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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard, Capital One Spark Miles for Business
While airlines continue to outdo each other in business class, airlines around the world — with the notable exception of Middle Eastern carriers — have been dropping international first class products from their fleets. After United ditched its first class cabin in June, American Airlines was left as the only US airline with a true first class product. But, these are few and far between.
You can only find first class cabins on just two types of AAircraft: American Airlines’ 17x Airbus A321T used on premium transcontinental routes (JFK-LAX, JFK-SFO and starting in April 2019 BOS-LAX) and AA’s 20x Boeing 777-300ER used on premium international routes.
Starting today, you can book AA first class tickets on another premium international route: Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo Haneda (HND). Starting June 6, 2019, the once-daily LA-Haneda route will switch from a Boeing 787-9 to a four-class (economy, premium economy, business, first) Boeing 777-300ER. This adds AA’s international first class product to the route for the first time. The flights will operate on the following schedule:
- AA 27: Los Angeles (LAX) 10:35am Departure ⇒ Tokyo Haneda (HND) 2:20pm Arrival +1 day
- AA 26: Tokyo Haneda (HND) 4:25pm Departure ⇒ Los Angeles (LAX) 10:40am Arrival
If you’re interested in trying out AA’s first class product, you have a few options. American Airlines first class saver awards between the US and Asia Region 1 — which includes Japan and South Korea — cost 80,000 AAdvantage miles each way. You can get almost that many miles for signing up for the CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Mastercard, which is offering a 70,000-mile signup bonus for spending $4,000 in the first four months.
Due to a recent devaluation, it’ll also cost 80,000 miles to book this award through the Alaska MileagePlan. The good news here is that Alaska often offers mileage sales, where you can purchase miles in bulk for cheap. For example, you can currently buy Alaska MileagePlan miles for just 1.97 cents per mile:
However, there’s a way to book these awards for even cheaper: Etihad Guest. As TPG‘s Richard Kerr points out, Etihad continues to fly under the radar. And that’s true for American Airlines awards. Here are some examples of what you can get:
- North America to Europe one-way in business for 50,000 miles
- First class to Europe for 62,500 miles
- A321T transcontinental business class flights for 25,000 miles
- North America to Hawaii in business for 37,500 miles
- North America to Japan or Korea one-way in business for 50,000 miles
Left off of that list (since it wasn’t an option until now): first class awards between the US and Asia Region 1 for 62,500 Etihad miles. However, if you don’t fly Etihad or have Etihad Guest miles, you might wonder how this is relevant to you. So, let’s show you how to make this happen.
Transfer Points: Etihad Guest is a 1:1 transfer partner of both Citi ThankYou Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards. Both of these have offered periodic transfer bonuses, which help sweeten the deal. And soon, you’ll be able to transfer Capital One miles to Etihad Guest at a 2:1.5 ratio.
If you don’t already have one of these three transferable point currencies, here are a few sign-up bonuses that’ll help you rack up these points:
- Capital One Spark Miles for Business: up to 200,000 Capital One miles (150,000 Etihad miles); earn 50,000 miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months and 150,000 miles after spending $50,000 in the first six months of account opening.
- The Business Platinum® Card from American Express: up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points (75,000 Etihad miles) after $20,000 total spend in the first three months.
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: 60,000 Membership Rewards points (60,000 Etihad miles) after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: 75,000 Capital One miles (56,250 Etihad miles) after spending $5,000 in the first three months.
- Citi Premier Card: 50,000 Thank You Points (50,000 Etihad miles) after spending $4,000 in the first three months.
- American Express® Gold Card: 35,000 Membership Rewards points (35,000 Etihad miles) after spending $2,000 in the first three months.
Buy Points: Etihad Guest charges a very reasonable two cents per mile for buying its miles. And you don’t have to buy a bunch to get this rate. If you need just 1,000 more miles to complete a reservation, you can buy 1,000 miles for just $20 total.
So, if you don’t have enough time to spend and earn a credit card sign-up bonus, you can buy miles at this rate to get a one-way flight on this LA-Tokyo route for just $1,250 one-way. That’s about 1/10th of the cost of a revenue one-way flight. Of course, the caveat is that you need to find saver award space.
Also watch out for Etihad buy points promotions. For example, through Nov. 15, members received a 25% bonus when buying 50,000 – 60,000 miles. That meant that you could have gotten 62,500 miles for just $1,000 each way.
Award Availability: With just eight first class seats, saver award availability is going to be tough to find. We recommend setting up award availability alerts on ExpertFlyer. With a premium subscription, you can now set up to 200 alerts at a time — up from just 30 alerts at the beginning of November. Never used it before? Here’s a beginner’s guide on how to get started with ExpertFlyer.
Featured image courtesy of American Airlines.
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