How to Make the Most of Etihad Airways Economy Class

If you’d like more space, you can book economy fares with extra legroom or make a bid to fly without neighbors.
Rand Shoaf
By Rand Shoaf 
Edited by June Casagrande

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.


Although Etihad is best known for its luxurious premium cabins, Etihad economy class could be your ticket to stretching your hard-earned dollars (or miles).

Knowing the ins and outs of Etihad economy can help you save money and travel in more comfort. This Etihad economy overview will give you all the info you need to make sure you get the most out of your flight.

What to expect flying Etihad economy class

Etihad offers four types of economy tickets: Sale, Value, Choice and Choice Plus. The most standard economy fare is Value economy.

From checked baggage rules to priority boarding, here's an overview of what to expect when flying economy with Etihad.

  • Baggage allowance. Etihad baggage allowance depends on your destination and the fare you booked. The maximum checked baggage dimensions are 35.4 inches by 28.3 inches by 17.7 inches. Additionally, each passenger is allowed one item of carry-on baggage weighing up to 15 pounds. For flights to and from the Americas, economy passengers are allowed two pieces of checked luggage, each with a maximum weight of 50 pounds. For flights to most other destinations worldwide, the number of bags you can check is based on total weight: Each passenger can have up to 50 pounds of checked baggage.

  • Boarding. Economy passengers are last to board the plane, unless they have elite status or have paid for Priority Access.

  • Seats. On most of Etihad’s Boeing 777s and 787s, seats are 17 to 17.5 inches wide and have a 31- to 33-inch pitch. On Airbus A330s, you can expect 17.5-inch-wide seats with a 31- to 33-inch pitch. If you’d like more space, you can book Economy Space, which is Etihad’s extra-legroom option, or Economy Neighbour-Free for a fee. Economy Neighbour-Free is a unique program where flyers can bid to keep up to three nearby seats passenger-free to maximize comfort.

  • Upgraded economy tickets. Sale, Choice and Choice Plus have rules different from the regular Value fares. With Sale fares, no changes are allowed. On Choice fares, you get one free date change, refunds (for a fee) and increased checked baggage allowance. Choice Plus gets you unlimited free changes, free refunds, priority check-in, free seat selection and increased checked baggage allowance.

  • Food and drinks. Economy passengers on longer flights get free meals, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks. Vegetarian options are available.

Ways to get good value

Pay with miles

Etihad’s loyalty program is called Etihad Guest. You can earn miles flying Etihad or any of its 20 airline partners, including American Airlines, Air Canada and Air New Zealand.

If you have American Express Membership Rewards points or Citi ThankYou points, you can transfer them to Etihad Guest.

And if you have miles or points with one of Etihad’s partner airlines, you can redeem them for your Etihad economy flight by booking directly through the partner airline.

Bid for an upgrade

If you fancy an upgrade but don’t want to pay full price, you can bid to upgrade your seat using cash or miles. Of course, there are no guarantees with this method, but it’s worth a shot and you may strike it lucky on under-booked flights.

Once you’ve booked your ticket, you can log in and place your bid with either miles or cash up to six hours prior to departure. You can choose to bid for an upgrade to first class, business class or Economy Neighbour-Free if you're just wanting to stretch out.

Pack your own headphones

Packing your own pair of headphones is an easy way to get the most from Etihad’s in-flight entertainment. All seats feature an in-seat screen and free in-flight entertainment, but having a pair of high-quality, noise-blocking headphones can make the experience more peaceful and enjoyable.

Pack a carry-on only

If you’re looking to save more, you can book Etihad’s hand baggage only fares. This ticket, Saver, doesn't include a checked bag — just a carry-on weighing up to 15 pounds, plus a personal item such as a laptop case or purse. If you’re a light traveler, booking these budget-friendly fares can be a great deal.

Plus, you’ll still enjoy the same Etihad economy class service, entertainment and food as other economy fares.

Fly Etihad economy with elite status

When you have elite status with Etihad Guest, you’ll enjoy extra benefits, even when you fly in economy class. Elite members who purchase economy class fares will have access to elite benefits including:

  • Discounted or free seat selections.

  • Priority boarding for Gold and Platinum members.

  • Excess baggage allowance.

These elite member perks can make flying in economy class more comfortable and save you money by avoiding extra fees.

Redeem miles to fly with an infant

The cost to book an award ticket for an infant lap child is incredibly low with Etihad Guest. You’ll only pay an additional 10% of the original mileage cost of your ticket to fly with your infant.

On most award tickets, this amounts to only a few thousand extra miles. For example, an off-peak, one-way economy flight for an infant between the U.S. and Europe will cost you only 2,000 miles when you use Etihad miles to book on American Airlines.

Final thoughts on flying Etihad economy class

Budget-minded travelers will find flying in Etihad economy class a satisfactory way to travel to the Middle East and beyond. These fares can be restrictive, but if you prefer saving money over in-flight luxuries, Etihad economy class can be an excellent value.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.