How NOT to Fly on Etihad’s A380 (A Cautionary Tale)

You have a lot of choices right now in what posts you are reading online, and you landed here. For that, we thank you. On that same thread, there are a lot of very large blogs and news websites that will tell you how to fly in first class, business class, even economy class. 

Many of those same sites offer credit card advice, best ways to earn miles, and best ways to redeem miles. 

Those same sites (ours included) will also tell you how to redeem those points for flights, hotels, experiences and more. 

With that said, there’s no RIGHT or WRONG way to use or earn miles… everyone is different. Just because we shop at one store to earn 4x or 5x miles and points or use specific credit cards, doesn’t mean that it is going to fit for you.

When we see a post that shows ways to redeem your points that ARE actually wrong, or at least used in a way that doesn’t make any sense, or is relatable in any way, we want to call it out and bring attention to it so you don’t make the mistake of wasting your hard earned miles and points.

Just yesterday, the PointsGuy’s UK affiliate posted an article titled “Watch as TPG U.K. reviews all 4 classes on Etihad Airways’ A380.” Sounds good, right? It caught my eye as well. As I read through the article, I noticed that they used miles and points on their flights (with the exception of the residence), but used them in a completely nonsensical way.

a man standing in an airplane with his arms out

Etihad Apartment Ben Stretching

Disclaimer: We do read TPG and they do write a lot of articles that have helped us out in the past. They also wrote posts that I feel can point readers in a direction that’s not one that you should follow. This post is one of those cases.

The Etihad Experience

We have flown Etihad on several occasions. If you haven’t read our posts, here are a some highlights for you:

Every one of these flights was purchased with American Airlines miles. American and Etihad are partners, and in my opinion, it is one of the most fantastic reward redemption opportunities. Often, for the cost of a domestic first class ticket, you can get a trip to the Middle East and beyond. Not a bad use of those hard earned miles, right?

a person's legs on a couch

Etihad Apartment Space

How They Booked

They booked four classes of service; The Residence, The Apartment, Business Class, and Economy. From their article:

The Residence

  • TPG paid: 207,500 Etihad Guest miles + $230 tax – Upgraded from Apartments to the Residence by Etihad
  • Average cash price: $27,285

First Class Apartment

  • TPG paid: 188,750 Etihad Guest miles + $230 tax
  • Average cash price: $16,726

Business class

  • TPG paid: 172,500 Etihad Guest miles + $180 tax
  • Average cash price: $6,423

Economy class

  • TPG paid: 109,350 Etihad Guest miles + $81 tax
  • Average cash price: $597

Now, I highlighted those paid prices because I wanted to call attention to a few things. If you don’t see it yet, go back and look one more time. That’s a total of 687,100 miles. Wow. Just Wow.

He does call out that the flights were not sponsored by Etihad, yet there were upgraded to free to the residence for his celebrirty status.

a plate of food on a table

Etihad Apartment Signature Caviar Service

The economy ticket normally costs $600. For that, they paid over 100,000 miles and $81 in taxes. Not only is that a really bad redemption, it’s a horrible use of your miles.

Since Etihad is a transfer partner of both Citibank and American Express membership rewards, you could have just used those 100,000 points as a direct statement credit and got a better use out of those points.

Look at the difference between business and first class. I’m all for using miles and points to avoid paying high prices for tickets, but the difference between business and first class was ONLY 16,000 miles. If you’re going to transfer points from a credit card to take a 14 hour flight, go ahead and book yourself that first class apartment experience for just a minimal difference in cost.

Note, that TPG was upgraded to the Residence from Etihad. This is not something that you, the normal human without superpowers, can do. Paying $16,000 for a first class ticket gets you exactly that. First Class. NOT the Residence. There’s currently only one way to upgrade to the Residence and that’s by booking a full fare ticket with the American Express Platinum Card on a current promotion that’s scheduled to end in July.

One little known fact about the residence is that you can also invite anyone from the plane to come up to the residence with you (even people in coach class). 

a man sitting in a chair with a glass of wine

Etihad Apartment First and Business Class Lounge

How they SHOULD/COULD have booked

Being that American Airlines is a partner with Etihad, the cost for mile redemption is SO much lower.

  • Economy flights are 40,000 miles one-way
  • Business Class flights are 70,000 miles one-way
  • First Class flights are 115,000 miles one-way

If they would have booked in anticipation, the prices for Etihad Miles flights go down to something more manageable:

  • Economy flights start at 57,000+ miles one-way
  • Business flights start at 100,000+ miles one-way
  • First Class flights, admittedly, are harder to come by, but you can snag them for 136,222 miles one-way


We don’t talk much about valuation here because we think that you should try and find your own value for the miles that you redeem. TPG values their Etihad Miles at 1.4 cents per mile, so they could have got around $1530 in value for their economy ticket. Instead they decided to use it for a $597 flight.

A good redemption was to move up from First to the Residence, so if you’re paying first class, do you really care about the miles on your credit card? Probably not.

Etihad Seat

Etihad Seat

The Cautionary Tale

The lessons learned here really are two fold. First and foremost, make sure that you always look at the cash value of your ticket before you book a mileage ticket. Just because you have the miles doesn’t mean that you have to spend them. Often you’ll get a better use of the miles just saving them for a more expensive ticket later.

Second, make sure to do your own research as well. Just because a blogger (including any of us here at NoMasCoach) tell you that a good deal exists or there is a certain way to use your miles, make sure to do a little digging to see if it truly is the BEST way, in your circumstances, to redeem your miles.

Sure, I suppose it is possible that the TPG crew had over 600,000 Etihad miles sitting in an account that they needed to burn and didn’t have the $597 to spend in the economy ticket, but I highly doubt that.

What do you think? Would you have redeemed your American Express or Citi Thank you points for a coach ticket on Etihad, or skipped First and redeemed for Business at only 10,000 miles less?


Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. the only way this made sense is if they had millions of points/miles to burn. otherwise, yes they were all terrible redemptions.

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  2. These were one way tickets…. for over 600,000 miles. My thoughts on the coach ticket: a friend of mine is making about a dozen stops around the world for less 300,000 miles in business class. I realize I’m comparing apples to oranges, but it’s most valuable to me when blog sites promote judicious use of redeeming miles: miles are not free to accumulate and are an asset that needs to be managed well.

    In terms of the upgrade to First, this is a 10% increase in the mileage requirement, a slam dunk for a long flight.

    I’ve enjoyed posts on Points Guy, but this just seems like bragging rights.

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  3. They went to Maldives – not just AUH on those prices.

    Granted still a terrible value but not as bad as you make it out to seem

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    • Actually that’s even worse. American doesn’t charge any extra to go anywhere in the Middle East including the Maldives. Yikes.

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  4. I’m not trying to defend TPG, but I don’t think they ever claimed that there redemptions were good deals. Also, as mentioned earlier, if they had a bunch of Etihad Guest Miles to do something with, this may not have been such a terrible spend.

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  5. Umm that AmWx promotion needed last year – is there something you know we don’t that you can share? Disappointed that this post didn’t say the promotion was over.

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