Flying the Pacific and Middle East with Mabuhay Miles
Philippine Airlines is a carrier rather unknown to worldwide travelers but with a unique network. Its mileage program, Mabuhay Miles, provides for valuable flying choices for its loyal membership.
What makes this loyalty program interesting and potentially useful? We discuss the value that lies in both the airline and the program.
Asian airlines are disparate, numerous competitive carriers driven by their different national and strategic alliance interests. The reason and history behind Philippine Airlines’ network is pretty straightforward: its livery flies where the diasporic nationals have gone to work or settle in.
Due to the Philippines’ worldwide spread of nationals, there are countless communities in various cities in North America, East Asia, Oceania and the Middle East. For this reason, Philippine Airlines has numerous destinations in the USA, Japan, China, Canada, Australia and the Arab kingdoms.
Therein lies the carrier’s strength: its strategic network and destinations that may not seem to make sense. And that’s why Philippine Airlines has a wide network possibly worth flying with under Mabuhay Miles.
Mabuhay Miles Program
Travelers on Philippine Airlines and partners earn miles and status through the Mabuhay Miles frequent flyer system.
Elite Status and Perks
Fundamentally, statuses are earned for any and all account activity within a given calendar year. This means that you enjoy the benefits of the status achieved in the same year and the next.
Also, all miles are valid as long as there is some account activity in two calendar year blocks. The current validity period block is January 2018 to December 2019.
All members start out on this tier. Any and all qualifying points work towards earning higher status.
To reach this next status level, a member needs to achieve one of the following:
- earn 25,000 qualifying miles on Philippine Airlines and code-share flights; or
- fly 30 one-way qualifying flights on any class of service on Philippine Airlines and code-share flights; or
- fly 15 one-way qualifying flights on business class on Philippine Airlines and code-share flights
Once you complete any of the above, you get access to Mabuhay Lounges or select partner VIP lounges overseas prior to departure on a Philippine Airlines or PAL Express-ticketed flight. In addition, you get priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling, and additional 10 kg luggage allowance on non-long-haul flights.
In addition, Elites get a tier-based 25% bonus on accrued miles on Philippine Airlines or PAL Express flights.
To rise to this top status, Mabuhay Miles members must:
- earn 45,000 qualifying miles on Philippine Airlines and code-share flights; or
- fly 50 one-way qualifying flights on any class of service on Philippine Airlines and code-share flights; or
- fly 25 one-way qualifying flights on business class on Philippine Airlines and code-share flights
On this tier, Premier Elites gain, on top of Elite benefits, lounge access for a traveling companion, a total additional 30 kg luggage allowance on non-long-haul flights or one additional piece of luggage on long-haul, and 75% total tier-based bonus on accrued miles on Philippine Airlines flights to North America or Europe.
Furthermore, members on this tier receive two upgrade travel certificates towards upgrading one cabin class on one sector on Philippine Airlines or PAL Express flights. Two additional upgrade travel certificates will be issued for every 25,000 more eligible miles within the same qualifying period (calendar year).
As the name implies, members earn this privilege after registering a million miles on eligible flights.
By doing so, Philippine Airlines waivers all processing fees, grants you a total 40-kg additional luggage or 2 pieces check-in luggage (depending on system adopted for the flight), provides Mabuhay Lounge and VIP lounge access for you and two traveling companions, and issues four upgrade travel certificates on top of any earned so far in the qualifying period.
The same tier-based bonus on miles accrued under the Premier Elite status also applies.
There are a couple of ways to earn miles with the Mabuhay Miles program.
Philippine Airlines is more of an independent player for a flag carrier in Southeast Asia. This may limit choices for many, but if you’re flying to or from their aforementioned destinations then this won’t be an issue. And it helps that they offer fares that are competitive with flag carriers in the region.
Apart from flying with the carrier, Mabuhay Miles members are also able to earn miles for their partners All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Etihad. This expands your earning options when flying onwards from Japan or the Middle East, and surely opens up a vital network to Europe.
When you book directly with specific hotels, you can gain Mabuhay Miles at varying rates like:
- Hilton: 1 mile per $1
- Dust Hotels & Resorts: 500 miles per stay
- Regal Hotels International: 500 miles per stay
- Shanri-La Hotels: 500 miles per stay
- Pan Pacific Hotels & Resorts: 500 miles per stay
Mabuhay Miles can also be earned by spending with credit cards. By enrolling for particular cards with specific banks, Philippine residents can gain miles through rewards programs run by, among others:
- PNB (and its co-branded card)
- Bank of Commerce
- Citibank Philippines
- Eastwest Bank
- HSBC Philippines
- Security Bank
- Union Bank
You cannot normally buy Mabuhay Miles outright. As a rule, you must already have 50% of the miles required in your account when doing booking an award flight. You buy in multiples of 1000 for a maximum of 150,000 miles purchased this way in one year. You can also transfer miles in the same way up to the same limit.
Mabuhay Miles will set you back $25 per 1000 miles bought, or $15 per 1000 transferred, plus a nominal processing fee. For now, there are no other travel programs you can convert into Mabuhay Miles with.
Asian Miler says…
That’s it for the basics for the Mabuhay Miles program, which is simple enough. Now how can you maximize these points for your travels?
Regional or Long-Haul, rather than Domestic
In recent years, rival Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific has taken over the domestic market with low fares and promotions. That airline could be your better option if you are flying to/from an area otherwise undeserved by Philippine Airlines.
Where the national flag carrier shines, however, is with medium- to long-haul routes. After the country regained its safety status, Philippine Airlines has once again started to grow its international routes. For many local residents, the carrier becomes the better choice when flying to London or the far-off destinations mentioned earlier in this post.
And you’re not limited to just the primary cities in these countries, either. You get to fly to Brisbane in Australia, Guangzhou, Shanghai or Xiamen in China, Osaka, Nagoya or Fukuoka in Japan, or Guam and Honolulu in the Pacific. That means lesser fuss about local connections to a different carrier at your destination country.
Even as Philippine Airlines grows its network, its current airline partnerships are not insignificant either.
ANA provides incremental value for domestic destinations in Japan, and to a few more cities across the Pacific to Canada or the USA. If you’re not already invested in Star Alliance by earning with Krisflyer or Asiana Club, you can credit ANA flights to Mabuhay Miles instead.
The greater prize lies in earning and redeeming with partner Etihad. Doing so opens possibilities on travel to South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and, most importantly, Europe. Based in Abu Dhabi, Etihad becomes a key connection point for onward travel between the three continents.
If you’ve been hauling in the Mabuhay Miles, you can book the enviable First Apartments or The Residence “seats” on long-haul. Asian Miler, however, cannot in good faith recommend these luxurious seats for award due to their equally ludicrous redemption rates.
Points to Note
Mabuhay Miles has only recently opened a limited beta for online award booking, and only for select members for now. So in the near foreseeable future, all inquiries and redemptions must be conducted in person or over the phone.
And while redemption or other transactional fees are the norm, travelers must be careful when redeeming Mabuhay Miles for Etihad flights. Etihad are known in the industry to slap hefty additional fees when redeemed via partner programs, and Mabuhay Miles is no different.
Philippine Airlines and the Mabuhay Miles program are a duo often overlooked in the competitive world of travel and alliances.
The Philippine flag carrier flies to so many primary and secondary cities in Asia Pacific that it lessens the need to change over to a different domestic carrier at the destination. Conversely, they provide convenient domestic or onward connections when traveling from one side of the Pacific to the other.
And with Mabuhay Miles, travelers get to earn miles flying with Philippine Airlines and its vital partners, ANA to the Pacific and Etihad to the three continents. This is quite convenient and strategic considering that the program is not part of any major airline alliance.
For a standalone flag carrier, what do you think of Philippine Airlines? Have you enjoyed Mabuhay Miles or would you consider enrolling? Be heard and leave a comment or two!