Etihad Guest miles continue to fly under the radar
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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
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.
Etihad often requires fewer miles to fly AA-operated flights than had you booked directly through American Airlines’ AAdvantage program.
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 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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How to earn Etihad Guest miles
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:
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. ($395 annual fee).
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. ($95 annual fee).
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business: Earn 50,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,500 on purchases within the first three months from account opening ($95 annual fee, waived for the first year).
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.
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 photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty.
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