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Holy crap, it worked – I’m going to Belgium!
I found a ton of Business Class award seats between NYC and Brussels on Brussels Airlines in May and June 2017 (with a few dates in April and July available, too).
On Saturday, I transferred 37,000 Citi ThankYou points to Etihad Guest in hopes the space would remain. I checked this morning – no miles. But when I checked a few hours later, they were there!
I fired up United.com to hunt for dates:
Tips: Tick “Show only nonstop flight availability” to isolate Brussels award space. And use “NYC” as the search if you want to see flights from both EWR and JFK.
Once I found the dates I wanted, I called Etihad Guest at 877-690-0767 with a pair of crossed fingers.
About the booking process
The agent I spoke with had no trouble running the search. I did not tell him the flight numbers, just the destinations and dates. Because I wanted him to tell me the flight numbers to make sure we were looking at the same ones.
He confirmed the flights and dates and started booking the award. He was very thorough and must’ve asked me a dozen times to confirm the flight times, numbers, name spelling, etc. No problem there – he was accurate to a “T.”
He confirmed the price would be 36,620 Etihad Guest miles to book the round-trip Business Class seats.
Then he sent me the flight details and asked me to confirm them again via email. I’ve never had an agent do that before.
He asked me to check the spelling of my name, flight dates, times, etc. Because, he said, the name could NOT be changed after it was booked. And he wanted to book it correctly the first time.
I confirmed again all was correct.
He put me on hold to pull up the taxes. When he came back, he said taxes on this ticket would be $92.56. Fine. That matched what I expected to pay. I gave him my card number.
He asked me to log out of my Etihad Guest account while he booked the award (no idea why). Then he put me on hold again to process it.
When he came back, he said it was all booked. And that the miles would be taken out in about an hour.
Then he told me I could select my seat directly with Brussels. And went over the baggage allowance. And, he told me to make sure I had the card I used to pay the taxes with me on the day of travel (again, no idea why – I don’t think Brussels Airlines checks that).
He went over the cancellation policy, the rebooking fee if I need to change the dates, and made sure to tell me at least 5 times to make changes 14 days or more in advance.
I was on the phone with the most thorough airline agent I’ve ever spoken with for 35 minutes. Not the shortest call ever, not the longest either.
As soon as I hung up, I made sure I had an actual ticket number with Brussels. It was there. And the rest of the itinerary loaded up perfectly.
The agent knew how to book the award, was familiar with the award charts, quoted the taxes accurately, and found the exact space I saw on United.com.
Here is an exact breakdown of the taxes from the receipt:
You’ll notice a $2 different in the total and what I was charged. It seems the fare costs $2 – but the charge wasn’t passed along.
United wants 140,000 United miles for the exact same flights.
I paid 36,620 Etihad Guest miles and ~$93 instead. Then I found the retail cost of the flights.
So $3,150 minus the ~$93 I paid in taxes means 36,620 Etihad Guest miles covered a cost of $3,057. So I got a value of 8 cents per mile – not bad!
More importantly, I’m able to fly round-trip to Europe in Business Class for a little under 37,000 miles round-trip – that’s a stunning deal.
Plus, Brussels recently installed new lie-flat Business Class seats on their planes – so I’ll be flying over the pond in style. Good thing because it’s an overnight flight.
You wanna try?
If you want to get in on this spate of award space, I recommend sending some miles to Etihad ASAP. They say it can take up to 14 business days for the transfer to complete, but in my case, it took less than 3 (transferred on Saturday, got them early Wednesday).
You can transfer 1:1 to Etihad Guest from both Amex Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou. So if you have 37,000 points in either account, you can fly to Europe round-trip in Business Class. That’s a small price to pay for a trip to Europe next spring or summer – awards in economy usually cost more than that.
I probably won’t stay in Brussels the entire trip. Instead, I might stay a couple of days, then hop on the train to Amsterdam or Prague, where I can burn some SPG points on a nice hotel stay.
I have 7 days in Europe, so maybe I could try to squeeze in all 3 cities – a couple of days here and there.
Or maybe I’ll get to Brussels and take a hopper flight somewhere else. I’m not worried at this point with ~11 months to figure it out.
Dates are still wide open for next May and June, so if you’re feeling up to it and don’t mind planning that far in advance, I’d say go for it. It feels good to have a trip planned, even if it is a very long wait.
(Other dates may be available before then – and it’s working checking if you’re interested.)
I can’t stress enough how great of a deal it is to fly round-trip to Europe in a nice Business Class seat for only 37,000 Amex Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou points and ~$93.
Aside from the 35 minutes spent on the phone, and the 3 business days waiting for the transfer from Citi ThankYou to Etihad Guest to complete, booking this award was simple and straightforward. Much like booking any other award: I gave the agent the cities and dates, miles were deducted, taxes paid, and it was booked.
Overall, this was a great experience. Despite any reservations I had, I wouldn’t hesitate to book another award flight with Etihad miles. Which is good, because in addition to amazing award prices on Brussels Airlines, you can still book American Airlines flights at their pre-devAAluation prices.
Have you had an experience booking a partner award flight with Etihad Guest miles? How did it compare?
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