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Update: As of April 15, 2016, Cathay Pacific’s new zone-based Marco Polo Club earning system is now in effect.

The best way to redeem for long-haul Cathay Pacific flights has been (and will remain to be) American AAdvantage miles, but for travelers crediting flights to earn status in CX’s own Marco Polo Club, the process is about to change significantly. For now, redemptions via Asia Miles won’t change, however, and there’s still no final word on whether or not Cathay Pacific will restrict partner redemptions in the future.

A Cathay Pacific 777-300.
A Cathay Pacific 777-300.

Cathay Pacific operates two frequent flyer programs: Asia Miles, which awards points that can be used for free flights, and Marco Polo, which grants elite benefits. Beginning April 15, 2016, Cathay will be moving to a zone-based earning structure for its Marco Polo program, awarding points based on several parameters, though not the exact distance of a flight. Flights on Cathay Pacific and Dragonair will earn significantly more points than equivalent flights operated by a partner Oneworld airline, such as AA.

Earning Club Points

Club points awarded for Cathay Pacific and Dragonair flights.
Club points awarded for Cathay Pacific and Dragonair flights.

For example, you’ll earn Marco Polo Club points based on the above chart for flights operated by Cathay Pacific and Dragonair. Like with the current program, award flights are not eligible for mileage accrual.

Club points awarded for American Airlines flights.
Club points awarded for American Airlines flights.

Meanwhile, here’s the chart for earning Club points for American Airlines flights. Note that you’ll earn fewer points in nearly every fare class, with the exception of certain economy flights.

Points and miles awarded for a round-trip Cathay Pacific first-class flight from New York.
Points and miles awarded for a round-trip Cathay Pacific first-class flight from New York.

You’ll earn 280 Club points for a round-trip Cathay Pacific first-class flight from New York to Hong Kong, which falls under the “ultra-long” category. You’ll also earn 24,178 Asia miles.

Points and miles awarded for a round-trip American Airlines first-class flight from Dallas.
Points and miles awarded for a round-trip American Airlines first-class flight from Dallas.

American Airlines’ flight from Dallas also falls under the same category, but it earns 80 fewer Club points (though Asia miles are awarded at the same rate).

Elite Status Levels

The Marco Polo Club is retaining its four status levels: Green, Silver, Gold and Diamond. You’ll earn Green status after earning 100 Club points, Silver after 300 points, Gold after 600 points and Diamond after 1,200 points. Based on the above earning rates, you’ll need 9 long-haul first-class segments on Cathay Pacific to earn Diamond status, and 12 long-haul first-class segments operated by American Airlines.

Marco Polo Club elite benefits.
New Marco Polo Club elite benefits chart.

As far as the actual benefits go, not much has changed when it comes to booking privileges. Above are the new benefits.

Current Marco Polo Club elite benefits.
Current Marco Polo Club elite benefits chart.

And below are the old benefits. The chart has a new design, but each status level retains the same benefits as before.

Lounge Access and Other Benefits

Marco Polo Club lounge access chart.
Marco Polo Club lounge access chart.

Lounge access requirements also remain the same. Silver members and above can access Cathay Pacific business-class lounges and Diamond members can access first-class lounges.

Cathay's mid-tier benefits chart.
Cathay’s mid-tier benefits chart.

Cathay Pacific is adding what it’s calling “mid-tier” benefits. Essentially, these are perks that you’ll receive for earning points beyond an elite-status tier. The most rewarding benefits are the four upgrade certificates — Gold upgrades can be applied to flights up to 3,700 miles in length, while Diamond upgrades can be applied to any Cathay Pacific or Dragonair flight.

Bottom Line

Overall, the changes aren’t so bad if you’re crediting Cathay Pacific or Dragonair flights. If you’re flying Oneworld airlines and are crediting those flights to Cathay, however, you’ll have to fly even more to earn elite benefits. Ultimately, if you’re based in the US, you’ll receive better perks crediting your Cathay Pacific flights to American Airlines, unless you happen to fly Cathay to Asia many times each year.

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