If You Plan on Redeeming AAdvantage Miles on Etihad, Do It Now

Feb 24, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Multiple sources are reporting that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is on the verge of severing ties with American Airlines to join Star Alliance and add United Airlines as a partner airline. Etihad and American’s current partnership includes the ability to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles between airlines regardless of which airline frequent flyer program the traveler is a member of.

As of Sunday morning, TPG contributor Max Prosperi managed to find guest award availability on an Etihad Airways flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) on Tuesday, Feb. 26 in Etihad’s business class. TPG called an American Airlines customer service representative to follow up. The AAdvantage representative confirmed the one-way, nonstop award flight was available for 70,000 AAdvantage miles plus taxes and fees.

TPG then inquired about booking American Airlines flights using Etihad Guest points. Once connected with Etihad Airways, the representative confirmed that yes, you can still use Guest points on American Airlines. However, the agent went on to say that travelers won’t be able to “earn miles on your Etihad Guest account when you fly on American Airlines.” Upon inquiring directly about the rumors that Etihad plans on ending ties with American, the representative responded, “We are aware of the rumors that American Airlines and Etihad Airways will no longer be partners, however, we cannot confirm this.” Before hanging up, the agent jumped back in to add that “in the event that something in the future were to come up” travelers should “probably book partner flights as soon as possible if you plan on using your Etihad Guest points on partner flights.”

Possible Reasons for Etihad’s Switch

In the past decade, the three largest Middle Eastern airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar) have experienced significant growth, which US airlines have attributed to government subsidies. In response, US-based airlines, including American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, launched a campaign in 2015 claiming that these subsidies violate international agreements. With American Airlines being one of the strongest supporters of the anti-ME3 campaign, Etihad’s partnership with American Airlines has become increasingly hard to justify.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has been a key figure in the fight against Middle Eastern airlines

Also, Etihad may not be getting much out of its partnership with American Airlines. The purpose of a partnership like the one between Etihad and American is for the airlines to feed flights into their respective major hubs while allowing the transport of feeder traffic on international flights to destinations that either aren’t served or are served with limited capacity. While Etihad’s largest base in the United States is New York-JFK, American Airlines has terminated dozens of domestic and North American flights to/from its JFK-hub in recent years and shifted the airline’s focus to premium traffic and serving the needs business travelers.

Etihad's lounge is just past security in Terminal 4 - so it can also be a bit of a walk to your plane!
Etihad’s lounge at JFK is just past security in Terminal 4

What a Move to Star Alliance Would Mean for Travelers

If you are a frequent flyer on Etihad Airways and book flights using cash, Etihad joining Star Alliance would likely be a welcomed change. Etihad Airways would, upon joining Star Alliance, offer far more partner flights, allowing Etihad frequent flyers the ability to travel to far more destinations than ever before. Reciprocal elite frequent flyer benefits would also kick in, allowing Etihad’s top frequent flyers to experience preferential treatment with most, if not all, Star Alliance members.

Star Alliance members (Image: Star Alliance)
Star Alliance members (Image: Star Alliance)

However, if you aren’t using cash to book flights with Etihad Airways and its partners, the effects of Etihad joining Star Alliance becomes a little more complicated. Obviously, if Etihad cuts ties with American and adds United as a partner, Etihad will no longer allow American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyers to redeem miles for award flights on Etihad. This would also mean that Etihad Guest Rewards could not be used to book redemptions on American Airlines. Neither AAdvantage frequent flyers or Etihad Airways frequent flyers would be able to earn miles on either airline, which would be quite detrimental to AAdvantage frequent flyers.

United MileagePlus frequent flyers would benefit the most here as Etihad Airways awards would eventually be made available to MileagePlus members. United would also gain a new partner in the Middle East.

Etihad's A380 first class. Photo courtesy of Eric Rosen
Etihad’s A380 First Class (Photo courtesy of Eric Rosen)

It is aworth noting that this isn’t the first time that Etihad Airways and Star Alliance have been in the news together. In July 2018, Etihad Airways announced that the airline wanted to codeshare with Star Alliance after it announced plans to restructure.

As of Sunday, Feb. 24 at 1:30 pm the terms of any partnership between United and/or Star Alliance have not been released.

Find out which awards to book ASAP before Etihad cuts ties with American here.

TPG has reached out to Etihad for comment but did not hear back by time of publication. 

Featured image by Alberto Riva / The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.