The Ultimate Guide to Etihad Airways: Part 2 – Using American Airlines Miles on Etihad

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For most US based folks, using American Airlines miles is the easiest and cheapest way to book Etihad award flights.  Etihad Airways partners with American Airlines, so you can use American Airlines miles to fly on Etihad.  You can’t search for Etihad flights on the American Airlines website, but I’ll show you how to search for Etihad flights and then call American Airlines to book those flights.

But there are 2 restrictions you should know.

Etihad Award Routes

Emily and Daraius Used 90,000 American Miles Each to Fly First Class on Etihad

The Ultimate Guide to Etihad Airways Index:

2 Restrictions Using American Airlines Miles on Etihad 

American Airlines has 2 restrictions for using miles:

  • You have to redeem for 2 separate award tickets for some parts of Asia
  • There has to be a published fare between your origin and destination city

1.   Traveling to Asia Requires 2 Award Tickets

If you wanted to redeem an award ticket from North America to certain parts of Asia on Etihad, you have to redeem 2 separate award tickets.  That’s because you can’t transit via India and the Middle East on 1 award ticket between North America and certain parts of Asia using American Airlines miles.

If you want to use American Airlines miles, Etihad is most useful to folks in North America who want to fly to the Indian subcontinent or to the Middle East.

But Etihad is great for award tickets to places like:

  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Nepal
Etihad Award Routes

Emily and I Used American Miles to Attend a Friend’s Wedding in India

This is because you can:

  • Book 1-way award tickets with American Airlines miles
  • Avoid fuel surcharges and pay very minimal taxes
  • Get access to up to 2 First Class, 2 Business Class, and 5 coach award seats available on almost every flight
  • Add domestic American Airlines flights to the Etihad gateway city for no additional mile cost and generally less than $5 in taxes

Using American Airlines miles, from the US to India or the Middle East, you:

  • Pay 45,000 miles 1-way in coach
  • Pay 67,500 miles 1-way in Business Class
  • Pay 90,000 miles 1-way in First Class

Etihad Has Lots of Award Seats

Here are some examples of destinations on the Indian subcontinent and how many award seats are available using American Airlines miles.  

I found entire weeks with 5 coach seats available each day.  Your entire family could get on the same flight!  Even during peak periods (like holidays), I found at least 2 coach seats available on most days.  And on the same flights, I also found 2 seats in First Class or 2 seats in Business Class, sometimes both First Class AND Business Class were available!

You can fly from Chicago to Nepal.

Etihad Award Routes

Lots of Award Seats If You Want to Hike Mt. Everest

There are 5 coach seats available from Chicago to Bangladesh.

Etihad Award Routes

Your Family of 5 Can Fly From Chicago to Bangladesh

If you wanted to visit the Mohenjo-daro ruins you could fly from Chicago to Pakistan.  

Etihad Award Routes

There Are 5 Coach Seats From Chicago to Pakistan

You can fly from Chicago to Ahmedabad, India.

Etihad Award Routes

5 Coach Seats Available From Chicago to Ahmedabad

2.   You Have to Be Able to Buy a Ticket

There’s a 2nd restriction when using American Airlines miles on Etihad.

To redeem an award ticket, the “overwater carrier” (the airline that flies you across the ocean) must publish a fare between your origin and destination city.  This means you have to be able to buy a ticket on that airline.  The major destination where this comes into play is for the Maldives.  But isn’t much of an issue for flights to India since they do publish fares.

Etihad Award Routes

Emily Convinced Daraius He Would Not Melt in the Maldives

For example, Etihad publishes a fare between New York and the Maldives.  You could redeem 1 award ticket between New York (JFK) and the Maldives (MLE) via Abu Dhabi for the price of a North America to India and the Middle East award.

So you’d pay 45,000 miles 1-way in coach, 67,500 miles 1-way in Business Class, and 90,000 miles 1-way in First Class.

But Etihad does NOT publish a fare between Washington, DC and the Maldives, even though they fly to Washington, DC (IAD).

This means you have to redeem 2 award tickets between Washington, DC and the Maldives (1st ticket from Washington, DC and Abu Dhabi + 2nd ticket from Abu Dhabi and the Maldives).

So to fly from Washington, DC to the Maldives you’d pay:

  • 62,500 miles 1-way in coach (45,000 miles for the 1st ticket + 17,500 for the 2nd ticket)
  • 92,500 miles 1-way in Business Class (67,500 miles for the 1st ticket + 25,000 for the 2nd ticket)
  • 115,000 miles 1-way in First Class (90,000 miles for the 1st ticket + 25,000 for the 2nd ticket because there is no first calls to the Maldives from India or the Middle East)

How to Check If an Airline Publishes a Fare Between 2 Cities

You can check if Etihad publishes a fare between 2 cities by using ExpertFlyer.com.

Step 1 – Use Expert Flyer “Fare Information”

Click on “Fare Information” on the left column.

Etihad Award Routes

You Can Use ExpertFlyer to Look Up Airfares

Step 2.   Enter Your Travel Information

Type in your:

  • Departing airport
  • Arriving airport
  • Date
  • Airline (for our example, we used Etihad for the airline)
Etihad Award Routes

Add Your Flight Information to Look Up Flights

Step 3.   Review Your Results

If a list of fares (like those shown below) shows up, that means that the airline publishes a fare between the 2 cities.

For example, Etihad publishes fares to the Maldives from New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD), and Toronto (YYZ).  That means it would cost just 1 award ticket between these cities (90,000 miles + ~$4 in taxes from New York to the Maldives).

Etihad Award Routes

You Can Use American Airlines Miles to Fly on Etihad From New York to the Maldives

If no list of fares shows up, that means the airline does NOT publish a fare (like with Washington, DC to the Maldives).

Etihad Award Routes

Etihad Doesn’t Fly From Washington, DC to the Maldives So You Have to Book 2 Award Tickets

So you would book 2 award tickets from Washington, DC to the Maldives on Etihad.  The 1st ticket would be from North America to the Middle East and the 2nd award would be from within the Middle East (American Airlines considers the Maldives to be within the Middle East).

If you don’t live in Washington, DC or the Etihad gateway city, you could use your Southwest Companion Pass to get there.

Add Extra Time to Get Another Trip

If you have to book 2 award tickets, you could also have a stopover in Abu Dhabi or other city in India and the Middle East by leaving time between your 2 award tickets.

For example, Etihad publishes fares from Washington, DC to Mumbai, India and Mumbai to the Maldives.  That means you could redeem 1 award ticket to India, spend time there then another redeem another award ticket to the Maldives, allowing you to visit 2 destinations.

Etihad only flies Business Class and coach to the Maldives.  So the 2nd award ticket would cost an additional 17,500 miles in coach or 25,000 miles in Business Class each way.

What If the Airline Doesn’t Publish a Fare Between 2 Cities?

There are ways to still fly Etihad to the Maldives on 1 award ticket even if you depart from a city where Etihad doesn’t publish a fare.

The rule states that the overwater carrier must publish a fare between your origin and destination.  American Airlines allows you to fly from North America to India and the Middle East via Europe.  This means you can fly between many cities in the US and the Maldives via Europe.

But the only airline that publishes fares for most cities is British Airways.  And they charge high fuel surcharges!

For example, British Airways publishes a fare between Los Angeles and Malé, even though Etihad doesn’t.

Etihad Award Routes

You Can Fly From Los Angeles to the Maldives on British Airways

So you can fly British Airways between Los Angeles and London, and connect to Etihad from London to Abu Dhabi to Malé.  The over-water portion of this trip is between Los Angeles and London.  This would cost only 1 award ticket because British Airways publishes a fare between Los Angeles and the Maldives.

But you would have to pay a larger amount of taxes.

You could fly from Los Angeles to the Maldives in First Class for 90,000 miles + $526 in taxes.  You can think of the extra $526 in taxes as a way of saving 25,000 miles.

Trading $526 in taxes in order to keep 25,000 miles could be worth it because you get a value of ~2 cents a mile ($526 / 25,000 American Airlines miles).  It would cost you ~$688 to buy 25,000 American Airlines miles.  But 2 cents is just above my threshold for buying American Airlines miles.

Etihad Award Routes

First Class to the Maldives Is Possible Using American Airlines Miles

Going Through Europe Saves Miles

If you have to book 2 award tickets, you may be able to save miles by booking your trip via Europe.  This would also let you to book a stop in Europe between your 2 awards.

Using the American Airlines partner award chart from North America to Europe you’ll pay:

  • 20,000 miles 1-way in coach (off-peak: October 15th to May 15th)
  • 30,000 miles 1-way in coach
  • 50,000 miles 1-way in Business Class
  • 62,500 miles 1-way in First Class

Using the American Airlines partner award chart from Europe to India and the Middle East you’ll pay:

  • 20,000 miles 1-way in coach
  • 30,000 miles 1-way in Business Class
  • 40,000 miles 1-way in First Class

So 2 award tickets from North America to India and the Middle East with a stopover in Europe costs as little as 40,000 miles 1-way total, if you book the North America to Europe flight during the off-peak season.

If you booked a direct coach award ticket to Abu Dhabi or other destination in India/Middle East, it would cost 45,000 miles 1-way.  If you added a 2nd coach award ticket to the Maldives, it would cost 62,500 miles.

The most expensive award ticket would be 2 First Class award tickets, which would cost 102,500 miles 1-way with a stop in Europe.

If you booked 1 First Class award ticket from North America to Abu Dhabi and 1 Business Class award ticket from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives, it would cost 115,000 miles.  So booking with a stopover in Europe saves you 12,500 miles.

While British Airways and Iberia have fuel surcharges for flights to Europe, you can use American Airlines miles without fuel surcharges for flights on:

  • American Airlines
  • Air Berlin
  • Finnair 

For example, your 1st award ticket could be an off-peak coach award ticket from Austin, Texas to Paris, France.  If you make sure to avoid British Airways or Iberia flights, it would cost only 20,000 miles + $5 in taxes a person!

Etihad Award Routes

You Avoid Fuel Surcharges When You Fly on American Airlines

You can spend some time in and around Paris, then book another award ticket on Etihad from Paris to the Maldives.

You’d pay:

  • 20,000 miles + ~$78 in taxes for coach
  • 30,000 miles + ~$127 in taxes for Business Class
  • 40,000 miles + ~$127 in taxes for First Class
Etihad Award Routes

You Can Fly Etihad From Paris to the Maldives

This means that a coach award ticket from the US to the Maldives, with a stop in Europe, would cost 40,000 miles 1-way plus ~$82 in taxes a person.  That’s a pretty great deal!

Because you are booking 2 awards, you can mix and match classes in your award tickets.  So you can book an off-peak coach award ticket from the US to Europe for 20,000 miles and a First Class award ticket from Europe to the Maldives for 40,000 miles.  Your total cost would be 60,000 American Airlines miles 1-way + ~$132 in taxes per person!  Not bad!

Bottom Line

You can use American Airlines miles to fly on Etihad Airways.  And there are lots of seats available that you can book with miles.

But you may have to book 2 award tickets.  And the airline you’re flying has to publish a fare between the city you want to depart and the city you want to arrive.

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25 Responses to The Ultimate Guide to Etihad Airways: Part 2 – Using American Airlines Miles on Etihad

  1. I know there’s a post coming on this, but what tool are you using to pull up Etihad award availability? I was once convinced I had found seats on Etihad’s website, called AA to reserve a trip to India, just to be told the seats weren’t there. I booked a trip to Bali instead, so it all worked out. But I would like to do the legwork on my own.

    On a separate note, could you point me to the last post of the how-to-save-money-on-car-rentals series you did this summer and fall? I’d like to read all the posts, but I can’t find anything newer than post 12 or 13.

  2. Hi:
    Thank you for this series. I am new to using miles for international travel and have found your blog to be very informative. I am planning a trip to India for summer of 2015 or 2016. JFK-AUH-Delhi. And perhaps stopping in Europe on the return. It looks like you are quoting off-peak awards. Would a trip in summer require more miles for the same itinerary. Also, would AA tack on a flight from BTV to JFK at the beginning and end of the itinerary for the same number of miles or would that have to be a separate ticket? Thanks for any information you can provide.

  3. Hey D, you mentioned 2 separate tickets would have to be booked for *some* cities in Asia. Where can I go in Asia on just 1 award ticket on Etihad??? Thx in advance!

  4. Can you please go detail on this ?

    “Add domestic American Airlines flights to the Etihad gateway city for no additional mile cost and generally less than $5 in taxes”

    Say, I want to fly from India to IAH (Houston). Etihad does not fly to IAH. So, can I use 45000 AA miles to fly from India to IAD/JFK/ORD and American airlines will give me a FREE flight from there to IAH ?

  5. I have the same question as Katie.

  6. Hi! Do you know if you can book Etihad using USairways. I.e. I can use USairways to book flights on Qatar but not sure if it works for Etihad.

  7. If I want to use Etihad for a flight from SFO-JNB/CPT, what are my options?

  8. You should check…. In February my Mom flew RT in EY F IAD-AUH/C-MLE for 90,000 on one award.

  9. I have a bunch of Delta points (miles)…like 8500 of them. Can I use those to book Etihad flights? The flight I want to take is about 5000 miles away.

  10. Pingback: The Ultimate Guide to Etihad Miles: Where You Can Fly on Etihad | Million Mile Secrets

  11. @Katie NYC – I like the Etihad website because it shows award seats (look for “Guest”) level awards. That was the last post in the series!

    @Nancy – You would require more miles for a stopover in Europe during peak travel times.

    @Mariele – Most parts of the Middle East and India on 1 award ticket.

    @ Brian – Exactly. I’ve done that from Kansas City and Austin.

    @smbayguy – You have to book them as separate awards because American Airlines does’t let you you transit via the middle east to Africa.

    @Inge – Unfortunately, you can’t use them for flights on Etihad.

  12. Your post on etihad is very informative. I am planning to book 2 first class RT tickets to my wife and myself. we have a 1 year old infant. Questions: 1) does american airlines allow lap infant to be added to my etihad award reservation at 10% of award miles or do i have to pay 10% of full fare for the lap infant? Also, does etihad or american allow booking lap infant to the award reservation?

  13. Pingback: The Ultimate Guide to Etihad Airways - Part 3: How to Find Etihad Award Seats | Million Mile Secrets

  14. Pingback: Here's How One Man Traveled To More Than 30 Countries Using Credit Card Points | Hot Travel Blog

  15. john tucker

    Your report on Etihad Airlines redemption of AA miles mile requirements is substantially less than the mile the Etihad website requires. Guest Etihad requires many more miles to redeem any reward. Is there a “trick” I am mission

  16. So there seems to be a big issue booking Etihad flights with AA Miles. I am planning a honeymoon for October and have been blocked from booking an Etihad award w/ AA miles for about a month now.

    Do you have any suggestions as to how to book 2 1st class (or business even) tickets from the east coast to Bangkok? I tried Cathay Pacific, but they are booked…

    The Etihad award issue couldn’t have happened at a worse time :(

    Thanks in advance.

  17. @john tucker – You still pay the lower rate charged by American Airlines. We’re just checking for award seats on the Etihad website.

    @Mark G – The best option is to wait. I’d go to the British Airways website and see if you can find flights on Cathy Pacific or Malaysian Air.

  18. Thanks for getting back to me! I’ve been following the Etihad issue on Flyertalk, but will perhaps look at Malaysian Air flights as a backup. Thanks again!

  19. Mark Killington

    One thing to keep in mind is that Etihad business class can be very cramped. On the Airbus 345 for example, business class has eight seats across, just as many as in economy. This plays out principally in extremely tight seat configurations. Given that business costs several times more than economy there really should be more lateral space. No place to put anything, drinks, snacks, shoes, feet, arms, shoulders, what have you. Also tons of foot traffic all night long (turned out to be economy pax coming into business class to use the washrooms). Unless you are a very small person with minimal requirements, Etihad business cannot be recommended. Service was generally good, but hard product not remotely competitive.

  20. Apologies to bring this up from the dead, but I have a quick question or two. I am looking to book an award ticket in late August from AUH-YYZ on Ethiad using AA miles. The dates are not final yet, and I am afraid by the time the dates are finalized, the 45000 miles economy ticket on EY will not be available anymore. Myquestions are, If the dates were changed later is it still free? And if the ticket is cancelled altogether, am I only looking at the $150 redeposition fee only to save my miles? Please let me know.

    Thanks.

  21. @Mark G – Etihad is available again!

    @ Sam- There is no change to change dates and the $150 redeposit fee will get you your miles back.

  22. Is it possible to book Etihad with AA miles from ATL to BOM roundtrip in business in one award?

  23. @Nick – As long as they have a published fare for that route.

  24. Pingback: American Airlines Africa Award | Million Mile Secrets

  25. Hi MMS: Any idea when Etihad will start loading award availability for their new SFO-AUH route? Thanks.

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