HomeAirline LoyaltyEtihad is very deliberately suppressing partner award availability (take a look)

Etihad is very deliberately suppressing partner award availability (take a look)


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Some of the better value flight awards that are still available in the miles and points world are Etihad premium cabin awards booked with Aeroplan or American Airlines AAdvantage miles. Right now, however, it looks like Etihad is working hard to make sure that these awards aren’t available to be booked and it’s not even being subtle with how it’s doing this.

How Etihad awards work

Like a lot of airline loyalty/rewards programs, Etihad Guest offers flight awards at a variety of price points so despite the fact that it publishes a distance-based award chart…

a screenshot of a graph
Click or tap to enlarge

… the figures within this chart only represent the lowest cost at which an award will be made available. In practice, awards can cost significantly more, with Etihad adjusting the price based on demand, expected demand and, presumably, a slew of other metrics to which only it has access.

To illustrate what I mean, let’s take the Abu Dhabi – Manila route as an example.

The distance between the two cities is 4,246 miles which means that per the Etihad award chart, you should be able to book a Business Class award starting from 75,000 Etihad Guest miles.

In a randomly selected date in March, however, Etihad is charging quite a bit more:

a screenshot of a computer

So why is this important?

Well, the way Etihad’s partner awards work is that in order for there to be availability (i.e for members of AAdvantage, Aeroplan, or any other partner program to be able to book Etihad flights with their miles), Etihad has to release awards at the cheapest rate shown in its Award chart.

Etihad may be willing to sell awards to its own flyers for more than this (as seen above), but those awards will not be bookable using a partner airline’s currency.

So, for example, for someone to be able to book an Abu Dhabi – Manila Business Class award flight with AAdvantage or Aeroplan miles, Etihad will first have to release awards to its own members costing 75,000 Etihad Guest Miles… and not a mile more.

Keep that in mind as I move on to the next section

Etihad is being sneaky

Over the past few days, I’ve been looking for ways to burn my AAdvantage Miles and as it has been a while since I flew with Etihad, I decided to see if I could book a trip to/from Abu Dhabi or, better still, a trip between Europe and Australia.

Almost immediately, I came up against the same issue that I know a lot of other people have been having lately – neither Aeroplan nor American Airlines seem to be able to see any Etihad premium cabin awards at all (regardless of the date that I choose).

This seemed a little odd, so I decided to see what award availability was like for Etihad’s own flyers, and the results of my searches were… interesting.

Checking the Abu Dhabi – NYC route

The distance between Abu Dhabi and New York JFK is over 6,000 miles…

a map of the world

… so for an Etihad Business Class partner award to be available, the Etihad award chart tells us that the airline will have to release awards costing 110,000 Etihad Guest Miles.

a close-up of a grey rectangular object

As I was expecting, the cost of Etihad Guest Business Class awards on this route was in the hundreds of thousands on a significant number of dates, but what I wasn’t expecting was what I saw on the dates where cheaper awards were available.

On the dates on which Etihad’s algorithms indicate that cheaper awards should be released, the cost of a one-way Business Class award is currently priced at 110,005 miles.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

That’s just 5 miles more than what the award needs to cost for it to be available to Etihad’s partners.

Coincidence?

Possibly, but the awards costing 110,005 Etihad Guest Miles aren’t limited to the 4 dates highlighted above – they’re present on a significant number of other dates as well – so this pricing looks a little more intentional than coincidentally unfortunate.

Still, the evidence provided by one route isn’t really enough to build any kind of case, so I took a look at a couple more.

Checking the Abu Dhabi – Tokyo Narita route

The distance between Abu Dhabi and Narita is a little over 5,000 miles…

a map of the world

… so for an Etihad Business Class partner award to be available, the Etihad award chart tells us that the airline will have to release awards costing 100,000 Etihad Guest Miles.

a white and grey rectangular object

Once again, most of the dates that I checked showed Business Class awards costing 400,000+ Etihad Guest miles (no surprises there) and, once again, on the dates that award costs have been kept low, the cost that Etihad has chosen to go with looks more than a little deliberate.

a screenshot of a computer

At 100,004 miles for a Business Class award, Etihad is charging just 4 miles more than what the award needs to cost for it to be available to Etihad’s partners.

The argument that says that Etihad is doing this very, very deliberately is looking stronger… but let’s take a look at one more route just to be sure.

Checking the London – Abu Dhabi route

The distance between London Heathrow and Abu Dhabi is a little over 3,400 miles…

a map of the world

… so for an Etihad Business Class partner award to be available, the Etihad award chart tells us that the airline will have to release awards costing 70,000 Etihad Guest Miles and, as this is a route on which the Etihad A380 is operating, awards costing 140,000 miles have to be available for First Class partner awards to be bookable.

a white and grey rectangular object

So what do you think Etihad is charging for the cheaper awards on this route?

Yes, you guessed it. On dates where award prices on this route are low, the Business Class and First Class awards have been set at just a few miles more than the cost at which partner award inventory would open up.

a screenshot of a computer screen

This is no coincidence. This is a very, very deliberate ploy by Etihad to severely limit the number of premium cabin partner awards that can be booked and, as things stand, this pricing strategy has been taken so far that it’s possible that there isn’t a single premium cabin partner award available on any of Etihad’s more popular routes – if you find any, please let me know the route and dates in the comments section below.

Bottom line

Having airlines limit the number of awards they release to partners is nothing new – it happens all the time – but I don’t ever recall seeing an airline limiting partner awards in as obvious a way as Etihad appears to be doing right now. It’s not even a little subtle!

Hopefully this isn’t how Etihad plans to behave for the rest of time as this would represent a serious loss to the AAdvantage program and even Aeroplan would be noticeably poorer for the loss of these awards.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll still manage to book a great redemption on Etihad with my AAdvantage miles in 2024 but as things stand, my chances are not looking great.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Why does this surprise you. Businesses can price their product as they feel appropriate. If Etihad doesn’t want to make the lowest cost tickets available through their partners they are under no obligation to do so and certainly don’t owe you or any other traveler those seats. Get over yourself. Accept reality that things change and you may not be able to get what you previously could. You call it “sneaky” but I call it “smart”

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