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Sweet Spot Sunday: The best way to book Etihad award flights with transferable points

Jan. 16, 2022
7 min read
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Etihad is one of the three major Gulf carriers in the Middle East, alongside Emirates and Qatar. These airlines are among the most luxurious in the world — notably better than U.S. airlines, whether you’re flying coach or first class.

Etihad is well-known for its fantastic First Class Apartment seat, as well as its over-the-top “Residence,” which is effectively a full hotel room in the sky. These seats appear exclusively on Etihad’s A380 planes, which have unfortunately been grounded due to financial constraints in the wake of coronavirus. Etihad may blow the dust off of these planes in 2022, but even if we never see these seats again, Etihad still offers some of the most luxurious seats in the sky.

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The problem is that award flights on Etihad are not cheap when using Etihad Guest miles. Fortunately, Etihad partners with Air Canada Aeroplan, making possible some pretty spectacular deals. You can redeem your Aeroplan points to book the exact same Etihad seats at a steep discount. Aeroplan points are easy to earn, too, as they partner with the following transferable points currencies:

Many of the best travel credit cards earn these types of points, so you might already have a stash waiting to be used for luxurious Etihad seats. Here’s what you need to know to book Etihad with Aeroplan points.

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Why it’s special

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

You might assume that to get the best award price for your upcoming flights, you should book through the loyalty program of the airline you’re flying. Rarely is that the case, however — and Etihad is no exception.

If you want to fly on Etihad, booking through Air Canada can yield savings of tens of thousands of points. For example, Etihad charges 120,000 points for a business class flight between Washington, DC (IAD) and Abu Dhabi (AUH).

(Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com)

But Air Canada charges 85,000 points for the exact same seat. For anyone that doesn’t have a calculator handy, that’s a 35,000-point savings by using Aeroplan points instead of Etihad miles.

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(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

If you haven’t read our quick guide to adding a stopover with Aeroplan, check it out. This could immensely increase the value of your Etihad award flight, as well. Air Canada allows you to add one stopover per one-way flight (or two stopovers per round-trip) for 5,000 Aeroplan points each. Booking a flight from the U.S. to Australia with a stopover in Abu Dhabi, for example, could save you 100,000+ points.

Related: How to plan a free stopover on your next trip abroad

How to book this award

(Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty)

Let’s search for a flight between New York (JFK) and Abu Dhabi (AUH). Nearly all Etihad flights connect in its hub in the United Arab Emirates — so even if your destination isn’t Abu Dhabi, you’ll probably be searching for flights to there, anyway.

Step 1. Search the Etihad website for available seats

This step is not a requirement, but it can save you both time and frustration.

The Air Canada website occasionally will show available award seats when there in fact are none. Instead of beginning your search on Air Canada, head to the Etihad website for more reliable award inventory.

Step 2. Sort by cabin

If you’d prefer to fly business or first class, specify your choice cabin in your search. Etihad displays a calendar week of award prices at the top of your search results, and filtering by cabin will help you to scan dates more easily for your desired seat.

(Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com)

Step 3. Find “GuestSeat” inventory

As you can see, the below business class seat from New York to Abu Dhabi has three different prices:

  • 100,333 miles (plus taxes) in GuestSeat Business
  • 622,625 miles (plus taxes) in Choice
  • 1,015,500 miles (plus taxes) in Choice Plus

Any flight that offers “GuestSeat” award availability can also be booked through Air Canada.

(Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com)

If you’re perusing the Etihad award calendar and see a date selling seats from 600,000+ miles, you can assume there are no GuestSeat Business awards available that day.

Step 4. Head to the Air Canada website to book

Once you find a date that works for you, navigate to the Air Canada website and search for your flight there. You’ll find the exact same seat for considerably fewer points.

Here is the same business class seat on Air Canada for 85,000 points. That’s a savings of more than 15,000 points — not to mention $150 fewer taxes and fees!

(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

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

How to earn points for this award

(Photo by The Points Guy)

You’ll have no problem earning Air Canada Aeroplan points quickly by opening one or two rewards credit cards and earning their bonuses.

For starters, Air Canada and Chase debuted the Aeroplan® Credit Card, offering a bonus of 70,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.

Related: Why the new Aeroplan card is surprisingly a great choice for everyday purchases

Plus, you can transfer the following points currencies to Air Canada Aeroplan:

You can transfer the following rewards earned to Aeroplan and instantly have enough for an Etihad flight:

There are plenty more cards that earn the above points too. Read our guide to the best travel credit cards for more options.

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

Bottom line

Etihad premium seats are something of a bucket list item in the points and miles community. But if you want to book them, don’t use Etihad miles. You can reserve the exact same seat through Air Canada and save tens of thousands of points. Plus, you can add a stopover for just 5,000 miles each way. And the ease with which you can earn Aeroplan points makes this deal even sweeter.

Feature photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

Featured image by Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
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 featured card

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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.
4 / 5
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Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023