Cathay looking to revamp loyalty programmes

14 Jan 2015 by Clement Huang

Cathay Pacific Airways is reportedly looking to revamp its two loyalty programmes, the Marco Polo Club and Asia Miles.

According to an article published in the South China Morning Post, sources from the airline suggested the proposed changes will include implementing a revenue-based accrual system for the Marco Polo Club that favours big spenders and premium cabin travellers over discounted-economy flyers.

Proposed service model of Marco Polo Club will reward big spenders

The current model allows Marco Polo Club cardholders to earn club miles and sectors by flying on Cathay Pacific, its sister airline Dragonair, fellow oneworld carriers, and other airline partners. While discounted fares accrue fewer miles than flexible fares, any points or sectors earned (regardless of travel class) still contribute to a Marco Polo member’s tier status.

Existing club miles & sectors accrual rates

There are currently five tiers in the Marco Polo Club – Green, Silver, Gold, Diamond and Diamond Plus – each offering an increased number of frequent flyer benefits. While many have complimented the Cathay Pacific loyalty programme for offering a healthy number of attractive benefits even for its silver tier status (e.g. use of the airline’s business class lounges when booked on Cathay Pacific or Dragonair, priority check-in, extra baggage allowance, etc), this has also alienated premium customers that travel frequently and pay more for their flights. 

Marco Polo Club existing tier benefits

Details have yet to be confirmed, but it is believed that the proposed new system would bear strong resemblance to the PPS Club offering by fellow Asian carrier, Singapore Airlines (SIA). Known as Priority Passenger Service, the unique tier status is awarded to passengers who have accumulated a total of SG$25,000 worth of PPS Value within a single year. 

PPS Value is earned solely through flying in SIA’s premium cabins – suites, first class, and business class, as well as business class on the airline’s regional carrier, Silk Air. Mileage earned from flying SIA’s fellow Star Alliance members, or its airline partners, do not contribute to PPS Value.

No enrolment is available to join the PPS Club – Membership is only attained by flying with SIA

In the same way, Marco Polo Club is expected to introduce restrictions on how its members earn points toward their tier status. Tier points will only be awarded to travellers who pay for premium seats, or buy the most expensive economy fares available. In addition, this would only apply to flights on Cathay Pacific and Dragonair – and not on other Oneworld carriers, or partner airlines.

Meanwhile, those who continue purchasing discounted economy fares would instead be directed to a revamped version of Asia Miles.

Under the existing model, Asia Miles is a free-to-join programme that does not feature any of the tier levels the Marco Polo Club has in place – meaning that regardless of the number of miles one earns, one does not qualify for any frequent flyer benefits.

The new version would allow customers to pool their air miles earned from economy class travel on Cathay Pacific or Dragonair, as well as points earned from flying other Oneworld carriers. However, the programme perks would be inferior to those extended to the upgraded Marco Polo Club members.

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Clement Huang

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