The Etihad Guest program may have the largest spread between our average redemption value, and what’s theoretically possible, that we’ve ever seen. Let’s start with the bad news. We’re assigning an ACRV of only $0.0023 to each Etihad Guest mile. This is terrible. However, one has to consider exactly how we value award points, and who we’re targeting with our valuations. A detailed description of how we value can be found here. In a nutshell, we take a standard basket of hypothetical awards, find the lowest available cash prices, and divide by how many miles a given carrier is requiring. It’s of upmost importance to consider that if a carrier doesn’t offer award availability(on a route they otherwise service), we average in a zero. We simply believe that if you can’t use it, it essentially has no value. Finally, it’s worth re-mentioning that we’re trying to come up with a number useful to the casual award traveler. The guy who has a date and a destination in mind and just wants to get online a book an award flight. We’re not coming up with a value for the guy willing to arrange travel dates and jump through hoops to score the best redemption value.
Bad news aside for a moment, let’s talk possibilities. Etihad’s Guest program does provide the opportunity to reward the savvy points and miles traveler with some phenomenal value. Take their first class apartments for example.
The above is likely to be considered one of the top 5 airline seats in the world. Furthermore, we found a single seat, at the end of March, bookable for 136,222 miles + $229.80 in cash. This same seat would cost $15,976.80 if booked with cash. One could then argue that Etihad Guest miles are worth $0.115 cents each! Of course, this argument would discount the fact that we had to search through 90 days of flights to find it, and that availability on the other 89 days didn’t exist or costed >1,000,000 miles.
In addition to flying on Etihad metal, one also has the opportunity to book on one of their codeshare partners. There’s actually quite a few. But for a minute, let’s just look at the published award chart for flights departing North America on American Airlines.
We’ll admit, it does look promising. However, one must first find award space on an American operated flight(at aa.com), then call Etihad to book.
Back to Reality
As evidenced by the table above, and the chart below, what’s theoretically possible and what’s likely to happen are quite different. This month, our best redemption came from a business class seat between Washington and Shanghai offered for 192,556 miles + $339.30. The lowest price cash alternative was $3405.00, providing a redemption value of $0.0159.
As of publication, Etihad Guest is a partner of Amex and Citi. Our advice is to really, really do your homework before transferring one’s valuable Membership Rewards or ThankYou Points. As everyone should know by now, points transfers are one-way. One has the possibility of an amazing redemption on Etihad. However, they’re more likely to end up in the unenviable position of planning a vacation around an award balance.