Etihad Devalues Incredible First-Class Partner Redemption
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Back in August, I wrote about my favorite award redemption, which used the uncommon combination of Etihad Guest miles to fly Japanese parter ANA. For a minuscule 96,200 miles you could fly ANA First Class round-trip between Tokyo and the US. Just three weeks ago I used this redemption to fly Tokyo to Washington D.C. round-trip and found the flight as enjoyable as ever knowing I had used less than 100,000 miles for a $10,000 flight.
This morning I headed to the Etihad forum on Flytertalk and noticed the thread I started was back at the top of the forum with some terrible news. It seems that the ANA redemption chart was removed from Etihad.com early Wednesday morning, with a phone agent confirming that new prices had immediately taken effect. One-way redemptions between Japan and the US (you have to book round-trip award tickets on ANA when using Etihad miles) were quoted by a phone agent as starting at 33,500 miles for economy, 60,000 miles for business, and 120,000 for first class. I called and confirmed these prices with an Etihad agent myself. That's a nearly 150% increase in the cost of a first-class redemption — ouch!
As a Japan resident, I am thankful the redemption was available for as long as it was. It made premium flights back to the States available at what we should all agree is a ridiculously low rate. The new economy and business rates are in line with most programs for transpacific flights, but in my opinion first class is now not worth booking. Given my experience with Etihad and its underwhelming customer service, the lack of any advance warning (or even an announcement) does not surprise me in the least. I have an email into a contact with the Etihad Guest program and hope to receive some more info to pass along.
The fact is that most of the Etihad partner award charts are nonsensical and there are still some gems to be had, if you can get Etihad phone agents to find availability. My wife and I each recently signed up for Citi Premier cards with what at the time was a 60,000-point bonus. I had hoped to transfer ThankYou points to Etihad to book one more of these trips home for the final time as we leave Japan at the New Year. Instead, I'll try to use the miles for Brussels Airlines business class from New York to Brussels, which still appears to be available for 36,620 miles round-trip!