Etihad Airways is a Abu-Dhabi-based airline that offers worldwide coverage, luxurious premium cabin seats, and a lucrative rewards program. Etihad Guest, the loyalty program for the airline, is a very valuable program, but one that many people in the US are not familiar with. While Etihad is not part of any formal airline alliance, the airline has many partners, including ANA, American Airlines, Air Berlin, Jet Airways and more.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at the Etihad Guest program, and go over how to use miles for award tickets in the program. We’ll also take a look at some Etihad sweet spots to give you an idea of some of the best use of Etihad miles.
Using Etihad Miles
Etihad miles are relatively easy to accumulate, given that the program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest (all at a 1:1 transfer ratio). Keep in mind that miles transfers can take a while – anywhere from 1 to 12 days.
You can search for award availability on Etihad’s site. Unfortunately, Etihad only allows you to book Etihad flights via their website, so you can’t book awards on partner airlines online. You will need to call in to book award flights on partner airlines. You can call the main US number, but in my experience the UK agents tend to be a bit more on the ball. You can contact the Etihad UK office at +44 0345 6081225.
Booking Etihad Flights
Flights booked directly on Etihad-operated routes can be searched for and booked directly through the Etihad website. The airline doesn’t pass along fuel surcharges on their own flights and a one-way booking costs half of a round trip booking. Searching for availability can be a bit clunky. There are no full award charts published, but you can use the miles calculator to approximate how many miles you’ll need for a trip. Keep in mind that the Etihad sweet spots are often on non-Etihad operated flights, but instead on partner-operated flights booked with Etihad miles.
Booking Etihad Partner Flights
As mentioned, Etihad is partnered with a number of airlines, many of which allow award booking using Etihad miles. You can search for availability on each partner’s website, or search for availability using these sites:
- For Air New Zealand, Brussels Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, and South African Airways, use United.com
- For ANA, use ANA.com
- For Airberlin and American Airlines, use AA.com
- For Malaysian Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines, use BritishAirways.com
- For Alitalia, Korean Air, GOL and Virgin Australia, use Delta.com
- For Czech Airlines, use AirFrance.com
- For Hainan, use AlaskaAirlines.com
- For all other airlines, you must call in to search award availability.
If you find an available flight, write down the flight numbers, dates, times and other info and keep that with you when you call in to Etihad to make the booking. Also, recognize that some Etihad agents will not be familiar with the partner booking process. If you get someone on the phone that seems confused or unsure of how to make the booking, say thanks and hang up, calling back later to get (hopefully) a more knowledgeable agent.
Etihad Miles Sweet Spots
For the most part, the best use of Etihad miles is, ironically, on non-Etihad flights. Some sweet spots can be had on American Airlines flights, as well as flights on GOL, Air Serbia and others. Some current sweet spots on Etihad include:
There are some excellent deals to be had on American Airlines award tickets booked using Etihad miles. The full award chart can be seen here. For the most part, it’s similar if not identical to the old American Airlines award chart that has since been devalued, meaning that it’s often cheaper to use Etihad miles than American Airlines miles for the exact same AA flights. Some highlights include:
- North America to Europe economy class awards starting at 40,000 Etihad miles + taxes round-trip
- North America to Australia business class awards starting at 125,000 Etihad miles + taxes round-trip
- North America to Asia economy class awards starting at 50,000 Etihad miles + taxes round-trip
For the most part, AA bookings using Etihad miles are much better deals than AA booking made with actual AA miles! Of course, finding award available can be tricky, but there is some excellent value to be had here.
GOL is a regional South American airline headquartered in São Paulo, Brazil. Their award chart is distance-based, which makes for some awesome deals on short-haul flights. For example, you could fly from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro for just 3,000 Etihad miles + taxes. Here’s part of the distance-based award chart for GOL airlines (booked using Etihad miles):
- 0-500 mile distance – 3,000 Etihad miles + tax
- 500-1000 mile distance – 6,000 Etihad miles + tax
- 1000-1500 mile distance – 9,000 Etihad miles + tax
- 1500-2000 mile distance – 12,000 Etihad miles + tax
GOL has good availability within South America, so it’s great for country-hopping on the cheap using your Etihad miles.
Keep an Eye out for Transfer Bonuses
Many of the best Etihad sweet spots have unfortunately been devalued in recent months, but there is still value to be had if you know where to look. One last thing to keep in mind is the availability of transfer bonuses from other award programs. AMEX Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and SPG have all run transfer bonuses in the past, and are likely to continue to in the future. There are no active bonuses at the time of this writing, but we’ll keep you posted when one pops up! A transfer bonus will make these Etihad redemptions even more of an incredible value.