I tried to google frequent flyer program (FFP) and as I read the Wikipedia entry on it, I got overwhelmed. With everything that was written on frequent flyer programs, one thing is clear – frequent flyer programs affect air travel.
Historically, frequent flyer programs go way back in the 1970s and so I will not attempt to explain all the technicalities of frequent flyer programs in here, especially those of international airlines. Suffice to say that in a nutshell, frequent flyer programs are a form of rewarding loyal passengers by giving them miles/points for flying with the airline. By becoming members of a particular frequent flyer program passengers get various perks, at times based on their membership level. Recently, earning miles or points aren’t limited on flying and a lot of airlines have partnered with non-airline companies, so other non-flight transactions can now be convertible to miles/points.
In the Philippines, the idea of “miles” or “frequent flyer programs” have not been that much common. I only learned through time that I could have benefited in a frequent flyer program if I enrolled earlier. So as promised in my previous blog on How To Save On Airfare, here is a post on some of the frequent flyer programs of domestic airlines in the Philippines. I’ll only cover two of the most common ones, that of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air. Let’s start with the one that came first.
Mabuhay Miles is Philippine Airline’s frequent flyer program and anyone two years old and above are qualified to join, as long as the minors are represented by any legal guardian.
1) How do I join?
To join, you simply just go to the Mabuhay Miles website and enroll. Once you’ve enrolled, you automatically become a Mabuhay Miles Base Member. You can now start earning miles and when you get 5,000 miles, that’s the time you’ll be qualified to get a Mabuhay Miles permanent membership card. If however you want your permanent membership card without having to wait for 5,000 miles then just pay a processing fee of $10 (or about Php450) at the Mabuhay Miles Service Center or at any PAL Ticket Office.
2) How do I earn miles?
There are two ways to earn miles – through qualifying flights and through non-flight miles. Qualifying flights are flights by PAL planes or Code-Share flights (PAL Express, All Nippon Airways and Etihad Air) that are eligible to earn miles. Non-flight miles on the other hand are earned by transactions with Mabuhay Miles Program Partners. However, as a base member without a membership card, you won’t be able to earn non-flight miles. You would need to quote your membership number and present your membership card on the counter when availing services or products from program partners.
The number of miles you can earn on each flight would depend on the number of actual miles you’ve flown and the airfare. For example, if you fly from Manila to Kalibo on a Regular Economy class flight you would get 161 miles. If you flew a bit further, let’s say Manila to Davao City in Regular Economy class, you get 449 miles. So the greater the distance you fly, the higher the miles you earn. If you purchase a more expensive airfare, you also earn more miles.
Take for example you decided to take Business Class Promo instead of Regular Economy in flying to Davao from Manila. You will then earn 749 miles instead of 449. I have attached below a table to help you compute the number of miles you earn for common domestic flights. For a complete list of accrual tables including that of international flights, you can check PAL’s latest Flight Accrual Tables here: PAL Domestic Flight Accrual Tables & PAL International Flight Accrual Tables
There are four membership levels in Mabuhay Miles. The lowest is the Base membership and the others are what they call “Tiers”. There are three tiers – Elite, Premier Elite, and Million Miler. Elite level is reached when you earn 25,000 flight miles or fly 30 one-way qualifying flights on Philippine Airlines and Code-Share flights (PAL Express, All Nippon Airways, and Etihad Air). Premier elite requires 45,000 flight miles or 50 one-way qualifying flights and the Million Miler membership level is reached when you accumulate 1,000,000 flight miles.
3) Why would I then want to earn miles to get to Elite membership or even higher?
Because you want the perks. Elite members for example have priority check-in boarding, Mabuhay Lounge access, 25% bonus on actual miles flown and an additional luggage allowance of 10 kg. Kinda sleek huh? But the sweetest thing that we all want in frequent flyer programs is that thing they call Travel Award. Travel Awards are the flights Philippine Airlines gives you if you reach a certain number of miles.
I live in Dipolog City and I get to earn 329 miles in a one-way Regular Economy flight from Manila going home. To get a FREE standard economy flight home through a travel award (equivalent to 7,500 miles), I need to make 11 roundtrip regular economy flights. I go home at least twice a year, and so that would take me around 5 years to get my free one-way regular economy flight. I’ve been flying between Manila and Dipolog City for 9 years already and assuming I always traveled with PAL, I would have had one free flight already.
You can also compute how long it’ll take you to get that desired free flight based on the frequency of your travels. You can find below the Domestic Awards Chart for PAL for some domestic destinations. For a complete list of the number of miles you need for a free flight, check out these links for PAL’s Awards Chart: PAL Domestic Destinations & PAL International Destinations
Update: GetGo is no longer just a frequent flyer program of CebuPacific. It is now a lifestyle rewards program that covers a lot of products. Basically it rewards you with points for every transaction with a partner establishment. It is also now owned by Data Analytics Ventures, Inc, which is a company under JG Summit Holdings, Inc. However, note that Cebu Pacific is also a business unit under JG Summit Holdings, Inc.
Instead of saying frequent flyer program, Cebu Pacific calls their program a “lifestyle rewards program”; and instead of calling it miles, Cebu Pacific calls it “GetGo points”. The GetGo lifestyle rewards program basically works the same way as that of other frequent flyer programs. You accumulate points and when you reach a certain number of points, you can be able to get free flights from Cebu Pacific.
1) So how do I join?
Membership to GetGo is open to everyone regardless of nationality, residency and age, however minors are required to provide the membership numbers of their parent or legal guardian on enrolment. Enrolment can be done through the GetGo website.
According to their latest terms and conditions, there will no longer be a membership fee and a membership card will no longer be provided after enrolment.
2) How do I earn points?
Immediately after you’ve enrolled, you can already start earning points. Just like in Mabuhay Miles, you earn points in two ways – through a qualifying flight or through a qualifying purchase transaction with GetGo Partners. Click this LINK to know the specific mechanics of getting points in several GetGo Partners.
Qualifying flights would include any Cebu Pacific Air or CebGo (formerly SEAir and TigerAir Philippines) flight. Each Php5.00 spent on the base fare or on any add-ons for the flight (prepaid baggage allowance, prepaid inflight meals, seat selection, and prepaid sports equipment) will earn you 1 GetGo point.
3) What are my perks?
Unlike Mabuhay Miles, there are no membership levels in here and you also need a minimum of 500 GetGo points to redeem rewards.
Another difference with the Mabuhay Miles is that top-ups are allowed on GetGo in case the number of points you earned are not enough to redeem a reward flight in full. If you can’t get the entire trip free, you can still redeem GetGo points by using them to pay for a specific fare component. In other words you can use your GetGo points to pay for the base fare and choose to pay through credit or debit card the fuel surcharges, administrative fees, aviation taxes and other add-ons (prepaid baggage allowance, prepaid inflight meals, seat selection, and prepaid sports equipment). This top-up however is not eligible for GetGo Rewards. For the points needed to redeem a reward flight, check out their website.
But wait, there’s more!
A feature in GetGo that’s not in Mabuhay Miles is being able to pool your points using the Earn Group feature or share your points with a Travel Group.
By adding a maximum of seven (7) GetGo members (total of 8, including you) you can create an Earn Group. Only the Head of the circle can add members. The members of the Earn Group can pool their points together and anyone within the group can redeem the points as long as it was decided upon by the Head of the circle.
In a Travel Group, the Head of the group can nominate at most 7 individuals (member or non-member) and the Head can redeem for a member a free flight.
I personally thought this style was a bit confusing because of the length and complexity of the rules I had to read regarding redeeming pooled or shared points. But I must say it was cool too. It would be very useful for me if I decided to redeem points for my parents or my sister. I can put them on my travel group and they would be able to enjoy discounted or even free flights.
Why Reward Passengers Through Frequent Flyer Programs
You might think, so what’s the catch, why reward us for flying? Simple, it makes you think twice before purchasing from other competing airlines. Let’s say you are a member of only one particular frequent flyer program. You decided to travel, say to Tuscany (La vita e bella!), so you check the rates. You notice that the airfares are comparable, maybe a difference of a hundred bucks or two, and when you finally make a decision you’ll think about the miles you can earn from your usual airline (Ay, sayang ang miles…).
What you need to remember about frequent flyer programs is that no single program is the best one, so there is no need to choose just one. If your aim is to get the best from the different airlines in terms of benefits, airfares, discounts, and many other perks, it’s best that you join different frequent flyer programs. That way you’re not really limited to a few options. You have your whole life to travel anyway, just keep those miles coming.
Updated: Feb 18, 2020