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What is the most aspirational product in the skies? If you ask a group of bloggers and travel hackers – or even travel writers for mainstream publications – you’ll probably receive the answer “Etihad First Class“. But unless you have just won the lottery, you probably aren’t willing to pay the headline price. Luckily, the rest of us can often use miles to fly on Etihad Airways. Etihad aren’t a member of any major airline alliance (except the alliance they are cobbling together with nearly-bankrupt European airlines such as Air Berlin and Alitalia) so how can you fly on Etihad Airways using miles?
Why Etihad? Well, even if you aren’t keen on the bling of an Airbus A380 First Class Apartment, Etihad do not charge fuel surcharges. So you are looking at a saving of hundreds of pounds on your reward tickets, even if it might be harder to accumulate the miles (since Etihad do not partner with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic). Etihad often even throw in a chauffeur transfer on reward tickets (in the appropriate cabin) so that’s another source of savings, especially if you normally must drive to your home airport in the UK and therefore pay for parking.
First of all, it’s worth pointing out that you don’t need to be a member of Etihad Guest to search for “redemption flights” availability on Etihad. Simply visit the Etihad website and search for reward seats. If you find a “Guest Seat”, it can usually be booked with a partner as well.
Why not just collect Etihad Guest miles and use them for free flights? Well, when I looked at a number of reward charts, Etihad consistently charged SO many more miles than the competition, that I stopped bothering. This is disappointing since Etihad Guest is an American Express Membership Rewards partner in the UK.
So, since we aren’t going to look at Etihad Guest, which partner airlines allow reward redemptions on Etihad Airways?
AAdvantage members can book rewards on Etihad by calling American Airlines AAdvantage. Here is the “Abu Dhabi centric” reward chart published by AA.
Why do I show you the reward chart to/from the Middle East? Because AAdvantage rules do not allow rewards from one region to another connecting in a third region, unless this third region is expressly permitted. Although there are a couple of exceptions made for Qatar Airways, none apply for Etihad.
Therefore, you can only fly to/from the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent (the same reward region but split out for clarity on AA’s website) unless you want to pay substantially more miles. Even if the UAE isn’t your thing, this region also includes the Maldives, which hopefully IS your thing.
For Europeans, that means a bargain 20,000 AA miles in Economy, 42,500 miles in Business and 62,500 miles in First Class. Those figures are for a one-way reward.
ANA Mileage Club members (part of the Star Alliance) can book rewards on Etihad by calling their local ANA Mileage Club centre. ANA’s reward chart for Europeans (numbers are for a return reward) looks like this:
ANA have some fiddly restrictions, which surely make perfect sense to a Japanese person, but can be a bit hard to understand for the rest of us. The most important restrictions are:
- Reward itineraries must be return. You can book an open-jaw, but you MUST return to the country you departed from.
- You are allowed only one stopover, on either the outbound or return leg.
It’s worth briefly looking at the list of DISALLOWED connecting points to find out that Europe and the Middle East are within the same “area”. So, in principle, you can connect in Abu Dhabi to fly anywhere that Etihad flies.
First Class rewards are expensive with ANA Mileage Club. Business Class rewards are not! So, assuming that you can accumulate the ANA miles and find the reward space, ANA is a great way to book Business Class rewards on Etihad to practically everywhere.
Asiana Club members (also part of the Star Alliance) can book rewards on Etihad by calling. Asiana’s reward chart for Europeans (numbers are for a return reward) looks like this:
I admit to never having used Asiana Club, but a return reward in First Class to the Middle East on Etihad for 80,000 miles! That is certainly worth studying further… I believe you can also book one-way rewards with Asiana Club, although the website doesn’t mention whether the cost in that case is 50%.
Korean Air Skypass
Korean Air Skypass members can also book Etihad rewards by calling. As you can see Etihad has partnered with a number of Asian airlines… The Skypass reward chart for Etihad looks like this:
Again, I have never had occasion to use Korean Air Skypass so I can’t explain the finer details, apart from the fact that return itineraries are required. You also require more miles so perhaps Korean Air is less promising as a way to book rewards on Etihad.
Having realised how long this post is getting, I’ll split out Etihad’s European partners and a summary into a second post coming soon…