Cathay Pacific passengers may soon have to fly with the airline almost once a week to qualify for unlimited lounge access, according to proposals in a consultation the airline is conducting on its Marco Polo Club frequent flyer scheme. That would effectively downgrade passengers who qualified merely for silver-tier membership - broadly equivalent to taking 20 economy-class flights per year - to using the premium airport facilities as few as four times a year. Unlimited lounge access would become out of their reach unless they rose to the gold tier, the second-highest level on the four-tier scheme that also includes diamond and green. The possible changes were set out in a survey sent to Marco Polo members last month to collect feedback about the airline's main loyalty programme. The proposals came as Cathay was honoured in the summer as the "world's best airline" for the fourth time and vowed to overhaul its brand to provide a better experience for customers. Cabin crew and pilots are already unhappy with pay and working practices and are seeking bigger salary rises from their employer's HK$347 million first-half net profit. A spokeswoman for Cathay said: "The survey mentioned is part of our continuous efforts to identify customer preferences so that we can best meet their changing needs. No decisions have been taken regarding the findings of the survey." Frequent Cathay flyers move up the tiers of the Marco Polo Club through club miles, which reward regular long-haul flyers, and club sectors, meant for short-haul and Asian travel. Currently, club-sector travellers who fly economy class 20 times a year qualify for silver-tier membership, which gives them unlimited lounge access. The changes would mean eligibility would rise to 40 flights - or 60,000 miles - that the gold tier now requires. Marco Polo Club members described the potential changes as a "bombshell", though regular travellers often complained of entering airport lounges that were too busy and lacked a premium travel experience. Dennis Lim See-kai, chief operating officer of an executive search firm, said: "They have already increased the bar for silver membership. Changing the lounge access rule as well sounds like a cost-cutting project. "I am already upset that they raised the requirements [for the silver tier], and now they are proposing to reduce the benefits of silver as well. Having said that, I wouldn't be changing as I fly to different countries and there isn't an alternative airline with the same reach from Hong Kong." Airline executives told analysts on Friday that there was no cost consideration for the rumoured change.