I primarily fly with the Star Alliance network as their carriers are world-class and feature amazing First and Business class experiences. However there are still aspirational premium cabins on other airlines outside of the Star Alliance that I want to try in 2016 – the main one being the Etihad First Apartment on their Airbus A380.
Etihad Airways and American Airlines currently have a partnership and therefore it is convenient for us to redeem AAdvantage miles for travel on Etihad. However, with American Airlines’ upcoming devaluation, some aspirational awards will be going up in mileage price and that’s why the next few months are the best for redeeming those miles prior to the award chart changes in March 2016.
My favourite AA award is Europe – Middle East for only 40k miles in First. This will be going up to 62.5k miles in March, so quite an increase. Right now, I can redeem 40k miles for a ~7 hour flight from Abu Dhabi to London on the Etihad First Apartment on the Airbus A380 – that’s an amazing deal.
If you would like to redeem AA miles for travel on Etihad, you will need to search for award space on Etihad’s website. To redeem AAdvantage miles, there needs to be “GuestSeat” availability (as shown below).
As you can see, the above flight, EY19, has two seats available for redemption in “GuestFirst”, which means they are bookable using AAdvantage miles. While EY17 also has space available, this isn’t the A380 which means you won’t get the Etihad First Apartment, just their “regular” First Class.
Once you’ve verified there is availability on the Etihad website, you will need to call AAdvantage, you can’t book Etihad awards on aa.com.
However, you should call American Airlines Australia (+61 2 9101 1948) as those agents can see Etihad space easily.
If you end up calling the United States AAdvantage phone number, chances are the agents will tell you there isn’t any space available (even though the Etihad website shows space). For some strange reason, the Australia call centre sees 99% of the Etihad space and can easily book it… plus there are virtually no hold times.
So, if the Etihad website displays award space, you can book it using AAdvantage miles… just depends on where you call to book it, and Australia seems to have the most competent agents and perhaps a different system that allows them to easily see Etihad space.
Yesterday I booked AUH-LHR for 40k AA miles in July and I’m quite proud of that. The taxes/fees were minimal on the award ticket.. and for 40k it is an incredible deal.