How I Rescue My Etihad Guest Miles

Loyalty Program

In the past few years, I’ve redeemed American Airlines miles for flying Etihad Airways. Etihad is not part of Oneworld alliance, but it is possible to redeem the miles for traveling on Etihad marketed and operated flights. Thanks to their love-hate relationship.

Etihad has its frequent flyer program called Etihad Guest. It’s a decent program. Not only it offers redemption sweet spot, but it also partners with Amex, Citi, Capital One, Marriott Bonvoy, and others. So besides flying, it is fairly easy to earn their miles.

That said, there are 3 rules every flyer should follow:

  • Never hoard your miles.
  • Never transfer your points to a frequent flyer program if you don’t plan on using them.
  • Never buy miles, even if it’s a good deal unless you have a trip in mind to book.

One reason: Devaluation

It’s very unlikely your frequent flyer miles will appreciate. Overtime, loyalty programs devaluate. Big corporations will do anything in their power to maximize their profit.

Background

Long story short, I went on a trip to Bali to experience the Turkish Airlines’ Boeing 787-9 Inaugural flight. To take advantage of the cheap business class fare, I had to take a positioning flight to Cairo. Initially, I booked Royal Air Maroc (a.k.a. RAM) flights using my Etihad miles. But due to a schedule change, I had to cancel the trip. Instead, I redeemed American Airlines miles on Etihad flights from New York to Abu Dhabi, and then Abu Dhabi to Cairo. Because of that, my Etihad miles became orphan – Not good.

How I Earned the Miles

I flew Etihad’s famous A380 First Class Apartment back in 2018. Unfortunately, the onboard shower did not work. Etihad compensated me 15,000 miles for the inconvenience. I then transferred 29,000 points from my Amex to Etihad Guest. The transfer ratio was 1:1, although sometimes there is a transfer bonus promotion.

As I mentioned before, one of the Etihad’s sweet spot is flight award redemption on RAM. Per Etihad Guest, the chart below shows the number of miles required for a one-way journey:

Distance in Miles  Economy Class Business Class
0 – 1000 6000 12000
1001 – 1500 10000 20000
1501 – 2000 15000 30000
2001 and above 22000 44000

As you can see, the number of miles required for a one-way journey over 2001 miles in business class is 44,000. That means you can fly anywhere within RAM’s network. For example, you can fly from Washington D.C. to Istanbul via Casablanca for only 44,000 miles in business class.

This sweet spot has been around for a while. However, we recently learned that RAM will be adding Beijing to its network. Anecdotally, you could book a trip between Washington D.C. to Beijing via Casablanca at the same rate. That’s a steal if you ask me!

But that didn’t last very long. Etihad Guest now added a line to its Term and Condition:

“For connecting routes mileage values will be calculated from origin to point of transit/stopover to destination.”

That means you will be charged 44,000 Etihad miles for each flight segment over 2001 miles. So it would cost 88,000 miles between Washington D.C. and Beijing.

This is bad news for me because I have 44,000 miles stuck in my Etihad Guest account. My brother and I had talked about celebrating my Mom’s 70th birthday in Europe (also mine because my mom and I share the same birthday and month). So when the devaluation rumor started to spread, I decided to make a tentative booking.

Booking

The best way to search award availability is to use the airline’s website. Unfortunately, the search tool is buggy and very hard to use. So instead, I called the Etihad reservation line. The agent I spoke with was fairly knowledgeable. I originally had planned to fly out of Washington Dulles, but there was no space available on May 22, the Friday before Memorial Day 2020. The only option for me was to fly out of New York. It wasn’t my preferred routing, but I had no choice. I went ahead and booked the flight. On the positive note, RAM operates its brand new Boeing 787-9 on this route. It features the new reverse herringbone seats. So I am looking forward to reviewing the product.

Conclusion

I’m glad it worked out ok. I had my reservation ticketed and will be flying from New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) via Casablanca (CMN) on RAM for 44,000 miles and $213.50 in business class.

Luckily, I was still able to snag the award ticket at the old rate. I’m not sure how much longer it will last. So if you plan to redeem your Etihad miles on RAM, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. Even if the agent quoted you with with the new pricing, it wouldn’t hurt to HUCA (Hang Up and Call Again). You may be lucky!

Credit:
Map generated by Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz
Royal Air Maroc Instagram
Etihad Guest

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