Fly to Europe in a Flat Bed for 29,000 Points Roundtrip? Sweet Spot to Fly Brussels Business

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Update 5/25/16: A One Mile at a Time commenter confirms booking a Brussels Business Class roundtrip from New York to Brussels for 36,620 Etihad miles plus under $100 in taxes per person. There is an Amex Membership Rewards to Etihad 30% transfer bonus through June 15, 2016 that would make this bookable for 29,000 Membership Rewards.

The only thing I would change about this article published in February 2016 is that I think you might be better off calling Etihad directly instead of searching on united.com for the space first. My new recommended order would be call Etihad to award search, transfer to Etihad, book with Etihad.

Brussels airlines is a partner of Etihad Airlines, and this is the amazing award chart for roundtrip redemptions.

Etihad Brussels redemption chart

Those deals are fantastic, so I figured some serious investigation was in order.

How to Book a Brussels Airlines Flight with Etihad Miles

To book Brussels Airlines flights with Etihad miles, first you have to search united.com for Saver award space on Brussels flights. Then you have to call Etihad to book.

  • You cannot search etihad.com for award space because it only displays Etihad flights.
  • You cannot book flights operated by other airlines that you find on united.com. Etihad partners with Brussels, not Brussels plus all its partners. If this confuses you, see There is No Transitive Property of Miles.

To search on united.com:

1. Fill out the Book Travel box on the home page of united.com, and be sure to check “search for award travel”:

united book travel box

2. Choose a flight that has Saver award space that is operated by Brussels.

united saver award 2

3. Note the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space you find on united.com.

4. To book that flight with Etihad miles, call Etihad at 888-8-ETIHAD. Tell the agent you want to book a Brussels Airlines flight and feed them the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space you found on united.com.

My Experience Booking a Brussels Airlines Flight with Etihad Miles

I easily found Saver award space for a roundtrip economy flight between New York and Brussels during the month of June on united.com. Availability was generally open for economy over the summer months, but no space was open in business. I took the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space I found and had to feed it to 10 different Etihad Guest representatives over the course of two days, because the agents were having a near impossible time seeing the same award space that I saw on united.com.

After some serious nudging (see specific details about what to say to Etihad Guest’s representatives below), the last representative I spoke to was able to find space, but oddly enough it was for a business seat on the same roundtrip between New York and Brussels that I originally found only in economy. He also told me that the total of all fees would be $94.70.

With conflicting information these results are obviously not definitive, but the experience was informative nonetheless. Below is a summation of what I know and what I still don’t know from spending two days on the phone with various representatives.

What I Do Know

  • You can only redeem Etihad miles on Brussels flights between New York and Brussels. Washington, DC is also listed as a destination for Brussels Airlines on Wikipedia, so I asked some of Etihad Guest’s representatives for availability and prices for roundtrip flights out of Washington, DC to Brussels guessing that perhaps it was left out of the chart on accident. Every representative that I asked had the same response: You cannot book flights in and out of Washington, DC, for no good reason other than it’s not listed in the redemption chart, and that is the rule.
  • You can redeem Etihad miles on a Brussels flight that originates in New York. It does not have to originate in Brussels like the redemption chart might convey.
  • One way awards are not permitted for Etihad redemptions on Brussels Airlines, only roundtrips (or as they phrase it in the footer of the chart: “Mileage Values in this table are for return journeys only. One way redemptions are not permitted.”)
  • The mileage amounts on the redemption chart for roundtrips in economy and business are indeed 21,972 miles and 36,620 miles respectively– each of Etihad Guest’s representatives I spoke with confirmed that.
  • If you do manage to find award space over the phone, the award has to be booked out of New York to Brussels or vice versa to get the value, adding on other Brussels Airlines flights to either end is technically possible but will be like paying for two awards.
  • Don’t call Etihad Guest’s US offices (1 888 8 ETIHAD) as they were the least helpful. I recommend the UK office (+44 0345 6081225). More on that and other call strategies below.

What I Do Not Know, and Why I’m Not Sure

I am not sure that Etihad miles can actually book Brussels award space because:

  • The award space found by the final Etihad Guest representative (in Business Class from June 2 – 13) I spoke to from the UK office is not available on united.com:

business not available

no biz saver return

If Etihad miles can book Brussels space, I think there are no fuel surcharges on the award, but I am not sure. The Etihad Guest representative that found space for me in business on the flight from New York to Brussels quoted all taxes and fees to be $94.70. If you purchased the same ticket in cash, ITA matrix shows taxes of $94.70 and fuel surcharges (YQ and YR) of $873.50, meaning that he was quoting a price with no fuel surcharges.

ita matrix jfk to bru

That is a promising sign that the space is bookable with no fuel surcharges, but considering only one agent got that far, and I didn’t actually book, I am not ready to promise that there are no fuel surcharges on the award.

Advice for More Efficient Communication with Etihad Guest Representatives

The first step is choosing which Etihad Guest office to call. Their UK office (+44 0345 6081225) was the most helpful to me and this FlyerTalker. Etihad Guest’s US offices (+1 888 8 ETIHAD) were the least competent. I tried the offices in New York, Chicago and Washington DC at different times of day over the course of two days, to ensure a different pool of representatives, yet still met no one capable of actually helping me. The UAE office was slightly more informed and at least had the award searching software on their computers (unlike one of the representatives from the US!)– but still no dice when it came to availability.

The next and most important step is clearly communicating what you want them to do for you. Emphasize that you would like to redeem your Etihad miles on a Brussels Airlines flight, not an Etihad flight. Feed them the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space you found previously on united.com. Finally, before they put you on hold to search, suggest they put a “longsell query into their system”, or if they don’t understand that term suggest they do it manually or directly. A FlyerTalker suggested that choice of wording that ultimately led the final Etihad Guest representative I spoke with from the UK office towards the answer I wanted– availability!

Another point to mention is that the redemption chart lists mileage for roundtrips, as it is easy to make the assumption that the mileage amounts are for one ways because of the way chart is set up. I had more than one Etihad representative make that mistake. Nudge them towards the asterisk at the the bottom of the chart that reads “Mileage Values in this table are for return journeys only. One way redemptions are not permitted”.

What to Do If You Want to Book This Space

If you want to book New York to Brussels roundtrip in economy for 22,000 ThankYou Points or in Business Class for 37,000 ThankYou Points, here’s what you should do.

  1. Find award space on united.com.
  2. Call Etihad Guest’s UK office to confirm that an agent sees that space, and get him to quote total taxes and fees.
  3. Transfer ThankYou Points to Etihad miles.
  4. Hope award space doesn’t disappear during the approximately seven days it will take for the Etihad miles to post.
  5. When the miles appear, book the Brussels flights with Etihad miles.
  6. Report back your experiences in the comments of this post.

Bottom Line

The best case scenario is that you can book a roundtrip Business Class flight to Europe without fuel surcharges for 37,000 ThankYou Points. That’s an incredibly awesome deal.

The worst case scenario is that all the flights mentioned are completely unbookable due to lack of availability and/or a disconnect between Etihad Guest and Brussels Airlines. That would be a bummer.

The middle scenario is that the award space is bookable, but with fuel surcharges, taking a lot of the value out of the deal.

We still don’t have proof that you can redeem Etihad miles on a Brussels Airlines flight.  But considering the range of scenarios, I do not think putting a bit of time and research into this yourselves would be a waste.

Happy hunting. 

This deal wouldn’t be possible without Citi ThankYou points. Luckily, ThankYou Points are easy to get.

  • Citi Prestige® Card with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open


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34 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve booked the 21k RT award on Brussels Airlines from JFK to Brussels using Etihad miles. It was a huge hassle but it’s worth it in the end. I don’t believe Brussels releases any Business class availability because an agent and I worked on finding space for the entire year. If you can find it good for you!

    The process begins by calling Etihad guest and giving them the flight numbers of the flight you want once you look on the United site and confirm availability. This process takes a long time and most agents don’t know how to search for the space. After you get a competent agent, they will be able to wait list you for the flight. You will receive a confirmation email stating that you are on the wait list. There will be a confirmation number. After about 24 hours the wait listed flight will show as confirmed on etihad’s website when you log into the reservation. At this point you have to call in again and pay for the flight. They will deduct your 21,972 miles and charge you $97. Hopefully this helps. It really all depends on how competent your agent is. And don’t try to pay for it in the same day as you are wait listed because that isn’t possible. You have to first be confirmed and then you can call back and pay

    • Interesting and fantastic. I don’t currently see roundtrip Business Class award space from JFK-BRU. I saw some Business Class space from IAD, but as the article says, that flight is not bookable with Etihad miles.

  2. Maybe I overlooked something, but I see a lot of other destinations, mostly African, on the chart shown here. The examples are related to New York – Brussels, which I suppose is what most readers would be most interested in, but is the process the same if wanting to go to Africa? I imagine the logistical difficulties related to getting the booking done would be magnified, but on the other hand, maybe once you find an agent who knows how to do it, getting to Africa would be no different. To me it’s theoretical at the moment as I’ve already booked my March trip to Nairobi and Kilimanjaro.

    • Yes, you can book other destinations using the same process. If you book something like JFK-BRU-Kigali roundtrip it should price as JFK-BRU + BRU-Kigali.

  3. A whole post about NOTHING. So you don’t know if any of this works or will work. Why not wait until the folks on FT, who are clearly more competent than you, figure it out before post? Oh that’s right, you just need people to click on your website so you can earn ad $$$

    • Because I made a lot of calls, probably more than anyone has made to Etihad to book Brussels, and I thought the info would be a good head start for anyone who wanted to get involved and increase the community’s knowledge. Also because the sweet spot is little known, and I wanted to publicize it.

    • I find this post be helpful but discouraging. Redeeming Etihad miles on a partner is a pain in general.
      Remember how hard it was to redeem on ANA? And now they even shut that down…

      Personally, unless I have plans to redeem on Etihad, I would not transfer to their program.

    • This is actually a great post as a lot of other bloggers have been pumping up this route lately. But if in all actuality, it’s near impossible to book is very valuable info to save people like me from wasting a transfer of points to etihad guest rewards. Keep up the good work Scott. For what it’s worth, i def appreciate it

    • AS are you sure you didn’t leave off the last S ??
      Well off to my Free lunch I mean my next free Travel website .

      Kona , Vegas coming next month !!!!!!

      Tanks Scott

  4. I can’t imagine anyone having Etihad miles. Now, if there is a way to fly to BRU using AA miles and onward on IB, that wold be great.

  5. Really interested in trying this out for a trip later this spring. I’ve got enough Etihad miles via travel and transfer from TY Points, but still no availability when searching via United.com for Brussels Air first class. Anyone had any success thus far?

    • when I tried back in December, award availability on Brussels Air was great. Now it seems they no longer shows on United/Aeroplan search engine.

  6. I have booked a few Brussels Air flights for family and friends. Definitely talk to Manchester! I booked a JFK-BRU next January coach and returning February in Business for a split the difference at less than 30,000 miles.
    I have booked BRU-OSLO and BRU-TLS for family members as well [wife is from Brussels]. The JFK-BRU availability did not show on United.com btw. Just be prepared to call often and have the itinerary possibilities definitely lined up. I have called back same evening and no availability was there anymore for one direction. Hope this helps

  7. All I see are 70K seats for Business Saver on United that are nonstop operated by Brussels Air out of JFK. Are these the seats we should be calling about for Business Class.

  8. Found flights I needed in Bus. Class, but had to wait for TY points to transfer. Took a full 5 days and then the Bus. seats were gone even though very few Bus. seats actually taken. Will wait and see if something changes. Yes, it was extremely hard to find an agent at Etihad that could find the flights.

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