Brussels Airlines is a partner of Etihad miles, and this is the amazing award chart for roundtrip redemptions, including 36,620 Etihad miles roundtrip in Business Class between New York and Brussels, or about a quarter of the miles United would charge for the same booking:
Brussels award space in Business Class is wide open on united.com for Summer 2017 at the moment, and Etihad miles are easy to get as a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and Amex Membership rewards, 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”:
2. Choose a flight that has Saver award space that is operated by Brussels.
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.
Ok, but there was an asterisk above: “you have to search united.com for Saver award space on Brussels flights*”. That’s because I’ve described how things should work, how things work with most types of miles booking most types of partners. But booking Brussels space with Etihad miles is funky, according to two success stories from May (commenter Sean) and this week (commenter Ever) who have actually succeeding in booking.
It looks like award space on united.com is, at best, a rough guide, and that the actual way to book award space on Brussels with Etihad is to be very persistent by hanging up, calling again or even emailing until some award space is found.
My Experience Booking a Brussels Airlines Flight with Etihad Miles Last Year
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. (This weeks commenter reported taxes of $93.)
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 require 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.
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.
- Find award space on united.com.
- Call Etihad Guest’s UK office to confirm that an agent sees that space, and get him to quote total taxes and fees.
- Transfer Membership Rewards to Etihad miles while on the phone (instant) or hang up and transfer ThankYou Points to Etihad miles. If using ThankYou Points; hope award space doesn’t disappear during the approximately seven days it will take for the Etihad miles to post.
- When the miles appear, book the Brussels flights with Etihad miles.
- Report back your experiences in the comments of this post.
I wrote about this deal last year. It’s still the best deal for flat bed Business Class to Europe.
Hat Tip to Commenters on One Mile at a Time for sharing their experiences booking