Airlines Guestwriter

Analyzing Cathay Pacific’s changes to the Marco Polo Club

Is it now worth it for the average traveller to be playing Marco Polo with Cathay?

Cathay Pacific has made some changes to its frequent flyer program, presumably in a bid to attract frequent flyers back to their program after they made some insane changes back in April 2016, which probably pissed off some in their loyal Marco Polo Club customer base.

For those who aren’t aware, Cathay Pacific has 2 frequent flyer programmes (FFP) in its portfolio:

  • Asia Miles , which is a program solely for the accrual of miles for redemption for lifestyle items (bleh) and flights on CX/OneWorld (you should only be looking at this)
  • The Pay-To-Enroll Marco Polo Club, where a basic Green membership costs USD$100 to obtain, which then allows you to earn Marco Polo Club Points (CP) when taking flights on Cathay Pacific as well as its oneworld partners, which leads to you earning status on Cathay Pacific.

To refresh your memories from an earlier article which Aaron posted a while back about Asia Miles and Cathay’s loyalty schemes, Marco Polo Club has 4 Membership Tiers:

  • Green (basic) [with that pesky USD$100 fee]
  • Silver (oneworld Ruby)
  • Gold (oneworld Sapphire)
  • Diamond (oneworld Emerald)

The benefits to each can be found via this link.

Here are the two main changes:

Easier Retention of Marco Polo Green Status on lowest fare bucket

The main enhancement they have made is that it is now easier to renew Green status with Marco Polo, requiring just 20 Club Points rather than 100 Club Points (or another USD$100 fee), which was an INSANE amount of Club Points to the average holidaymaker who flies once or twice a year.

To put things in context, on the old earning rates, you would have to fly 10 Return Flights to Hong Kong if you were travelling on the lowest Club Points earning Fare Bucket (S,N,Q) , costing you close to $3500  just to renew the Green membership as each return trip in the lowest earning fare bucket would only net you 10 Club Points .

Here are some of the listed benefits of Marco Polo Green :

  • Priority Check In on Cathay Pacific & Cathay Dragon , normally the Marco Polo Counters share the same counters as that of Business Class/Premium Economy Class (YMMV at various airports)
  • Priority Boarding on Cathay Pacific & Cathay Dragon, which can be useful in securing precious overhead cabin bag space
  • Crediting of Lounge Vouchers to your account when 200 Club Points are obtained for their Business Class Lounges (which are rather amazing)
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Now let’s take a look at the earning chart on Cathay Pacific , where the figures highlighted in green denotes the points earned after 8 December 2017 :

Photo Credits : Cathay Pacific Website

 We can see that for normal folks who purchase cheap Economy class tickets in the lowest Points earning bucket, the points earned per flight has doubled for lets say, a flight from Singapore to Hong Kong which falls under the “Short” haul category.

Looking at the example of flying to Hong Kong twice a year for your holidays, as I would like to think that those of you who are reading this have an insatiable appetite for good Dim Sum like myself (who doesn’t like Dim Sum?!).

Note that for most of the promotional fares for flights to Hong Kong, they do not earn you a single mile on Asia Miles nor do they earn any Club Points, hence we’ll be looking at their normal fares which are sourced from their Search Engine from the Home Page.

For flights to Hong Kong, I’ve managed to source out the cheapest fare as shown below, which is in their Q class fare bucket :

Photo Credit : Cathay Pacific Website

Now in this fare bucket, based on the old earning structure, it would only net me an anaemic 10 Club Points, which basically would be pointless (get the pun) to even consider getting a Marco Polo Membership as two return flights to Hong Kong in a year would only earn me a grand total of 20 Points, not even close to the 100 Club Points needed for renewal. Plus, there’s no way ever I was ever going to re-qualify for Green by paying the USD$100 fee again. (neither should you)

Photo Credits : Cathay Pacific Website

With the enhancement effective 8 December 2017, just one return flight to Hong Kong on the Q fare bucket would net me 20 Club Points instead of 10, hence meeting the renewal criteria for Marco Polo Green status, making getting that Green Membership an investment which would be worth looking into, especially if you travel on Cathay Pacific for your holidays annually.

Now, lets say your work requires you to travel frequently to Hong Kong (e.g. every 2 months) and it’s on a full fare economy fare bucket(Y/B/H/K), flying 6 times a year would net you 240 Club Points, crossing the 200 Points mark to obtain a single Lounge Voucher for use in an eligible Business Class Lounge, thus making it quite a worthwhile program to consider as well if you don’t currently hold status with any airline.

Photo Credits : Cathay Pacific Website

More Club Points

Easier to earn Elite Status flying Long Haul Full Fare Economy

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Next, lets compare the new earn rates on Economy and Premium Economy on Long Haul routes (i.e Hong Kong to London).

For the leisure traveller, flying paid Long Haul multiple times wouldn’t be a common affair (if it is, I envy you very much), so for the next section, I’ll be mainly concentrating on the business traveller and will take the assumption they would (sadly) be flying on Full Fare Economy (i.e fare classes of Y/B/H/K) for a long-haul flight.

Let us assume you are required to fly 4 times a year to your company’s headquarters in London for meetings and your company puts you up in Cathay Pacific Economy instead of Singapore Airlines Economy (poor you).

Flying an Economy (Y/B/H/K) return trip to London would net you 150 Club Points with the revised earning structure, compared to just 120 Club Points prior to the enhancements.

Photo Credits : Cathay Pacific Website

This would mean that now, 2 trips would easily net you Marco Polo Silver (oneworld Ruby) , 3 Trips would net you the 2 Business Class Lounge passes, 4 Trips in a year would earn you Marco Polo Gold Status (oneworld Sapphire), which comes with a plethora of benefits, i.e worldwide Business Class lounge access when flying on oneworld, and 8 trips instead of 10 would give you top tier Marco Polo Diamond (oneworld Emerald) membership!  Which provides even more perks such as access to First Class lounges.

Prior to this enhancement, you would only be able to earn Marco Polo Silver (OW Ruby) even with 4 full fare Economy class trips a year to London. Which wasn’t a status to shout about and frankly, crediting these 4 trips to another program (i.e MH Enrich) would have easily netted you oneworld Sapphire.
(using Malaysia Airlines purely as an example, please don’t ever credit flights there)

Easier to obtain Elite Status when flying ultra-short and short haul flights on Business Class

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In addition to the general increase of Club Points earning rates for travellers who mainly travel in Economy and Premium Economy, there has also been a slight increase in Club Points earnings for those flying in Business and First Class.

Since earning rates for Medium Haul flights and above remains unchanged, we’ll be focusing more on the Ultra Short and Short Haul flights. I’ll be touching more on Business Class travel out of Singapore as Cathay rarely operates a 77W with a First Class Cabin to Singapore.

Now, if you’re blessed enough to fly paid Business Class tickets on Cathay Pacific within Asia i.e on Ultra Short and Short Haul flights, such as Singapore – Hong Kong or even Singapore-Bangkok , or are even luckier that company policy allows for Business Class travel no matter the duration of the flight, oh boy I sure have some good news for you!  

Photo Credits : Cathay Pacific Website

Let’s say you do the Singapore – Bangkok or Singapore – Hong Kong run in Cathay Business, basing on the new Club Points earn rates, you would easily qualify for Silver on Marco Polo with 5 trips instead of 6 trips. You would also qualify for Marco Polo Gold in 10 Trips instead of 12 Trips, and most importantly, Marco Polo Diamond in 20 Trips instead of 40 trips (!!!!)

Photo Credits : Cathay Pacific Website

Note that the amount of Club Points earned here are that from the lower Business Class fare buckets which are often from discounted Business Class Tickets (i.e Special Advance Purchase Business Class fare promos which Cathay often has) .

A quick check of these discounted fares to Bangkok and Hong Kong start at about $540 and $1200 respectively.

Photo Credits : Cathay Pacific Website
Photo Credits : Cathay Pacific Website
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Meaning, flying 10 Times to Bangkok would net you a shiny Marco Polo Gold card at an estimated cost of $5400. (yikes)

Worthwhile?

With these new enhancements, now you can easily retain your Marco Polo Green membership even when flying on their lowest Club Points earning fare bucket, attain elite status when flying full fare Economy and Premium Economy faster, as well attain elite status quicker when flying Short Haul on Cathay Pacific.

Hence, even if you do not travel as much every year but make a trip or two to within Asia on Cathay Pacific, getting a Green Membership for the benefits of a dedicated Check In Counter and Priority Boarding during your trip might just be worth taking a look at , given the lowered threshold for renewal of their membership.

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RandomDude

Really good writing. Earned you a follow from the USA – nice work.

Zack
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Zack

Aaron, you are spreading your wings…

joelpi
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joelpi

Thanks for comments and really good points– becoming member on Green status — with free seat selection is a little better than paying simply to select seats– I guess it’s worth it– ahhhh!

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