Etihad Guest – the frequent flyer program – has been changed. The best thing is that the changes are positive.
Chauffeur Service is Back for Gold and Platinum Members
Etihad has been restricting its chauffeur service since some time. Earlier, the airline had removed the complementary service for all redemption tickets, including those in business and first class. Then, Etihad had also restricted passengers using ‘Business Saver’ tickets from using the service.
Now, Etihad Guest Gold and Platinum members who will redeem miles on business and first class tickets can book this service. Both one-way and round-trip tickets are eligible. The chauffeur service will only be to and from Abu Dhabi airport.
Here is a tricky part. You are required to be Etihad Gold or Platinum but the terms do not mention that you need Etihad Guest miles to book the tickets. For example, in many cases, using American Advantage miles gives a better value. Whether Etihad allows such a redemption and a complementary chauffeur booking remains to be seen.
Please reply in the comments below if you have more clarity on this.
Discounts on Purchasing In-Flight WiFi
Etihad Guest members get discounted pricing on WiFi for their flights. The discounts are tiered as per membership status
- Bronze: 10% discount
- Silver: 25% discount
- Gold: 75% discount
- Platinum: Free
Further, you can use your Etihad Guest miles to pay for in-flight internet.
Extend Validity of Etihad Guest Miles
This is one of the most positive changes. Especially if you are a less frequent flyer via Etihad.
As an Etihad Guest member, your miles will be valid as long as you show one ‘eligible’ transaction in 18 months. It is not clear yet what an eligible transaction would mean. I am quite certain it would include flights taken on Etihad. Will it also include crediting of miles via Etihad partners especially credit cards? Right now, the program page shows a sign ‘Coming Soon’. More on this later.
If you are Etihad Guest Platinum, your miles never expire.
Free Seat Selection
This was introduced earlier in the year but has been promoted as part of the current revamp. Standard Economy Seat Selection will be free for Etihad Silver members and above.
Use Miles + Cash for Etihad GuestSeats
Etihad always had an option to redeem flights using a combination of miles and cash. However, this was valid only on Open Seats. Which means the value you could get from your miles was very poor. For example, this is what GuestSeats and Open Seats look on a business class ticket from Abu Dhabi to London:
Earlier, if you had less than 62,632 miles in your account, your only option was to book OpenSeat and pay using miles+cash.
Now, if you have half (50%) of the required miles, you can pay for the remaining with miles+cash option. This is live now and I could test it. For the above flight, there are the two ends
- Pay 62,632 miles and AED 680 ($185) in cash OR
- Pay 31,251 miles and AED 1,717 ($465) in cash
In other words, you are paying $280 for 31,381 miles. Thus you are buying the miles at 0.9 cents. This is great value given Etihad sells miles for 3 cents without bonus.
Despite living in Dubai, Etihad Guest is the my default frequent flyer program. Earning miles is easier than Emirates because of some great sign-up bonuses. Redemption options are also plentiful including Oman Air, American Airlines and Sri Lanka Airways.
With the aforementioned changes, the loyalty program has gotten better.