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Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly Brussels Airlines business class to Europe for just 44,000 miles

March 13 2022
7 min read
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Etihad Guest miles are less commonly used in the U.S. than miles with domestic airlines like American Airlines. However, in a handful of cases they can save you tens of thousands of miles during a single trip -- like, more miles than are offered with most credit card sign-up bonuses.

There exists an exceptionally syrupy sweet spot for anyone wanting to travel to Europe in a lie-flat business-class seat. You could save $6,000 by dropping just 88,000 miles for a round trip to Belgium.

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Here’s the best part: You probably already have a load of Etihad miles, whether you know it or not. That’s because Etihad is a transfer partner of the following transferable points programs:

You can instantly convert these rewards to Etihad miles at a 1:1 ratio.

If you’ve earned any of the enormous sign-up bonuses that have been floating around lately, there’s a great chance you already have enough Etihad miles to book a lie-flat seat to Europe.

Related: How (and why) you should earn transferable points in 2022

Why it’s special

If you’re paying 60,000-plus miles for a one-way business-class flight to Europe, you’re not getting ripped off. That’s the going rate for a fancy lie-flat seat across the Atlantic.

(Photo courtesy of Brussels Airlines)

However, with Etihad miles you can fly on partner Brussels Airlines and score seven-plus hours in a seat like this for 44,000 miles one way. This seat regularly sells for more than $3,000 -- giving you a value of 6.8 cents per mile. TPG valuations peg Etihad miles at 1.4 cents each, on average -- meaning this sweet spot offers a value nearly 5 times higher than usual!

The same exact seat when using other airline currencies would cost:

You’ll save between 16,000 and 31,000 rewards each way (between 32,000 and 62,000 miles round-trip) over common Star Alliance airline programs by booking with non-Star Alliance partner Etihad (yes, there are a few exceptions).

Here’s the caveat, though: You can only find this price for flights to Brussels Airport (BRU) from either New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Washington, D.C.'s Dulles International Airport (IAD). In other words, this is a cheap way to cross the ocean in style, but you’ll likely have to take another flight to your actual destination once you reach the European continent. Intra-Europe flights are usually inexpensive, so this shouldn’t be an issue.

Related: 11 tips for traveling Europe on a budget

How to book this award

(Photo by Vincent Kalut/Photonews/Getty Images)

You cannot book these seats online with Etihad -- nor can you locate available seats on the Etihad website. The best way to find seats is through the United Airlines website.

Step 1: Enter your travel information

Head to the United Airlines website and enter your desired dates and airports. Remember, the only flights that qualify for this deal are the following nonstop routes on Brussels Airlines:

  • New York (JFK) to Brussels (BRU).
  • Washington (IAD) to Brussels (BRU).

In the below example, I’ve stipulated that I want to see business-class flights only.

(Screenshot from united.com)

Step 2: Open the 30-day calendar

Your desired date may not have Brussels Airlines availability. Seats aren’t impossible to find, but they’re less common than some other United partners.

On the results page, select the 30-day calendar. You’ll now see the lowest business-class awards for each day in a digestible format.

(Screenshot from united.com)

Step 3: Uncheck the “With stops” box below the calendar

Brussels Airlines flies nonstop between Brussels and Washington. We can therefore eliminate all flights that have a connection, because we know those aren’t Brussels Airlines.

To do this, locate the tiny box under the calendar that reads “With stops” and uncheck it.

(Screenshot from united.com)

Step 4: Click on dates that show 75,000 miles

The calendar now shows only nonstop business-class flights between Washington and Brussels. To find available business-class flights on Brussels, look for dates pricing out at 75,000 miles.

By clicking on one of these dates, you can see in the search results at the bottom of the page that there are business-class seats available, “Operated By Brussels Airlines.”

(Screenshot from united.com)

Step 5: Call Etihad to reserve your flight

Note the flight details such as date, departure/arrival time and number of the flight you found on United. Then, call Etihad at 877-690-0767 and relay the flight information carefully to them.

Etihad phone agents are a bit notorious for not being very good at booking partner award flights. If the agent can’t see the flights you’ve found, respectfully end the call and call back to get another agent.

Related: Evolution, not revolution: A review of Brussels Airlines’ new business class

How to earn miles for this award

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

As previously mentioned, Etihad Guest miles are easy to earn, as Etihad partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One miles and Citi ThankYou Rewards. You can transfer these rewards instantly at a 1:1 ratio.

There are sometimes even transfer bonuses to Etihad, which would make this already cheap sweet deal even cheaper.

If this trip sounds like something you’d consider in the future, you can earn the miles you need quickly by opening cards such as:

There are plenty more cards that earn these types of points. Read our guide to the best travel credit cards for more inspiration.

You can also  transfer Marriott points to Etihad at a 3:1 ratio. Also, for every 60,000-point increment you transfer, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus. For example, if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points, you’ll receive a deposit of 25,000 miles into your Etihad account.

Related: Etihad Guest miles continue to fly under the radar

Bottom line

The ability to book a multi-thousand dollar lie-flat seat to Europe for just 44,000 miles is one of the best airline sweet spots in the points and miles world. And you can book it with points you might already have.

The only problem is that your flight must be from either JFK or IAD. If you don’t live near one of these airports, you’ll have to fly there first to catch your dirt-cheap business-class flight.

Featured photo by (Photo courtesy of Brussels Airlines)
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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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
2X2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
  • Transfer Marriott points to 40+ airlines

Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees