Cathay – the loyalty programme of Cathay Pacific – just made elite status easier to earn. The updates will reduce the number of status points required to gain elite status and reward members who successfully re-qualify for status. This post will briefly go over the changes. I’ll also share some of my thoughts on the changes.
Cathay Pacific 777 Business Class
Just to be clear, to avoid confusion:
Cathay refers to the loyalty programme.
Cathay Pacific refers to the Hong Kong-based airline we know and love.
Status Points are the points members earn based on flying and credit card spending to qualify for elite status.
For more information about the Cathay programme, check out our guide here.
This special offer is only extended to those with a membership “year” ending between the 1st of December, 2023 to the 31st of March, 2024. This should include the vast majority of Cathay members, considering that the programme recently reset all membership years to end in December of each year.
Cathay Pacific 777 at Hong Kong Airport
For context, membership years in the Cathay programme can start and end any month of the year. Meanwhile, most other frequent flyer programmes have a “standard” membership year that starts on the 1st of January and ends on the 31st of December in a given year. Cathay members may also choose to re-set their membership year once they have reached a certain point threshold.
By limiting the offer to those with a membership year ending after the 1st of December, it’s clear Cathay is trying to prevent members from re-setting their membership years early once they’ve reached the reduced points requirements.
In other words, if you reset your membership year before the 1st of December, you won’t be eligible to get elite status under the reduced points requirements.
The Changes, in a Nutshell
Cathay is reducing the number of status points required to earn status by 30% across all status levels. This means that:
- You’ll need 210 Status Points to qualify for Silver status (down from 300 Status Points)
- You’ll need 420 Status Points to qualify for Gold status (down from 600 Status Points)
- You’ll need 840 Status Points to qualify for Diamond status (down from 1,200 Status Points)
Gold and Diamond members enjoy access to the Qantas Lounge Hong Kong via their oneworld status
Members who would have achieved a certain status level based on the original status point requirement will receive a 30% “boost” or head start to re-qualify for status in 2024. So.
- If you earn between 300-419 status points, you’ll get Silver status and start the next membership year with 100 extra status points
- If you earn between 600-839 status points, you’ll get Gold status and start the next membership year with 200 extra status points
- If you earn over 1,200 status points, you’ll get Diamond status and start the next membership year with 400 extra status points.
This offer is even more generous when considering that, at the start of 2023, many Cathay members already received a 30% status points boost.
Interestingly, in the email, Cathay promises that the airline will “[revert] to normal membership qualifications” in 2024. This makes sense – it’s been 4 years since members have had to earn status the good-old-fashioned way (i.e. flying). Furthermore, Cathay Pacific expects to recover to pre-pandemic levels of capacity in 2024, indicating that members’ flying should also return to pre-pandemic levels.
Here’s a handy graphic as part of an email that Cathay Pacific sent to Cathay members which explains some of the changes.
Source: Cathay Pacific
1: This is great for frequent flyers.
This special offer is – frankly – exceedingly generous. Using my flying this past year as an example, if I earn 640 status points from flying with Cathay Pacific and other oneworld partners by the end of my membership year. Under “normal” circumstances, that would land me – firmly – with Gold Status. I also started the year with 200 bonus status points. Hence, with the new membership qualification thresholds, I would be on track to get Diamond status for 2024.
On the surface, this is great news – more elite status for more people is always good news. That being said, I feel that these lower elite qualification thresholds may cause problems for Cathay in the future.
2: I’d Expect Teething Problems
As I’ve mentioned – Cathay has effectively granted free status extensions to its members for 4 years in a row. Granted, Cathay Pacific heavily paired back its schedule from 2020 to the end of 2022, meaning that not many new travellers gained status. However, I’d imagine that the number of members with elite status with the programme will grow significantly with these lower membership qualification thresholds, especially considering that Cathay Pacific is making good progress on restoring routes and flight frequencies.
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 at Zurich Airport
Similarly, many US-based airlines reduced points earning requirements for elite status throughout the pandemic, and are now struggling to offer guaranteed benefits to status holders. For example, Delta recently made drastic cuts to the SkyMiles programme with a goal to bring the number of elite status holders back to pre-pandemic levels. The cuts were very poorly received both by the general public and the frequent flyer community.
3. Specific Teething Problems
I’m also curious about how these reduced earning rates will affect lounge crowding at Hong Kong Airport. The Bridge (located near 40) and the downstairs area of The Wing, Business (near Gate 1-4) were closed during the pandemic, drastically shrinking Cathay Pacific’s lounge footprint. While Cathay Pacific is planning to open new flagship lounges in Hong Kong, they definitely won’t be ready in the next few months.
Cathay’s Lounge Capacity at Hong Kong Airport is becoming an issue
Lounge overcrowding is already an issue with Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong lounges. Considering that Cathay grants all elite members (yes, including Silver members) lounge access, I hope that the easier status qualification rates won’t exacerbate the problem. Beyond lounge access, demand for “premium” services (e.g. priority check-in, boarding, priority customer service) will also increase and strain existing infrastructure.
I’d also expect that elite recognition will get worse. For example, I’ve noticed that many of the “soft” perks typically given to elite members (e.g. priority meal choice for Gold members when travelling in Economy) have either been inconsistently offered or paired back post-COVID.
Gold members don’t always get their first choice of meals in Economy anymore
Don’t get me wrong – it’s great that more people will get greater value out of the Cathay programme. That being said, I just hope that Cathay won’t end up with more elite members than the airline can handle.
Cathay has reduced elite status membership qualification requirements for 2023 by 30% across the board. Meanwhile, passengers who make the “normal” elite status membership qualification will get a 30% head start in status point earnings for the following membership year. This is great news for many Cathay Pacific flyers, myself included. However, I hope that these reduced membership qualification thresholds won’t cause issues (e.g. lounge overcrowding, worsening elite recognition) in the future.