Airlines around the world have been finding ways to keep their most loyal frequent flyers happy during the COVID-19 outbreak by extending their top-tier status benefits, or making it easier for them to renew at their current status levels, while it’s become almost impossible to travel during this period.
You may recall that in early April Singapore Airlines rolled out a generous one-year status extension for KrisFlyer and PPS Club members with membership years ending between March 2020 and February 2021.
The airline also later extended the validity of KrisFlyer miles expiring between April 2020 and August 2020 by six months.
How Marco Polo Club status works
Marco Polo Club is Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon’s loyalty programme. Marco Polo Club members need to accrue a certain level of ‘club points’ to earn and retain status through the scheme.
If you’re not familiar with how the club points system works, here’s a summary.
Club points Club points are accrued when flying revenue (cash) fares on Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon and oneworld member operated flights. You’ll typically earn more club points when flying on a Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon flight compared to a oneworld carrier on the same route.
Within each membership year, these are the club points thresholds you’ll usually need to achieve in order to either retain or upgrade your Marco Polo Club status level.
|20 club points||300 club points||600 club points||1,200 club points|
For example if you are a Gold member and you have accrued only 500 club points in your membership year, you would usually be downgraded to Silver status at the end of your membership year.
Also note that you’ll have to fly at least one revenue (cash) flight on Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon during your membership year to retain or upgrade your status level.
The initial policy
Cathay Pacific began by ‘dripping’ club points into members’ accounts on a monthly basis in February, March and April 2020, as follows:
- Green: 10 club points per month
- Silver: 30 club points per month
- Gold: 65 club points per month
- Diamond: 140 club points per month
Mid-tier benefits expiring in February, March and April 2020 were also extended by six months.
It was a strange ‘piecemeal’ approach benefiting some more than others. It was also complicated for members, many of whom now had to get their calculators out to determine the impact, and judging by comments over at the FlyerTalk forum it wasn’t going down well with many.
For those who had planned to do the majority of their club points earning for status retention or upgrade towards the end of their membership year, and even booked the flights to achieve this, the policy potentially now made this impossible.
Furthermore, it was an approach that would require the airline the continue to top up accounts with batches of club points to ensure ‘approximate’ renewal for members the longer the COVID-19 situation went on.
The new policy
Thankfully Cathay Pacific has come up with a much simpler policy, one of the most generous we’ve seen so far from the airlines.
“The COVID-19 situation has evolved into a global pandemic, and many countries have instituted travel bans and restrictions to curb its spread. This in turn has lowered demand and we have significantly reduced capacity across our passenger network.
“Knowing this has seriously affected your ability to travel and may continue to impact your travel plans for some months to come, we are renewing the current tier level of Green, Silver, Gold and Diamond members whose membership period expires from May 2020 to April 2021 for another 12 months, even if the normal renewal requirement is not met.” Cathay Pacific
Effectively if your Marco Polo Club membership year ends between May 2020 and April 2021, it will be extended as follows:
|Current Membership Expiry Month||New Membership Expiry Month|
|May 2020||May 2021|
|June 2020||June 2021|
|July 2020||July 2021|
|August 2020||August 2021|
|September 2020||September 2021|
|October 2020||October 2021|
|November 2020||November 2021|
|December 2020||December 2021|
|January 2021||January 2022|
|February 2021||February 2022|
|March 2021||March 2022|
|April 2021||April 2022|
If you’re not sure what your current membership expiry month is, you can find this information by logging on to your account and checking the ‘Account Balance’ page.
There is no need to register for the renewal, it will be done automatically at the end of your current membership year.
Members whose status was renewed by a year last month (i.e. those who renewed in April 2020 and therefore now have an April 2021 membership expiry date) benefit the most here. Their current status level will now last until at least the end of April 2022, even with no flying activity.
Mid-tier benefits reissue
For each of the status tiers in the Marco Polo Club programme, on reaching specific club points thresholds (but before the threshold to achieve an upgrade to the next status level), you are awarded with mid-tier benefit(s).
These include lounge passes and cabin upgrades. Mid-tier benefits are typically valid for 6 or 12 months from the date of issue.
The expiry dates for mid-tier benefits currently expiring between May 2020 and April 2020 will be extended by 12 months.
“We will also reissue mid-tier benefits that expire between May 2020 and April 2021 for another 12 months so you can enjoy them when your travel resumes. The reissue should take 7 working days from the date of expiry.” Cathay Pacific
Mid-tier benefits that expired in February, March or April 2020 and were reissued for six months under the initial extension policy will be further extended for another 12 months.
What about Asia Miles?
Asia Miles, Cathay Pacific’s award currency, are also accrued by Marco Polo Club members when they fly.
These now work on a ‘no expiry’ basis for miles accrued from 1st January 2020 onwards. Provided you earn or redeem at least one Asia Mile every 18 months, your entire balance earned from 1st January 2020 onwards remains safe.
If you accrued any of your Asia Miles balance on or before 31st December 2019, these still work on a three-year expiry cycle. Currently there has been no extension offered for these miles.
Asia Miles are redeemed on a first-in, first-out basis, so the oldest miles are always used up first when you spend them. That means any miles you still have that fall under the time-based expiry system (pre 1st Jan 2020) will be deducted first, before any miles you may have sitting in the activity-based system (post 1st Jan 2020).
If you have a mix of miles earned under the old and new systems, your Asia Miles account will show you how many of your total miles balance fall into each of the two expiry categories.
You can ‘port’ any miles earned under the old system to the new activity-based system for a fee of US$40 per 2,000 miles renewed, which almost certainly isn’t worth it.
To begin with, Cathay Pacific came up with a slightly messy policy to help its Marco Polo Club members retain or upgrade their status levels during the COVID-19 outbreak, by ‘dripping’ club points into their accounts on a monthly basis.
That potentially wasn’t going to work for members who had planned to do the vast majority of their club points earning in the February to May 2020 period, assuming that was the also around the end of their membership year.
Thankfully the airline has redeemed itself with this simple, wide-ranging and generous ‘blanket extension’ policy, protecting practically all its membership status levels and other benefits for an additional year.
With some members enjoying their status until April 2022, this also indicates how long Cathay Pacific potentially forecasts the COVID-19 recovery process to take. The airline carried only 13,700 passengers in April 2020, approximately the same number of flights it operated in April 2019.
(Cover Photo: Cathay Pacific)