The airline “alliance” you’re probably not thinking about…
If I had to pick the one program most likely to get overlooked, I think I just might say it’s Etihad Guest. Perhaps that’s because it’s not a member of a major airline alliance.
While Etihad is not a member of Oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance, you can use Etihad Guest Miles to book awards on 24 partner airlines in addition to its own flights. I won’t say all of these partners are useful, but 25 options put it just behind Star Alliance’s 27 members.
I don’t want you to get upset, but there’s a chance you’ve booked some awards with other programs and could have saved some points and miles by booking with Etihad Guest miles. That’s ends today, though!
How To Book With Etihad Guest Miles
If you want to book an award on Etihad Airways with Etihad Guest miles, the process is pretty simple and can be done online. You can log into your Etihad Guest account before or after you run your search.
Here’s a quick rundown on the process:
- Visit Etihad
- Move the cursor to the menu option “Plan and book”
- Select “Book flights with miles” <– this will take you there directly
- Enter your origin/destination, travel dates, class of service and number of travelers
- Run the search
- Select your flight — look for “Guest” award space
- Log into your account
- Enter the passenger details, select your seat and pay the taxes/fees
That’s all it takes.
Now, booking partner awards is where things get a bit more complicated. Regardless of which partner, you’re going to have to call Eithad to book the award. Fortunately, the call center in Serbia is staffed with agents who seem to know what they’re doing.
Here’s where you’ll want to look for award space which each of Etihad’s respective partners.
|Partner||Where To Find Award Space|
|Air Europa||Air France/KLM|
|Air New Zealand||United/Aeroplan|
|Air Serbia||Call Etihad|
|Air Seychelles||Expert Flyer|
|All Nippon Airways (ANA)||United/Aeroplan|
|American Airlines||British Airways/Qantas|
|Bangkok Airways||Call Etihad|
|Czech Airlines||Air France/KLM|
|Garuda Indonesia||Air France/KLM|
|Korean Air||Air France/KLM|
|Malaysia Airlines||British Airways/Qantas|
|Oman Air||Call Etihad|
|Philippine Airlines||Call Etihad|
|Royal Air Maroc||Royal Air Maroc/Call Etihad|
|Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)||United/Aeroplan|
|SriLankan Airlines||British Airways/Qantas|
When you find award space online, make sure you take notes on the flight options that work for you including date, time, flight number and class of service before calling Etihad. This will speed up the process rather than having an Etihad agent search a bunch of dates for you.
Of course, some partners can’t be searched online so you’ll have to hope for the best when you call Etihad. Hey, at least the phone agents are good!
Sweet Spots With Etihad Guest Miles
Unfortunately, you’re not going to find Eithad’s own flights listed here as you’re probably better off booking with American AAdvantage miles or even Asiana Club miles. Not to worry though, there are a bunch of fun sweet spots within the Etihad Guest program.
Just keep in mind that some of Etihad’s partner award sweet spots can be a bit niche as they’ll require you to start your award from specific cities or fly specific routes.
Flying between New York (JFK) and Belgrade (BEG) might not be the first option think of when flying to Europe (or vice versa), but it’s a solid deal at 64,082 Etihad miles — not sure why they need that 82 miles but okay then — for a one-way business class award.
Air Serbia’s business class cabin on their A330 has a 1-1-1 herringbone layout similar to what you’ll find on some Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand flights. For the most privacy, you’ll want to select a K seat as it doesn’t share an aisle with the middle section — A and G seats share an aisle.
Short awards to/from BEG can also be useful as they start at 5,000 miles for economy and 7,125 miles for business class. If you find yourself on one of Air Serbia’s A319s or A320s, your business class seat will resemble a domestic first class seat you’d find in the U.S. This is quite a bit nicer than most intra-European business class seats which are just economy seats without someone sitting next to you.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
ANA Mileage Club is the champ when it comes to booking round-trip awards on ANA’s own flights. However, if you’re looking for a one-way business class award from the west coast, you need to give Etihad Guest a look.
Rather than using 75,000 Aeroplan miles or 80,000 United miles, you can book ANA business class to Tokyo — Narita (NRT) or Haneda (HND) — for 63,000 Etihad miles from Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC).
If you’re flying from Seattle (SEA), it’s even better at 54,000 Etihad miles.
The reason for booking for American flights with Etihad miles is a simple one: You can book at the same rates charged before they devalued their award chart in 2016. Premium cabin award space on American Airlines isn’t always the easiest to find, but booking with Etihad miles makes it just that little bit sweeter when you do.
Here are some business class options from the U.S. that I particularly like:
|Region||Etihad Miles||American Miles|
|Asia 1||50,000 miles||60,000 miles|
|Asia 2||55,000 miles||70,000 miles|
|Europe||50,000 miles||57,500 miles|
|South Pacific||62,500 miles||80,000 miles|
|Hawaii||37,500 miles||55,000 miles|
I don’t know if it can be any clearer. If you can find award space, Etihad miles is the way to go. And for those who say there’s never award space, I’ve found both business and first class space from Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG) at times.
There are other fun ways to maximize your awards on American with Etihad miles but you’ll have to chat with me after a couple bourbons at one of our meetups to get that info out of me.
Just remember, Etihad should be your go-to option when booking premium cabin flights on American Airlines, especially when you’re flying overseas.
Similar to ANA, using Etihad miles to book Asiana business class from the west coast to Seoul can really help you save some miles. For 59,000 Etihad miles, you can fly one-way in business class from either LAX or SFO.
Again, this is a great way to save points and miles. Why transfers 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points to Aeroplan when you can transfer 59,000 points from Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Capital One?
Clearly, this is the better option when you want a non-stop flight.
Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of visiting Southeast Asia is narrowing down the list of all the places you want to visit. Only then can you start to figure out flight options.
Many people jump straight to low-cost carrier options and those can work very well. However, I quite like Bangkok Airways. While their cash fares can be higher than these low-cost options, using Etihad miles is a great way to book.
Intra-Thailand economy flights will only cost 5,000 Etihad miles for a one-way award while business class will cost 7,500 miles. Honestly, these flights are so short, economy is more than fine.
You’ll even get complimentary lounge access as an economy passenger regardless of elite status.
While the days of using 36,620 Etihad miles to fly Brussels Airlines business class round-trip from JFK to Brussels (BRU) is over, Etihad is still a great option from the east coast.
You can book a one-way business class award from JFK, Toronto (YYZ) and Washington Dulles (IAD) for 44,000 Etihad miles. Economy awards aren’t quite as impressive but are still pretty good at 27,000 miles for a one-way flight.
ANA Mileage Club can also book this award for 88,000 miles round-trip but a round-trip is required while Etihad allows a one-way booking. Compared to the 55,000 Aeroplan miles or the 70,000 United miles you’d need, Etihad miles are the way to go.
If there’s one Etihad award I want to book that I want to book, it’s probably business class on Czech Airlines between Prague (PRG) and Seoul (ICN). It’s tough to beat using 25,610 miles to book a business class award with a listed flight time of 10 (from PRG) or 11.5 hours (from ICN).
Yes, booking this would be a bit of a novelty, but how could I not want to book it at 25,610 miles?! I’m happy to make an excuse to fly back to the U.S. from Europe through Seoul. Obviously, after a European adventure, finishing up the trip with some Korean BBQ and soju only makes sense.
If the cabin reminds you have Korean Air business class, that’s because it is. Czech Airlines leased the aircraft from Korean Air.
One of the toughest parts about a trip to South America can be the cost of flights within the region. Whether you book a cheap cash fare to the continent or book an award, hopping around will be much, much cheaper if you use Etihad miles to book flights on GOL.
Like many Etihad award charts, the GOL chart is distance-based. You can book one-way economy flights of no more than 500 flight miles for 3,000 Etihad miles. Flights between 501-1,000 flight miles require 6,000 Etihad miles while 1,001-1,500 flight miles will cost you 9,000 Etihad miles.
Since Oman Air isn’t part of a major airline alliance, Etihad Guest is pretty much THE partner option if you want to book an award. While not as well known as other airlines, Oman Air receives great reviews for its business class product.
They don’t fly to the U.S., but there are some great options between Muscat (MCT) and Asia and Europe. If you’re flying between Oman and Europe, you can book business class for as little as 38,000 to Milan (MXP) or Munich (MUC) to 44,000 Etihad miles to London Heathrow (LHR).
Between Oman and Asia, the range is a bit wider from 34,000 Etihad miles to Bangkok (BKK) to 51,000 Etihad miles to Manila (MNL).
Personally, I like a little time to try out a new airline and would be inclined to fly the London or Manila routes with listed flight times of 8 hours 40 minutes and 8 hours 20 minutes, respectively.
Royal Air Maroc
Whether you’re flying to Africa, the Middle East or even Europe, booking Royal Air Maroc with Etihad miles can really come through for you. Both the economy award rate of 22,000 miles for a one-way and the business class of 44,000 miles are quite competitive.
It’s even better when you consider that you can fly all the way to the Middle East for no extra miles. In fact, you could fly from JFK, IAD or Miami (MIA) to Casablanca (CMN) then connect to Doha (DOH) — both flights on Dreamliners with lie-flat business class seats — for 44,000 miles.
While that routing would be fun, I really like this partnership as a backdoor way into Europe when award space on flights from the U.S. to Europe isn’t available. When you consider the total travel time when connecting at a European airport and connecting on Royal Air Maroc at CMN, it’s really not a bad way to go.
Sri Lankan Airways
I’m not sure if it’s just my friends or a bunch of people watched Anthony Bourdain visit Sri Lanka, but it seems to be quite the popular destination these days.
If you’re someone who likes to book crazy around-the-world trips — this is me, I’m talking about myself here — then SriLankan Airways can play a role. If I were to book a SriLankan Airways flight with Etihad miles, I’d probably look at the Colombo (CMB) to Beijing (PEK) route for 46,000 miles in business class.
While American AAdvantage can book the same award for 40,000 miles, there are just so many ways to earn Etihad Guest miles that using 6,000 more miles could make sense for many people.
If you’re going to fly all the way to Australia, you might as well take the time to see a few cities and perhaps hop over to New Zealand while you’re at it. With Etihad miles, you can book short flights on Virgin Australia for as few as 6,900 miles in economy and 13,800 in business class.
One thing to keep in mind is that if the flight is operated by Vrigin Australia Regional Airlines, you might not be able to book with Etihad miles.
You can even find award flights to places such as the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. Have a look at cash ticket prices on these routes sometime and you’ll see why Etihad miles are useful.
If you want to head north after a visit to Australia, you can use 33,800 Etihad miles to fly business class to Bali (DPS) from Adelaide (ADL), Brisbane (BNE), Melbourne (MEL) or SYD.
While you won’t get a lie-flat seat on these routes, I quite enjoyed flying business class on a 3-hour flight from Sydney (SYD) to Queenstown (ZQN) last year. The inflight service was great and I was able to enjoy a visit to the lounge.
If nothing else, you’ll use far fewer points than if you booked with Delta SkyMiles.
BONUS: Cheap Infant Awards
If you’re traveling with an infant, Etihad makes it pretty easy and not too painful to include him or her on your award. You just need to 10% of the required award rate to book your infant.
Etihad’s Transfer Partners
Membership Rewards points and ThankYou Points both transfer to Etihad at a 1:1 ratio while Capital One transfers are 2:1.5. Personally, I like to transfer from Membership Rewards as the transfers process almost instantly so I don’t have to worry about award space disappearing.
Unfortunately, ThankYou Points transfers have been inconsistent. I’ve seen them take 2 days and I’ve seen them take over a week. If you’re booking an award that commonly has award space, that might not be an issue. However, if there’s one seat on the one day you can travel, I wouldn’t trust it.
Capital One is the new game in town so we have fewer data points, but it seems that transfers take about 24 hours. This isn’t terrible but Amex still has the advantage with instant transfers.
How To Earn More Etihad Guest Miles
If you want to earn Etihad Guest miles, you’ll have ample opportunity to do so. You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One and Citi ThankYou Points. This is what gives Etihad an advantage over many other programs when the award rates are similar.
American Express provides the widest variety of bonus categories across a number of different Membership Rewards cards while Capital One keeps things simple with cards that earn 2X points per dollar — the equivalent of 1.5X airline miles per dollar.
Citi has also revamped the Citi Prestige to make improve its earning ability and the Citi Premier has some solid bonus categories as well.
In some cases, Etihad Guest award charts provide options that will only be useful for a small portion of travelers. Other times, you can find more broadly applicable awards. Either way, you don’t want to overlook this program when planning your next redemption.