Cathay Pacific mulls award seat availability revamp

Cathay Pacific is considering radical changes which will drastically reduce the ability of frequent flyers holding points with its partner airlines (such as Qantas, American Airlines and other oneworld members) to redeem for seats on Cathay Pacific.

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Cathay Pacific first class seat – an amazing product and a popular redemption for those with partner miles


An article entitled Cathay plans more free flights for own regulars, published this morning by the South China Morning Post (now available online as Cathay reviews loyalty scheme to give more free flights to own customers) said that the “plan is to slash the number of free air tickets available for partner airlines and to reallocate those to Cathay’s own Marco Polo Club members”, attributing “sources close to the ongoing review”. It also quoted a spokeswoman saying not very much:

“A review is under way to ensure our programme continues to meet the changing needs of our members and is competitive with the loyalty clubs of other major global airlines,” a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman said.

Airlines release a sub-set of their capacity as inventory, referred to as ‘award’ classes for frequent fliers to redeem miles for. Typically airlines like Cathay Pacific have not discriminated between their members and members of their partners in offering this space, despite the frequent flyer programmes of some of their partners being much more generous in the ability to earn miles.

Other carriers, like Singapore Airlines, already restrict first (suites) class seats to their own members. Lufthansa has a slightly different method whereby redemptions out of its own Miles & More frequent flyer programme (colloquially known as Miles & Less for its poor redemption values and high fuel surcharges and fees) can be made for first class seats as the schedule opens but partner airlines can only redeem for those seats starting 14 days out. For redemption on SWISS, they have gone all the way and restricted first class award seats to high tier elites in the Miles & More programme, regardless of when they are booked.

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Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400 (now retired from the Cathay Pacific fleet)

Cathay Pacific seem to be wanting to follow the broader industry trend of focusing more closely rewarding members who typically spend larger volumes of money with one airline, alliances be damned.

Should this move come to fruition, it will come as a blow for members of American Airlines’ AAdvantage (which the South China Morning Post said ‘gives away tens of millions of free miles to flyers each year via credit card schemes’), Qantas, other oneworld partners and also frequent flyer schemes of more niche carriers such as Alaska Airlines.

Cathay Pacific's 'The Wing' first class lounge cabana

Cathay Pacific’s ‘The Wing’ first class lounge cabana

MilesDownUnder.com will closely follow developments and keep you updated. It will be interesting to see how Cathay Pacific will restrict the release of award seats to partners, and whether there is additional availability for high tier members of its elite frequent flyer programme, The Marco Polo Club.

In another much longer article, also published this morning, the South China Morning Post extolls some of the benefits of being at the Diamond tier of Cathay Pacific’s programme. The article also refers to many of the ‘devaluations’ made by airlines such as British Airways, Delta and United over the last 12 months.

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