Big changes coming to Etihad Guest frequent flyer

Here are the nine things you need to know about Etihad Guest’s sweeping revamp.

By David Flynn, February 22 2024
Big changes coming to Etihad Guest frequent flyer

  • Tier Segments axed, Tier Miles become fare-based
  • Status-based lounge access now ‘optional’
  • New Etihad Guest Diamond tier

Etihad Airways will roll out significant changes to its Etihad Guest loyalty program this year in a sweeping revamp which the Gulf carrier promises will make the scheme “simpler, more rewarding and more personalised” – but as always, there’s a little devil in the detail.

Starting from June, Etihad’s frequent flyers will see a fresh set of benefits across all tiers, the introduction of a Guest Diamond tier which slots in above Guest Platinum, and a wave of reduced Guest Miles seat redemption rates.

However, those will be matched by the removal of Tier Segments as a path to status and a shift to tie Tier Miles to fare types – the more you pay, the more Tier Miles you earn.

Additionally, you will need to take a flight with Etihad or a partner airline every 18 months to keep your Guest Miles alive.

Lounge access for Guest Gold and Platinum members is also no longer included in what Etihad now describes as a ‘core benefit’ of those tiers: instead, it’s an optional ‘custom benefit’ which frequent flyers can choose (or not).

Mark Potter, Managing Director of Etihad Guest, tells Executive Traveller the changes – which have been in the works for around 12 months – are about “three main pillars: simplification, rewarding our members for their loyalty, and personalisation.”

While some of the finer details will be released closer to June, the Etihad Guest website will begin to see updates and explainers from today – but here are the top-line take-aways you need to know right now.

1. New GuestSeat reward tables

Hoping to turn your Guest Miles for a miles-based GuestSeat reward seat? You’ll need to familiarise yourself with a new Etihad reward table, as redemption rates are changing on many routes, particularly short- to medium-range ones.

“About 70% to 80% of our destinations will see a reduction," Potter promises, but those reductions won’t be spread equally across all routes or even in all cabins.

As an example, Potter says an economy GuestSeat from London to Abu Dhabi will drop from 32,000 Guest Miles (plus taxes) to 30,000 Guest Miles, although business class will remain the same at 70,000.

New Etihad Guest reward tables are on the way.
New Etihad Guest reward tables are on the way.

Conversely, while Sydney to Abu Dhabi will stay the same for economy, a business class GuestSeat will lift from 110,000 to 120,000 Guest Miles – which will in turn increase the current Sydney to London business class GuestSeat redemption rate by 10,000 miles to 190,000 miles plus taxes.

2. No more free cancellation of GuestSeat bookings

This one applies immediately for all new bookings made from February 21.

Cancelling a GuestSeat booking will result in a penalty of between 25-75% of the miles used to make the booking: there’s no longer a complete refund of all miles.

Cancelling within seven days of the flight’s departure will incur a 75% miles penalty.

Cancelling between 8-21 days of the flight’s departure will incur a 50% miles penalty.

And if you cancel inside 24 hours of the flight’s departure, there’s no refund at all – you’ll forfeit all the GuestMiles involved.

3. Tier Segments are being axed

Jumping up the Etihad Guest status levels has historically been possible via two ways: collecting Tier Miles (status credits) or attaining Tier Segments (eligible flights).

Here’s how the current system works:

To go from Bronze to Silver, you currently need to either earn 2,5000 Tier Miles or 20 Tier Segments, with those segments earned when flying Etihad or its partners.

By way of example, London to Abu Dhabi  earns one Tier Segment in economy, two Tier Segments in business and three Tier Segments in first.

Tier Segments are also weighted towards short- to medium-range trips: flying all the way from London to Sydney only sees a doubling of the Tier Segment tally.

“Talking to members, there was a bit of confusion around Tier Segments and Tier Miles,” Potter says, leading Etihad Guest to scrap Tier Segments on flights altogether.

From June, Etihad Guest members will need only collect Tier Miles – earned when flying Etihad and its partner airlines, as well as on co-branded credit card spend – to jump from Bronze to Silver to Gold to Platinum. 

4. Tier Miles will vary depending on fare type

The current earning structure for Tier Miles is set by the distance flown and the cabin you fly in: that's 1 Tier Mile in economy, 1.5 Tier Miles in business and 2 Tier Miles in first class.

As of June, Etihad will award more Tier Miles for higher-priced fares

However, Potter stresses this is not a full revenue model but rather a “hybrid” model, as the number of Tier Miles allocated won't be tied directly to the dollar price of the fare but rather the fare type purchased: you’ll earn the least Tier Miles on a Value fare, with more on Choice and Choice Plus fares.

Purchase a Choice Plus fare and you'll receive an additional helping of Tier Miles.
Purchase a Choice Plus fare and you'll receive an additional helping of Tier Miles.

“The Tier Mile side today is based on a multiplier of the distance flown, and it’s flat based on the whole cabin... in the new world we will also mirror the fare brand percentage ratio based on which fare brand [fare type] you’ve purchased.”

In addition, starting in June, the new baseline for Tier Miles earned on all flights will be increased to match the number of Guest Miles earned.

For example, flying in Etihad business class between London and Abhu Dahbi now earns 16,364 Tier Miles while the Guest Miles haul varies from 19,636 to 27,273 miles depending on the type of fare chosen (Value, Choice or Choice Plus).

“Members will earn the same amount of Tier Miles and Etihad Guest Miles on bookings made from June,” the airline says.

That means a Sydney-Lonfon business class flight would earn a minimum of 19,636 Tier Miles – but of course, the higher fare they book, the more Tier Miles (and Guest Miles) they’ll earn. 

5. Tier Miles minimum thresholds for status 

Of course, flying isn’t the only way to earn Tier Miles – they can also be accrued through Etihad co-branded credit cards at a rate of one Tier Mile per AED 3 spent.

To avoid a situation where people are simply buying their way to status through cards, Etihad Guest is introducing minimum Tier Miles thresholds that can only be met through flying on Etihad Airways or its partners.

Potter revealed to Executive Traveller the new thresholds will vary from 30-40%, depending on your tier:

  • of the 25,000 Tier Miles needed for Etihad Guest Silver, 10,000 will need to be earned from flying
  • of the 50,000 Tier Miles needed for Etihad Guest Gold, 20,000 will need to be earned from flying
  • of the 125,000 Tier Miles needed for Etihad Guest Platinum, 40,000 will need to be earned from flying

6. Etihad Guest ‘Custom Benefits’

Etihad is introducing a series of what it calls ‘Custom Benefits’ for each Guest tier, where members can select the perks they want from a larger set of options.

These sit on top of the traditional ‘Core Benefits’ such as earning bonus Guest Miles and priority check-in and boarding, although several Core Benefits of status – such as lounge access and complimentary baggage – have now been declared as Custom Benefits.

  • Guest Silver members will be able to choose two Custom Benefits from a set of four
  • Guest Gold members will be able to choose four Custom Benefits from a set of six
  • Guest Platinum members will be able to choose five Custom Benefits from a set of eight
  • Guest Diamond members will be able to choose four Custom Benefits from a set of seven
A chauffeur service will be among the Custom Benefits available to high-tier Etihad Guest members.
A chauffeur service will be among the Custom Benefits available to high-tier Etihad Guest members.

The full list of Core and Custom Benefits is now online at the Guest Relaunch page, but for quick reference, the Guest Gold options include business class lounge access, complimentary baggage, a chauffeur service and a free refund on a GuestSeat booking.

Guest Platinums will likewise find their Custom Benefits options include first class lounge access, two complimentary upgrades, two complimentary chauffeur services and two complimentary refunds on a GuestSeat booking.

7. Etihad Guest ‘Beyond Benefits’

For frequent flyers who have clocked up another year at Gold or Platinum but have yet to reach the next rung on the loyalty ladder, Etihad will roll out a set of mid-tier benefits called under the banner of ‘Beyond Benefits’.

These kick in at 75,000 Tier Miles (halfway from Gold to Platinum) and 175,000 Tier Miles (well above the Platinum threshold) and will include the likes of bonus Guest Miles, lounge passes and complimentary status to gift to a family member or friend.

8. New Etihad Guest Diamond status 

Sliding in above Platinum, the newly-created Diamond tier is intended to add sparkle to the Etihad Guest experience.

But to win Etihad Guest Diamond status won’t just be a matter of clocking up the Tier Miles – you’ll need to be a high spender as well as a high flyer.

Diamond status is reserved for the airline's highest-spending frequent flyers.
Diamond status is reserved for the airline's highest-spending frequent flyers.

While attaining Guest Diamond status will require the same 125,000 Tier Miles as Guest Platinum, you’ll also need to be spending at least US$150,000 per year on Etihad travel, Potter revealed to Executive Traveller

And as you’d expect, the Guest Diamond tier will shine with VIP perks – although Potter says those will be more fully revealed closer to Diamond’s mid-year debut.

Potter declined to share how many of the Etihad Guest program’s members would ascend to Diamond status, but “the Diamond tier will be quite a bespoke group of members, those that really fly quite a lot (and meet) the spend requirement of US$150,000… so it’s a very small group.”

Potter added that when the Guest Diamond tier is activated in June, some members will already have qualified based on the flying+spending criteria.

“For those that have already established their investment with us, we will look to offer them this tier, and we will be announcing the people that are included in the Diamond tier closer to June.”

9. Vanity account numbers

And in a world where vanity number plates and phone numbers attract a premium, now it’s time for vanity frequent flyer accounts.

Etihad Guest Diamond and Platinum members will be able to choose their own, personalised membership numbers.

Those will be drawn from the same 12-digit pool as current Guest memberships – although if the number desired by a Diamond or Platinum has already been allocated to a lower-tier member, Potter says Etihad won’t take the number away from the member and issue them a new one.

“We certainly see here in the (Gulf) region that mobile numbers and number plates on cars generally drive quite a lot of excitement in terms of selecting the one that you’d like.”

“So we are mirroring that, and we think it’s going to be quite interesting to see what numbers come out first in terms of member requests.”

Additional reporting by Chris Ashton.

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