Etihad Fare Sale FAQ: Earn Miles, Upgrades and More

Dec 26, 2014

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Yesterday, Etihad gave a lot of flyers the Christmas present of some unbelievably low fares between North America and various international destinations—including Abu Dhabi, Johannesburg, Hong Kong, and Mumbai—for as low as $187 total roundtrip!

Did you get in on one of yesterday's amazing deals?
Did you get in on one of yesterday’s amazing deals?

While these fares are unfortunately no longer available, many readers were able to score some incredible deals, as chronicled in the comments section from yesterday’s post. Some of the highlights were Chicago-Mumbai for $333 with a stopover in Abu Dhabi, New York to Johannesburg with a stopover in Abu Dhabi for $275, and New York to Hong Kong for $272.

Etihad's extensive global route map.
Etihad’s extensive global route map.

These were some of the most incredible fares we have seen in a while, partially because they weren’t pricing out as an obvious mistake at $5 or something strange like that. It didn’t take long for all those tickets to get snapped up, but don’t worry if you missed out; this deal was pretty remarkable, but there will definitely be others, and hopefully you’ll have better luck next time.

For those of you who got in on these fares, congratulations! I’ve heard a lot of excitement but also a lot of questions, so today I want to cover some of the most important answers to help you plan your awesome (and very affordable) travel via these deals.

Are These Legitimate Tickets?

One of the primary concerns I heard from readers was whether these were mistake fares. Happily, it looks like these airfares will stand either way. Not only were flyers issued actual ticket numbers through various sources including Orbitz, Priceline and Expedia, but Etihad’s social media team was very active on Twitter, congratulating folks on their purchases and even making suggestions for what to do in Abu Dhabi during their layovers! You can also check out the FlyerTalk thread on the deal for more Abu Dhabi travel info.

Etihad tweeted with flyers who booked these fares with suggestions of what to do in Abu Dhabi and beyond - looks like these fares are going to be honored.
Etihad tweeted with flyers who booked these fares with suggestions of what to do in Abu Dhabi and beyond – looks like these fares are going to be honored.

It appears this lineup of fares was actually coordinated by Etihad, so there’s no reason to think they won’t be honored by the airline. If the carrier changed their tune now, not only would they have a complete social media fail on their hands, but they would appear to be the world’s biggest Scrooge just as they’re launching their new flagship A380 service. My suggestion is that all of you who bought these tickets should pat yourselves on the back and start reading up on your destinations!

Another lucky flyer getting suggestions from Etihad - this time for Johannesburg.
Another lucky flyer getting suggestions from Etihad – this time for Johannesburg.

Will These Fares Earn Miles?

This is the big question, especially for flyers looking to rack up redeemable and elite-qualifying miles on some of the longest commercial flights in the world. The answer is a bit complex and depends both on where you’re looking to accrue mileage and where you’re flying, since Etihad has partnerships with individual airlines but is not in any of the alliances. Complicating matters further, the airline has a number of codeshare partners but a different (though somewhat overlapping) list of Etihad Guest Programme partner airlines.

Yesterday’s sale was on economy fares, with tickets booking out into the E fare class, but there are also further restrictions on how you can earn miles on Etihad flights. We’re going to keep things simple, though, and concentrate on a couple of partner airlines that readers were asking about and on which they’re likely to want to accrue miles.

Etihad is partners with American.
Etihad is partners with American.

American: This is Etihad’s main U.S. partner airline. Per American’s partner earning page:

  • Etihad Airways operated and marketed flights between Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Washington Dulles (IAD), Toronto (YYZ) and Abu Dhabi are not eligible for mileage accrual.
  • Travel ticketed as an American Airlines marketed flight (booked as an AA codeshare flight number) and operated by Etihad Airways (including travel between New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington Dulles and Toronto to Abu Dhabi) will earn AAdvantage base miles and elite qualifying miles, points and segments according to the AA earning structure.

Unfortunately, this means that the big flights to/from the US to Abu Dhabi will earn neither redeemable nor elite-qualifying miles. However, if you have connecting flights within the US on American or beyond Abu Dhabi—say to Hong Kong or Mumbia or Johannesburg—you’ll earn 100% redeemable miles but no elite-qualifying miles.

For instance, if you booked one of those JFK-Hong Kong fares, you would be flying a total of 21,212 miles and would earn just 7,478 redeemable miles and no EQMs.

Note that some of these itineraries—many of those either ending or transiting through India—include Jet Airways segments. In this case, you need to check the fare code of that portion of the ticket and reference this AAdvantage partner earning page to find out whether you will earn miles. Only economy fares in Y, M, T, U will earn 100% miles; those in N, L, Q, S earn 50% miles; and B, H, K, V, O, G, W earn no miles.

Aeroplan: This is the mileage program of Air Canada, and has some fantastic award-chart sweet spots. It partners with Etihad, but in order to earn miles, you must book your flights through Air Canada; if you didn’t do that, you’re pretty much out of luck. Per Aeroplan’s earning guide, for travel on Air Canada codeshare flights operated by Etihad, Aeroplan miles can only be earned when flights are booked, ticketed and sold by Air Canada and the flight has an Air Canada four-digit codeshare flight number. In order to actually get credit for those miles, you’ll have to send your original boarding pass and a legible copy of your ticket to the Aeroplan Centre after you have traveled since mileage accrual is not automated. What a rigamarole!

ANA is also an Etihad partner.
ANA is also an Etihad partner.

ANA: This Japan-based Star Alliance carrier is another non-alliance partner of Etihad and its miles can be great for certain awards. Per its partner earning page, you would get 50% redeemable miles on Etihad flights in E fare class, earning you 10,606 miles on that same JFK-HKG trip.

You might want to rack up these miles with Etihad itself.
You might want to rack up these miles with Etihad itself.

Etihad Guest: If you’re considering crediting these miles to Etihad’s Guest Programme itself, note that per the Etihad earning page, you’d earn just 50% of miles (like with AAdvantage, but on your whole routing) on E fare-coded tickets. Remember, Etihad Guest is also now a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards.

Garuda Indonesia: This Asian carrier recently joined SkyTeam and is also a 1:1 Citi ThankYou Rewards transfer partner. E fares on Etihad earn 50% miles with Garuda’s program. For tips on earning/redeeming Garuda miles, check out this post.

Korean Air: Folks with Ultimate Rewards (a 1:1 transfer partner of Korean Air’s SkyPass program) might be interested in using these fares to boost their balance, but unfortunately, E fare class tickets are not eligible for mileage accrual on Korean.

Virgin Australia Velocity: For the Aussies out there (and New Zealanders and various Oceania residents), you earn 0.5 Velocity points per mile on Etihad E-coded fares.

Etihad’s other airline partners include:

  • Air Berlin
  • Alitalia
  • Air New Zealand
  • Asiana
  • Bangkok Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Czech
  • Flybe
  • GOL
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Jet Airways
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Oman Air
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • South African Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • Ukraine International Airlines

Are These Fares Upgradeable?

As mentioned, these fares are in economy class, booked into the E fare code. Many of the itineraries involve over 20 hours of travel, though, so naturally many of our readers were interested in upgrade options.

There are a few ways to upgrade.
There are a few ways to upgrade.

You can’t use American AAdvantage miles to upgrade your flight, and if you’re an American elite, your benefits do not extend to Etihad. However, there are still some other options.

If you have Etihad Guest miles, or can get some by transferring ThankYou Rewards points or Starwood Preferred Guest points, you should have a very decent shot at upgrading from economy to business class (though not first). Be aware that while these deals look like promotional fares that should be upgrade-eligible, Etihad Guest’s terms & conditions state that certain promotional fares are not eligible, so be sure to check the fare rules listed on your ticket to see if there are any exclusions.

Barring any ineligibility clauses, you can calculate the mileage necessary here. As an example, if you book an E class ticket from New York JFK to Abu Dhabi AUH, you should be able to upgrade for 66,334 miles each way.

If you do want to upgrade, note that tickets in T and X paid classes are ineligible, and when looking for award space such as on ExpertFlyer, look for tickets in the I business class award fare code class.

Your other upgrade option might be to participate in a bidding process called Select Upgrades. If your ticket is eligible and there are available seats in a higher cabin, Etihad will email you with the opportunity to bid on an upgrade. Here’s how it works:

1. Make an offer: Click on the link provided in the upgrade email sent to you. You’ll be directed to the Offer Page. Choose within the minimum to maximum amount you would like to offer. Bids must be made per flight segment (example: London-Sydney consists of 2 flight segments: London to Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi to Sydney).

2. Enter your payment information: Enter your credit card details to enable payment when your bid is successful. No charges apply for unsuccessful bids.

3. Review and submit: Make sure all information is correct before submitting.

You’ll be informed by Etihad about the final status of your offer two days prior to departure. If your offer has been successful, you’ll receive a new ticket and the amount will be deducted from your card.

If you’re flying in the next seven days and haven’t received any invitation email for upgrade, please send your Etihad six-letter booking reference to The airline will send you an offer link that allows you to place an offer to upgrade to the next cabin.

There are also Instant Airport Upgrades. Per Etihad, this is how they work:

If you haven’t managed to upgrade prior to check-in, you may ask to purchase an Instant Airport Upgrade from the Etihad check-in agent. Note that upgrades are subject to seat availability; chauffeur services and lounge access are not available when upgrading from economy class to business class; and Etihad Guest Miles are accrued as per the original cabin booked. Payment methods are cash, credit card, or Guest Miles (for Etihad Guest members).

For more information on Etihad, check out our post on the basics of the Guest Programme.

What Is Etihad Economy Like?

Even if you don’t upgrade, Etihad’s economy class is still a good option. Etihad flies JFK-Abu Dhabi using 777-300ERs. The economy seats on these planes have a decent amount of legroom at 31 inches of pitch and are 17.5 inches wide; the LAX-AUH non-stop is flown on a 777-200LR with the same size seats.

Etihad 777-300 Economy seats. Photo from
Etihad 777-300 Economy seats. Photo from

Per Seat Guru, the 777-300ERs economy cabin is configured in a 3 x 4 x 3 layout, and each seat has its own personal 10.4-inch VOD screen for in-flight entertainment as well as individual power ports and USB. Some of these planes also have high-speed WiFi available (the ones operated on Etihad aircraft, not Jet Airways aircraft). Passengers also get amenity kits with toothbrush/toothpaste, earplugs and eye masks, and options for meal service (e.g., vegetarian) available for ordering 24 or more hours in advance.

Etihad 777-300 economy cabin. Photo from
Etihad 777-300 economy cabin. Photo from

You can also call one of their customer service centers to buy a seat assignment in an exit row for a couple extra inches of legroom. These seats start at $25 per segment, though longer-haul flights tend to be closer to $80-$100 per person each flight. Find out more here.

Share Your Experiences

I haven’t personally flown Etihad nor used their miles or partner miles on the flights either to book awards or upgrade paid tickets. If any readers have tips on how to maximize Etihad flights, get the best seats, score upgrades and more, please comment below with your suggestions and advice! Tweet with your trip details and tips, as well, using the hashtag: #thankyouEtihad.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.