Etihad has been cost cutting to no end lately, and it looks like that’s now being extended to their frequent flyer program, Etihad Guest. The reason being their 3 airlines have almost disappeared and filed for bankruptcy such as Air Berlin, Alitalia and Niko. They have sold Etihad region partner to another airline. Ofcourse American Electronic ban didn’t help their case.
Etihad Guest sent out an email about these changes, justifying them as follows:
To support the continued growth and evolution of your Etihad Guest membership we have conducted a review on some of your programme benefits. As a result, over the next four months, we will be making some changes to ensure they remain attractive and competitive.
On one hand, they’re pretty clearly stating that they are devaluing the program, while on the another hand, they use a picture that says “new benefits on the horizon.” Talk about getting away with the murder. Etihad program is one of the least lucrative programs out there. You don’t even earn points for flying with their codeshare partner unless it’s book via their site. I am not sure what’s left in the program now.
Etihad Guest changes are coming in two stages:
Etihad Guest changes as of October 8, 2017
Etihad is making the following four changes in a bit over a month:
We are aligning all the tiers to have the same 1 year validity. Etihad Guest Members who gain Silver, Gold or Platinum Tier status will now have 1 year to enjoy and retain these benefits.
500 Welcome Bonus Miles
Etihad Guest Members whose first flight is with Etihad Airways, Air Serbia or Air Seychelles will continue to receive 500 welcome bonus miles. However, if your first activity is with another partner airline or non-air partner, you will no longer receive the 500 welcome bonus miles. So if you try to credit your Jet Airways miles to Etihad, I feel sorry that it’s lose/lose deal.
Gold Members Lounge Access in Abu Dhabi
Etihad Guest Gold Members flying on Etihad Airways operated flights will be eligible to use the Etihad Airways Business Class Lounge* in Terminal 1 and 3 at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Collecting miles on Etihad Airways
On two of our Etihad Airways fare classes, we are increasing the number of Etihad Guest Miles being awarded. For fare class “J” in Business will go to 200% and fare class “F” in First will go to 275%.
Etihad Guest changes as of January 15, 2018
Etihad’s second round of changes will kick in early next year, as follows:
GuestSeats and Upgrades
The number of Etihad Guest Miles required for a GuestSeat on Etihad Airways will decrease on certain routes and increase on others to keep our fares competitive. You will also notice an increase of the miles required for upgrades.
There will be an increase of USD 50 on the Carrier Surcharge across some of our Business and First Class routes.
Open Seats on Etihad Airways
Members can still use as little as 1 Etihad Guest Mile to purchase our Open Seats redemptions, allowing you to purchase any available fare, in any cabin, including The Residence.
My thoughts on these changes
Some of these changes are minor, some are a big deal, and for some we’ll have to wait and see. The positive changes are as follows, roughly in order of importance:
- Etihad Gold members will get access to Etihad’s own lounges at Abu Dhabi Airport, rather than contract lounges
- Etihad is increasing mileage earning for full fare business and first class passengers
Etihad Guest Gold members will soon get access to better lounges in Abu Dhabi
Meanwhile, the negative changes are as follows, roughly in order of importance:
- Etihad Guest Gold and Platinum status will only be valid for one year rather than two years. I am not sure if this is going to be 1st January to 1st January or is it dynamic as Jet Airways?
- Etihad will be making changes to their award chart, though the details of those changes haven’t yet been announced; expect them to be negative, though. This would dip value of their miles.
- Etihad will be increasing the surcharge for first & business class awards by $50 per segment
- You will no longer get 500 bonus welcome miles for joining Etihad Guest if your first activity is with a partner (Jet Airways – sorry)
When you are losing money, you want to retain your top tier members. You have to go out of limb to keep them happy so that they can provide you with more business. Cutting benefits of your top fliers would automatically send them to your competitor (Read Emirates). Etihad is trying to cost cut their way out of big losses, though making major cuts for your most loyal flyers seems like a dumb way to achieve profitability. Only in the airline industry are negative changes described as intending to make the program “competitive.” In just about any other industry you’d assume that a “competitive” change would be a positive one.
As far as I see it, if they make any more cuts to the program, there won’t be a program left. It would be something that people just collect miles for something that is practically useless. Now we’ll just have to wait and see how difficult they are going to make it for their customer that would compel customers to find another airline for their troubles.
What do you make of these changes to Etihad Guest?