Got AAdvantage miles? Here’s why you may want to use them on Etihad flights soon

A guide to using American Airlines AAdvantage miles on Etihad flights

Etihad Airways Airbus A380 in flight | Point Hacks
GUIDE: Using Points
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate
TIME TO READ: 4 minutes
POSTED: March 15, 2019
UPDATED: March 19, 2019
ALLIANCE: None
AIRLINES: Etihad Airways
LOYALTY PROGRAMS: American Airlines AAdvantage

AAdvantage provides excellent redemption value for premium cabin travel on Etihad. However, their partnership may be coming to an end soon.

I’m writing this post because this week I was lucky enough to find award availability for a Etihad First Apartment on their A380 flight from Abu Dhabi to New York in October. I used 115,000 AA miles + US$101 taxes to book this AU$14,000 flight, giving me a redemption value of over 12c per point. That’s about six times the value I put on AA miles, so I’m thrilled!

First Class on the A380 gives you a private suite with closing doors, a separate seat and bed, and access to a hot shower onboard

In this post, I go into why I think you should use your AA miles for Etihad flights soon, as well as give you the right phone number to use to book.

Here at Point Hacks, we’ve just debuted a new version of our editing software, so I’m trying out the frequently asked questions widget. Let me know what you think of it in the comments below.

Let’s run through the questions

What is AAdvantage?

AAdvantage is the loyalty program of American Airlines (AA), which is part of the oneworld alliance. It is also a joint venture partner of Qantas.

How do I get hold of AAdvantage miles?

Most travellers in Australia will buy miles during promotions. You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to AA miles, and you can credit your Qantas and oneworld flights to AA.

If I have AA miles and am thinking of using them on Etihad, why should I use them now or soon?

There are rumours that AA may end its partnership with Etihad this month (or very soon). This means that this redemption opportunity will disappear.

Etihad has been struggling for years. In 2017, they lost over US$1.5 billion. This week, they reported that in 2018, they lost over $1.2 billion—not great news.

This talk also includes rumours that Etihad may join Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world. This could open up the use of Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, United MileagePlus and Avianca LifeMiles on Etihad flights, which is fantastic news! (Note that Etihad is not currently a part of any alliance.)

Why does AA offer good value for Etihad flights?

The main programs that Australia-based travellers use for Etihad flights are Velocity Frequent Flyer and Etihad Guest. However, those two programs tend to charge more points and taxes than AA.

For example, a one-way Business Class flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi costs 104,000 Velocity Points (with a US$205 ‘Carrier Charge’ on top of the taxes) or 99,999 Etihad Guest miles. Compare only 80,000 AA miles, with much lower taxes. You can compare pricing for these three programs in this guide.

One downside to using AA miles is that if you are travelling between two regions other than the Middle East, then you’ll have to redeem two separate awards (red routes). It’s only for travel within the Middle East that you can tack on a flight for free (green routes).

This contrasts to redemptions with Qatar Airways. When using AA miles, you can search for availability and book these awards online through the AA website. Plus, Qatar redemptions are treated as just one rather than two separate awards when travelling between two non-Middle Eastern regions, such as Australia and Europe.

Etihad separate award pricing

What’s Etihad award availability like?

Compared to its main Gulf competitors—Emirates and Qatar Airways—you’ll generally find Etihad to be more generous with their award availability (but of course that depends on the route).

Where does Etihad fly in Australia and overseas?

Etihad flies from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to its hub in Abu Dhabi.

One of the two daily flights from Sydney is on an Airbus A380, with the other on an older 777. All flights to and from Melbourne and Brisbane are on Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Most Australia-based travellers will use Etihad to fly to the Middle East and onwards to Europe (including London, Paris and Madrid). Some will also fly onto the East Coast of the US (including New York and Washington DC).

Etihad routes from Australia as of March 2019

Which is the best First Class product to aim for?

One of the best First Class products in the whole world is on the A380—it’s called First Apartments. You can find this on flights to Sydney, London, Paris, New York and Seoul (from July).

Which is the best Business Class product to aim for?

For Business Class, you’ll want to aim for an A380 or a 787 (pictured below), which covers most Australian flights. Try to avoid the older product on the 777 from Sydney.

Can I book Etihad flights online using AA miles?

No, you cannot. However, you can save time for you and the phone agent by searching for availability on the Etihad Guest websitefirst. Look for GuestSeat (not OpenSeat) availability.

Which phone number should I use to book then?

Once you’ve found availability, don’t call the AAdvantage US number on +1 800 882 8880. The phone agents in the US call centre cannot see all Etihad availability.

Try instead the Australian number at (02) 9101 1948 or the New Zealand number at +64 9 308 4014. This routes to the Fiji call centre, with agents that can (for some unknown reason) see more availability on Etihad than their US counterparts.

These phone numbers are manned 24/7. However, if it’s outside normal business hours, then your call will direct to the Caribbean island of Trinidad (of all places!). They can also see the same availability as the Fiji agents and will quote any taxes in Australian Dollars.

Summing up

If you are lucky enough to have some AAdvantage miles in your account and want to fly a great First or Business Class product with Etihad, then my advice is to book soon!

You can save time by searching for award availability on the Etihad website. Then call AAdvantage’s Australian or New Zealand phone number.

You can read much more about Etihad’s different products and their points pricing in the guide below.

Have you booked an Etihad award through AAdvantage? What was your experience like?

Supplementary images courtesy respective airlines and alliances.

Got AAdvantage miles? Here’s why you may want to use them on Etihad flights soon was last modified: March 19th, 2019 by Matt Moffitt