For now I’ll pose this as a question, since the program’s lack of transparency makes it hard to figure out what’s going on.
Etihad Guest’s approach to award pricing
Etihad Guest doesn’t publish an award chart for travel on its own flights, but rather has an award calculator. When you look up award costs, you’ll see a warning that states the following:
The mileage values displayed are indicative values only, and are the minimum mileage requirements which are subject to change.
In other words, while the airline does publish what the lowest cost can be for a city pair, you won’t always find that pricing to be available, even if there’s “saver” level award availability.
The airline made the switch to dynamic award pricing in 2018.
Etihad’s award pricing is dynamic
Why I think Etihad Guest has devalued
Long story short, I can’t find a single market anymore where the published lowest award cost is actually available. Now, in fairness, sometimes airlines don’t release a lot of saver award space. However, I’m not just talking about a single route, but rather I’m talking about every cabin on every Etihad route I searched.
Let me give three examples — one of a short haul flight, one of a medium haul flight, and one of a long haul flight. In each case I looked at availability over the course of an entire year to find the lowest award cost (and for the record, I searched a lot more routes than this, but I don’t want to overwhelm you guys with examples).
Etihad seems to have increased award pricing in all cabins
For a one-way flight from Abu Dhabi to Muscat:
- The mileage calculator suggests that economy should start at 6,500 miles, and business class should start at 17,500 miles
- Actually doing award searches, the lowest cost I see in economy is 16,030 miles, and the lowest cost I see in business class is 32,664 miles
For a one-way flight from Abu Dhabi to London:
- The mileage calculator suggests that economy should start at 32,500 miles, business class should start at 62,501 miles, and first class should start at 87,750 miles
- Actually doing award searches, the lowest cost I see in economy is 42,040 miles, the lowest cost I see in business class is 83,172 miles, and the lowest cost I see in first class is 114,021 miles
For a one-way flight from Abu Dhabi to New York:
- The mileage calculator suggests that economy should start at 57,682 miles, business class should start at 99,885 miles, and first class should start at 136,090 miles
- Actually doing award searches, the lowest cost I see in economy is 73,494 miles, the lowest cost I see in business class is 129,446 miles, and the lowest cost I see in first class is 171,183 miles
Also, in the unlikely event all of that wasn’t complicated enough, the award pricing also seems to vary significantly based on the direction you’re flying. All of the above examples are for flights departing from Abu Dhabi, but in some cases award flights to Abu Dhabi are cheaper (like the New York to Abu Dhabi example below).
Regardless of which direction you fly, I’m not able to find any flights that actually match the lowest published pricing.
What should we make of this?
The Etihad Guest program is only quasi-transparent when it comes to award pricing. I suppose it’s entirely possible that at this very moment in time, for whatever reason, no pricing actually matches up with the lowest published pricing.
While I’ve seen that before when looking at one specific route, I haven’t seen that across Etihad’s entire network. In fairness, I haven’t done a lot of searching of Etihad award availability in the past month (thanks, coronavirus!), so it’s possible this change actually happened a while back.
This does lead me to believe that there was an award pricing devaluation here. I’ll try to reach out to a contact and figure out what’s going on, but there’s no other reasonable conclusion I can come to, unless I’m missing something.
A couple more thoughts:
- While I don’t think we’re going to see airline loyalty programs devalue overall during this time, I’m not at all surprised to see this from Etihad Guest, given how the airline is run
- This ultimately isn’t that huge of a deal to those not too invested in the Etihad Guest program, because you can still redeem for travel on Etihad through Air Canada Aeroplan and American AAdvantage at published award costs
There are better values for redeeming on Etihad
Etihad Guest has had dynamic award pricing for a couple of years now. However, for the first time I’m not seeing any flights available at the lowest published costs, which leads me to believe that Etihad Guest redemptions have just been devalued.
I’m doing some more digging here, but in the meantime if anyone has any data points or thoughts, I’d certainly welcome them. If true, what a disappointment, and how poorly thought out on Etihad Guest’s part…
(Tip of the hat to Pascal)