Book Your Etihad Guest Miles Awards Before the June 30 Devaluation
Now's the time to use your Etihad Guest miles if you're looking to book Etihad award flights. Etihad just gave a one-month notice for a devaluation of awards taking effect June 30.
At this point, details are light. We only know that the current saver award booking rates — known as GuestSeats — will only be valid for award flights booked through June 30. After that date, GuestSeats award rates will be "moving from a fixed single rate for redemption bookings to variances in fares." The rates for non-saver awards (OpenSeats) and upgrade awards won't be impacted by the change.
The text of the announcement only mentions "economy and business class." So, it's unclear if first-class awards are being spared or just aren't mentioned in this announcement:
On 30 June 2018 Etihad Guest will introduce variable pricing for redemption bookings on Etihad Airways marketed and operated flights. Moving from fixed single rate for redemption bookings to variances in fares within Economy class and Business class.
However, it's sort of a moot point, as Etihad Guest miles aren't the cheapest way of booking Etihad first-class awards, anyway. And, while finding saver first-class awards on Etihad on flights to/from the US are difficult to find, it's worth the hassle since you'll enjoy an ultra-luxurious experience:
How to Source Etihad Guest Miles
If you need to top off your Etihad Guest account to make a booking before the change, you've got plenty of options. Etihad Guest is a partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. You can also transfer points via Marriott's Hotel + Air packages.
Membership Rewards is going to be your best bet for getting miles transferred quickly. In TPG testing, points moved over instantaneously. Citi ThankYou points took seven days to transfer to Etihad. Starpoints took the longest, taking eight days to transfer. However, each transfer of 20,000 Starpoints will net you 25,000 Etihad Guest miles.
A Great Award Option Not Being Devalued
In the FAQ about this change, Etihad confirms that it's only making changes to saver awards on its own flights:
Changes to Etihad GuestSeat bookings only impact Etihad Airway's marketed and operated flights.
That means Etihad Guest miles will continue to be a great value for partner awards — including American Airlines awards. Specific to American Airlines, you can score first-class transcontinental awards for 25,000 miles (vs. 50,000 AA miles), first class to Asia for 55,000 miles (vs. 110,000 AA miles) and first class to Europe for 50,000 miles (vs. 85,000 miles).
I've also gotten great value from using Etihad Guest miles on Etihad's subsidiary Air Serbia. Flying from Germany to Belgrade cost just 5,890 miles one-way, and the short but expensive hop from Belgrade to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (SJJ) costs just 5,000 miles each way. From the US, you can also redeem from New York's Kennedy (JFK) to Belgrade, Serbia (BEG) round-trip in business class for 128,164 Etihad miles — as a TPG intern did in mid-2016.