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! — 2 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!

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