Etihad remains one of the most aspirational premium class products in the sky. Indeed, even their Economy Class cabin is pretty damn good.
But, we are not here for you to fly Economy. Accordingly, we thought it worth flagging a lovely little bonus of the Etihad Guest scheme that, while involving a small leap of faith, can have you upgrading to Business or First at a hugely reduced mileage cost.
So what’s this “fantastic benefit”?
If you have any status with Etihad Guest (Silver, Gold or Platinum) you will get a substantial discount on the miles you need to upgrade, if you upgrade at the airport.
You can upgrade from Economy to Business Class, or Business Class to First. The number of standard miles varies, but you can calculate it here.
What’s the mileage discount?
It depends on your status, as follows:
- Etihad Guest Silver members get 25% off the miles required to upgrade, if they upgrade at the airport.
- Etihad Guest Gold and Platinum members get a massive 50% off the miles required to upgrade, if they upgrade at the airport. 50% off!
So, per the example in the image above, an upgrade from Economy to Business on a Heathrow to Abu Dhabi flight could cost a Gold member as little as 13,977 miles (i.e. 50% off 27,954).
Applying that to a longer journey (and assuming consistent availability of the upgrade, at the airport), a full return trip from London to Bangkok (via AUH) could cost as little as 59,000 miles (ordinarily 118,000) to upgrade from Economy to Business Class.
That would be a fantastic deal.
Well, the problem with upgrading at the airport versus upgrading in advance is that you don’t actually know if you’ll be able to upgrade as it’s dependent on availability.
However, Etihad Guest upgrades are often quite tricky to book in advance anyway, so it may well be on occasion that you’re put on an upgrade waiting list, or the airport upgrade is actually your only option.
The problem with not knowing whether you can upgrade or not (whether by virtue of the advance booking via a wait list or the airport upgrade) is that you therefore don’t know whether you need a larger Etihad Guest points balance. So, for example, it’s not obvious whether you should transfer in a chunk of American Express Membership Rewards points to Etihad Guest, in anticipation of an upgrade that may not be available to you (you cannot, of course, transfer the points back).
If I’m honest, I get very nervous transferring flexible Membership Rewards points into a specific scheme, not actually knowing whether I’ll be able to use them. In this case, however, it’s probably worth the gamble and the worst case scenario is you just retain a swollen balance of Etihad Guest points.
Bear in mind too, that the fares requiring the lower number of miles to upgrade are likely to be the more expensive fares, so you may be better off booking a lower fare and upgrading with more miles, as you will be getting 25%/50% off the miles you need to upgrade. Whatever your fare class and according mileage requirement, with 25-50% off, you’re almost certain to be getting a good deal.
It really isn’t. If you have an Etihad Guest mileage balance (whether organically or because you’re attempting the upgrade) and status, just make sure you ask at Etihad customer services/the check-in desk/on the plane whether you can upgrade with miles, and if you can – you’ve bagged a heavily discounted premium seat!
Indeed, I will be doing exactly this early next year.
Any easy ways to get Etihad Guest status?
Failing that, you need 25,000 Tier Miles (essentially, the miles you get for flying), so you’ll need a few flights or a long-haul Business Class return to secure it. I got Silver via a Business Class return to the Far East.
Gold is 50,000 Tier Miles, Platinum 125,000.