My Malaysian Hail Mary

A short time ago Malaysian Airlines announced that they would be devaluing their award chart yet again on June 10th, all but effectively rendering the program useless for anything but certain economy flights where the stars align just right. 

When I read the email and accompanying PDF that detailed the changed my heart sunk. Only a month before the announcement was made I had found a sweet spot on their award chart that seemingly no one else had taken advantage of. Specifically, it was a 87,000 Enrich point award that allowed you to fly anywhere in the world in business class for 87,000 points max with the only caveat being that the flight(s) had to be on a single carrier. The icing on the cake? Not only is Malaysian a member of OneWorld, they also partner with Etihad and Emirates which meant that you had options on those airlines, as well as Qatar, Cathay, Qantas and JAL to name a few.

However, with the new award chart this 87,000 point ticket jumps to 165,000 points. OUCH! 

To those of you in the US, Enrich is probably a program that you would never consider - and with good reason. First of all, AA is a OneWorld member and Etihad partner and the same award has and still costs around 85k. Secondly, unless you have a Citi ThankYou point earning card you don't have access to the program (though if you do have TY points it is a good option). 

For those of you in Australia - this was the golden ticket. You can access Enrich points via American Express Membership Rewards (4:3 with Gateway, 1:1 with Ascent), Citi (2:1) and Westpac (2:1). That said, if you took advantage of the Amex Explorer 100,000 point deal it's likely that you very nearly have those 116,000 points that you need to book this award. 

Back to my story - I had the points but I didn't have the destination. That was, until days ago when our friends announced their wedding in Manchester had a date: late April next year. This about as perfect of an opportunity to take advantage of this award as I could imagine. It's far enough in advance that we can find award inventory AND we were just over a week away from the June 10th Enrich conversion date. The gears started turning...

I searched to check Cathay Pacific, Qatar and Emirates, and to check Etihad availability to the UK and ultimately found the following options:

  • ADL-DOH-MAN - Qatar Business (A350's)
  • SYD-HKG-MAN - Cathay Business (777 & A350)
  • SYD-AUH-LHR - Etihad Business (A380's)

Calling Malaysian is an experience - the agents are truly kind people, they just don't know much about the program. And while that's not always a bad thing, it doesn't make for short calls. I noted that usually wait times were often < 5 minutes but I had to endure long holds while the agents figured out how to accomplish what I was asking for. 

One of the perks of the Enrich program is their ability to hold awards. I shortlisted the Qatar and Etihad flights (the Cathay wasn't bookable by the agents after all - I'm sure I could have gotten it if I tried enough times but it wasn't my top choice anyway) and called a few time to get them both held under my name.

When that was done I tried to transfer the points on and I found that I was unable to enter my Enrich number online - it kept saying it was in a bad format. I called AMEX and in 10 minutes I had connected mine and my wife's accounts no problem.

The American Express transfer took about 16 hours and it was back to the phone I went. I had thought about what I really wanted to do while the points were transferring and I ended up liking the idea of going Etihad out of Sydney to London where we could spend a few days before the wedding. The thought of a positioning flight SYD-ADL and then MAN-LHR is just not appealing when we will already be traveling for 25 hours or so.

I found an incredibly helpful agent, Debbie, who over the course of about an hour was able to get the Etihad flights booked. The damage? 87,000 Enrich points and $130 AUD. Not bad for a flight that's currently valued at over $5,000. 

For comparison, those flights would have cost the follow amounts in these other programs:

  • 162,829 Etihad Guest Points + $130
  • 239,300 Virgin Australia Velocity Points or 139,000 + $651.52

The conclusion? Booking these tickets is doable, but it takes patience. And more importantly, you have a few days left before this option disappears forever.