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As more airlines seek to provide more ways for consumers to burn their miles, Etihad Airways just announced a new function that will enable passengers to use Etihad Guest Miles to bid for a premium seat in a higher cabin.

The airline has supported cash bids since 2012, and cash bidding arrangements for unsold premium seats are fairly prevalent across the commercial aviation and cruise industries. A system for mileage bidding, however, is a novel concept.

Thanksgiving dinner in the sky.
Something tells us bids for seat upgrades on Etihad’s A380 will exciting to watch

Especially notable is the real-time nature of the new system. Per an Etihad release, guests “will be able to see real-time notifications of their bid displayed on their screen, allowing two or more individual bids at the same time,” and “regular email and SMS updates will also be sent to notify them of the status of their bid.”

Etihad Guest members will receive an email invitation to bid for a one-cabin upgrade 7 days before their flight. Alternately, they can visit the etihad.com ‘Manage Your Booking’ page or etihadguest.com. The auction will run from 48 to 6 hours prior to their flight’s departure, and once it closes, the winner will be notified immediately.

Bidding for business class on Etihad’s A380? Don’t mind if I do…

Future enhancements will enable Etihad Guest members to bid with their miles on “Neighbour-Free seats” (which you can read more about here), as well as allowing guests to combine cash and miles for bidding.

For those considering a bid on an upcoming flight, keep in mind that TPG values each Etihad Guest mile at 1.4 cents. As the bid increases, it’s wise to do the math and ensure that you’re actually getting a deal. While it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of winning an auction, cooler heads will realize that future award redemptions may be a smarter use of those miles should the bid rise beyond what you could secure the same upgrade for using cash. (That said, Etihad offers some of the most luxurious cabins anywhere, and we wouldn’t blame you for spending your stash of miles for a confirmed seat in its first class Apartment or opulent Residence.)

Unsold seats aboard Etihad’s Dreamliners will soon be snapped up via mileage auctions

Given that airlines have a long history of copying one another (ahem, basic economy and rising bag fees), it’s likely that other carriers will take note of Etihad’s announcement. As more mechanisms for selling premium cabin seats enter the fold, this is likely to negatively impact elite members who hold out for complimentary upgrades in programs that offer them.

How To Earn Etihad Guest Miles

It’s easy to earn miles in the Etihad program, even if you rarely (or never) fly Etihad. 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. Below, we’ve highlighted Citi and Amex cards offering robust welcome bonuses, which can then be used to fund your Etihad Guest Miles account.

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