No more confusing differences between the two programmes, hooray!
In a seemingly fluffy email sent out by Cathay Pacific today, the airline announced a new lifestyle brand named ‘Cathay’.
More importantly, Cathay Pacific’s somewhat confusing two loyalty programmes – Asia Miles & Marco Polo Club – will be merged into a single programme in the first half of 2022.
What is Cathay?
Cathay is touted as the airline’s new master brand, which it said “represents much more than airline travel”, and “seeks to become a premium travel lifestyle brand, consisting of a host of complementary categories – flights, hotels, shopping, dining, wellness, credit cards”.
What this essentially means is that Cathay Pacific will now focus on non-flying businesses that traditionally complement travel, held together by a central currency of miles and points. In whole, this is considered an entire ‘travel lifestyle proposition‘.
For a start, Cathay will only being rolled out to Hong Kong-based customers. Customers outside of Hong Kong will continue to see Cathay Pacific as the airline and master brand, as it will probably see a limited reach of what Cathay can offer as a programme beyond Hong Kong’s shores.
Asia Miles & Marco Polo Club
Oneworld airlines typically have two distinct currencies within its programmes, a miles/points currency that can be exchanged for rewards (such as flights), as another status credit/points currency that determines elite status.
For example, you earn both Qantas points and status credits for each flight you take. Qantas points can be used to redeem for rewards, while status credits earned within a year simply determine what elite status you can get.
In Cathay Pacific’s case, they have decided to separate it into two different programmes: Asia Miles allow you to earn miles for rewards, while Marco Polo Club determines your status level with the airline. While Asia Miles is free to join, there’s a joining fee of US$100 required for Marco Polo Club, payable every year unless you earn at least 20 status credits.
The good news is that Cathay intends to bring both programmes together into a single (yet to be named) one.
“Many members have told us they would like their experience with Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club to be more seamless. We listened – and in response, we will be introducing a refreshed customer relationship programme that brings together all the great things that you enjoy from Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club.”Cathay Pacific
One key development of this upcoming merger is the ability to earn status credits, or Marco Polo Club points, without having to fly. Pre-pandemic, many airlines held this requirement as a sacred cow: while you can earn reward miles through spending on the ground, status credits to unlock status with the airlines can only be earned through flying, making status hard to achieve for most people, but this will soon set to change.
What happens for existing members?
The short answer: nothing changes.
When the new programme is announced, Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club members will automatically have their points and miles carried over to the new programme, and all existing terms, including expiry dates, remain the same.
Here’s the official Cathay Pacific FAQs about the new programme:
- There will be no changes to your current Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club membership between now and when the refreshed customer relationship programme launches in the first half of 2022.
- Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club members can continue to earn and redeem Asia Miles as they do today.
- Marco Polo Club members can continue to earn club points as they do today.
- Any earned Asia Miles and club points will be carried over to the refreshed programme.
- There will be no changes to the current Marco Polo Club membership tier requirements.
- Your miles balance and expiry date will remain the same and will be automatically carried over to the refreshed programme.
The simplification of Asia Miles and Marco Polo Club is long overdue, so this is definitely a positive development.
What remains to be seen is whether Cathay Pacific will take this opportunity to devalue its miles. The airline last went through one round of changes in redemption rates back in 2018, so this will be a golden opportunity for the airline.
In the meantime, should you still transfer your miles to Asia Miles? Again, all things considered around the current travel restrictions, you should only transfer them when you need to use them in the near term. Otherwise, it’s best to hold out until more details are announced.