Malaysia Airlines’ Enrich frequent flyer program will become significantly less enriching from next month with substantial hikes to the number of miles needed for business and first class upgrades, and new rates applying to all bookings made with partner airlines including Qantas and Emirates.
What’s more, the number of Enrich miles needed to book a Malaysia Airlines flight will now vary based on commercial fare prices rather than using a traditional ‘reward table’ – so passengers will never know how many miles are needed to secure a flight until it comes time to book.
Some business class and economy fares will also no longer be upgradeable while discounts for ‘companion travel’ are being withdrawn, with all of these changes affecting new bookings made from June 10 2017.
Australian Business Traveller explains how the Enrich program is being remoulded and how it impacts Aussie flyers hoping to spend their hard-earned miles.
New, dynamic pricing for Malaysia Airlines reward flights
From June 10, using your Enrich miles to book a Malaysia Airlines flight won’t be as simple as ‘6,000 miles for a one-way fare on the shortest routes’, for instance, with the number of miles needed varying from flight to flight based on “fares, seat availability, passenger demand and seasonality.”
What’s more, Malaysia Airlines says that “there is no fixed conversion or relationship between the fare charged and the Enrich Miles redeemed,” and additionally, “the exact amount (of miles needed) may vary due to the (currency) conversion rate”: so it’s not as simple as one mile = one cent (or Malaysian sen) towards your fare.
This makes it quite literally impossible for travellers to know how many miles will be needed to book any given flight, because the asking price in Enrich miles can change as quickly as the commercial fare price, global currency conversion rates, demand and more, without any notice at all.
It’s particularly unwelcome news for those who earn Enrich miles via their credit card and convert them across to book a flight, because you’ll never know how many miles to ship over.
Even if you obtain a quote from Malaysia Airlines for your desired flight and convert your points based on that quote, by the time your Enrich miles have landed (normally several business days after a credit card conversion), you may find you no longer have enough miles – or have converted too many.
If you’ve been eyeing-off a reward flight with Malaysia Airlines but haven’t yet booked, we’d strongly recommend you make that booking before June 10, even for travel after this date, while the current (fixed) reward rates are still in place.
Mix miles and money when booking Malaysia Airlines flights
If you find you don’t have enough miles to book a Malaysia Airlines flight, you’ll be able to mix miles with money to pay for your ticket in what’s known as a ‘Miles & Cash Award’.
Again, the rates and prices may vary significantly from one day to the next, and may or may not prove competitive against simply purchasing a ticket at face value.
It’s for this reason that the airline suggests passengers “make an informed comparison, before finally deciding on the best option for their travel needs.”
Malaysia Airlines also confirms that when booking a ‘Miles & Cash Award’ flight, Enrich members will not earn miles on that flight, including on the paid component of the ticket – this will continue to apply only to fares which were wholly purchased with money.
Some business class, economy fares no longer eligible for upgrades
Stuck in economy on a Malaysia Airlines flight? If you’ve booked your fare in the mid-range S, N or Q fare classes – sometimes known as ‘fare buckets’ or ‘fare brackets’ – you won’t be able to upgrade to business class on any Malaysia Airlines flights as of June 10.
Instead, business class upgrades will only be available to passengers who book ‘Flex’ fares (corresponding to the Y, B, and H fare classes) or ‘Smart’ fares (being the K, M, L and V ticket types).
Book a fare type other than Smart or Flex and you’ll stay put in the seat you booked!
If you've already booked a business class ticket and are aboard the airline's Airbus A380 flights to and from London, you'll also not be eligible for a first class upgrade from the lowest-cost business class tickets (Z class): a favourite fare of many self-funded travellers and often priced closer to economy than your typical pointy end journey.
Upgrade rates hiked with new zones and distance bands
Even if you do book an upgradeable ticket, the number of miles needed to secure that upgrade will increase in most cases.
From Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, a one-way upgrade from economy to business class climbs from from 30,000 Enrich miles on all upgradeable fares to 45,000 Enrich miles on Smart fare types – remaining at 30,000 miles only when booked on the most expensive Flex tickets.
Onwards from Kuala Lumpur to London, business class upgrades increase from 40,000 miles to 50,000 miles on Flex fares and almost double on Smart tickets, now setting you back 70,000 miles.
Malaysia Airlines’ KL-London flights also feature first class, to which business class flyers can currently upgrade for 55,000 miles. From June 10, that jumps to 85,000 miles from Flex (J) fares and to 90,000 miles from Smart (C, D) tickets.
If your travels take you from Sydney to London via Kuala Lumpur, the best value remains in upgrading the entire journey at once: albeit increasing from a flat 60,000 miles from economy to business class to 65,000 miles on Flex fares and 85,000 miles on Smart ticlets.
New redemption rates for Oneworld and partner airlines
Using Enrich miles to book flights with Malaysia Airlines’ partners is also changing, affecting flight bookings on Qantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Japan Airlines and more.
For instance, booking a return Sydney-Singapore flight with Qantas or British Airways or a Sydney-Hong Kong voyage with Qantas or Cathay Pacific can currently be had for 48,000 Enrich miles one-way or 96,000 miles return in business class.
Once the new rates kick-in, that’s hiked to 82,000 Enrich miles for a one-way flight or 125,000 miles for a return booking.
Only have a few miles to spend and want to book a short Qantas flight, such as Sydney-Melbourne?
Currently, a one-way flight can be yours for 9,000 miles in economy or 21,000 miles in business class – but for bookings made from June 10, you’d instead need 13,000 miles for economy or 37,000 miles for business class on the same routes.
That’s a huge number of miles for such a short flight, which could instead be booked for just 8,000 Qantas Points in economy or 16,000 Qantas Points in business class via Qantas’ own Qantas Frequent Flyer program.
Discounted ‘companion travel’ bookings axed
Currently, when one passenger is booked on a paid and flexible business class or first class fare, they can use miles at a reduced rate to have a companion join them on those same flights – perfect for a business traveller bringing along their partner or spouse on a work trip.
For instance, book a paid, flexible and return Sydney-Kuala Lumpur journey in business class with money and just 88,000 Enrich miles could see you joined by a companion (versus a minimum of 110,000 miles under the current, general rate).
But from June 10, the full (and new) rates will apply, with no discounts or incentives offered to companions.
Malaysia Airlines moves to a new booking system
The same date will see Malaysia Airlines switch its entire operation to the popular Amadeus reservation system, also used by its Oneworld partners Qantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and more.
It’s hoped that the change will finally see Malaysia Airlines reward flights available for booking to Qantas Frequent Flyer members via the Qantas website, as is possible when using Qantas Points to book flights with other Amadeus-using airlines like Finnair, Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines.
Family mileage transfers, mileage extensions move to telephone-only
You’ll still be able to transfer your Malaysia Airlines Enrich miles to eligible family members, but “until further notice”, these transfers can only now be made over the phone rather than online.
The same applies to extending miles that are soon to expire, which you can continue to do over the phone but won’t be able to complete online.
Malaysia Airlines removes fuel surcharges from most reward bookings
Travellers will no longer be slugged fuel surcharges in actual dollars when using Enrich miles to book a Malaysia Airlines flight, which are currently levied in addition to any required government taxes and fees.
This means that when you use your Enrich miles to fly with MAS, you can expect to pay less money on the side when booking your ticket: even if that means burning significantly more miles under Malaysia Airlines’ incoming system.
However, fuel surcharges will continue to be levied on reward flights to and from the United Kingdom – in addition to hefty taxes including the UK’s APD charges – and when using Enrich miles to book flights with partner airlines that levy these fees.
Fewer miles needed to book flights for children, infants
Because commercial ticket prices will influence the number of Enrich miles needed to book a flight, reservations made for children and infants will attract fewer miles than for adults because the cash prices of child and infant fares tend to be lower.
That’s not necessarily to say that the number of miles needed under the new system will be less than required today – only that when you do book reward flights for your young ones, it won’t cost quite as many points as to book your own ticket.