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Etihad Guest miles continue to fly under the radar

Feb. 11, 2022
11 min read
Etihad 787
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Etihad Guest is a dark horse among loyalty programs.

Some casual U.S. travelers may have never even heard of the carrier, which is based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. And while including Etihad Guest in your free travel strategy isn’t essential, it can potentially help you to save tens of thousands of points and miles when booking partner tickets. That can mean more travel more often, which sounds like a win to me.

Another big plus of the program is that Etihad miles are easy to collect. Etihad is a transfer partner of the following flexible points programs:

Let’s look at strategies for using your Etihad miles to visit nearly every corner of the developed Earth. We’ll explain how to do it — and why you should.

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Best airline partners to book with Etihad miles

(Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

Etihad isn’t an official member of an airline alliance. Instead, it's built a unique mix of partner airlines all over the world, serving 3,000 destinations. You can use Etihad miles to book award flights on 20 partner airlines, from American Airlines to Air New Zealand. We won’t analyze this dizzying number of airlines and award charts in this post. Instead, we’ll just show you the best deals.

For each partner, we’ve linked the individual award chart that Etihad uses for that specific airline.

Related: The ultimate guide to Etihad partners

American Airlines

Etihad often requires fewer miles to fly AA-operated flights than had you booked directly through American Airlines' AAdvantage program.

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While American has kept a standard award chart for many flights, it has started its switch to dynamic pricing under its Web Special awards scheme. On top of this, American's award chart has been devalued heavily over the years, with prices going up across the board for international flights in economy and business class.

Thankfully, Etihad Guest has kept American's pre-2016 award chart. This means awards are predictably priced and cheaper than booking directly with AAdvantage and other Oneworld programs like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Britsh Airways Avios.

Below are a few examples of when Etihad will likely save you points:

  • North America to Europe in business class: 50,000 Etihad miles each way versus 57,500 miles with AAdvantage.
  • North America to Europe in first class: 62,500 Etihad miles. American charges 85,000 miles if you’re lucky enough to find award space.
  • North America to South Korea in business class: 50,000 Etihad miles, while American charges at least 60,000 miles.

To book these tickets, you have to find saver award space on American-operated flights using your favorite Oneworld search tool. Once you find space, call Etihad Guest to book your ticket.

So if you're booking an international flight on American Airlines, make a habit of checking the Etihad Guest award chart first (PDF link).

ANA

ANA is the largest airline in Japan, and a great shuttle for much of the Pacific Rim.

With Etihad Guest-booked ANA flights, you’re charged according to the distance you fly. You can use Great Circle Mapper to measure your anticipated flights and price them out before you start searching for available award seats.

Using Etihad for ANA flights won’t necessarily be cheaper (ANA awards are famously inexpensive, and some of the greatest sweet spots in the world of points and miles). But you can book one-way award flights — something you can’t do if you use ANA’s own award currency.

Business-class ANA flights from the West Coast (Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Jose, California; and Seattle) to Tokyo (HND/NRT) cost between 54,000 and 63,000 miles one-way — great prices for a flight that lasts 12 hours and can easily cost thousands of dollars if you pay out of pocket.

Related: How to book a $20,000 ANA first-class ticket for just $34

Asiana

Asiana is based in South Korea, and another airline with which Etihad charges based on the distance you travel. The chart isn’t nearly as inexpensive as ANA, though the Asiana program has its merits.

(Screenshot courtesy of etihadguest.com)

With Etihad miles, a business-class flight from San Francisco, Seattle or Los Angeles to Seoul, South Korea (ICN), costs 59,000 Etihad miles in business class. That’s 11,000 miles cheaper than United Airlines’ lowest-priced dates for the same route, so it's definitely worth considering once South Korea reopens to tourism.

Brussels Airlines

(Photo by Vincent Kalut/Photonews/Getty Images)

Brussels Airlines gives you a great opportunity to cross the Atlantic for cheap thanks to its partnership with Etihad: 44,000 miles one-way in business class between New York (JFK) or Washington, D.C. (IAD), and Brussels. For context, U.S. airlines usually charge 60,000-plus miles for a similar business-class route.

Related: Book business-class flights to Europe for 44,000 points

Oman Air

Oman Air has one of the best premium cabin experiences in the sky. And there are plenty of routes on which you can try it out for relatively few Etihad miles (PDF link).

The catch is that you’ll have to travel through Muscat (MCT) — and very few people choose Oman as their getaway. Likewise, the airline doesn't serve the U.S. but it's worth knowing if you're piecing together a round-the-world itinerary and need to go from Europe to the Middle East.

Here are the prices of a few choice routes from Muscat (prices are one-way):

  • Zurich (ZRH) or Frankfurt, Germany (FRA): 39,000 miles in business class.
  • Paris: 42,000 Etihad miles in business class.
  • London (LHR): 44,000 Etihad miles in business class.
  • Milan (MXP) or Munich (MUC): 69,000 Etihad miles in first class.

Royal Air Maroc

(Photo by Brendan Dorsey/The Points Guy)

Royal Air Maroc is a great airline partner for reaching many popular African destinations cheaply.

Etihad will charge you based on the distance you fly with this airline (another great time to use Great Circle Mapper to easily find your flight distance), but you can easily find outsize value — especially because the award chart tops out at 44,000 miles for business-class flights.

(Screenshot courtesy of etihadguest.com)

In other words, a business-class flight between New York-JFK or Washington Dulles (IAD) to Casablanca, Morocco (CMN), costs just 44,000 Etihad miles each way, because the flight is longer than 2,001 miles. Booking this exact same flight with partner American Airlines miles costs 57,500 miles, so you’ll save 13,500 miles one-way by booking with Etihad.

Related: You can now redeem Alaska miles on Royal Air Maroc — but here’s why you shouldn’t

Virgin Australia

Etihad’s lengthy Virgin Australia award chart (PDF link) is divided by individual routes and holds a few gems worth pursuing.

A one-way flight between Queenstown, New Zealand, and Brisbane — often quite expensive — costs just 10,900 Etihad miles in coach or 21,800 Etihad miles in business class. If you’d like to hop around Australia, there are dozens of domestic flights for 6,900 miles one-way in coach. You can even fly from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Bali, Indonesia, for 33,800 miles one-way in business class.

If you're planning a post-reopening trip to Australia, keep these awards in mind for jaunts around the country.

Related: The best ways to use points and miles to fly from the US to Australia

Tips for booking Etihad award flights

Much of the hesitation to use Etihad miles comes from the inability to book partner flights or find much award space online.

You must find saver-level award seats on your respective website, then call Etihad to book the flight. Jot down the date, times and flight number and relay that info to the agent you speak with.

Search the American Airlines website for cheap award prices and call Etihad to book the exact same seat for (possibly) cheaper. (Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

Here are some tips to improve your success when booking an Etihad partner award:

  • Do lots of homework surrounding the specific airline and the route you’re trying to book.
  • United.com will at least give you an idea of availability for Etihad partners Asiana, SAS, Air New Zealand, ANA and Brussels Airlines.
  • Delta.com will show you certain routes for Virgin Australia, Korean Airlines and Garuda Indonesia.
  • Qantas.com's Classic award search will show American Airlines space (along with any saver-level space you find on aa.com), Sri Lankan and Malaysian Airlines space that’s bookable with Etihad Guest.
  • Call 877-690-0767. Have your Etihad Guest number ready.
  • For the most part, agents must search and find the airline and flight you’d like, manually query that partner to confirm award space and then go through the ticketing process. They’ll likely put you on hold for each of these steps, which can increase your call time. But the value you’ll receive is worth the 20-minute phone call.
  • Before you get off the phone, ensure you have both the Etihad and partner booking reference numbers.

Related: Ultimate guide to searching award availability for the major airlines

How to earn Etihad Guest miles

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Etihad Guest miles are easy to collect, as the program partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles and Citi ThankYou Rewards, all of which transfer at a 1:1 ratio. Occasionally we’ve even seen transfer bonuses for Etihad, making award flights effectively cheaper if you’re using one of the above transferable currencies.

If you need to stock up on Etihad Guest miles, consider opening a Capital One card. Here's a look at current welcome bonuses:

For other options, check out our guide to the best travel credit cards.

Note that you can also  transfer Marriott points to Etihad at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile transfer bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer. This means 60,000 Marriott points equals 25,000 Etihad miles after the bonus.

Related: How (and why) you should earn transferable points

Bottom line

Fly internationally on American Airlines with Etihad Guest miles and you’ll get significant value. The same can be true with hopping around Australia with Virgin Australia, traveling to the Middle East on Royal Air Maroc or exploring Belgium with Brussels Airlines. There's plenty of value to be found in the program, you just have to be willing to put in the work to book partner flights.

If you’re not invested in Etihad yet, you can certainly get where you’re going — but you may be paying more than the rest of us.

Additional reporting by Richard Kerr.

Featured image by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

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Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more