Etihad Airways Rewards Program: Etihad Guest Review

Etihad Airways has its own reward program, Etihad Guest, to earn and redeem miles for flights and provide status perks to frequent fliers. With a large number of partners, there are plenty of choices to earn and redeem miles. Prices for premium award flights can be astronomical, but there are gems of high value to be found among some of the smaller partner airlines. And while Etihad treats all passengers well, the perks for frequent fliers are limited. Read my review to find out if you should join!

Reach – Eitihad Airways flies to 84 destinations in 49 countries, including the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia (see Etihad Facts & Figures). While Etihad doesn’t belong to one of the three big alliances, they have formed their own sort of alliance and you can earn and redeem miles with 24 airlines, including American Airlines, ANA, Asiana, Philippine Airlines and many others. While it is not as easy and seamless as for example with StarAlliance, it does provide you with a lot of options to redeem your miles for flights! Earn and redemption vary a great deal across the different partners, so you have to look for diamonds among the coals for good redemptions!

Earn – how do I earn miles? You can earn miles on Etihad Airways flights based on the distance and the fare class of your ticket. Earning ranges from 25% of the distance flown for discounted economy fares to 400% of distance for full-fare First Class. That’s one of the widest ranges among airline reward programs:

You can also earn miles on flights with the partner airlines, also based on distance and fare class, ranging from 0%-300%. It’s different from airline to airline and Etihad provides a detailed schedule of earning on their website, but I’d recommend to use – it’s much easier!

Similar to other programs, you can earn miles with hotel stays, car rentals or shopping. Etihad also has affiliate credit cards with banks in the United Arab  Emirates and you can transfer miles from American Express Rewards or Citi ThankYou points, making it easy to top off your account if you don’t fly Etihad frequently. Etihad’s hotel partners, including Hilton Honors, Marriott Rewards, IHG Rewards Club and Accor Leclub also allow you transfer hotel points to airline miles, although at bad ratios, so I wouldn’t usually recommend doing that – you get in general better value by using hotel points for hotel stays!

Redeem – what do I get for my miles? Redemptions for flights on Etihad Airways and partner airlines are generally based on distance or distance-based zones. As Etihad’s financial troubles have increased, the value of the Etihad Guest miles has gone down and many of the best redemption options have been eliminated.
For Etihad flights, you can book the flights online and it will show you the miles required for that specific flight by cabin. Etihad offers “Guest Seats” at lower prices and with limited availability, as well as “Open Seats” with more availability, but astronomical prices for Etihad’s acclaimed Business Class, First Class or Residence:  For example a flight from Manila via Abu Dhabi to New York in the Residences would be more than 2,700,000 miles!

After searching redemption options far and wide, some of the best value can be found among the partner airlines: For example, Serbia Air serves many shorter flights across Eastern Europe, often with high cash prices, and you can redeem them for as little as 5,000 miles.  Czech Airlines, based in Prague, allows you to fly from 3,500 miles one-way around Europe and for as little as 25,610 miles, you can fly to Seoul in Business Class! Unfortunately, partner airline awards have to be booked by phone with the customer service agents. They have a very mixed reputation, so you might need to do some legwork of available flights on your own, before calling to book your award flight successfully – or maybe hang up and call again a few times!

These little-known airlines on less-frequented routes offer the best value I could find in the Etihad Guest program. Check out the full list of partner redemptions to find your own gem here!

Beyond flights, Etihad Guest heavily advertises the use of points for merchandise – while there are plenty of choices, the value of points used is terrible and I would recommend against it. You can even redeem points for a cash-like Rewards Card to purchase anywhere, also had poor redemption value!

Status Benefits – what perks will I get? The Etihad Guest program has four tiers. The base tier allows to earn point and to maintain a profile. The Silver tier requires 25,000 tier miles or 20 segments to earn (20,000/15 to maintain) and provides you with priority check-in and lounge access, as well as additional luggage allowance. Gold requires 50,000 miles or 40 flight segments to earn (40,000/30 to maintain) and in addition to Silver benefits offers priority immigration and boarding as well as discounted upgrades with miles at the airport. The top level Platinum requires 125,000 miles or 60 segments (100,000/48), but doesn’t offer much above Gold, other than First Class lounge access (instead of Business Class lounge).
Each tier offers gradually higher earn rates on reward miles and tier miles, similar to other programs.

Based on the requirements to achieve the tiers and the benefits included, the lowest level Silver seems to be the sweet spot: with low miles required and lounge access and priority check-in, you get some nice perks for not very much!

Who should join Eithad Guest? If you fly Etihad Airways or one of the smaller partner airlines, like Serbia or Czech Airlines, it makes sense to join the Etiahd Guest program to earn miles. I joined when flyinng Oman Air – while they have their own reward program, Sindbad, unless you fly that airline exclusively, it’s better to earn miles in a larger and more flexible program.
With a large number of partners and the ability to transfer points from credit card or hotel programs, it also makes sense for infrequent travelers from the US to join, earn points and top up as needed from other programs to redeem flight awards on airlines not covered by other programs, extending your reach around the world. Unless you live in the UAE or travel very frequently with Etihad, I wouldn’t recommend Etihad Guest as your primary or exclusive airline reward program due to the restrictions, high award prices and uncertain financial future.

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