Don’t settle for economy on your next business trip or holiday – there are plenty of ways you can swap your cattle class ticket for a journey in Etihad business class.
Not only can you upgrade to business class by using your Etihad Guest frequent flyer points, you can also bid for a business class upgrade using real money or can purchase an upgrade over the phone or at the airport closer to departure.
But not all travellers are eligible for upgrades – choosing the least-expensive tickets can confine you to economy, as can booking your Etihad flight through a partner airline, such as Virgin Australia.
Here’s what you need to know, and what you can do to improve your upgrade chances.
Etihad business class upgrades: the basics
Upgrades on Etihad are all one-class, so while booking an economy ticket gives you a chance to fly business class, you won’t be able to upgrade all the way to first class.
Speaking of tickets, ‘Breaking Deal’ fares aren’t eligible for upgrades at all: so if that’s your plan, shell out for a slightly more expensive fare.
There’s also no guarantee that an upgrade will be available on your flight – either when using miles or when making a cash offer. Our advice is to always expect to fly in the seat you originally purchased, but to be pleasantly surprised if it can be replaced by a better one.
Upgrading to business class with Etihad Guest miles
The number of miles you’ll need for an upgrade varies from route to route, but is also influenced by the type of ticket you initially paid for.
Between Sydney and Abu Dhabi, guests travelling on ‘Economy Flex’ fares could upgrade to business for only 45,599 Etihad Guest miles, while those on mid-range ‘Economy’ fares would need a higher 68,399 miles.
Take the discounted ‘Economy Saver’ option and you’d need twice that of a Flex fare being 91,198 miles, and remember that the cheapest ‘Breaking Deals’ fares can’t be upgraded at all.
Fly from Sydney through to London via Abu Dhabi and you’re looking at 73,553 miles to upgrade from an ‘Economy Flex’ ticket, 103,342 miles from an ‘Economy’ fare and 143,612 miles from ‘Economy Saver’ across the entire journey.
Wherever you’re headed, upgrades can be requested through the Etihad Guest website from the moment your booking has been finalised, and if one is available on your flight, you can secure it straight away.
If no upgrades are available do keep checking back – and if all else fails and you arrive at the airport still seated in economy, ask the check-in agent if any “instant upgrades to business class” are available and can be purchased with miles on your flight.
This costs the same number of miles as to book online, but consider arriving early for your flight in case other travellers have the same goal.
Bidding for a business class upgrade
Don’t have enough (or any) miles for an upgrade but still want to fly at the pointy end? No problems – as with many airlines you may also be able to bid for a business class upgrade using real money.
You’re usually clear to bid if your flight is booked on a fare type other than a ‘Breaking Deal’ and where your reservation also has a 607 ‘ticket number’, which you’ll get by booking your flight directly through Etihad.
Booking your Etihad flights via another airline such as Virgin Australia makes you ineligible to bid – even if your flight number still begins with EY – because your ticket number won’t begin with 607.
That’s certainly a confusing policy, so Etihad provides a simple way for you to check your eligibility – just head to the Etihad website and key in your six-character booking reference and surname to make a bid or to hear the bad news.
Bids are usually accepted up until three days before your flight departs, with the result of your bid announced by email approximately 24 hours before departure. If successful, your credit card will be charged, and if not, your original booking remains intact.
Purchasing a business class upgrade
Travellers who miss the bidding window can also try their hand at purchasing an upgrade outright, either by asking for a ‘Push Upgrade’ over the phone within 48 hours of departure or an ‘Instant Airport Upgrade’ at check-in.
As with bidding and with miles, the amount of cash needed for these upgrades varies from flight to flight and may also differ between Push Upgrades and Instant Airport Upgrades – so if you call and the price is too high for your liking, ask again at the airport and you might be surprised.
Payment is accepted by credit card only over the phone and by cash and credit card at the airport, and if you’re successful you’ll enjoy perks such as a boosted baggage allowance and access to the airport lounge prior to your flight, where available.
Etihad business class upgrades: the fine print
Passengers who upgrade to business class with miles in advance of their flight are welcome to book the Etihad Chauffeur service at each end of their journey – if that’s you, don’t forget to book your transfers as soon as your upgrade goes through, but no later than 48 hours before wheels-up.
However, passengers who bid for an upgrade, purchase an upgrade with money or use miles to upgrade at the airport aren’t eligible for the chauffeur service and have to make their own way to and from the airport.
Also, if you’d purchased an extra legroom seat in economy but do get upgraded to business class, Etihad kindly refunds this cost so that you’re not out of pocket – and what’s more, upgrade using money and you’ll earn 10% more Etihad Guest miles than included with your original ticket.
That’s a generous policy to have: most other airlines won’t refund extra legroom payments from upgraded travellers and usually award the same number of miles on upgrades as per the original economy ticket.
Oh, and one more thing: if you book Virgin Australia’s Abu Dhabi flights as an Etihad codeshare with an EY flight number, you can also bid for an upgrade via the Etihad system, subject to the usual bidding rules.
AusBT reviews of Etihad business class:
- Business Studio Boeing 787 business class: Brisbane-Abu Dhabi
- Boeing 777 business class: Abu Dhabi-Sydney
- Etihad's Airbus A330 business class: Abu Dhabi-Munich
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