In May, I booked myself an award in an Etihad A380 First Class Apartment for January 2016. I am looking forward to flying the spacious suite with a couch/bed and separate seat from Abu Dhabi to New York. This post explains how I booked that award.
Etihad is a partner of American Airlines, and you can book First Class between the Middle East/Indian Subcontinent and North America for 90,000 American Airlines miles one way. For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement, almost enough for the trip I booked.
Since American Airlines counts all of the Middle East, Egypt, Maldives, and Indian Subcontinent as one region, I decided to start the award in Chennai, India. I’ve never been to India, and Chennai is conveniently close to Sri Lanka, which is in American’s Southeast Asia region (Asia 2). I was planning to use that fact to fly cheaply to Sri Lanka on an American Airlines award, hang out there for a few days, then book a cheap cash or Avios flight from Sri Lanka to Chennai. Now I think I’ll just fly a low cost carrier from wherever I am in Southeast Asia to Chennai a few days before the flight.
Since American charges the same number of miles no matter where I end in North America, I added New York to Los Angeles for zero extra miles. It will give me a chance to fly American’s three cabin First Class on the route.
This award is centered on flying Etihad’s A380 in First Class to luxuriate in the onboard suite and to take a shower seven miles above land. For that reason, and because I always suggest starting your award search with the longest segment, I first searched for Etihad A380 First Class award space.
As I explained in Where to Search All 24 American Airlines’ Partners’ Award Space, you search Etihad award space on etihad.com. You need to find award space in the GuestSeat column to be able to book the flight with American Airlines miles. Right now I don’t see any First Class award space on the Etihad A380 between New York and Abu Dhabi in either direction that is bookable with American Airlines miles. (I do see plenty of space on the 777 that operates on the route.)
We have seen award space in First Class on the route come and go quickly and dramatically a few times. I booked in May when award space was wide open, even though it had been non-existent the week before. You can be sure I’ll cover when award space opens back up between JFK and Abu Dhabi in First Class on the Etihad A380.
Once I had my First Class space, I worked backward to get the space from Chennai to Abu Dhabi. This is classic segment-by-segment searching. On shorter regional routes, the top cabin is Business Class, so that’s what I searched.
Award space is fantastic in Business Class on Etihad regional flights. I selected the 10 PM departure, which gives me a two hour layover in Abu Dhabi. I noted the date, cabin, and flight number. I ignored the price listed on etihad.com because I was using American Airlines miles, which means paying the American Airlines price.
Last I searched for award space from New York to Los Angeles in First Class. Award space is often wide open in First Class from New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Next I called American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book. I fed the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of the three flights I wanted to book.
She pieced it together easily and quoted me a price of 90,000 American Airlines miles and $79.
That sounded pretty good, but I asked her if she had waived the $40 phone fee, since I couldn’t book the award online. That’s American’s new policy.
She hadn’t. Once she removed the phone fee, I paid only $38.55 in taxes plus 90,000 miles for a trip that will fly from Chennai to Los Angeles in two super fancy First Classes, and a solid Business Class.
Getting the Miles
For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® offers 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months. That means you’ll have 82,500 American Airlines miles after meeting the spending requirement, almost enough for the trip I booked.
The card comes with Admirals Club membership (free access for you plus two guests OR your spouse and all kids), a free checked bag on American Airlines flights, and a $100 credit toward Global Entry. It has a $450 annual fee.
I booked myself an incredible award from India to Los Angeles that will let me finally see the world’s second most populous country and finally fly the second commercial First Class with an onboard shower. It is a perfect mix of destination and aspirational products, and it cost me 90,000 American Airlines miles + $39.
You can get 82,500 American Airlines miles by opening the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® and spending $7,500 in the first three months.
Unfortunately award space in Etihad First Class on the A380 comes and goes, and right now there is none. But if history is a guide, that is likely to change soon, and I will cover when award space opens back up.
Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get a $250 Air Travel Credit each calendar year and free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.
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Earn 75,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $7,500 in the first three months on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard®. Plus get American Airlines Admirals Club membership for super-cheap economy awards and ultra-luxury First Class awards.