One Year Later, Cathay Pacific’s Rewards Programme Happy with its Blockchain Port

by April 26, 2019

In May last year, the Cathay Pacific Group, via its rewards programme Asia Miles, launched an app utilising smart contracts via blockchain.

The campaign at the core of the new platform was a newly launched Asia Miles dining promotion in Hong Kong. Asia Miles members will have their miles credited to their accounts the following day, an unusual move from the usual months-long process for calculating miles before.

Today, it’s now close to a year since Asia Miles has incorporated blockchain into its operations, and it has been an interesting journey of melding the regular call center-style operations Cathay Pacific had been doing until recently, with the tech-forward blockchain-based operations.

Seemingly to commemorate their now almost 1-year-old dalliance with blockchain, Forbes held an interview with Micheal Yung, the Head of Digital Product and Technology at Asia Miles. According to Forbes, Micheal has helped grow the company and helped it continue its evolution into becoming a digital leader in the loyalty space for 5 years now.

The following is a summary of the Forbes interview.

The Old Versus the New

Image by Wilson Lee on Son Gallery

The Asia Miles loyalty programme was launched in 1999, accumulating over 11 million members, and about 700 partners around the world to serve those members.

As a 20-year-old programme that previously primarily operated via newsletters and call centers, making the shift to blockchain requires a partnership team that is able to work with its extensive partner list to ensure that targeted members are channeled to the partners so they can grow their business.

There is also the issue of providing the right offers, products and services to members so that they see Asia Miles as something of value.

“With the call center, members would punch in their membership ID and password and talk to an agent.”


“Over time, we have incorporated the website, email, and now [service through] mobile devices that allow us to provide more personalized experiences to our members.”

This process eventually led the team to embed their marketing campaigns in blockchain-based smart contracts.

As a result, of the blockchain port, the typical several-month wait for bonuses to arrive at the consumers has been shortened to mere hours via smart contracts—as this removed the need for real-life teams to make the calculations, data retrieval, and reconciliations before awarding bonus hours.

“Once they finish flying, they get the miles, so we are focused on how we can reward those members. Because we have a different brand, Asia Miles can partner with any airline we want on top of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon. This is an exciting business model and an interesting setup.”

“We are 100% owned by Cathay Pacific, and while we have 26 airline partners, they are our biggest.”

Yet, Micheal reports that they still have members who have been around for more than a decade that still prefer the call center.

“For these hybrid members, they likely arrange their itinerary with their assistants instead of by themselves directly. However, the latest generation wants self-services, chatbots, and mobile devices, so we have to implement our digital products accordingly.”

Then, it is all about finding a better way to sell their offers to the right members: which Asia Miles attempts to do so by tabulating their persona, their lifetime value and their stage in life.

“For example, if they are a student, they may want a mobile phone or headphones, instead of something else, while if they are a successful businessman, they might want a first-class ticket from Hong Kong to San Francisco.”

Keeping Themselves Tech-Forward

Image Credit: Screenshot of a YouTube video by SiliconANGLE theCUBE

Looking ahead, Micheal is now eyeing self service technologies like chatbots and robotic process automation. For one thing, these technologies improve back-office efficiency and allow them to link legacy systems together.

Chatbots and live chat also provide self-service to the younger generations utilizing Asia Miles.

“Digital marketing is not only about posting a video on YouTube or on social media. Instead, it has to be driven by data, driven by proper segmentation, and it has to be pushed to the proper channel at the right time. We are investing a lot of resources on this.”

As such, they continue to be deeply interested in blockchain and smart contract technology, as with their loyalty program, Asia Miles can save time and effort in reconciliation, data integrity and other important areas.

Asia Miles has its contemporaries across the globe. Malaysia’s AirAsia, around the same time, announced that it was mulling a cryptocurrency-based rewards program as well, and Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer, was set to launch a new digital wallet app, powered by blockchain.