In the previous post (Part 1), I had covered the value of Etihad miles if used for upgrade (Economy->Business). The returns did not seem particularly lucrative for short-haul flights or connecting flights (with stopover in Abu Dhabi).
In part 2 of the series, let us look at the second option i.e. Using your miles for direct redemption on Etihad flights. Once again, I will consider 4 routes for analysis – Abu Dhabi to Mumbai, Abu Dhabi to London and Abu Dhabi to New York and Abu Dhabi to Singapore. I will look at Business Class and First Class redemption because Economy redemption almost never gives great value for your miles.
Direct redemption on Etihad flights
Guest seats and open seats
Etihad classifies its inventory into two categories – Guest seats and Open seats.
Guest seats are the “classic” redemption seats. They have limited availability in each class and the miles + other charges required are fixed.
Open seats, on the other hand, is the full available inventory on Etihad for your booking date. The mile required, and other charges vary widely and is consistent with the prevailing fares on your booking dates.
As you can see from the table below, value obtained from Open seats seems to be approximately 0.9-0.94 cents per mile. Etihad sells its miles for 2 cents without any bonus or promotion. On its shopping catalogue (the worst way to redeem any airline mile), it sells products at a value of 0.5-0.6 cents per mile.
Guest seats on the other hand, are valued based on distance. Availability is a problem for guest seats –popular routes and dates get sold out fast. But you get more favorable returns for your miles.
Guest seats and Economy Saver fares
If you read Part 1 of the series, you would notice something peculiar. The miles required for upgrading your Economy Saver fares are nearly same as miles required to buy a direct business class ticket. This is consistent for all routes I could check. This means that it never makes sense to buy an Economy Saver ticket with intention to upgrade. You would be better off redeeming it for a direct business ticket. (The only exception is if you are short by 5,000-10,000 miles depending on the intended route)
First class redemption
Etihad’s first class (and arguably its business class) is a revolutionary product. Both the hard product and soft product are best-in-class. That is, unless the staff is having a really off day (or you have done something to tick them off).
Etihad classifies its inventory into Guest Seats and Open Seats. Once again, open seats are linked to the fare and would hardly ever make sense to book.
For Guest seats, availability is extremely limited and popular routes / dates get sold out fast.
If all you have ever wanted was to experience the Etihad First Class, then one of the best routes to book is the AUH-SIN route. It is a 7.5 hour flight and both routes are red-eye. Availability is plenty – I could see seats available even for the following week). One-way ticket will set you back by 98,941 miles + $234 in other charges. The route goes for $3,184 one-way so it is tremendous value for your mile (6 cents) but it is more of an indulgence so unfair to compare with a business-class redemption.
Of course, the US destinations provide the best experience (flight duration is 14 hours and over). However, the availability is sparse.
Direct redemptions on Etihad can offer good value for your miles. Provided, you can find available Guest seats. Booking Open seats are a no-go as well as booking an Economy Saver fare to upgrade the same to business-class.
First-class redemption offers a great value for your miles – but it is an indulgence which shouldn’t be put a price on anyway.