For the second time, I used 5,000 ThankYou Points to book a one way Air Serbia flight award flight. This time I booked a $323 flight from Prague to Belgrade for $25, meaning I got 6 cents per ThankYou Point because I understand the sweet spots of all frequent flyer programs instead of only focusing on American-based programs.
I transferred and booked before the 30% American Express transfer bonus to Etihad miles was announced, which would have allowed me to book for 4,000 Amex points and get 7.5 cents per point of value.
I transferred my ThankYou Points to Etihad Guest Miles, which is the frequent flyer program for Air Serbia and several other airlines.
ThankYou Points are easy to get because the Citi Prestige® Card is offering 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months.
Etihad Guest / Air Serbia Award Chart
Air Serbia is not a member of one of the three alliances, but is a member of the “kind-of fourth alliance” of airlines in which Etihad has bought a stake. The only way to book Air Serbia flights with miles is with Etihad Guest miles. Here’s the award chart for Air Serbia flights in its entirety:
Prague to Belgrade is 5,000 miles one way in economy and 7,125 miles one way in Business Class. For a two hour flight, I didn’t even want to pay 2,125 miles extra for Business Class.
(By the way, that Belgrade to New York route is intriguing. It begins June 23, 2016 and will operate five times per week on a leased Jet Airways A330 that features 18 Business Class flat beds in a 1-1-1 configuration. The Business Class price is competitive and could be a route to watch if award space is as good as it is on shorthaul flights. During the current 30% transfer bonus from Amex to Etihad, you’d need only 50,000 Membership Rewards for a one way in a flat bed!)
Getting Etihad Guest Miles
Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and Amex Membership Rewards, and you must transfer in increments of 1,000.
Select “TRANSFER NOW” next to Etihad Guest.
Type in the number of miles you want to transfer. You need to transfer in increments of 1,000.
Enter your Etihad Guest frequent flyer number, and you’re done.The transfer is not instant. It took about one week for my Etihad miles to show up in my account last year. This time, the transfer took five days. I transferred Thursday afternoon, and the miles posted the next Tuesday afternoon.
In April 2016, Amex Membership Rewards added Etihad as a transfer partner. There is a 30% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Etihad miles through June 15, 2016.
Booking Etihad Guest / Air Serbia Award
To book an award, call 800-8-ETIHAD. I don’t know of any way to search award space beforehand, but all the short Air Serbia flights I’ve inquired about have had award space.
I had searched flight times and prices on kayak.com, and the two daily Air Serbia flights were $323 one way.
I asked the agent if there was award space on the day I wanted, and she said there was award space on both flights that day. This didn’t surprise me because there has been award space on every short Air Serbia flight I’ve ever inquired about. She quoted a price of 5,000 miles + 22.08 euros.
This exactly matched the taxes on the paid ticket according to ITA Matrix, which were 597 Czech koruna. The award did not include the approximately $20 fuel surcharge that the cash ticket included.
I received a confirmation email of my new ticket while I was still on the phone with the agent.
In a few weeks, I am flying from Prague to Belgrade to start a big new undertaking (more on that in a future post.) The direct flight was a ridiculous $323, and even overnighting in Istanbul would only bring the price down to $130.
Instead I booked the flight for 5,000 Etihad miles + $25. I got the miles by transferring 5,000 ThankYou Points, which means I got about 6 cents per ThankYou Point of value.
Etihad Miles aren’t just useful if you want to go to/from Serbia. Etihad Guest Miles are also the miles of big airlines in Italy, Germany, and Austria.
Getting ThankYou Points is easy:
- Citi Prestige® Card: 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $3,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also comes earns 3x points on airfare and hotels and has a host of benefits like lounge access and $250 in free airfare per year.
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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year, free airport lounge access worldwide, and your fourth night free on hotel stays. Why I got the card.