Only two years after the last major revamp of the Etihad Guest frequent flyer program, and just nine months after Etihad's Silver frequent flyers lost worldwide lounge access, the airline is rolling out a new batch of changes – and, for the most part, it’s not good news.
Included among the tweaks: less time for top-tier frequent flyers to enjoy their status, higher fees and more points required to book some Etihad Airways flights, and more miles needed to upgrade to business class or first class.
However, Etihad is softening the blow by increasing benefits for some frequent flyer members and boosting the number of miles earned on higher-priced fares – so however you travel, here’s what you need to know.
Better lounge access for Etihad Guest Gold frequent flyers
Most welcome under this revamp is improved airport lounge access for Etihad Guest Gold members in Abu Dhabi, who will be welcomed into the Etihad Airways business class lounges in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 from October 8 2017.
That’s in place of access to the significantly smaller (and often busier) Al Reem Lounge – located next door to Etihad’s business class lounge in Terminal 1 – and avoids the need to hike in between terminals for lounge access when flying from Terminal 3, as is currently the case.
However, in an email sent to Etihad Guest members overnight, the airlines notes that access to the Al Reem lounge may still be offered to Gold members during peak periods with the business class lounges are at full capacity.
Virgin Australia Velocity Gold members travelling with Etihad Airways in economy will continue to use the Al Reem Lounge, with Velocity Platinum members having access to the Etihad first class lounge.
Benefit period for Gold, Platinum frequent flyers halved
Gold frequent flyers may be getting a better lounge in Abu Dhabi, but they’ll only get access to it – and Etihad Guest Gold’s many other benefits – for one year at a time when qualifying as a new Gold member from October 8 2017: halved from two years of benefits at present.
New Etihad Guest Platinum members will also get one year of benefits rather than two, when qualifying for their Platinum membership on or from the same date.
Silver membership remains a one-year affair.
More miles needed for business class, first class upgrades
Want to escape the confines of economy, or upgrade your business class seat to a first class suite?
You’ll need more miles to do so from January 15 2018, although Etihad is yet to publish its new upgrade rates, saying only that “you will notice an increase of the miles required for upgrades”.
Presently, Etihad business class passengers can upgrade to first class for 68,399 miles on Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights (except from Business Saver fares), while upgrades from economy to business class on eligible tickets cost between 45,599 and 91,198 miles on the same route, depending on the fare type purchased.
New Etihad Guest redemption rates
Also changing from January 15 2018, the number of miles needed to book outright reward flights with Etihad Airways, with some flights requiring fewer miles to book than today, and others needing more.
As with changes to its upgrade rates, Etihad has not yet published its new reward rates, noting only that the move is “to keep our fares competitive”.
Fees on Etihad Guest reward bookings hiked
When booking Etihad Airways flights using Etihad miles, the airline currently applies a charge of US$150 in first class, US$100 in business class and US$50 in economy – payable in addition to any government and airport taxes and fees.
For new bookings made from January 15 2018, this ‘carrier charge’ will increase to US$150 in business class and US$200 in first class on “some routes”, although in keeping coy, those routes haven’t yet been named.
Earn more miles on the most expensive fares
For flights taken from October 8 2017, passengers on the most expensive business class and first class tickets will earn more miles than they do today.
At the very front, booking a full-fare first class ticket (F class) will fetch 2.75 miles per one mile flown – up from 2.5 at present – while full-fare business class passengers (on J class tickets) will find their haul boosted from 1.75 to 2.0 Etihad Guest miles per one mile flown.
All other Etihad fare types will continue earning miles at the current rates, including four miles per mile flown in The Residence.
Welcome bonus miles wound back
New to the Etihad Guest program? It’s customary to receive 500 bonus miles when you first earn miles in your account, such as from taking a flight, staying in a participating hotel or transferring miles across from your points-earning credit card, like the American Express Explorer card.
From October 8, that bonus will be wound back, and only awarded if the first time you earn Etihad Guest miles is from an Etihad Airways, Air Serbia or Air Seychelles flight: not if your first miles-earning transaction is a flight with a different airline, or from a partner on the ground like a hotel or bank.