• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 10:44am
Cathay Pacific
NewsHong Kong

Cathay Pacific explores online auction for seat upgrades

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 May, 2014, 12:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 May, 2014, 7:44am

Cathay Pacific is considering an online auction - similar to ones on eBay - where passengers can bid to upgrade their seats.

In a move to boost earnings, the Hong Kong carrier - whose net profits tripled to HK$2.62 billion last year - is exploring a pilot project to sell premium economy and business class seats at cheaper prices, allowing it to fly fully booked more often.The plan would open up all available premium seat upgrades to all passengers. "Customers would be invited to place an offer for their booked flights via a website prior to their departure date. If their offer was successful they would be advised around four days prior to departure and the offer payment collected," said a spokesperson from International Customer Loyalty Programmes representing Cathay Pacific on Flyer Talk, a popular aviation forum.

Members of the airline's Marco Polo Club climb faster up the company's tiered membership system depending on how often and how far they travel. Currently, customers who gain the higher tier are more likely to receive better rewards.

But concerned frequent flyers fear free upgrades could be scaled back, a benefit that is offered to Marco Polo Club members, particularly on flights where economy class is fully booked.

The auction is designed to attract the highest bid, while currently, full-fare economy passengers and Marco Polo Club members are offered seat upgrades by Cathay sales agents for a one-off fee before the flight. Separately, at the airport, Marco Polo Club members are often upgraded to a better seat for free.

Air New Zealand is among a handful of airlines that introduced online bidding and initially encountered resistance from loyal passengers fearing cash upgrades would overtake reward upgrades.

It is unclear if available premium seats after an auction would be released to Marco Polo members to purchase last-minute upgrades in higher-class cabins or use air miles outright for a premium-class seat.

Reward seat purchases and free upgrades for frequent flyers could be scaled back, said one analyst. "Operational and staff upgrades could certainly decrease," said Will Horton, an analyst at the Centre for Aviation.

Horton added there was likely to be distrust from passengers, but he urged Cathay to be "transparent" about upgrades and the priority frequent flyers would receive over non-status passengers.

Marco Polo members reacted on the Flyer Talk forum with scorn. One post said the move would make Cathay appear "cheap" and discourage passengers from paying upfront, while another threatened to switch to competing low-cost airlines.

"This is a direct threat to being able to obtain free tickets using [air] miles. That said, from a business point of view, it is quite smart. If Cathay can fill an F [first] class seat which would cost US$15,000 for US$7,500 it is better than flying empty," the post read.

A Cathay spokeswoman said: "We are examining new initiatives that will allow us to offer passengers, including our Marco Polo Club members, different ways to get an upgrade. At this stage the project is still in the study phase."


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Airmiles are not free, you have to earn them by spending and are a form of currency. CX selfishly manipulate their so called "loyalty" scheme for their advantage as you will see if you try to book a redemption flight and are permanently wait listed. This will just make things worse.
BA (another Oneworld member) are far more accommodating so loyalty seems to flow only one way in CX's case.
Way to go CX! Aggravate all your loyal customers and poke the staff Tiger by further reducing staff contractual benefits. Is the company being run by insensitive "bean counters" who dismiss service and loyalty out of hand?
As bad business decisions go, this is up there with lending money to the greeks and the Business class "coffin" seats. Gain for CX, pain for Marco Polo Members.
Don't forget, if you can't redeem your air miles you lose them. Unsurprisingly another CX win/win scenario.
Bad idea that as others have said hits the loyal flyers. We already can't get upgrades using miles even when wait-listed for months and paying the expensive upgradable fares. Now there will be no chance as even when there would be seats available for redemption upgrade they will auction those off instead of allocating to mileage upgrades. In this case. Why buy fares that offer miles that you get no chance to use ? Does CX think their customers are stupid ? We have to use up the miles within 3 years and it's getting increasingly difficult to do this apart from a flight to BKK that you can buy for buttons anyway..... Rethink needed
Polarising Views
Online auction? WIll it work?
I have tried booking holiday packages through their website before and all I got was frustrated... Slow page response times and eventually, after entering all the details and credit card info, all I got was a blank screen... What a way to "start a holiday"! When I contacted them by phone to check if my booking had gone through all they could suggest was to go to their counter in Quarry Bay... From the way they talked it seemed to be a common problem
Friends have also reported major difficulties & frustrations when trying to book flights through cathaypacific.com - from double bookings to no bookings at all.
I book tickets/hotels through other airline / hotel sites with no problems... so why cant CX upgrade their system so it actually works?
I doubt I will trust their "auction" system after my bad experience with them before.
GREEDS comes first!!!
Spot on Harry!! I voted with my wallet. Another bright idea from CX which has premium prices and not a premium product.
Premium Economy? Another sales pitch from their marketing dept. Economy will be economy ... no matter how/what grand-a-name you call it. Perhaps their [CX] next sales pitch would be their 'royal conveniences' [toilet] facilities.
Everyone likes to complain about airlines...travelers in Asia have it pretty good compared to the US. I was at one time 1K on UA, diamond on DL and silver on CX (still have that last one). I no longer care about brand loyalty and fly the most convenient airline that employs a reasonable safety standard. I usually fly CX/KA on my frequent trips to China but just tried MU again and was pleasantly surprised; for about 1/3 the cost of CX/KA.
Wonder what this will fall into on the pursers passenger flight info on what passengers are worth. In the same service class full price passengers get the best service, then down the MPC tiers and other price categories and even after redemption ticket holders upgrade passengers get the worst service. Where will this group fit in? Will it depend on how much they spent at auction?
must be a slow news day if scmp if reduced to trolling internet forums for stories...


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