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INSIDER SECRET: You can now search for Etihad award flights on the American Airlines website, but most available Etihad award seats (especially business and first-class seats) won’t appear on the site. So you’ll still need to search for Etihad awards somewhere else, like ExpertFlyer, and then call in to book the award.
I recently used a bunch of American Airlines miles to book a couple of amazing partner award flights with Etihad and Qatar Airways. Even though I’d been saving up my miles for a while, I was eager to lock in the flights because American Airlines doesn’t have the best relationship with these two partners. There were even rumors that Etihad was going to end its relationship with American Airlines overnight, but nothing has come of that … yet.
Even if both Etihad and Qatar Airways remain long-term partners with American Airlines, there is another big reason to burn through your American Airlines miles — American Airlines appears to be moving toward dynamic award prices (eliminating their award chart). This is the same move that United Airlines announced recently and what Delta has been doing for years.
While American Airlines does still have an award chart, in practice the price of awards varies widely. The current prices for Qatar Airways and Etihad premium cabin awards are reasonable when you consider how easy American Airlines miles are to earn. So I suggest getting in on these awards while the getting is good.
Using American Airlines Miles for These Partner Awards? I Wouldn’t Wait Long to Book
One shred of hope you can hang onto is that as American Airlines moves toward dynamic award pricing, it’s possible partner award costs won’t change. Or at the very least, partner award prices could become even better deals compared to booking American Airlines awards.
This is what is currently happening with United Airlines, where the cost of partner business-class flights hasn’t changed. And even with Delta, partner business-class awards are often cheaper than a similar award on Delta’s own planes.
That being said, American Airlines’ relationship with Etihad and Qatar Airways has been rocky. Just a few months ago, there was a rumor that Etihad was going to terminate its relationship with American Airlines overnight and join Star Alliance. I was nervous about this because I had been collecting American Airlines miles to use for an Etihad First Class Apartment award. But I ended up waiting it out, and as of now the Etihad and American Airlines partnership is still alive.
And in the past the CEO of Qatar Airways has threatened to leave the oneworld alliance because of a feud with American Airlines. American Airlines, along with Delta and United Airlines, have had a long running issue with the subsidies Qatar Airways receives from its government, which they consider to be unfair. American Airlines also has complained in the past of government subsidies for other Middle Eastern airlines as well, such as Etihad and Emirates.
Even though it isn’t a guarantee that American Airlines’ partnership with either airline will be ending soon, the future doesn’t look bright when you consider that American Airlines is moving toward dynamic pricing for awards. At the very least, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to book awards with Qatar Airways or Etihad at today’s prices once American Airlines fully transitions away from their award chart.
So if you’re sitting on a pile of American Airlines miles, I suggest booking awards with these partners sooner rather than later.
Recently American Airlines added Etihad awards to their website. But if you’re relying on the American Airlines site, you’ll be missing out on a lot of open Etihad award seats. I suggest using ExpertFlyer or searching Etihad’s site to find which dates and flights have open Etihad awards. Once you’ve found an award seat you want, you’ll need to call American Airlines to book.
Lots of people report that the phone agents at the US-based American Airlines call center can have issues finding open Etihad award flights. So the generally accepted consensus is to call the Australia-based (or other international) American Airlines call center to book Etihad awards. I called the Australian call center and the phone agent found the Etihad award I wanted to book with no problems.
If you’re flying from the US to Abu Dhabi, you can book one-way Etihad awards for:
- 40,000 miles in economy
- 70,000 miles in business class
- 115,500 miles in first class
And a few of the highlights from Abu Dhabi (one-way) are:
- Europe in business class for 42,500 miles
- Europe in first class for 62,500 miles
- Australia in first class for 100,000 miles
American Airlines has recently relaxed some of their routing restrictions, which has opened up some good deals with Etihad. There are several routes that you’d previously have needed to book as two separate awards, but now you can book them as a single award connecting through Abu Dhabi for much less, including:
- North America to Africa
- Europe to Africa
- Europe to Asia
- Europe to Australia
- Africa to Asia
- Africa to Australia
In the past, if you wanted to fly in Etihad business class from, say, London to Sydney (with a connection in Abu Dhabi), you would’ve had to pay for an award flight from London to Abu Dhabi for 42,500 American Airlines miles and an award from Abu Dhabi to Sydney for 80,000 American Airlines miles (a total of 122,500 miles!). Now you can book one award from Europe to Australia for only 85,000 American Airlines miles in business class.
The taxes for most Etihad awards are reasonable. I only paid $55 in taxes per ticket for the one-way first-class flights from Abu Dhabi to Sydney.
2. Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is the proud owner of what are widely considered the best business-class seats in the world – QSuites. They’re available only on certain routes and specific planes. If you want more information on which flights have QSuites, check out this QSuites guide by The Points Guy.
You can search for Qatar Airways award seats on the American Airlines website, but I find it easier to search on ExpertFlyer.
Finding available QSuites from the US can be tough. On the dates I was looking to travel I only found available seats out of Philadelphia. But if you’re just looking for the regular Qatar Airways business-class seats, you can book one-way business-class awards (including QSuites, if available) for only 70,000 American Airlines miles from the US to the Middle East or the Indian Subcontinent (including the Maldives).
Doha, Qatar Airways’ main hub, is also in the Middle East region. So the prices are the same as what you would pay for an Etihad award.
Earning American Airlines Miles
The only flexible points that transfer to American Airlines are Marriott points, which you can earn with these cards:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card
But, there are much better Marriott transfer partners than American Airlines. So you’re better off just opening an American Airlines card and earning miles that way. Both Citi and Barclays issue American Airlines credit cards:
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
- CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Business Mastercard
- Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator™ Red World Elite Mastercard
And if you’d like to learn more about American Airlines miles, check out these guides:
- American Airlines Miles Review
- How to use American Airlines miles
- Best use of AA miles
- How to earn AA miles
- How to set up an American Airlines account
- Do American Airlines miles expire?
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