Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly to Europe in American Airlines Flagship First class for 62,500 miles
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Sweet Spot Sunday is a weekly series highlighting the best-value award redemptions across loyalty programs.
If 62,500 miles for an American Airlines Flagship first-class ticket to Europe sounds like a blast from the past, you’re not wrong.
That was the cost of a saver award in 2016 before AAdvantage devalued its award chart. Today, that same flight will often cost at least 85,000 Advantage miles — but you can still lock in the lower price if you have Etihad Guest miles.
You see, years ago Etihad matched American’s own prices while developing their partner award chart. But when AAdvantage raised its prices, Etihad left its American award chart as is, meaning you can still book flights at the original price.
Let’s take a closer look at this redemption in this week’s edition of Sweet Spot Sunday to see if it may align with how and where you want to fly.
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Why it’s special
True first-class cabins to Europe are a rarity these days as airlines revamp their offerings to peak at the business class level. That said, American Airlines still offers a Flagship First product on select international routes operated on a Boeing 777-300ER.
These days, you’ll typically find these aircraft flying between Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA), New York-JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) and London Heathrow (LHR).
There are only eight lie-flat first-class suites on each flight, making this a truly exclusive experience.
In addition to more personalized service, chef-inspired dining and extra space onboard, Flagship First also features access to American’s Flagship lounges in the U.S., Flagship Dining and an arrivals lounge at London Heathrow. Just note that some lounges remain closed due to the pandemic.
Not only is this a comfortable way to fly between the U.S. and Europe, but it’s also priced similarly to business-class awards offered by other airlines. This is a true sweet spot in award redemptions for anyone looking for a premium experience.
How to book
The downside to these favorably priced awards is that they require a little extra effort on your part to book. It might feel annoying at the time, but it most certainly is worth the effort when you settle into a first-class seat.
Step 1: Search for available award space
You can’t search for award space operated by American Airlines on the Etihad website but there are plenty of other options to look for Oneworld award availability.
One of the easiest ways to do this is searching on the Qantas award-booking engine. You’ll need to register for a (free) Qantas frequent flyer account to do so, but from there it’s straightforward.
Enter your route and be sure to check the box for flexible dates. That’s because American Airlines isn’t known for being generous with premium award space, so there’s a strong possibility you’ll need to have a flexible schedule to lock this one in.
From there, you’ll need to dig into any dates labeled with first-class availability to specifically confirm if the flight is operated by American Airlines on their Boeing 777-300ER.
To double-check your work, you can cross-check your flight number on aa.com to make sure the first-class cabin is Flagship First. American typically labels this explicitly (you’ll also notice on the seating chart that first class is shown in a 1-2-1 layout, designating Flagship First.)
If you need to include positioning flights within the USA or Europe (for example, if Miami-London isn’t your full, intended travel route), you’ll need to find saver American space in business or first class for those segments as well. Etihad does not allow mixed-cabin itineraries in a single award.
Step 2: Transfer points to Etihad Guest, as needed
Most frequent flyers won’t have a collection of Etihad miles ready to go — but that’s no cause for concern.
These miles are easily acquired. You can transfer miles to Etihad from American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards or Citi ThankYou (more information on those transfers is included below).
Since most credit card transfers to Etihad Guest are instant, there’s no need to initiate the transfer until after you’ve confirmed there’s a flight available on a date that works for you.
Step 3: Call Etihad to book
Unfortunately, you cannot book any AA-operated flights on Etihad’s website. Instead, you’ll need to call to complete your booking.
In my experience, Etihad agents are very friendly but not all of them are especially expedient with booking partner awards. Call when you know you have some time set aside and be patient.
You can reach the U.S. call center toll-free at 877-690-0767, or you’re welcome to call other centers if you prefer.
Like all phone award bookings, you’ll work with the agent to confirm your dates of travel, the specific flight number you want, passenger names and other information and will need a credit card to cover the taxes and fees.
Remember, if returning from London to the United States, you’re required to pay U.K. air passenger duty, which is currently 180 pounds (about $240) when flying in premium cabins.
The agent will provide a confirmation code which you should keep handy in case your confirmation email isn’t sent quickly.
How to earn points for this award
Etihad Guest may seem like an obscure program, but it’s actually a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One Rewards. In other words, you may already have access to easy Etihad miles without even knowing it.
You can also transfer miles from Marriott Bonvoy to Etihad at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus awarded for every 60,000 Marriott points transferred. Transfers from Marriott to Etihad typically take about three days, so transferring credit card miles may be a smarter play if you expect award availability to change quickly, such as if you’re flying last-minute or need several seats altogether.
There are currently several cards with a welcome bonus large enough to cover the entire cost of a redemption between the U.S. and Europe in Flagship First, such as these offers:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the card in your first six months of card membership.
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.
- Citi Premier® Card: Earn 60,000 ThankYou points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
American Airlines currently doesn’t offer its Flagship First product all of its routes to Europe, but if you’re flying to London Heathrow (or don’t mind connecting there), you can sometimes book the award through Etihad Guest for only 62,500 miles one-way.
Considering you’ll enjoy premium lounges, lie-flat seats and upgraded service in the airport and while on board, that’s an excellent price for the experience.
Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.
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