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Outrageous: New Etihad Guest Award Cancelation Fees

by Staff

Earlier I wrote about how major changes are being made to the Etihad Guest program as of June 2024. There’s one really negative change that I missed, which applies immediately (in addition to a minor negative change). This greatly limits the value of Etihad Guest miles, in my opinion, and limits my desire to earn or redeem miles with the program.

Etihad Guest adds 25-75% award cancelation fee

Etihad Guest has introduced a new award ticket cancelation policy for bookings made as of February 22, 2024. This applies specifically to GuestSeat bookings, which are Etihad’s saver awards. I hope you’re sitting down, because Etihad Guest’s new award cancelation fees are shockingly high. They’re so high that I almost wonder if this is a mistake, but it’s written on Etihad’s website in clear text.

With this new policy, you’re eligible for a refund up to 24 hours before your flight departs, though award tickets can’t be canceled within 24 hours of departure. Cancelation fees are charged entirely as a percentage of the miles redeemed, as follows:

  • You’ll be charged 75% of the miles required if you request to cancel within seven days of departure
  • You’ll be charged 50% of the miles required if you request to cancel within eight to 21 days of departure
  • You’ll be charged 25% of the miles required if you request to cancel 21 or more days before departure

Award tickets issued through February 21, 2024, continue to follow the old policy. Under the old rules, canceling an award ticket costs you 10% of your redeemed miles.

Etihad Guest has very high new award cancelation fees

Etihad’s new cancelation fee is beyond ridiculous

With many loyalty program, airline award ticket cancelation fees are lower than ever before, reflecting how we’ve seen many tickets become a lot more flexible. Nowadays many programs don’t even charge any fees to cancel an award ticket, which is a great option to have.

Etihad Guest is going to the other extreme here. I mean, canceling an award ticket within seven days of departure will cost you 75% of the miles redeemed? That’s simply wild. On what planet is that reasonable?! I’m not opposed to a program increasing the cancelation penalty as the departure date approaches (so that people don’t hoard tickets), but the 25-75% range is way too steep.

I also think this policy change is very short sighted. With Etihad increasingly restricting partner award availability, my assumption was that Etihad was trying to make its own loyalty program more compelling to those looking to redeem miles for travel on the airline. You’d think this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce reasonable award pricing, and give people a reason to get involved in Etihad Guest, and fly with the airline more.

Yet changes like this have exactly the opposite effect. I just have no interest in participating in Etihad Guest if canceling an award is potentially going to cost me a fee of 25-75%. I value flexibility, and for long haul premium cabin awards, those award cancelation fees are exponentially higher than literally any other program in the world.

This Etihad Guest change seems short sighted

Bottom line

Etihad Guest has overhauled its award cancelation fees. You’ll now pay anywhere from 25-75% of the miles redeemed if you need to cancel your award ticket. While other programs have gotten more flexible, Etihad Guest is introducing a fee that just defies logic.

What do you make of this change to Etihad Guest’s award cancelation fees?

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