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Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly to Europe in American Airlines Flagship First class for 62,500 miles

Aug. 14, 2022
7 min read
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Editor's Note

/strong> This post has been updated with the most current information.

Editor's note: This post has been updated with the most current information.


If 62,500 miles for an American Airlines Flagship First 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 AAdvantage miles — but you can still lock in the lower price if you have Etihad Guest miles.

Years ago, Etihad matched American's prices while developing its partner award chart. When AAdvantage raised its prices, Etihad left its American award chart as is. That means 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.

To Europe, you'll typically find these aircraft flying between Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW), Miami International Airport (MIA), New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and London Heathrow International Airport (LHR). You'll also find this product on some flights to Asia, the Middle East and South America.

Seats swivel toward the window, a unique feature of AA Flagship First. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

There are only eight lie-flat first-class suites on each flight, making this a truly exclusive experience.

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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.

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.

Related: How to fly American Airlines Flagship First class

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 American Airlines booking engine. Just head to American's website, enter your route and be sure to check the "Redeem miles" box.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

From the search results page, click the "Calendar" button. You can filter out nonstop first-class flights using the options at the top of the window. Now, click through the available flights. Keep an eye out for flights that cost 85,000 American miles and charge $5.60 in taxes and fees, as these are American awards with saver award space. Flights with higher taxes and fees are likely operated by British Airways.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

Select the date with award space. Then, find the flight in your search results and note the flight number. You'll need this when you call Etihad Guest to book your award ticket.

(Screenshot from aa.com)

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, call to complete your booking.

In my experience, Etihad agents are very friendly but not all 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 call other centers if you prefer.

Like all phone award bookings, you'll work with the agent to confirm your travel dates, 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.

AA Flagship First flights travel to or through London. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The agent will provide a confirmation code, which you should keep handy in case your confirmation email isn't sent quickly.

Related: Ultimate guide to searching award availability for the major airlines

How to earn points for this award

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Etihad Guest may seem like an obscure program, but it's 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:

Related: How (and why) you should earn transferable points

Bottom line

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.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

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Recommended Credit

740-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more