Although one of the best-known partners of Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer scheme, Etihad Airways also operates its own loyalty program – Etihad Guest – through which members can earn and spend miles.

Better yet, you don’t need to be a regular Etihad Airways passenger, or even fly with Etihad at all, to earn and spend miles.

In fact, using Etihad miles to book Virgin Australia flights can be incredibly rewarding: even more so than by using Velocity.

Here’s what you need to know about Etihad Guest, including how to earn miles on the ground in Australia – as well as in the air – and how to use those miles to book flights, secure business class or even first class upgrades, and more.

What is Etihad Guest?

As the frequent flyer program of Etihad Airways, Etihad Guest allows members to earn and spend miles across a range of activities, including on flights, hotel stays, car hire and more.

Miles can also be earned via credit card spend in a number of countries, including Australia. Typically, credit card holders would first accrue points in their card issuer’s own loyalty program, and then convert those points into miles with Etihad.

How to join Etihad Guest

With no fee to join or remain a member, anybody can sign up for Etihad Guest membership via the Etihad Guest website.

As soon as you join, you’ll receive your Etihad Guest membership number, which you can link to flight reservations, credit card points transfer schemes and more, to begin earning Etihad Guest miles.

Where and how can I earn Etihad Guest miles?

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or perhaps a frequent spender, there are plenty of opportunities available to earn Etihad Guest miles.

Earn Etihad Guest miles on flights, hotels, ground transport

As you’d expect, miles can be earned on most Etihad Airways flights – but even though Etihad isn’t a member of a global airline alliance, the Etihad Guest program boasts a number of other airline too, on which you can earn miles.

In the Asia Pacific region, these partners include Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Hainan Airlines, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines and SriLankan Airlines.

As well, airlines such as Air Canada and American Airlines are on board – both of which ordinarily fly to Australia – with Air Serbia, Air Europa, Air Seychelles, Brussels Airlines, Gulf Air, Oman Air, Royal Air Maroc, Saudia and SAS Scandinavian Airlines rounding out the roster.

On the ground, Etihad Guest miles can be earned across many hotel bookings and hotel loyalty program points transfer programs.

These include direct hotel bookings via the likes of Agoda, Booking.com, Kalingo.com and Rocketmiles, as well as points conversion options from Accor Live Limitless, IHG Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy, Radisson Rewards, Shangri-La Golden Circle and World of Hyatt, among other hotel partners.

Need to hire a car, or a driver? Etihad Guest miles can also be collected via both Avis and Budget car rentals, through the Careem rideshare app, and with the Conxxe chauffeur company.

Earn Etihad Guest miles using credit cards

While Etihad Airways is based in the United Arab Emirates, it’s possible to earn Etihad Guest miles via credit card spend with participating banks and card issuers around the world.

In Australia, selected credit cards and charge cards issued by American Express, Citibank, Commonwealth Bank and Diners Club allow spenders to indirectly earn Etihad Guest miles on their transactions.

First, points would be accumulated in the card issuer’s loyalty program – that’s AMEX Membership Rewards, Citibank Rewards (Prestige cardholders only), Commonwealth Awards or Diners Club Rewards – and then converted into Etihad Guest miles when desired.

Similar opportunities are available in other countries, so check with your bank to confirm whether Etihad Guest miles are a conversion option for your hard-earned points.

If not, be aware that Etihad Guest tends to prioritise partnerships with the largest local card issuers and global providers, so you might find mileage earning opportunities with some of the ‘bigger names’ in credit card spend, rather than via smaller banks and credit unions.

That’s evidenced by Etihad’s Australian partnerships with American Express (which also issues cards around the world), with Citibank (the world’s largest credit card issuer, and the operator of Diners Club in Australia), and the Commonwealth Bank (Australia’s largest local credit card issuer). 

How many Etihad Guest miles can I earn?

The volume of Etihad Guest miles you can earn will depend on exactly how you’re amassing them.

In the air, you’ll generally earn miles based on your flight’s distance, the cabin booked on each flight, and the type of fare purchased.

Flying in business class? You can expect to earn a good number of Etihad Guest miles.

As an example, expect to earn more miles on the longest routes – such as Sydney to London via Abu Dhabi – in fully flexible business class, than you would on a short flight: or indeed, on the same route when booked on a more affordable fare, such as cut-price economy.

Through credit card spend, you’ll generally earn points in a bank’s loyalty program based on how much you’ve spent, as well as through any applicable sign-up bonus offers that may be available for new customers.

In short, the number of miles you can earn will grow with your expenditure, subject to any points capping arrangements as may be in place with each bank.

Note also that most banks don’t apply a straight 1:1 conversion rate on points transfers from the bank’s loyalty program to Etihad Guest. Transfer rates of 2:1, 2.5:1, 3:1 or even 3.5:1 may instead be in place.

For instance, points transfers from the Commonwealth Bank’s CBA Awards program adopt that less-generous 3.5:1 conversion rate. This means a balance of 100,000 CBA Awards points would fetch around 28,571 Etihad Guest miles (that’s 100,000 points, divided by 3.5).

What are Etihad Guest Tier Miles?

Etihad Guest members can earn two types of miles. Standard ‘miles’ are those that are earned to be spent on rewards – for example, earning miles via your credit card, to spend on a reward flight.

Tier Miles, on the other hand, are Etihad’s equivalent of status credits. These are earned in much more limited ways, and exist solely to measure your progress through the program’s elite tiers.

What are the Etihad Guest membership tiers?

Above Etihad’s entry-level Bronze tier, the program’s public ranks include the Silver, Gold and Platinum status levels.

Beyond these, Etihad also maintains an unpublished VIP level: Etihad Guest Exclusive, which is only provided by invitation, and cannot be directly unlocked by earning a specific number of Tier Miles.

For the public levels, status can be earned by earning the required number of Tier Miles, or the required number of Tier Segments (akin to ‘eligible flights’ in other programs), within a 12-month period.

Here are the Etihad Guest elite tiers, and what it takes to earn them.

Tier / requirements

How to earn

How to retain

Etihad Guest Silver

25,000 Tier Miles or 20 Tier Segments

20,000 Tier Miles or 15 Tier Segments

Etihad Guest Gold

50,000 Tier Miles or 40 Tier Segments

40,000 Tier Miles or 30 Tier Segments

Etihad Guest Platinum

125,000 Tier Miles, or 60 Tier Segments

100,000 Tier Miles or 48 Tier Segments

Etihad Guest Exclusive

By invitation only

By invitation only

Etihad’s tier level requirements are noticeably easier to achieve than the tiers of the competing Skywards frequent flyer program of Etihad’s UAE neighbour, Emirates.

Read: Emirates Skywards: your 101 frequent flyer guide

Once earned, Etihad Guest elite status (Silver and above) is valid for one year: during which time, the member will need to meet the retention requirements above, in order to keep that status for a further 12 months.

What are the benefits of Etihad Guest status?

The benefits of Etihad Guest begin at the entry-level Bronze tier, with escalating perks as you climb the status ladder, with highlights as follows.

  • Etihad Guest Bronze: 10% discount on inflight WiFi, ability to purchase lounge access (and flights) with miles, and both seating and meal preferences kept on file and offered where possible.
  • Etihad Guest Silver: Inflight WiFi discount boosted to 25%, plus earn 25% bonus miles on Etihad and eligible partner airline flights, and upgrade for 25% fewer miles at the airport. Plus, get priority check-in with Etihad, extra checked baggage, and lounge access in Abu Dhabi, Seychelles and Belgrade.
  • Etihad Guest Gold: Benefits of Silver, plus global access to Etihad and partner airline lounges including Virgin Australia, 75% discount on WiFi plus 50% off airport mileage upgrades and earn 50% bonus miles on Etihad flights. There’s also priority boarding, higher checked baggage, and more.
  • Etihad Guest Platinum: Perks of Gold with a higher 75% mileage bonus on flights, completely free inflight WiFi, even higher checked baggage limits (varies by route), access to Etihad’s first class lounge, and like Gold, complimentary chauffeur service on eligible mileage-based flight bookings.

For the full list of benefits, head to the Etihad Guest website.

Do Etihad Guest miles expire?

In most cases, Etihad Guest miles adopt an 18-month expiry period from the time a member last earned or spent miles.

This means a member earning or spending points on just one yearly trip wouldn’t see their balance of miles ever expire under current policies – but somebody attempting to earn or spend miles less regularly, such as once every two years, could find their points expired if they’re not careful.

For Etihad Guest Bronze, Silver and Gold members, it’s possible to pay to have the expiry date extended – but of course, simply converting a few points across from an eligible credit card or hotel loyalty program would also reset that expiry counter.

Miles of Etihad Guest Platinum members technically never expire while their Platinum status is retained, and once the member drops to Gold or below, are then valid for at least 18 months.

But of course, to maintain Etihad Guest Platinum status, a member must be actively travelling, making the non-expiry of miles less of a true ‘benefit’ than a simple by-product of the traveller’s habits.

How do I spend and redeem Etihad Guest miles?

Through many of the same channels as Etihad Guest members can earn miles, they can spend those miles, too.

For example, Etihad Guest miles can be earned on Etihad and eligible partner airline flights – and can similarly be spent on those flights, including on partners such as Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand.

Redemptions are also possible on experiences such as hotel stays, car hire and more.

As well as outright experience bookings, it’s also possible to redeem miles on an upgrade to business class or even first class, subject to availability.

Put your balance of Etihad Guest miles to work, and secure an upgrade to first class.

Put your balance of Etihad Guest miles to work, and secure an upgrade to first class.

Depending on your flight, upgrade options may include:

  • Economy (Saver, Classic and Flex) to business class
  • Business (Classic and Flex) to first class

Upgrades from Economy Deal to business class and from Business Saver to first class are not available, nor are any upgrades from economy class to first class.

Read: Etihad business class upgrade guide

Also read: Etihad first class upgrade guide

It’s not possible to upgrade Etihad Airways flights using frequent flyer points from Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program. 

What’s the best way to spend Etihad Guest miles?

With a number of ways to spend Etihad Guest miles, a mile used is always better than a mile expired: but some methods of using miles can prove more rewarding than others.

As Etihad Airways is known for excellent inflight experiences in business class and first class, these are often favourites of many Etihad Guest members – but if you’re happy to fly economy, reward flights in that cabin are often easier to find than further forward on the aircraft.

Reward bookings on some partner airline flights also present great value, particularly on Virgin Australia, where the number of Etihad Guest miles needed to book a flight can be lower than the number of Velocity Points needed to book the same.

All partner airline flight bookings, including for Virgin Australia flights, can only be made over the phone: so although the number of miles needed can be advantageous, there’s still a ‘time cost’ in chasing these rewards.

Do I need an Etihad Guest membership card?

Etihad Guest members have access to a digital membership card via the Etihad website or mobile app, which can be presented if required: but usually, simply quoting your Etihad Gust membership number is all that’s needed to earn miles around the world.

Membership cards may be of better use for higher-tiered Gold and Platinum members seeking to access benefits with partner airlines, which may not have their reservation system integrated with Etihad, meaning your Etihad Guest status may not be reflected on the boarding pass.

Frequently asked questions

Can you join two Etihad Guest accounts?

Etihad Guest allows related members to create an Etihad Guest Family Membership profile, to which their individual Etihad Guest frequent flyer accounts can be linked.

Up to nine family members can join each Family Membership profile – then when it’s time to book a holiday, the designated ‘head of the family’ can pool everybody’s miles together and spend them all on a single booking.

Each member of the family can also spend their own miles as desired, without going through the family system: but be aware, when linked with a Family Membership, the ‘head of the family’ can access and spend your miles at any time.

On the earning front, each member continues to accrue miles (as well as Tier Miles and Tier Segments) on an individual basis.

Can you use Etihad Guest miles to upgrade on other airlines?

It’s generally not possible to upgrade on flights operated by partner airlines using your Etihad Guest miles.

However, depending on the airline, you may instead be able to purchase an upgrade using money or by spending miles from another frequent flyer program, such as Virgin Australia Velocity, to upgrade on Virgin Australia flights.

Can you convert credit card points into Etihad Guest miles?

As above, yes you can, provided your bank or credit card issuer is partnered with the Etihad Guest frequent flyer program to allow this.

In Australia, credit card points transfers to Etihad Guest are possible from American Express Membership Rewards, Citibank Rewards (for Prestige cardholders only), CBA Awards, and Diners Club Rewards.

For cards in other countries, check with Etihad Guest, or with your card’s issuing bank.

Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to migrate an existing credit card account to one with the same issuer that can earn Etihad Guest miles, or an application for a new credit card elsewhere may also be an option to consider.

Also read: Etihad CEO on the A350, first class and ‘business plus’

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.