Etihad Guest is the loyalty program for Etihad Airways. While it may not get as much press as other programs such as Aeroplan, British Airways Avios, or Air France/KLM Flying Blue, it’s one of the more accessible programs since it’s a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards.
Recently, the airline announced that there will be upcoming changes to the program, and we now know the details. As of March 9, 2023, Etihad Guest will shift to having two distance-based award charts, instead of individual charts for each airline.
While it’s not a shift towards dynamic pricing, many of the program’s unique sweet spots are soon to disappear.
Etihad Guest Moves to Two Distance-Based Award Charts
Until now, Etihad Guest has used separate charts for each airline, with pricing based on a hybrid of both distance and routes.
The Abu Dhabi-based airline will soon have two charts: one for redemptions on Etihad Airways, and one for travel on partner airlines.
The new award chart for Etihad Airways redemptions is as follows:
As you can see, you can redeem points for Etihad Airways flights in economy, business class, and First Class, with prices that vary depending on how far you fly.
The highest distance band is for flights of over 6,001 miles, which also happens to less than any direct flight between Abu Dhabi and North America, as all measure around 7,000 miles in distance.
Etihad Guest also has 20 partner airlines for which you can redeem points. There are some big names on the list, including Air Canada, American Airlines, ANA, and Royal Air Maroc, as well as some smaller airlines, such as Air Seychelles, Bangkok Airways, and Czech Airlines.
The new partner award chart is as follows:
The new chart does away with having separate redemption charts for each of the partner airlines, though as we’ll explore below, the more valuable uses of Etihad Guest are essentially evaporating.
It’s important to note that you’ll have to factor in the transfer ratio of 1:0.75 from Amex MR in Canada, which skews the above costs even higher. In the US, you can transfer points from Amex US MR, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One at a ratio of 1:1, which is much more favourable than in Canada.
Some Partner Airlines Will Be Bookable Online
One of the pain points of redeeming Etihad Guest miles on partner airlines is that until now, you’ve had to call the contact centre to book them. Many reports suggest that this is a very cumbersome process, and perhaps not worth the amount of time and effort.
As of March 9, 2023, you’ll be able to book partner flights with Virgin Australia and American Airlines online, which does away with the need to call in, at least for those two airlines. Unfortunately, all other airlines still must be booked over the phone.
Having to call in to redeem points seems a bit unnecessary in this day and age, and hopefully Etihad Airways is working towards having a fully functional award platform, on which you can book flights with all partner airlines in the very near future.
Are There Any Sweet Spots with Etihad Guest?
For a recap, let’s look at some of the sweet spots that will disappear when these changes soon take effect.
Perhaps the best use of Etihad Guest miles was on flights with Royal Air Maroc. For flights of over 2,001 miles, you’d spend just 44,000 miles in business class.
While that meant that you could fly from North America to Morocco for 44,000 miles, since it was capped at that price, you could also continue onwards with Royal Air Maroc and not be charged any more miles. This represented a nice opportunity to fly from Montreal to Europe via Morocco at a very reasonable price, as well as to any of Royal Air Maroc’s other destinations.
With the new partner award chart, you’ll now have to pay 80,000 miles for just the flight from Montreal to Morocco, and then even more once you cross into the next distance band.
Another great use of Etihad Guest miles has been on premium cabin domestic flights within North America. For example, you could fly with American Airlines from Los Angeles to New York for 25,000–32,500 miles, to Hawaii for 37,500–40,000 miles, or from Toronto to Vancouver on Air Canada for 25,000 miles.
Those same flights will now cost 50,000–67,000 miles or 60,000–80,000 miles, depending on the class of service and the distance flown.
A one-way flight in business class from Vancouver or Seattle to Tokyo on ANA used to cost just 54,000 Etihad Guest miles, but that will now rise to 100,000 miles. Luckily, the sweet spot with Aeroplan remains intact, so you can still score a flight to Japan for 55,000 Aeroplan points from either of those two cities.
In terms of redeeming Etihad Guest miles for flights with Etihad Airways, recall that the airline flies to Toronto, Chicago, New York, and Washington DC in North America. A direct flight in business class from any of those cities will now cost 110,000 miles in business class or 220,000 miles in First Class.
If you’re booking an Etihad Airways premium cabin flight with another program, such as Aeroplan, you’d pay only 90,000 Aeroplan points in business class from any of the cities, or 130,000 points in First Class from Washington DC, which is currently the only North American route with the cabin.
Since the new chart caps out at 6,001 miles, it could be worthwhile for ultra-long-haul flights on Etihad Airways, perhaps from North America to Australia via Abu Dhabi. If you can find seats, it should work out to cost 110,000 miles, which is a very attractive option if you don’t mind taking the long way around.
As for other airlines, the sweet spots are disappearing, but you can still consider booking with a partner airline in the absence of options from other programs.
Etihad Airways will move to having just two award charts in its Etihad Guest loyalty program as of March 9, 2023. One chart will be for Etihad Airways redemptions, and the other will cover all 20 partner airlines.
The sweet spots from the previous charts are about to disappear, which is unfortunate. Going forward, you’ll have to pay more miles for the same flights that you could previously book.
While the program may not be as attractive as it once was, since it’s a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards in Canada, as well as Amex US MR, Citi ThankYou, and Capital One in the United States, it’s one of the more accessible programs for points collectors.
Unfortunately we saw it comming… another frequent flyer program to kick to the garbage.