HomeAirline LoyaltyEtihad GuestThe Etihad Guest program devaluation in summary

The Etihad Guest program devaluation in summary

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Etihad has announced a number of significant changes to its Etihad Guest loyalty program and on the whole, the news is bad. Most of the changes that have been announced will kick in later this year and these include things like adjustments to mileage expiry rules, increased award booking cancellation fees, and a devaluation in the lounge access benefit for elite members.

In summary, this is what Etihad Guest is doing with most changes coming into play from June 2024.

Award booking cost changes

Etihad has confirmed that the cost of some Business Class and Economy Class awards will change (no mention of First Class), but it hasn’t actually told us exactly what changes it has implemented other than to say that it will reduce the number of miles needed to book awards on routes to some of its ‘more popular destinations’.

The airline hasn’t said if the cost of any awards will be increasing, but I’ll be very surprised if we don’t see a few negative changes here as well.

Award booking cancellation fees

Historically, Etihad has charged 10% of the miles used when a flyer has cancelled their award booking. As of yesterday, the cost of cancelling is now considerably more expensive.

  • Cancel 21+ days before departure – lose 25% of the miles used
  • Cancel 8 – 21 days before departure – lose 50% of the miles used
  • Cancel 1 – 7 days before departure – lose 75% of the miles used

Etihad Guest now has the most punitive cancellation policy out of all the major loyalty programs.

New mileage expiry rules

Etihad Miles will now expire unless there is flight activity (cash or award) with Etihad or one of its partners every 18 months. This marks a significant shift from the previous policy where any account activity would prevent mile expiry and will make it a lot harder for most people to save up for an Etihad Guest award booking.

Changes to status earning

The option to earn status via the number of segments flown is being withdrawn while there will be no change to the number of miles needed to earn elite status.

In a further change, the number of elite qualifying miles awarded will now be based on the zone to which a member is flying rather than on the specific destination.

Lounge access

Etihad Guest elites will no longer have lounge access as an automatic benefit of their status. If they want lounge access, they will have to select it as one of their new ‘custom benefits’ which the program is introducing.

Custom benefits

From June, Silver, Gold, and Platinum Elites will be given a menu of benefits from which they can choose the ones to which they wish to have access.

Silver elites get to choose two benefits from these:

  • Etihad Business Class lounge in the Zayed International Airport
  • Complimentary seat selection
  • Additional 25% discount on baggage
  • Two carbon offset vouchers

Gold elites get to choose four benefits from these:

  • Business Class lounge access for you and a plus one
  • One-piece complimentary baggage
  • Two complimentary chauffeur services in UAE
  • Complimentary chauffeur service in UAE on GuestSeats in Business or First Class
  • One complimentary refund on your GuestSeat booking
  • Two complimentary Home Check-in in the UAE
  • Four carbon offset vouchers

Platinum elites get to choose five benefits from these:

  • First Class lounge access for you and a plus one
  • One-piece complimentary baggage
  • Two complimentary upgrades on eligible routes
  • Complimentary extra legroom seat, for you and three guests
  • Complimentary change to an earlier flight on the same day
  • Two complimentary chauffeur services in UAE in Economy
  • Two complimentary refunds on your GuestSeat booking
  • Four complimentary Home Check-in in the UAE
  • Six carbon offset vouchers

On the face of things this may look generous, but the fact remains that a lot of these were benefits that automatically came with these status levels and did not have to be chosen in place of any other benefits. That make this a negative change.

‘Beyond benefits’

Additional benefits called ‘Beyond benefits’ will be made available for Gold and Platinum elites who exceed the renewal threshold for their current tier but do not reach the next tier.

Gold elites earning 75,000 Tier Miles can gift the following to friends and family:

  • Two Business Class lounge passes
  • Silver Tier Status nomination
  • 10,000 Etihad Guest Bonus Miles

Platinum elites earning 175,000 Tier Miles can gift the following to friends and family:

  • Three Business Class lounge passes
  • Three priority passes for Priority check-in, boarding, and priority baggage
  • 20,000 Etihad Guest Bonus Miles

The Etihad website doesn’t appear to say how many of these benefits can be gifted, but I would be surprised if more than one choice (out of three) could be made.

A new elite tier is being introduced

A new top tier status is being introduced – Diamond elite status. This will be awarded to members who spend $150,000 with Etihad in a membership year, but at the time of writing, it’s unclear what $150,000 will buy you.

Upgrade to the Residence

The residence is Etihad’s ultra-premium three room suite on its A380 aircraft that can be occupied by up to two guests and going forward, Etihad Guest members can use miles to upgrade to this suite when it’s offered on the route their flying.

Bottom line

Almost all the changes mentioned above will be viewed as negative by most flyers, and unless you’re based in the UAE, the Etihad Guest program is now so unappealing that I can imagine a lot of people avoiding it entirely.

The mileage expiry rules, and the new award cancellation penalties are particularly harsh and will probably lead to fewer people transferring points to Etihad Guest or buying miles in the program’s frequent sales.

If that’s what Etihad is aiming for then it looks like it has done a great job, but I can’t help but feel that a number of the changes have gone too far and the airline may end up regretting being as heavy handed as it has.

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