Cathay Pacific Aligns Elite Status With Fares… But Doesn’t Go Revenue-Based

Cathay Pacific just announced a revamp of how their elite status is earned. (HT: @HungarianNomad)

It’s easy to misunderstand this, especially since Cathay Pacific’s tweet says that April 15 they’ll be changing how you earn status and rewards. But rewards here refers to the rewards of their elite program — not frequent flyer award tickets.

Frequent flyer programs do two things in one: recognize and reward. They combine elite recognition with award redemption. Most airlines have a single program for both.

Cathay Pacific has their ‘Marco Polo Club’ for elite status recognition, and Asia Miles which is the points program. It’s only the Marco Polo Club (elite) that’s changing.

Indeed, the page detailing the changes makes clear: You will continue to earn and redeem Asia Miles as you do today.

New Points System… Not a Dollars System

American Airlines has long had an alternative method of qualifying for status — points that adjusts how far you fly based on the fare class of the ticket.

British Airways has long had a system of ‘tier points’ that’s heavily influenced by the class of ticket.

Cathay Pacific has gone for something close to the British Airways system. They didn’t go with either a straight spending model, or a United/Delta model where minimum spending is required for status.

Here are the points required to earn each level of status:

They’ve made premium cabin fares count much more than they used to towards status. Although strangely some economy fares (S, N, Q) that didn’t used to count at all now do.

Here’s the grid for earning points on Cathay Pacific flights:

Different partner airlines have different points-earning.

New Elite Benefits

Marco Polo Club is introducing lounge pass earning at various tier point thresholds: 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.

Gold members will earn 4 regional upgrades at 1000 points, and Diamonds will earn 4 systemwide upgrades at 1600 points.

Diamonds will be able to gift Gold status at 1800 points.

However one huge devaluation is the end of their lounge open doors policy — Diamonds will only have lounge access when traveling on oneworld airlines.

British Airways used to extend lounge access to elites regardless of airline they were flying, I remember using the BA Terraces lounge in Milan while flying Alitalia because the Italian airline’s lounge was so bad. British Airways eliminated that benefit in mid-2011. US airline lounges that offer paid memberships will let you access regardless of the airline you’re flying, but most airlines that give lounge access based on status require you to fly their airline or its partners in order to use their lounges. Still, this one will hurt Cathay’s Diamonds.

Separately they will let members defer their elite status for a year (perhaps taking time off due to having a child or losing a job), and pick up where they left off when they resume traveling. But they won’t have access to their benefits in the meantime.

Elite status will become available to passengers 12 years old and above, instead of the current 18 year old requirement.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary what’s not clear is if they’ll be taking away green membership from current members. It used to be that once you were green you were green forever (they wouldn’t take it away).

    Now it seems they’ll be taking that away?

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