Did Etihad Guest Quietly Increase Award Costs?

Filed Under: Awards, Etihad

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

Bottom line

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)

  1. At various times over the last decade or so I’ve had enough Etihad miles to cover a business class ticket from LHR-BKK. However, I’ve only done so twice and one of those was when the miles and cash figure was significantly less than the pure cash fare.

    In the last couple of years, I have seen zero value in redemptions and as they focussed on Scandinavia, they lost touch with those of us in the UK and Germany as prices simply got too high.

    I have taken a number of flights with positioning outward legs to Norway or Sweden and bought the business class fare for less than half the ex UK cost. This makes redemptions even worse value.

    So the last few redemptions, including checking out the additional business points has been through their virtual visa cards and Amazon vouchers. Recently I got just under £1000 of vouchers which would not have covered 1/3rd of the redemption cost and yet I was paying around £1050 return from OSL-BKK and actually transiting through LHR both ways, except that I didn’t “transit” on the return leg but simply got off, with my bags checked to LHR only.

    So to bolster your theory, then yes, I do believe there has been a sliding devaluation of Etihad miles (again) and without the 2x, 3x, 4x multipliers of a few years ago, it is hard to earn enough points when cash fares somewhere else are much cheaper.

  2. No big loss even if true. Etihad already “devalued” their in-flight experience by removing the A380 from schedule. That was the only thing uniquely appealing about them, and their program was never enticing to begin with.

  3. Why would they do this? Are flights so full that offering saver seats will cause them harm? This would absolutely seem the time to offer better than normal award prices and availability to fill up planes and engage with customers.

  4. My data point is I recently booked a flight FCA-DFW-MAD with a 23 hour stopover in DFW for next summer. AA showed one available at 57.5k and 2 at 60K so I booked one with Etihad miles and the second with AA miles. Etihad charged me 75k (25k+ 50k).
    I emailed them and got a run around to call (it took several calls to get a competent agent) and ultimately I used Skype to call the British office during their business hours or close. My question is whether Etihad has different rules than AA for connection times or did the agent error (he asked the back room so to speak). I am not horrified by the cost but was hoping for the 50k price, but as AA has far far fewer saver awards these days, replacing them with specials I see my Etihad miles somewhat devalued.

  5. @Ben: Did you check if the routes you searched were actually bookable with AA miles?

    On the ICN-AUH route, a minimum of 46,001 miles are required according to the calculator. While doing the award search, the lowest available is 73,340. This is in “Guest Economy”, so partners should have access. However, nothing available when doing the same search on AA.com.

    So along with the devaluation, it seems that partner access to inventory may have been reduced.

  6. To my knowledge the apparent change is because the new search engine displays the rates inclusive of taxes and fees paid through miles. If you pay those cash using the cash + miles option, or through the call centre, then I believe you should be back to the old pricing. Confusing that it is not clearly stated. Also note that even when Guest seats are available, there are normally two standard price points in each Economy and Business approx 20% apart, which are dependent on whether there is cash availability in the Saver or not (but still only one price point in First)

  7. So glad I experienced the apartment on A380 this past Feb. I have a feeling that may be the only time I’ll ever be on an Etihad flight going forward.

  8. Etihad already devalued their miles award once a few years back although retained the headline miles cost constant back then. Its an airline on its knees that has progressively cut service and quality over the past 5 yrs or so in the hope to stem the financial bleed. Ultimately let down by very poor management (lots of changes at the top but again with 0 result) and a terrible airport which simply isn’t fit for purpose as a long haul connector. Emirates just 150km down the road sadly couldn’t provide these bright minds with a template.

  9. Tax is included in the total miles price now while before you’d pay the tax as a cash portion. You can still do this once you hit the checkout page i think.

  10. I have been checking the awards ticket for the last couple of months to various destinations ( which were cancelled again) and it is true that the value of miles have increased tremendously as stated above. I tried to book several options and realized that they have absorbed the tax and service charge within the miles required for redemption.
    After exhausting recalculation over and over again, YES ETIHAD HAS DEVALUED WITHOUT COMMUNICATING IT TO ITS loyal Customers. Kinder eggs with worse surprises. I will switch to Emirates

  11. This isn’t the first time that Etihad plays such games. I can relate tons of stories about the games they have played with me. Loyalty means nothing here. Their customer service is one of the worst and they o not seem to even care about it. Really sad because the service on board, specially the food, is really much better than EK

  12. Make sure you’re searching for Guest Seats and not Open Seats, as Guest Seats are much cheaper with miles and those values in the calculator actual show price for Guest Seats.

  13. Ethihad is the worst and liar all time and they have not refunded my tkt due to covid canellation yet. Please don’t trust this Airline called ethihad

  14. The prices are different from AUH to the world, because all the tickets EX AUH includes free COVID test increasing the miles required.

    There is also a free insurance coverage for COVID so that also adds up for additional miles required for each direction.

    Hope this explains and Etihad has not de valued the miles.

  15. Er Batman, if it’s a “free” covid test then that wouldn’t increase the miles required.

    Or do you mean it’s not free, but it has a significant change and they now include that in the price.

  16. Off late this has been the practice of Etihad. Even Abu Dhabi layover with Yas island stay was similar. They never gave hotel rooms which was advertised. With my recent Muscut trip , I am considering taking low cost carriers as you have to pay for a cup of coffee onbord Etihad ,despite paying a difference of around 85$ . And all u get is 200 ml water onboard. Pathetic!! And A380s are parked until further notice . With smaller airplanes and poor cabin standards , the missing element was low cost model . Now that they have poor meals and crappy Seats, I believe it is time for people like me, who used to love this airline previously to reconsider other options. At least until they fix these issues .

  17. If Etihad are now including taxes etc in the Guest seat mileage cost, does anyone know what value per mile they are using in that calculation? I can’t check because I don’t have any Etihad miles (they’ve all expired!).

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reminder: OMAAT comments are changing soon. Register here to save your space.