Etihad

0

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® 60,000 mile offer has expired. Check out the current best credit card offers here.

———————————————————————

Etihad First Class Apartment on the A380 currently has tons of availability between London and Abu Dhabi in April and May of 2017.

This post is aimed at all the readers out there based in the United Kingdom. However, that is not to say this award space isn’t useful for those of you based in the United States as a part of an extended or around the world trip.

You can fly Etihad First Class from London to Abu Dhabi for 62,500 American Airlines miles. As long as you pick award space on an A380, your First Class seat will be enclosed in a suite with its own couch, flat screen TV, vanity unit, and access to a shower, onboard lounge, and bar. The Etihad First Class Apartment on the A380 is the fanciest commercial First Class in the world, which you get to fly for seven and a half hours from London to Abu Dhabi.

Screen-Shot-2015-04-08-at-1.13.46-AM

Etihad has nine First Class Apartments on its A380s spread across four-and-a-half rows  in the front of the upper deck.

Screen-Shot-2016-02-09-at-8.08.03-PM-e1455059424782

Award Space

I’m going to show you the current picture of award space during two popular months to travel to the United Arab Emirates, when the weather is agreeable: April and May of 2016.

If you want to fly in an A380 First Class Apartment, the key is finding a flight on an A380 specifically. Check in the aircraft column on the search results of etihad.com.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.41.37 PM

Let’s look at London to Abu Dhabi first.

Every day on the calendar that is around 88,000 (that’s the price in Etihad Guest miles, not American Airlines miles) has award space in First Class. The Guest First column is the award space that American Airlines miles has access too.

Beginning April 16 and lasting through May, there is First Class award space every day from London Abu Dhabi. There are anywhere from two to three flights a day, some days with two flights on the A380 and some days all three flights are on the A380.  Some flights have one seat available and even more flights have two seats available.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.34.22 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.45.03 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.42.28 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.42.38 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.47.00 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.47.26 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.49.16 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.49.21 PM

There is almost as much First Class space in the opposite direction from Abu Dhabi to London, although it’s not every day like London to Abu Dhabi.
Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.56.15 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-18 at 11.56.24 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.00.20 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.00.25 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.03.56 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.04.16 AM

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.04.56 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.07.45 AM Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.07.40 AMScreen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.05.04 AM

Tips for Award Searches

Find the award space on etihad.com, and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book it, and pay the government taxes on the flights (highlighted above). You won’t pay anything to book over the phone.

Ignore the miles price listed on etihad.com. You will pay 62,500 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 around 88,000 Etihad miles. 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.)

Out of Pocket Costs

American Airlines doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Etihad award flights, but departing from London will incur expensive departure taxes, making for a total out of pocket cost of 192.75 GBP (roughly 253 USD) for that segment.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.46.56 PM

To avoid departure taxes and to expand the scope of your trip, you could always use Avios (or transfer your Membership Rewards to Avios with the current 50% transfer bonus) to hop over to a low departure tax city, just choose one that Etihad flies to from Abu Dhabi, and then continue the trip from there. But you won’t be able to fly the A380 First Class Apartment this way, just normal Etihad First Class (which is still a fantastic product, just with a smaller enclosed suite that doesn’t have a couch or vanity).

Luckily the out of pocket cost on the return to London from Abu Dhabi is much lower (24.30 GBP or 32 USD).
Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2.55.13 PM

Bottom Line

There is tons of award space available flying the most luxurious commercial First Class in the world, the Etihad Apartments on the A380, between London and Abu Dhabi during April and May of 2017.

Read Scott’s trip report on his journey in an A380 First Class Suite between Abu Dhabi and New York to learn about all the luxurious details.
Screen-Shot-2016-02-09-at-1.29.44-PM

If you’re based in the United States and want to take advantage of this award space, here are two ways to earn a lot of American Airlines miles quickly:

  • The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® currently comes with 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership after spending $5,000 within the first three months of opening the card
  • The CitiBusiness / AAdvantage Platinum Select card normally comes with 30,000 American Airlines miles after spending $1,000 in three months, but it’s common to find links for the 50,000 AA mile bonus for spending $3,000 in three months (hat tip Doctor of Credit).
------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

I noticed something very interesting about the Etihad Guest award policies when redeeming on American Airlines flights that could be very helpful to all you parents out there trying to navigate international award travel with babies.

Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert on infant lap travel. But I have gathered that there are generally three ways in which airlines charge for international infant lap awards:

  1. A flat fee (can be in cash or miles) defined by the cabin you are traveling in
  2. 10% of the mileage price + applicable taxes & fees
  3. 10% of the revenue price of the ticket + applicable taxes & fees

Across the board in these scenarios, an infant is defined as a child under two years old. The prices listed above are not for reserving the baby’s own seat, but for the cost of having the baby sit in your lap. They also do not apply to domestic travel, most airlines let children under two travel within the United States for free or a small extra flat fee.

The majority of airlines unfortunately use system #3 for ticketing infants on international travel, which can cost parents an arm and a leg– especially if they are traveling in a premium cabin. American Airlines, United, and Delta all charge 10% of the revenue price of the ticket + taxes/fees.

But when redeeming Etihad Guest miles on American Airlines flights for a lap infant award ticket, you are only charged 10% of the mileage price + taxes/fees.

lap infant award

The Deal

As you might already know since it’s something I recommend pretty often, you can still redeem Etihad miles at pre-American Airlines devaluation rates. This means that, aside from the mileage price tags I tout constantly as some of the lowest, you can also book lap infant award tickets for just 10% of the mileage price of the adult’s award + taxes & fees.

6026510233_2c5012f263_z
Photo by Christian Haugen, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

This not expected or ordinary just because the two airlines are partners. British Airways for example, another American Airlines partner, never charged the same number of miles for American Airlines flights as American Airlines did, nor did it have discounts for American Airlines off peak awards. As a general rule: different miles, different rules, different chart. But for whatever reason, Etihad decided to copy American’s chart when using Etihad miles to redeem American flights, and they are still sticking to it– at least for the time being.

But, What About Alaska?

Etihad was actually not the only frequent flyer program to copy American Airlines award prices and stick to them even after American Airlines devalued their award chart. There was one other program that did the same– Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan.

That made me wonder if you could also book an infant lap award on American Airlines flights with Alaska Miles for only 10% of the adult mileage price + taxes & fees, like Etihad and pre-devaluation American Airlines policy.

The best answer to that I can find is from this snippet of information on alaskair.com:
alaska lap infant

So, it looks like if the award originates internationally and flies into the United States, you only have to pay a $17 fee. Great news. But if the award originates in the United States and flies to somewhere international, then you would be subject to that nasty 10% of the revenue price of the ticket cost, which can really get you if traveling in a premium cabin.

Booking the Infant Lap Award

Here is a full post on using Etihad miles to book American Airlines flights in case you’ve never done it before.

If the Etihad agent has a hard time figuring out the infant lap ticketing, The Points Guys says to advise them to look for T, U, and Z class for economy, Business and First Class award availability respectively.

Example

The award below, flying economy on American Airlines between New York and Rio de Janeiro, costs 57,500 American Airlines miles and $5.60 in taxes.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 7.52.34 PM Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 7.52.24 PM

To bring your under two year old child along in your lap, it would cost roughly $600 (10% of the cash ticket, which is $6,004):Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 8.06.30 PM If you used Etihad miles to book it, it would cost you 50,000 Etihad Guest miles and roughly the same amount of taxes (because the flight is during what Etihad defines as Off Peak season between North and South America region 2, March 1-May 31 and August 16-November 30)

Screen-Shot-2015-12-15-at-2.31.05-PM-1

If you booked this award with Etihad miles, then you could bring along your child that is under two years old to sit on your lap for only 5,000 additional Etihad miles and $5.60. That’s a steal.

Not Necessary for Domestic Awards

I said it above but just to clarify 100%, American carriers do not charge (or charge very little) for bringing along a child under two years to sit in your lap on domestic flights. I recommend reading each airline’s policy about it (some will let you travel with a lap infant free of charge to a few other places nearby right outside US borders)–just google [airline] + traveling with lap infant.

How to Get Etihad Miles

One of the fastest and easiest ways to get Etihad Guest miles is by transferring Citi ThankYou Points (they transfer at a rate of 1:1).

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases are made within the first 3 months the account is open.

My review of the Citi Prestige Card explains its many components like $250 in airfare or airline fee credits per calendar year, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

You can also transfer SPG points and Membership Rewards to Etihad Guest at 1:1. Below are some cards that earn them:

Bottom Line

If you are planning international premium cabin award travel with a baby under the age of two, then you should probably consider booking American Airlines award space with Etihad Guest miles. They only charge 10% of the mileage price + applicable taxes & fees while many airlines’ frequent flyer programs charge 10% of the cost of the cash ticket.

Like I said, I’m not an expert in infant lap travel, but I imagine it’s an issue many of you readers deal with. If anyone has valuable insight, please share your experiences in the comments.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

A reader wrote to me recently about his success story planning and booking a fantastic Round-the-World honeymoon, through knowledge and tips he picked up right here on MileValue. He was eager to share his story, in hopes of showing you all that a luxurious round-the-world adventure is completely within reach if you apply and dedicate yourself to making it happen. For the sake of anonymity, we will call him by his avatar here on the site, Pumatiger. 
Screen-Shot-2016-06-26-at-3.28.58-PM
Where A Reader’s Honeymoon Around the World, Part 2 left off: With the Maldives portion of the trip and a side journey to visit Pumatiger’s grandmother in Bangalore set, it was time to figure out how they would get to their final destination, Australia. 
Screen-Shot-2016-06-20-at-7.42.29-PM-e1466462119428

And now, back to you, Pumatiger…

From Bangalore to Australia With An Interesting Twist

From Bangalore we had various options to get to Sydney including Qatar Airways (via Doha) and Etihad (again via Abu Dhabi). Another option was to fly cheaply to Dubai and then fly via Qantas to Sydney. Initially I reserved an award via Doha with a long layover but after talking with family it looked like if we transited through the UAE a cousin of mine could be our tour guide. I also saw this MileValue post about the Etihad A380 apartment and this one about the Etihad A380 lounge.

These articles and the various YouTube videos I watched along with the prospect of seeing family and having a 21 hour layover in the United Arab Emirates all sounded great. We were able to find Business Class tickets for the dates we had in mind and we jumped on them, again having to call Australia to make the booking. We were excited to be able to get a long layover in UAE, see family, and enjoy Etihad Business Class service that included chauffeur pick up in Bangalore and drop-off in Sydney! Plus, there was the great A380 lounge and the chance to possibly get the A380 Apartment a few days before the flight! The Business awards from Bangalore-Abu Dhabi-Sydney were 45k miles (90k total for two people) and $86 total in taxes.

Here are some photos from our 21 hour layover in the UAE:

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.26.30 PM
Skyline of Dubai
Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.26.59 PM
Indoor Skiing!
Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.27.10 PM
The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.

We didn’t end up with the A380 First Class Apartment, but Business Class on the A380 was still quite luxurious.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.27.29 PM
The A380 with the iconic AUH air traffic control tower!
Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.40.22 PM
Etihad Business Class on the A380 from Abu Dhabi to Sydney
Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.39.59 PM
Etihad Business Class on the A380 from Abu Dhabi to Sydney
Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.28.52 PM
Premium lounge flying Etihad on an A380

Accommodation and Our Time in Australia

For the first part of our Australia trip we decided to stay in the Blue Mountains using AirBnb. It was nice having a whole home instead of a hotel room for a bit. We took advantage of the washer to do laundry

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.15.47 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.16.26 PM
The Jamison Valley, a Grand Canyon with trees

We decided instead to use miles for our time in Sydney. After garnering the correct amount of AA miles I opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred with a 40K Ultimate Reward bonus after meeting minimum spending requirements. By adding my fiancé as a registered user I was able to acquire an additional 5k miles and after purchases I was able to get the account up to 60k miles.

I joined slightly before Chase upped their award from 40k to 50k. This was a bummer– calling agents made no difference and they would not honor the additional 10k.

With the 60K Ultimate Rewards we looked at booking the Park Hyatt Sydney via the Ultimate Rewards website but after reading about transferring Ultimate Rewards to partners instead of cashing them in for a penny a piece for cash back, we performed a comparison analysis of transferring to Hyatt and decided to do that instead.

We were able to book two nights at the beautiful property right on the harbor.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.17.37 PM
Our hotel, the Park Hyatt Sydney
Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.17.49 PM
View of the Opera House from outside the Park Hyatt Sydney

For the other two nights we planned on staying in Sydney, I opened the Hyatt Credit Card featured in this MileValue post so we could extend our stay at the same Park Hyatt.

Any round-the-world trip is bound to hit some snags and this was the biggest for us: the two nights posted after hitting the $1000 minimum spending requirement, but Hyatt created a second rewards number for me. Since I was looking in the account with my original rewards number, I never saw the award post. I finally realized the error one day before we were leaving the Blue Mountains to head to Sydney, however, the property decided to block one of the nights we needed. As a result, we had three nights booked with one night not booked. When we got to the property we asked for the night to be made available and we were given the run around and definitely made to feel as though we were second class citizens since we were booking via points. I don’t know if this was a Hyatt thing or just specific to this property but that along with other peculiarities makes me believe that the Park Hyatt Sydney is not the most welcoming to those wanting to redeem points.

But a trip is what you make of it– and the trip was still great. We enjoyed Sydney to the fullest.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.28.23 PM
A honeymooner’s welcome :)
Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.29.19 PM
Catching a drama at the Opera House
Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.29.36 PM
The Thai food in Sydney was to die for!
Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 4.28.55 PM
Bondi Beach

Getting Home

For our return to the United States we used my wife’s AA miles to book two economy awards on Qantas. Her 50k bonus from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card had come through which allowed us to book two tickets from Sydney to San Francisco at 37.5k miles each (75k total). For whatever reason, in order to reach Phoenix from San Francisco on an award we would have had to route through Seattle.This was out of the way and not something we wanted to do at the end of our trip. Instead we opted for a 12 hour layover in San Francisco to have lunch with friends and family, and then to simply fly to Phoenix using cash since the tickets were approximately $80 each one way. We were able to use 500 mile upgrades to get into First Class and finish the trip the way we started.

In the end we were able to visit four countries in two weeks. We spent 345,000 American Airlines miles and approximately $400 each ($800 total) on airfare– the actual cash value of which was approximately $50K total. Our booking at the Hyatt should have been approximately $800/night, $2400 total. Instead we got the three nights for free.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.10.29 PM
(click to enlarge)

It was a great trip and only made possible through a lot of hard-work, patience, and the great advice from MileValue! There were definitely frustrations and planning took more than most would probably be willing to do, but hopefully you can see what is possible and that you too can book a dream vacation for you and your loved ones!

Happy Travels!

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 2.49.22 PM

-Pumatiger

Bottom Line by Scott

I would like to extend a big thank you to Pumatiger for taking the time to write about the process and execution of an excellent set of awards that took him and his wife around the world. It’s stories like these, written by real people and not professional bloggers that study miles and points on a daily basis, that remind us that anyone can book amazing travel for very little money if they put their mind to it.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® 60,000 mile offer has expired. Check out the current best credit card offers here.

———————————————————————

Feeling spontaneous? You should be. You collect miles and points, which means you have the ability to fly all over the world without having to spend tons of hard earned money. Especially when the awards have the mileage price tags that all the redemption ideas listed below do.

I hope these examples inspire you to book a trip today, or start collecting to be able to do so!

All of the awards below (except #3) originate in the United States. None of them have fuel surcharges, just the standard taxes that apply to all awards.

Without further ado (and in no particular order of preference as I would go to all of these places without hesitation)…

1. 20,000 Etihad Miles to Venice

26425475725_a14b7f1470_o
By Moyan Brenn, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

You most likely don’t have Etihad miles, but there’s a good chance you have either Membership Rewards, ThankYou Points, or SPG points. You can transfer any of those points to Etihad Guest at a 1:1 rate (if you transfer 20,000 SPG points, you’ll get an extra 5,000 bonus Etihad miles to boot).

You can book an American Airlines flight to Venice for only 20,000 Etihad miles one way if the trip is between October 15 and May 15 (because you can still book old American Airlines award chart prices/off peak dates with Alaska or Etihad Miles).

Surprise someone special in October, there’s plenty of award space for two people the second half of the month from Philadelphia:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.06.08 PM

2. 15,000 Alaska Miles to Lima

As long as you fly American Airlines between January 16 – June 14 or September 7 – November 14, it will only cost 15,000 Alaska miles one way.

Lima’s food scene is one of the hottest in the world right now–so seriously– if you’re into food, don’t miss it. You can eat at restaurants like Maido pictured below, ranked the 13th best restaurant in the entire world (or Central, also in Lima, ranked #4!).

IMG_1742

Grab your biggest foodie friend and fly down in May. There’s availability for two almost every day between Miami and Lima.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.41.32 PM

3. 20,000 United Miles to Seoul (from Australia)

Some readers recently commented on a post that there are more Australian-based MileValue fans like them than I think. So Aussies, this one’s for you.

For just 17,500 United miles, you can fly to Seoul one way. To get there direct, fly Asiana from Sydney.

Seoul, South Korea
By Emmanuel DYAN, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

There is award space every day for two people in January and February from Sydney to Seoul. You can ski by day outside the city and party in a major metropolis by night.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.22.02 PMEven if you don’t live in Australia, think of this as an option to add to an awesome round-the-world trip.

4. 12,500 American Airlines Miles to Cozumel

If you fly between April 27 – May 20 or September 7 – November 14 on American Airlines flights, it only costs 12,500 AA miles one way to get to Cozumel, Mexico.

24443961115_34173d4ffe_z
By Wilfred Hdez, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

Take your whole family to the Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea that’s known for diving. The calendar below shows award space for four people from Dallas:

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.57.09 PM

5. 20,000 SPG points to Tokyo

The award I am actually referring to is flying American Airlines to Tokyo between October 1 to April 30, which costs 25,000 Etihad miles. But if you transfer 20,000 SPG points to Etihad Guest, you will get a 5,000 mile bonus (which you always get for transferring increments of 20,000 SPG points to any airline transfer partner).

There’s tons of space for two mid September through Mid October from Dallas…Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 8.02.23 PM…which is prime season for watching Tokyo explode with cherry blossoms.

25546580673_2a950800db_k
By Yoshikazu TAKADA, taken from Flickr Creative Commons

I Don’t Live in the Cities Mentioned Above

You can add a leg from your hometown flying American to get to a gateway city for zero extra miles as long as the leg has economy Mile SAAver award space. This does not apply to #3.

Easy Ways to Get those Miles and Points

ThankYou Points

Citi Prestige® Card with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

Starpoints (SPG Points)

The Starwood Preferred Guest®Credit Card from American Express earns 25,000 Starpoints after you spend $3,000 on the cards within the first three months of opening the account.

Alaska Airlines Miles

Alaska miles are easy to accrue since the Alaska credit cards are still churnable.

You only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card to unlock the 30,000 Alaska mile bonus.

While I can not directly link to the current public Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

United Miles

You also only have to spend $1,000 in the first three months on the United MileagePlus Explorer card (by Chase) to unlock the 30,000 United mile sign-up bonus.

While I can not directly link to the United MileagePlus Explorer card offer, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

American Airlines Miles

 Limited Time Offer: The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® with 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership
Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

Bottom Line

There are lots of ways to stretch your miles and points, even redeeming on long distance international awards. Especially if you don’t mind economy. Read more suggestions for high value redemptions in this post about how to book a round-the-world trip in 2016 using underpriced awards.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

A reader wrote to me recently about his success story planning and booking a fantastic Round-the-World honeymoon, through knowledge and tips he picked up right here on MileValue. He was eager to share his story, in hopes of showing you all that a luxurious round-the-world adventure is completely within reach if you apply and dedicate yourself to making it happen. For the sake of anonymity, we will call him by his avatar here on the site, Pumatiger. 
Screen-Shot-2016-06-26-at-3.28.58-PM
Where A Reader’s Honeymoon Around the World, Part 1 left off: Pumatiger had secured their flights all the way to the Maldives, flying American Airlines BusinessFirst from their home airport in Phoenix to Los Angeles, Etihad First Class from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi, and Etihad economy from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives (with hopes of upgrading to Business or First if space became available). In total that award cost 180k American Airlines miles for two people. With that portion of planning accomplished, they set the trip to the side to deal with life for a minute, and when they returned to the drawing board a few things had changed.
And now, back to you, Pumatiger…
Screen-Shot-2016-06-20-at-7.42.29-PM-e1466462119428

Planning the Rest of Our Trip

Upgrading the Economy Tickets from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives

The first change of landscape was that we were suddenly richer as the 50k bonus had come through from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card. Also, I received 10% of the miles back from my 180k first class booking (a perk of the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card). So with over 90k miles I decided I would begin to hunt for the second portion of our trip to Australia.

The second change was that Etihad availability had suddenly decreased and was only available for First Class within three days of travel.

The third change was that American Airlines was no longer seeing Etihad availability. I re-started my search by trying to upgrade the economy legs of our trip from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives. I saw one Business Class ticket available on the Etihad website. I called American Airlines and I was sternly told that there was no availability even when I was seeing it on the screen. I found some information about ‘QMAX’ via MileValue, a system for completing an itinerary. Since we had paid for First Class but were only receiving economy tickets I thought they might complete the award for us, like this article from Scott explains.

However, after a few attempts I gave up as it looked like the merger had ended this program. In a timely fashion Scott released this post about calling the American Airlines service center in Australia to book Etihad award space…this worked! The Americans could not (or as it seemed to me were told not to) see the award space but the Australian AA call center found it and made the booking by splitting my fiancé’s and my awards.

I waited patiently and a few months later a second Business Class ticket opened up and we were able to jump on it for myself using the exact same strategy—this time the Australian agent challenged whether I was actually in Australia (perhaps the volume of American accents had increased). I hung up quickly not being sure if they had caller ID. I called back and used an Australian accent to complete the booking with a new agent– this time there were no worries and there were no fees at all to make the change!

I hoped that First Class tickets would open up within three days of the flight and waited to see if they would become available. Unfortunately they never opened up but we still enjoyed our Business Class seats.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.17.29 PM
Etihad Business Class from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives
Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.17.41 PM
Etihad Business Class from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives

Here are some photos from our time in the Maldives…

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.25.31 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.30.04 PM
Hammocks suspended over the ocean

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.29.38 PM

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 4.28.42 PM
Honeymoon = two glasses of champagne per person

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 4.12.12 PM

From the Maldives to Bangalore

In parallel to upgrading our Abu Dhabi to the Maldives flights I looked at booking the second portion of our trip. Since we were so close to India we wanted to visit my grandmother so that she could meet my wife. I looked at using miles to book to Bangalore from Maldives, but the rates weren’t that attractive and the only direct flight was on Air India. Not wanting to make a short two hour flight turn into a long mess by transiting through a different city, I used this MileValue advice to book the ticket with cash ($160 each, $380 total).

Here is a photo of my wife, grandmother, and I in Bangalore.

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.25.55 PM

Next, it was time to figure out how to get from Bangalore to our final international destination of the honeymoon: Australia. At least, we thought it would be our final international destination….

TO BE CONTINUED IN “Honeymoon Around the World: Part 3″…

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

Update 6/30/2016: Alaska Airlines is changing the way you accrue redeemable Alaska miles when flying partner American Airlines for travel beginning August 1, 2016 to align with American Airlines’ changes to a revenue-based award earning structure. When I first published this post and crunched the numbers about which partner program was the most advantageous to credit miles to when flying American, Alaska Mileage Plan was among my top two choices. Due to the changes Alaska is making to their accrual rates, they are no longer a top contender. 

In light of the news that American Airlines is changing to a revenue-based award earning structure, and the fact that all three major US carriers now abide by a revenue-based award earning structure, I am wrote a series of posts about when and where you should diversify the award miles you earn through paying for airfare. This post is Part 1, and discusses when and to where you should diversify your award earning when flying paid tickets on American Airlines flights.

“When & Where You Should Diversify Revenue Ticket Miles” Series Index

As of August 1, American Airlines will award miles for revenue tickets based on two things: the ticket price less any government imposed taxes or fees, and the elite status you have with the airline.  

This is a big departure from the current system that awards miles based on the distance flown.

The new award earning structure will be worse for folks who fly far, cheap tickets and better for people who fly short, expensive tickets. That is, at least, if we’re talking about crediting miles to AAdvantage. But it is not obligatory to do that–you can enter your frequent flyer number with any American Airlines partner instead.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.09.02 PM

In your mind, this fact should pose two questions.

  1. When should I choose to credit my award miles to American Airlines?
  2. If not American Airlines, then who?

I’m going to dive into both questions here to help equip you with the knowledge to make these decisions in the future.

Note that this post is specifically referencing the award miles earned from flying American Airlines flights. The amount of American Airlines miles earned for flying a oneworld alliance or other partner airline will be based on a percentage of the distance flown and the fare class. These rates have yet to be published, but should be available by July 15.

When Should I Choose to Credit my Award Miles to American Airlines?

The simple answer to this question: Not when you’re buying a cheap economy ticket, but maybe if you’re buying an expensive premium cabin ticket. American Airlines’ new revenue-based award earning system rewards those who generate more revenue for American Airlines, point blank. 

The more correct answer to this question is: when the math works out, and when you’re not chasing or trying to maintain status. Before I go any further, let me explain what I mean by the latter part of that sentence.

The value of status miles will factor into the decision too (in American’s case, they are called Elite Qualifying Miles, or EQM’s), if you’re trying to get or maintain American status. For example, even if an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite earns fewer redeemable American miles by crediting their butt in seat miles to American over Etihad, he might still prefer it to boost his Elite Qualifying Mile balance.

But if you’re not concerned with status, then all that should matter to you is the math.

 

The Math

To figure out how many American Airlines miles you’ll earn flying their planes, use the following equation:

Status multiplier x (ticket price – government-imposed taxes/fees) = award miles earned

The status multiplier depends on what tier elite status you might or might not have with the airline:

  • 5x– AAdvantage member
  • 7x – Gold
  • 8x – Platinum
  • 9x – Platinum Pro (will be introduced at some point in 2017)
  • 11x– Executive Platinum

We know the ticket price is how much aa.com tells us the flight costs.

But how can we isolate the government-imposed taxes and fees from that price? ITA Matrix. If you’re not familiar with ITA Matrix, here’s how to use it— it will show you the breakdown of a ticket by base fare, fuel surcharges, and government-imposed taxes and fees.

Look at this breakdown of a roundtrip American Airlines ticket between San Francisco and Zurich:

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 4.55.14 PM

This is a great example of the kind of cheap revenue ticket readers of this blog would buy, because it’s an example where you’re probably better off paying for the flight in cash rather than using miles that could be put towards higher value redemptions (since it’s only $414 for a roundtrip between the United States and Europe!)

The dollar amounts outlined in the red rectangle are the government-imposed taxes and fees (sum = $114.06). Fuel surcharges are always labeled as either YR and YQ (in this case YR). Fare 1 and 2 are the base fares in each direction on the roundtrip. 

Now we can plug in our equation.

5 x (414.06 – 114.06) = 1,500

So, assuming you are just normal AAdvantage member without status, you would earn 1,500 American Airlines miles for flying about 13,000 miles on an American Airlines plane.

Even if you are a Executive Platinum elite, you would only earn 3,300 American Airlines miles on this flight.

But let’s say you purchased a Business Class ticket on the same flight, which costs $7,059 (oh yea, now I remember why I collect miles!). Your equation would look like this:

5 x (7,059 – 114.06) = 34,725

Then you would certainly want to credit those miles to American Airlines, because you cannot beat that crediting to any other partner.  It is easy to see how this system rewards those that spend more. But I assume the majority of us will find ourselves with something closer to the first equation’s answer most of the time. 

Conclusion

When it comes time for you to make this decision, plug your own numbers in. If you get a number greater than 125% of the distance flown (if flying Business Class) or a number greater than 150% of the distance flown (if flying First Class), then stick with collecting American Airlines miles. Those percentages represent the maximum amount of miles you could get crediting to any partner (assuming you don’t have status with any of them.) 

Otherwise, read on to see your options for crediting to other partners. 

If Not American Airlines, Then Who?

Listed below are the award earning structures for some of American Airlines’ partners. Loyalty programs that generally lack valuable award redemption opportunities have been left out. What you earn for crediting miles to these airlines is represented by the percentages in the tables below. To figure out the total, you multiply the percentage by the distance flown.

Members of oneworld Alliance

British Airways 

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 4.58.38 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to British Airways Executive Club here.

Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles)

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 5.25.16 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Asia Miles here.

Iberia

Iberia Avios doesn’t have a published earning structure online, but I would assume it’s somewhat like British Airways Avios. This FlyerTalk thread has a homemade earning chart, but beware it is from 2014 and appears to have some errors. Let us know in the comments if anyone is aware of a more accurate and recently published chart.

Japan Airlines (JAL)

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 5.47.28 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Mileage Bank here.

Malaysia Airlines

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 5.54.49 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Enrich here.

American Airlines’ Other Partners

Alaskan Airlines

Screen-Shot-2016-06-27-at-5.34.13-PM-e1467059175134

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Alaska Mileage Plan here.

Etihad Airways

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 6.14.22 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to Etihad Guest here.

Hawaiian Airlines

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 7.16.56 PM

Read further detailed info about crediting miles to HawaiianMiles here.

Conclusion

Again, the following conclusion is not considering the incentive of status. If you’re aiming for or trying to maintain status with American or one of its partner airlines, than perhaps the elite qualifying miles earned from crediting to them matter more to you than redeemable miles.

That being said, the best alternative airline to credit miles to when flying American Airlines is Etihad. It offers the highest percentages of distance flown, ranging from 100% for even the lowest economy fares (which are the most common types people like you and I buy) and 150% for First Class. I will choose to credit the miles I earn flying cheap American Airlines revenue tickets to Etihad Guest in the future.

The other options listed above offer similar ranges of percentages for distance flown, but with lower tiers for discount economy tickets that range from 0 to 50%. So if you’re flying a discounted ticket, like the one from the example in this post that is categorized as fare class “O”, then definitely choose Alaska or Etihad.

If your fare class is not one associated with a discounted economy ticket, then it doesn’t matter. Any full price fare will earn something in the 100% to 150% of distance flown range depending on whether it is full fare economy or First Class. If this is the case, then it’s a matter of choosing which miles are more valuable for you when redeeming awards. Click here to read about the top 11 most valuable miles to me.

Best Card to Buy Airfare With

Your top choice for buying American Airlines’ tickets with should be the Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that applies to airfare. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy the fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement.

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases, which is a higher category bonus than what any of the American Airlines’ co-branded cards offer for buying their own plane tickets (2x).

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many components like its annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 40,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

Bottom Line

If you’re like me and only spend cash on the cheapest of airfares, then it is very likely you will not want to credit the miles you earn from flying American Airlines to AAdvantage anymore now that the airline has changed it’s award earning structure. If you haven’t started an account with Etihad’s frequent flyer program Etihad Guest, then do so today. Out of American Airlines’ partners, it is probably the most valuable program to funnel your miles into. 

If you want to jumpstart that Alaska miles collection, sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. Earn 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account.

While I can not directly link to Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

1

You can now book Etihad First Class Suites departing the United States for Abu Dhabi in advance. This is exciting news because previously, you could only book this award at the last minute, within a few days or week of departure. The return direction from Abu Dhabi to the United States has had more space historically, and remains uncomplicated if you want to book Etihad First Class Suites.

For those of you that don’t know, Etihad has two types of First Class: the First Class Apartment on the Airbus A380, and the First Class Suite (on their Boeing 777) which isn’t quite as large as the Apartment but is still a top of the line premium product. The only way to fly Etihad’s First Class Apartments from the United States is flying through New York (JFK). Both products are incredible.

I flew in an Etihad First Class Apartment on an A380 from Abu Dhabi to London last January and it was fantastic– 15 hours of pure luxury. I highly recommend it if you can swing it.

Screen-Shot-2016-02-09-at-1.29.44-PM

The Etihad First Class award space pattern has changed so that all in all, there is more First Class Space available farther in advance. Unfortunately though, the New York to Abu Dhabi route no longer releases award space for First Class Apartments last minute like it used to pretty consistently.

Where Can I Fly Etihad First Class?

Etihad flies from six American cities to Abu Dhabi. From there you can connect to elsewhere in the Middle East or India. Read more about American Airlines award routing rules if you’re going to redeem American Airlines miles flying Etihad.

Screen-Shot-2015-01-30-at-6.57.44-PM

You can also take the Etihad Chauffeur service anywhere in the UAE if flying into Abu Dhabi in Business or First Class.

What Miles Should I Use to Get There?

Etihad awards are bookable with ThankYou Points,  Membership Rewards, or SPG points as they both transfer to Etihad Guest at a 1:1 rate. They are also bookable with American Airlines miles. Unfortunately Etihad miles offer poor value on Etihad flights. Each award costs more Etihad miles than it would cost with American Airlines miles, so it’s best if you have the option to redeem American Airlines miles versus transferring any of your points.

Award Space

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

Let’s start with the bad news first. It is now harder to nail down an Etihad First Class Apartment on the New York to Abu Dhabi route, in either direction. I actually didn’t even see one seat available during my searches. To distinguish between the Etihad First Class Apartment and Etihad Suite when searching, make sure the aircraft of the flight with availability is an A380:Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 12.11.20 AM

It used to be expected that a couple First Class Apartments would consistently open up within a few days of departure, but it does not look like that is the case anymore.

Now, on to the better news! There is more space in Etihad First Class Suites from the United States to Abu Dhabi on advance dates. Below is the current picture of award space for the cities in the United States with the most award space in Etihad First Class Suites to Abu Dhabi.

The prices in all the screenshots below are in Etihad miles for two people, not American Airlines miles for two people. One way between the United States and the Middle East or the Indian Subcontinent costs 115,000 American Airlines miles for one traveler.

San Francisco to Abu Dhabi

San Francisco probably has the most award space out of any route. Dates that say “279,556” have award space in First Class. All calendars are for two people.

Over the next week.
Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.58.30 PM

Three months out.
Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 10.25.55 PMSix months out.Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 10.30.20 PMNine months out.Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 10.41.41 PM

As far out as the availability stays open.

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 10.44.21 PM

New York (JFK) to Abu Dhabi

This route has a lot of options six weeks within departure, but not much past then. Dates that say “235,112” have award space in First Class. Calendars are for two people.

Over the next week…Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 10.56.46 PMThe end of July…Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 11.13.40 PMAnd beginning of August….Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 11.15.17 PM

Dallas to Abu Dhabi

I checked five weeks of award availability spread out across the year. Each week had the same space for two people: on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday flights, through May 10, 2017.

Washington D.C. (IAD) to Abu Dhabi

I also checked five weeks of award availability spread out across the year, but Washington D.C. doesn’t have quite as much space booking as far out as next year. However it does have a lot of space available through September for two people (at least two thirds of the days).

Even if you don’t live in one of these cities with good First Class award space, you can add a leg from your hometown to one of them. This will cost you zero extra miles as long as the domestic award space is at the MileSAAver level, the cabin is the same or a lower tier than the transoceanic flight, and Etihad “publishes a fare” from your home airport to your destination, a concept explained in this post about American Airlines award routing rules.

Award space is always more available for Etihad First Class Suites when the award doesn’t originate in the United States. London to Abu Dhabi costs 62,500 American Airlines miles, and Abu Dhabi to Sydney costs 100,000 American Airlines miles, for example. You could include either of those as part of a larger trip easily as both routes have open award space.

How to Book

If you choose to book with American Airlines miles, you’ll need note the date, cabin, and flight number and call American Airlines at 800-882-8880. If you choose to book with Etihad miles then you can do it right on etihad.com.

How to Get the Miles

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months. You would earn at least 65,000 American Airlines miles for meeting that minimum spending requirement.
Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 4.28.39 PM

 

Bottom Line

Unfortunately it looks like there isn’t much award space flying Etihad’s First Class Apartment on the A380 between the United States and Abu Dhabi. The seats that used to be released on a last minute basis between New York and Abu Dhabi are not being released anymore. However, there is a ton of award space available flying Etihad’s First Class Suites to Abu Dhabi from the United States, even for dates farther in advance, which wasn’t the norm in the past. That is certainly welcome news.

Hat tip View from the Wing

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

A reader wrote to me recently about his success story planning and booking a fantastic Round-the-World honeymoon, through knowledge and tips he picked up right here on MileValue. He was eager to share his story, in hopes of showing you all that a luxurious round-the-world adventure is completely within reach if you apply and dedicate yourself to making it happen. For the sake of anonymity, we will call him by his avatar here on the site, Pumatiger. I give you the floor now Pumatiger. 
Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 3.28.58 PM
Darwin’s voyage around the world
  • Honeymoon Around the World: Part 1 (this post)
  • Honeymoon Around the World: Part 2 (future post)
  • Honeymoon Around the World: Part 3 (future post)

This story is a breakdown of our Round-the-World honeymoon, and how we did it using advice from MileValue! For a total of 345,000 miles and $802.20 dollars out of pocket, the two of us flew to all of these places over the course of two weeks:

  • Phoenix to Los Angeles in American Airlines BusinessFirst
  • Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi in Etihad First Class
  • Abu Dhabi to The Maldives in Etihad Business Class
  • The Maldives to Bangalore in Air India economy
  • Bangalore to Abu Dhabi in Etihad Business Class
  • Abu Dhabi to Sydney in Etihad Business Class (A380)
  • Sydney to San Francisco in Qantas economy
  • San Francisco to Phoenix in American Airlines BusinessFirst

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 7.42.29 PM

How We Did It

Our honeymoon goals became apparent pretty quickly after some discussion with my then fiancé. We wanted to lounge on island and then explore Australia.

We love doing things in a value-chic fashion, so I was curious to see how we could stretch our miles to reach our desired destinations while also flying in style. While we usually always fly economy I thought it would be nice to splurge on the majority of the long haul flights since this was a special occasion.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 9.47.20 PM
Etihad First Class on Boeing 777 from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi
Our Miles Balances

Our miles situation was not terrible, but not great either. We are both good savers and I had approximately 210,000 miles in my American Airlines AAdvantage account that I had garnered from US Airways flights and from the US Airways Barclaycard which is now the AAdvantage Aviator Card.

Our last big trip was the World Cup in Brazil, 2014, so I had been saving for a while. Through work I would take occasional international trips to destinations like China and India and made sure to always fly partners that would get me American Airlines miles. I’d book those flights using the US Airways Barclaycard to get 2X miles. I’d also make work expenditures using my personal card and would get reimbursed later, a great way for me to get miles without spending a dime. My fiancé does not travel for work and so only had 25,000 American Airlines miles in her account.

How I Found MileValue

Since the American Airlines/US Airways merger switched us from Star Alliance to oneworld I was suddenly left unfamiliar with the strategies needed to be successful within the new alliance now holding our miles. I decided to turn to the web by googling ‘American Airlines reward strategies’ or something similar, and found MileValue and the world of travel hacking! Specifically, I found Scott’s in-process compendium on redeeming American Airlines miles.

Pretty quickly into my MileValue experience I learned that there was another American Airlines co-branded credit card out there and we could both sign up for it to get a lot of miles in a hurry. My fiancée and I both signed up for the AAdvantage Platinum Select card by Citi.  After meeting the minimum spending requirements we would receive infusions of 50K each, and the first year’s annual fee would be waived for us both.

Planning the First Portion of the Trip

I began heavier research into how we could stretch our miles to fly in style, and not long after Scott published this post that talked about luxury air travel.

I realized that luxury air travel between the US and Australia was tough to come by and at insane prices (sometimes 200k miles or more for one-way travel!), however, it looked like Etihad award space was pretty wide open and only 90k one way for first class. I had no clue where Etihad flew, but after a brief route map search I realized that they flew to the Maldives. This was an island (one of our goals) and my fiancé had shot down my other destination options as not being ‘Honeymoon-worthy’ so I was excited to see that the Maldives were ranked as the second best Honeymoon destination in the world according to some websites.

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 3.40.39 PM
View from their room in the Maldives

Award Searching and Booking

I had no clue how to search for availability since Etihad is a partner of American Airlines but not part of the One World Alliance. That’s where Scott came to the rescue again, with this post about redeeming American Airline miles on Etihad flights.

In the wee hours of the morning one day, I found two First Class seats open between Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi. Excitedly I called American and fed the agent the flight information. They were also able to create First Class routings from our home city, Phoenix. Unfortunately, they were only able to get us economy tickets from Abu Dhabi to the Maldives. I still booked the route with the understanding that I would be able to trade up if First Class tickets opened up to the Maldives from Abu Dhabi. I felt accomplished that I had at least set up the first portion of our trip via Etihad– one of the nicest carriers in the world– and in their Diamond First Class Suite product leaving on a Saturday!

Screen Shot 2016-06-26 at 3.25.46 PM
Etihad First Class on Boeing 777 from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi

All of this was 90k miles per person (180k total miles) and $7 each ($14 total) in taxes!!! I have no idea why the taxes were so little, but I did not complain!

With the miles in my coffer down to approximately 30k, I waited as I slowly built up credit card purchases to equal the minimum spending required to earn the sign-up bonus of 50K miles from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card. Additionally, I had to spend more time focusing on wedding planning with my fiancé and unfortunately, we had a water leak at our home, which had me fighting with the insurance company for the majority of my free time. These things forced me to put down our honeymoon planning for a few months and when I returned, the landscape had suddenly changed.

TO BE CONTINUED IN “Honeymoon Around the World: Part 2″…

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

35

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® 60,000 mile offer has expired. Check out the current best credit card offers here.

———————————————————————

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.

 

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

The Middle East and Indian Subcontinent are two regions on the American Airlines award chart, but have the same prices to fly to either.

The Middle East is defined as:

  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • the United Arab Emirates

The Indian Subcontinent is defined as:

  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Kazakhstan
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan

The Partners for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent Awards

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, it is a standard rule that you cannot transit a third region–awards between Region A and Region B cannot transit Region C unless specifically allowed.

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)
  • Royal Jordanian (Anman)

Other American Airlines partners with hubs in the region:

  • Gulf Air (Bahrain)

There are three exceptions that apply to awards between the United States and the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent that do allow you to transit a third region, which opens up our routing possibilities:

1.  You can connect in the Middle East on the way to the Indian Subcontinent, utilizing the airlines mentioned above.

2. You can transit Europe en route to the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent from North America.This means that any partner that flies between the United States and Europe or Europe and the Middle East is potentially useful:

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

3. Recently, American added the exception that you can transit Hong Kong (on Cathay Pacific Airlines only) between North American and the Indian Subcontinent, which is great news for those who live on the West Coast since routing via Hong Kong is faster than routing via Europe or the Middle East. Not to mention it’s another routing option for everyone, i.e. more award space, and Cathay Pacific’s premium products are superb

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

Awards space on Iberia, Qatar, and Cathay Pacific 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 or Indian Subcontinent, American Airlines charges:

  • 40,000 miles one way in economy
  • 70,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 115,000 miles one way in First Class

Economy and Business are decent values. First Class prices are very expensive, although the product available is top shelf. Read my trip report of Etihad First Class from Chennai, India to Los Angeles.

If you can, use Alaska miles– it only costs 62,500 miles one way in Cathay Pacific Business and 70,000 miles in Cathay Pacific First Class to India or the Middle East.

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, Etihad and Qatar. 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. You will not have to pay a phone fee since the award is not bookable online. 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 three 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 ten American cities to Doha and from there throughout the region including 13 Indian cities.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 2.52.52 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 information 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. Award prices to either from the United States are the same.

First Class Awards are pricy but economy and Business class are decent values. If the award doesn’t fly directly from North America, the only other routings allowed are:

  • connections in the Middle East en route to the Indian Subcontinent
  • connections in Hong Kong en route to the Indian Subcontinent
  • connections in Europe en route to either the Middle East or the Indian Subcontinent

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership, among other awesome benefits, after spending $5,000 in the first three months.Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.44.21 PM

By meeting the $5,000 total spending requirement you’ll earn at least 65,000 American Airlines miles. With just a little more spending on the card, you’d have enough to fly Business Class from the United States to India or the Middle East!

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® 60,000 mile offer has expired. Check out the current best credit card offers here.

———————————————————————

I am updating and re-posting my series on redeeming American Airlines miles.

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

As far as the three US legacy carriers go, it is almost always cheaper to use American Airlines miles to fly one of its awesome partners’ First Classes than it is to use United miles to fly one of its partners’ First Classes. You can’t even use Delta to miles to book a three-cabin First Class.

However First Class awards took the biggest hit with American Airlines’ devaluation.  So if you can, look to use Alaska miles, Korean miles, or Singapore miles instead for First Class awards.

Luxurious First Class Options to Book with American Airlines Miles

I’ll give the miles price of a one way award because American Airlines allows one way bookings (we’ll cover that later), and I’ll give the price after a 10% rebate in parentheses. That’s because the American Airlines personal card offers 10% of the miles back on all American Airlines redemptions up to 100,000 miles redeemed per calendar year.

1. Japan Airlines First Class for 80,000 (72,000) miles

Japan Airlines First Class is among the best in the world, and is the best value award from the United States in terms of duration and partner product on the new American Airlines oneworld alliance award chart.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 2.37.20 PM

It combines a mostly enclosed suite with a wide, fully flat bed and impeccable service and food.Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 2.37.30 PM

Japan Airlines First Class between the United States and Japan costs 80,000 American Airlines miles one way. There is not as much Japan Airlines First Class Award space open between the US and Tokyo as there was in February, but a smattering remains.

Here’s how to search for award space on ba.com (you won’t find Japan Airlines’ award space on American Airline’s website).

2. Cathay Pacific First Class for 110,000 (100,000) miles

Trip Report: New York to Hong Kong

You can book Cathay Pacific First Class one way for 110,000 American Airlines miles between the United States and China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia.

Cathay Pacific First Class is a throne…

IMG_0031

…that turns into a large and comfortable bed.

IMG_0051

Cathay Pacific First Class comes with some of the best food, fanciest wines and liquors, and most attentive service in the sky.

IMG_0045

And best of all, award space is widely available from the United States to Hong Kong and from there to the rest of Asia if you can book either within a week of departure or 11 months out.

And now you can redeem American Airlines miles to the Indian Subcontinent via Hong Kong, so you could fly Cathay Pacific First Class to India.

However, if you have Alaska miles, you can book First Class to China, Hong Kong, or Southeast Asia in Cathay Pacific First Class for only 70,000 miles one way– so keep that in mind.

Here’s how to search for award space on ba.com (you won’t find Cathay Pacific award space on American Airline’s website).

3. Malaysia Airlines First Class for 90,000 (81,000) miles

Trip Report: Paris to Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia Airlines First Class on its A380 costs 90,000 miles between Kuala Lumpur and London.

Malaysia Airlines is a very large and comfortable seat that converts into an extremely long and wide bed.

The all-you-can-eat satay cart was the best food I’ve ever had in the sky.

And the attentive service–that included kneeling down to seat level for interactions–was way better than you’d ever get from a US-based airline.

Malaysia Airlines First Class is widely available throughout the year between Kuala Lumpur and Europe.

Here’s how to search for award space on ba.com (you won’t find Malaysia award space on American Airline’s website).

4. Etihad First Class for 62,500 (56,250) miles

Trip Report: Abu Dhabi to New York

Etihad First Class costs 62,500 American Airlines miles between Europe and the Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, or Maldives. From the United States to those destinations is 115,000 miles.

Etihad First Class on its newest A380 has a couch that seats several people and a separate bed.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.27.11 PM

Etihad’s fully enclosed suites are the most spacious in the sky, and there’s a shower onboard that you can use in flight.

First Class Award space is plentiful on the A380 between London and Abu Dhabi throughout the year.

Here’s how to search for award space on etihad.com (you won’t find Etihad award space on American Airline’s website).

5. Qantas First Class for 62,500 (56,250) miles

Qantas First Class costs 62,500 American Airlines miles between London and Dubai. From the United States to Australia, the cost is 110,000 miles for flights that last over 14 hours.

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 year round between London and Dubai. For example, here is the very end of December 2016 and January 2017:

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 2.18.03 PM

It is not widely available between the United States and Australia, but there is some availability if you can plan your trip 11 months to one year in advance.

You can find Qantas award space right on American Airline’s website.

6. British Airways First Class for 80,000 (72,000) miles

British Airways First Class on the A380 from London to South Africa is 80,000 miles. It is a partially enclosed seat that turns into a fully flat bed.

There are fuel surcharges when you use American Airlines miles to book British Airways–the only fuel surcharges for any bookings in this post–but if the schedule is convenient, they may be worth paying. British Airways First Class is moderately available between the United States and Europe and between London and the rest of the world.

Also check out First Class on the British Airways 787-9 from 40,000 (36,000) miles one way on a ten hour flight.

Bottom Line

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership, among other awesome benefits, after spending $5,000 in the first three months.Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.44.21 PM

By meeting the $5,000 total spending requirement you’ll earn at least 65,000 American Airlines miles, which you can put towards one of these ultra luxurious First Class awards.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

28

Update 5/25/16: A One Mile at a Time commenter confirms booking a Brussels Business Class roundtrip from New York to Brussels for 36,620 Etihad miles plus under $100 in taxes per person. There is an Amex Membership Rewards to Etihad 30% transfer bonus through June 15, 2016 that would make this bookable for 29,000 Membership Rewards.

The only thing I would change about this article published in February 2016 is that I think you might be better off calling Etihad directly instead of searching on united.com for the space first. My new recommended order would be call Etihad to award search, transfer to Etihad, book with Etihad.

Brussels airlines is a partner of Etihad Airlines, and this is the amazing award chart for roundtrip redemptions.

Etihad Brussels redemption chart

Those deals are fantastic, so I figured some serious investigation was in order.

How to Book a Brussels Airlines Flight with Etihad Miles

To book Brussels Airlines flights with Etihad miles, first you have to search united.com for Saver award space on Brussels flights. Then you have to call Etihad to book.

  • You cannot search etihad.com for award space because it only displays Etihad flights.
  • You cannot book flights operated by other airlines that you find on united.com. Etihad partners with Brussels, not Brussels plus all its partners. If this confuses you, see There is No Transitive Property of Miles.

To search on united.com:

1. Fill out the Book Travel box on the home page of united.com, and be sure to check “search for award travel”:

united book travel box

2. Choose a flight that has Saver award space that is operated by Brussels.

united saver award 2

3. Note the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space you find on united.com.

4. To book that flight with Etihad miles, call Etihad at 888-8-ETIHAD. Tell the agent you want to book a Brussels Airlines flight and feed them the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space you found on united.com.

My Experience Booking a Brussels Airlines Flight with Etihad Miles

I easily found Saver award space for a roundtrip economy flight between New York and Brussels during the month of June on united.com. Availability was generally open for economy over the summer months, but no space was open in business. I took the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space I found and had to feed it to 10 different Etihad Guest representatives over the course of two days, because the agents were having a near impossible time seeing the same award space that I saw on united.com.

After some serious nudging (see specific details about what to say to Etihad Guest’s representatives below), the last representative I spoke to was able to find space, but oddly enough it was for a business seat on the same roundtrip between New York and Brussels that I originally found only in economy. He also told me that the total of all fees would be $94.70.

With conflicting information these results are obviously not definitive, but the experience was informative nonetheless. Below is a summation of what I know and what I still don’t know from spending two days on the phone with various representatives.

What I Do Know

  • You can only redeem Etihad miles on Brussels flights between New York and Brussels. Washington, DC is also listed as a destination for Brussels Airlines on Wikipedia, so I asked some of Etihad Guest’s representatives for availability and prices for roundtrip flights out of Washington, DC to Brussels guessing that perhaps it was left out of the chart on accident. Every representative that I asked had the same response: You cannot book flights in and out of Washington, DC, for no good reason other than it’s not listed in the redemption chart, and that is the rule.
  • You can redeem Etihad miles on a Brussels flight that originates in New York. It does not have to originate in Brussels like the redemption chart might convey.
  • One way awards are not permitted for Etihad redemptions on Brussels Airlines, only roundtrips (or as they phrase it in the footer of the chart: “Mileage Values in this table are for return journeys only. One way redemptions are not permitted.”)
  • The mileage amounts on the redemption chart for roundtrips in economy and business are indeed 21,972 miles and 36,620 miles respectively– each of Etihad Guest’s representatives I spoke with confirmed that.
  • If you do manage to find award space over the phone, the award has to be booked out of New York to Brussels or vice versa to get the value, adding on other Brussels Airlines flights to either end is technically possible but will be like paying for two awards.
  • Don’t call Etihad Guest’s US offices (1 888 8 ETIHAD) as they were the least helpful. I recommend the UK office (+44 0345 6081225). More on that and other call strategies below.

What I Do Not Know, and Why I’m Not Sure

I am not sure that Etihad miles can actually book Brussels award space because:

  • The award space found by the final Etihad Guest representative (in Business Class from June 2 – 13) I spoke to from the UK office is not available on united.com:

business not available

no biz saver return

If Etihad miles can book Brussels space, I think there are no fuel surcharges on the award, but I am not sure. The Etihad Guest representative that found space for me in business on the flight from New York to Brussels quoted all taxes and fees to be $94.70. If you purchased the same ticket in cash, ITA matrix shows taxes of $94.70 and fuel surcharges (YQ and YR) of $873.50, meaning that he was quoting a price with no fuel surcharges.

ita matrix jfk to bru

That is a promising sign that the space is bookable with no fuel surcharges, but considering only one agent got that far, and I didn’t actually book, I am not ready to promise that there are no fuel surcharges on the award.

Advice for More Efficient Communication with Etihad Guest Representatives

The first step is choosing which Etihad Guest office to call. Their UK office (+44 0345 6081225) was the most helpful to me and this FlyerTalker. Etihad Guest’s US offices (+1 888 8 ETIHAD) were the least competent. I tried the offices in New York, Chicago and Washington DC at different times of day over the course of two days, to ensure a different pool of representatives, yet still met no one capable of actually helping me. The UAE office was slightly more informed and at least had the award searching software on their computers (unlike one of the representatives from the US!)– but still no dice when it came to availability.

The next and most important step is clearly communicating what you want them to do for you. Emphasize that you would like to redeem your Etihad miles on a Brussels Airlines flight, not an Etihad flight. Feed them the date, flight number, and cabin of the award space you found previously on united.com. Finally, before they put you on hold to search, suggest they put a “longsell query into their system”, or if they don’t understand that term suggest they do it manually or directly. A FlyerTalker suggested that choice of wording that ultimately led the final Etihad Guest representative I spoke with from the UK office towards the answer I wanted– availability!

Another point to mention is that the redemption chart lists mileage for roundtrips, as it is easy to make the assumption that the mileage amounts are for one ways because of the way chart is set up. I had more than one Etihad representative make that mistake. Nudge them towards the asterisk at the the bottom of the chart that reads “Mileage Values in this table are for return journeys only. One way redemptions are not permitted”.

What to Do If You Want to Book This Space

If you want to book New York to Brussels roundtrip in economy for 22,000 ThankYou Points or in Business Class for 37,000 ThankYou Points, here’s what you should do.

  1. Find award space on united.com.
  2. Call Etihad Guest’s UK office to confirm that an agent sees that space, and get him to quote total taxes and fees.
  3. Transfer ThankYou Points to Etihad miles.
  4. Hope award space doesn’t disappear during the approximately seven days it will take for the Etihad miles to post.
  5. When the miles appear, book the Brussels flights with Etihad miles.
  6. Report back your experiences in the comments of this post.

Bottom Line

The best case scenario is that you can book a roundtrip Business Class flight to Europe without fuel surcharges for 37,000 ThankYou Points. That’s an incredibly awesome deal.

The worst case scenario is that all the flights mentioned are completely unbookable due to lack of availability and/or a disconnect between Etihad Guest and Brussels Airlines. That would be a bummer.

The middle scenario is that the award space is bookable, but with fuel surcharges, taking a lot of the value out of the deal.

We still don’t have proof that you can redeem Etihad miles on a Brussels Airlines flight.  But considering the range of scenarios, I do not think putting a bit of time and research into this yourselves would be a waste.

Happy hunting. 

This deal wouldn’t be possible without Citi ThankYou points. Luckily, ThankYou Points are easy to get.

  • Citi Prestige® Card with 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

16

Still alive two months later. How long will it last?

On March 22, 2016, the American Airlines devaluation struck.

However, you can still book American Airlines flight at the old prices if you use Alaska or Etihad miles. I don’t know how long this will last, maybe a few days or months, until they notice and ape American’s higher prices.

Let’s back up a little bit.

It just so happens that Alaska Airlines and Etihad Airways, partners of American Airlines, charge the same number of miles for American Airlines flights as American Airlines did until yesterday. Both airlines even allow the booking of off peak awards on the same off peak dates as American allowed until yesterday.

I say “it just so happens” because there is nothing expected or ordinary about this. British Airways, another American Airlines partner never charged the same number of miles for American Airlines flights as American Airlines did, nor did it have discounts for American Airlines off peak awards. As a general rule: different miles, different rules, different chart. But for whatever reason, Alaska and Etihad decided to copy American’s chart when using Alaska or Etihad miles to redeem American flights.

And those copied charts are still in effect today.

Using Alaska Miles

For instance, if you go to alaskaair.com and search for an award to Buenos Aires in May…

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 1.58.06 PM

…you see a lot of flights for 20,000 miles.Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 1.59.20 PM Those are the price you would have paid until March 21 for American Airlines off peak awards.Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 1.59.38 PMThat is particularly amazing because American Airlines did away with off peak awards to Southern South America today. The same award costs 30,000 American Airlines miles today.

Alaska has different charts for every airline to every region. You can find the charts for using Alaska miles to Europe here. American Airlines awards still show yesterday’s generous off peak dates and price instead of today’s less generous dates and 22,500 mile price.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 5.16.43 PM

Using Etihad Miles

Similarly, Etihad’s chart for flying American Airlines flights is the same as it was on March 21 when it matched American Airlines’ old chart.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 5.19.05 PM
EO = off peak, EP = economy, B/F = Business, P = First

Here is a full post on using Etihad miles to book American Airlines flights.

What This Doesn’t Mean

These are Alaska and Etihad charts for flying American Airlines airplanes.

You can NOT use these charts to fly other American Airlines partners. For instance, don’t expect to call Etihad and say, “Hi, I found great award space to Sydney in First Class on aa.com that flies Qantas, and I want to pay 72,500 Etihad miles to book it.” Qantas is a partner of American Airlines, not Etihad. (And if it were a partner of Etihad, it would have its own award chart. The chart in this post is for flying airplanes that say American Airlines on the side.)

Getting Alaska Airlines and Etihad Miles

Thank You Points and Membership Rewards transfer 1:1 to Etihad miles.

The Citi Prestige® Card comes with 40,000 ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open.

SPG Starpoints transfer 1:1 to Alaska miles with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. Right now the SPG cards have their biggest bonuses ever. The Alaska Airlines credit cards from Bank of America are churnable.

How Long Will This Last?

Etihad and Alaska clearly made conscious decisions to copy American Airlines’ chart (for whatever reason, this is actually unusual.) Now that the AA chart has changed, I assume Etihad’s and Alaska’s charts will change. We will see how long that takes.

If you want to book American Airlines flights, for the moment, you should use Alaska and Etihad miles.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

Today (May 11, 2016) is the last day to take advantage of the 30% discount on Virgin Atlantic economy awards that brings the price of an award between select U.S cities and London down to only 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you stack that Virgin Atlantic economy sale with the current deal American Express is offering– a 30% transfer bonus of Membership Rewards to Virgin Atlantic through May 31, 2016–then you can book an award to London for only 10,000 Membership Rewards +$134.60!! Book now, but not as a roundtrip.

Why You Shouldn’t Book Awards Departing Britain

It can cost upwards of $300 in departure taxes to leave Europe on an award from London. That is atrocious and can easily be avoided by returning home from a low tax country instead. You can use British Airways Avios or a low cost carrier to get to the low tax country.

Low Tax Countries

I’ve ordered the cities from cheapest to most expensive.

  • Oslo: $31.70
  • Istanbul: $32.50
  • Warsaw: $33.80
  • Stockholm: $36.30
  • Dublin: $39
  • Belfast: $42.20
  • Geneva: $42.90
  • Venice: $43.40
  • Barcelona: $43.50
  • Shannon: $43.60
  • Copenhagen: $43.80
  • Lisbon: $47.40
  • Amsterdam: $48
  • Madrid: $48.40
  • Brussels: $50
  • Milan: $50
  • Zurich: $56.50
  • Rome: $60
  • Hamburg: $82.70
  • Vienna: $87
  • Munich: $94.80
  • Frankfurt: $112.10
  • Berlin: $119.20

Cheapest Award Space From Low Tax Countries in Europe

I searched to find the cheapest award space from Europe to the United States– in economy and in First Class–that you can pair with your Virgin Atlantic Award to London. Depending on whether you want to keep up the savings or treat yourself to something more luxurious on your way home, here are two of the cheapest options doing either:

Dublin, Ireland to Philadelphia – 20,000 Alaska Miles + $54

Spend New Years in Europe and save money on the way home by flying American Airlines economy back to the U.S. from Dublin after the holidays. There are 24 days in January with award space for two people that you can book for only 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles and $54 in taxes per person.Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 6.24.30 PMThe calendar barely changes if you modify the search for up to four people.

If you don’t have Alaska miles, you can also book the same space with Etihad miles for the same price. Both Alaska Mileage Plan and Etihad Guest program maintained the pre-American Airlines devaluation prices between the US and Europe, as well as the prior American Airlines Off Peak dates to Europe. You can fly between the US and Europe for that same price anytime between October 15 and May 15.

If you don’t live in Philadelphia and want to book this with Alaska miles, you can add another leg to get to your hometown without changing the mileage price as long as it’s on American Airlines or Alaska and is economy Saver space. You can also add a leg flying American Airlines to get to your hometown on an Etihad award without changing the mileage price, under the same conditions.

You can search for award space on aa.com or alaskair.com. If using Alaska miles you will need to book on alaskaair.com, and if using Etihad miles you will need to call Etihad Guest at (1 888 8 ETIHAD, available 24/7).

Oslo, Norway to Chicago – 50,000 Asiana Miles + $192.54

Pamper yourself after trotting around Europe with a luxurious Lufthansa First Class flight experience on the way home. You can fly it for 50,000 Asiana miles plus taxes and fuel surcharges that amount to $192.54 between Oslo and Chicago (fuel surcharges are much lower Europe to USA than vice versa on Lufthansa flights.)

Asiana is 1:1 transfer partner of SPG Starpoints.

Getting into Lufthansa First Class is a gimme if you can book at the last minute. Unfortunately Lufthansa doesn’t release its First Class award space to partners until about 15 days before departure, but once it does, space is quite available. If you’re comfortable booking the return last minute, it’s a great deal for First Class.

For example, here is a Lufthansa Business Class award from Oslo to Chicago in about two weeks:

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.37.58 PM
$247.60 CAD in taxes/fees = $192.54 USD in taxes/fees

This search result is from aeroplan.com, but the taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges there should equal what Asiana charges. For instance, this Oslo to Chicago one way award costs 247.60 Canadian Dollars ($192.54) out of pocket. (Ignore the 70,000 mile price, Asiana charges 50,000 miles.)

If you don’t live in Chicago, you can add a leg on United to your hometown without affecting the mileage price. It can be in any cabin since your transatlantic flight is First Class, just make sure it’s Saver space.

You can search for Lufthansa award space on aeroplan.com, like I did above, or on united.com (probably easier on united.com as you don’t need an account). To book with Asiana miles you will need to call 800-227-4262 (I’ve booked myself two Asiana awards– here is my experience).

How to Get the Miles

For the American Airlines flight from Dublin you’ll need 20,000 Alaska Airlines miles or Etihad miles.

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature cards (personal and business) both offer 25,000 miles just for signing up. The business card requires you to purchase one item to qualify for the bonus.

While I can not directly link to the current Alaska Airlines Visa Signature, you may find it by clicking below if you decide to apply. (I receive a commission, and your support keeps this blog going.)

Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of ThankYou Points. The Citi Prestige® Card earns 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open

You could also transfer SPG Starpoints to Etihad at a 1:1 ratio. See links for cards that earn SPG Starpoints below.

For the Lufthansa First Class flight you’ll need 50,000 Asiana miles.

SPG Starpoints transfer to Asiana at a 1:1 ratio. The SPG cards from American Express currently offer 25,000 bonus Starpoints for spending $3,000 and $5,000 respectively in the first three months of card membership.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic has a sale on economy awards between London and North America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, India, Africa, and Asia that ends today. You can book awards to London from the U.S. for as little as 12,250 Virgin Atlantic miles and $134.60 in taxes and fuel surcharges.

If you have Membership Rewards from American Express, you can stack that sale with the 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic to make that mileage price drop to 10,000 Membership Rewards. This transfer bonus lasts through May 31, 2016 so if you miss the opportunity today for the Virgin Atlantic economy sale, you can still book an economy award to London for 13,000 Membership Rewards through May 31.

For the return trip, fly back to the U.S. from Dublin in American Airlines economy for only 20k Alaska or Etihad miles, or from Oslo in Lufthansa First Class for only 50k Asiana miles. Departing from either city will avoid the high departure taxes you would incur on an award returning from London.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

10

For the second time, I used 5,000 ThankYou Points to book a one way Air Serbia flight award flight. This time I booked a $323 flight from Prague to Belgrade for $25, meaning I got 6 cents per ThankYou Point because I understand the sweet spots of all frequent flyer programs instead of only focusing on American-based programs.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 2.08.34 AM

I transferred and booked before the 30% American Express transfer bonus to Etihad miles was announced, which would have allowed me to book for 4,000 Amex points and get 7.5 cents per point of value.

I transferred my ThankYou Points to Etihad Guest Miles, which is the frequent flyer program for Air Serbia and several other airlines.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.17.14 AM

ThankYou Points are easy to get because the Citi Prestige® Card is offering 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases on the card in the first three months.

Etihad Guest / Air Serbia Award Chart

Air Serbia is not a member of one of the three alliances, but is a member of the “kind-of fourth alliance” of airlines in which Etihad has bought a stake. The only way to book Air Serbia flights with miles is with Etihad Guest miles. Here’s the award chart for Air Serbia flights in its entirety:

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 2.27.22 AM Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 2.27.39 AM

Prague to Belgrade is 5,000 miles one way in economy and 7,125 miles one way in Business Class. For a two hour flight, I didn’t even want to pay 2,125 miles extra for Business Class.

You do not pay fuel surcharges on Air Serbia award flights, only government taxes.

(By the way, that Belgrade to New York route is intriguing. It begins June 23, 2016 and will operate five times per week on a leased Jet Airways A330 that features 18 Business Class flat beds in a 1-1-1 configuration. The Business Class price is competitive and could be a route to watch if award space is as good as it is on shorthaul flights. During the current 30% transfer bonus from Amex to Etihad, you’d need only 50,000 Membership Rewards for a one way in a flat bed!)

Getting Etihad Guest Miles

Etihad miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points and Amex Membership Rewards, and you must transfer in increments of 1,000.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.29.21 AM

To transfer ThankYou Points to Etihad Guest miles, you must open a free Etihad Guest account, and then complete the transfer on thankyou.com. First click “Points Transfer” under “Do more.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.56.16 AM

Select “TRANSFER NOW” next to Etihad Guest.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.56.41 AM

Type in the number of miles you want to transfer. You need to transfer in increments of 1,000.

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.56.59 AM

Enter your Etihad Guest frequent flyer number, and you’re done.Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.57.06 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.57.31 AMThe transfer is not instant. It took about one week for my Etihad miles to show up in my account last year. This time, the transfer took five days. I transferred Thursday afternoon, and the miles posted the next Tuesday afternoon.

We have seen 25% transfer bonuses from ThankYou Points to Etihad miles before.

In April 2016, Amex Membership Rewards added Etihad as a transfer partner. There is a 30% transfer bonus from Membership Rewards to Etihad miles through June 15, 2016.

Booking Etihad Guest / Air Serbia Award

To book an award, call 800-8-ETIHAD. I don’t know of any way to search award space beforehand, but all the short Air Serbia flights I’ve inquired about have had award space.

I had searched flight times and prices on kayak.com, and the two daily Air Serbia flights were $323 one way.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.44.09 AM(A decent itinerary with one connection was $267, and an overnight in Istanbul was $130, so using points on the expensive direct flights was ideal.)

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.03.41 AM

I asked the agent if there was award space on the day I wanted, and she said there was award space on both flights that day. This didn’t surprise me because there has been award space on every short Air Serbia flight I’ve ever inquired about. She quoted a price of 5,000 miles + 22.08 euros.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 2.43.34 AM

This exactly matched the taxes on the paid ticket according to ITA Matrix, which were 597 Czech koruna. The award did not include the approximately $20 fuel surcharge that the cash ticket included.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.50.12 AMScreen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.51.29 AM

I received a confirmation email of my new ticket while I was still on the phone with the agent.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 2.58.39 AMI immediately went to airserbia.com and typed in the confirmation on the home page.

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.00.21 AMI was able to select my seat, an aisle in the second row.Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.01.32 AM

Bottom Line

In a few weeks, I am flying from Prague to Belgrade to start a big new undertaking (more on that in a future post.) The direct flight was a ridiculous $323, and even overnighting in Istanbul would only bring the price down to $130.

Instead I booked the flight for 5,000 Etihad miles + $25. I got the miles by transferring 5,000 ThankYou Points, which means I got about 6 cents per ThankYou Point of value.

Etihad Miles aren’t just useful if you want to go to/from Serbia. Etihad Guest Miles are also the miles of big airlines in Italy, Germany, and Austria.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 5.17.14 AM

And you can also use Etihad miles to fly American Airlines flights for pre-devaluation prices.

Getting ThankYou Points is easy:

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

American Express just added Etihad as a Membership Rewards transfer partner in April, and it is now offering a 30% transfer bonus through June 15, 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 12.08.18 PM

 

For the next six weeks, 1,000 Membership Rewards will transfer to 1,300 Etihad Guest Miles.

Good Deal?

Using Etihad Miles for Etihad Flights

Etihad Guest Miles aren’t very good for booking First Class on the Etihad A380, which is a current obsession of mine.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 12.55.33 PM

For instance, Etihad would charge 88,022 Etihad miles + $175 to book Abu Dhabi to London in First Class on the Etihad A380. During the transfer bonus, that’s 68,000 Membership Rewards.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.50.50 AM

A better deal, but not quite a good one, is booking JFK to Abu Dhabi in Etihad First Class for 117,556 Etihad miles + $179, which would be 91,000 Membership Rewards during the transfer bonus. You could book the same flight for 115,000 American Airlines miles + $6.Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.52.09 AMJFK to Delhi, which would feature two flights in First Class is 119,000 Membership Rewards during the promotion. Again, this would cost 115,000 American Airlines miles.Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 9.52.53 AM

So Etihad miles are competitive with American Airlines miles to book Etihad flights during this transfer bonus, but that’s not saying much. Both types of miles are still expensive for booking Etihad flights. The real value of Etihad miles is to book other airlines’ flights.

Using Etihad Miles for Other Flights

Etihad Guest miles can be used on 25 other airlines. On Etihad’s page, you can click on “Know more” and then click to bring up the redemption table for that airline’s flights.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 10.13.15 AMScreen Shot 2015-11-16 at 10.13.31 AM

For redeeming Etihad miles on American Airlines flights, the Etihad’s award chart is nearly identical to the old American Airlines award chart before the devaluation that happened March 22, 2016, at least for now. Remember 62,500 miles one way to Australia in Business Class and 20,000 miles one way to Europe in Economy? You can’t book those with American Airlines miles anymore, but you can with Etihad miles!

  • 125,000 Etihad miles (97,000 Membership Rewards) + taxes = United States to Australia roundtrip in American Airlines Business Class
  • 40,000 Etihad miles (31,000 Membership Rewards) + taxes = United States to Europe roundtrip in American Airlines Economy (however that out of pocket amount would skyrocket if you returned from London because of departure taxes, choose one of these European cities with lower taxes instead)

A few months ago I wrote about how you can fly to Europe in a flat bed for 37,000 ThankYou Points. That’s because it costs:

  • 36,620 Etihad miles (29,000 Membership Rewards) + $94.70 in taxes = New York to Brussels roundtrip in Brussels Airlines Business Class (featuring a flat bed)

This is technically still speculative, as I eventually found an Etihad Guest agent who found a Business Class award seat on this flight but I did not actually carry out the booking.

I wouldn’t exactly call this a sweetspot, but it is useful to know that if you ever need to book a flight on Air Serbia for some reason, hopping over to Romania on a Eurotrip perhaps, the only miles you can use to book their awards are Etihad miles. I just booked an award for 5,000 Etihad Miles (4,000 Membership Rewards) + $23 from Prague to Belgrade.

Bottom Line

American Express is offering a 30% bonus on Membership Rewards transferred to Etihad Guest Miles until June 15, 2016. This does not offer great value for booking Etihad First Class, but it does offer great value for booking partner flights like American Airlines, Air Serbia, and 23 other partners.

------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

If you liked this post, sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts! You can also follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with 100,000 bonus Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 in the first three months that you can transfer to United miles, Singapore miles, Southwest points, British Airways miles, or use for 1.5 cents each toward any flight, hotel, or car rentals.

Plus the card offers $300 in credits toward any travel purchase each calendar year, which is $600 in your first 12 months of cardmembership, $100 toward Global Entry, and worldwide lounge access. Basically it's the best credit card ever, even with a $450 annual fee.

cc-reward-320x50

Follow Me