Etihad Guest For The Aussie Eco-tourist

Etihad Guest is a program that wasn’t really on my radar as I have been concentrating on other programs.  (I really need to update my old Top 8 Programs list.)  Now that it will become easy for Aussies to get Etihad miles via Flybuys by simply doing their grocery shopping at Coles, it’s time for a closer look at Etihad Guest.


This is geared for non-frequent fliers as there are other blogs who cater for frequent fliers as well as business travelers and airlines status seekers.  I am concentrating on the non-frequent flier who is into birding and eco-tourism and wants to get free miles for a free airline ticket to somewhere they can watch birds.

  1.  Newest partner Flybuys as detailed in my other post.
  2.  Amex Membership Rewards (Australian) transfer at 1000:1000 with occasional bonuses where you get 10-25% extra if you are ready at the right time.
  3. Etihad partners with E-Rewards so you can get miles doing surveys.  Be sure to join using the Etihad invitation or one from a hotel chain.  If you join with another airline’s invitation, you won’t get options for other airlines.

Be careful as Etihad Guest miles expire 2 years from date of activity so don’t transfer your points until you are close to booking an award.  There is no way to reset expiration by performing any activity.


This is where it really helps to have a bucket list, dream travel list or whatever you want to call it.  Then you can start analyzing a program and where it can help you go.  With Etihad you can obviously redeem on Etihad and on their partners as well.


Awards on Etihad are based on distance so amounts vary depending on the exact distance.  You need to do an individual quote so I will show you an example.  Since I like birding in Africa, I would possibly redeem between BNE and EBB since Uganda is on my bucket list.  Business class is roughly double economy and more tax & fees but on such a long flight it would be nice if I could get that many points!


You can also use Etihad Guest miles to fly on partner airlines.

EY PartnersBearing in mind my travel bucket list, I can see that partners that could be useful in the next few years are Air New Zealand, Garuda, Gol, South African and Virgin Australia.  Lets have a closer look at their award charts to see what is the best value.

Air New Zealand

I don’t like the looks of this chart for anything over 1750 and NZ is notoriously stingy about giving space to partners so this is probably not going to be my choice.  Possible short haul between AKL and Pacific Islands but then again these flights can often be bought cheaply on “happy hour” type sales.

EY4Garuda Indonesia

Again I can see good value in the shorter hops under 1000 miles.  If I hadn’t already ear-marked Flying Blue miles for my 2017 trip to Indonesia, I’d be seriously considering this option.  Using Great Circle Mapper one of my potential routes is Palu-Ujung Padang-Denpasar whic is 679 miles so 10k Etihad is great value here.  Business class is also really good value.


Brazil is one of my favourite countries to go birding in so I would be very interested in this option.  Since we would usually be landing in Sao Paulo I checked a few random cities around Brazil, most are well under 1500 miles so 9000 Etihad miles would be excellent value here!

EY2South African Airways

As I mentioned before, I am planning a future trip to see birds in certain parts of Africa we didn’t get to before.  Namiba, Zambia & Uganda are all part of this plan.  WDH-JNB-LVI is coming in at 1317 miles so would cost 15,556 Etihad.  It’s another option if I don’t go with BA Avios on this route.  It will all depend on which miles are easier to obtain at the time.

EY3Virgin Australia

For Virgin Australia, Etihad doesn’t have a nice, neat little chart.  It’s all on one big pdf categorized by distance/mileage required so please look here.  Find your home town and take note of where you can go and for how many miles.  Just looking at my home town of  Brisbane I can see a few interesting options.

6900 miles each way gets me to Tasmania, Vanuatu, basically anywhere Virgin flies in eastern Australia.

10,900 miles gets me to Papua New Guinea, Solomon  Islands, New Zealand & Fiji.

16,900 miles gets me to Darwin, Perth, Samoa & Bali.

60,000 miles gets me to LAX.

Considering all the options, I am happy to see that my everyday grocery shopping at Coles will get me some valuable miles which can be used in some pretty amazing places!




Air New Zealand’s Dreamliner Shanghai – Auckland Economy W/Skycouch

We had to get our boarding passes issued as Thai had been unable to do it the night before.  Although I had us booked in the best possible free seats, they upgraded us to a Skycouch!  Barring redeeming in business, this was the best possible outcome for a long flight in a Dreamliner!


Purple is one of my favourite colours so I was pleased with the mood lighting!


Here you can clearly see the layout of the economy cabin 3-3-3 configuration.

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Touchscreens made it easy to control the AV.

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In the 4th photo below, you can see the diagrams of how to use a Skycouch.  There was no way we were going to fit side by side so we went with the 2nd option for couples with 2 seats extended and one seat used as a normal airline seat.  My husband can sleep sitting up and I can’t but I did manage some sleep in the space of the 2 seat Skycouch.

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It was interesting how the mood lighting changed throughout the flight.

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The city of Auckland came into view and the flight was over.


Gotta love bird paintings!


We used my Amex’s Priority Pass to access the Emperor Lounge where I spent as much time as possible online.  They keep careful track and we were unceremoniously kicked out when the 3 hours were up!

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Oh joy!  Our flight to Rarotonga was delayed 3 hours!  At least they gave us food vouchers which we spent at the Burger King to maximize the value.

IMG_2147Since I have already blogged about the Cook Islands and the remainder of this trip was about visiting family, I’ll end this trip report here.

Air New Zealand Announces Auckland – Buenos Aires……….So What?

I really love traveling to South America because of the wide diversity of birds to be seen there.  Any other time I would be thrilled to death that there was a new route to South America from Australia.  Currently there is only service from Sydney to Santiago on Qantas and LAN and you need OneWorld miles to book them.  Traditionally, I have had an easier time collecting Star Alliance miles on either United or Singapore Krisflyer and theoretically these would be useful to redeem these new flights.

However Air New Zealand is the stingiest of all the Star Alliance carriers in releasing award seats, even in Y class.  I haven’t seen even Y class available between Brisbane and Auckland in 3 years!  So unless they change their ways, there is little to get excited about.  Below you see a typical search on United for partner awards on a popular trans-Pacific route.  I suspect the results will be the same on the new AKL-EZE route.


Changes Coming To Air New Zealand’s Airpoints Program (A Frightening Glimpse Of A Revenue Based Program)

Don’t get excited, from what I can see it’s still a revenue based program meaning you earn “Airpoints dollars” and redeem based on the cost of the ticket you are buying.  But if you are a member of this program you will have been emailed the following video.

Most of the changes seem to affect status credits which are usually not a concern of eco-tourists unless you happen to have a job that requires a lot of flying.  What we are concerned with is REDEEMABLE MILES or in this case “Airports dollars”, the currency of the program.

The changes are listed in detail here.   I have been trying to find some way to make use of this program since I live in Australia but the US programs such as United Mileage Plus, American AAdvantage and US Dividend Miles (soon to merge with AAdvantage) are so much better even with United’s recent devaluations.

The main thing I would like to see change is that Air New Zealand needs to start playing fair with its Star Alliance partners.  It’s virtually impossible to get a business class seat and on some routes such as those to Pacific Islands and between New Zealand and several major Australian cities such as Brisbane, Gold Coast & Perth are non-existant.

Members of Air New Zealand’s program are able to redeem on Star Alliance airlines so they should be giving up seats for their partners to redeem on as well!

Here is an example of what you would earn if you credited a United flight from Frankfurt to Loos Angeles to Air New Zealand’s program.


This is how you use Airpoints Dollars.


This is what you need for a Star Alliance award.


This is what you would need to redeem one way from Auckland to Tahiti (PPT).  I just did a fare quote on a random date in low season to determine the price.


Yes, that’s right.  You would earn a whopping 26 Airpoints Dollars on a discount economy ticket from Frankfurt to Los Angeles which would be 6611 miles via Houston.  But you need 481 Airpoints Dollars to redeem a one way ticket from Auckland to Tahiti, a distance of 2544 miles!

If this happened to US frequent flyer programs, it would be a disaster!


Getting To The Cook Islands Using Frequent Flier Miles


The Cook Islands has only one international airport (RAR) and only 3 airlines that serve this airport.  Air New Zealand, a member of the Star Alliance has the most flights, most of which originate in Auckland (AKL) and a few flights to LAX and SYD (Sydney).  You can use any of the Star Alliance partners to book these flights but depending on where you live and what your profile is, some programs will be better than others.

If you live in Australia or New Zealand, your best bet is probably going to be the Singapore Airline’s Krisflyer.  As you can see by the chart below, Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands are all in the South-West Pacific category.  Round trip awards are only 25,000 miles in economy and 35,000 in business class.  Air New Zealand does not have a first class cabin.  This is the ONLY award I use SQ miles for and I keep my Amex points in Amex and transfer them just when I am ready to redeem because SQ miles expire after 3 years whether you have any activity or not.  I don’t use SQ for any other routings than Pacific awards because they have tremendous fuel surcharges on just about all their other routes.SQ RAR

If you are traveling from North America, Asia, Europe or South America, you will find much easier awards using one of 3 Star Alliance partners:  US Airways Dividend Miles, United Airlines Mileage Plus or Avianca Taca Lifemiles.  There are pros and cons to each program and from the USA especially business class is hard to get so you will most likely end up in economy.  Air New Zealand does release business class within a couple months of departure but by that time, the economy seats will be gone so if you like to plan in advance, I wouldn’t risk it.  On the other hand, it can be good news for more spontaneous travelers who have more flexibility.

Anyone from anywhere in the world can join these 3 programs.  Americans will usually be better off with United if they plan on using any of the Chase Ultimate Reward cards to acquire miles with both personal and business cards available and gift card churning.  This is way too complicated to go into here but if anyone is interested, start with Flyer Talk or ask me to personally recommend a blogger who specializes in this sort of thing in the comment section below.

No matter which Star Alliance partner I am booking on, I find the UA award search tool is the easiest to use because of the colour-coded calendar.  Obviously the miles needed for the redemption are valid only on UA.  If you are after business class awards, beware of the Mixed Class warning as shown in the second screenshot.UA RAR1UA RAR2

You are probably wondering why they are routing you through Sydney instead of the direct flight LAX-AKL, then AKL RAR.   Let’s see if there is any availability.  Scroll down to the bottom, do a LAX AKL search, choose your date and tick the Nonstop flights only box.UA RAR3

There are no non-stop flights available so it gives a warning and shows connecting flights.UA RAR4

At this point, depending on how much flexibility you have, you can keep plugging in dates hoping for the non-stop LAX-AKL (I did a few random dates and couldn’t find anything) or just take what they offer.

Bear in mind that this availability display will be much the same for any of the Star Alliance airlines but not all airlines have the facility to search partner awards.  The ANA tool can also be used.  It’s complicated but I will do a more comprehensive post on how to use it later.

For people who can’t get the Chase credit cards from the USA, your best bets will be either US Dividend Miles or Avianca Taca Lifemiles.  Both these airlines have frequent 100% bonuses on purchase miles throughout the year.  I’ll go into more detail later, because both programs have their pros and cons so I will just show you how many miles it takes to go from LAX to RAR.

Let’s start with US Airways Dividend Miles.  From the USA and the rest of North America, you will need 80k in economy, 110k in business.  From UK and Europe, you will need 100k economy, 120k business and from Australia or New Zealand you will need 25k economy and 30k business-all round trip and no one-way options available.

Using a 100% bonus on purchase miles, an American would pay $1505 USD including tax for 40k miles purchased and 40k given free with the promo.USDM RAR

Avianca Taca Lifemiles offers one-way awards and online booking of partner awards, but people on Flyertalk report it is difficult to deal with the call centres for non-Spanish speakers and you can’t mix classes (economy and business/first) on an award.  I’ll post their award chart and do a more comprehensive post on them later.  Sorry this is going to post very small so I would suggest clicking on the link on their website to see it better.   All the Pacific countries:  Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Tahiti and others fall into the “Others” category.  Don’t ask me why they didn’t just call it “South Pacific” like all the other airlines!  From the USA and the rest of North America, you will need 90k economy and 130k business.  From Europe, you will need 110k economy, 175k business and from Australia/New Zealand you will need 35k economy, 55k business.

Using the 100% bonus purchase miles promo, an American would have to buy 45k for $1350 and get 45k free from the promo.  The website states that there is a tax payable but when I bought a smaller amount of miles earlier, I was not charged a tax.  AviancaTaca RAR


Using the examples above, an American would spend $1505 to use USDM, $1350 to use Avianca Taca Lifemiles (need to add tax on top of that) or a quick look at Expedia shows tickets available for $1313 and you will EARN miles!   So in this case, only use miles if you got them free from a credit card or earned while flying on other paid Star Alliance flights.  Don’t buy miles in this case when the paid ticket is cheaper!!!  Expedia RAR

An Australian would pay $490 to get 13k USDM plus 13k free.  On Avianca Taca Lifemiles, it would cost $540 to get 18k miles plus 18k free.  A quick look at Air New Zealand’s site shows a fare of $1276 NZD which is around $1056 USD so for the Aussie, the better option is to buy the US Airways miles after making sure there is availability on the desired dates.




Virgin Australia serves RAR from AKL with onward connections to Australia.  This program is likely to be useful only to Australians who are using credit cards or every day life techniques to get Velocity points so here is a sample of award levels.   See their website for more information.  Aussies who are using Amex Membership Rewards would be better off transferring to Singapore’s Krisflyer where 50k Amex = 50k SQ which can be redeemed for 2 x Australia to RAR in Y as noted above.

Velocity RAR


Air Raro and Air Tahiti share the route between RAR and PPT (Papeete, Tahiti).  There are no frequent flyer options here, you will have to pay cash for this flight but it could be a useful option if you want to redeem a Star Alliance open jaw award Australia-Raro /- Tahiti-Australia and need to get between Raro and Tahiti.  The flight only operates once a week but does save a lot of backtracking.Air RaroPPT

WHEW, that was confusing!  If you have any questions, please ask in the comments below and I will be happy to clarify anything.  Once you get to the Cook Islands, you will want to organize your neighbor island visits to Aitutaki and Atiu so please check those posts too!