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I just used 5,000 ThankYou Points to book a one way award flight from Belgrade to Bucharest.

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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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I have a ton of ThankYou Points because the Citi Prestige® Card offers 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points respectively 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 using Etihad miles in its entirety:

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Belgrade to Bucharest is 4,550 miles one way in economy and 6,450 miles one way in Business Class. For a one hour flight, I didn’t even want to pay 1,900 miles extra for Business Class.

When I investigated Air Serbia awards two weeks ago, I learned that you do not pay fuel surcharges on the flights, only government taxes.

Getting Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points, and you must transfer in increments of 1,000.

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I have tons of ThankYou Points because there are two awesome cards with huge sign up bonuses at the moment, and I have both:

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, so I had to transfer 5,000 points for my 4,550 mile award.

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Enter your Etihad Guest frequent flyer number, and you’re done.Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.57.06 AM Screen 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. I initiated the transfer July 9 at 4 AM ET, and the miles were in my account when I checked July 16 at 9 PM ET. (I wasn’t checking constantly, so they could have arrived up to 24 hours sooner than I saw them.)

Interestingly, the transfer–my first account activity–triggered a 500 miles “Enrolment Bonus” that I didn’t expect. Perhaps your first transfer will also.

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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 there was only one Air Serbia-operated flight on the day I wanted. Etihad Guest Miles CANNOT book Air Serbia-marketed flights operated by other carriers, like the 9:15 AM flight below operated by TAROM.

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The agent said there was award space on the flight I wanted and that it cost 4,550 miles + 20.78 euros. I paid with Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, since it has no foreign transaction fees and earns 3x points per dollar on travel and gas purchases. The taxes were charged as $22.85 on my statement.

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

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Why Not Just Use ThankYou Points to Purchase Flight Directly

ThankYou Points can book you onto many flights, including Air Serbia flights, two ways.

  1. The way described above: by transferring mile to one of ThankYou Points’ 11 partners and booking award space according to an award chart
  2. By using the points like cash toward any flight at a rate of 1.25 to 1.6 cents per point.

The flight I wanted was available on thankyou.com to be purchased with points like cash.

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I have the Citi Prestige® Card, so I can use my ThankYou Points to book any airline’s flights at a rate of 1.33 cents per point. The $115 flight is about 8,700 points at 1.33 cents per point.
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I booked it for 4,000 points less (but $23 in taxes) by transferring ThankYou Points to miles before booking. Always consider both ways to book flights with ThankYou Points before choosing one option.

Bottom Line

In a few weeks, I am headed to Romania for the penultimate stage of my four months in Europe. (The last part is hopping around to four cities for a day each with this cool United award.) There are no good train or bus options from Belgrade to Bucharest, luckily there is a great option with ThankYou Points.

Transfer 5,000 ThankYou Points to Etihad miles and book an Air Serbia flight for 4,550 miles + $23.

This isn’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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Getting ThankYou Points is easy:

Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 80,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!


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