Etihad brings in changes to its Frequent Flyer program

Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of the UAE, announced changes to its Frequent Flyer program, Etihad Guest. The changes most of which come into effect from 9th October 2011 look to be fairly positive and are as follows:

  1. The mileage values for redemption and upgrades have been changed on a route-by-route basis, for example: redemption on flights between London and Abu Dhabi will be reduced from 120,000 miles to 110,452 whereas a First Class redemption between Abu Dhabi and Sydney will increase from 195,000 miles to 242,741, how they arrived on those wacky numbers is anybodys guess.
  2. From 21st September 2011 onwards  one can upgrade to First Class using their Etihad Guest miles regardless of the tier level of membership. All Economy class tickets would now be eligible for upgrade to Business. As and how there membership grows, I am sure this will open up floodgates and sooner or later they will have get this thing off their list.
  3. Introduction of fees for dates changes on reward flights, over and above permitted free changes depending on tier status. For example: Silver members will be allowed two free changes, with subsequent changes charged at AED 100 or 2,000 miles.
  4. Reward ticket refunds will now be allowed, subject to a fee of 15 per cent of the miles redeemed for the ticket. This fee will not apply to Gold Elite members.
  5. This one is a bit odd one out, Etihad has moved to a calendar year system meaning that membership eligibility and miles expiry would be determined based on the 31st December of each year according to the membership level. Etihad Guest members, miles will be valid for 2 years now as compared to 3 years earlier and for Etihad Guest Silver members it becomes 2.5 years. The criteria does not change for Gold and Gold Elite. It just adds complication to the whole system by having different expiry timeline.
  6. They have included 5 kg excess baggage allowance even for base members now, elite members will keep getting their baggage allowance as defined.
Etihad has a very close partnership with Virgin Australia, American Airlines and many more which opens quite a lot of opportunities for redemption and upgrades. These changes will surely help them attract more frequent flyers on their routes and also help it in competing much better with next door giant Emirates. More details about the changes can be found here.

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