Reader Question: Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Or British Airways Executive Club?

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A LoyaltyLobby reader from Hong Kong sent me a question how to choose between Cathay Pacific’s or British Airways’ frequent flier programs.

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Here’s the email from the reader:

I’m going through a dilemma now that I would like your opinion on.

I’m a HK-based frequent flyer and I absolutely love Cathay Pacific (especially vs BA), so in the last six years of travel around HK, I’ve managed to enjoy my Diamond status with Marco Polo.

However, looking ahead, the lifetime status that BA offers after 35k tier points (which I should get in around 6-8yrs according to my estimates) is very tempting. Having Emerald Oneworld status for life sounds so good, however that will come at a cost where I will be flying mostly CX and not BA, hence using my Executive Club card on another airline will give me less Avios than flying/earning on CX.

So it is a trade off between getting lifetime points and aiming for a future Gold for life vs getting more miles over time and having to renew status each year.

Do you see any risk that BA cancels its Lifetime status program? Because that would be the worst-case scenario for me.

What would you do? Any help will be appreciated!

This is really a tricky question with no clear answer. It all depends.

On one hand the reader enjoys flying on Cathay Pacific over British Airways (who wouldn’t?) while getting lifetime Gold status (Oneworld Emerald) with BA’s Executive Club is tempting.

On the other hand there can be uncertainties when it comes to lifetime status with any one airline. Whose lifetime is it? The lifetime of the airline or the frequent flier program member? There have been airlines that have gone under, although not as iconic as British Airways.

The airline also can change their frequent flier program that would have an effect on the lifetime one as well. BA could require (not wishing to give them ideas) that only flights on their own metal would count towards it, change the qualification criteria or get rid of it altogether. Nothing really is certain.

The reader probably would get more operation upgrades when flying on Cathay Pacific if he holds high status with Marco Polo program, although other Oneworld program elite members do get occasional upgrades on CX too.

The number of Asia Miles (Cathay’s mile currency) earned for flights and redemption schedule is probably very different compared to Avios. The latter is very good for short-haul rewards in both economy and business but long-haul flights get very expensive Avios wise very fast.

As the reader is based in Hong Kong, the fuel surcharges that airlines can charge for flights originating from HKG are very reasonable (almost nonexistent). Fuel surcharges are rather high on BA.

The reader suggests that he might be able to get Gold Guest List (GGL) status with BA that requires 5,000 Tier Points (TPs) in the first year and 3,000 on subsequent ones. GGL members have award overrides twice a year and also get upgrade vouchers when hitting 2,500 and 3,500 TPs.

I am not very familiar with Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo program because I have not used it too much by myself (beyond some eBay points back in the day in connection with Priceline – long gone).

I did, however, have somewhat similar situation couple of years back. I could have continued to credit my Oneworld flights to American Airlines AAdvantage program where I have lifetime Platinum status (Oneworld Sapphire). I decided to choose BA, however, partially due to the lifetime Gold option in perhaps six years time.

This is my second year crediting to Executive Club and should end with 12K+ lifetime TPs. I would assume that my lifetime Gold is another four to five years away. That is a long time in the frequent flier program universe.

Conclusion

Impossible really to give definite answer. I made my choice and chose BA due to the potential lifetime Gold in not THAT distance future. Nothing is guaranteed though. The reader should consider the pros and cons of the potential move and made his own decision.

I don’t fly that much on British Airways (now mainly on long-haul to burn those upgrade vouchers for business to first upgrades plus some hops in Europe) but have found the program to be good for those that fly in premium cabins. I tend to buy competitive fares that Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Qantas publish while crediting those to BA.

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