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.
The Ultimate Guide to Etihad Airways Index:
- Part 1 – Where You Can Fly on Etihad
- Part 2 – Using American Airlines Miles on Etihad
- Part 3 – How to Find Etihad Award Seats
- Part 4 – Using KVS to Find Award Seats
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:
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 SeatsHere 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.
There are 5 coach seats available from Chicago to Bangladesh.
If you wanted to visit the Mohenjo-daro ruins you could fly from Chicago to Pakistan.
You can fly from Chicago to Ahmedabad, India.
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.
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)
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.
Step 2. Enter Your Travel Information
Type in your:
- Departing airport
- Arriving airport
- Airline (for our example, we used Etihad for the airline)
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).
If no list of fares shows up, that means the airline does NOT publish a fare (like with Washington, DC to the Maldives).
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.
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.
Going Through Europe Saves MilesIf 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
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
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!
You can spend some time in and around Paris, then book another award ticket on Etihad from Paris to the Maldives.
- 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
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 LineYou 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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