The events of MH370 and MH17 are indescribably tragic, and have started a chain reaction for Malaysia Airlines which was already under great financial pressure. The airline had generously offered full refunds on forward tickets after the MH17 disaster, and has been estimated as losing as much as $2mn US per day.
Over at Crikey’s Plane Talking, Ben Sandilands gives a thorough rundown of the current state of Malaysia Airlines and it’s transition to profitability through various stages of public and private ownership – and possibly out the other side as ‘Air Malaysia’. All of this would take some time to eventuate, but it does, or could, have an impact of members of it’s Enrich frequent flyer program – including me, who love it for it’s great value redemptions to Asia and Europe.
Pictured above: the renowned Satay available in Business Class on Malaysia Airlines
You may want to read these couple of reviews of Malaysia Airlines – from Paris to Sydney at the end of 2014, plus how I researched and booked that trip, and then from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney a bit further back.
You should also have a read or skim through this analysis of Enrich versus other oneworld frequent flyer programs, in the context of Enrich as an American Express membership rewards partner.
All this will give you an idea of how Enrich miles can be used amazingly cost effectively for Business and First Class redemptions.
Enrich is somewhat unique as a Frequent Flyer program – many programs out there are renowned for their flexibility in partners – you would earn miles in them for your ability to use them on their program partner airlines, as much (or if not more) than the parent airline. Enrich is the opposite – their partner redemption rates are really high, but they are an absolute bargain to redeem miles on their own flights.
Put simply, I think there are short and long term risks in holding and using Enrich miles – and this is coming from someone with a decent size balance (transferred over from Membership Rewards for a tentative large family redemption for travel next year).
The short term risks in Enrich
The short term risks in holding Enrich miles, in my view, centre around devaluations in the pricing of awards on Malaysia Airlines operated flights. This is the biggest bargain they have to offer, and is also the easiest thing for them to change.
Enrich have already shown signs of playing around with their program terms earlier this year, reducing the expiry period for held miles a little.
I wouldn’t be surprised in the event Malaysia Airlines try to recoup some revenue (or reduce some liabilities by devaluing Enrich miles) by increasing the cost of redemptions on Malaysia Airlines operated flights.
However, any bookings you do make at the current rates would almost definitely be honoured, along with those from their oneworld partners. This leads me on to my perceived longer term risks.
The longer term risks in Enrich
The longer term risks of continuing to accrue and store miles in Malaysia Airlines Enrich program for me centre around two things – their general viability, but also the effect of future restructuring.
Their general viability I don’t think is going to be a major concern. I doubt that the airline would be grounded and your bookings would be honoured, for example. But the stress and unease of future change can take it’s toll, and potentially your points are better off being kept elsewhere.
The effects of future restructures are more than likely to be felt beyond their frequent flyer program – the routes they operate, frequencies and many other contributing factors all determine to how appealing they are to fly with, and thus how appealing their frequent flyer program miles are.
I expect there aren’t many people who use Enrich in Australia as a true Frequent Flyer program – there are other more dominant players out there.
However, they are a very handy transfer partner of both American Express Membership Rewards, and the Westpac group of credit card programs – St.George Amplify and Westpac Altitude – so they do a play a role for us.
This role, for the savvy points collector, is understanding the sweet spots in a program, and using them wisely – so saving your points to target that 52,000 mile one way redemption from Europe to Australia, for example – vs say 128,000 points for the same (and much harder to come by) redemption on Qantas, or ~82,000 in Singapore Airlines Krisflyer.
All this means:
- I’m absolutely planning to redeem my Enrich miles in my account as soon as possible.
- I would only earn more if I was going to redeem them within a short timeframe
- I would only make bookings with Enrich on Malaysa Airlines that are likely to be close-in, maybe no more than 3-4 months away, to minimise the risk of change
- I would think twice (but would probably still go ahead) of using non-Enrich miles on Malaysia Airlines for short term redemptions, but for longer-term, I would hold also probably hold off, unless it’s on a route that is core to the airline, say London or Hong Kong