With all the gloomy news about devaluations, from Changes to the British Airways Executive Club to the effective devaluation of American Express Membership Rewards points and most recently the on-again, off-again devaluation of Hilton HHonors points, it's nice to have some good news to share: you can now use your American Airlines miles to book Etihad Airways flights, including First Class awards.
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 award travel (although note that Africa would require a second award due to AA award rules) 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 earn AAdvantage miles by applying for Citi AAdvantage cards on the Best Travel Credit Cards page.
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.
1. Go to Etihad Guest Redemption
You'll want to go to http://www.etihad.com/en/plan-and-book/book-redemption-flights/ to be able to search for awards even if you don't have an Etihad Guest account. Note that only Guest Seat space is available for AAdvantage award redemption; OpenSeat awards for more miles are only available to Etihad Guest frequent flyer members.
2. Enter in Your Search Parameters
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
And for Abu Dhabi to Male:
3. Now that you've found availability, you'll need to call American Airlines to actually ticket the award. AAdvantage no longer charges a phone booking fee for partner award redemptions that cannot be booked online, so you should not be charged a fee. Also see our post Comparing Airline Award Ticketing Fees and How to Avoid Them
So this is a great new option to have if the Maldives (or Seychelles, or other place Etihad flies) is on your bucket list!
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