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

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

Million Mile SecretsThe Ultimate Guide to Etihad Airways: Part 2 – Using American Airlines Miles on EtihadMillion Mile Secrets Team

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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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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Is the 2 award ticket rule applicable to Europe flights i.e. Europe to Asia e.g. LHR to AUH. AUH to Sydney as separate awards?

Hi

Just tried to book an infant with AA and was told they do not book infant tickets for award travel with etihad – do you know if they are correct?

Thanks

Dave

It seems since the publishing of this article LAX to Maldives is now a published fair on ExpertFlyer. Am I correct?

Hi,

I wanted to book a flight from Washington D.C. to Lahore (Pakistan) using my American Airlines miles. The AA website determined a route for me till Abu Dhabi..for which I use 45,000 miles and pay around $356 in taxes.

I know that a direct Etihad flight goes from D.C. to Abu Dhabi. Could you please tell me how I can book that using my AA miles?

Hi Darius

Thank you so much for publishing this knowledgeable piece. I tried to book a business award using AA miles on Etihad from JFK-AUH. But the agent mentioned that the flights from my local airport to JFK would need more miles as AA doesn’t have any saver level awards. Is there anyway to get around that?

Andy

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