Etihad Sweetspots Flying GOL in South America

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While Etihad miles offer poor value redeeming on their own flights, there are some great deals using Etihad miles to book partner awards. Etihad miles are easy to accrue as Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starpoints from SPG.

An Etihad sweetspot neither Scott nor I was aware of was brought to our attention by a saavy reader who wrote the following email:

Hi Scott,

I’ve read your blog for a long while now and really appreciate your tips. I know you travel a lot around South America, and I wanted to highlight an awesome award flight option that I haven’t seen you use/mention. Using Etihad miles on GOL has provided me with great value for flights within Brazil and from Brazil to Argentina. I’ve flown Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro for 3,000 Etihad miles, and Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires for 9,000 Etihad miles. The annoying thing is you have to book the awards at least 14 days in advance (I’ve also used 12,500 Delta miles for the same flights when I had to book on shorter notice). Anyway, I thought this would be a great use of Etihad miles/Citi ThankYou points to highlight for your readers!

Personally, I was very excited by this tip because as you guys have probably noticed, I travel between Argentina and Brazil/within Brazil frequently. My fellow miles enthusiasts down here and I always complain about the lack of options in Argentina/Brazil. So thank you, saavy reader, for pointing this out!

Etihad’s Award Chart for Redemptions on GOL

Etihad’s award prices for flying GOL are distance-based. You might have trouble opening that chart if you’re located in the United States, but all you have to do to view it is use a VPN for a different country and change the country at the top of Etihad’s site.

A distance-based award chart means sweetspots are going to be short distance, direct, economy flights.

GOL’s hub is São Paulo. To give you an idea of where your Etihad miles can get you from there, here are maps that show a:

  • 500 mile radius of São Paulo…

  • 1,000 mile radius of São Pualo…

  • 1,500 mile radius of São Paulo…

Sweetspots

I called Etihad Guest to price out the following awards with total out of pocket cost:

  • 3,000 Etihad miles + $10.20 to fly GOL São Paulo > Rio de Janeiro
  • 3,000 Etihad miles + $9.90 to fly GOL Rio de Janeiro > Florianopolis
  • 6,000 Etihad miles + $9.90 to fly GOL Rio de Janeiro > Salvador
  • 6,000 Etihad miles + $71.90 to fly GOL Buenos Aires > Florianopolis
  • 9,000 Etihad miles + $38 to fly GOL  Rio de Janeiro > Buenos Aires

That looks like no fuel surcharges to me! Just taxes. The awards with more expensive out of pocket costs between Argentina and Buenos Aires are due to unavoidable taxes.

All of those flights would cost 12,500 Delta miles + taxes.

There may be even more great deals–I just picked out some popular destinations that I know attract tourists (Salvador and Florianopolis are both beach meccas).

If you’re considering a similar award and have British Airways Avios, check the price to redeem Avios on a LATAM flight, as it may or may not be cheaper. Avios tend to be the second best option for hopping short distances around South America.

Finding Award Space and Booking

You can not find Etihad’s partners’ award space on eithad.com. Instead, search Delta.com for GOL award space. The lowest priced award space should also be bookable with Etihad miles. All of the examples above cost 12,500 at the lowest level. For example, here’s a search for a flight between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro:

Make sure the Delta & partner airlines bubble is filled in so GOL flights will show up in the results.

To book, call Etihad Guest at (+44 0345 6081225). That is the UK office number, which I recommend calling over the US office as the agents in the UK have been much more proficient in my experience. Tell the agent the partner airline you want to fly (GOL), and feed them the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space you found on Delta.com.

Review of Etihad Guest Program

Etihad Guest is the loyalty program of Etihad Airlines, flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates based out of Abu Dhabi. It is not affiliated with any alliance, but it does have many partners:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Air Serbia
  • Air Seychelles
  • Air Berlin
  • Alitalia
  • ANA
  • American Airlines
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Bangkok Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Etihad regional
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • GOL
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Jet Airways
  • Korean Air
  • Malaysian Airlines
  • Oman Air
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • South African Airways
  • Sri Lankan Airlines
  • UIA
  • Virgin Australia

Routing Rules

One Ways

When redeeming Etihad miles on Etihad flights, one ways cost half the price of a roundtrip.

For partner redemptions, it varies–there is no hard and fast rule about booking one way awards. For instance, when redeeming on American Airlines, you can book one way awards for half the price of a roundtrip. However when redeeming on Brussles Airlines, all awards price at the roundtrip level.

Stopovers and Open Jaws

The tangible information I could find regarding stopovers on Etihad flights is the following from the terms and conditions on etihadguest.com: “Stopovers in Abu Dhabi are permitted on GuestSeat Rewards only where the booking is made via the Etihad Guest Service Centre” (ie by calling in).

For partner redemptions, I couldn’t find any information on stopovers or open jaws, though for partners you can book one way (like American Airlines), you know a roundtrip can have two open jaws.

Some partners have a defined set of routes you can redeem on each with its own price, some use distance-based pricing, and some use region-based pricing. Check each partner’s page on etihad.com for more details on the award rules for each partner.

Fuel Surcharges

Etihad doesn’t collect fuel surcharges when redeeming its miles on its own flights. However, in addition to taxes, it does collect $50 per longhaul Saver (“Guest”) segment in economy, $100 in Business, and $150 in First.

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 4.30.51 AM
The 370 AED extra for Saver (“Guest”) award space compared to Freedom is $100 for one longhaul Business Class award

As far as I know, Etihad does not collect fuel surcharges on partner awards. I know for a fact, fuel surcharges are not collected on awards that fly American Airlines, Air Serbia, or GOL, and I do not think they are collected on Brussels Airlines flights.  Let us know in the comments if you have any first hand experience with other partners.

Learn more about using Etihad miles in Sweetspots with Etihad Miles: 20,000 Miles One Way to Europe.

Bottom Line

Etihad has a distance-based award chart for flying partner GOL and turns out there are some cheap awards flying short and direct flights For just 3,000 Etihad miles you can fly GOL Airlines between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For only 9,000 Etihad miles you can fly GOL between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Using Delta miles will cost you significantly more, and cash flights can often be absurdly priced–especially in the high season (December through February).

And it’s super easy to get Etihad miles because Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, and SPG Points.


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13 COMMENTS

  1. Great post. I have some Etihad miles, and I want to use them before they expire. I did not know that Air New Zealand was an Etihad partner. How many Etihad miles would I need to fly from AKL to HNL using Etihad miles on Air New Zealand? Is this possible?

  2. And 5k on Avianca intra-Brasil. 4.5k on Tam with Avios. But flights can often be cheap enough it’s not worth it to use miles.

    • I often find that cash tickets are crazy expensive. I am a bit of a last minute planner though so that probably has something to do with it.

  3. OMG! This is exactly what I needed. My family visits Brazil every year and it’s always such a problem to find/book tickets within Brazil on points (We have yet to be lucky using Avios, even when we see the availability, agents still can’t book it). We usually just end up buying tickets on Gol or TAM…
    But, I’m very excited about the possibility of booking through Ethiad. Thank you!

  4. Aadvantage partner awards are also super useful in South America. Buenos Aires to El Calafate or Puerto Iguazu on LAN is just 12k round trip for flights that are often $400-$500 – 3-4 cents per mile in coach!

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