Etihad’s New Convoluted Fare Structure: No More Priority Check-in for Award Tickets?

Etihad has rolled out a new fare structure with changes to bonus miles, upgradability of paid tickets, changes and baggage allowances. They’re introducing more restrictive fares.

“Breaking Deal” economy fares are new, and not listed in the American AAdvantage accrual chart. Presumably they won’t earn miles if crediting to American.

However it’s worth knowing that all other discounted coach fares currently earn 100% with AAdvantage and American’s miles are worth more than Etihad’s miles. Since May you can earn American miles on all Etihad flights.

“Breaking Deal” business class fares don’t allow changes and don’t include their car service (this change was already announced). Fortunately awards in business still get the car service.

Here’s what’s interesting to me about both business class fares and also first class fares. They seem to say that business and first class awards don’t get priority check-in.

If you buy a first class ticket you get priority check-in. If it’s an award ticket whether or not you get priority check-in is “based on tier status.” So if you are an elite you can use the priority check-in line, if you aren’t you check in with economy even though you’re flying first class? I don’t believe it.

A passenger waits in line, sits down in the first class check-in area. And the agent is going to send them over to check in with economy, to the back of the line?

Etihad First Class Check-in

Etihad Business Class Check-in

I plan to continue to use the priority check-in queues on my upcoming award bookings.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. And they switched out my AUH-LHR to an A346. ✈️. At least I’ve never flown this type, but I want two showers for my 80K miles.

  2. I agree with you – I doubt they are going to drill down that far to eliminate passengers based on award tickets. I just went through there again this week and all they looked at is the class of travel. They are really going to start coloring boarding passes differently or putting some other verbiage on the boarding pass to let people know not to let award passengers through? Nope, don’t see it.

  3. “I plan to continue to use the priority check-in queues on my upcoming award bookings.”

    Nice!! Report back. I am sure you will.

  4. Well, it doesn’t surprise me that some of these airlines might be showing indications of starting to get frustrated by being a dumping ground for Citi/AA mileage burners. Since how AA compensates them is a big mystery that no one has ever broached that I’ve seen, who knows how bad of a deal they’re actually getting for these tickets. That said, I do think that priority check-in is kind of a weird place to try to stick it to people, so I’d imagine that this must be an error or misstatement.

  5. Sorry but this will be the norm going forward. Yes, you will be able to seat in the front using miles BUT there will be restrictions. The travel blog world has pros and cons. Pros is to open opportunities to everyone to use miles and travel for free by learning how the industry works. Cons is opening the opportunity for people that have no education and feel they are entitled to drink a bottle of Krug and eat caviar for free just because they opened a new credit card with $5k credit limit. My point here is that airlines are tired of this credit card paraphernalia and they will turn that faucet off. Very soon you will see that you will only be able to use your free miles to seat in the back, in a middle seat and be served crappy food and cheap wine. They are tired of having a high profile executive that paid over $15k for a first class seat seating next to a person that applied for a credit card and feels entitled to drink champagne and eat caviar and post pictures on Facebook for free. The glory days of flying for free in the front are over. Right that down!!!!

  6. Etihad elites are not allowed to use the T3 First/Business Checkin area anyway if flying in Economy. They have to use the special elite checkin at T1 instead.

  7. I find it odd that people think using miles = flying for “free”.

    Miles are a currency that you either exchange using cash, or earn through actions that cost you time, money, or effort. They represent a cost, albeit one that is different for each user.

  8. As your trip is ticketed, as in my next EY F, we are safe anyway.

    But this is even crazier. Tickets ticketed by Sep 14 get the old rules. So, even if the check in desk sees you are on a reward ticket, they still have to pull up the ticketing date before they can see if you can check in or not!

    Can’t believe they do this but keep the chauffeur!

  9. @Pafunco

    They started it. They created the game, they created the rules, we just play by ’em.

    As they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  10. @Dan: Agree but as they started they will end it. The days of flying in the front using miles are coming to an end.

  11. @pafunco: I think you are missing the part about how much each of the players is benefiting from this game. Etihad is PAID for those miles. The credit cards make good money from merchants while we run up our bonus and MS. We are not fooling or taking advantage of anyone. Trust me–they’re all doing just fine.
    I’ll grant you that if everyone played the game, it would not be worthwhile to continue offering the big bonuses, but since a relatively small percentage of the flying population reads these blogs or plays the game, I think we’ll be fine for a while. (And, you can “write” that down.; )

  12. @Pafunco…..

    I too share your frustration with dynamic pricing. As a last minute premium business traveler I get NAILED by the airlines all the time. I don’t like the fact that I have routinely paid more for the same flight than any other person on the plane. I’d love it if the airlines charged every person (including those traveling under government and corporate contracts) the same price for the same seat to the same destination. But dynamic pricing has been with us at least since the deregulation of the airline industry and it’s probably here to stay.

    I find it difficult to be critical of the readers of this forum, however, who are smart enough to use miles to ‘purchase’ premium seats. It’s just another form of currency and the airlines themselves have determined the exchange rate (without any real rules or regulations). For me, it’s pretty hard to overlook the staggering amount of ancillary revenue the airlines have garnered from selling those same miles to card-issuing banks (it works out to be billions of dollars every single year). I’m not sure the problem here is with the consumer’s sense of ‘entitlement’ so much as the greed of an industry that wants to have its cake and eat it to.

  13. I’ve just “spent” 400,000 Avios for a pair of First Class LHR/PVG. Around 50% of those ‘miles’ were earned as a fare paying passenger on BA flights the remainder were from credit card points, car rental and hotels. How much did they really cost? A lot. Shouldn’t I be expected to enjoy my bottle of Krug as much as a fellow passenger who has spent £5,000 on the same ticket?

  14. I was looking at booking a Breaking Deals economy Etihad flight on their website and the fare basis began with E. Per the AAdvantage snippet you posted, this should be eligible for 100% Aadvantage credit.

  15. I hope they ask you to walk out, down the long corridor at AUH Terminal 3 to the Economy check in section.

  16. “people that have no education and feel they are entitled”

    “Right that down!!!!”

    Irony much?

    The pleb-stench is strong with this one.

  17. Gary–do you know if these changes will affect the ability to earn AA miles on the EY fares booked last Christmas? We’re traveling in a couple of weeks and wanted to make sure? Thanks.

  18. Your subscription did not succeed, please try again with a valid email address. Starting September 14, booking a flight with Etihad Airways is going to be very different.

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