Etihad First Suite on 787

I booked myself a First Class award ticket from Cairo, Egypt to Washington DC with 15 hours on the brand new Etihad 787-9 Dreamliner for 90,000 American Airlines miles and a few dollars in taxes. Take a look at the suite:

The Trip

I had already booked myself from the United States to Dubai to Bangkok on two flights in Emirates First Class on its A380. Read that Anatomy of an Award.

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And from Bangkok to Luxor, Egypt in Business Class on a Qatar A380. Read that Anatomy of an Award. After a week in Thailand, I’ll head to Egpyt for a week.

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I plan to spend a few days in Luxor and a few days in Cairo. Here is the trick I used to save 47% on my flight from Luxor to Cairo.

To get back from Cairo to Washington DC, I wanted to use American Airlines miles to fly Etihad Airlines. Etihad serves its Abu Dhabi to Washington DC route with a brand new 787-9 Dreamliner.

Award Search

To search for Etihad Awards, create a free Etihad Airways account, and go to the award search page.

My first search was from Cairo to Washington DC in First Class.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.05.36 PM Results look like this.

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I’ve highlighted the GuestSeat column because that is the award space that American Airlines phone agents can access. They cannot access OpenSeat award space.

My first search showed no GuestSeat award space from Cairo to Washington DC in First Class. The problem is that Cairo to Abu Dhabi doesn’t have First Class, just economy and Business, and Etihad’s search screen won’t mix cabins.

It was time to search segment-by-segment. I started with the longer segment and searched Abu Dhabi to Washington in First Class. Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.08.36 PM
There was award space on my top-choice date. Note the calendar above the search result.

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The calendar is useful because you can change dates without re-running the search. You can pretty easily tell which dates which will have award space on the calendar by the number of miles listed. OpenSeat prices are usually like 10 times the price of GuestSeat awards in Etihad miles, so on the calendar above, all the days that say “Miles 114650″ have OpenSeat award space and all the “Miles 949486″ or “942226” days don’t.

Of course, we are not going to pay the number of miles listed. Since I used American Airlines miles, I follow American Airlines routing rules and award chart. This is just a handy trick for figuring out quickly which days will have GuestSeat award availability.

I noted the date, cabin, and flight number of the award space I found from Abu Dhabi to Washington DC and moved on to Cairo to Abu Dhabi in Business Class.
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There is award space on this route basically every day. There is a flight that connects in Abu Dhabi with only a two hour layover. I noted its date, cabin, and flight number.Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.10.04 PM

If You Don’t Live in Washington DC

I was done with my award search because I want to go to the Washington DC area. If you want to go somewhere not served directly by Etihad, you’d have another step. You’d want to go to aa.com and find award space from where Etihad flies to your home airport. Then you could move on to the last step, booking the award.

Award Booking

I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

I fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the two flights I had found with Etihad GuestSeat availability.

She quickly put together my two flights.

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As I mentioned in “Anatomy of an Award: Qatar A380 Business Class for 30k American Airlines Miles,” I booked my awards from Bangkok to Egypt and Egypt to Washington on one record locator to save $35 on the phone booking fee. (Usually you are only charged one fee per person, no matter how many awards you book at a time.)

The flights from Egypt to the United States cost 90,000 American miles. To the Middle East (including Egypt) and Indian Subcontinent, American charges:

  • 45,000 miles one way in economy
  • 67,500 miles one way in Business Class
  • 90,000 miles one way in First Class

The total taxes for both awards were only $72, so let’s attribute $36 to this award.

American only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia award flights, so there were no other taxes, fees, or fuel surcharges.

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

We also know that The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered to new applicants as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time before 2015. That means that the chance to earn 50,000 bonus miles after first purchase on this card will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

All US Airways miles not redeemed on the US Airways chart by the time of integration will become American Airlines miles, and American Airlines has committed to not devaluing its award chart at the time of combination. The two types of miles are roughly equal in value. Getting all three cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by June.

Bottom Line

American Airlines miles are ideal between the United States and the Middle East because American has several partners that fly the routes with excellent products like Etihad and Qatar.

I booked myself Etihad First Class on its brand new 787-9 for 90,000 miles one way plus low government taxes, no fuel surcharges, and a modest phone fee. I saved myself $35 in phone fees by booking this award at the same time as my Qatar Business Class award on the same trip.

The American Airlines personal and business cards are each offering 50,000 bonus miles after $3,000 spending in the first three months.

Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787

Searching for GuestSeat space on etihad.com and calling American Airlines to book the flight were a snap.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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United flies from Los Angeles to Melbourne directly with its newest plane the 787-9 Dreamliner.

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15 hours 45 minutes

Award space on United’s Dreamliners in Business Class has been abysmal, but I wanted to check in and see if anything was different on this route.

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We want to get into these flat beds up front

The good news is that there is award space on the route in both directions for two people in Business Class.

  • What is the award space picture? 
  • How many miles does the flight to Australia cost?

Update 10/23/14: Commenter Jeremy finds the award space now on aeroplan.com, and I can confirm that the space on these Ethiopian flights is now bookable and is still excellent! (None of the rest of the post has been updated to reflect this information.)

Ethiopian Airlines will begin flying Los Angeles to Dublin to Addis Ababa in June 2015 with a 787 Dreamliner. Ethiopian will have fifth freedom rights, meaning you will be able to fly any single segment of the flight, including Los Angeles to Dublin.

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This is an exciting addition to the Star Alliance’s transatlantic routes, especially if the route has awesome award space, since direct award space from the West Coast to Europe is tough to find. (Solution: route via Canada.)

The flight will be bookable with United miles and any other Star Alliance airline’s miles. Crucially, with United miles, you can connect Los Angeles to Dublin with the rest of Europe by using United’s non-alliance partner Aer Lingus.

Right now, Los Angeles to Dublin is showing 4 economy seats and 2 business class seats in both directions from June 2015 and beyond. But there’s a problem…

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  • What are the flight times?
  • How is Ethiopian Business Class?
  • Where does Aer Lingus fly within Europe?
  • What is the problem with the award space on united.com?

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United’s first flight on the brand new 787-9 Dreamliner is set for October 26, 2014 between Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia.

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Currently United serves Melbourne as a tag flight from Sydney after a brief layover.

Official word of the route is expected later today, but we don’t need the announcement because we can see the flights loaded onto the calendar at united.com and up for sale right now.

What’s the award space picture? What are the flight times? What is the difference between the 787-8 and 787-9? How is United’s premium product to Australia?

Royal Jordanian is a member of the oneworld alliance with American Airlines, and is based in Amman, Jordan. Royal Jordanian is the latest carrier to announce new routes for its 787s beginning July 1, 2014.

What really jumped out at me was the Chicago to Amman route that begins August 31, 2014 and features incredible award space! From Amman, there are connections to all of the following cities on Royal Jordanian.

from wikipedia.org
from wikipedia.org

This route will be of great use to anybody who wants to fly the 787 up front; wants to travel to Jordan, the Middle East, or India with American Airlines miles; or is planning an Explorer Award.

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United announced a massive devaluation of its miles on Halloween to take effect for awards booked February 1, 2014 or later. Until January 31, 2014, I’ll be running posts about the best ways to burn United miles.

You can save 20k or more miles by booking your 2014 United Dreamliner flights to Asia by January 31, 2014. Space has improved dramatically in the last few months on Dreamliner routes.

United has a fantastic fully-flat business class product (called BusinessFirst), which is the only premium cabin in its configuration of the 787 Dreamliner, one of the world’s newest and most advanced planes.

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United’s Dreamliner flies three routes, all to Asia:

  • Los Angeles <-> Shanghai
  • Los Angeles <-> Tokyo-Narita
  • Denver <-> Tokyo-Narita

The plane has 36 beds up front in a 2-2-2 configuration. Snag a middle seat to avoid having to climb over anyone or be climbed over.

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Currently, the cost from the US to Japan or China in economy class is 32,500 miles each way or 60,000 each way in business class.

For awards booked February 1, 2014 or later, those prices rise to 35,000 miles each way in economy class, 65,000 miles each way in business class to Japan or 70,000 miles in business class to China.

The award prices on the Dreamliner’s routes are rising 8-17%, hardly earth shattering, but not exactly pleasant.

Prices to Southeast Asia are rising quite a bit more, though, so if you were planning on using a Dreamliner segment as part of a trip to Thailand, for instance, the price of a one way in economy will rise from 32,500 miles to 40,000 miles. And a one way in business class is rising from 60k miles to 70k miles on United flights or 80k miles on partner flights.

Booking Dreamliner flights now would lock in the better prices. The good news is that award space for two people is available on all three routes in 2014 in economy and business. This is a change from a few months ago when United was not releasing award space on any of the Dreamliner routes.

What is the award space picture on each route? Which route is ideal for connections throughout Asia? How can you earn United miles to redeem before the devaluation?

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United will operate its 787 Dreamliner between San Francisco and Chengdu, China three times a week beginning June 9, 2014 according to Airline Route.

Boeing 787 United Airlines seating

I follow United’s Dreamliner route announcements because United has an awesome Business Class product (confusingly called “BusinessFirst”), United releases good award space on its own routes, and the Dreamliner is an awesome plane with great passenger comforts and environmental benefits.

What is the flight schedule? What is the award picture?

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According to Airline Route, United will fly its Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Houston to London from December 20, 2013 to May 5, 2014.

I like to track the routes of Dreamliners that fly to the US because they’re a great way for beginners to get a state-of-the-art business class flights that are easy redemptions.

This route from Houston to London has the best business class award availability I’ve seen on any United Dreamliner route.

When is the award space? How is the United BusinessFirst product on the Dreamliner?

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Update October 5, 2013: United has cancelled this one-off route, but there are other opportunities to get on this flight domestically.

United’s 787 Dreamliner will fly a single roundtrip from Seattle to Houston over with perfect flight times for this Thanksgiving.

How can you get on the Dreamliner on a domestic flight for far less than an international flight?

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Last week, British Airways announced a new, and surprising, route to be served by its Dreamliner 787: Austin, Texas <-> London-Heathrow, starting March 3, 2014.

Image from gcmap.com

The Austin route is the third Dreamliner route announced. The plane is already flying to Toronto and starts service to Newark on October 1, 2013.

I had a chance to speak to Simon Brooks, BA’s Head of Sales for North America about the new route, for which tickets are already on sale. He filled in some of the details of the new route for me.

I’ll be following this route and all future British Airways 787 routes with great interest because my recent taste of the plane has me excited to fly it on a longer flight. See Trip Report of the Brand New British Airways 787 with Tons of Pictures.

I’ve checked into the award space on the flight, and for the moment it’s excellent for next summer. I’ve priced out several awards to find the best way to stretch your miles and get on to the route.

Why Austin? How is the award space? How many miles, taxes, and fuel surcharges to get onto the Dreamliner’s newest route?

I recently had a chance to fly both a British Airways A380 and a British Airways 787 on intra-European flights in fully-flat business class beds for peanuts. The circumstances of the flights and some photos of the A380 are here.

I booked myself a business class bed on the 787 from London-Heathrow to Stockholm for 7,500 Avios and $140. The full price was 15,000 Avios and $40, but I chose the Cash & Avios option.

The flight was enjoyable, and I wasn’t the only one in business class who had purposely booked a seat on the 787 in business class. The plane is beautiful and will be an excellent addition to the British Airways fleet.

How did the business class cabin look? Which seats should solo travelers and groups select?

Update: British Airways 787 Business Class Full Trip Report

Last month I saw this thread about British Airways taking delivery of its new A380 and 787 and training the crews on intra-European routes. The A380 is flying for most of August between London and Frankfurt, and the 787 is flying between London and Stockholm.

Just by chance, I would be in Munich in August and had some friends I wanted to visit in London and Stockholm.

I booked myself a business class seat (Club World, though in this case Club Europe) on the A380 for 9,000 Avios and $40 from Frankfurt to London. I would have jumped at a First Class seat, but those seats were not for sale.

And I booked myself a business class seat on the 787 for 7,500 Avios and $140. The full price was 15,000 Avios and $40, but I chose the Cash & Avios option.

I flew the A380 Thursday, and I’m about to board the 787. I’ll give full trip reports on both, but I wanted to share of a few images of all cabins of the British Airways A380 in advance because it’s so beautiful.

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I’m undeterred by battery issues and constantly on the lookout for ways to fly the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. One Dreamliner route with fantastic award space is the All Nippon Airways (ANA) route between Tokyo-Narita and San Jose, California.

These can be turned into fully flat beds.

The daily flight is bookable with United or US Airways miles and may be your best gateway to Asia for the next three months.

image from gcmap.com

How can you book the flight? What’s ANA’s business class product? What’s the award space picture?

LAN Airlines is putting its Boeing 787 Dreamliner into service between Los Angeles and Lima starting July 1st according to airlineroute.net, and the award space is widely available.

Like all LAN longhaul flights, the plane is configured with two cabins, economy and Premium Business with fully flat beds. You can get on the flights from the west coast to Peru for only 17,500 miles each way in economy or 30,000 miles in a fully flat bed–a steal for the 8hr20min flight.

How can you get on the flight and when is the best award availability?

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A few months ago, Bill wrote a great piece titled Beware Phantom Award Availability at United.com. It’s true that United.com occasionally lists Saver award space that just doesn’t exist and that you can’t book online or by phone.

I’ve just come across the opposite: phantom non-award space. United.com is showing no availability in business class on the Ethiopian 787 Dreamliner from Toronto to Addis Ababa when such space is in fact bookable with United miles by phone.

This is huge news because this is a solid product (angled lie flat bed on a 787) to Africa with award space this summer that most people don’t know about. That means you can get the award space for yourself if you follow a few simple steps.

I’ll discuss my findings and how you can get this secret award space after the jump.

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