Etihad is one of those loyalty programs that for better or for worse has different award charts for its various partners. One of those partners is Brussels Airlines and it historically offered perhaps the cheapest redemption rate in business class to Europe. You could fly from JFK to BRU for only 36,620 miles roundtrip with fees usually around $100.
This was an especially lucrative deal because that redemption rate was insanely low but also because Etihad is a partner of both American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Points, making it very easy to rack up Etihad miles in a hurry. Transfer bonuses offered from Membership Rewards at one time made it possible to book the roundtrip to Europe in business class for just a little over 25,000 Membership Rewards.
The issue with this booking is that you had to call it in and it was extremely difficult for many people to book partner awards with Etihad agents who were notoriously uninformed on the booking process. It was a hassle just to find the open award seats and then quite another to actually process the booking. Horror stories abound.
However, despite the obstacles, many people were still able to take advantage of this redemption. In fact, so many people did that it’s now been devalued… substantially.
This redemption rate took a price hike of 144%. Now it’s 44,000 one way or 88,000 roundtrip in business class to BRU from JFK.
This is still one of the best rates for getting to Europe and the fees should still be pretty reasonable as far as I know. The new rate is tied with ANA’s roundtrip rate and just 8,000 more than Korean Air (although the fees are probably much lower when flying on Brussels).
It’s never fun to see a sweet spot like that go, but I think many of us knew that its time was limited — it was just way too lucrative to last.
Other Brussels routes were also hit with devaluations, you can check the new award chart here.
The Etihad Guest program doesn’t offer such lucrative redemption rates for most of its other partners. However, it still offers some great redemptions for other carriers like American Airlines since it more or less still has the old American redemption rates prior to its devaluation. For example, you can get from North American to Europe roundtrip for 100,000 miles.
Overall, I hate seeing such a great sweet spot vanish overnight without any notice but when it comes to deals that seem too good to be true, I rarely have come to expect notice when they’re terminated and this instance was no exception. Still, 88,000 roundtrip to Europe still is one of the best rates available and there’s still some good value to be had by booking flights with American Airlines, so this isn’t a total loss.
H/T: View from the Wing
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.