Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

How I used miles and points for my Abu Dhabi trip this week

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One piece of feedback from my New Year reader survey was for more details on my own redemptions and how I justified the choices I made.  I’m happy to oblige.

I am in Abu Dhabi for a few days this week.  I thought it would be interesting to follow up my review of the Qatar Airways Boeing 787 business class service with a look at Etihad.  A window opened up where I could get away for a few days without inconveniencing the family so I thought I’d try it out.

Etihad business class pr photo

This is how I planned the trip and the cost in miles and points:

Trip to Heathrow

Free.  Etihad provides a complimentary chauffeur service to premium passengers and this includes those on redemptions.  Oddly, it has recently stopped offering it to those on deeply discounted business class sale tickets.

Overnight at Hilton London Heathrow Terminal 4

Because of the early flight and my desire not to wake the entire household at 4.30am, I booked into the Hilton Heathrow Terminal 4.  My flight departed from T4 so it made sense.  I considered the new Hilton Garden Inn but the first tube from Hatton Cross is quite late and I wasn’t going to wait for a bus at 6am in January.  I also rejected the hotels which required the Hoppa bus for the same reasons.

Hilton Heathrow Terminal 4 was £105 for cash.  The alternatives were 50,000 Hilton HHonors points or 20,000 points plus £55 cash.

I value Hilton HHonors points at 0.3p.  The full redemption was therefore very poor value indeed.  The cash and points option was also below my threshold at 0.25p per point (£105 – £55 / 20,000 points).

However …. my wife had 22,000 points in her Hilton account.  They were going to expire in a couple of months unless I bought some points to keep them active.  It made sense to empty her account and book a cash and points room in her name.

Usually I would also factor in the value of any points earned back if the number was large enough.  However, the Hilton promotion for January required 2 stays to kick-in so I would have not have qualified.  I could have earned 1,500 Avios via another Hilton promotion but that had not launched when I booked, and still may trigger even on my ‘cash and points’ stay.

Etihad A380 Business Class to Abu Dhabi

Etihad First Class redemptions are far better value than Business Class.  Business Class one-way from Heathrow is 44,013 Etihad Guest miles + £185.  First Class is 55,312 + £185 and clearly worth the extra.

That said, I booked Business outbound because I wanted to experience both the Business and First Class products.  I would have preferred to do First Class on the A380 but at the time of booking Etihad was blocking A380 First Class redemptions.  This block has now been lifted and you can redeem for the amazing First Class Apartment.

Last Autumn, Etihad offered a 20% bonus on transfers from American Express Membership Rewards.  Knowing this trip was on the horizon I moved a chunk across.  Adjusting for the 20% bonus, my one-way A380 Business Class flight cost me 36,677 American Express Membership Rewards points and £185 in taxes and charges.

I could also have booked this flight for 30,000 American Airlines miles, if I had any – which I don’t!

Transfer to hotel

Free with the Etihad chauffeur service

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, 2 nights

There are plenty of high-end redemption options in Abu Dhabi – St Regis (SPG), Park Hyatt etc.  However, I am a fan of Jumeirah and wanted to give this beach-side property a try.  I also have a Silver card from our Dubai trips last trip which meant I would receive free breakfast.

Two nights cost 2,000 Jumeirah Sirius points.  I had these in my account anyway, but I could have transferred 40,000 Amex points from my International Dollar Card Membership Rewards account.  Note that Jumeirah is NOT a partner of the UK Membership Rewards scheme.

40,000 IDC Amex points is equivalent to roughly 26,000 UK Amex points.  The room would have been £350 for two nights so this is an excellent value Amex redemption.

When Amex Travel launched its ‘£100 cashback on a £300 transaction‘ offer I considered switching to a cash room. However, paying for breakfast for 2 nights would have wiped out much of the saving and even adjusting for the £100 cashback it represented a good use of Sirius points.

Transfer back to airport

Free via the Etihad chauffeur service

Etihad Boeing 777 First Class to London

This was such a great deal it was laughable.  The flight was 55,312 Etihad Guest miles + £14.  £14 is not a typo.  Because of the 20% Amex transfer bonus, it cost me 46,093 Membership Rewards points.

This gets me a private First Class suite for the seven hour flight back.

I could also have booked this flight for 40,000 American Airlines miles, but I don’t have any.

Transfer to my house

Free via the Etihad chauffeur service

That is how I did it.  A series of lounge, flight and hotel reviews will start next week.

Comments (48)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • BallSack says:

    Which other routes into London (or europe) have the First Suites or the A380 First apartments ?

    I have found the relevant chart for TopBonus miles, its sadly 70,000 TopBonus miles rather than 55k.

    • Rob says:

      They are starting 787 into Germany in March (not sure which airport off top of head) which may be worth a look.

  • BallSack says:

    Wait, no its not ! Its 70,000 for a one way Business class redemption. No idea if you can even redeem AirBerlin Topbonus miles for first class Etihad.

  • Jason says:

    Interesting article, in light of yesterday’s news.
    What is redemltion availability like, on Etihad, in business and furst?

  • danksy says:

    What’s the lounge situation in T4 these days? I’m flying to SLL via DOH in a few weeks and havent flown from T4 in years!

    • Rob says:

      SkyTeam via Priority Pass, it is excellent. See my review last year.

      • danksy says:

        I wasn’t sure if there had been any new ones opened; I remember the review 😀

  • Keith says:

    Interesting to see how a seasoned “travel hacker” squeezes the most value out of their miles and points. Looking forward to further articles in the series!

    • Rob says:

      Nothing this clever in the diary: Easter is Dubai (EK redemption, they have the seats), Singapore in May (SQ redemption, they have the seats), Toronto in August (BA F), Dubai in October (not booked).

      The best bit about my 2015 long-haul travel schedule is how I am doing it:

      10 long-haul legs, of which:
      3 will be solo (Etihad was 2 of the 3)
      1 is with my Mum
      4 are with my wife and kids
      2 are with our nanny and the kids!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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