Etihad Guest is the frequent flyer program for Etihad Airways, and has come to attention of millions of shoppers this year with the flybuys partnership.
Etihad is also a Virgin Australia partner for points earn and redemption, making it a useful program to know about – and has some especially good redemption rates for many Virgin Australia domestic routes, which are definitely now available for booking.
When this guide was originally published, access to Business Class flights with Virgin Australia using Etihad Guest miles was being blocked, but that restriction has opened up – meaning there’s some incredible value to be had with redeeming Etihad Guest miles (an American Express and Citi Rewards transfer partner, alongside flybuys).
In this guide we’ll look at the options for redeeming Etihad Guest Miles on Etihad, as well its partners like Virgin Australia, American Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
Redeeming Etihad Guest Miles on Etihad’s airline partners
Etihad isn’t part of one of the big three airline alliances (oneworld, Star Alliance and Skyteam) and instead Etihad has built a network of its own with 32 airline partners.
Each partner has their own individual points redemptions costs, award chart when it comes to using Etihad Guest miles, which are shown on individual award charts. It’s not simple to decipher.
Partner flights are not bookable online, and you need to call the Etihad Guest call centre to redeem your points for partner flights – in Australia they can be found at 1300 532 215, and are open 24 hours.
Redeeming Etihad Guest Miles for Virgin Australia flights
The key partner for Aussie travellers is, of course, going to be Virgin Australia.
The award table shows costs for routes that are no longer in operation, as well as for Premium Economy cabins on many flights which don’t operate with Premium Economy.
The better deals though are for Domestic Business class – this wasn’t allowed previously, but has now been opened up for booking.
Their price tables are not so customer-friendly, so I’ve reproduced the whole award chart into more usable formats below – Domestic and Long-Haul international, and made them sortable/searchable. I haven’t (yet) excluded any routes that Virgin Australia no longer operate.
Etihad Guest pricing for Virgin Australia short/medium haul destinations
|Origin||Destination||Etihad Guest Miles Required for Economy||flybuys points required for Economy||Etihad Guest Miles Required for Business Class||flybuys points required for Business Class|
|West Island||Christmas Island||6900||17250||13800||34500|
Etihad Guest pricing for Virgin Australia long haul destinations
|Origin||Destination||Economy - Etihad Guest Miles (flybuys points)||Premium Economy - Etihad Guest Miles (flybuys points)||Business Class - Etihad Guest Miles (flybuys points)|
|Los Angeles||Sydney||60,000 (150,000)||90,000 (225,000)||120,000 (300,000)|
|Abu Dhabi||Sydney||60,000 (150,000)||90,000 (225,000)||120,000 (300,000)|
In a nutshell, short flights cost 13,800 one way, increasing to 21,800 or 33,800 for medium and long distance flights.
However the routes Etihad Guest have decided are short and medium distance are quite varied, meaning some sweet spots compared to redeeming the same ticket with Virgin Australia’s Velocity.
On the other hand, there are some bad deals compared to Velocity, including Sydney to Abu Dhabi and East to the USA. Use Velocity points over Etihad Guest miles for long haul redemptions on Virgin Australia.
One key restriction on Etihad Guest redemptions for Virgin Australia flights is that you need to contact the Etihad Guest service centre at least 14 days before travel to make the booking.
Nelson’s experience making an Etihad Guest redemption for Virgin Australia Business Class
Nelson Yap is a Point Hacks contributor, and has run through this process first-hand.
I used Etihad’s current 25% transfer bonus to transfer 35,000 Amex Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest, yielding 43,750 Etihad Guest miles after the bonus landed in my account.
I then rang Etihad Guest’s Australian number on 1300 532 215. The call centre is open 24 hours 7 days a week.
Within 5 minutes I was speaking to an Etihad agent, and after verifying security details, I asked to redeem two business class award tickets on Virgin Australia. The agent said that could be done now, subject to availability.
I’d already checked Velocity reward availability on the Virgin Australia website before, and this matched with what Etihad were able to book.
My Melbourne to Perth flight was booked for 43,600 Guest Miles and a credit card number supplied to pay for the $40.70 fuel surcharge for two passengers.
Within a few minutes Etihad had sent through the itinerary which included the Virgin Australia booking reference, allowing me to go to Manage My Bookings on Virgin Australia to select my seat.
Helpfully Etihad Guest also allows you to make the first date change to your award booking for free, and after that you have to pay a fee of AED 200. You cannot change the route of travel or the original departure and arrival city.
What about other partners?
There are a handful of other useful Etihad redemption partners – with ANA launching their Tokyo – Sydney service, and American Airlines their Los Angeles – Sydney services both later this year.
I’ll cover those in future posts as these ‘opportunities’ aren’t so well defined right now, and are somewhat theoretical.
Etihad Guest Miles – Etihad Flight Redemption Options
Another obvious option is for redemptions on Etihad Airways itself – Etihad flies to over 100 destinations globally, including their new A380 service from Sydney.
Many frequent flyer programs have distance or region-based award charts, where geographic zones set by the frequent flyer program define how many points are needed to redeem for a flight between the regions. This is the case for Velocity and Qantas Frequent Flyer.
Etihad Guest is different, for redemptions on Etihad flights.
The points (Etihad Guest miles) required are instead calculated based on the exact number of total miles flown and it varies from city to city.
As a result, it can be relatively expensive to redeem Etihad Guest Miles on Etihad long haul flights.
When researching availability, the cheapest redemption option to aim for is “Guest Seat” which is comparable to a saver or classic award with Velocity or Qantas.
Overview of Guest Seat costs in Etihad Guest Miles for a redemption to London
|Route||Etihad Guest Miles|
|Sydney to London Business Class||162,676|
|Sydney to London First Class||198,747|
|Melbourne to London Business Class||159,390|
|Brisbane to London Business Class||162,441|
|Perth to London Business Class||156,573|
|Melbourne to Abu Dhabi Business Class||93,427|
|Melbourne to New York JFK Business Class||181,768|
|Perth to New York JFK Business Class||179,030|
|Perth to Los Angeles Business Class||198,747|
Taxes for a one way redemption to London are around $350 to $400.
Perth flyers are also able to redeem to Los Angeles via Abu Dhabi, which is not available from the east coast cities.
Using Etihad Guest miles for upgrades on Etihad flights
It used to be that paying for airfare and using points to upgrade was all the rage.
Today though airlines have increased the points required, so the upgrade costs for many tickets are not that reasonable.
With Etihad upgrades, if you’ve purchased an Economy and Business ‘Breaking Deals’ fare (classes T,E,Z), you are not eligible to upgrade using miles at all.
Otherwise, for Sydney to London one way upgrade from Economy to Business Class the costs are:
- 143,612 Etihad Guest miles if booked in Economy Saver (U,V,G). The ticket normally costs $1100 one way or $2,200 return
- 103,342 Etihad Guest miles if booked in Economy Value (L,Q,M,K). The ticket normally costs $1100 one way or $2,200 return normally costs $1200 one way or $2400 return
- 73,553 Etihad Guest miles if booked in Economy Freedom (B,H,Y). The ticket normally costs $1850 one way or $3700 return.
For the same Sydney to London route, for an upgrade from Business to First Class is 103,342 Etihad Guest miles, a Business saver fare costs around $8600 return
If you run the numbers on these costs to get a cents per Guest Miles value for upgrades vs outright redemptions, once you factor in the cost of paid fare the value is usually always better to redeem for a flight outright instead of targeting an upgrade.
Earning Etihad Guest Miles
Etihad has no branded credit card in Australia, instead partnering with American Express Membership Rewards for points transfers (with 1 Membership Reward point = 1 Etihad Guest Mile).
Occassionally Membership Rewards and Etihad offer 20%-30% transfer bonuses as well, usually once per year.
The flybuys partnership offers the ability for you to transfer your flybuys points over to Etihad Guest at a rate of 10,000 flybuys points to 4,000 Etihad Guest miles.
If you’re not already a flybuys member, you can join flybuys here.
Alongside Coles, you can also earn Flybuys at AGL, Kmart, NAB, OPSM and Liquorland – and many others. I’ll explore these in coming posts.
Summing up – using Etihad Guest miles
The flybuys partnership opens up a swathe of points balances that can be used on Virgin Australia flights or for long-haul travel to Europe and the USA with Etihad.
Redeeming your Etihad Guest Miles for travel on Virgin Australia isn’t necessarily going to be straightforward, requiring a phone call and a 14 day booking lead-time. It’s a useful option though, with some great value to be had on specific Virgin Australia routes in Business Class.