Flying another airline: problems redeeming Cathay Pacific lounge access

Last August 28, I was on my way back to Hong Kong after a weekend trip in the Philippines. Unfortunately, there were flight disruptions the previous day due to Typhoon Mawar. Due to the surge of passengers from the cancelled and delayed flights, I was offloaded. I ended up with a free hotel stay, meals and a roundtrip voucher to any Cebu Pacific international destination. Kudos to Cebu Pacific for handling the situation well. The only hiccup was they sent me back to the airport too early for my flight!

Getting confirmation from gate agents

Upon arrival at the airport, my instinct told me to use my AsiaMiles to redeem a Cathay Pacific business class lounge access. I immediately went to the gate agents of an outbound Cathay Pacific flight and sought confirmation if I can avail it even though I’m flying another airline. I had to do this at the gate because the lifts going to airline lounges in MNL Terminal 3 are in the rightmost side of the international wing. The gate agents told me that I’m only allowed to do so if I’m flying with Cathay Pacific but I objected. I quoted their website where it says:

One of the pleasures of flying with us is our lounges, where you can relax, refresh and recharge before your flight. No matter which class you fly, as a Marco Polo Club member, you can redeem lounge access for yourselves, friends and family members even if you’re not flying Cathay Pacific, Cathay Dragon, or a oneworld airline.

 

They redirected to the lounge instead. In fairness to the people at the gate at that time (Zoey and Jan), they tried their best to be helpful.

Even the fine print says it’s possible to redeem it even when flying another airline!

Experience with lounge personnel

When I arrived at the lounge, I saw the same helpful ladies who helped me earlier print a previous business class ticket I had with them. They were on their way to end their shift but they still helped me with my concern. They gave me the same information but advised me to call The Club hotline instead for confirmation. The ladies of the outgoing shift and the incoming shift (Aira, Sib, Harley, and another girl) tried to get in touch with The Club for me and explained my situation to the other person on the lounge before passing it off to me.

Even The Club agent was not aware of the privilege

Honey, the lady on the line, as I expected, gave me the same information. Again, I quoted the snippet from their website so she can double check. I had to insist that such information is posted online and she suggested that I might be looking at another airline’s website. I confirmed that I am indeed on the Cathay Pacific website so she did further search on her knowledgebase. It took her a long time to give me confirmation that I am indeed entitled to redeem lounge access in exchange of 9,000 AsiaMiles. She suggested that Cathay Pacific is constantly updating the website thus the confusion.

The excuse wasn’t good enough for me as Cathay Pacific or Marco Polo Club should immediately inform their gate agents, lounge desk personnel and even phone agents of any changes on the website or any policy in that sense. I lost more than an hour just trying to redeem lounge access. It defeated the purpose of me redeeming which is for me to have a more comfortable wait at the airport since I had to kill a lot of time talking to agents in person and on the phone.

I had to raise this issue over the phone and was assured that this won’t happen again as there’s a note on my account saying the same.

And yet, it’s still not over

I thought the whole debacle was over… but upon my arrival in Hong Kong, I noticed I have the missing miles report I made from another flight was rejected because my booking class was not eligible for mileage accrual – which is incorrect! I’m not sure if I called The Club or AsiaMiles. After the agent over the phone confirmed that I am indeed eligible for mileage accrual, I asked her the question about lounge access when flying on another airline in exchange for 9,000 AsiaMiles.

The agent I talked to at that time, consistent to what others have initially said, told me that I can only exercise the privilege when flying Cathay Pacific or partner airlines. As usual, I objected and quoted the website. It took her another 15 minutes to find the information I was referring to before she finally confirmed that I can indeed redeem lounge access to Cathay Pacific-operated lounges worldwide even if I’m flying another airline.

Earlier, in connection to the dispute I had with my rejected missing miles request, I received yet another rejection despite the agent confirming my eligibility. It was an opportunity to call The Club again to clarify my missing miles and clarify on the lounge access (just to test if they’re agents are knowledgeable on the policy). After reopening my dispute on my missing miles, I proceeded with the same question. As I’ve expected, I received the same initial answer given to me by all gate, lounge and phone agents I’ve talked to. She reiterated that I can only avail of the same when flying with them. I moved on with quoting the snippet on their website and she double-checked. It took her around 10 minutes to confirm the said information!

So what do I expect moving forward?

I don’t want to keep my hopes high that I’ll be able to redeem lounge access with them when flying another airline. I’m expecting all this hiccups again, having to reiterate their policy. This means I’ll end up wasting a lot of time everytime I want to exercise the said privilege.

I really hope Cathay Pacific issue a memo or clarify this policy on their training modules so their personnel are aware of their very own policy. As usual, I will keep on reiterating this question to their personnel everytime I get a chance to – just to get an idea how many of them are actually aware of this.

 

I’m Mikko, an overseas Filipino worker based in Hong Kong.

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