Etihad Airways has some of the best business class seats flying to the Middle East (and beyond). And now, there's a great new option to book these flights with points – especially the points you've probably got from many popular travel credit cards.
The United Arab Emirates-based airline announced Monday its expanded partnership with Air France/KLM, finally allowing travelers to book Etihad flights with Flying Blue miles, and vice versa. While travelers have already been booking these Etihad flights using miles from other partner airlines like American and Air Canada Aeroplan or even Etihad's own mileage program, it's even easier to earn Flying Blue Miles – you can transfer points from banks like American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi.
Booking through Flying Blue, award rates – or how many points you need to fly from point A to point B – fluctuate slightly for Etihad redemptions. Generally, you can expect to see business class award rates between 84,500 and 89,500 miles between the U.S. and the airline's Abu Dhabi (AUH) hub, depending on the route. In economy, it's typically between 43,000 and 45,000 miles each way in economy.
It gets even better if there's a transfer bonus in play, and that's another reason why this new booking option can be so valuable. Banks like Chase and American Express frequently offer transfer bonuses to Flying Blue. Think of them as a way to get free airline miles.
For instance, Chase is currently offering 25% more miles when you transfer your Ultimate Rewards points to Flying Blue. That means you'd need as few as 68,000 points to book a one-way flight from New York (JFK) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) in Etihad business class or just 72,000 points for this flight to Abu Dhabi from Chicago (ORD).
Flying Blue charges per segment for these award flights, though. That means if you want to connect onward to another destination in the Middle East, India, Africa, or elsewhere, expect to pay slightly more.
For example, a one-way flight from New York (JFK) to Muscat, Oman (MCT) would cost 90,500 miles.
You can also book Etihad flights through American Airlines, and it's a better deal. American charges just 70,000 AAdvantage miles one-way for business class, whether you're flying to Abu Dhabi or connecting onward elsewhere. American also charges fewer taxes and fees – about $50 each way on most routes, while Flying Blue charges around $200 each way to Abu Dhabi and close to $400 each way for connecting flights.
But AA miles are more difficult to earn as American really only has one transfer partner: Bilt Rewards. That's what makes the ability to book Etihad flights via Air France/KLM a great, new option. Just keep in mind you'll pay higher taxes and fees when booking through Air France/KLM.
Your best bet for finding Etihad flights you can book with Flying Blue miles is to start your search on American's website. If the flights are available to book via American, you're likely to see the same award availability with Air France/KLM, too.
First class seats, including the Etihad First Class Apartment, were not available to book via Flying Blue on any of Etihad's routes as of publication.
Etihad Airways and Air France/KLM have expanded their partnership, allowing travelers to book Etihad flights with Flying Blue miles – and vice versa.
While you might find lower award rates and cash surcharges booking through other airlines, this is a great development for travelers with transferrable credit card points from banks like Chase, American Express, Citi, and Capital One to book flights to the Middle East and beyond.
Lead photo courtesy of Etihad