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On many routes, Etihad releases tons of Business and First Class award space within one week of departure. You can book this ultra-luxury award space without fuel surcharges with American Airlines miles.
Twitter follower Patrick found four Etihad First Class award seats this week on a flight from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi and asked whether that was normal.
— Patrick Srail (@patricksrail) March 8, 2015
The answer is that it depends on the route. Let’s take a look at three routes in Business and First Class to find the pattern:
- London <-> Abu Dhabi (A380)
- Washington-Dulles <-> Abu Dhabi (787 starting 3/15/15)
- New York-JFK <-> Abu Dhabi (A380 starting 12/1/15)
Etihad First Class on its newest A380 has a couch that seats several people and a separate bed and costs only 40,000 American Airlines miles between London and Abu Dhabi. (When it starts flying New York to Abu Dhabi in December, it will cost 90,000 miles each way.)
Etihad’s fully enclosed suites are the most spacious in the sky. Etihad First Class also features an onboard shower and lounge.
Getting the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, give you enough miles to fly Etihad First Class. The card even gives you an automatic 10% rebate on all America Airlines awards (up to 100,000 AA miles redeemed per year), so the final cost is 36,000 miles.
Etihad Business Class is a fully flat bed that costs 30,000 American Airlines miles between Europe and the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent or 67,500 miles between the United States and the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent.
Award Space in the Last Three Weeks
I looked at award space over the next three weeks in Business and First Class on etihad.com. Here’s how to search for award space on etihad.com. For the purposes of this post, just remember that American Airlines can only book award space in the GuestSeat column on etihad.com.
Abu Dhabi <-> London
Abu Dhabi to London didn’t show much First Class award space over the next three weeks. There’s only one day with space, it only has one seat, and it isn’t even on the A380 flight.
But this was not the pattern for all the routes. For instance, London to Abu Dhabi shows fantastic award space in Business and First Class in the next few weeks.
Six out of the next seven days–all the days that say “Miles 43857″ on the calendar–have Business Class space between London and Abu Dhabi. (Remember that American will only charge 30,000 miles for this space not 43,857 miles.) Many of the dates, like March 12 below, have award space in Business Class on both daily flights including the A380 service.
When there are six or fewer seats available for awards, that fact is noted in the search results, and yet that fact is not noted in the screenshot above meaning there are 7+ award seats in Business Class on each flight that you can book with American Airlines miles.
The award space in Business Class from London to Abu Dhabi appears to open up one week before departure because none is available after March 16. (On this route in Business, Saver award space is denoted by “Miles 43857.”)
Many days have 1-2 seats on the A380 service.
Washington-Dulles to Abu Dhabi
Etihad puts its new 787-9 Dreamliner on the Dulles route Sunday. First Class award space–denoted by “Miles 114444″ on the calendars below–is excellent on the route within one week of departure with up to four First Class seats being released.
Right now these days just have one seat on the Dreamliner, though more space is likely to open within one week of departure. From Abu Dhabi to Washington, we see the same pattern, excellent First Class award space–denoted by dates that say “Miles 114640″ below–within one week of departure.
New York <-> Abu Dhabi
There are two daily flights between New York and Abu Dhabi. On December 1, 2015, the A380 will begin to fly one of those frequencies. As of March 8, there was no award space on the A380 in First Class for any date it is scheduled to fly. (Some briefly opened and was either booked or taken back.) Will last minute award space open?
On some routes, Etihad releases tons of First and Business Class award space as departure approaches. Let me summarize for the routes and cabins I searched:
- London to Abu Dhabi in First Class: opens up one week before departure
- London to Abu Dhabi in Business Class: opens up one week before departure
- Abu Dhabi to London in First Class: does not open up at last minute
- Abu Dhabi to London in Business Class: does not open up at last minute
- Washington to Abu Dhabi in First Class: opens up one week before departure
- Abu Dhabi to Washington in First Class: opens up one week before departure
- New York to Abu Dhabi in First Class: widely available the three weeks before departure
- Abu Dhabi to New York in First Class: opens up one week before departure
The most common pattern was widely available award space in the last week before departure. This may not be the pattern for your preferred route and cabin, but you can easily discover your pattern by searching etihad.com.
All the award space in this post can be booked by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880. Since the space cannot be booked online, American Airlines will not impose a phone booking fee.
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.
Getting both cards now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 106,000 American Airlines miles soon.