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Earlier this month, Etihad announced that it would launch A380 service from its hub in Abu Dhabi to New York JFK beginning December 1, 2015. The airline took delivery of its first A380 last year and introduced it on the route from Abu Dhabi to London, which is around 7 hours, in December, and will begin service to Sydney in June.
However, the flight from Abu Dhabi to New York JFK is nearly 15 hours, presenting a much better opportunity than the AUH-LHR service to enjoy the new service and its amenities (without having to go all the way to Australia), a rarity given that Etihad has just 10 of these jets on order, with only 4 coming online in 2015.
Among the amenities tantalizing flight enthusiasts are the jet’s lavish apartment-style three-room “Residence” in first class, which has its own bedroom, bathroom and en-suite shower. The rest of Etihad’s A380 first class cabin is composed of 9 “Apartments” (yes, the similar names are a little confusing), each of which has a full-length 80.5-inch bed and a separate, reclining lounge seat (the IFE TV screen swivels so you can view it from either position), as well as sliding doors for privacy, a minibar, personal vanity area and wardrobe.
The good news is, if you want to experience this luxury for yourself, you’ve got some great options. Though Etihad is not a member of any airline alliance, it is partners with American Airlines (but not US Airways) so you can put your AAdvantage miles to use this way (and eventually your US Airways miles once the two programs merge later this month). The bad news is, you cannot book the Residence using partner miles, just the Apartment suites.
As with the introduction of the A380 on the London route, award availability is tight for the first couple of months, but starting in February 2016, space opens up. Slightly. You need 90,000 American miles each way to fly first class from North America to the Middle East.
If you need to stock up on AA miles, there are a few great choices. First, you can still sign up for the US Airways Premier World Mastercard, but not for much longer. That would net you 50,000 miles with first purchase and payment of the $89 annual fee. Second, both the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard and the CitiBusiness AAdvantage World Mastercard are offering bonuses of 50,000 miles when you sign up and spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
Etihad is also partners with ANA, and after that airline’s award chart changes go into effect in April, this route becomes something of a bargain at just 140,000 miles roundtrip for a first-class award! Just beware taxes and fuel surcharges that can top $1,200. If you want to top up your ANA account, American Express Membership Rewards is a 1:1 transfer partner, and is currently offering targeted sign-up bonuses of up to 100,000 points for the Platinum Card when you sign up and spend $3,000 in 3 months, and up to 50,000 points when you spend $1,000 in 3 months for the Premier Rewards Gold card through the CardMatch Tool. See this post for more information.
Although you cannot look for Etihad awards on AA.com, you can look for Etihad award tickets on Etihad’s own site here. Simply put in your dates, airports and class of service and hit the “Search Flights” button. Those awards listed as “GuestSeat” should be bookable using American miles, but you have to call up the AAdvantage desk to actually book them.
While I wouldn’t classify award availability in the Apartment as “wide open,” there are several dates next winter where it exists, so at least it is possible (I would just look each day as soon as the award calendar extends out), and is a great way to use your AAdvantage miles for a premium product on a long route.
Here is a sample award from Abu Dhabi to New York on February 2:
The taxes and fees are just about $62, not bad for a flight that would cost about $8,100 otherwise.
If you are thinking of booking an award, be sure to check out our posts on:
Hat tip: One Mile At a Time.Ink Plus® Business Credit Card