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What’s so special about Etihad’s route from London to Abu Dhabi? It’s the cheapest way to get into the fanciest commercial cabin in the world.
This suite with a couch/bed and seat costs only 40,000 American Airlines miles between Europe and the Middle East/India.
Plus the Etihad A380 has a shower for First Class passengers and onboard lounge/bar.
Pretty soon I’ll head to Europe for four months, and I would love to fly the Etihad A380 between London and Abu Dhabi while I’m there.
Its 40,000 mile price is less than the sign up bonus on the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®, which 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, so the award would only cost 36,000 miles net.
Or you can get 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.
Or you can get both cards and get 106,000 American Airlines miles after meeting their spending requirements.
With my goal to fly the Etihad A380 in mind, I took a look at award space between London and Abu Dhabi for the next 11 months, and here’s what I found.
Booking Etihad Awards with AA Miles
First read: How to Search Etihad Award Space
American Airlines doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Etihad award flights. You just find the award space, call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book it, and pay the government taxes on the flights. (There is no longer a fee to book American Airlines awards that can’t be booked online, like Etihad flights, by phone.)
The United Kingdom has the world’s highest departure taxes, and the United Arab Emirates has very low departure taxes, so the direction you choose to fly matters a lot for price.
From London to Abu Dhabi, you will pay 185 GBP ($276) plus the 40,000 American Airlines miles for a First Class award.
From Abu Dhabi to London, you will pay 80 AED ($22) plus the 40,000 American Airlines miles for a First Class award. That’s $254 less to fly westbound, which also happens to be a one hour longer flight, since it is into the wind.
Tips for Award Searches
Ignore the miles price listed on etihad.com. You will pay 40,000 American Airlines miles instead.
Ignore the cash component listed next to the mileage price. That includes a small fuel surcharge that you will not pay when booking an American Airlines award. You’ll pay the taxes listed above.
American Airlines only has access to award space in the “GuestSeat” column. You’ll notice this space prices out in the 54,000 to 55,000 Etihad miles range. That’s convenient to scan the dates at the top of your award search to see which dates have award space for that price. (Again, you won’t pay that price, but knowing it makes award searching quicker.)
Etihad has three daily flights in each direction between London and Abu Dhabi. Right now only one of those is served by an A380. By June, two will be. By August, all three are on A380s on most days.
There are dates with two award seats on the same flight in Etihad A380 First Class, but that’s pretty rare in Spring and Summer 2015.
In August, all three frequencies are served by A380s most–but not all–days. Award space becomes more common. August 18 has two A380 flights from London to Abu Dhabi, one with one First Class seat and one with two.
By late September, award space drastically improves. October 1 has two flights with two award seats each in First Class. And as you can see, several days that week have award space in First Class on the Etihad A380.
For the next few months, there is some award space in Etihad First Class on their A380 between London and Abu Dhabi. If you want to fly the product for 40,000 miles one way before August, make securing this flight your top priority, and build your trip around the award space.
In September, October, and November award space gets a lot better. In those months, you can integrate award space into a trip plan more easily.
Whether the change in award space has to do with the season, how far out you search, or the fact that more frequencies will be on the A380 by August is hard to say. I’ll continue monitoring award space on this route in First Class to have a better mental model of the cheapest way to fly the fanciest commercial airplane.
- How to Search Etihad Award Space
- Pattern for Etihad Releasing Last Minute Business and First Class Award Seats
- Amazing Award Space for 2 on Nicest First Class in the World? 14 Hours in Etihad A380 First Class for 60,000 Miles
- Anatomy of an Award: Etihad First Class on Dreamliner from Egypt to United States
- Tax Dump Etihad and Qantas First Class on the A380 Out of London
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months
- 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.