Etihad Guest Miles Continue to Fly Under The Radar
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Etihad Guest miles continue to be one of my favorite airline currencies to collect. Here at The Points Guy, we’ve covered the ability of the program to deliver extreme value with partner airlines multiple times, yet the currency remains, at best, an afterthought for most points and miles enthusiasts.
Today, I’m going to recount updated strategies for using your Etihad Guest miles to fly to almost any corner of the developed Earth in a manner which should make you grin from cheek to cheek, thanks to the value the program can produce.
Etihad Guest Miles are relatively easy to collect, making it even more surprising that the program hasn’t become a mainstream strategy. You can transfer both Citi ThankYou Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards to Etihad Guest at a 1:1 transfer ratio. There have also been a few transfer bonuses offered by the banks in the past, which sweeten the deal when they happen.
You can also transfer the new Marriott points to Etihad, with a 5,000-mile transfer bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer.
Best Partners to Book with Etihad Miles
For each partner, I’ve linked the individual award chart that Etihad maintains for that specific airline. Most are not intuitive, and many eligible routes aren’t listed on the charts. For instance, I had to call and request pricing for Virgin Australia’s Melbourne (MEL)-Hong Kong (HKG) nonstop route, as it’s not listed on the Virgin Australia partner chart. It took Etihad two days to get back to me after the program reportedly had to decide how much the route should cost — the answer turned out to be 62,500 miles one-way in business.
Also note that Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) is no longer an Etihad Guest partner, which is a shame as New York (JFK)-Kiev (IEV) was attractively priced. But there’s still plenty of choices, so let’s look at some of the best partners and routes for using Etihad miles:
Etihad requires fewer miles to fly American-operated flights than the number of miles AAdvantage charges for most routes. In fact, the Etihad chart for AA flights matches the pre-2016 devaluation numbers AA used to charge:
- North America to Europe one-way in business is only 50,000 Etihad miles.
- First class to Europe is 62,500 Etihad miles.
- A321T transcontinental business class flights are 25,000 miles.
- North America to Hawaii in business is 37,500 miles.
- North America to Japan or Korea one-way in business is only 50,000 Etihad miles.
You need to find SAAver award seat availability on aa.com, then call Etihad to book the flight. You should always look to use Etihad miles before AA miles to book international AA-operated flights.
Business class from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC) and Seattle (SEA) to Tokyo (TYO) will only set you back 54,000-63,000 miles one-way based on the distance of the actual flight. You can also fly several medium-haul intra-Asia routes like Tokyo-Bangkok (BKK) in business for only 34,000 Etihad miles.
San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles to Seoul (ICN) are all under 6,000 miles in distance, and therefore, a one-way ticket will cost you only 59,000 Etihad miles in business or 35,000 miles in economy. United charges the same 35,000 miles for an economy ticket, but charges 80,000 miles one-way for business. Book Asiana’s West Coast routes to Seoul via Etihad and save 21,000 miles each way.
There’s nothing ground breaking here, but one-way domestic Thai flights for 5,000 miles are great if cash fares are expensive. Bangkok to Singapore (SIN) is only 7,500 miles one-way.
The Brussels Airlines route from New York (JFK) to Brussels (BRU) used to be the best deal in award travel at just 36,620 Etihad miles round-trip, but has since been devalued. It’s still, however, a fantastic deal at 27,000 miles one-way in economy and 44,000 miles one-way in business for the transatlantic route. The same pricing applies for Washington DC (IAD) to Brussels.
Prague (PRG) to Seoul for 12,805 miles one-way in economy or 25,610 miles one-way in business. Europe to North Asia for 51,220 miles round trip. Unreal.
Expensive, short-haul intra-South America flights can be had for 3,000-9,000 miles in economy one-way. Earlier this year, I booked a $600 Buenos Aires (EZE) to Rio de Janeiro (GIG) flight for 9,000 Etihad Miles on GOL, and it was a lovely flight on a 737-800 with Gogo Wi-Fi.
Oman has a brand new business class on its 787-9 Dreamliners flying from Muscat (MCT) to Europe, and you can book the flight for 44,000 Etihad miles or less one-way.
- Muscat to Milan (MXP) or Munich (MUC) in business is 38,000 miles.
- Muscat to Zurich (ZRH) or Frankfurt (FRA) is 39,000 miles in business.
- Paris (CDG) is 42,000 miles and London (LHR) are 44,000 miles each, one-way in business class.
Check the operating aircraft closely to get the new business class. Also, note that while there’s first class on the 787-9s and first class is listed on the Etihad award chart for Oman Airways, sadly, if you call to book first class, phone agents will only be able to see business or economy class seats for booking.
You’ll need only 44,000 Etihad Guest miles to fly Royal Air Maroc’s 787 Dreamliner from New York (JFK) to Casablanca (CMN) and beyond. The award chart tops out at 44,000 miles for any itinerary 2,001 miles and longer. That means you can add an additional segment onto the JFK-CMN — like Casablanca to Doha (DOH) — and it will still be 44,000 Etihad miles for the business class journey.
The eight-hour flight from Colombo (CMB) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) is only 30,000 miles in economy or 60,000 miles in business. You can fly to the Middle East for 16,000 miles in economy, or make the short hop to the Maldives for only 5,000 miles one-way.
This lengthy chart is divided by individual routes and holds a few gems worth pursuing. Brisbane (BNE) to Queenstown, New Zealand (ZQN) yielded me quite a bit of value earlier this year at only 10,900 miles one-way for a rather expensive, three-hour flight. Dozens of domestic Australia flights can be had for 6,900 miles one-way in economy. You can also fly from Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL) or Brisbane to Bali (DPS) for 33,800 miles one-way in business class. Unfortunately, Virgin Australia’s long-haul routes to the US are not a good option to book with Etihad miles, so study your potential routes carefully on the detailed chart.
Engineer Your Way to Booking Success
Much of the hesitation to using Etihad miles comes from the inability to book partner flights or find much award space online. In most cases, you have to fully rely on an Etihad Guest phone agent to find and book partner award space. Fortunately, this process has improved significantly since I first used the program in 2014-15.
Here are my tips to improve your success when booking an Etihad partner award in 2018:
- Do as much pre-requisite homework as possible given your specific partner airline and the route you’re trying to book. Know the exact flight number(s) and check all possible avenues like Expert Flyer and partner websites that may show at least an insight into award availability.
- 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, Alitalia, Korean Airlines and Garuda Indonesia.
- Qantas.com‘s Classic Award search feature will show American Airlines space (along with any SAAver space you find on aa.com), Sri Lankan and Malaysian Airlines space that’s bookable with Etihad Guest.
- Call (877) 690-0767 and work your way through the phone tree to the Etihad Guest menu. Have your Etihad Guest number ready to give the agent. A semi-new Serbian call center seems to have taken over the workload from the Manchester, UK call center, and as a whole, I find the new Serbian-located agents fairly well trained.
- For the most part, agents have to 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 most likely put you on hold for each of these steps, which can increase your call time and frustration level. But the value you’ll receive is worth the 20-minute phone call. Sometimes they’ll request to call you back based on the query process — rest easy, as every time I’ve done this, they’ve actually called me back within a reasonable time period. Just triple check that they have your correct phone number.
- Before you get off the phone, ensure you have both the Etihad and partner booking reference numbers.
Fly internationally on American Airlines with Etihad Guest miles and you’ll get significant value. The same with hopping around South America on GOL. Or travel to the Middle East on Royal Air Maroc for 44,000 miles in business. The list really goes on and on with the potential value in this program. I’ll continue extolling the virtues of Etihad Guest miles until it’s one of the first programs you consider, regardless of where in the world you need to fly.
Featured image courtesy of Etihad.