Skift Take

It's only a matter of time until American Airlines follows suit.

Hong Kong’s flag carrier and American Airlines partner Cathay Pacific just changed its loyalty program to reflect the industry trend of awarding better status to higher paying business and first class passengers.

The change is part of a recent seismic change to the airline loyalty game as one airline after another changes its program to factor revenue into its calculation for qualification. So far, many airlines in the Oneworld network including American Airlines have resisted the change, but as of this year, one after another is changing tactic.

British Airways was the first major Oneworld carrier to announce its program changes in February of this year.

Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo club updates, echoing British Airways and announced just this week, follow a similar tack. The program is shifting to a points-based program that disburses rewards based on the class of service and distance that the passenger flies. Those in First and Business class earn a premium on their earned points, while economy passengers earn only a fraction of that.

Now that both Cathay and British have shifted over to a program based on fare class, many are now wondering how long American Airlines will hold its ground. Late last month, bloggers discovered an inconsistency on several of American’s international websites that suggested that it was altering its mileage program (though only on partner carriers). That was later proven to be a clerical error, and the airline has since promised that any loyalty program changes will be announced well in advance.

Still, there’s a steady unease within the American Airlines loyalty program community, as if the other shoe could drop at any time. Those flying on British and Cathay can now look forward to spending more for their elite status next. For loyal American American airlines passengers, 2017 may be in the cards.


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Tags: alliances, cathay pacific, loyalty, oneworld

Photo credit: Cathay Pacific's new branding in October 2014. Cathay Pacific

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