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Cathay Is Tracking Their Elite Passengers

Cathay Is Tracking Their Elite Passengers
Jeff Edwards

Cathay Pacific says it will be keeping an uncomfortably close eye on its most valuable customers. The Hong Kong-based carrier is reportedly tracking the travel habits and inflight behaviors of its most elite flyers in an attempt to better anticipate a premium passenger’s every need in advance by creating easily searchable digital dossiers on frequent flyers.

Carriers around the world, including American Airlines and Delta Airlines, were recently placed in the uncomfortable position of having to release statements declaring that the tiny seatback cameras discovered on some aircraft are not being used to spy on passengers. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific is highlighting a new initiative in which employees will track every move of elite passengers in order to compile a database which will allow the crews to better anticipate those passengers’ needs and preferences on future flights.

Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg told Bloomberg’s Kyunghee Park the airline will track 23 categories of elite passenger behavior that could help the airline to better “understand what people like and what they don’t like.” Cathay crew members will track high-value flyers in the separate behavior categories. The database will eventually include individual passengers’ preferred seat settings, likely dining selections and favorite travel destinations among other personal details.

“It’s everything that will make that journey comfortable,” Hogg explained.

Cathay Pacific is not alone in keeping close tabs on its highest spending customers. Delta Airlines has admitted to researching elite passengers’ online footprints in an effort to gain a leg up on the competition.

“We want to stay one step ahead of them,” an airline spokesperson admitted in July 2018. “By using our big data when things go wrong or when things are going great.”

Of course, if a large company is planning extensive behavioral profiles on its customers, it would be nice to know that the results won’t be used for nefarious purposes. Cathay Pacific management, however, isn’t in a great position to offer such reassurances. The airline was recently rebuked by lawmakers after revealing that it had failed to report the seriousness of a cyber-breach which exposed the personal details of as many as 9.4 million passengers.

[Image Source: Cathay Pacific Airways]

View Comments (6)


  1. sg92

    March 20, 2019 at 6:03 pm

    United is attempting to keep a tab on their customer too. They give our reward on BP gas fill. This gives them information on where their Frequent Flyers are and how much gas they are using. Are you flying by other airlines, etc.

  2. anabolism


    March 23, 2019 at 11:47 am

    Cathay is tracking which seats and meals and destinations it’s high-spending passengers prefer? Oh, the horror! The horror!

  3. flandery

    March 25, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Is this anything beyond what a nice restaurant might do? My favorite place already knows that I prefer a table to a booth, that I like plenty of refills on my coffee, and that my favorite cocktail is a Negroni.

    Comparatively, I spend a lot more money on airline tickets and a lot more time flying. Why wouldn’t they try to deliver a better product?

  4. htb

    March 26, 2019 at 4:07 am

    I’d like to know what are the categories they are talking about?

  5. d00t

    March 26, 2019 at 8:45 am

    Cathay is doing A LOT more than tracking when elite members recline their seats.

    They track where you are, what you spend, and other airlines you fly… their CEO won’t talk about what’s really happening in the loyalty biz

  6. drvannostren

    April 13, 2019 at 9:08 pm

    I dunno…”tracking” is kind of just an acknowledgement of easy data no? The airline already knows what you spend and how frequently you fly, your name has to be attached to tickets, can’t fly anonymously. They can see what seat you prefer. The meals and drinks, I think that would be really nice if an FA said “hey would you like a vodka diet, or would you prefer to try something else tonight? I’m fine with all that stuff, it’s stuff I give up voluntarily every time I fly or repeat an order.

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