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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. American Airlines has the best award space to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent by far and some of its nicest partners fly these routes.

Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787. I have mine Booked for May.

What You’re Reading

This is the eighth post in one comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about American Airlines miles. Now is the time to write this guide because now is a special time to earn American Airlines miles.

American Airlines and US Airways have merged legally, but they maintain separate frequent flyer programs. The two programs will combine some time between April and June 2015, and your balances in the two programs will be combined as American Airlines miles.

Getting the American Airlines personal card, American Airlines business card, and US Airways personal card now and meeting their spending requirements means you will have at least 156,000 American Airlines miles by mid-2015.

This guide will explain the rules, quirks, tricks, and options for redeeming those 156,000 American Airlines miles all in one place. It might just put my Award Booking Service out of business when it comes to redeeming American Airlines miles.

If you find this guide to redeeming the most valuable miles in the world to be useful and want to apply for the credit cards that earn them, please use my links. The commission is what allows me to dedicate the time to writing this series.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

The Middle East and Indian Subcontinent is one very large region on the American Airlines award chart. It contains:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Lebanon
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • the United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan

The Partners for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent Awards

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, awards to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent must fly directly from North America to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent or can transit Europe. They cannot transit East Asia even though trips from the West Coast to India might be as convenient or more convenient via Asia.

American Airlines partners with direct flights to the Middle East or India from North America:

  • Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi)
  • Qatar Airways (Doha)
  • Jet Airways (Mumbai)

Other American Airlines partners with hubs in the region:

  • Gulf Air (Bahrain)
  • Royal Jordanian (Amman)

Plus any partner that flies between the United States and Europe or Europe and the Middle East can be potentially useful, so don’t forget about:

  • American Airlines
  • US Airways
  • Airberlin
  • Qantas (London to Dubai)
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • British Airways

Award space on American Airlines, US Airways, airberlin, British Airways, Finnair, and Qantas is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Awards space on Iberia, Royal Jordanian, and Qatar is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Award space on Gulf Air is searchable on Expert Flyer. Here’s how to search Expert Flyer.

Award space on Etihad is searchable on etihad.com. Here’s how to search etihad.com.

Award space on Jet Airways is searchable by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

Pricing

From North America to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, American Airlines charges:

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

Compared to competitors, American charges fair prices. Compared to the rest of American’s outstandingly cheap award chart, these prices are unfortunately more expensive than I’d like. Ultimately though I have paid 90,000 miles for one way in Etihad First Class from Egypt to Washington DC.

American is not the leader to the Middle East and India because of its pricing as much as its partners. American partners with two of the big three Middle Eastern carriers, and the third, Emirates, only partners with Alaska Airlines among American airlines. Add in the other Middle Eastern and Indian partners, and American really has a lock on the region.

Booking the Awards

To book 99% of Middle East and Indian Subcontinent awards, you need to call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. You will have to pay a $35 phone fee per passenger. I recommend searching award space on aa.com, ba.com, Expert Flyer, and etihad.com before calling and feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight with award space instead of relying on the agent’s searching skill.

Routes

There are too many routes to cover all of them, so I’ll restrict myself just to the direct Etihad and Qatar flights from the United States the Middle East.

Etihad flies from six American cities to Abu Dhabi and from there throughout the region including 11 cities in India and five in Pakistan.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 6.57.44 PM

Etihad flights feature First, Business, and economy class.

I find award space to be excellent on Etihad. This is my go-to airline when I am looking for award space for MileValue Award Booking Service clients to the Middle East and India. With flexibility, you can find two seats in any cabin.

Qatar flies from seven American cities to Doha and from there throughout the region including 12 Indian cities.Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 7.00.44 PM

Qatar’s flights to the United States do not feature First Class, just Business and economy.

In my experience, Qatar award space is not as strong as Etihad award space.

I realize I haven’t said much useful about the award space to the Middle East, but it is difficult to sum up space on dozens of routes across several airlines and cabins. Better to just tell you which airlines to start with and where to search that award space.

Bottom Line

American Airlines has amazing partners to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, topped by Etihad and Qatar.

Awards are pricier than most places on the American Airlines award chart at 45,000/67,500/90,000 miles one way in economy/Business/First. Awards must fly directly from North America to the region or connect in Europe. They cannot go via East Asia.

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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The Etihad A380 is the plane I most want to fly in First Class. The suite is so big, you get a seat and an entire couch/bed next to you. The suite is so big that First Class is in a 1-1 configuration on an A380. (Most airlines are 1-2-1.) The suite is so big that I might barely want to leave it to check out the onboard shower or Lobby lounge. Here’s the Etihad page on their “First Apartments.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

I booked myself First Class on the Etihad 787, but I really want to get on the A380 which already flies from London to Abu Dhabi and begins flying from Abu Dhabi to Sydney on June 1, 2015.

I’ve mentioned a few times that award space between London and Abu Dhabi in both directions is available for up to two people per flight, and that it costs only 40,000 American Airlines miles each way in First Class. That’s a steal!

There are no fuel surcharges. Taxes out of London are high, but here’s how to dump them.

An even better deal, though, is paying only 60,000 American Airlines miles one way in First Class between Abu Dhabi and Sydney for 14+ hour flights–again with no fuel surcharges and just modest taxes.

Award space between Sydney and Abu Dhabi is excellent in both directions, and I often see two award seats on the same flight in First Class.

How to Search Award Space and Award Space Picture

As I mentioned in Where to Search All American Airlines Partners, Etihad award space is searched on etihad.com’s award search page.

First I searched Abu Dhabi to Sydney. This flight leaves at 10:15 PM and lands at 7:05 PM the next day. It’s just shy of 14 hours.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.13.18 PM

Since I would most like to visit Australia near its summer, I searched as late in the award calendar as possible. Award bookings are currently available through about Christmas.

I found no award space in December on the A380 in First Class. But I found ample space in November–on some flights for two passengers–until November 21. That’s already late Spring in Australia, so the weather should be pretty good by then.

Here’s what a typical award search result looks like.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.13.42 PM

Let’s break it down a bit. At the top is a calendar that shows how many miles First Class is each day. We will never pay these amounts. We’ll either pay 60,000 American Airlines miles if there is award space accessible to American Airlines or have no chance to book the space if there isn’t.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.13.49 PM

The miles listed are important though because you pretty quickly distinguish the cheapest price (121,000 in this case) from other prices (612,000 and 823,000.) Only days with the cheapest price have “GuestSeat” availability.

GuestSeat availability is the space that American Airlines miles can access. AA miles cannot access OpenSeat availability.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.14.00 PM

On the results, you’ll see how much space is available on each flight and which aircraft operates each flight.

Here you can see that on November 5, there are two seats available to American Airlines miles on the A380 flight.Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.15.43 PM

I also ran the search from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, and award space was basically the exact same. There is no space in December at the moment. There is great space in November for 1 or 2 people, and again the last day with award availability this year is November 21.
Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.19.44 PM

The Sydney to Abu Dhabi flight is also a nighttime departure. It leaves at 9:50 PM and lands the next day at 5:30 AM. It is nearly an hour longer at 14 hours, 40 minutes.

I’m not sure which I’d prefer to take. Since take off time is almost the same, I assume I’d get about the same amount of sleep on each flight, probably a few hours after take off. I’d lean toward the westbound flight because it is 50 minutes longer.

To book any Etihad award space, note the date, cabin, and flight number and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

You Don’t Live in Abu Dhabi or Sydney

Hopefully I don’t need to inspire you to THINK BIG with your trip ideas. Miles allow you to make an Abu Dhabi to Sydney flight part of a round-the-world trip booked with a combination of miles. For only 60,000 miles in First Class, this would be a luxurious middle leg that you would definitely enjoy.

Australia and New Zealand have more than you can see in a lifetime, so I wouldn’t hesitate to return no matter how many times I’d been, and Abu Dhabi can be an interesting destination or connection point to somewhere else in the Middle East that you prefer to see.

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

Etihad First Suite on 787

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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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.24.04 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 10.24.29 AM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.06.05 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.08.17 PM

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.
Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.09.50 PM
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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.10.28 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

 

 

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Etihad and Qantas both fly their stunning A380s with ultra-luxurious First Classes out of London. You can get on both for only 40,000 American Airlines miles one way, and you can do it while avoiding the big London departure tax.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

Etihad’s fully enclosed suites are the most spacious in the sky.

Award space is widely available on the A380 between London and Abu Dhabi and from there to the rest of the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and Maldives for zero extra miles.

If you have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which comes with 50,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, you will even get an automatic 10% rebate on your award, so the final cost is 36,000 miles.

Qantas First Class costs only 40,000 (36,000) American Airlines miles between London and Dubai.

Qantas First Class features an open suite that converts into a bed…

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 11.25.48 AM

…or a table for two.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.33.16 PM

Qantas First Class is widely available between London and Dubai, Dubai and Sydney, and London and Sydney for low mileage prices.

The problem is that if you fly either of these beauties on an award beginning in London, you’ll pay $273+ in taxes.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.07.15 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.07.21 AMThe UK charges an arm and a leg to departing passengers (but not to arriving or connecting passengers), and extra if you fly in a premium cabin.

Solution 1: Arrive in London

You can fly these products from Abu Dhabi or Dubai to London and avoid the departure tax in London.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.30.51 AM Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.30.57 AM

 

But what if you’re going east?

Solution 2: Connect in London

I’m looking at flying something like London to Abu Dhabi in Etiahd First Class on the A380 and Abu Dhabi to Mumbai in Etihad First Class on the 787.

But I don’t want to pay almost $300 in taxes.

If I just start the award anywhere else in Europe and connect in London, I can save a bundle. For instance, starting in Dublin and flying to London drops the taxes $273 to $62. Flying the first leg on British Airways does add in a $40 fuel surcharge, but I’d still come out $170+ ahead.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 1.06.14 AM

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And I could start in other countries and look to fly other partners than British Airways like airberlin or Finnair to lower taxes further and eliminate 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.

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Your miles are as valuable as you are creative. For instance, you can combine two luxurious A380 First Classes onto one American Airlines award.

British Airways flies an A380 daily between Los Angeles and London. Qantas flies an A380 daily from London to Dubai (it continues to Sydney.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 8.25.13 PM
from gcmap.com

Although American Airlines has strict rules on transiting one region to get to another, it is ALLOWED to transit Europe on your way to the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent region.

Combined the award costs 90,000 American Airlines miles one way.

The drawback is really high taxes and fees, but even here I see a silver lining.

The Products

First Class on the Qantas A380 taunted me with its near emptiness when I flew from Melbourne to Los Angeles in Business Class last year.

Qantas A380 Seat

I saw the British Airways First Class Suites on the A380 up close last year on a trip from Frankfurt to London as British Airways used the short hops to get the crew familiar with the plane.

British Airways A380 First Class Suite

Just Los Angeles to London

Los Angeles to London one way has $480 in taxes and fees, including $452 in fuel surcharges. (American Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia flights.) That totally stinks, but it is tempting for a 10.5 hour flight in First Class on an A380 for only 62,500 miles.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.24.38 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.24.50 PM

Just Los Angeles to Dubai

Departing London in a premium cabin has massive taxes. London to Dubai has $288 in taxes. That’s why if you only want to go one way for 40,000 American Airlines miles in an awesome First Class between the Middle East and Europe, I recommend flying west into London to avoid those departure taxes.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.24.56 PM

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.25.01 PM

The Silver Lining

Combine these two flights onto one awards, and you save big on miles and taxes. Instead of 62,500 + 40,000 miles (both of which are a steal), the one way First Class award is 90,000 miles.

Instead of $480 + $288 ($768) in taxes and fees, you pay $530 total. The big savings is because the less-than-24-hour layover in London means you are not considered to originate in the UK, which triggers the nasty taxes we saw from London to Dubai.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.25.07 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 2.25.13 PM

That’s 17.5 hours in luxury for 90,000 miles and $530. Delta miles can’t even be used for International First Class. United would charge at least 140,000 miles for the same award. When you look at it that way, it starts to get tempting.

Other Options

Scrap the British Airways First Class and save $452. You could fly American Airlines First Class instead, but the product isn’t as nice and award space is harder to find.

From London, you can fly Etihad First Class on its A380 to Abu Dhabi (and beyond) or Qatar Business Class on its A380 to Doha and beyond. I haven’t seen Qatar release First Class award space on the route.

You can continue to anywhere in the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, or Maldives for no extra miles if the airline that connects you from the United States to Europe publishes a fare from your starting city to your final destination. That’s a big “if.” (See Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards for more info on this rule and how to figure out if you comply.)

You can start anywhere in North America and connect to Los Angeles on American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines flights, subject to the same “published fare rule.”

I’m Talking Myself Into This Award

I need to get from the United States to Europe in April. I might fly an award like this and spend a few days somewhere in the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent region before returning to Europe. I could sample three A380 First Class products on such a trip–two as outlined in this post and Etihad First Class on the A380 on the return, stay tuned tomorrow–see a region I’ve never seen, and have a few interesting reviews for this blog.

Ninety thousand American Airlines miles is a lot, and $530 is more than I’ve ever laid out for an award, but it’s so tempting.

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 both spending requirements means you will have at least 106,000 American Airlines miles in early 2015.

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American Airlines’ non-oneworld partner, Etihad, has fantastic award space to the Middle East, India, and the Maldives. Etihad also features one of the world’s nicest First Class suites and world-class flat beds in business class.

(Since Etihad is not a oneworld airlines, and it is not a US Airways partner, US Airways miles cannot be used to book Etihad flights.)

Etihad award space is not bookable on aa.com, so you always have to call American Airlines to book the space. Unfortunately since late May 2014, American Airlines phone agents couldn’t see or book Etihad award space on any routes.

This problem has been resolved. American Airlines agents can now see and book all the award space that Etihad releases to partners.

In general, that’s quite a lot of space since American Airlines is the only American partner of Etihad and Etihad’s space isn’t bookable online, which protects it from non-expert award searchers.

  • How do you search for Etihad award space?
  • Is Etihad reliable about releasing premium cabin award seats?
  • Once you find Etihad seats, how do you book them?

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Etihad is an incredible partner of American Airlines. Etihad is not part of American’s oneworld alliance, nor is it a partner of US Airways, but you can use American Airlines miles to fly Etihad in style to the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and beyond.

We explained how to search and book Etihad award space with American Airlines miles in “Anatomy of an Award: Booking Etihad Business Class Using American Miles.”

Etihad First Class
Etihad First Class

Etihad’s First Class is a fully enclosed suite. Etihad Business Class is a fully flat bed. And Etihad flies to several North American cities, with particularly great First Class award space to/from Washington-Dulles:

While I salivate about riding in Etihad First Class for 90,000 miles each way between the United States and the Middle East, Maldives, or Indian Subcontinent, there’s a bit of a hiccup.

American Airlines agents cannot book Etihad flights for the moment.

  • Why can’t American Airlines agents book Etihad flights?
  • What is your workaround?

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Etihad has announced that its new A380s, which will begin flying this year, will have a three-room Residence for up to two passengers. This will be the nicest cabin on any commercial airline by quite a bit.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 2.51.09 AM

In addition, the A380 will have nine First Class Apartments, which are about 75% larger than their current First Class Suites.

  • Where will the Etihad A380s fly?
  • What does the First Class Residence look like?
  • What do the First Class Apartments look like?
  • How can you get into the Residence and the Apartments with frequent flyer miles?

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Last month I booked myself an awesome award to the Maldives using AAdvantage miles and flying Etihad Airways Business Class. Etihad Business Class is one of the nicest in the world and award space is widespread and predictable between the US and the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, and the Maldives.

Reaching the Middle East using AAdvantage miles is in general very easy with Qatar as a new oneworld member and Etihad as an American Airlines partner.

Routing from gcmap.com
Routing from gcmap.com

Though this is an extremely basic itinerary, there are several things everyone should be mindful of before tackling an Etihad award including how to search for Etihad award space and mastering the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards.

How do you search for Etihad award space? Is Etihad reliable about releasing premium cabin award seats? Once you find Etihad seats, how do you book them? Which American Airlines rules trip up seemingly valid Etihad itineraries?

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Update: Link to Etihad Press Release about Route

According to USA Today and Will Horton of Centre for Aviation, Etihad Airways will begin service to Los Angeles from its hub in Abu Dhabi beginning on June 1, 2014. This is fantastic news for those with AAdvantage balances, especially those on the West Coast!

From Etihad’s own website. Etihad’s Diamond First Class is a fully enclosed suite.

The introduction of Etihad’s long nonstop from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi will be a great jumping off point to the Middle East for West Coast flyers. It strengthens the value of an AAdvantage mile and helps avoid (or at least mitigate) some of American’s more annoying award routing rules!

How do I book an Etihad award with AAdvantage miles? What is the award space picture? What kinds of taxes and fees can be expected on an Etihad award? Why is this so great for West Coast flyers? What destinations does this open up? 

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Yesterday’s post about the Coolest Thing to Do with 130k and 280k American Airlines Miles got me to look at the American Airlines’ chart again for value. I found what I think are the Five Best Values in premium cabins.

These values combine low miles, low taxes and fees, and the very best products from among American’s partners. How does First Class on Etihad or British Airways for 40k miles sound?

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At our Award Booking Service, we receive numerous requests to get our clients to the Maldives. This chain of islands located in the Indian Ocean is as aspirational an award as you can fly. Because of its relative seclusion, small geographic footprint, and overall demand, premium cabin award seats can be extremely difficult to find.

American Airlines’ partner Etihad Airways can be your secret weapon in booking this tough award. Though Etihad isn’t a member of the oneworld alliance, you can still use your AAdvantage miles to book travel on the Abu Dhabi-based carrier.

All flights to the Maldives and its surrounding resorts funnel through Male, the capital, and its international airport, airport code MLE. Etihad has a single daily nonstop from Abu Dhabi to Male.

How much does an Etihad award to the Maldives cost?

On American’s award chart, the Maldives is considered part of the Indian subcontinent. American charges 90k/135k/180k for economy/business/first class itineraries between North America and this region. The award chart below shows the price for oneway travel in each cabin.

 

Which North American cities does Etihad service?

Etihad currently has nonstops from New York-JFK, Chicago-O’Hare and Toronto. They are beginning service to Washington-Dulles on March 31st. Etihad operates a three-cabin flight from New York and Washington-Dulles to Abu Dhabi featuring first class. The other two cities are operated by two-cabin planes with business being the highest class of service.

How do I search for award space on Etihad?

The American Airlines website won’t display Etihad space. Etihad isn’t a oneworld partner, so American makes you do the sleuthing on your own. The very first step you need to take is to sign up for an Etihad Guest frequent flyer account.

One of the best parts about joining the Etihad Guest program is picking your title. Though being referred to as a “Baron” is extremely tempting, I opted for the plain vanilla “Mr.” when I joined.

After you have signed up and generated an Etihad Guest number and password, you can begin to search. From the Etihad Guest page, click “Redeem your miles.”

After clicking “Redeem your miles” you will be taken to the main award search page. The best way to search is segment by segment. You won’t be able to plug in your origin as Minneapolis and destination as Male because Etihad doesn’t serve Minneapolis. You need to secure the two tough segments first: the nonstop to Abu Dhabi from North America and the Abu Dhabi <-> Male segments.

Below is a sample search I ran from Washington-Dulles to Abu Dhabi in business class for two passengers. After entering my desired date, I clicked “Search flights” to reach the availability calendar.

After clicking “Search flights,” the next page can be a bit confusing. Etihad has several different award redemption levels. The only one that concerns us is award space at the “Guest Seat” level. If there are seats available in this category, then the award is bookable using American Airlines miles. Ignore the price that Etihad quotes as well. When booking, the American Airlines agent will correctly price the award at 135,000 miles roundtrip in business.

As luck would have it, the October 17 date I chose had business class award space for both passengers. To show you what this looks like, check out the screen shot below.

Etihad has a handy 7-day tool at the top to search surrounding dates quickly. Though October 18th has no award availability whatsoever, I decided to look for space on October 19th.

Though there is Business Freedom space on the 19th, that won’t help us book with American Airlines miles. American agents wouldn’t be able to see those seats. This date doesn’t have usable business class space.

Now that we have the IAD -> AUH segment. Let’s look for the AUH -> MLE segment. The transatlantic flight on October 17th arrives in Abu Dhabi at 7:45 p.m. on October 18th. That’s too late to catch the single flight from Abu Dhabi to Male, so you will need to overnight in Abu Dhabi. The next morning, October 19th, there are two business class seats to Male.

Our outbound trip has been secured! The itinerary is below:

Thursday, October 17th

  • Leave IAD 10:15 p.m. / Arrive AUH 7:45 p.m. (+1 day)
Saturday, October 19th
  • Leave AUH  9:35 a.m. / Arrive MLE 2:55 p.m.

For visual learners, here is our flight path laid out on the Great Circle Mapper.

The above oneway would be 67,500 AAdvantage miles, an absolute bargain for a onestop itinerary to Male.

If I find award space on Etihad’s site, how do I book?

You won’t be able to book online. You need to call American Airlines directly to book with an agent at 1-800-882-8880. You will be charged an unavoidable $25 per ticket phone processing fee.

I don’t live in one of the cities with an Etihad nonstop to Abu Dhabi, how do I take advantage?

As Scott wrote in his great post, the Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards, the “airline that operates the flight that connects the two regions must have a published fare for your origin and destination city pair.”

This means that if Etihad does not publish a fare between your city (e.g. Minneapolis) and Male, you can’t add domestic award space from Minneapolis to Washington-Dulles to the itinerary. American would reject the routing as one award and charge you for two awards–Minneapolis to Dulles roundtrip and Dulles to Male roundtrip.

How do I check to see if Etihad publishes a fare between my home city and Male?

ExpertFlyer is the best way to check this. For simple instructions on how to check for published fares, read Scott’s post Free First Class Next Month: Using expertflyer.com.

What if they don’t publish a fare?

You will need to purchase the connecting flight with cash, use other miles to get to and from your home airport, or book the trip as two American Airlines awards.

Can I have a stopover on an Etihad itinerary?

Yes. As per American’s strict routing rules, a stopover must occur at the North American gateway city. In this case, you could have a stopover in New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., or Toronto en route to Male or on your return home.

Are there any other ways to get to Male via the Atlantic?

Yes, but it’s a royal pain. American’s oneworld partner, British Airways, flies to Male from London-Gatwick. You will most likely need to fly into London-Heathrow and transfer to London-Gatwick.

To add insult to injury, you will pay steep fuel surcharges (over $1,000 per ticket) for flying on British Airways. For most it’s not worth it.

Are there ways to use American Airlines miles to travel to Male via the Pacific Ocean?

Yes! We will discuss transpacific routing to Male in an upcoming post.

Can I use my British Airways Avios to fly on Etihad? I know British Airways and American Airlines are partners.

No. American and Etihad have a partnership, but British Airways and Etihad do not.

Recap

Vacationing in the Maldives is on the bucket list of many frequent flyers. American Airlines’ little known partnership with Etihad can be your ace in the hole in booking this award. Etihad has solid premium cabin award space from several North American cities to Abu Dhabi. From their hub you can connect on to Male.

The routes to Male are some of the most competitive in the world. Using American miles to book an Etihad itinerary is a great way to travel in style while avoiding fuel surcharges and multiple long connections.

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There are five cardinal rules of American Airlines award tickets that I wanted to put together in one place for reference. All AA awards must comply with these rules and several other minor ones.

You should consult this post when planning an AA award, especially if you are trying to add a stopover or free oneway.

1. Stopovers are not allowed on American Airlines awards.

All connections on purely domestic itineraries must be less than four hours. All connections on international awards must be less than 24 hours.

2. Each of the two directions-outbound and return–must not exceed AA’s Maximum Permitted Mileage for your origin and destination by more than 25% as flown.

This is not as complicated as that sentence makes it seem. Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) is a term of art. It is a number of miles that the airline puts on all city pairs for which it publishes a fare. MPM is not the direct distance between two cities; it is usually a larger number.

You can find the MPM for a city pair on Expert Flyer, the KVS tool, or by asking an AA agent. Here’s how to do it on Expert Flyer.

Example: Say you want to try this routing, LAX-BOS-NRT-TPE, from Los Angeles to Taipei.

First I would head to Expert Flyer, and I would look up the MPM for LAX to TPE since that is the origin and destination.

LAX-TPE has an MPM of 8,137 miles. (Note that this is much farther than the direct distance between the two, which Great Circle Mapper lists as 6,799 miles.)

Next I would multiply the MPM by 1.25, since we can exceed the MPM by 25% on awards. 10,171 miles is 25% greater than the MPM of LAX-TPE. Now, I can go to gcmap.com and check the distance of our putative routing. LAX-BOS-NRT-TPE is 10,669, which exceeds the allowable 10,171, so this is not a valid routing.

That means that AA would break this into two awards–LAX-BOS and BOS-TPE–and you’d have to pay more.

3. The airline that operates the flight that connects the two regions must have a published fare for your origin and destination city pair.

This is a rule that trips up a lot of otherwise awesome awards. It’s frustrating, and it’s not clear why the rule exists, but you have to know it.

Example: You want to fly MEL-LAX-JFK-BWI and will fly on Qantas from MEL-LAX. That means Qantas–the region connecting carrier–has to have a published fare from MEL-BWI for the routing to be valid.

How do you figure out if there is a published fare between a city pair? I check on Expert Flyer. Here’s how. Another free, roughly accurate, way is to see if you can book a ticket between the city pair on the operating airline’s website or kayak.

Or you can just see if you can have it price as one award over the phone. If you can, you have a legal routing and stopover.

4. All award travel must be completed within one year of its booking.

You can change your award to a later flight as many times as you want, subject to the fact that all travel must be completed within one year of the ticket’s issue.

5. Awards between Region A and Region B cannot transit Region C unless specifically allowed.

Most airlines let you route however you’d like as long as you don’t exceed MPM. But not American Airlines. If you want to go from the USA to Australia, you can’t transit another region, say Asia, no matter what.

Another annoying one is not being able to transit the Middle East en route from USA to Africa. That makes it impossible to use Etihad.

Here is a list of regions you can transit from flyerguide.com, which I believe is complete and accurate.

 


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Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from March 2013 can be found here.

This is the twenty-seventh post in a monthlong series. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Expertflyer.com is a paid service–$100 per year, $10 per month, free for a five day trial–that I use for four distinct purposes.

Checking for Published Fares

The first is to check whether an airline has a published fare between an origin and destination city pair. I do this when researching the validity of an American Airlines award because AA requires the region-connecting carrier to have a published fare from origin to destination.

To see whether an airline has a published fare for an origin/destination city pair, once signed into expertflyer, click Fare Information.

Fill out the form with your origin and destination city pair, pick a random date next month, and type in the airline you are checking.

Remember that the origin and destination include any free oneways, so if you want to add a free oneway LAX-JFK onto a JFK-AUH award, your origin is LAX and destination is AUH.

After clicking search, hone in on the Airline column on the results page. You need to find at least one fare listed as being published by the two letter code of the airline you searched. (List of two letter codes.)

I only specified one airline to search for published fares–Etihad (EY)–so it will only bring up EY and YY results. YY is a generic result. If YY is the only airline listed, the airline you searched does not have a published fare.

This search shows that Etihad does have a published fare from LAX to Abu Dhabi. This is despite the fact that Etihad does not fly to LAX. Airlines publish many fares to cities that they do not serve.

Finding the MPM

My second use for expertflyer is finding the Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) on a route. Each airlines has different award routing rules, but most use some multiple of the MPM as one constraint on routing. (For instance, on an AA award, your award’s routing must be no more than 1.25 * MPM.)

MPM is found on expertflyer the same way as published fare, except on the screen that lists published fares you have to make one more click.

Find the most expensive fare published by the airline whose MPM you want, and click the middle icon on the right side.

That will bring up a jumble of rules. Inside that jumble, look for MPM.

AA’s MPM for LAX-AUH is 10,834

Award Searches

Expertflyer provides at least some award search capability on all these airlines. (They just removed United from what they can search, which is quite annoying. Hopefully United is added again soon.)

I find expertflyer incredibly useful for Delta award searches because it shows Delta partners China Southern, China Eastern, China Airlines, Virgin Australia, KLM, Alitalia, Air France, and Air Europa.

It’s also useful for American awards on non-oneworld partners El Al and Air Tahiti Nui.

To perform an award search, click Awards & Upgrades on the left side after signing in.

Type in the departure and arrival city. You can also type in the connecting airport city if you want to limit the possible routings the search will produce. I am generally searching segment-by-segment for direct flights and leave that blank.

Select an airline and the classes for which you want to see award space. Pay close attention to the names. The correct fare class will usually be named something simple like Award or Classic Award. A special note on Air France is that Delta does not have access to Classic Europe Award, only Classic Award.

You can select just one date if you are searching oneway or input two dates for a roundtrip. Next to each date you can specify a search of up to +/- 3 days, which is a full week search.

I usually select Direct/Non-Stop only, although sometimes they still show me connecting flights. The next screen will show results for your search, broken down by cabin. For some airlines, expertflyer will display 0 if there is no space. For others, it won’t show the flight at all if there is no space.

This search shows great ATL-CDG economy space on Air France in early March, but not any business class space.

Flight Alerts

If an airline has no space released on your dream flight, you may want to track that flight to see if any space is opened up. Rather than daily searches, you can set one Flight Alert to email you when your desired award space opens.

On the left side after signing in, click Create Flight Alert.

Fill in the form with the information you learned from your unsuccessful flight search. If I wanted to see whether business class space opened on the flight from last section’s screen shot of Air France availability, I would fill out the form like this:

There is a link to the fare codes, if you don’t know how to fill in the box labeled Class Code.

The annoying thing with the Flight Alerts tool is that you have to create a new one for each flight number, day, and class.

That means if you wanted to be alerted if any space on either of two daily United flights from San Francisco to Frankfurt in either business or first class opened up for a four day period, you would have to fill out the form 16 times (2 * 2 * 4). I know because I’ve done it.

A premium member can have 30 active alerts at any time. If one of the alerts’ targets opens up, you’ll get an email and hopefully you can claim the seats before anyone else.

Should You Pay for Expertflyer

Expertflyer charges $10 per month for its premium package, $5 per month for its basic package, or $100 per year for its premium package. I have the annual premium package. The basic package only allows 250 award searches per month, which is far fewer than I do for my Award Booking Service.

This page compares Basic and Premium. If you click on Premium, you will have the opportunity to start membership with a five-day free trial.That means you can try out the service for free and see if it’s worth the money to you. Or you can use the service strategically for one award-planning session then cancel. Just remember to cancel within five days to avoid your credit card being charged.

Much of the information on expertflyer is available from other free sources. But many of those free sources are harder and more time-consuming to use. Like many things, expertflyer is a trade-off: spending money to save time.

For me the trade-off is well worth it. For you, it may or may not be. Reread this article, sign up for a free trial, and decide for yourself whether $10 per month is a good deal for all these features.

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This is another post in my Anatomy of an Award series, in which I take a real award I’ve booked and break it down step-by-step to elucidate the award booking process. If you have a real award you’d like to write up in a similar post, please contact me, and you can write a guest post.

Etihad Diamond First Class looks like an aspirational award if I’ve ever seen one. Here’s a YouTube promotional video of the suite . That’s the definition of travel porn–a 6’8″ bed, dinner seating for two, a huge TV, your own minibar.

I just booked an award–actually four separate awards–for two people that will allow them to enjoy Etihad Diamond First on an eight hour flight for 40k AA miles and $37 per person as part of a trip to the Maldives, London, and Paris with two free oneways tacked on.

The Awards

#1

Chicago to LaGuardia

one month later

JFK to Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi to Maldives

This award was 45,000 AA miles and $30 per person. Etihad is not a member of any alliance, but AAdvantage miles can be redeemed on Etihad flights. I find their availability to be pretty great in all classes on most routes. Etihad’s hub is Abu Dhabi.

The main award is New York to the Maldives in Etihad economy. Chicago to New York is a free oneway tacked onto the award for one month before the main award.

Note that the free oneway comes into LaGuardia and the award continues from JFK. In cities with multiple airports like New York (JFK, LGA, EWR) or Washington (IAD, DCA), you can fly into one and out of another no problem en route. The airports are considered “coterminal.”

I called AA and found the award space. I put it on a five day courtesy hold and moved onto the next award.

#2

Maldives to Abu Dhabi (Etihad Pearl Business)

Abu Dhabi to Paris (Etihad Diamond First Class)

This award was 40,000 AA miles and $37 per person. The flight from the Maldives is on a two cabin plane and business class features seats like you might find in a domestic first cabin in the US–nothing too special. It’s the 7:40 minute flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris that’s the star.

You get nearly eight hours in an Etihad Diamond First cabin for only 40,000 miles. That’s an amazing value considering the product and the length. Consider that Abu Dhabi to Paris is about the length of London to New York, which is 62,500 miles is Paris.

What this says is that on the AA chart, Europe to “Indian Subcontinent Middle East (which includes the Maldives)” is a sweet spot especially for premium awards, considering its 20k/30k/40k price point for economy/business/first.

Also note that USA – Europe, Europe – India/Middle East/Maldives is cheaper in economy (20k + 20k = 40k) during Europe’s off peak season on AA’s chart (October 15 to May 15) than USA – India/Middle East/Maldive (45k) without a stopover in Europe. Taking a stopover in Europe and breaking the award into two awards saves miles as I noted a few weeks back.

For this award, I did the same as with the first award: I reserved it for five days.

#3

Paris to London

This 80 minute flight is crying out for an Avios redemption. For 4,500 Avios and $20 per person, I could choose between about ten daily flights with award space departing Orly or Charles de Gaulle.

I booked this online at BA.com. Business could have been had for 9,000 Avios, but I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra Avios for no neighbor in the middle seat and a hot meal.

#4

London to JFK

two months later

Newark to Seattle

Seattle to Vancouver

This is the second free oneway–New York to Vancouver. Don’t forget free oneways can go to Canada, the USA, Mexico, or the Caribbean, so my clients opted for an international free oneway. Just like the first free oneway, this one takes advantage of the coterminal NYC airports, flying into JFK and out of Newark.

The main note on the London to JFK is to choose American economy instead of BA economy to avoid hefty fuel surcharges. In economy, this award was 20,000 AA miles and $177 per person.

Don’t depart London if you can help it. The taxes included a whopping $100 Air Passenger Duty and a $53 Passenger Service Charge.

This award can be booked online–even with the free oneway. See this post for how to do it.

After booking awards 3 and 4 online, I circled back and ticketed the awards I had held–1 and 2. That way I ensured all legs were ticketed or none were. It’s important to get your order right.

So the final tally was 105,000 AAdvantage miles, 4,500 Avios, and $264 per person. That included a trip to the Maldives, stopovers in London and Paris, a free oneway to Vancouver, a free oneway from Chicago, a business class segment, and eight hours in Etihad Diamond First.

Recap of some key point

  • The cheapest way to get into Etihad Diamond First Class is to fly between Abu Dhabi and Europe. Some of the flights are quite lengthy, so at 40k miles, this is an incredible deal. You don’t have to start/end in Abu Dhabi either. Abu Dhabi’s region includes India and the Maldives, so Delhi-Abu Dhabi-Paris is 40k for 12 hours of flying in Etihad First.
  • You can fly into one coterminal airport and out of another en route. This is inconvenient when you are connecting in a city, but very convenient when tacking on free oneway. I’ve given two examples where the main award used JFK but the free oneways flew into LaGuardia and out of Newark
  • From October 15 to May 15, it’s cheaper in AAdvantage miles to fly USA to Europe, stop, Europe to India/Middle East than without the stop.

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