It’s proving to be a busy month for frequent flyer status extensions, with several airlines ensuring their most loyal frequent flyers, grounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will retain their status benefits once travel opens up again.
Most importantly for our readers, Singapore Airlines rolled out its second generous one-year status extension for KrisFlyer and PPS Club members with membership years ending between March 2020 and February 2022 now all extended by at least a year and two years in some cases.
The airline also recently made its latest extension to the validity of expiring KrisFlyer miles.
How Marco Polo Club status works
Marco Polo Club is Cathay Pacific’s loyalty programme. Usually, 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 and oneworld member operated flights. You’ll typically earn more club points when flying on a Cathay Pacific 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 usually have to fly at least one revenue (cash) flight on Cathay Pacific during your membership year to retain or upgrade your status level.
The first ‘extension’ policy
In early 2020, Cathay Pacific began ‘dripping’ club points into members’ accounts on a monthly basis in February, March and April 2020, in recognition of reducing flight schedules and fewer opportunities to travel.
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!
Once it became clear the COVID-19 situation would become far more prolonged than airlines first hoped, it was necessary for Cathay Pacific to shift to a more straightforward ‘blanket’ extension policy for Marco Polo Club tier statuses.
Current policy and new extensions
Thankfully Cathay Pacific established a much simpler policy in May 2020, offering a simple 12-month extension to status levels regardless of activity.
Initially those whose memberships expired between May 2020 and April 2021 all benefited from an extra year of status, even without flying.
The latest status extension has now been announced.
If your Marco Polo Club membership year ends in 2021, even as a result of an initial extension last year, it will now be extended as follows:
|Original Membership Expiry Month||Latest Membership Expiry Month|
|January 2021||January 2022|
|February 2021||February 2022|
|March 2021||March 2022|
|April 2021||April 2022|
Note that memberships originally expiring between January 2021 and April 2021, which had already been extended by a year in May 2020, don’t pick up a recharge this time round.
Presumably Cathay Pacific is hoping that travel will start to pick up later in 2021, so a different membership assistance package may be part of the plan for these members. Ultimately of course if the COVID-19 travel restrictions drag on further, these memberships too are likely to pick up a blanket extension in due course.
We will continue to monitor the situation and will announce any changes for 2022 at the appropriate time.Cathay Pacific
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.
Currently members whose status was set to expire in December 2020 benefit the most here. Their status level was already extended by 12 months last year and their current tier level will now last until at least the end of December 2022, even with no flying activity, as a result of this latest extension.
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.
In last year’s extension, expiry dates for mid-tier benefits expiring between May 2020 and April 2020 were extended by 12 months. Also, mid-tier benefits that expired in February, March or April 2020, which had been reissued for six months under the initial extension policy were further extended for another 12 months.
In this new extension, any unused mid-tier benefits that now expire in 2021 will be reissued for another 12 months. This new validity should reflect in your account about seven working days from their current expiry date.
Currently there are no members with mid-tier benefits expiring before May 2021, due to previous extensions, so this latest policy really applies to those expiring between May 2021 and December 2021.
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. 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.
Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo Club members will now retain their tier status until at least January 2022, and in some cases through to December 2022, with this latest extension from the airline.
In some ways the Hong Kong carrier is feeling the effects of COVID-19 even more so than Singapore Airlines, carrying only 1.3% of its usual passenger total in December 2020 (compared to December 2019), while SIA carried 3.2% of its usual total the same month.
Without a quick way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, since vaccination programmes will take at least a year to complete in most countries, there are likely to be further extensions to these status levels later in 2021.
Full details of Cathay Pacific’s automatic tier renewal scheme, including a list of frequently asked questions, are available here.
(Cover Photo: Cathay Pacific)