Note: rumor says Etihad may end the partnership with AA soon, so enjoy it while you can!
When I tell people I am collecting Etihad Guest points, I often get asked when I’m going to the Middle East. While I’d love to visit many places in the Middle East, the best use of Etihad Guest points is actually flying from the US to Europe! The best part of Etihad’s program is their partner awards charts. Several of their partners have great prices on trans-atlantic awards including American Airlines, Brussels Airlines, and Royal Air Maroc.
If you’re planning a trip to Europe you should know that flying between cities is quick and cheap. Between Ryanair, Norwegian, Easyjet, and Wizz (not to mention all the traditional airlines) you should be able to find flights from wherever you land to wherever you want to go for at most $100. If booking a month or two in advance I generally end up paying around $50, much less than a positioning flight in the US (unless you have BA Avios to burn).
One big reason Etihad Guest is less popular than other award programs is because you need to call in to book partner awards. In the past it was difficult to get a knowledgeable CS rep, but I haven’t had any problems with my recent bookings. Their number is: 1 (877) 690-0767.
Brussels Airlines (From JFK, IAD, YYZ To BRU)
In the past Brussels Airlines was by far the cheapest way to get to Europe at 37,000 Miles Round Trip in Business Class! However, this award was changed shortly after it was publicized by the usual suspects and is now 44,000 Miles each way from JFK, IAD, and YYZ (Toronto) to BRU. This is still one of the cheapest ways to get from the US to Europe! To search for award space bookable with Etihad, the best way is to find Saver level award space using book with miles in United search (In Advanced Search, selecting Flexible Dates, Business class, and Nonstop flights only will narrow down the results). Unfortunately, award space for this redemption isn’t great, which makes it good to have some ideas for alternate routes.
Royal Air Maroc (From JFK, IAD, YUL To CMN and Many European Cities)
Depending on where you’re planning to go in Europe, Casablanca might actually be closer to your final destination than Brussels. For the same 44,000 Miles each way you should be able to go many places in Europe with a stopover in Casablanca. Unlike with Brussels Airlines, the second leg is included in the 44,000 Miles price. To find availability on RAM, you can either sign up to their Safar Flyer award program and search for availability on their website, or just call Etihad to find availability.
You would fly the first leg from JFK, IAD, or YUL (Montreal) to CMN (Casablanca). As of April 2019 RAM will be flying to Miami, so you may soon be able to depart from MIA. RAM flies to many European destinations including most, if not all, of the big cities in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK, as well as Amsterdam and Belgium.
American Airlines (From Many US Cities To Many European Cities)
This is the most flexible redemption option, with many destinations available, though you’ll pay a little more for the privilege. You can redeem Etihad Guest miles for any route American Airlines flies, and for some routes at fewer points! Europe is one example, where North America to Europe is 50,000 Miles each way, less than AA’s usual price of 57,500 AAdvantage miles. Another benefit of using this redemption option is that you don’t need to pay for any positioning flights on the US side, making the extra 6,000 miles worth it depending on where you live. Fees are extremely reasonable, with a recent flight I booked using this redemption method costing $35 in fees.
I haven’t looked much into Air Serbia, however if I was departing from the northeast US and my final destination was Belgrade, at 64K miles JFK-BEG is worth a look. Belgrade is a bit more expensive to get to from within Europe, so it might be worth it to pay more miles rather than buy a connecting flight.
Other Important Information
- Etihad Guest miles expire 2 years after accrual, regardless of activity. Therefore it doesn’t make sense to do speculative adds to Etihad Guest.
- Etihad Guest is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and SPG/Marriott, so it should be fairly easy to accrue points. In the US there is no card for earning Etihad Guest miles directly, however if you live in the UK or UAE