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Sweet Spot Sunday: The best way to book Etihad award flights with transferable points

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 1/16/2022 Sarah Hostetler
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Etihad is one of the three major Gulf carriers in the Middle East, alongside Emirates and Qatar. These airlines are among the most luxurious in the world — notably better than U.S. airlines, whether you’re flying coach or first class.

Etihad is well-known for its fantastic First Class Apartment seat, as well as its over-the-top “Residence,” which is effectively a full hotel room in the sky. These seats appear exclusively on Etihad’s A380 planes, which have unfortunately been grounded due to financial constraints in the wake of coronavirus. Etihad may blow the dust off of these planes in 2022, but even if we never see these seats again, Etihad still offers some of the most luxurious seats in the sky.

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The problem is that award flights on Etihad are not cheap when using Etihad Guest miles. Fortunately, Etihad partners with Air Canada Aeroplan, making possible some pretty spectacular deals. You can redeem your Aeroplan points to book the exact same Etihad seats at a steep discount. Aeroplan points are easy to earn, too, as they partner with the following transferable points currencies:

Many of the best travel credit cards earn these types of points, so you might already have a stash waiting to be used for luxurious Etihad seats. Here’s what you need to know to book Etihad with Aeroplan points.

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In This Post

Why it’s special

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

You might assume that to get the best award price for your upcoming flights, you should book through the loyalty program of the airline you’re flying. Rarely is that the case, however — and Etihad is no exception.

If you want to fly on Etihad, booking through Air Canada can yield savings of tens of thousands of points. For example, Etihad charges 120,000 points for a business class flight between Washington, DC (IAD) and Abu Dhabi (AUH).

(Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com)

But Air Canada charges 85,000 points for the exact same seat. For anyone that doesn’t have a calculator handy, that’s a 35,000-point savings by using Aeroplan points instead of Etihad miles.

(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

If you haven’t read our quick guide to adding a stopover with Aeroplan, check it out. This could immensely increase the value of your Etihad award flight, as well. Air Canada allows you to add one stopover per one-way flight (or two stopovers per round-trip) for 5,000 Aeroplan points each. Booking a flight from the U.S. to Australia with a stopover in Abu Dhabi, for example, could save you 100,000+ points.

Related: How to plan a free stopover on your next trip abroad

How to book this award

(Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty) © The Points Guy (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty)

Let’s search for a flight between New York (JFK) and Abu Dhabi (AUH). Nearly all Etihad flights connect in its hub in the United Arab Emirates — so even if your destination isn’t Abu Dhabi, you’ll probably be searching for flights to there, anyway.

Step 1. Search the Etihad website for available seats


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This step is not a requirement, but it can save you both time and frustration.

The Air Canada website occasionally will show available award seats when there in fact are none. Instead of beginning your search on Air Canada, head to the Etihad website for more reliable award inventory.

Step 2. Sort by cabin

If you’d prefer to fly business or first class, specify your choice cabin in your search. Etihad displays a calendar week of award prices at the top of your search results, and filtering by cabin will help you to scan dates more easily for your desired seat.

(Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com)

Step 3. Find “GuestSeat” inventory

As you can see, the below business class seat from New York to Abu Dhabi has three different prices:

  • 100,333 miles (plus taxes) in GuestSeat Business
  • 622,625 miles (plus taxes) in Choice
  • 1,015,500 miles (plus taxes) in Choice Plus

Any flight that offers “GuestSeat” award availability can also be booked through Air Canada.

(Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of etihad.com)

If you’re perusing the Etihad award calendar and see a date selling seats from 600,000+ miles, you can assume there are no GuestSeat Business awards available that day.

Step 4. Head to the Air Canada website to book

Once you find a date that works for you, navigate to the Air Canada website and search for your flight there. You’ll find the exact same seat for considerably fewer points.

Here is the same business class seat on Air Canada for 85,000 points. That’s a savings of more than 15,000 points — not to mention $150 fewer taxes and fees!

(Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of aircanada.com)

Related: Ultimate guide to searching award availability for the major airlines

How to earn points for this award

(Photo by The Points Guy) © The Points Guy (Photo by The Points Guy)

You’ll have no problem earning Air Canada Aeroplan points quickly by opening one or two rewards credit cards and earning their bonuses.

For starters, Air Canada and Chase debuted the Aeroplan® Credit Card, offering two “Welcome Flight Rewards” (each worth up to 50,000 points) after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. You can use each certificate for a single passenger award flight. If your flight costs more than 50,000 points, you can pay the difference with Aeroplan points.

Related: Why the new Aeroplan card is surprisingly a great choice for everyday purchases

Plus, you can transfer the following points currencies to Air Canada Aeroplan:

You can transfer the following card bonuses to Aeroplan and instantly have enough for an Etihad flight:

  • American Express® Gold Card: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases with your new card within the first six months of card membership.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in the first six months of card membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the card at restaurants worldwide and when you “Shop Small” in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during the first six months of card membership.
  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 100,000 bonus miles after you spend $10,000 on purchases within the first six months of account opening. Also, for a limited time, get up to $200 in statement credits for vacation rental purchases charged to your card within the first year.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

There are plenty more cards that earn the above points too. Read our guide to the best travel credit cards for more options.

Related: How (and why) you should earn transferable points in 2022

Bottom line

Etihad premium seats are something of a bucket list item in the points and miles community. But if you want to book them, don’t use Etihad miles. You can reserve the exact same seat through Air Canada and save tens of thousands of points. Plus, you can add a stopover for just 5,000 miles each way. And the ease with which you can earn Aeroplan points makes this deal even sweeter.

Feature photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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