Using Velocity frequent flyer points to book Etihad Airways flights

Using Velocity frequent flyer points to book Etihad Airways flights

A favourite option of many Velocity Frequent Flyer members is to book reward flights using points on Virgin's partner airline Etihad Airways, particularly in business and first class, including flights operated by the airline's newest Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 aircraft.

While the number of points needed to book these flights has increased over the years, along with the amount payable in actual money on the side, there's still plenty of value to be had: particularly on longer treks between Australia and Europe.

Whether your goal is to fly in first class, business class or economy, here's what you need to know to turn your Velocity points into a near-free international flight with Etihad Airways.

Booking Etihad Airways flights with Velocity points: key routes

From its Abu Dhabi hub, Etihad Airways currently serves Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia, along with Perth until October when the route ceases.

Unlike its rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways, Etihad doesn't fly to New Zealand, and on its Australian routes, first class is limited to its Sydney and Melbourne flights, while its services to Brisbane and Perth top out at business class.

But onward from Abu Dhabi, Etihad flies to a range of European cities including the 'biggies' of London, Paris, Rome and Frankfurt, but also those sometimes harder to access such as Moscow, Dublin, Madrid and Athens, among others.

Etihad currently flies to Edinburgh too, but these flights end in September 2018...

The airline also maintains a network of flights from Abu Dhabi to destinations across the Middle East, Asia and Africa, plus North America: most useful for Perth-based flyers (for the next few months, at least), but less-so for those based on Australia's east coast where there are much faster ways of reaching the United States and Canada.

Booking Etihad Airways flights with Velocity points: how many points you'll need

Let's start with Abu Dhabi: here's how many Velocity points you'd need to fly there from Australia on non-stop Etihad flights, in first class, business class and economy. For return bookings, double these figures:

To/from Abu Dhabi (one-way) First class
Business class
Economy
Sydney
Melbourne
152,500 Velocity points 104,000 Velocity points 56,000 Velocity points
Brisbane
No longer offered 104,000 Velocity points 56,000 Velocity points
Perth
Not available 78,000 Velocity points 42,000 Velocity points

Note that because Etihad Airways is on 'Table 2' in the Velocity program, the number of points needed to book these flights is higher than for Virgin Australia flights of comparable lengths – although as Virgin Australia no longer flies to Abu Dhabi, Etihad is your only choice for a non-stop journey.

But let's say you're headed for London – here's how that looks flying via Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways, again shown per one-way flight:

To/from London (one-way) First class
Business class
Economy
Sydney
Melbourne
203,000 Velocity points 139,000 Velocity points 75,000 Velocity points
Brisbane
Not available 139,000 Velocity points 75,000 Velocity points
Perth
Not available 121,000 Velocity points 65,000 Velocity points

The same number of Velocity points are needed to fly from Australia to most other European destinations, although a smaller serve of Velocity points can get you a seat on a couple of specific routes, which have a slightly shorter overall travel distance, reducing the number of points required:

Via Abu Dhabi (one-way) Business class
Economy
Melbourne to Athens
121,000 Velocity points 65,000 Velocity points
Perth to Moscow
104,000 Velocity points 56,000 Velocity points

Flying to Athens or Moscow from any other Australian cities, however, requires the higher number of points.

Booking Etihad Airways flights with Velocity points: making that reservation

For travel in business class and economy, Etihad Airways reward flights can be booked via the Velocity Frequent Flyer website, although first class travel can only be booked over the phone by calling Velocity.

Before we continue, we'll also point out that Velocity levies an "Etihad Airways Reward Seat Carrier Charge" of US$300 (A$400) in first class, US$205 (A$273) in business class and US$50 (A$67) in economy – and this charge applies per reward flight with Etihad, not per reward booking, and kicks in whether you book online or over the phone.

That means if you take a return first class trip between Australia and London, you'd be stung US$1,200 (A$1,600) in fees, on top of the usual taxes and charges applicable to your reward booking, so it's something to keep in mind.

Booking business class and economy class

Searching for your business class or economy reward flight through the Velocity website is relatively straightforward – just plug in where you'd like to fly, and make sure the "use points + pay" option is ticked at the top. For business class, you'll need to change "travel class" to "premium/business", otherwise you'll only see economy flights.

For example, we're going to search for a one-way business class reward ticket from Melbourne to London:

On the next screen, things get a little tricky, and you'd be forgiven for thinking there were no reward flights available when you're greeted with "premium reward sold out" and "business reward sold out" at the top of the screen, and a horifying number of points for "any seat business":

However, keep scrolling down the page, and you might spot something useful in that same Business Reward column – being a journey for the correct number of points at 139,000:

Clicking on the flight number in red also reveals the aircraft type operating each flight. Here, '789' refers to Etihad's Boeing 787-9, while '388' means the Airbus A380...

... and because Etihad's latest Business Studio business class seats are available on both those aircraft, you'd be flying like this all the way to London:

Review: Etihad Airways' Boeing 787 Business Studio business class

On the Airbus A380 leg, you could also make use of The Lobby: Etihad's inflight bar and lounge area, nestled between business class and first class on the superjumbo's upper deck.

Review: Etihad Airways' Airbus A380 Lobby lounge

However, you'll notice the cash amount to be paid alongside this ticket is rather pricey, at A$643.85 (on top of your 139,000 Velocity points), plus Virgin Australia's obligatory credit card surcharge which is levied on the final screen of the booking process.

Because Velocity's website also lists reward flights with other airlines, not just Etihad Airways, you might choose to scroll up and down this same flights page to review any other options, even if they're not with Etihad.

A quick browse shows comparable business class flights with Singapore Airlines for the same 139,000 Velocity points but just A$91.58 to be paid on the side – a saving of over $500, while still flying in style and departing and arriving at relatively the same times:

Because Singapore Airlines also offers premium economy, and you can book premium economy using Velocity points, this extra option also presents itself where available, allowing you to save some points if you're happy to fly further back (but at a difference of just 26,500 Velocity points from Australia to London, business class certainly is a more comfortable way to fly!).

Booking first class

For first class flights – which can only be secured over the phone – you'll need to call Velocity Frequent Flyer on 13 18 75 between 7:30am and 10:30pm Sydney time, seven days a week – or +61 2 8667 5924 during the same hours if dialling from overseas.

As you can't check for availability using the Velocity website before calling, you may wish to adopt one of these time-saving tricks to help find a suitable flight which can be booked using points, before calling Velocity to make that successful booking.

One route is to visit the Etihad Guest website instead – not the Velocity website – and to search for the flight you want to book, by toggling the payment method to "miles" rather than "cash", revealing what's available using points. Here's how that looks when searching for a first class ticket from Sydney to Abu Dhabi:

You don't need an Etihad Guest mileage account to make this search, and if you encounter any problems, just click "proceed without logging in", because what you're looking for is availability in the "GuestSeat" column under the "Guest First" heading, ignoring "OpenSeat":

In this case, availability in first class appears on the mid-afternoon EY451 flight and the evening EY455 departure, both of which are served by Etihad's Airbus A380s. Armed with this knowledge, you could then call Velocity and make your request for a specific flight, knowing that reward availability is most likely available.

Once your ticket is confirmed, you could soon be flying in the airline's first class Apartment!

The other route is to use ExpertFlyer, if you have a subscription. You'd enter a similar search, choosing "Etihad Airways - EY" in the "airline" box and then ticking "Guest First - Award & Upgrade (O)" below:

A similar result is revealed, showing that two first class reward seats are available on each flight:

Just keep in mind that these approaches reveal which flights are available for points-based bookings to Etihad's own Etihad Guest frequent flyers. It's not a sure-fire thing that the exact same flights will be open for booking using Velocity points too, but it's the best way you can search and identify flights you can most likely book using Velocity points.

The only way to confirm exactly which flights you can book is to call Velocity, but as a general rule, if a flight is open for booking using Etihad Guest miles, there's a very good chance you'll be able to book it with Velocity points, whereas if a flight can't be booked using Etihad Guest miles, you won't be able to book it with Velocity points.

That's what this search process helps to reveal – flights which you definitely won't be able to book using Velocity points, alongside those which you'll have a pretty good chance of securing if you call.

It's not easy, but flying first class using points wasn't really meant to be!

Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

9 comments

  • mo

    mo

    14 May, 2018 08:10 am

    $1300 in fees for a return Europe 'award' is frankly outrageous. Might as well just fly economy and collect some status credits.
    Member who gave thanks

    Gordonaus1

  • Satoshi Takayama

    Michael Kao

    14 May, 2018 08:22 am

    There are a few limitations with using velocity points compare with using Qantas points.

    1. No mixed cabin allowed.
    - Unlike the infamous "!" you get with QF, although annoying, says QF allows you to book mixed cabin. Not velocity. If you want to book first class but one of the segment has no first available, you are required to book 2 awards.

    2. Can't add Virgin domestic flight into the same one award.
    - For people living outside of SYD/MEL wanting to fly EY first class, you need to either buy the domestic connecting flight separately, or redeem it as separate award if you would like to put it in the same booking. i.e. On top of the 203k points needed to fly to EU, you need to add extra points required for your domestic connecting flight, even though the total distance is less than 15000 miles.

    3. Some destinations are not allowed:
    - I'm not sure if this is a rule or the agents I contacted were not good. But both times I was told I can't book MEL-AUH-IAD as one award (even though the total distance is within 15000 miles.) I had to book 2 separate awards.
    - I was offered MEL-AUH-JFK instead, which is allowed.
    - the agents could not tell me which cities are allowed and which aren't. They say they just type in the computer and it'll price it accordingly.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    14 May, 2018 09:51 am

    Just on point #2 (domestic connecting Virgin Australia flights requiring extra points to book): this is because Virgin Australia and Etihad are on separate redemption tables in Velocity (VA on the more favourable Table 1, Etihad on the less favourable Table 2), and when you cross between tables, each 'journey' is calculated separately - so Brisbane to Sydney on the Table 1 rates, and then Sydney to London from Table 2, for example.

    Qantas does the same thing when you mix and match flights between its own two tables, so flying Qantas domestic connecting to Emirates international generally doesn't require any extra points as Qantas and Emirates are both on the same table in QFF. Flying Qantas domestic connecting to most other partner airlines (BA, Cathay, Qatar, etc.) prices the flights separately in the same way as Velocity. It's just unfortunate that Velocity doesn't currently have any westbound airline partners on Table 1 which service Australia for connecting passengers. :)
    No member give thanks

  • Zapz

    Zapz

    14 May, 2018 03:06 pm

    Hi Chris, Just a clarify, I have a Emirates 1st class reward flight from Perth to Zurich in end of the year booked using QF points. So can I book a qantas business class flight to connect from Adelaide to Perth without any additional points as im live in Adelaide.

    many thanks
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    14 May, 2018 03:33 pm

    Hi Zapz, Perth is generally an exception if the journey begins there as it's in a different zone to the east coast when considering the total flight distance to Europe. As you've also already booked the ticket you can't simply make a new booking to be 'included': it would need to have been booked as a connecting or multi-city trip to be on the receiving end of any mileage discount, but you'd have to do your own sums as to whether the distance flown would push you into the next mileage bracket. In any case, as you've already booked, you'd also be up for any change fees in changing the ticket - so it's worth looking into, but it won't be 'free'.

    (Next time, search for 'Adelaide to Paris' instead of 'Perth to Paris' - if there are Emirates awards out of Perth they'll still appear, but you'll be presented with options for domestic connecting flights to be included as part of the one booking, and can see the total number of points required for the entire journey before you book.)

    Member who gave thanks

    Zapz

  • Zapz

    Zapz

    14 May, 2018 03:53 pm

    Thanks Chris, there was no award availability from Adelaide at the time,so had to go from Perth instead. Thought better to fly Emirates 1st than anything else. Anyways, appreciate your response
    No member give thanks

  • Medon Loupis

    Sibelius

    14 May, 2018 10:06 am

    Chris, given that Virgin Atlantic is a Table 1 airline, can we book a westbound Virgin Australia/Virgin Atlantic reward flight to London via HK on the one award?
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    14 May, 2018 10:16 am

    Yes, you can fly Virgin Australia to Hong Kong and then Virgin Atlantic onward to London under a single Table 1 award, but you'll need to call to make the booking as Virgin Atlantic awards don't show on the Velocity website (and you may need to remind the operator that it's allowed and that you should only be charged for a single booking - 127,500 Velocity points in business/Upper class, or 59,800 points in economy, one-way between Australia and London).

    The same used to be available with Virgin Australia and Alitalia when VA flew to Abu Dhabi - so you'd fly there with VA, and then onward to Italy with Alitalia for the same number of points, as Alitalia is one of the few airlines on Table 1.

    No member give thanks

  • someonelikemark

    someonelikemark

    15 May, 2018 04:37 pm

    I've just tried to do this & the systems really don't match up at all. VA's website showed no options for EY (as in not displayed at all, as opposed to displayed but no award seats available). Etihad's website showed a guest seat for a flight on a Tuesday, but when I called VA, they said it wasn't available. VA were able to offer me a seat on Wednesday, which wasn't listed on either EY or VA's websites.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that when I checked out EY's one-way tickets (I only checked business), they are ~50% more expensive than a return ticket. Meaning a one-way award ticket + paid one way ticket is more expensive than just paying for a return ticket. This does make the EY award offerings far less lucrative for both 1st party and partner programs.
    No member give thanks

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18 Nov, 2018 11:59 pm

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