Union Airways • Etihad Airways was introduced as the national airline of the United Arab Emirates in July 2003. The airline currently operates more than 1,000 flights per week, serving over 90 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.
Based in Abu Dhabi, “Etihad” is Arabic for “union”. Recently, the airline has taken minority equity stakes in airlines around the world. Etihad currently has 29 percent stake in airberlin, 40 percent stake in Air Seychelles, 2.99 percent stake in Aer Lingus and 10.5 percent stake in Virgin Australia. The airline has also recently acquired a 49 percent stake in Air Serbia (formally Jat Airways) and a 24 percent stake in Jet Airways (both subject to regulatory approvals). Etihad Airways does not belong to a global airline alliance.
Etihad Guest was launched Aug. 30, 2006 and currently has over two million members. The program’s miles can be redeemed for over 3,000 flight destinations and over 6,000 non-flight awards through the Reward Shop.
As of June 2012, members earn according to the fare class, from 50 percent of the miles flown, up to 250 percent of the miles flown. Economy classes earn 50, 75 or 100 percent of the miles flown while Pearl Business class earns 130 or 175 percent of the miles flown and Diamond First Class earns 180 or 250 percent of the miles flown. Those flying in discounted economy classes no longer earn 100 percent of the miles flown, those flying in discounted business class tickets will earn 130 percent compared to the former 150 percent and discounted first class fares will earn 180 percent compared to the former 200 percent. But those flying more expensive business class fares will earn 175 percent instead of 150 percent and the more expensive first class fares will earn 250 percent instead of the former 200 percent.
Members can also earn miles through a host of program partners including partner airline flights, car rentals, hotel stays, online booking platforms, real estate partners, leisure partners, co-branded credit cards, shopping and by transferring points earned from other loyalty programs.
Members can also earn miles through the Earn Shop and Earn Mall online.
Members can take advantage of a family membership that allows 100 percent of the miles earned by family members (up to nine, including family head) to be pooled into the Family Head account. The family members keep their own tier miles so they can move up to elite memberships while the pooled miles offer quicker access to awards.
Etihad Guest members can take advantage of a very flexible award spending option where members, with as little as one mile, can choose an award and pay the balance with cash through the “slider” online tool. The cash portion paid for an award flight will earn miles.
Flight awards are offered as GuestSeat and OpenSeat. The standard GuestSeat awards are capacity controlled and the miles required for redemption are fixed. OpenSeat awards can be booked on any available seat on all routes at any time and can be claimed at the mileage cost equivalent to the commercial price of the seat. GuestSeat awards on Etihad start at 4,550 miles for a roundtrip coach (Coral Economy) ticket within Middle East (U.A.E., Bahrain, Oman, Qatar) and continue through destinations in Africa, Canada/U.S., Australia/New Zealand, Europe and Asia including the Far East and Japan. Specifically, a roundtrip flight in Coral Economy Class between Abu Dhabi and Johannesburg is 71,125 miles; New York City, 124,706; Sydney, 136,609; Bangkok, 56,256 and Tokyo, 91,418. One-way flight awards are available at 50 percent of the roundtrip redemption amounts.
Upgrade awards are available from coach to business class or from business class to first class starting at 3,870 miles for a one-way upgrade within the Middle East (Bahrain, Oman, Qatar) from coach to business and business to first. An upgrade from Abu Dhabi to New York City starts at 53,034 miles from economy to business or from business to first. Upgrade awards are dependent on booking class so if the guest has bought a Coral Economy class ticket in one of the higher fare classes, their upgrade redemption amount will be less. There are no blackout dates for any redemption flight awards with Etihad Airways. You can also claim flight awards on partner airlines according to the airline, distance of flight and cabin class flown and you can redeem miles for excess baggage.
And when it comes to other award options, you could spend all day discovering the awards available to Etihad Guest members on the program’s online Reward Shop: weekend breaks, hotel stays, shopping and one-of-a-kind experiences. From chocolates with edible gold to Kindle eBooks, members have a wide selection from which to choose. Members can also choose to spend their points through PointsPay. PointsPay is a mobile wallet that was introduced in 2012 as a way for members to spend their miles at more than 40 million outlets worldwide.
All awards are available through Etihad Guest’s Miles+Cash option where you can combine your choice of miles/cash. The program also features occasional online auctions and raffle tickets that can be purchased with points for the chance to win VIP experiences and other awards. You can also donate your miles to nonprofit organizations.
Etihad currently partners with several airlines where Etihad Guest members can earn and redeem on flights including airberlin, Air New Zealand, Air Seychelles, Alitalia, ANA, American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Brussels Airlines, Czech Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Hainan Airlines, Jet Airways, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Royal Air Maroc, SriLankan Airlines, Ukraine International Airlines and Virgin Australia.
There are around 30 hotel partners where members can earn miles including Accor, Carlson, Fairmont, Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotel Group and Starwood, among others. Most hotel stays offer 500 miles per qualifying stay but the amounts vary. Members can also earn miles with over 150,000 hotels around the world when booking through PointsHound.com or Rocketmiles.com.
Car rental partners include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, National, Alamo and Sixt with all offering at least 500 miles per rental. Financial partners include Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, which has teamed up with Etihad to offer a host of co-branded credit cards, offering up to two miles per U.S. dollar spent and a 50,000-mile signup bonus in addition to a host of benefits such as Fast track enrollment to the Etihad Guest Gold Tier. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank offers co-branded credit cards featuring up to 2.5 miles for every AED 4 spent and a 50,000-mile signup bonus as well as a complimentary companion ticket.
Other financial partners include American Express Membership Rewards, an American Express co-branded U.S. dollar credit card and a dual card Visa/American Express co-branded British pounds account in the U.K. MBNA Citibank is a conversion partner for Citibank Reward Points in India, Malaysia and Bahrain and Royal Sun Alliance insurance and Al Wathba National insurance are also partners.
There are many retail partners as well as discount partners and Etihad Guest members can earn two miles for every dollar spent for in-flight duty free. Members can get miles through e-Rewards and several other Leisure and Lifestyle partnerships as well as mobile telephone service and more.
Etihad Guest added a third elite tier to the elite status program in 2011 and the program now features three elite status tiers: Silver, Gold and Gold Elite. Tier miles/segments are tracked in rolling 12-months periods.
Silver members are welcomed after earning 25,000 tier miles or 20 tier segments within any consecutive 12-month period; once you reach Silver, you will maintain your status for the remainder of the calendar year in which you qualify, plus an additional 15 months. You need to earn 20,000 tier miles or 15 tier segments to retain your status. Silver members benefit from an extra 25 percent bonus miles on every flight (but not tier miles); exclusive awards, waitlist priority, guaranteed economy seat if booked 48 hours in advance, Pearl business class lounge access for member regardless of class of travel, excess luggage allowance (10kg above the amount shown on ticket) and other benefits.
Gold members are welcomed into the higher status after earning 50,000 tier miles or 40 tier segments. Once you reach Gold, you will maintain your status for the remainder of the calendar year in which you qualify, plus an additional 27 months. You need to earn 40,000 tier miles or 30 tier segments to retain your status.
Gold members earn an extra 50 percent bonus miles on every flight, exclusive Gold tier awards, guaranteed economy class seat if booked 24 hours in advance, Pearl business class lounge access for member and guest regardless of class of travel, priority check-in and boarding, fast-track Immigration and luggage, limousine transfers at Abu Dhabi International Airport and additional luggage allowance (15kg).
The highest tier, Gold Elite, is attained when earning 125,000 tier miles or 60 tier segments. Once you reach Gold Elite, you will maintain your status for the remainder of the calendar year in which you qualify, plus an additional 27 months. You need to earn 100,000 tier miles or 48 tier segments to retain your status. Gold Elite members receive 75 percent more flight bonus miles (not tier miles), exclusive offers, highest waitlist priority, guaranteed Pearl business class if booked 48 hours in advance and guaranteed economy class seat if booked 12 hours in advance, Diamond first class lounge access or Pearl business class if with a companion, excess baggage allowance (20kg) and Gold Elite members can nominate another person to receive Etihad Guest Gold.
There is no lifetime elite membership offered.
Rules and Conditions
Retroactive mileage credit for new members is not allowed—you earn miles for flights only after you join the program. Etihad miles expire according to your tier level: two years for non-elite, 2.5 years for Silver and three years for Gold and Gold Elite. If you do not earn miles into your account over a period of 36 months, Etihad Airways reserves the right to terminate your membership.
Subject to local laws, applications to join the Etihad Guest program is open to anyone who is at least two years of age. However, applications by persons under 18 must be completed by a parent or guardian on their behalf and redeeming miles can be done only by members who can enter into legally binding contracts under applicable law.
Miles can be pooled between members’ accounts through the family program. Family members eligible are: brothers, sisters,father,mother,spouse(s),children, grandchildren, grandparents, parents-in- law, step parents, step children, step siblings, step grandchildren and one household help.
You can claim missing miles online or through the service center up to six months after the flight. Where cash is part of the payment for GuestSeat awards, a minimum contribution of miles may be required; for example, the minimum contribution for GuestSeat awards is 75 percent of miles.
You can contact Etihad Guest via email or one of several service centers based throughout the world. It took 14 minutes on hold to speak to a U.S. representative before the call was answered by a professional and helpful agent when we called on a Friday afternoon. At the same time, we emailed the program with a quick question and we received a response two days later with complete information.
A few years back, the Etihad Guest website won a Freddie Award for best website. The site offers functionality such as enrollment for an instant membership number, award redemption, a miles calculator, Etihad Guest news and comprehensive program information. The site also features the unique “slider tool” that allows members to choose the amount of miles vs. cash they would like to spend to redeem an award. Missing mileage credit is easy to request online.
[+] Plus Features
Etihad Guest makes it easy and convenient for members to earn and spend their miles. PointsPay mobile wallet makes it extremely easy to spend miles like cash all over the world. The program has added more airline partners recently, upping the destinations available for award flights. The ability to pool miles between family members is a plus.
[-] Minus Features
The airline does not belong to a global airline alliance. If you prefer to fly on the cheapest ticket, this program may not be for you because it is not as generous as some for mileage accumulation on discounted tickets.
Report Card from Readers
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[tabcontent] [tab]Rating: C
You don’t really “feel it” until you reach Gold level. Redeeming points is very easy, the family head status is very good; however, the Etihad website needs to be improved—sometimes it’s very hard to access your account. Members complain that the service center does not have a good understanding of the Etihad Guest program.
Pros: Redeeming points is easy, a nice welcome greeting when you reach Gold level.
Cons: Gold elite is really not Elite! Customer service has ZERO IDEA about the Etihad program, just give them a call and see. One time they told me Silver, Gold and Gold Elite status are valid for one year; however, the site said one year for Silver and two years for Gold and Gold elite. And I was asked to take a picture for this sentence and send it! I didn’t argue. I knew they have no clue and ended the call. Also, it takes ages to get your official Etihad Guest membership card.
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[box] InsideFlyer Rated
Overall Score: 7.57
Earning Ability: 7.5
Award Choices: 8.0
Elite Level: 8.0
Rules and Conditions: 7.5
Service Support: 7.5
Online Services: 7.5 [/box]