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If you haven’t heard yet, Etihad Airways is likely cutting ties with American Airlines in favor of a partnership with United and potential entry into Star Alliance. While we speculated that this would happen as far back as last year, we now have enough reason to believe that it’s happening very soon — within the next 24 to 48 hours.
This would mean you’ll no longer be able to earn or redeem miles on each airlines’ flights. This would be a huge bummer for points and miles enthusiasts, as some of the best uses of AAdvantage miles are for Etihad flights and vice versa.
Fortunately, nothing’s changed yet so let’s take a look at some of the best award options you can book before the breakup. An Etihad representative advised a TPG contributor on Sunday to book American Airlines awards as soon as possible, so if you wait too long and partner awards aren’t bookable anymore, don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Redeeming Etihad Miles for American Airlines Flights
Etihad’s award chart for American flights matches what the carrier used to charge before its 2016 devaluation. In other words, Etihad requires a lot less miles to fly American-operated flights than you’d need through the AAdvantage program to book the many routes in American’s network. Even better, although the award chart says otherwise, Etihad charges the same amount for business and first class, so if you manage to find first class award availability, you’re really in for a treat.
Here are some of the most valuable redemptions:
- A321T premium transcontinental business class (or Flagship First) for 25,000 miles one-way.
- North America to Hawaii in business class for 37,500 miles.
- North America to Europe in business class (or Flagship First) for 50,000 miles one-way.
- North America to Japan or South Korea in business (or Flagship First) for 50,000 miles.
- North America to China or Hong Kong in business (or Flagship First) for 55,000 miles.
American awards can’t be booked on Etihad’s website, so you need to find SAAver award seat availability on AA.com or ExpertFlyer and then call Etihad Guest to book the flight. To reach the call center, call 1-877-690-0767, press 1 for English, then press 4 (don’t press 2 for “first and business class” bookings), then press 1 to book or change a flight, then press 1 to book or change a flight using Etihad Guest miles.
If you’re looking for a first-class award on a three-cabin flight, ask for fare code “Z.” If you’re looking for three-cabin business, international business, or two-cabin (domestic) first, ask for fare code “U.” Then, use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve Card to pay for the taxes and fees so that you’re covered by the card’s excellent travel protections.
Redeeming AAdvantage Miles for Etihad Flights
Although availability has gotten much harder to find recently, you can get tremendous value from your AAdvantage miles by redeeming for Etihad premium cabin flights — including the $16,000+ first class apartment. Here are some options, to name a few:
- Europe to the Middle East in a first class apartment for 62,500 miles one-way
- US to the Middle East in business class for 70,000 miles one-way
- Australia to the Middle East in a first class apartment for 100,000 miles
- US to the Middle East in a first class apartment for 115,000 miles
These rates are even lower when you factor in the 10% mileage rebate that AAdvantage Platinum Select and Barclays Aviator Red cardholders get, up to 10,000 miles each year.
As is the case with American awards booked through Etihad, Etihad awards are not bookable on American’s website. And unfortunately, it might not even be as simple as a phone call as American’s US-based agents often can’t see Etihad award space on their end, even when there’s availability on Etihad’s site. In the past, the workaround has been to call the Australia American Airlines call center, but unfortunately that’s no longer a reliable solution. Now, your best bet is to just HUCA (hang up and call again).
The exact taxes and fees on these awards vary, but are generally less than $100. While American lets you hold most award tickets, including partner awards, if American and Etihad cut ties before you actually book your ticket, it’s unlikely that your hold will be honored.
Getting Etihad Guest Miles
Fortunately, getting Etihad Guest miles is quite easy as they can be transferred from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. However, Amex is the only program that offers instant transfers, so if you have a card like The Platinum Card® from American Express or the American Express® Gold Card, that’s probably the program you’ll want to transfer your points from. Alternatively, you can snag Etihad miles for as low as 1.67 cents apiece by taking advantage of the carrier’s current buy miles promotion. Transfers and miles purchases are non-reversible, so you’ll want to hold off from doing so until you have a specific redemption in mind.
Getting American AAdvantage Miles
Aside from Marriott Bonvoy, which takes 48 hours to transfer miles to American, the carrier isn’t a partner of any of the major transferable points programs. So, if you’re short, your only way of getting AAdvantage miles right away is buying them. With American’s latest buy miles promotion, which was just extended to Feb. 28, you can buy miles for as low as 2.25 cents apiece. TPG values American miles at 1.4 cents each, but you’ll get far greater value than than if you’re able to book one of the premium cabin awards mentioned above.
As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end,” and sadly, it seems like an end to the Etihad-American partnership is in sight. If this breakup does end up happening, it’s likely that partner awards will be cut immediately, so if you’re able to find an award that works with you, act fast if you want to grab it, or forever hold your peace.
Featured image by JT Genter / The Points Guy.
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