Los Angeles

Why am I in Los Angeles again?

My Silver Elite membership with Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo Club needed exactly 4,322 miles to renew this year. After reviewing possible routes on partner airline American Airlines, I decided on the JFK-LAX as each sector would give me 2,468 miles, which is 4,936 miles round-trip. That's more than what I need for renewing my membership. When I saw a good deal on the airfare with American Airlines, I immediately booked my flight. Cheap airfares always disappear as fast as you can say "I'm flying again!" Besides, I could really use my long weekend, Monday (1/15/2007) being a federal holiday and of course, to see my cute niece Cheska Maxine again.

But what's with being a member of Marco Polo Club?

Airlines always compete for passengers and one way of ensuring loyalty from their customers is to offer perks to their frequent fliers. Virtually all airlines these days have their own loyalty programmes. Cathay Pacific has its Asiamiles, a programme that rewards you not just for flying but for utilising such services as partner hotels, restaurants, shops and credit cards. For elite members, Cathay Pacific has the Marco Polo Club, an exclusive programme that offers more by providing a range of privileges meant "to enhance the journey before, during and after the flight."

I've been a member of Asiamiles since 1999 and was upgraded to a Silver Elite membership with Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo Club after accumulating enough miles. The advantage of being an elite member becomes apparent even before I fly a Cathay Pacific flight. At its reservation offices, I get preferential treatment (I don't have to queue!) and I can choose my favorite seat in the plane (that's the emergency exit-window which has plenty of space!)). During check-in, I use the Business Class counter even with an Economy Class ticket and if the flight is overbooked, I get an upgrade to business class (it has happened several times!). My luggage gets priority handling - tagged as business class cargo - which really saves me a lot of waiting time at the luggage carousel and therefore leave the airport quickly. I also have access to the Business Class lounge, whether that's at JFK, Hong Kong or Manila - the idea of relaxing at the cozy Terraces Lounge at JFK or the Wing at Chek Lap Kok Airport makes flying less stressful indeed! (I always take a shower at Hong Kong's business class lounge after the 16-hour non-stop flight from New York.) Priority boarding is also another bonus which means by the time my seatmate settles in, I have already secured my carry-on luggage in the precious overhead bin (how many times has it happened that you end up with nowhere to store your carry-on but in the plane's belly or several rows behind you?) And of course, there's the ultimate reward: snagging free tickets even on partner airlines. To date, I've redeemed three business class seats, each worth 60,000 miles: flying to Europe on British Airways and recently, to South America on Lan Chile. In dollar terms, the free business class ticket I got for the New York-London-Zurich flight I took in February 2005 alone cost $8,000!!! That's how far your 60,000 miles could go!

As Cathay Pacific is a member of Oneworld, an alliance of airlines that includes American Airlines, British Airways, Lan Chile, Qantas, Iberia, Finnair, Dragonair and Air Lengus, my earning potential while flying has increased. I fly with American Airlines exclusively within the United States and I credit my flights to my Marco Polo Club account. In other words, I don't have to fly Cathay Pacific all the time to maintain my membership. The added beauty here again is that I also get preferential treatment during check-in (I could use American Airlines business class counters but I prefer the convenience of self-service kiosks whenever I have no luggage to check-in) and I get priority boarding as well (group 1!)

Flying, especially the long-haul kind, can be stressful but in the end, it can also be rewarding. For those travellers who maintain a special relationship with an airline, the experience becomes more than just flying from point A to point B. They are the previleged: pampered before, during and after every flight, making each flight more enjoyable and memorable.

It does pay dividends to fly more!

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