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This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.
Last updated January 2019.
With lounge access, priority boarding, free excess baggage and other valuable perks for road warriors, Etihad Guest is a must-know frequent flyer scheme for travellers to the Middle East and Europe.
Its partnership with Virgin Australia also brings about similar benefits on Australian domestic flights, giving Aussies a genuine alternative to Virgin’s own Velocity Frequent Flyer program.
Etihad Guest 101
Through the airline’s own Etihad Airways Partners network, members can earn miles when travelling with Alitalia, Jet Airways, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles and Etihad Regional, along with Etihad itself, and Virgin Australia.
You’ll hardly notice Etihad’s absence from one of the major global alliances such as Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam with a laundry list of other airline partners including:
Air New Zealand, Air Serbia, ANA, American Airlines, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Brussels Airlines, Czech Airlines, Garuda, Hainan Airlines, Jet Airways, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Oman Air, Philippine Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Scandinavian Airlines and SriLankan Airlines.
Etihad Guest is free to join, and members can start earning miles straight away: just head to the Etihad website to enrol, and attach your frequent flyer number when you next travel.
The miles you earn expire at least two years from the end of the month in which they’re accrued – say, any miles earned in November 2015 would expire in November 2017 – while Silver members get an extra six months and both Gold and Platinum frequent flyers get an extra year before they expire.
Etihad Guest tiers
Starting off at the basic Guest tier, you’ll progress through Silver, Gold and Platinum as you travel more frequently and amass either Tier Miles or Tier Segments on airlines such as Etihad, Virgin Australia and Airberlin, although these can’t be earned with all partners including SriLankan Airlines and Garuda.
Tier Miles are different to ‘regular’ miles – they’re more akin to Qantas status credits and are used only to measure your progress in the Etihad Guest scheme.
They’re also counted separately to your usual mileage balance, as miles can also be earned with other partners such as hotels and credit cards, which don’t count towards your tier status.
Etihad Guest Silver
You’ll graduate to Etihad Guest Silver after piling up 25,000 Tier Miles or notching up 20 Tier Segments in any consecutive 12-month period, with your status valid for one full year plus a bonus two months.
(Reach Etihad Guest Silver in February 2019 and you’ll enjoy the benefits until end April 2020.)
In exchange for your custom, you’ll enjoy airport lounge access whenever travelling with Etihad including to the Al Reem Lounge in Abu Dhabi – a generous perk for Silver-level members.
You’ll also collect 25% more miles when travelling with Etihad, can cart along an extra 10kg of checked baggage at no charge and can book an economy seat on already-full Etihad flight if requested at least 48 hours before departure.
If you miss that deadline and are travelling on standby or a flight is oversold, you’ll also be given priority over entry-level guests and non-members.
Etihad Guest Gold
Fly enough to reach Silver twice-over and you’ll wind up with a shiny Etihad Guest Gold card – once again valid for a further 14 months.
With it comes 50% more miles on Etihad flights, lounge access with not only Etihad but also with other partner airlines including Virgin Australia – even when only travelling domestically within Australia – priority check-in and boarding, and an extra 15kg added to your baggage allowance.
You’ll also enjoy priority baggage and fast-track/Express Path access at security screening and passport control even when stuck in economy, can grab an economy seat on an already-full flight just 24 hours before departure and are prioritised over Silver members when waitlisted.
Etihad Guest Platinum
At the top of the pecking order: Etihad Guest Platinum, formerly known as Etihad Guest Gold Elite.
These members receive many of the same perks as Silver and Gold, but they’re slightly more generous: 75% more miles on Etihad flights, a guaranteed economy class seat when booked at least 12 hours before wheels-up, and access to the Etihad First Class Lounge and Spa in Abu Dhabi.
Platinum members can also snag a business class seat on any flight when booking at least 48 hours before departure, have their baggage allowance boosted by 20kg, have the highest priority when waitlisted and can nominate a friend or family member for a boost to Etihad Guest Gold.
Earning Etihad Guest miles
The number of miles you earn generally depends on the price paid for the seat – cheaper tickets earn fewer miles, while more flexible fares earn more, even if you’re already travelling in business or first class.
A single return trip from Sydney to London via Abu Dhabi in business class reels in 25,104 miles on the least-expensive fares and 38,203 miles on more flexible tickets; 54,575 miles in first class, and 87,320 miles in The Residence.
Across the Pacific on Virgin Australia’s daily flights from Sydney to Los Angeles, you’re looking at roughly 29,952 miles on the most expensive business class fares (which also come with the free chauffeur drive service), or 22,464 miles on the more affordable business class tickets on the full return journey.
On short Australian domestic flights such as a round-trip from Sydney to Melbourne, you’ll collect up to 3,508 miles in business class and up to 1,754 miles on a return Flexi fare.
Redeeming Etihad Guest miles
Your Etihad Guest miles can be swapped for free flights and upgrades to business or first class (although not to The Residence) with Etihad, and for free flights only with EY’s raft of partner airlines including home-grown Virgin Australia.
While Etihad journeys can generally be booked on the airline’s website, you’ll need to give its contact centre a buzz on 1300 532 215 (24 hours) to book a trip on most other carriers.
That same business class return jaunt from Sydney to London would set you back 325,584 miles, while a round-trip upgrade to first class from a paid business class ticket costs 206,684 miles on the same route.
Miles can also be burned on Virgin Australia flights, but the redemption value is poor on long trips – 240,000 miles would only get you as far as Abu Dhabi and back in business class, while a short Sydney-Melbourne return hop comes in at a more attractive 27,600 miles in business class.
Switching your flying across to Etihad? Also read:
- Sneak peek: The Residence by Etihad private A380 VIP suite
- Up close with Etihad's new Airbus A380 first class apartments
- Photo tour: Etihad's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner first class suites
- Inside Etihad's A380, Boeing 787 Business Studio business class
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