Compare the frequent flyer program offered by Etihad Airways.
There's 66 aircraft in the Etihad fleet, flying to 84 destinations on over 1000 flights per week, making it one of the largest airlines in the Middle East. Etihad was born in Abu Dhabi in the year 2003, as a result of Royal Decree, and means union in Arabic.
It also has large stakes in airberlin and Air Seychelles.
Etihad Airways' main tenet is to provide the best of Arabian hospitality, a principle which has helped it win the 'World's Leading Airline' at the World Travel Awards in 2009, 2010, 2011.
What is the Guest program and how does it work?
Etihad's frequent flyer program is known as the Guest program. It's not drastically different to any of the other frequent flyer programs in how it works. You earn Guest Miles from flying, using a rewards credit card or spending on the items or services of program partners.
Once you earn enough Miles you can redeem them for a range of rewards including free flights, better seats on your flights, raffle tickets, excess baggage or items through the Guest Reward Shop.
Exploring the Etihad Guest program - Membership Tiers
One way you can maximise the benefits you get through the Guest program is by getting to a higher membership tier. These tiers can only be climbed by flying regularly, and the different tiers are mentioned below:
- Etihad Guest
- Etihad Guest Silver
- Etihad Guest Gold
- Etihad Guest Gold Elite
To rise through these levels you'll need to earn the appropriate number of Tier Miles. You earn a Tier Mile for every real mile you travel on an Etihad flight, with more earned depending on the class you fly. Once you get to a tier you'll need to either keep up the appropriate number of eligible flights each year or earn the appropriate number of Tier Miles.
Enjoy the higher status level benefit
Here are some of the benefits you get as you progress higher in the Guest program.
Guest membership is the base level every frequent Etihad flyer starts at. It comes with the regular benefits other frequent flyer programs come with, including a dedicated website and account to manage your account, the ability to set up a family pooling account to hold your family's combined miles, access to the online rewards store and the ability to record your travelling preferences.
Where things start getting more interesting is in the Guest Silver level. Here you get:
- 25% bonus Guest Miles on every flight
- A priority waitlist for busy flight routes so you don't miss out
- A guaranteed Economy Coral seat if booked 24 hours in advance
- Lounge access to the Pearl Business class lounge, or when flying in and out of Abu Dhabi, access to the Al Reem Lounge facility in terminal 1. This also has a dedicated check in facility.
- A free 10 kg of extra baggage regardless of how full the flight is
- A chauffeur service at all stages of your journey when travelling on Pearl Business or Diamond First Class.
Gold membership continues to up the ante. You'll get the following improved benefits in addition to the benefits listed above:
- 50% bonus Guest Miles on every flight
- 15 kg of excess baggage allowed even on full flights
- Priority check-in and boarding regardless of the class you're travelling on
- Faster immigration and baggage collection
Guest Gold Elite
Gold Elite membership is the top of the Etihad membership food chain. In addition to improved benefits you'll also get:
- 75% bonus Guest Miles on every flight
- 20 kg of excess baggage allowed even on full flights
- A guaranteed Pearl Business seat if booked 48 hours in advance
- A guaranteed Coral Economy seat if booked 12 hours in advance
- Access for you and a guest to the Diamond First Class Lounge in Abu Dhabi International Airport
- The ability to invite another Guest member to enjoy the benefits of Gold membership
- The ability to nominate another person on your behalf to carry out your transactions
How do I reach these levels?
The table below shows the number of Tier Miles or Tier Segments needed to reach and maintain the various membership levels in the Guest program. Tier Segments are earned at the rate of one segment per Coral Economy Class flight, two segments earned per Pearl Business class flight and three segments per Diamond First class flight.
|Tiers||Attaining a Tier||Maintaining a Tier|
|Tier Miles||Tier Segments||Tier Miles||Tier Segments|
|Etihad Guest Silver||25,000||20||20,000||15|
|Etihad Guest Gold||50,000||40||40,000||30|
|Etihad Guest Gold Elite||125,000||60||100,000||48|
How do I earn Guest Miles?
Earning Guest Miles is the same as most frequent flyer programs with a few exceptions. Here's how you can earn Guest Miles:
Flying with Etihad or partner airlines
The most basic way to earn Guest Miles is by using Etihad Airways when travelling. You'll earn Miles based on how many real miles you earn.
If you're a Guest member will earn 50% of the miles you fly on eligible flights, and if you have a higher membership you'll earn more, with Gold members earning 100% of the miles they fly, and Gold Elite earning even more than this.
For a Coral Economy Class flight from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow (a distance of 3409 miles) you'll earn:
|Membership level||Guest Miles earned|
|Guest Gold Elite||4261|
As mentioned above you'll earn more points if you travel in a better class.
Etihad has a number of partners who you can fly with to earn Guest Miles. These include:
- Air Serbia
- Air Seychelles
- Air New Zealand
- All Nippon Airways - ANA
- American Airlines
- Asiana Airlines
- Bangkok Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- Czech Airlines
- Garuda Indonesia
- Hainan Airlines
- Jet Airways
You'll also be able to accrue points with Codeshare partners including Aer Lingus, Air France and more.
Spending with bonus partners
Spending money with Etihad Airways' partners will also see you earn points. Below are the partners for hotels, financial partners, car rentals, shopping, telecommunications and entertainment.
Below are the hotels which will earn Guest Miles and some of the earn rates you can hope to receive.
- Accor Hotels
- Atlantis The Palm, Dubai
- Constance Hotels and Resorts - earn one Mile per one USD spent
- Cristal Hotels - earn one Mile per one USD spent
- Danat Hotels & Resorts
- Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
- Global Hotel Alliance
- Hilton Worldwide
- InterContinental Hotels Group
- Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts - earn one Mile per one USD spent
- Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group - earn 500 Miles on guest rooms and 800 Miles on Club rooms and suites for qualifying stays
- Marriott Vacation Club Intl
- The Merrion Dublin - earn one Mile per one USD spent, or two if you're a Gold or Gold Elite member
- One to One
- One&Only Resorts and Mazagan - earn one Mile per one USD spent
- Park Inn by Radisson
- Preferred Hotel Group
- Radisson Blu Hotels & Resorts
- Raffles Hotels & Resorts - earn 500 Mile per eligible stay
- Rocketmiles - earn 1,000 - 1,500 Miles per night on bookings made on Rocketmiles
- Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts
- Swiss Belhotel
- Swissotel Hotels & Resorts - earn 500 Miles per qualifying stay
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
- Viceroy Hotels and Resorts - earn one Mile per one USD spent
- Vision Hotels
Unfortunately at the time of writing there are no credit cards in Australia which allow you to directly earn Guest Miles as there are with the Emirates Skywards, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Qantas Frequent Flyer or Virgin Velocity Programs.
If you want to earn Etihad Guest Miles using an Australian credit card you'll have to go down the rewards card route. This means rather than a regular frequent flyer card you'll have to earn points with a bank rewards credit card and then swap these points for Guest Miles.
You can currently only do this with an American Express card. Many of their cards will allow you to swap American Express Membership Rewards (MR) points for Guest Miles. These can be swapped at the rate of one MR point per one Guest Mile. A minimum transfer of 1,000 points apply to each conversion.
American Express Credit Card Comparisons
Etihad have a number of online shopping partners which cover most bases. If you shop with these retailers and quote your membership number you'll earn points per dollar spent. This gives you a large number of potential ways to earn points by spending with retailers as diverse as Sony Creative Software, eBooks.com, Audible.com, BBC Shop and more.
Etihad has partnerships with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Citibank, HSBC and a number of other providers, but unfortunately these services are not available in Australia.
Etihad have partnerships with the following global car hire companies:
- Avis - earn 500 Miles per rental if you have regular Guest membership, or up to 800 Miles per rental if you're a Gold Elite member
- Budget - earn 500 Miles per rental if you have regular Guest membership, or up to 800 Miles per rental if you're a Gold Elite member
- Europcar - earn 500 Miles per qualifying rental
- Hertz - earn 500 Miles per standard rental or 1,000 Miles per Prestige Collection rentals
- National and Alamo - earn 500 Miles per rental if you have regular Guest membership, or up to 750 Miles per rental if you're a Gold member
- Sixt - earn 500 Miles for every car, or 1,000 Miles for every transfer with the Sixt limousine service
There are other earning partners too. These include:
Entertainment. You'll earn points when spending on tickets at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi or Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi among others, and can earn points on membership to the Priority Pass program.
Telecommunications. Mobily, OneSimCard and Etisalat are a few of the different providers who allow you to earn points.
Redeeming Guest Miles
Like most frequent flyer programs, you can redeem Guest Miles in a number of ways, and for a number of different rewards.
Flights. As can be expected, using points to pay for flights is one of the more popular reasons why consumers opt for frequent flyer programs. For a one way flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi you'll be paying 68305 Guest Miles.
Upgraded seats. Another great way to make use of your Miles is to use them to upgrade a seat you've paid for already. This can see you fly in style and comfort. A Melbourne to Abu Dhabi flight can be upgraded from Coral Economy to Pearl Business with 56,076 - 70,095 Miles depending on what Coral Economy fare class you have.
Excess baggage. If you plan to be taking a fair bit of luggage overseas with you, or you go a bit overboard with shopping while on your trip you can use your points to pay for your excess baggage.
Donate your Miles. You can elect to donate your Guest Miles to a variety of charities including the Swiss Red Cross, Primary Construction, House of Hope and The Poor & Needy Project.
Raffle tickets. From time to time Etihad run raffle ticket promotions. These can include prizes such as an iPad Air, and cost 100 Miles per ticket.
Rewards store. Like most frequent flyer stores, the Guest program has a range of items you can redeem points for. Categories include travel, fun, experience, premium and much more.
Comparing the Guest program to other programs
Comparing a frequent flyer program for redeeming flights is beyond the scope of this article. If you wish to find out how Guest stacks up against value in terms of flight rewards you may wish to consult an frequent flyer program.
Here are some ways to compare the features offered by programs.
Etihad Guest Miles expire at different rates depending on your membership level. This is unique among frequent flyer programs.
|Guest||Two years from date of earning|
|Guest Silver||Two and a half years from date of earning|
|Guest Gold||Three years from date of earning|
|Guest Gold Elite||Three years from date of earning|
This is unlike Qantas Frequent Flyer and Virgin Velocity Frequent Flyer programs, which allow users to keep their points as long as they keep their accounts active every 18 or 36 months respectively. In this regard the Guest program doesn't compare well, but if you don't plan to build up your balances over two or more years this won't matter.
Other programs such as Emirates Skywards and Asia Miles will give you a flat three years with which to redeem your points, so in this regard Etihad Guest also doesn't stack up well.
The table below shows the number of Tier Miles or Status Credits earned for a flight of approximately 3,400 miles (roughly the distance from Sydney to Abu Dhabi).
As you can see, it takes a little over eight of these flights to reach Guest Silver membership or:
- 4.16 flights of 3,001 - 5,000 miles with Virgin
- Five flights of 3,601 - 4,800 miles with Qantas
|Tier Miles/ Status Credits earned||Status credits needed for silver membership||Other requirements||Annual requirements to maintain silver level|
|Etihad Guest||3049||25,000 or 20 Tier Segments||None||20,000 Tier Miles or 15 Tier Segments|
|Virgin Velocity||60||250||Two eligible sectors||Earn 200 Status Credits and fly two eligible sectors|
|Qantas Frequent Flyer||60||300||Four eligible Qantas, QantasLink or Jetstar flights||Earn 250 credits per 12 month period and four eligible flights|
Let's now compare the benefits of the Guest Silver membership to the silver memberships of both Qantas and Virgin.
|Etihad Guest Silver||Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver||Virgin Velocity Silver|
|Points bonus?||25% bonus on eligible flights||50% bonus||Up to 50% bonus (25% bonus for Etihad flights)|
|Priority reservation waitlist?||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Alliance membership?||No||Yes, oneworld Ruby status||No|
|Priority phone service?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Preferential seating?||No, but ability to record your travel preferences online||Yes, you can select and store seating preferences, and select your seat at the time of booking or check-in for free.||Ability to set a preference, and ability to select a seat from the reserved zone of your cabin. Preferential access to Qantas Award seats.|
|Extra baggage allowance?||An additional 10 kg of baggage is allowed.||An additional piece of baggage is allowed for economy domestic flights and two extra pieces of baggage allowed for business domestic flights. Additional baggage is also allowed for international flights, thought the amount will depend on the destination and travel class.||A baggage allowance for domestic and international short haul flights, based on your fare type. Receive one extra piece of luggage when travelling to USA and receive an additional 10kg when travelling to other international long haul destinations.|
|Faster check in?||No||International priority check in||International priority check in|
|Lounge access?||Yes, access to Pearl Business class lounge, and when flying out of Abu Dhabi, access to the Al Reem Lounge facility.||Yes, one free pass to the Qantas Club||Yes, two free passes to the Virgin Australia Lounges|
Pros and cons of the Etihad Guest program
- Program allows family pooling of Guest Miles
- Free membership
- One of the largest airlines in the Middle East, so there are many flights and routes to choose from when selecting rewards
- Guest Miles expiry is only two years, which doesn't match other programs
- Attaining a higher status membership requires more flying than other programs
- No membership to any airline alliances
What is Family pooling?
The Etihad Guest program allows family pooling. If you have a family membership, you could pool all the earned miles into one single account valid up to eight members in your family.
What is the membership fee?
Etihad Guest offers free membership. You do not have to pay anything to become a member. However in case of theft or loss of Etihad Guest cards, you will be subjected to a fee of 500 Guest miles for a replacement.