Redeeming To The USA Using Etihad Miles ? – This Might Save You 10K Miles

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You may be familiar with some of my posts on using AA miles to redeem on Etihad flights. This post deals with a trick when doing the opposite redemption, that is, using Etihad miles to book redemption flights on AA.

Etihad provides decent value when redeeming on AA to the US.  These are not bookable online, you need to call the Etihad guest service centre on 0345 608 1225.  Heres a link to the award chart that the Etihad agents use to work out the required miles.  You’ll see that a one-way Europe to US is 30K in economy.  This includes flights involving a connection, meaning 30K Etihad miles gets you to pretty much any city served by AA, including the west coast.  Etihad doesn’t have a fuel surcharge on these redemption, so overall taxes will be low.  Remember American Express has Etihad as a transfer partner, providing a potential way of getting Etihad guest miles.

Good as the above redemption is, there is even better value coming from the USA to Europe.  The award chart in this direction has an EO column, which stands for Economy Off-peak.  Off-peak is defined as 15th Oct to 15th May.  Travel home in-between those dates and you can do it for just 20K Etihad miles.


Things get a bit weird

Now here’s where things get a bit weird.  The chart says returns cost x2 one-way, which seem reasonable enough.  However, Etihad phone agents interpret this as meaning a return starting in Europe will always be 2x30K miles, even if the USA-Europe flight is at an off-peak time.  It works in favour of those starting in the US, with reports of people getting returns for 40K miles during off-peak.

etihad miles
Excerpt from the Etihad award table

The Trick

If you’ve followed my train of thought thus far, it’s not hard to figure out what the trick is.  If you are booking a return flight starting in the UK, and your flight home is during the off-peak time, you should book your journey as 2 one-way tickets.  Your outbound will cost 30K, but your return will be 20K, saving you 10K guest miles compared with booking it as a return ticket.


  1. Adam says

    Another great article Ian.
    A quick Q: can you work out how many EY miles you need to upgrade from a purchased Economy ticket just like Avios where you use the difference between each fare redemption rate.
    In your experience is this route worthwhile purchasing an E ticket and using EY miles to upgrade, can you advise me how you work out the taxes element also.

    • Joe Deeney says

      I assume that any additional taxes would be due, but I don’t think there are any fees beyond that. You can work out the taxes by looking at the breakdown of the cash fares for the same flights on ITA Matrix (basically disregard the base fare and yq/yr surcharges and add up the rest. It shouldn’t make a significant difference unless you’re leaving from the UK where you would need to factor the higher APD for premium classes).

      As far as I know, Etihad only allows you to upgrade one class (Economy to Biz, or Biz to First) and is quite generous in terms of the fare classes that it allows you to upgrade from (indeed, I’m not sure if there are any that are un-upgradeable?).

      Tom is a pretty big Etihad fan, and I’m sure he’s used Miles to upgrade before, so should hopefully be able to offer more concrete details!

      • Ian Macky says

        You can never be too sure with Etihad, there is a lot of historical evidence on FT that tells me that they are entirely inconsistant in their approach to issues.

        However, if you look at the Etihad guest T&C

        “The fare and ticketing rules applicable to the Revenue Ticket originally purchased will apply irrespective of the applicable class of travel after upgrade. Any difference in tax as a consequence of obtaining an Upgrade Reward is included in the miles paid by you for the Upgrade ” (section 8.5.6)

        That indicates that there are no extra taxes to be paid in cash, the miles required for the upgrade covers any tax difference.

        It’s also worth noting that 8.5.5 says that some fares are not eligible for upgrade with miles, so if you see a cheap fare, make sure it’s eligible if you intend to upgrade using miles.

        • Joe Deeney says

          Interesting, I’ve never heard of that before (with any airline, I don’t think?). Particularly interesting if that applies to UK APD too, which at first reading it should do. I wonder what value they put on their Miles to pay the taxes?

          • Ian Macky says

            I wonder does the upgrade mileage calculator take this into account ? It’s interesting to compare mileage required for upgrading a flight starting in DUB (that does not have APD) and one starting LHR (that does have APD), going to the same destination.

            There are 3 possible economy tickets, Economy Saver, Economy Classic, Economy Flex

            If we take a DUB-AUH and upgrade to Biz, then the upgrade costs according to the calculator are:-
            56642, 37761 or 30209 depending on which economy ticket your purchased.

            If we take a LHR-AUH, the equivalent mileage upgrade charge is
            64155, 46684, 39695

            Thats a difference of 7513, 8923 and 9486 miles respectively.

            It is costing more to upgrade the slightly shorter LHR-AUH flight, than the DUB-AUH flight, suggesting the difference is for something other than distance, i.e. taxes and fees. The difference in UK APD between economy and biz for this sector is £73

            The smallest mileage difference is only 7513 miles. So if all of that difference is for taxes, it looks like they are placing quite a high value on each Etihad mile, around 1p per point.

            it’s worth remembering that the calculator says “The miles values displayed are indicative values only and are subject to change”

          • Joe Deeney says

            Superb detective work Ian! – sounds about right, though 64,155 Miles to upgrade a 6-7 hour flight is a bit steep for my taste!

  2. Adam says

    Thanks everyone for the replies, i managed to locate the upgrade using miles eventually on the EY site but the taxes part did stump me.

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