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Etihad Deal = A Better Trip Than Before... Thank You COVID-19

COVID-19 has thrown many challenges at the world, and the world has been hit hard. Airlines haven't been able to operate, job losses are rife, and travel simply hasn't been available. At the time of writing, the UK has announced a list of 74 countries that when returning from, won't require the mandatory 14 day quarantine period. Although, please note that those countries may* require you to quarantine upon arrival. Approximately 25 countries do not require quarantine both ways.

I was due to travel to South Africa in April 2021, for my wedding. Something that took a lot of coordination, arranging flights for 15 people in total - around Easter Holidays. I was due to fly out in Virgin Atlantic's 'Economy Delight' product on their new A350, and returning on the same aircraft - but up front in their Upper Class suites.

Early in March, the South African government announced that their borders would remain closed, as they made precautions in response to the ever-spreading pandemic. My wedding would not be happening as planned. We contacted the venue and moved our wedding to the exact same dates in 2021.

Getting refunds from Virgin Atlantic is a whole story in itself, but this is not the purpose of the article today.

Airlines have started to become creative in ways to attract customers for the future, and to maintain what levels of cash flow they can. Etihad, who I've been a "Guest" member of for about a decade, email me updates and one deal in particular caught my eye.

After doing some quick maths, I realised quickly that this was exceptional value.

All I needed to do, was act quick - there was a 14 day window in which I was able to take advantage of this offer.

In return of buying credit for a future flight - and Etihad getting some cash coming in - they were prepared to add 50% of my credit.

In effect, this equates to a 33% saving in the cost of flights. If a flight was going to cost $1500, you would need to purchase credit worth $1000, and Etihad would add in 50% extra, taking the total value of your credit to the $1500 required for the flight.

I knew this was a chance to be creative, and really maximise the offer. I wanted to fly Business to and from my wedding, but the question was whether this could be done.

I started by pricing up flights on the most direct route possible for me, this would be London - Abu Dhabi - Johannesburg. In business class, on the dates I needed, this would cost as cash price of £3626.36 / person.

Starting my journey from a European airport, would generally decrease the cost of my flights straight away, as the UK has notorious for high taxes and fees - especially as your move up cabins! I played around with some filters on Google Flights, with Etihad selected as my airline of choice, and then putting 6 start airports in, with Johannesburg as my destination. The origin airports I selected, had to be within a practical distance of London - I thought within 2-3 hours would be sensible; Stockholm, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Dublin, Helsinki.

Madrid came out on top with a cash price of £2279.65 / person. Then, doing some reverse engineering on pricing, I knew that I would save 33% by using Etihad's 50% credit top up. I would need credit of approximately £1519.33 / person.

Eithad's credit offer, worked with USD as a currency, and working in increments of $250. I phoned up Etihad's exceptionally friendly customer service agents, who helped me set up a "Travel Bank Account" which would act as a place for me to deposit my contribution and then for Etihad to deposit their 50% contribution. We were very quickly booked on 4 x 787-9 Etihad business class flights, from Madrid - Johannesburg, via Abu Dhabi. As business class passengers, we were given the option of a free night in Abu Dhabi, courtesy of Etihad, although we opted to connect straight through and spend more time in South Africa.

The final piece of the puzzle was to get to Madrid. Cash prices for BA flights to Madrid were £163.00 / person, but after using Avios to discount them, I paid just £93.44 / person.

In total, it would be 6 flights - which I'm totally fine with - and a cost of £1612.00 / person.

Compared to a London departure, and not using the Etihad bonus, this saved £2014.00 / person, and gave me a chance to spend my birthday in Madrid, before flying in luxury to South Africa for my COVID-19 delayed wedding.

All in all, this was an offer that came in at the right time, and by doing my homework - I managed to get to South Africa in a lot more comfort than originally planned. It also costed in about the same as Economy outbound + Upper Class inbound on Virgin Atlantic.

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