Etihad Guest miles are a unique currency because they can be redeemed for flights on around 21 airlines, including Virgin Australia. Etihad has partner airlines spanning all three global airline alliances – plus many others that aren’t in any alliance, and therefore aren’t otherwise easily accessible to Australians.
Buying Etihad Guest miles can be lucrative if you plan to redeem them for Business Class flights on airlines like Virgin Australia, Air Serbia, Brussels Airlines, American Airlines and Malaysia Airlines.
How to Buy Etihad Guest Miles
You can buy Etihad Guest miles on the Etihad Guest website. You’ll be prompted to login to your account, then taken to the Points.com Storefront page where you can select the number of miles you wish to buy and enter your credit card payment details.
If you’re not already a member, you can join Etihad Guest online for free.
The normal price for Etihad Guest miles is USD20 (~AU$28) per thousand, although you can sometimes get miles at a discount (see below).
There is an annual purchase limit for most Etihad Guest members of 100,000 miles per transaction, or 150,000 miles for Etihad Guest Platinum members. These limits exclude any bonus miles.
Etihad’s website states that miles will normally credit to your account within 24 hours of purchasing them. In our experience, it can take 24-48 hours.
As your transaction will be completed in US Dollars and processed in the United States, you may prefer to pay using a credit card with no international transaction fees to avoid paying a foreign currency surcharge to your bank. You may also like to contact your bank before completing the payment so that your bank doesn’t block your account if they think it’s a suspicious transaction. (It’s not a suspicious transaction, but we have heard of some banks making this assumption and therefore blocking transactions in the past.)
In addition to buying miles outright, you can pay to “boost” the number of miles earned from Etihad Airways flights, Etihad Guest payment cards, hotels, car rentals or with other program partners using the MilesBooster feature.
Special Deals on Buying Etihad Guest Miles
Etihad Guest offers bonus miles or discounts on purchases of Etihad Guest miles during limited-time promotions a few times per year.
These offers aren’t generally quite as generous as those of frequent flyer programs like Avianca LifeMiles, which regularly gives 145-200% bonus miles on purchases! But Etihad Guest has been known to offer up to 70% bonus miles.
In its current limited-time promotion, Etihad Guest is offering up to 70% bonus miles on purchases from 21-22 November 2021. The amount of bonus miles received depends on the amount purchased:
- Buy 4,000 to 14,000 Etihad Guest miles to receive 40% bonus miles
- Buy 15,000 to 30,000 Etihad Guest miles to receive 50% bonus miles
- Buy 31,000+ Etihad Guest miles to receive 70% bonus miles
This offer is more generous than the previous one which ran in September 2021.
Other ways to earn Etihad Guest Miles
Of course, buying Etihad Guest miles is not the only way to increase your balance. You can earn miles in many other ways including flying with Etihad and its partner airlines or transferring points from a hotel loyalty program.
If you have an American Express credit card issued in Australia, you may also be able to transfer your American Express Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest at a 2:1 rate.
Redeeming Etihad Guest Miles
Etihad Guest is a bizarre frequent flyer program. But that’s why we love it! Redemptions on each partner airline are subject to completely different Etihad Guest partner airline award charts which don’t correlate to each other in any way. For example, an Asiana Airlines Business Class flight from Sydney to Seoul costs fewer miles than a Korean Air Economy Class flight on the same route!
On some airlines, award flights are superb value. On others, they are ridiculously expensive. There is no real pattern here – you just have to know which partner airline award charts offer the best value.
Here are the Etihad Guest program’s partner airlines as of November 2021 (note that redemptions on El Al are coming soon):
Which types of Etihad Guest rewards are the best value?
Ironically, redeeming Etihad Guest miles for Etihad Airways flights via Abu Dhabi is not always the best value. Etihad Airways awards are priced dynamically, meaning the number of miles you’ll need for an award flight can be quite high at times. Etihad also imposes relatively high fuel surcharges when you redeem miles on its own flights. (You can check the minimum miles needed for Etihad Airways flights using the Miles Calculator on Etihad’s website.)
But using Etihad Guest miles to book flights with some partner airlines can be excellent value!
Some of the best airlines to redeem Etihad Guest miles to fly with include:
- Air Serbia
- American Airlines
- Brussels Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Oman Air
- Royal Air Maroc
- SriLankan Airlines
- Virgin Australia
Virgin Australia rewards
As it happens, redeeming Etihad Guest miles for Virgin Australia flights can be very lucrative. Here is the award chart for Virgin Australia flights booked using Etihad Guest miles:
|0 – 1,250 miles||Sydney-Cairns
|6,900 miles||13,800 miles|
|1,251 – 1,750 miles||Perth-Melbourne
|10,900 miles||21,800 miles|
|1,751+ miles||Sydney-Denpasar||16,900 miles||33,800 miles|
The sweet spot is mid-length domestic and shorter international flights. In particular, routes just under 1,250 miles in length are exceptional value! It will cost you just 13,800 miles to fly Virgin Australia Business Class on routes including:
- Melbourne-Hamilton Island
- Brisbane-Port Vila
It’s also just 21,800 miles to fly from Melbourne to Perth or Brisbane-Nadi in Virgin Australia Business Class.
Velocity’s carrier charges do not apply when booking Virgin Australia flights with Etihad Guest miles.
During just a 60% bonus miles promotion, it would cost USD2,000 (~AU$2,634) to buy the maximum 100,000 miles. For this, you would receive 160,000 miles (including 60,000 bonus miles). That’s enough miles to book 11 one-way Virgin Australia Business Class flights up to 1,250 miles in length, e.g. Sydney-Cairns. This works out to be a cost of roughly $240 per Business Class flight, plus taxes.
Other Etihad Guest partner airlines
Other Etihad Guest sweet spots include:
- Intra-Europe Business Class flights on Brussels Airlines and Air Serbia
- Brussels Airlines Business Class from Brussels to most long-haul destinations in Africa or North America cost 44,000 miles
- Royal Air Maroc Business Class flights from Casablanca to North America, South America or Qatar cost 44,000 miles
- American Airlines Business Class from Sydney to Los Angeles or First Class from North America to Europe costs only 62,500 miles (but award availability can be limited)
- SriLankan Airlines short-haul and medium-haul flights within Asia
- Malaysia Airlines Business Class from Perth to Kuala Lumpur costs 40,000 miles return, while flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane to Kuala Lumpur cost 70,000 miles return
How to book Etihad Guest award flights
The Etihad website can only be used to book award flights operated by Etihad Airways. To book award flights on any partner airline, you’ll need to call Etihad Guest. The Australian contact number is 1300 532 215.
We recommend calling in the late evening or early in the morning as you’ll be more likely to speak to somebody in the Belgrade call centre – which provides much better service than some of Etihad’s other call centres. Partner airline award flights must be booked at least 24 hours in advance.
Changing or cancelling an Etihad Guest award booking
Etihad Guest allows date/time changes on reward bookings up to 24 hours before departure for a fee of AED100 per change.
You can also cancel Etihad Guest rewards up to 24 hours before departure for a flat refund fee of 10% of the miles redeemed. You will need to call the Etihad Guest Service Centre to request a refund.
COVID-19 fee waivers may apply for changes & cancellations made until 31 May 2022.
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