.

Cathay Pacific has two separate components to its frequent flyer offering. Asia Miles is the “points” side of the program. Asia Miles can be earned for many different types of activities and are redeemable for free flights and upgrades. The Marco Polo Club, which is affected by the changes, deals with the “status” side of things.

Previously, a member’s Marco Polo Club status tier was determined by “club miles” or “club sectors”, based on the actual number of miles or sectors flown on Cathay Pacific or a partner airline. This system will be replaced by “club points” and is based on a series of distance-based zones and fare classes. It will all work in a very similar way to Qantas status credits.

So, who are the winners and losers from the changes? If you fly frequently on Cathay Pacific, particularly on the more expensive fares, then you may actually be better off. Diamond status is set to become more valuable and offer greater perks. If you are able to retain it you’ll now be able to enjoy 8 free upgrades on long-haul flights and the ability to gift companion Gold status, in addition to all current benefits.

Silver members will retain lounge access, which is a unique benefit offered by Cathay Pacific to their customers at the equivalent of Qantas’ and Virgin’s Silver tier.

But flyers on discounted fares, even in the pointy-end will be worse-off. Discounted business class, for example, will now earn less than under the old system. People who fly often on oneworld partner airlines will also be worse-off under the changes, with the number of club points that can be earned with partner airlines now slashed.

With Cathay Pacific status now more difficult to attain, some Marco Polo members may be looking to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program as a oneworld alternative. According to one member, there are both advantages and disadvantages of switching to Qantas. Although Gold and Platinum status with Qantas will be easier to earn overall, the benefits of Qantas status do not stack up against the Marco Polo Club. Plus, Asia Miles are a more valuable currency than Qantas points in terms of the cost of redeeming them for free flights.

Overall it’s still more difficult to attain Diamond than QF Platinum, however the benefits are greater, especially if you fly on routes with first class.
If one is thinking of switching – it does provide more guaranteed benefits at the base Gold/Plat level.
Add in the MUCH lower cost of redeeming Asia Miles for award flights and ……. it depends on your situation. Requires a little analysis to know which program is better.

There has been a mixed reaction among our members, with some feeling they will be significantly worse-off under the new system. Some are even considering diverting business away from Cathay Pacific.

Many Cathay Diamonds live in Hong Kong and earn their Diamonds flying weekly in Economy to neighbouring cities – in Mainland China or SE Asia. I do Manila and BKK mainly. I currently have to fly every week (80 flights a year) to maintain my Diamond. Now I will have to do 240. Sucks big time. I will probably have to change airlines.

Join the discussion HERE.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]