Air Canada recently announced a new partnership with Etihad Airways.
The two airlines had already been codeshare partners, and the rumors that they would add a partnership between their respective frequent flyer programs, Aeroplan and Etihad Guest, had been going around for some time. Now Air Canada Aeroplan members can earn and redeem miles on Etihad, and vice versa.
This is really great news. United Arab Emirates-based Etihad is one of the swankiest airlines in the world, and the ability to use Air Canada miles for an award seat on Etihad is a dream come true for a lot of travelers.
Why Etihad is special
If you’re traveling to the Middle East, Africa, Asia or the South Pacific in first or business, you might want to look for an Etihad award ticket before exploring other options.
Etihad offers the most luxurious first class cabin in the sky, called the Residence. It’s a suite with a living room, a bedroom and a private bathroom with a shower. And if that wasn't enough, the Residence comes with a private butler, too.
Over the top? It is. And our bet is that the Residence will never become available as an award booking with Aeroplan miles since there is only one Residence suite on board.
However, the next best thing, Etihad’s first class “apartments” are within reach. Each of these very private, super spacious first class suites has a comfy chair, separate bed and enough space in between for a few pushups before or after an impossibly delicious dinner. A flight between the U.S. and Abu Dhabi in a first class apartment costs 115,000 miles one way or 230,000 miles per round trip.
The Residence and first class apartments are available only on Airbus A380 aircraft. Etihad uses A380s between Abu Dhabi and the following cities: London, New York, Paris, Seoul and Sydney.
Note: Etihad has currently grounded its A380 fleet, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re willing to “downgrade” to the Etihad business class studio, which isn’t enclosed but still plush and private, the cost goes down to 82,500 miles each way. Etihad’s new business class studios are available on A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
Etihad flies between Abu Dhabi and the following U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. However, only New York is served by the A380, so if you’re not a New Yorker but still want that special apartment experience, you’ll have to fly via JFK.
Is a first class apartment worth an extra layover? It depends on the occasion. If you’re a luxury-lover contemplating the kind of trip that builds lifetime memories, the answer's probably yes.
What if you’re not going to Abu Dhabi?
This partnership gives you new opportunities to book award flights on Etihad not just to UAE but all over the world. Here are just a few popular tourist destinations:
Middle East: Muscat, Salalah (Oman).
Africa: Cairo (Egypt), Johannesburg (South Africa), Mahé (Seychelles).
Asia: Bangkok, Phuket (Thailand); Colombo (Sri Lanka); Delhi, Mumbai (India); Male (Maldives); Seoul (South Korea); Singapore; Tokyo (Japan).
South Pacific: Sydney, Melbourne (Australia).
And here is how many Aeroplan miles it costs each way when flying from the Continental U.S. or Canada:
Middle East and North Africa (Morocco): 115,000 in first class and 82,500 in business class.
South Africa and Seychelles: 105,000 miles in first class and 75,000 miles in business class.
Asia 1 (Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea): 105,000 miles in first class and 75,000 miles in business class.
Asia 2 (Singapore, Thailand): 107,500 miles in first class and 77,500 miles in business class.
Indian Subcontinent (India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka): 105,000 miles in first class and 75,000 miles in business class.
South Pacific (Australia): 110,000 miles in first class and 80,000 miles in business class.
How to stretch your Air Canada miles on Etihad flights
You’ll often get a better deal connecting via Abu Dhabi than flying there. For example, a flight to Tokyo via Abu Dhabi in first class will cost you 105,000 miles, versus 115,000 miles for flying directly to Abu Dhabi.
To make things even better, Air Canada allows a free stopover or open jaw, which lets you fly out of a different city than the one where you landed, on a round-trip award ticket. That rule applies to all Air Canada partners including Etihad, which means you can have a free stopover in Abu Dhabi to explore the UAE before going to Tokyo.
Also good to know
Your first or business class ticket gives you free access to one of Etihad’s airport lounges. The First Lounge & Spa at Abu Dhabi International Airport is simply amazing, so give yourself some time to enjoy the restaurant, and remember to get a complimentary 15-minute massage.
If you’re traveling with a toddler, Air Canada has one of the world’s best policies for lap-held infants: You pay only $100 or 10,000 miles for business class, and $125 or 12,500 miles for first class.
Air Canada doesn’t add fuel or any other surcharges to Etihad award redemptions like it does with some other partners. You pay only taxes and airport fees.
The Air Canada baggage policy typically allows two free checked bags up to 70 pounds each per adult for business class travel. Air Canada itself doesn’t operate first class cabins, so its baggage policy for first class Etihad flights should presumably be the same.
It's easy to book award flights on Air Canada's website, aeroplan.com, or you can always call the help center at 1-800-361-5373.
How to get Air Canada miles
Aside from earning miles for flying Air Canada or its partners, Air Canada is an American Express and Capital One transfer partner. You can transfer AmEx Membership Rewards points to Air Canada at a 1-to-1 ratio and Capital One miles at a 2-to-1.5 ratio, then use them for award flights on Etihad.
Photo courtesy of Etihad Aviation Group.
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 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card