How to book Etihad First Class using American Airlines AA miles
One of the sweet spots in the American Airlines frequent flyer program, AAdvantage, is travelling from Europe to Middle East / Indian Subcontinent in First Class which requires only 40.000 AA miles. Putting those miles to great use, is using them for travel on Etihad Airways onboard the A380 where a First Class seat is actually called “First Apartment” and features a 24″ tv, minibar and a sofa/ottoman that turns into a comfortable 205cm bed. Each First Class passengers can also enjoy showering at +36.000 feet.
Keep in mind that after 22nd March 2016 the program will ‘enhance’ and you will need 62.500 AA miles for the same trip which is a 56.25% increase! However, you do not need to travel prior to that date! So you could easily book your flights for Christmas 2016…
How to book Etihad First Class Apartment using American Airlines miles?
Search for Etihad First Class award seat
Although you are using American Airlines AA miles, you will need to look for Etihad award seats on the Etihad.com website. You do not need to log in to your Etihad Guest account to search for award seats. Hover the mouse to “Plan and book”, click “Book flights with miles”.
Enter the desired route and date(s), select “First” and click “Search flights”
And then you have the available options… When using AA miles for Etihad flights, you need to look for “GuestSeat”, these are the award seats that are available for redemptions by partners. Disregard the number of miles required, this is how many miles you would be needing if you were redeeming Etihad Guest Miles, Etihad’s frequent flyer program. Because you are using American Airlines miles, AAdvantage rules & award chart apply, thus only 40.000 AA miles for this flight.
Search for British Airways, Iberia, …
Because currently Etihad only operates the A380 on the Abu Dhabi to London route, you will need to position yourself to London. You can do so by looking for seats on flights operated by Oneworld members & partner airlines such as British Airways, Iberia, Finnair, …
You can look for British Airways & Finnair award seats on AA.com or British Airways & other partners on BA.com. You will need to log in to your British Airways frequent flyer account to search for the award seat.
Note that (e.g.) Alitalia is a partner airline for Etihad, but not for American Airlines AAdvantage program for which the rules apply to this award, so you cannot use them.
Region definitions & examples
Defined by the American Airlines Award Chart, countries included in the Middle East & Indian Subcontinent region are Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Maldives, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.
Europe is considered, well.. Europe, including Iceland, Greenland, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, …
Getting from Europe all the way down to the Maldives as illustrated in the example above is 5.526 distance miles and only requires 40.000 AA miles because MLE airport is considered to be in the Indian Subcontintent.
Note that Sri Lanka is defined as Asia Region 2 which would mean 70.000 AA miles while the distance from Brussels to Colombo, Sri Lanka is 5.699 distance miles, only 173 distance miles more!
If you really want to maxize your experience on Etihad’s A380, you could wait until June 2016 when they will serve Mumbai with the A380 as well, London to Abu Dhabi to Mumbai in First Class requiring only 40.000 AAmiles. Again, disregard 121.392 miles mentioned on the printscreen, this is when using Etihad Guest miles.
Keep in mind that you can only fly 3 segments on one-way award with AA miles, so Madrid to London to Abu Dhabi to Bangalore is perfectly ok.
Booking the award ticket
Because you cannot search & book Etihad award tickets online on AA.com, you will need to call the AAdvantage desk.
I usually tend to call the US number, because office hours are limited in Europe. A booking fee applies to awards booked over the phone, however this is waived if the award cannot be booked online on AA.com. (so ask to waive the fee if it has been added).
If you would like some assistance with the award, you can also contact me to help you with the award ticket.
Etihad’s The Residence
Etihad’s A380 has 9 First Class Apartments and only 1 ‘The Residence’ which features a private bathroom, including shower, and bedroom. You cannot use American Airlines AAmiles for this. However if you have over 2.300.000 Etihad Guest miles you can! 2.3 million is not a typo. Or you can pay 32.000 USD like The Points Guy did.
Etihad 787 First Class Suites
Should Etihad First Class award seats on the A380 not be available for your dates, you could have a look at the Zurich to Abu Dhabi route which is currently operated by 787-9 and also has an excellent First Class seat, although unfortunately no shower onboard.
Earlier this year I flew Brussels to London in British Airways Business class, London to Abu Dhabi in First Class on Etihad’s A380 and First Class from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai on Etihad’s 787-9, all for only 40.000 AA miles. You can read my review of Etihad’s 787-9 in First Class here.
American Airlines AA miles
If you already have sufficient AA miles I can strongly recommend using them for travel in Etihad First Apartments, it’s an experience. If you do not have the required number of miles, or none at all, American Airlines often has “Buy/gift” promotions where you are able to purchase the miles for <1.000 EUR. Compared to the retail price, that’s over 70% discount for an experience of a lifetime.
Until January 4th you can buy American Airlines AAdvantage miles and earn up to 75.000 bonus miles!
Feel free to read my full review of Etihad A380 First Class from London to Abu Dhabi, which I’ve flown twice already, or if you have any questions leave them in the comments…