Etihad Guest: Up to 75% Cancellation Fee for Award Flights + Worse Mile Expiry Policy

Etihad A350 1000 at JFK airport

Etihad Guest is not a frequent flyer program that we often report on here at Travel-Dealz. This is also due to the fact that the program’s miles were significantly devalued in March 2023, and since then, almost all good sweet spots have disappeared.

Now there is bad news again for those who have remained loyal to the program. Etihad Guest has announced a series of changes that make it even less attractive. There are only a few improvements.

Making it harder to stop mileage expiration

Currently, miles expire at Etihad Guest if there has been no activity for 18 months. However, it is quite simple to extend the validity for another full 18 months. Transferring a few MR points from Amex or buying miles (starting at €19) is sufficient.

From June onwards, this will change. While the 18-month rule remains, mileage expiration can only be reset by taking a flight with Etihad or partner airlines. So, at least every 18 months, a flight with airlines like Etihad, KLM, Air France, Air Canada, or SAS is necessary. This is not a deal-breaker, but it requires planning several months in advance. Those who do not do so risk losing all their miles.

Introduction of exorbitant cancellation fees

A significant advantage of award flights is flexibility, almost universally across programs. In most cases, cancellation is possible for a small fee until shortly before departure, while paid tickets do not offer this flexibility.

This was also the case with Etihad Guest until recently. Until a few days ago, award flights could be cancelled up to 24 hours before departure. A fee of 10% of the mileage amount was deducted, and 90% was refunded.

Now, for bookings made from now on, the cancellation fee is up to 75%. At least for the GuestSeat type (the only attractive ones):

  • Cancellation > 21 days before departure: 25% cancellation fee
  • Cancellation 21 – 8 days before departure: 50% cancellation fee
  • Cancellation 7 – 1 days before departure: 75% cancellation fee
  • Cancellation within 24 hours before departure: 100% cancellation fee

While 25% might be acceptable, 50% and 75% penalty fees are simply outrageous and undermine the value of (already expensive) award flights.

Other Changes:

  • Status benefits will be broken down into a set of Choice Benefits in the future. So, lounge access as a Gold and Platinum member will no longer be a guaranteed benefit. However, the change is less dramatic than it sounds; those who choose the usual benefits should end up roughly at the status quo.
  • From June onwards, a frequent flyer status can no longer be earned through segments but only through the required amount of status miles.
  • Status miles will be “standardized.” They will no longer be calculated based on the exact flight distance but rather zone-based.
  • The price for some award flights will be reduced, while for others, it will be slightly increased. Overall, the new values are not very attractive.
  • Etihad Guest introduces a new Diamond frequent flyer status. However, this requires a $150,000 annual spend. And those who book such expensive Etihad tickets are surely not reading this.


Etihad speaks on its website of a “new era of Etihad Guest.” This is reminiscent of Finnair Plus, where the beginning of a new era was also promised. And just like with the Finns, almost everything at Etihad is getting worse. Not a pleasant development.

Sources: Etihad, Executive Traveller, and Head for Points

Cover Picture: Ditmar Lange

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Comments (3)

  1. Nicolas says:

    Thank you, Ditmar.
    Perfectly agree!
    To resume: no money, no honey! That’s it.

  2. Nicolas says:

    Dear Ditmar,
    Perhaps, you would be able to add one more paragraph and give your personal & professional input re why exactly the airlines one after one change their FFP’s T&C?
    Maybe the “mileage gambling” era is over? And maybe it is not so bad? Less “gamblers” like TPG or OMAAT after all.
    As you are a very reasonable and clever traveler I am very interested in your opinion re the above mentioned issues.

    • Ditmar Lange says:

      I think it’s due to a variety of factors. Overall I get the feeling that too many travellers learnt to optimize the system by now, leading to too many leisure travelers getting lounge access and other benefits. This in turn was angering many business travellers, who pay expensive tickets, fly extremely often, and then struggled to find a seat in the lounge (or availability to use their miles for flights). So airlines are trying to change the system, so that it’s really aiming at the business travellers again, as these seem to still be the paassengers that really bring a lot of money to the airlines.

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