Etihad Guest miles are less commonly used in the U.S. than miles with domestic airlines like American Airlines. However, in a handful of cases they can save you tens of thousands of miles during a single trip — like, more miles than are offered with most credit card sign-up bonuses.
There exists an exceptionally syrupy sweet spot for anyone wanting to travel to Europe in a lie-flat business-class seat. You could save $6,000 by dropping just 88,000 miles for a round trip to Belgium.
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Here’s the best part: You probably already have a load of Etihad miles, whether you know it or not. That’s because Etihad is a transfer partner of the following transferable points programs:
You can instantly convert these rewards to Etihad miles at a 1:1 ratio.
If you’ve earned any of the enormous sign-up bonuses that have been floating around lately, there’s a great chance you already have enough Etihad miles to book a lie-flat seat to Europe.
Related: How (and why) you should earn transferable points in 2022
In This Post
Why it’s special
If you’re paying 60,000-plus miles for a one-way business-class flight to Europe, you’re not getting ripped off. That’s the going rate for a fancy lie-flat seat across the Atlantic.
However, with Etihad miles you can fly on partner Brussels Airlines and score seven-plus hours in a seat like this for 44,000 miles one way. This seat regularly sells for more than $3,000 — giving you a value of 6.8 cents per mile. TPG valuations peg Etihad miles at 1.4 cents each, on average — meaning this sweet spot offers a value nearly 5 times higher than usual!
The same exact seat when using other airline currencies would cost:
You’ll save between 16,000 and 31,000 rewards each way (between 32,000 and 62,000 miles round-trip) over common Star Alliance airline programs by booking with non-Star Alliance partner Etihad (yes, there are a few exceptions).
Here’s the caveat, though: You can only find this price for flights to Brussels Airport (BRU) from either New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) or Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport (IAD). In other words, this is a cheap way to cross the ocean in style, but you’ll likely have to take another flight to your actual destination once you reach the European continent. Intra-Europe flights are usually inexpensive, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
Related: 11 tips for traveling Europe on a budget
How to book this award
You cannot book these seats online with Etihad — nor can you locate available seats on the Etihad website. The best way to find seats is through the United Airlines website.
Step 1: Enter your travel information
Head to the United Airlines website and enter your desired dates and airports. Remember, the only flights that qualify for this deal are the following nonstop routes on Brussels Airlines:
In the below example, I’ve stipulated that I want to see business-class flights only.
Step 2: Open the 30-day calendar
Your desired date may not have Brussels Airlines availability. Seats aren’t impossible to find, but they’re less common than some other United partners.
On the results page, select the 30-day calendar. You’ll now see the lowest business-class awards for each day in a digestible format.
Step 3: Uncheck the “With stops” box below the calendar
Brussels Airlines flies nonstop between Brussels and Washington. We can therefore eliminate all flights that have a connection, because we know those aren’t Brussels Airlines.
To do this, locate the tiny box under the calendar that reads “With stops” and uncheck it.
Step 4: Click on dates that show 75,000 miles
The calendar now shows only nonstop business-class flights between Washington and Brussels. To find available business-class flights on Brussels, look for dates pricing out at 75,000 miles.
By clicking on one of these dates, you can see in the search results at the bottom of the page that there are business-class seats available, “Operated By Brussels Airlines.”
Step 5: Call Etihad to reserve your flight
Note the flight details such as date, departure/arrival time and number of the flight you found on United. Then, call Etihad at 877-690-0767 and relay the flight information carefully to them.
Etihad phone agents are a bit notorious for not being very good at booking partner award flights. If the agent can’t see the flights you’ve found, respectfully end the call and call back to get another agent.
Related: Evolution, not revolution: A review of Brussels Airlines’ new business class
How to earn miles for this award
As previously mentioned, Etihad Guest miles are easy to earn, as Etihad partners with Amex Membership Rewards, Capital One miles and Citi ThankYou Rewards. You can transfer these rewards instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
There are sometimes even transfer bonuses to Etihad, which would make this already cheap sweet deal even cheaper.
If this trip sounds like something you’d consider in the future, you can earn the miles you need quickly by opening cards such as:
There are plenty more cards that earn these types of points. Read our guide to the best travel credit cards for more inspiration.
You can also transfer Marriott points to Etihad at a 3:1 ratio. Also, for every 60,000-point increment you transfer, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus. For example, if you transfer 60,000 Marriott points, you’ll receive a deposit of 25,000 miles into your Etihad account.
Related: Etihad Guest miles continue to fly under the radar
The ability to book a multi-thousand dollar lie-flat seat to Europe for just 44,000 miles is one of the best airline sweet spots in the points and miles world. And you can book it with points you might already have.
The only problem is that your flight must be from either JFK or IAD. If you don’t live near one of these airports, you’ll have to fly there first to catch your dirt-cheap business-class flight.
Featured photo courtesy of Brussels Airlines.