I love Etihad Airways. While likely subsidized by the UAE, they’ve increased the overall flying experience. This is good as competition is usually beneficial for consumers. They aren’t currently part of an alliance, so only a few airline programs can redeem miles on them.
Etihad First Class – Amazing
In my opinion, Etihad First Class Apartments on their A380’s is the best commercial airline product out there. It’s remarkable that something as luxurious as this is redeemable for $100 in taxes and your miles. I think any points collector should fly this at least once in their life.
This ad embodies the feeling of Etihad’s A380, even though it’s for their Residences. It’s sleek and elegant, just like their product.
But, did you know that flying this is cheaper a business class award to Europe?
Using SPG Miles on Etihad
The cheapest way to redeem miles for Etihad First Class is with Asiana Club. In Canada, there aren’t credit cards that directly earn Asiana miles. Thus, the easiest (and only) way to save up for this redemption is through SPG, as they are a 1:1 transfer partner with Asiana. This is one of the best use of SPG points and why I say they are incredibly valuable.
The Starwood Preferred Guest Personal and Business American Express Card currently offer 20,000 points each as a welcome bonus. By getting those two cards, you’ll have enough miles for this redemption. As well, American Express recently improved their underwriting policies, so for example students are now eligible for cards.
The award chart to redeem on Etihad is excellent. Middle East to North America is 160,000 miles roundtrip in First Class. To Europe, it’s only 80,000. However, what’s important is that Asiana permits one-way redemptions at 50% of the cost. That means Abu Dhabi to London or Paris only costs 40,000 miles. This is the lowest amount of any program to fly Etihad First Class. In addition, you earn a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 SPG converted, so you’ll only need 35,000 SPG points for this redemption.
Since American Airlines devalued their award chart for first class significantly a while back, their redemptions on Etihad have been quite pricy. It’s ironic, because redeeming Asiana is now the best option. That’s not because they’ve changed anything, but because all other programs have been devalued, making them relatively much more attractive. As I said, this redemption is cheaper than a one-way Aeroplan business class flight to Europe 1, which costs 55,000 Aeroplan miles.
SPG is also currently selling points at a discount if you need to top up. When transferring them to airline miles, the cost works out to be 1.82 cents. Even with no miles right now, you can just buy them outright for roughly $700.
Additional Reading: Buy Starwood Points: 35% Discount!
Booking Etihad First Class
If you haven’t already, pick up the Starwood Preferred Guest Personal and Business American Express Credit Cards to earn your miles. After completing the minimum spend, you will have 43,000 SPG points, plenty for redeeming on Etihad. You’ll even have enough points remaining for a hotel stay in Abu Dhabi.
Regardless of whether you’ve had those cards before, you can still get them again as there is no once per lifetime language. Keep in mind that there’s an easy way to generate spend with Paytm, which currently doesn’t charge a fee for paying your bills with your credit card.
Additional Reading: Pay your Bills with Paytm and earn a $10 bonus!
To fly with a companion, duplicate this process. For two people, you’ll need 65,000 SPG miles. Instead of transferring them only to one account, open separate ones. This is because you are limited to only certain family members when redeeming awards for others. They will ask for proof of relationship, which can be a hassle.
Use the Etihad Guest website to find award space. Look for GuestSeat redemptions, which is what partner airlines have access to. Etihad First Class award space is pretty good, so you can simply pick a day and generally there will be award space on at least once of the flights with a few days of what you’re aiming for.
Availability may change from when you transfer the miles to when it posts in your Asiana account, so I would recommend choosing at least two itineraries if this happens. You can use American Airlines to hold the inventory while the miles are transferred, although there’s no guarantee once you release the hold that the space will come back. Once you’ve found the flights you want, call Asiana Club at 1-800-227-4262 which is open 08:30-17:30 PT Monday to Friday. They also have international numbers which have longer hours.
Pricing should be pretty straightforward, with no fuel surcharges. You cannot mix Etihad and other Star Alliance carriers on an award (except Asiana, but that’s irrelevant here). So, an itinerary like AUH-LHR-MUC, with the second leg on Lufthansa, is not permitted. You also may find a clueless agent who has no idea what Etihad is. In any case, hang up and call back until you find someone competent and who knows what you’re talking about.
If you managed to make it all the way here, congratulations! This is one of the more complex redemptions to achieve.
I’m going to do this exact award very soon, so I’m very excited!