Here’s something that’s a cute concept, though rich in irony.
Loyalty programs are increasingly trying to engage with members in non-traditional means. We’ve seen this with programs like Starwood Preferred Guest, where SPG Moments lets you redeem points for some experiences you may not otherwise be able to have.
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program is offering something innovative, though I’m not totally sure I follow the logic. Cathay Pacific will be operating flights between Hong Kong and Osaka (one in each direction) that are exclusively bookable using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles. So you couldn’t even pay cash for a ticket on one of these flights.
The flights will be operated by one of Cathay Pacific’s A330s, with the following schedule:
Aug 30 CX8538 Hong Kong to Osaka departing 9:35AM arriving 2:25PM
Sep 03 CX8541 Osaka to Hong Kong departing 5:00PM arriving 8:00PM
What I find strange is that I don’t see any flights in the opposite direction for those dates (from Osaka to Hong Kong on August 30 and Hong Kong to Osaka on September) that match up with these, so I’m not sure what’s going on there. I suppose it’s possible that they have chartered A330s in the other directions for those dates, and the whole reason they’re doing this is to get creative with flights that would otherwise essentially be “empty legs.”
All of the seats on these flights are available at the “standard” award levels, and you can mix and match your trip, meaning that you could fly in one direction on one of these chartered flights, and in the other direction on a regular flight, should you want to stay shorter or longer. The charters are clearly designed to maximize a long weekend away, as the outbound is on Thursday and return is on Sunday.
The cost to redeem on these flights is 10,000 miles one-way in economy, or 25,000 miles one-way in business class, so it’s on par with their normal redemption rates in the market.
Award availability on these flights seems to be good, as you’d expect.
While I think this is a cool concept as such, I’m not really sure I get what they’re going for here. They’re not really offering a special experience (unless you want to be featured in Asia Miles’ advertising materials, as they do say they’ll be videoing and photographing the flight). They don’t have anything special planned on the ground either, and it’s not like you couldn’t otherwise get to Osaka with Asia Miles. So they’re essentially just offering extra capacity on the route.
Operating a charter flight isn’t cheap, so Cathay Pacific and Asia Miles are dropping some real cash on this, though clearly they view this as a marketing opportunity. The irony is that Cathay Pacific is stingier than ever before when it comes to releasing business class award seats, even when the seats would otherwise go out empty. Releasing a business class award seat when it would otherwise go out empty costs next to nothing, while this charter costs… a lot.
So while I like the concept, I’d rather see Cathay Pacific make more award seats available on regular flights than offer a publicity stunt like this.
What do you make of Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles charter for mileage redemptions?