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American Airlines has been on a roll lately when it comes to adding partners that you can book with your AAdvantage miles online. At times AAddvantage was presumably “testing” things and accidentally made too many partners bookable online, but many additions have been intentional — such as with Qatar Airways, Air Tahiti Nui, SriLankan Airlines, Cape Air, S7 Airlines and more.
As of last night, Etihad awards have become bookable online using American Airline miles, as was reported by Jon NYC and View From the Wing! Until now, you not only had to pick up the phone to book these awards, but the miles and points go-to tip was to actually call an American Airlines call center in Australia if you wanted a better chance of success in making the booking, which isn’t something that the casual award traveler may want to do. When you add in the fact that American recently loosened up its routing rules to allow additional connections through Abu Dhabi (AUH), this makes for some terrific award opportunities.
Etihad is pretty high up there when it comes to using your miles to fly in style. Your AAdvantage miles aren’t going to get you in the $32,000 Etihad Residence Suite that TPG himself flew in back in 2015, but that still leaves some very nice options on the table. While it’s no longer brand-new, an Etihad first class apartment looks to be miles ahead of what most of the US carriers offer. Cue all the jokes about flying in a de-luxe apartment in the sky.
Then there’s Etihad’s business class, which is also nothing to shake a stick at.
And, of course, economy will get you where you are going, just without the lie-flat effect.
From the US, Etihad currently operates flights from Los Angeles (LAX), New York-JFK, Washington-Dulles (IAD), and Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Abu Dhabi. Etihad also offers flights from Toronto (YYZ), if you want to fly from Canada. However, the aircraft types and onboard products vary by route, from slightly older 777-300ERs flying to Chicago and LAX to a newer 787 serving Washington-Dulles. And then there’s the crown jewel of Etihad’s fleet — its A380s, featuring those nine spacious first class apartments which you can currently find flying to JFK.
Here’s how many AAdvantage miles it will cost you to book various awards on Etihad:
- US to the Middle East in economy for 40,000 miles one-way
- US to the Middle East in business class for 70,000 miles one-way
- US to the Middle East in a first class apartment for 115,000 miles
- Europe to the Middle East in a first class apartment for 62,500 miles one-way
- Australia to the Middle East in a first class apartment for 100,000 miles
In practice, this means you could fly in business class on Etihad from the US all the way to the Maldives on one award for 70,000 AAdvantage miles with just a few clicks on your computer screen.
Not only that, but I’m seeing award availability for four in business class, which is pretty exciting and rare when it comes to flying in business class to that part of the world. (Here’s how to add a lap infant to an Etihad award booked via American.) While our tests found that award availability on AA.com departing the US matches what Etihad Guest is showing as saver level awards, termed Guest Business or Guest First…
…we are seeing reports of dates that are inconsistent out of AUH.
Of course, allowing online award bookings is only an enhancement when there are actually awards available to book, and fortunately that is the case here. While economy award inventory is wide open on all US routes, premium class availability is a bit tougher. Here’s a quick overview of business and first class availability from the four US gateways:
Overall verdict: Very limited
At the time of writing, I’m only seeing two first class awards from JFK to Abu Dhabi for the entire open calendar (May 14 and 26). Business class is slightly better but still limited to last-minute awards (May 5-8, 12-14 and 16).
Overall verdict: Not great
Availability from IAD is better than JFK but but still limited. However, there are a few days in May and early June with two first class seats available.
Overall verdict: Very good (but no first class cabin)
If you’re looking to utilize this new online award booking option, ORD is likely your best bet for business class availability. Many dates through July 25 have two business class seats open, and then it opens up again January 20. This is where you can find four award seats on many dates into February and March:
Overall verdict: Very limited
Etihad’s service from LAX only operates 4x weekly through the end of October (then 3x), and premium class award availability is very limited. Only a few dates in May have business and first class seats.
Overall verdict: Terrific
If you’re based in the UK or have plans to be there, this could be the best way to experience Etihad’s first class apartment, as all three daily flights are operated by the A380, and the majority of dates have two first class awards available. At 62,500 miles, this could be a fantastic way to enjoy the luxury of an apartment in the sky for a limited outlay of miles.
When it comes to taxes and fees on Etihad, it varies, but are generally less than $100. Note that American lets you hold most award tickets for free, including partner awards, for up to five days. There’s no guarantee this availability lasts, so putting something on hold if you are considering it is not a bad idea.
If you are one of the few lucky ones that still has the 10% mileage rebate from your co-branded American Airlines credit card, up to 10,000 miles each year, then your deal is even sweeter. If you are short on AAdvantage miles, you can purchase them right now for 1.92 cents each, which would mean spending $1,344 on miles if you were starting from zero and wanted that example 70k business class award to the Maldives (which is surely much cheaper than buying the seat with cash). If you prefer to earn your miles with credit cards, here are the best American Airlines credit cards.
One tip to spot the flights operated by Etihad more quickly is to select the “nonstop” flight option on the American Airlines AAdvantage calendar view screen on the routes where Etihad operates nonstop (as shown below).
This is assuming you still have access to the old calendar view search screen — as not all routes are viewable with that legacy search display. However, we’ve found that you can actually “force” AA.com to show the old view by starting your search at this page.
There are some reports online that the Australia American Airlines call center still has access to more Etihad awards than on the AAdvantage website, though our tests haven’t sleuthed out those examples quite yet.
Etihad isn’t a member of the Oneworld alliance, and its partnership with American has been in question for a while. However this is a very positive development for most travelers who want to use their miles to fly in style. With the moves toward dynamic award pricing by United and Delta, it’s refreshing for American to open up an easy way to get big value from its miles. Just move quickly, as easily bookable Etihad business and first class awards may disappear as quickly as chum in shark waters.
Featured image of Etihad First Class Apartments by JT Genter / The Points Guy
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