Big Malaysia Airlines Award Devaluation Hits June 10
Malaysia Airlines is changing over to a new reservation system on June 10 to "enable Malaysia Airlines to meet passengers’ changing travel needs." Whatever that means. While Malaysia's reason for making the change is unclear, one thing is clear: the airline is taking this opportunity to devalue its miles.
Here's what's changing and what you might want to use your Malaysia Enrich miles — or Citi ThankYou Points, if you can ever get them to transfer — to book before the change.
Award Redemptions — Malaysia Airlines Flights
After Malaysia's horrible 2015, you might not have any interest in flying the airline's own flights. However, we actually found Malaysia's economy product to be nice.
Malaysia devalued its own award chart in 2015, making its award flights already a bad deal. Turns out, the airline isn't done cutting.
Award redemptions: As part of the new reservation system, Malaysia Airlines is switching to a full revenue-based system for its own flights — basing the price of the award on the revenue price of the flight rather than a fixed award chart price. No redemption rate has been stated yet, but Loyalty Lobby calculates it to be an abysmal ~0.33 cents per mile based on examples provided by Malaysia Airlines.
Revenue-based redemption programs aren't always bad. After all, you can get sometimes redeem miles for JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America flights for cheap during a sale. However, it's clear Malaysia wants to avoid any sweet spots: Discount economy fares (Q, O, G) and discount business class fares (Z) "are excluded and cannot be booked in miles". So, you're likely going to have to redeem miles for a more expensive ticket that the cheapest-available option.
Upgrades: Similarly, the bottom five economy booking fare codes (S, N, Q, O, G) cannot be upgraded from economy to business class. The cost of the upgrade depends on whether you look at the website version of the updates or the PDF version.
Malaysia's website lists these new upgrade prices:
The PDF version of the Malaysia changes shows different upgrade prices:
Malaysia notes that it's removing the cash fuel surcharges on award redemptions on its own flights. But, you'll still be paying these fuel surcharges as part of the total revenue-based redemption price.
Good news for families: Rather than charging a full adult redemption cost, you can "redeem an Award Ticket on Malaysia Airlines operated flights for your infant based on infant far." [sic]
Miles & Cash: Malaysia is eliminating its current option to buy miles to top off your account for a redemption — currently called "Enrich Express". It's adding a new "Miles & Cash" option, allowing you to partially pay with miles. Note that you won't earn mileage credit for any flights purchased with Miles & Cash, and there's no refund of the miles portion if you cancel your booking.
Questions about the new Enrich program not covered in the Q&A? Looks like you'll have to wait: "Please refer to Enrich programme’s terms and conditions which will be made available on 10 June 2017."
Award Redemptions — Partner Flights
While Malaysia is switching to a revenue-based program for its own flights, partner awards will remain distance-based. However, the distance bands are different before and after June 10 making an apples-to-apples comparison is hard. Due to this quirk, some awards will actually decrease, but most will increase. The biggest jump: one-way, premium cabin and ultra-long-haul awards.
Current award chart:
New award chart:
As you can see, one-way awards are currently priced at half of the round-trip cost. Starting June 10, one-way fares will be around 65% of the round-trip cost.
For premium cabins, it's bad news. Let's take a look at some examples:
|Cathay Pacific||First||JFK-HKG||102,000 o/w|
What to Book Before June 10
Based on the changes noted above, here are the flights you'll want to book before June 10:
- Any awards on Malaysia Airlines flights
- Non-Oneworld partner one-way bookings
- Premium cabin partner awards
- Ultra-long-haul partner redemptions
So, that's pretty much everything.
Since redemptions for Malaysia's own flights are already a pretty bad deal, you're going to want to focus your Enrich miles on partner awards — particularly if you want to get a one-way business/first class award.
The terms and conditions note that you won't be able to cancel an award ticket purchased before June 10 after the reservation system change. However, you can make changes to your travel dates "within ticket validity."
If you're set on an Enrich redemption, but there's no award availability for your preferred dates, it might be worth booking an award now and changing the dates later. If you only change the dates, you'll have to pay change fees "subject to the terms and conditions at time of the original redemption ticket issued." If you change the destination, change fees and the difference in mileage will apply to the change.
If you need to top off your account for a redemption, Citi ThankYou Points transfer to Malaysia's Enrich program at a 1:1 ratio. However, our test transfer didn't go so well.
If you've got a stash of Enrich miles, you're going to want to burn through them in the next 2.5 weeks. If you're not already acquainted with the Enrich mileage program, there are a few gems. But, you're going to need Citi ThankYou points, some patience and persistence to get to them.
H/T: One Mile at a Time