Review of Mabuhay Miles – Award program of Philippine Airlines!

Mabuhay Miles is the award program of Philippine Airlines (PAL)the oldest Asian airline. Find out how to earn Mabuahy miles, how to redeem and what they are worth. Read my Mabuhay Miles review to find out about Mabuhay Elite levels, Mabuhay Lounge access and wether it’s worth to join for you!

Reach – how far will it take me? Philippines Airlines is flying to 77 destinations in 25 countries. In addition to flights within the Philippines and across Asia, PAL also has flights to Australia, Canada, the US, London and the Middle East. They are investing into their long-haul fleet and are looking to grow their network around the world. Read all the Facts & Figures!

Earning – how to earn Mabuhay Miles? You (still) earn miles in the PAL Mabuhay Miles program based on flight distance and the class of service, ranging from 50% of distance flown for budget economy to 150% for regular Business Class. There is no minimum mileage for short domestic flights, so you’ll get very little for a budget economy ticket on a domestic flight! As a Elite member in the program, you receive a 25% bonus on all PAL operated flights and as a Premium Elite member the same 25% for most flights and 75% on flights to the US or Europe!

You can also earn miles with partners Etihad and ANA as well as on codeshare flights with a long list of other airlines, including WestJet of Canada, Hawaiian Airlines and Malaysian Airlines on specific routes (complete list here).
Philippine Airlines has a number of credit card partners, allowing you to earn or transfer points with credit cards from most of the larger local banks as well as international banks like HSBC and Citibank cards (reviewed here). Mabuhay Miles also has hotel partners (including Hilton), car rental (including Hertz and Avis) and telecommunication partners, giving you a pretty long list of options to earn points, in addition to flying!

Redeeming – how to redeem Mabuhay Miles? The redemption of Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Miles is based on distance and class of service. PAL has gone through a number of announed devaluations and have introduced multiple award categories (EcoFlex 1, 2, 3 and Business Flex) as well as a separate award category for their new Premium Economy cabin, making it more difficult and expensive to redeem:

All mileage awards are one-way and you’ll have to pay taxes and fees, including a booking fee! Fortunately, fuel surcharges are not allowed for any flights from the Philippines, so the fees are reasonable.
The upgrade award will now get you from Premium Economy to Business Class or from Economy to Business on routes without a Premium Economy Cabin. On routes with Premium Economy, an upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy is available for 1,000-4,500 miles less – a terrible value!

PAL Premium Economy

Based on researching cash fares for the routes above, on average economy class tickets reflect a value of about 1 US cent/mile and business class tickets 2.5 cents/mile. The sweet spots in the Mabuhay Miles program are business class redemptions on long-haul routes, for example to Australia or the US. Another sweet spot are the Premium Economy awards as they are just a little higher than economy class, but cash prices are usually much higher!
The single best miles value is during Mabuhay Miles Getaway promotions (a recent one here), when award tickets for select routes are 50% off! It’s worth waiting for!
You can also use them for tickets on Etihad or ANA for routes from their hubs. There are a few great value redemptions here, for example ANA First Class from Tokyo to Frankfurt/Germany for 67,500 miles or to San Francisco for 65,000 miles – less than you’d pay on United for Business Class! The Etihad redemptions are generally very expensive, I wouldn’t recommend it!
The biggest problem with the Mabuhay Miles program is the fact that you cannot redeem miles for flights online. You can book the award via the phone or at a reservation office and will receive an eTicket by email. It’s a convoluted process that involves multiple calls to make the reservation and pay the fees – in the case of my last award booking, it took 5 calls and over 2 hours on the phone to get a simple, one-way award done!

Status – Mabuhay Miles Elite Benefits? Mabuhay Miles has a base level, which allow you to earn miles (after paying PHP150 for your membership card!) and the only benefit is that you can earn/redeem miles in the program.

PAL MM Benefits TableThe next step up is the “Elite” level after flying 25,000 miles, which gives you priority treatment at the airport, Mabuhay Lounge access additional baggage allowance and 25% of bonus miles. Keep in mind that it will only give YOU access to the lounge. mnl-mabuhay-lounge-2The top level “Premier Elite” gives you all that plus 2 upgrade certificates and 75% bonus miles for flights to the US or Europe. You also can bring ONE guest into the Mabuhay Lounge – much more restrictive than other award programs! There is also a “Million Miler” program, which should be pretty rare given PAL’s network. It gives you all the “Premier Elite” benefits and waives all the fees associated with the Mabuhay Miles program. Considering that PAL is not a member of any alliance and has a fairly limited network to earn status, these benefits are rather thin. If you are locked into PAL, it’s better than nothing, but I wouldn’t direct my spend to the airline just to earn status with them.

Customer Service: My experience with customer service is pretty mixed. It was very friendly when visiting their main reservation office in Manila (despite long waits in line), but they are non-responsive to email. In my 12 months as an “Elite” member, I was never able to actually receive my membership card, despite contacting them 5 times – I only received one email offering to fix the issue, but nothing ever happened!
On another occasion, one of our bags was damaged on a PAL flight (broken into, to be more precise), yet PAL did not respond to a request to take responsibility for the incident and reimburse us for the damage. So, trying to get anything done with PAL or the program via email or phone is pretty fruitless and visiting the office is very time consuming. 
My latest experience booking an award was similar – staff was very friendly, yet it took 5 calls with 4 agents and a total of 2 hours on the phone to book a simple, one-way award. They validated my booking and my personal data at least 10 times in the process!

Recommendation: If you are based in Manila and fly Philippine Airlines regularly, I’d recommend to sign up for their program – you wouldn’t want to waste the points earning potential and you can top off your account with points from a credit card. The business class redemptions to the US, Australia or London are attractive and I’ve enjoyed it when traveling on paid business class tickets. Once PAL updates their Mabuhay Miles website and allows award bookings online, it will become more attractive to travelers outside the Philippines, especially the many Filipinos abroad who return frequently to their families and friends at home. And then, there is hoping to Philippine Airlines joining one of the big airline alliances to give the program a needed boost!


Comments

Review of Mabuhay Miles – Award program of Philippine Airlines! — 28 Comments

  1. I find the Manuhay Miles rubbish. Comparing it to Virgin Frequent Flyers and other airlines you pretty much can use points to book it right away. Mabuhay Miles needs like 22K points for me to book international. Domestic starts 3,500 but seriously what if you’re from overseas. You need to be able to use that points and pay the difference, so you Can at least arrive Manila first.
    Mabuhay Miles is f’ useless way to rip off people. I don’t encourage people signing up cause there are other airlines that can do far better and has excellent customer service.

    • Thanks for sharing your insights. The best miles program for you really depends on where you fly and how you want to use your awards.
      Virgin Australia’s program is revenue based – so you earn for money spent, not miles flown, which means you earn more on expensive flights, but not so much on cheap ones. If you fly a lot of last-minute or xpensive business class tickets (maybe for work), you can earn more with revenue based programs. If you fly a lot of cheap, long-distance flights, a mileage based program like Mabuhay Miles often works better.
      And, yes, one of the biggest problems with Mabuhay Miles is that you can only get a reward ticket in person. It works best for people who live in the Philippines or fly PAL frequently. Because PAL doesn’t have many partners, the choice is between earning points or not earning points for any PAL flights you make. I wouldn’t encourage you to purchase Philippine Airlines flights for the Mabuhay Miles program. But I’d encourage anybody who is flying more than once to sign up and earn points rather than not earning them!

  2. I am a Mabuhay Miles member since 2006 but all my points earned were forfeited. I usually use my card when going back to Davao, twice or thrice a year. Last November 2018 I was informed by the Lady assigned for senior citizen at PAL office ALI MALL branch that I can use my 4,000 plus points for my next flight on January 2018. So after my Christmas vacation in Manila another lady assigned for senior citizen told me that I could not avail the use of my earned points for my flight to Davao. As of today I’ve learned that my earned points of 5,537 points expired last January 31, 2018.

    • Mabuhay Miles expire after two years of inactivity, ie you didn’t earn or redeem miles for 24 months. If your points expired on January 31, 2018, you can call Mabuhay Miles and reinstate them for a fee.

  3. I have just over 15,000 Mabuhay Miles that expire in 2020. The problem is, I’m in the UK.

    Firstly, Mabuhay Miles is possibly one of the worst frequent flyer systems in the world. The biggest downfall of the entire scheme is that you can not book flights online.

    So I am really not sure what to do with them. 15,000 is a fair amount of miles. I made the mistake of signing up to Mabuhay Miles instead of using Etihad Guest; a much more rewarding scheme.

    The amount of miles to fly to Manila from London is 32,000; which is just over double my current amount. However, I have seen once a “50% off miles on international flights” which interested me, as I could almost afford with my miles. However, I don’t intend to travel to the Philippines any time soon…

    So that kind of leaves me with one option. Etihad… but… A ONE WAY TICKET TO ABU DHABI FROM LONDON COSTS 35,000 MILES. EVEN MORE THAN FLYING TO MANILA; OVER TWICETHE DISTANCE FROM LONDON. OUTRAGEOUS.

    All in all, I made the fatal mistake… and now I’m left with 15k of Mabuhay Miles which may have to be voided.

    Live in Europe? Don’t join Mabuhay Miles. Instead sign up (if you haven’t already) to Etihad Guest to pool miles if flying Philippine Airlines. Don’t get me wrong; Philippine Airlines is a very reasonable and hospatible airline; but their frequent flyer scheme is attrocious.

    • I agree – the lack of online booking is a serious limitation for the Mabuhay Miles program. You can now book over the phone, which makes it a little better than before.
      The lack of airline partners or an alliance membership makes Mabuhay Miles less attractive to anybody not living in the Philippines or traveling in Asia, their main area of operation.
      The points needed for redemption on partner airlines often depend on the partner – and are typically much higher than when redeeming for flights of the airline itself.
      I agree with your assessment: If you live in Europe, have only one flight on PAL and no plans to return to Asia, signing up for Mabuhay Miles is of limited value. Signing up and earning miles with Etihad is a good alternative, if you are planning future trips to the Middle East, Africa or Asia – but still gives you very limited choices in Europe, with the bankruptcy of airberlin and alitalia…
      An even better solution might be to sign up for ANA Mileage Club, as you will be able to redeem for flights on StarAlliance airlines, like Lufthansa, Swiss, SAS and LOT, giving you lots of options from Europe! You can read my review of MileageClub here!

    • Hi Anglian. How I wish to have your 15,000 mabuhay miles points if you cannot use it before they expire on 2020. If you decide to donate it to me then I will highly appreciated. Let me know if anyone wants to donate their mileage..thanks.

      • While a member can donate miles for free to the PAL Foundation for less fortunate, transferring/gifting miles to another member costs $15/1,000 miles plus a transaction fee of $10…

  4. I fly on PAL for one reason from LAX. It is the only non stop airline. Just thought i would confirm if you have any problem with that airline outside of the plane. Good luck. You are screwed. They usually have a sale around early March for business seats. Around 2600 US. But the service inside the plane is okay. No complaints.

    • The new Boeing B777 are good (not great), the service is wonderful and business class food has improved recently. I enjoyed my PAL Business Class flights (see my review here) and the non-stop flights from the US are a big plus!
      Price is the main consideration. Lately, Mainland China carriers (like China Eastern) have offered business class flights between the US and Philippines (one stop) for as little as $1,200! I recently purchased a business class ticket on ANA (via Tokyo) for $2,200. I’d rather fly ANA for $2,200 with one stop than PAL for $2,600 non-stop.
      Another consideration is customer service when there are issues. In one recent case, PAL changed equipment for my flight and I was downgraded from Premium Economy to Economy as a matter of policy. I had to fight for my rights.
      If you get a good price and prefer a non-stop, I think you’ll enjoy flying PAL. And as this is a non-stop, operational issues have less of an impact. I do recommend to check around for other business class fares, there have been lots of deals lately!

  5. 1) We bought a ticket online (family -total of 7 people)…just wondering if the whole purchase was added as points to my husbands mabuhay miles? or only my husband’s own ticket? because when I tried entering the membership code to my childrens name, it doesn’t go through…
    2) If it was only for my husband’s own ticket, can I use my own mabuhay miles to earn points for my own ticket even if it was purchased months ago?

    • Miles are only credited for the flights of the account holder (your husband).
      You can go to your account online, click on the “Claim Missing Miles tab and fill out the claim form. Click here to get started!
      You can claim miles up to 12 months after your flight. You can also do it by phone or in person at a PAL office.

    • You can check out my review of the best credit cards to earn Mabuhay Miles here!
      You can apply for the cards online or in the branch of each bank!

  6. I became Mabuhay Miles Elite just by flying PAL within 3 months on business class RUH-MNL-SYD and RUH-MNL-SFO in 2017. I’m based in Riyadh KSA and PAL is the cheapest direct flight to MNL although they utilize an A330 bi-class with No IFE for 10 hrs flight. Hoping theyl use better aircraft soon with IFE. Long haul on business class is the fastest way to reach Elite level. Enjoying Lounge access at Riyadh airport, but not at NAIA since RUH flight departs at NAIA T1 with no lounge, theyl just give Starbucks voucher worth php400. I stayed at Mabuhay Lounge at T2 when i travel to SFO and SYD. I wonder what will happen after August 2018 when all Int’l PAL flights departs at T1. I availed their 50% miles promo and it took 30nmins to book by phone when i booked my RT business class flight RUH-MNL for my June2018 trip) and they emailed me the Eticket. I tried booking flight MNL-AKL but their airfare is expensive and aircraft is an old A340 with no IFE for 10hr direct. Understandably theyr taking advantage as the only direct flight between PH & NZ. Instead I just booked my flight with China airlines via TPE for $250 less than PAL airfare and CI aircraft is using new A350-900. Also I took advantage of my Elite status when I applied my NZ visa streamlining visa application for Mabuhay Miles Elite members.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! I also got Mabuhay Miles Elite with long-haul business class flights, it certainly is the quickest! Your award booking experience was much quicker than mine – thanks for that data point, looks like they are improving! They also now allow online booking of awards – have you tried that?
      The A330 bi-class are supposed to be renovated to their latest 3 class A330, including 1-2-1 business class, Premium Economy and regular Economy cabins – I hope you get to try them soon!
      I haven’t heard any updates on the lounge situation in Terminal 1 – every time I ask, the plans seem to be changing, so I won’t hold my breath!

      • Hi Rupert, further to my experience above, recently I was so surprised and disappointed when I checked in with PAL at NAIA T1 2 days ago since i noticed that I was not given access to the lounge nor priority baggage. I asked them why, they told me since i’ve used my miles to buy my ticket, it resulted to my current miles below 25K (now at 11K remaining) thus they’ve downgraded my Elite status without prior notice eventhough my Elite membership is valid until Feb2019. I’ve asked them to show me which part on the T&C that says an Elite member has to retain his/her 25K miles all throughout the card’s validity period in order to enjoy Elite member benefits. I think this part is not stated clearly in their T&C. Still waiting for their explanation. However, it gives me an impression that this loyalty program is not really beneficial in a long run thus I will not be booking with PAL on my future flights. Still they’r using bi-class A330 for middle east flight which does not really represent 4stars. I plan to fly with a Skyteam airline member on my future flights.

      • The denied entry to the lounge must be a miss-understanding: Once you achieve Elite Status, it is valid regardless of the miles in your account and you should receive lounge access and priority even on award tickets. Please do let me know, how they respond. This might be an issue of the airport stuff not knowing the rules.
        The bi-class A330 are being upgraded and will all be three class, with lie-flat & direct aisle access business class, Premium Economy and Economy, very nice cabins you can see here.

    • You should be able to see the points/miles earned on your credit card statement each month. How/When it shows in your Mabuhay Miles account depends on the card you have. Some cards, like the Citibank PremierMiles card, require you to transfer the points earned to the loyalty program of your choice. Some cards will automatically transfer the miles and you should be able to see them in your Mabuhay Miles account every month

  7. Is it possible to transfer mabuhay miles to ANA or ethiad?
    I have roughly 30k in mabuhay miles due to my travels between sfo and mnl

    • Sorry, you can’t transfer the miles to ANA or Etihad, but you can redeem Mabuhay Miles directly for flights on either airline. You can find more details here.
      Alternatively, you might want to wait for a Mabuhay Miles Sale – they release award flights at 50% discount a few times a year, a great deal for your next trip SFO-MNL!

  8. We went to the Philippines Dec 2017 and signed up Mabuhay Miles given by one of the PAL staffs at NAIA airport. She said that our card will be sending to our home address here in California but until now we haven’t receive it. This coming Sept 15, 2018 we will visit again the Philippines. How can we use the Mabuhay Miles we signed up last Dec since we have no cards yet?

    Reply ↓

    • You should have received a temporary (paper) card or form with your membership on it. You can register an online account with that number, book flights and earn miles, without having the physical card.
      PAL is notoriously bad for not shipping the card – I have been a member for 5 years, including a year as Elite, and never received any card, despite trying 5 times by email of phone to get the card shipped!

  9. Mabuhay miles is a shitty programme! I flew with Etihad Airlines registering with my mabuhay account, which is theoretically possible according to mabuhay website. However, these flights have not been successfully included into my mabuhay account and 1 month and 6 e-mails to the client service later, there is still no answer from this shitty company.

    • You can earn Mabuhay Miles on Etihad Airlines, but promotional fares (N, I, O, S, T, X) are excluded. You’ll have to submit copies of the ticket and boardingpass via email. I agree with you that PAL’s customer service, especially by email is poor – I’ve had similar issues with not receiving responses to email inquiries myself. I recommend to re-submit the copies by email, then follow up with a phone call – phone service is better and it’s easier to address questions or problems on the spot.
      I wouldn’t go as far as dismissing the whole program – issues with earning points across partnerships (especially outside the big 3 alliances) are not unusual and this problem could be Etihad’s or PAL’s fault…
      You can find the details on what fares earn miles and how to contact PAL here! Good luck – please let us know, how it goes.

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