Etihad's Diamond First Suite is one of the nicest first class products, and for that matter, their business lie-flat seat that they offer on A340-500, A340-600, A330-200 and B777-300ER flights is also excellent. They even offer Etihad Chauffeur, a complimentary limousine service for Diamond First and Pearl Business guests to and from a number of airports, including New York JFK, London LHR, Toronto, etc. If Abu Dhabi is your final destination, the service provides service from the airport to anywhere in the Emirates. Check out this video tour of Diamond First Suites:
Now, you might be thinking--I have no trips planned to Abu Dhabi or the Middle East, so why should I care? Well, the nice thing is that Etihad flies to some pretty nice destinations from Abu Dhabi--think the Maldives and Seychelles, in addition to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Casablanca, Alexandria, Istanbul, Kiev, Moscow, Delhi, Mumbai, and many others:
You can also combine multiple American Airlines partners on an award, say taking British Airways to Europe then Etihad from a European gateway to Abu Dhabi although frankly I'd be most interested in trying one of Etihad's Diamond First Suites from NYC to Abu Dhabi, with an onward flight in Pearl Business Class to Male, Maldives. Here's American Airline's Partner Award Chart.
If you managed to pick up 150K or more AA miles from the AAdvantage Citi cards before that deal died, you're well on your way to the 180K AA miles required for a First Class flight to the Maldives. Or, you can redeem 135K AA miles for business class. Even if you missed the expired Citi deal, you can still get 100K AA Miles (or 150K if you also apply for the Business card) toward an Etihad award flight.
We'll be adding this Etihad option to our post Tips for Booking Award Tickets to the Maldives, but in the meantime, I thought it would be useful to some to see the search process.
2. On the left side bar, go to Your Miles > How to Redeem
3. Under the Reward Flight photo, select "Click here to book flight"
4. Enter in your origin and destination parameters. The first time I did this I made the mistake of not going segment by segment, and just plugging in NYC and Male; don't do this. Instead, go segment by segment, so for NYC-Male, break that into New York to Abu Dhabi (NYC-ADH) then a search for Abu Dhabi to Male (which will be in business class only; no first class award). Here's the result for NYC-Abu Dhabi