Etihad Restricting Partner Award Availability: New 30-Day Rule?

Etihad Restricting Partner Award Availability: New 30-Day Rule?

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Etihad Airways has a great inflight product in first class and business class, and historically it has been pretty easy to redeem points for these experiences. In particular, Etihad has partnered with American AAdvantage and Air Canada Aeroplan, meaning you could redeem both points currencies for travel in Etihad premium cabins.

Unfortunately in recent months, it seems like actually redeeming partner miles for travel in Etihad premium cabins has become more challenging. In this post I wanted to cover the trends that we’re seeing when it comes to Etihad award availability, including a possible 30-day rule on redemptions.

Let me share how I view the current state of things, as it’s kind of complex.

Etihad first & business class awards with partner miles

Historically, Etihad has generally made the same saver level award seats available to members of its own Etihad Guest program, as to members of partner programs.

That’s no longer the case, and the exact situation seems to vary between Air Canada Aeroplan and American AAdvantage. So let’s talk about what you can expect when trying to redeem those currencies for travel on Etihad.

Etihad first class Boeing 787-9

Redeeming Air Canada Aeroplan points on Etihad

For several months now, Air Canada Aeroplan hasn’t had access to a vast majority of Etihad premium cabin award availability. It’s still possible to redeem Aeroplan points for travel in Etihad economy, but there seems to be virtually no premium cabin award space.

This lack of availability applies both through aircanada.com and through Air Canada contact centers. While we’ve been told that the partnership with Etihad will continue, it’s anyone’s guess if/when we see premium award seats again. The whole situation is quite strange. So for all practical purposes, don’t plan on redeeming Aeroplan points for Etihad premium cabins, at least for the time being.

Redeeming American AAdvantage miles on Etihad

Historically, American AAdvantage has had access to most Etihad saver level award availability. Now, there have long been some quirks with these redemptions, with some awards being bookable online, and some awards requiring ringing up a foreign American Airlines call center to get access to the space. That seemed to be more a technological and point of sale restriction, rather than intentional blocking.

However, that has changed, so here’s the current reality of things:

  • American AAdvantage has access to most of the GuestSeat availability that Etihad Guest members have access to
  • American AAdvantage seems to have access to Etihad GuestSeat availability for first class and business class, but only within 30 days of departure; until recently, this was available within 60 days of departure, but that window has recently been cut in half
  • It seems that most award availability that American AAdvantage has access to is bookable directly on aa.com, and American’s foreign call centers no longer have access to extra award space on Etihad

The 30-day rule seems to be a fairly new thing, replacing the 60-day rule that was introduced several months ago. Of course I can’t guarantee that this is a new long term approach to releasing space, but everything points in that direction.

Across the board, you’ll find premium cabin award availability within the next month, but then suddenly there’s nothing in premium cabins beyond 30 days (or 31 days, though that seems to be a function of time zones).

Just to give some examples, there’s Etihad business class award space almost every day from Abu Dhabi to Muscat, until March 18, when it totally drops off. That’s a month from now.

Etihad’s new 30-day rule in action

For Abu Dhabi to Washington, you’ll notice first class awards bookable through American AAdvantage close to departure, but then nothing more. That reflects all the availability through Etihad Guest within 30 days.

Etihad’s new 30-day rule in action

For Abu Dhabi to Geneva, you’ll notice first class awards bookable through American AAdvantage across a variety of dates in the coming 30 days, but then nothing. Once again, this reflects all the availability through Etihad Guest within 30 days.

Etihad’s new 30-day rule in action

What’s going on with Etihad award availability?

While it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on here, or how it will evolve, I do have a few observations.

Etihad’s own frequent flyer program, Etihad Guest, seems to have changed up how it releases award availability in general. Back in the day, Etihad would be generous with making first and business class seats available as awards at the last minute, when a cabin had a lot of unsold seats. That’s no longer consistently the case, even through the Etihad Guest program.

I see mostly empty first class and business class cabins in the days and weeks leading up to departure, and there’s still often no award space. So I think Etihad’s new management team is taking a new approach to award availability, presumably to maximize profitability, or some other goal.

Then there are the different situations with Air Canada Aeroplan and American AAdvantage.

In the case of Etihad awards with Air Canada Aeroplan points, clearly there’s something going on between the two airlines. I don’t know if it’s a function of negotiating pricing, a technology limitation, or what. But Aeroplan seems to just not have access to Etihad premium space, for whatever reason.

The situation with American AAdvantage miles is different, though. AAdvantage now has access to Etihad premium award space, but only in the 30 days leading up to departure. While it’s possible that this changes, it seems to me like a deliberate policy, and there’s certainly precedent for this, as Etihad isn’t the first airline restricting award availability to partners until closer to departure.

I suspect this is part of Etihad’s management trying to overhaul the Etihad Guest program and make it more profitable and engaging. There’s something to be said for only making partner award space in premium cabins available 30 days out, because it creates quite an incentive to earn directly with Etihad Guest.

As a consumer, I of course love when partners have access to all award space, since I like taking advantage of award arbitrage opportunities, and booking through the programs that offer the best pricing. But if I ran a frequent flyer program, I’d probably similarly try to take additional action to encourage direct bookings, since it’s potentially much higher margin, and also has more upside in terms of engagement with the airline.

Etihad business class Airbus A350-1000

Bottom line

Etihad has changed how it releases award space. Air Canada Aeroplan doesn’t seem to have access to any premium Etihad award seats, while American AAdvantage seems to have access to premium Etihad award seats within 30 days of departure.

On top of that, Etihad has generally changed how it releases award availability, even to its own Etihad Guest members. Etihad releases fewer award seats to its own members than in the past, especially last minute.

I’m happy we’re at least seeing some trend with American AAdvantage availability on Etihad, since it gives us something to work with. If the 30-day rule sticks, I wouldn’t consider that the worst thing in the world, as it’s better than Etihad entirely restricting premium award space to partners. It also means that we’ll be able to book Etihad’s A380 first class to New York, we’ll just have to be patient.

What do you make of the current Etihad partner award space situation?

Conversations (19)
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  1. Jenny Guest

    All premium award space on Etihad has vanished for AAdvantage after April 4.

    1. visiitb New Member

      when we can expect award availability for april ?

  2. Donald Guest

    Have tried to book EY F using AA miles that shows availability on EY and AA website but keeps erroring "our system is having trouble please try again or come back later". Anyone have any idea what to do? This is within 30 days of departure.

  3. Raul Guest

    I spoke to my friend and she said that business class load factors are over 85% now, and close to 95% in long haul flights. She also said that with the new management, they moved loyalty to report to the centralized revenue and commercial portfolio headed by some whiz kid apparently. She said some of the redemptions would get further dynamic. Apparently, the Board are all very happy with these as Etihad now makes money...

    I spoke to my friend and she said that business class load factors are over 85% now, and close to 95% in long haul flights. She also said that with the new management, they moved loyalty to report to the centralized revenue and commercial portfolio headed by some whiz kid apparently. She said some of the redemptions would get further dynamic. Apparently, the Board are all very happy with these as Etihad now makes money and behaves. Culturally, she says having been there for 15 years, Etihad with the new management is much more "North American" than "Middle Eastern" now with decision making.

  4. SharonC Guest

    Earning and using EY miles doesn’t make it easier. Lack of F and any J class is just silly prices now. You may as well lay cash. Maybe that’s what mgt is trying to enforce?

  5. GJ Guest

    Could some of this not be due to the huge influx of points transfers from BILT to Aeroplan and a way for them to limit those people from booking flights on Etihad via Aeroplan? Just throwing an idea out there. I’ve noticed Aeroplan mile redemption has received a lot of attention the last 6 months too.

  6. AaronP Guest

    I tried the 5 day hold on an Etihad economy award seat for December from AUH-JFK-MIA on AA.com. After one day, the AUH-JFK segment was dropped and I could not purchase the ticket...

  7. Antwerp Guest

    I find this to be perfectly reasonable in an approach with partners. Further, the 30 day rule helps curb (I imagine) all the speculative bookings that people cancel two days out for whatever reason (brokers, dreamers, the lot). Seems an intelligent solution and I would love to see more airlines implement this. I never book any award ticket far out given unknown schedule changes - so this is perfect for me and opens up a...

    I find this to be perfectly reasonable in an approach with partners. Further, the 30 day rule helps curb (I imagine) all the speculative bookings that people cancel two days out for whatever reason (brokers, dreamers, the lot). Seems an intelligent solution and I would love to see more airlines implement this. I never book any award ticket far out given unknown schedule changes - so this is perfect for me and opens up a lot more exactly when I need it.

    This is Etihad displaying again why they really are the best of the ME 3 (or 4). For all the gushing over EK and QR, there is for me no better than EY. Just the right size and I think finding their own within all the hoopla of ME carriers. Why if paying I will also always lean to them for booking. Clearing U.S. immigration in AUH is certainly a bonus as well!

    1. Derek H Guest

      Nice try, Antonoaldo.

      Just because you lack the ability to plan ahead in any reasonable capacity, doesn't mean others need to be limited to your simple mindset and approach.

  8. Alonzo Diamond

    Yeah, accurate. I've called AA international numbers for the past 3 weeks trying to book Etihad biz from the US to AUH. Viewable as a Guest seat on Etihad but AA phone folks can only see economy availability using miles.

  9. Bill n DC Diamond

    Oops. Left out that I needed to call AA to ticket the AUH LHR FRA ticket - website would not finalize. Star AA CSR Yolanda found the seats and got me ticketed
    The Shower was sublime. More so than previous showers on EY & EK

  10. Bill n DC Diamond

    For what it’s worth, Because I needed a Beach Trip and wanted to enjoy Etihad First before it left IAD, In late December I found Etihad First award within 30 days for IAD AUH (B787-9) and AUH - LHR on the A380 when Etihad was NOT showing Guest Award seats for the flights. And since I wanted to fly on to FRA, I got both legs (AUH LHR & LHR FRA) for 62,500 AA miles...

    For what it’s worth, Because I needed a Beach Trip and wanted to enjoy Etihad First before it left IAD, In late December I found Etihad First award within 30 days for IAD AUH (B787-9) and AUH - LHR on the A380 when Etihad was NOT showing Guest Award seats for the flights. And since I wanted to fly on to FRA, I got both legs (AUH LHR & LHR FRA) for 62,500 AA miles Also EY is dropping First to IAD in mid March after I fly home on the 16th

    And I booked Cathay Pacific First JFK HKG HND for October via 160,000 Asia Miles transferred from banks There was decent availability maybe because I haven’t seen a blog post on CX adding First back to JFK

    Finally, Emirates gets 5 stars for ease of award changes. My July BDay RTW with EK new First DXB FRA switched equipment (always ‘shepherd’ your reservations) I found award space to BRU and made the change via the EK web Chat

  11. MilesHusband Guest

    Ben-- superbly written post on a complicated topic. The trend toward driving engagement with direct rather than partner programs appears real and may influence changes to how we engage the bank cards and their transferrable currencies. The order of magnitude differences in Etihad vs partner redemption rates will thwart Etihad Guest engagement especially on long-hauls.

  12. Jean Luc Guest

    So you noticed that, right? Yes, me too. Why would Etihad not do everything in their power to charge you 110k Etihad miles plus $300 fees, or whatever the exact numbers are, rather than just 70k AA miles and $5.60? I suspect they’re simply not getting enough cash from AA. And they may also be expecting a devaluation.

    I don’t like it, but I don’t blame them. In a way, I think this is very...

    So you noticed that, right? Yes, me too. Why would Etihad not do everything in their power to charge you 110k Etihad miles plus $300 fees, or whatever the exact numbers are, rather than just 70k AA miles and $5.60? I suspect they’re simply not getting enough cash from AA. And they may also be expecting a devaluation.

    I don’t like it, but I don’t blame them. In a way, I think this is very similar to what Turkish did: looking to increase their revenue by limiting the availability to their partners and then, once they had the opportunity, by devaluing.

  13. Ann Guest

    AC is blocking EY (and NH, and others) for commercial/cost reasons. They spun it as a temporary measure to prevent "fraud", but anyone with half a brain knows that's nonsense.

    1. DaBluBoi Guest

      I thought they were blocking EY cos of AC's closer relationship with EK, not sure about other carriers tho

    2. Derek H Guest

      This.

      I mean, I would believe if they were inept and simply messed things up, but aside from that, don't believe Aeroplan when it comes to them doing anything on purpose other than to cut costs at the expense of whatever bull$hit they sold their program as being.

      "We've got the most partners of any reward program!!!!!*"

      *No, you're not allowed to book them, though--you can only book AC at incredibly high and unreasonable premiums,...

      This.

      I mean, I would believe if they were inept and simply messed things up, but aside from that, don't believe Aeroplan when it comes to them doing anything on purpose other than to cut costs at the expense of whatever bull$hit they sold their program as being.

      "We've got the most partners of any reward program!!!!!*"

      *No, you're not allowed to book them, though--you can only book AC at incredibly high and unreasonable premiums, and we'll tell you it's due to "dynamic pricing".

    3. Bob Guest

      Lol I figured that th me thread on FT was just the usual AC shills pushing the fraud bs. You can supposedly now book NH on the phone, so it's just blocked online

  14. Guy Guest

    They are making changes, that’s for sure. We found out this week that airline staff tickets from other airlines (in our case, AirEuropa) are no longer available for Etihad and we have been flying that route for years.

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Derek H Guest

Nice try, Antonoaldo. Just because you lack the ability to plan ahead in any reasonable capacity, doesn't mean others need to be limited to your simple mindset and approach.

2
Jenny Guest

All premium award space on Etihad has vanished for AAdvantage after April 4.

1
visiitb New Member

when we can expect award availability for april ?

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