Etihad changes Virgin Australia award rates: who wins, who loses?

How this week’s sweeping changes to Etihad’s partner airline scheme impacts your Virgin Australia flight redemptions.

By Chris Ashton, March 9 2023
Etihad changes Virgin Australia award rates: who wins, who loses?

Etihad Airways’ frequent flyers looking to use their Etihad Guest miles to book Virgin Australia flights are bracing for changes as the Gulf carrier rolls out a new distance-based redemption chart for turning points into seats.

Under the revised scheme which takes effect from Friday March 10, Virgin Australia will move to the same ‘redemption table’ as all of Etihad’s 20-odd partner airlines.

This chart breaks the number of Guest miles needed to obtain an award seat into distance-based zones, leaving behind the old route-based Virgin partner chart.

The good news is that it’s not all bad news: popular domestic Virgin Australia routes such as Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane will require fewer Etihad Guest miles than before.

Etihad’s new Virgin Australia redemption rates

A one-way Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Brisbane flight in Virgin Australia business class is now set at 10,000 Etihad Guest miles, or a 27% drop from the previous rate of 13,800 Guest miles.

The same new rates apply to all flights under a distance of 500 miles, such as Adelaide-Melbourne (you can use the Great Circle Mapper to calculate the length of any route).

However, longer flights will take a hit, as some of the following examples illustrate:

  • Adelaide-Melbourne business class almost doubles from 10,400 Guest miles to 20,000 Guest miles
  • Brisbane-Melbourne business class jumps from 13,800 Guest miles to 20,000 Guest miles
  • Sydney-Cairns business class more than doubles from 13,800 Guest miles to 30,000 Guest miles
  • Melbourne-Perth business class more than doubles from 21,800 Guest miles to 40,000 Guest miles
  • Sydney-Perth and Brisbane-Perth business class both see a hefty hike from 33,800 Guest miles to 50,000 Guest miles

As one of Virgin’s international partner airlines, many Australian-based Etihad passengers who rack up Etihad Guest miles on globe-spanning business class flights to Europe and the UK have historically chosen to burn those miles on domestic and short-range international Virgin Australia trips.

Of course, Virgin Australia isn’t the only airline impacted by Etihad’s ‘streamline and simplify’ exercise.

Japan's ANA is another Etihad partner, and the new awards chart sees a one-way ANA business class trip from Sydney to Tokyo more than double from 54,000 Guest miles to 100,000 Guest miles.

For your reference, here’s the new unified award chart for redeeming Etihad Guest miles on any Etihad partner airline:

The new Etihad partner airline redemption chart, effective March 10.
The new Etihad partner airline redemption chart, effective March 10.

Etihad is also adopting a similarly distance-based chart for its own network, which also takes effect from Friday, March 10 if you’re looking to redeem Etihad Guest miles on Etihad Airways flights:

The new Etihad Guest redemption chart, effective March 10.
The new Etihad Guest redemption chart, effective March 10.

One immediately obvious devaluation: a flight between Sydney and Abu Dhabi – previously costing 100,000 Guest miles in business or 136,000 Guest miles in first – nudges north to 110,000 miles in business or a loftier 220,000 in first.

Also, because Etihad prices flights on a ‘per sector’ basis, Sydney to London in business class is broken up and calculated as two individual legs: Sydney to Abu Dhabi at 110,000 Guest miles, and then Abu Dhabi to London at 70,000 Guest miles.

This sums to a total redemption price of 180,000 Guest miles, rather than the entire 11,000-mile journey falling into the single 6,000+ mile distance zone costing 110,000 Guest miles from start to finish.

Etihad also states these are the ‘minimum miles’ required, with the possibility of a dynamic pricing component on top, depending on ‘demand and availability’. (Previously, Etihad GuestSeats were fully subject to dynamic pricing.)

As frequent flyers dive deeper into the old and new charts they’re bound to find many ‘sweet spots’ for Etihad Guest redemption bookings have vanished in the shuffle.Etihad also notes there will be a premium redemption fare applied based on availability and demand, which could see the required number of miles jump on more popular routes.

Etihad Guest opens online partner awards bookings

In addition to the award chart overhaul, the airline is finally letting Etihad Guest members book partner award flights online through the Etihad website, rather than dialling into a call centre.

That’s going to deliver a massive saving in time, hassles and headaches.

The first partner airlines – Virgin Australia and American Airlines – will be ready for online award seat booking at from Friday March 10, with more to be rolled out in future. 

Additional reporting by David Flynn

08 Sep 2018

Total posts 26

Etihad isn’t the airline it once was, down to 70 aircraft, 2 flights a day to Australia, and economy wise it’s not a great product being the 9 across 787 or 10 across 777. 

I don’t think this will overly impact too many people. 

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 237

Etihad is still a very popular airline and you'll find not many readers of this website fly long-haul economy.

20 Oct 2015

Total posts 237

Well, good news if you fly VA SYD-MEL or SYD-BNE because your EY miles will go further, but bad news for most other Virgin routes because those increases are very steep!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2011

Total posts 186

Isnt the flight distance MEL-ADL 407 miles, and MEL-ADL 423? 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 329

Non sensical changes, like when they removed car service from First award flights at NYC JFK

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