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!




Domestic Flights Within Brazil-GOL Airlines

Brazil is a huge country and odds are that you will be needing domestic flights to get from your international gateway, perhaps Rio, Sao Paulo or Manaus to the nearest airport to your ultimate destination.  These flights can often be bought in advance for good prices or in some cases redeemed with miles in partner programs.



This airline is a great option for international travelers because they accept payments with foreign credit cards and you don’t need a Brazilian CPF (Brazilian tax ID like a Social Security or Tax File Number).  I also recommend GOL because as you will see in the last part of this post they will step up and look after you in case of IRROPS.  In the opening screen, be sure you select the country where you have your credit card.  I had planned to paste the route map here but for some reason the links aren’t working on the GOL site so here’s the link anyways.  I have highlighted below some airports that will be of interest to eco-tourists.

GOL Destinations

GOL has their own frequent flyer program called Smiles.  When we did our trip in Sept 2012, we had booked domestic segments as part of our international flights using AAdvantage but GOL no longer partners with them.  Currently, they partner with Delta, Air France, KLM and Qatar Airways.  From these programs, the one most people would be using is Delta.  They charge 10,000 miles each way for a domestic trip in Brazil with a round-trip required.


If you have selected the USA or OTHER as your base country, you will have an English display.  Let’s take the popular route of Sao Paulo – Cuiaba (gateway to the Pantanal) as an example.


If you are lucky, there will be some promotional fares in the display at very attractive rates.  In this case, there is a promo for $49 but the catch is that you have to make a connection and arrive at a very inconvenient hour.  The cheapest non-stop is $63 but still an inconvenient arrival time but might be worth it if you stay near the airport.


To continue with our example, let’s go with the cheapest non-stop.  Now we see they added the tax on and are trying to upsell you to a flexible flight.


Scroll down, accept the rules and click continue.  In the next screen unless you want to set up an account, scroll down, click on “I want to make a purchase without registering” and fill it out with your passport number in “Laissez Passer”.  You can also add a frequent flyer number if you are in any program GOL partners with.


I filled out some fake info for the passenger name, address and passport details to get to the next screen.  Select your seat here.


After choosing the best seat they offer you, continue to the payment screen.  They seem to be offering only Visa and Mastercard.  I know they had Amex in the past since I used Amex for my domestic flights so they may bring that option back.

Enter your card details, click Confirm and it will give you a confirmation number.  At this point, I will X out of the tab since I am not really buying a ticket now.  If you are on a budget, keep checking back as they change the promos every week.  Be sure to read the restrictions on the promo fares and make sure they are acceptable, otherwise you may want to use a flexible fare.


On some flights, we were given a snack free and on others they had Buy-On-Board menus.  The planes on the domestic routes are all 3 x 3 seating which is not my preference since it means couples have to sit with a stranger on a full flight but most domestic Brazilian carriers are the same.  They won’t let you sit in an exit row if you don’t speak Portuguese.

We had IRROPS (irregular operations) twice on our trip and both times GOL stepped up and made it right for us.  This is one of the most important things I look at when choosing an airline.  I like to see ground staff who are empowered to solve problems.

When we first arrived in Sao Paulo on the GOL flight from Buenos Aires, we had a 5 hour layover in the wee hours of the morning.  Not enough time to go to a hotel but long enough to be uncomfortable.  We were connecting to Vitoria where we planned to rent a car and drive to Sooretama/Linhares for birding.  The flight was routed GRU-GIG-VIX.  Terrible, I know but it was tagged onto the main international redemption so at least it was free!  The GRU-GIG flight was cancelled and they had rebooked us on another one that would have gotten us to Vitoria closer to noon and we would have missed an evening of birding by the time we drove out there.  I asked them if they could get us on any better connection.  They ended up rebooking us on a direct flight from Sao Paulo’s other airport CGH and giving us a free taxi to the other airport.  We arrived around the same time we had originally booked.

The second IRROPS was on the return flight as we had finished our visit to Brazil and were headed home.  It was a pretty bad routing because AA wouldn’t let us have more than 24 hours in GRU even if they had to tag on an extra connection.  The routing home was BEL (Belem) –  GIG (on a flight that stopped in GRU before heading onwards to GIG) – GRU-SCL.  The flight from Belem to GRU had a mechanical problem and we were forced to land in Brasilia while they got us a new plane.  We were waiting just over an hour and I was panicking over missing that ridiculous connection in GIG and having the rest of our itinerary cancelled.  I explained this to the flight crew.  They passed it on to the ground staff.  The new plane was going only to GRU with people going on to GIG given overnight accommodations and rebooked to GIG the next morning.  I explained that we really didn’t want to go to GIG and our ultimate destination with GOL was SCL where we had a connection to SYD on QF (in business class!).  The Brasilia ground staff took my printout and said they would sort it out.

Sort it out, they did!  When we landed in GRU, there were ground staff passing out hotel vouchers and new tickets to the normal GIG passengers and they were expecting us.  Since the ticket was originally issued by AA, they couldn’t change it on their own and has to call AA for permission to change it.  By the time we got there, they had cancelled the unwanted GRU-GIG-GRU and kept the GRU-SCL intact.  They also gave us a hotel voucher for the nearby Hotel Matiz with meals up to the departure time of our flight to SCL.  The hotel has its own shuttle bus.  This turned out to be a lucky chance for us as we avoided some unnecessary flights, got a free room and a place to relax and shower after visiting the Sao Paulo Zoo!  Major kudos to GOL for looking after its customer, highly recommended!

Mileage Earning Credit Cards – Asia, Latin America, Middle East And Africa Edition

There are probably locally based blogs for these areas which would cover how to earn miles from credit card sign up bonuses so what I will do here is create a reference for the major airlines so you can see who partners with what bank, then Google for a local blog that tracks special offers on these cards.  No matter which country you live in, always check with American Express as they have the Membership Rewards program available in most countries but the partners vary widely.

A good rule of thumb no matter where you live is to sign up for your local airline’s program (preferably one in Star Alliance or One World) to get credit card miles and any possible points from everyday living such as shopping, phone, internet, petrol, insurance, etc.   While you are looking at the credit card pages I linked below, always check for any other “everyday” promos.

Then join the 5 main programs I recommend for eco-tourists as I will be concentrating on these when I post special promos.  These programs have the best redemption levels to places where people usually want to go birding and offer the best promos throughout the year.


Asians will have a lot of choices as it seems that the main Asian based airlines have partners not only in all Asian countries but some have partners in Australia and the USA as well.  The links below will take you to the airline’s credit card page.  Also check on FlyerTalk in the airline’s forum as people will usually post any new signup bonuses there.  This blogger specifically caters to Indians with mileage earning credit cards and he would be more familiar with that market.

Cathay Pacific

Singapore Airlines

Thai Airways

Malaysian Airlines


Air China


Japan Airlines


Korean Airlines


Air India

Jet Airways


Kingfisher (currently suspended)


American Airlines (has many partners in Latin America and Caribbean)

Avianca Taca









Gulf Air

Kuwait Airways


South African Airways

El Al


Please feel free to add any other good airline credit cards you know of in these geographical locations or ask any questions in the comments.

If you live in the USA, please see Airlines, Hotels and Flexible Points

If you live in Australia, please see Part 1 and Part 2

If you live in the UK or Europe I have basic guidelines