Cathay Pacific Moves to Points Based Frequent Flyer Program

Cathay Pacific has announced changes to their Marco Polo Club frequent flyer program, and they aren’t for the best.

In an interesting statement on their website (bolding mine):

As the Cathay Pacific network continues to grow, so does the need to evolve the Marco Polo Club. New cabin products and additional routes, in particular ultra-long and ultra-short ones, mean that the way members earn status no longer accurately reflects their contribution to the airline. To meet the changing needs of our members, we have looked at ways to provide better, more flexible benefits, and to enhance the overall membership experience for our travellers. Starting 15 April 2016, we will be changing to a new points-based system, which will change the way you earn status and are rewarded.

Wow, that’s blunt. So, if you aren’t spending money with the airline, you aren’t a value to them – plain and simple. Most airlines try to somewhat hide that fact when changing their loyalty programs, though Cathay Pacific comes right out and says it, point blank. I’m not sure whether I should be proud of that, or not…

Cathay Pacific’s new program will moved from a mile-based system to a points based system, where you’ll earn points based on the fare code you fly under. The higher the fare, the more points you’ll earn.

Interestingly, even their most basic level – Green – which doesn’t even qualify for a corresponding oneworld gem color, will require at least 100 points.

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Here’s their new earning chart for travel on Cathay Pacific. On the cheapest economy fare on the longest route, you’ll still need over 120 of those trips to qualify for their highest Diamond (emerald) level. Think that over again – a $500 (for example) lowest economy ticket will require $60,000 of spend just to attain their Diamond status. Your biggest sweet spot for economy pricing is going to be in purchasing M, L or V fare tickets which will earn 40 points on the longest routes.

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Boy, this is going to take a lot of flying to earn status…

When looking at the earnings on partners, it ranges in the 85-100 range for the top price, full fare, long distance First Class/Business tickets, and works its way down from there.

The program is touting several new benefits for their mid-tier elites:

  • Bookable Upgrades can be earned for Gold members and above
  • Extra Lounge Passes can be earned across all tiers
  • Reduced qualifying age of 12 for young members
  • Companion Cards can be earned for Diamond members

The airline has published a short video on their YouTube channel about the changes, though interestingly, nothing is mentioned about the new points system or anything notable, really. It’s essentially two minutes of “we’re going to change things, but we’re going to show you videos of lounges instead.”

There’s been rumor that Cathay will soon be blocking or restricting First Class seat availability to American AAdvantage members, and the changes to their loyalty program today only further hint towards that possibility, though interestingly, their award chart has not changed, according to several mentions on the new loyalty program site.

What do you think of the changes to the Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club?

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