Anatomy of an Award: Etihad Guest Miles to Book Air Serbia. 6 Cents per ThankYou Point

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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.

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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.

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ThankYou Points are easy to get because the Citi Prestige® Card is offering 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 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:

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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.

You do not pay fuel surcharges on Air Serbia award flights, only government taxes.

(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.

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To transfer ThankYou Points to Etihad Guest miles, you must open a free Etihad Guest account, and then complete the transfer on thankyou.com. First click “Points Transfer” under “Do more.”

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Select “TRANSFER NOW” next to Etihad Guest.

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Type in the number of miles you want to transfer. You need to transfer in increments of 1,000.

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Enter your Etihad Guest frequent flyer number, and you’re done.Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.57.06 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.57.31 AMThe 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.

We have seen 25% transfer bonuses from ThankYou Points to Etihad miles before.

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.44.09 AM(A decent itinerary with one connection was $267, and an overnight in Istanbul was $130, so using points on the expensive direct flights was ideal.)

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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.

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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.

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I received a confirmation email of my new ticket while I was still on the phone with the agent.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.58.39 AMI immediately went to airserbia.com and typed in the confirmation on the home page.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.00.21 AMI was able to select my seat, an aisle in the second row.Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.01.32 AM

Bottom Line

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.

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And you can also use Etihad miles to fly American Airlines flights for pre-devaluation prices.

Getting ThankYou Points is easy:


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12 COMMENTS

  1. Nice find, but I doubt too many of us would fly Air Serbia, even if the routing was suitable. I personally only fly first world airlines as I find the safety record is better, not to mention the service

    • I guarantee second world carriers’ safety record is far better than being on the roads and many other daily activities for most people. I’m quite happy to fly any airline with any government’s approval.

    • Nope. I got wrong what an Etihad partner airline is. This is the right info:

      Etihad Airways Partners is a unique partnership between eight airlines, who have joined together to offer you more choice, with a combined network of over 350 destinations across six continents.

      This partnership between Etihad Airways, Alitalia, airberlin, NIKI, Air Serbia, Air Seychelles, Jet Airways, and Etihad Regional, delivers high standards of comfort and hospitality on the ground and in the skies.

      Etihad Airways Partnersoffers you:

      Convenience – one booking, one ticket for a journey with multiple airlines, bringing you and your luggage to any destination on our extended network.

      Rewards – as a frequent flyer member, you can earn and burn miles across all domestic and international routes* across all airlines.

      Choice – you can travel to over 350 destinations offered by the partner airlines.

      Comfort – fully-flat bed in Business Class flights longer than eight hours.

      Consistency – expect high standards of comfort and hospitality, no matter which partner you fly with.

      Using Etihad Airways hub in Abu Dhabi offers you excellent connecting flights on the routes between India to Europe and India, Australia to the Middle East and Europe or from Asia to Europe and Africa.

      Etihad Airways is proud that the result of this partnership offers coverage of key destinations in India, the Middle East, Europe and Africa to all of our guests. This partnership is the start of offering seamless connections with the best travel experience our guests can get across all of the Etihad Airways Partners.

  2. Fyi – atr planes are boarded from the rear so the second row is one of the last to exit.

    For the doubters, Air Serbia has one of the world’s best air safety records, and their planes have one of the best business classes in intra european flights. We flew lhr-belgrade for about 12k each in J, it was good service and a US style intra-continental seat.

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