Making plans for your summer getaway this year? Whether it’s for a solo trip, family outing, get-together with friends, or company team-building event, you can cut costs and get the most out of your travel-related purchases.
Pinoy travelers love cheap flights—everyone knows that. But did you know that when you book flights to a summer destination in the Philippines or abroad, you can earn rewards and use them later to fly for free? That’s one smart way to save money on your next flights. All it takes is joining an airline loyalty program.
Table of Contents
- What are Airline Loyalty Programs?
- 6 Benefits of Airline Loyalty Programs
- Final Thoughts
What are Airline Loyalty Programs?
Commercial airlines reward loyal passengers with air miles or points through loyalty programs, also known as frequent-flyer programs. In the Philippines, AirAsia has AirAsia BIG, Cebu Pacific has GetGo, and Philippine Airlines has Mabuhay Miles.
Airline loyalty programs work like typical customer rewards programs of malls, bookstores, and gas stations. Each time you buy a product, you earn corresponding points. In the case of an airline, you earn points or miles when you book a plane ticket, buy from the airline’s partner outlets, or use an air miles credit card.
6 Benefits of Airline Loyalty Programs
Booking flights under a loyalty program is a great opportunity to rack up rewards points. Heading out for a summer vacation? Take advantage of these perks when you sign up for a frequent-flyer program.
1. Free and Easy Membership
Creating an account with an airline loyalty program is free and open to anyone, even to OFWs. Cebu Pacific used to charge a PHP 150 membership fee but has discontinued doing so since November 2017.
There are no required documents to join a frequent-flyer program. All you have to do is to enroll on an airline’s website. You may even earn points as soon as you sign up, such as with AirAsia BIG that awards instant 500 points for the first 300 people who enroll in the program.
2. Earn Miles from Flight and Non-Flight Purchases
Whether you’re a frequent or just a casual traveler, it’s easy to collect rewards points under an airline loyalty program. Earn points when you fly with an airline and purchase from its local and overseas partner establishments.
The AirAsia BIG Loyalty Program features an online points calculator, a convenient way for members to check the points they’ll earn from booking a flight.
AirAsia BIG members can also score points in many ways other than flight bookings:
- Travel: Booking hotels or tours and renting cars with AirAsia’s travel partners (Klook, Booking.com, Agoda, Budget Car Rental, Azalea Hotels, etc.)
- Lifestyle: Everyday spending with ZALORA, Sunway Medical Centre, and ROKKIshop.com
- Points conversion: Converting rewards points from partner credit card, telecom, and oil companies to BIG points (BPI, Security Bank, Globe, Petron, etc.)
- BIG Loyalty activities: Joining AirAsia’s on-ground events and travel fairs
RCBC recently issued a new co-branded credit card with AirAsia that can reward you more BIG points.
GetGo members earn one point for every PHP 5 spent on booking a flight with Cebu Pacific and CebGo. It’s easy to remember and compute points that way. But if you frequently fly on promo fares, it’ll take you quite a long time to collect enough points to redeem a free flight.
Earning points from non-flight transactions is possible through the following:
- Shopping at Lazada or Robinsons Department Store and Supermarket
- Converting points from purchases with partner credit cards and gas station (UnionBank, BDO, Citibank, Petron, etc.)
- Travel and hotel bookings at Agoda, Klook, Go Hotels, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, etc.
Using a UnionBank Cebu Pacific GetGo credit card is also another way of earning more points.
PAL gives out points based on different accrual charts (posted on its website) for domestic, international, and code-share partner flights. The points you’ll earn depends on your chosen route and cabin class (budget/regular/ economy, business class).
Like in other airline loyalty programs, Mabuhay Miles allow earning points through non-flight purchases.
- Converting rewards points from purchases with partner credit cards, telecom, gas station, and entertainment outlets (PNB-PAL Mabuhay Miles Mastercard, BDO, BPI, HSBC, Smart, Petron, Resorts World Manila, Solaire, etc.)
- Dining transactions in partner hotels
- Booking hotels (Ascott, Bellevue, Holiday Inn, etc.) and renting cars (Avis, Hertz, etc.)
Related Article: Travel Essentials in the New Normal: What to Pack for Your Next Trip
3. Redeem Miles or Points for Free Flights and Other Freebies
Who doesn’t want to fly for free? Keep earning air miles as a member of an airline loyalty program, and you’ll reach enough points to snag a free flight. Once you do, you can buy a plane ticket with your miles as you would with cash or credit card.
The Convenience of Redeeming Points
Most airline loyalty programs make it convenient for members to redeem points. For example, you can redeem a minimum of 500 AirAsia BIG points via the program’s website or mobile app. Simply do your normal booking online, and you’ll see the number of points needed to redeem a flight.
Likewise, GetGo requires a minimum value of 500 points that can be redeemed via a member’s online account or calling the GetGo Team.
Mabuhay Miles has a higher required minimum redemption value at 3,500 miles. Unlike in the two other airline loyalty programs, you can’t redeem miles for PAL flights online. You’ll need to go to a PAL ticket office (or call PAL Reservations beforehand) and present a valid ID such as passport or driver’s license.
PAL also charges processing fees ranging from USD 30 to USD 70 for miles redeemed one to nine days prior to departure and same-day departure. The complicated Mabuhay Miles redemption process can be a hassle, especially for OFWs who often return home to spend summer vacation with their families and friends.
Redeeming for Non-flight Rewards
Frequent flyers benefit a lot from airline loyalty programs for an obvious reason: they score points faster because they fly often. Casual travelers, or those who fly only once or twice a year, may still benefit from earning points via an airline rewards program.
For example, AirAsia BIG members can redeem their points for a ZALORA e-gift card, Klook e-voucher, or Kaligo Hotel e-voucher. Mabuhay Miles members may redeem their miles for Resorts World Manila gift cards.
On the other hand, no non-flight rewards are available to GetGo members. They can redeem only free flights.
4. Exclusive and Priority Access to Seat Sales
Always on the lookout for seat sale promos? Airlines usually give first dibs on seat sales to their loyalty program members before they make the promos available to everyone. This is especially helpful during peak travel seasons like summer when low-fare seats fill up too quickly.
If you’re a member of an airline rewards program, no need to manually input all your details (full name, contact number, email address, passport details, etc.) because they’re already saved in the airline’s system. Especially during a seat sale, this makes flight booking faster, so you can get that limited promo fare ahead of everybody. What better way to beat other seat sale warriors, right?
Aside from priority access, airlines also offer exclusive seat sales to members of their loyalty program. AirAsia BIG even offers a monthly points sale, which is up to 90% off the usual points needed to redeem a flight, available exclusively on the AAB Mobile App.
For instance, in the screenshot above, you see the round-trip flight from Manila to Seoul (Incheon). Usually, this trip is worth 41,000 points to redeem a roundtrip flight. However, during Final Call – points sale which happens every first full week of the month you need only 8,000 points. Even with at least 1,000 points, you can redeem a roundtrip flight and just pay the balance with your credit card. To avail of the points sale, you have to download the AirAsia BIG mobile app, as this special offer is exclusive only to the app users.
5. Exclusive Access to Promos
Airline loyalty program members are also treated to a variety of exclusive deals such as bonus points, freebies, and discounts from an airline’s partners.
AirAsia BIG members enjoy double points for converting credit card air miles plus shopping discounts, on top of a free in-flight internet access that can be used to chat with loved ones while on board. Discover the best air miles credit cards for cheaper travel in 2019 here.
GetGo provides mostly dining freebies, as well as bonus points and discounts from partner outlets.
From time to time, PAL awards double miles to members for select domestic and international flights.
6. Long Validity Periods for Air Miles
Unused accumulated miles won’t easily go to waste. Your points remain valid for a long time, depending on the airline loyalty program.
- AirAsia BIG – Valid within three years from the date of last activity
- GetGo – Valid for as long as the account is used at least once a year
- Mabuhay Miles – Valid within two years for active members
Points will expire only when the validity period has elapsed without any activity.
Which airline has the best loyalty program? The ultimate choice boils down to your unique needs and preferences as a passenger. Before signing up for any program, be sure it can give you maximum rewards you’re most interested in with the least effort.
Sign up for Air Asia Big Loyalty program by filling upp the form below. First 300 people to sign up get FREE 500 Big Points in their Air Asia Big account.
Venus is the Head of Editorial Content at Moneymax, with 15+ years of experience in digital marketing, corporate communications, PR, and journalism. She invests in stocks, mutual funds, VUL, and Pag-IBIG MP2. Outside of work, she’s crazy about cats and Korean dramas. Follow Venus on LinkedIn.