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Reader Chuck asks,
Hey Gary planning a trip to the Maldives on Etihad with [American AAdvantage] miles, currently booked [in business class], but want to fly in [first class]. Do you know the trends where Etihad releases award space? Thanks!
Etihad first class is one of my favorite redemptions there is, I’ve done it many times.
It’s one of the better hard products, offering excellent catering (extensive dine on demand menu and an onboard chef), and it’s very available. And with American miles, and even Etihad’s own points, it’s reasonably priced.
They even offer a car service to (business and) first class passengers, available on departure and in your arrival city, but not offered in Abu Dhabi if you’re merely connecting there and have a long layover.
Mileage Cost for Etihad First Class
American Airlines charges:
- 90,000 miles each way between the US and “Middle East and Indian Subcontinent” which means to Abu Dhabi and also beyond to other destinations in the Middle East, in India, and surrounding region including the Maldives.
- 40,000 miles each way between Europe and “Middle East and Indian Subcontinent” so you could fly Amsterdam – London (British Airways) – Abu Dhabi (Etihad A380) – Delhi (Etihad first class) for those miles.
- 60,000 miles each way between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, where they offer A380 service.
Finding Etihad First Class Award Space
First, make sure you are searching all of the Etihad US gateways. They flight:
- New York JFK.
- Chicago. Note this flight does not offer first class
- Los Angeles.
- San Francisco.
- Washington Dulles.
Etihad also flies to Toronto, another route which doesn’t offer a first class cabin.
In addition to taking care that you’re looking at routes that offer first class, you also want to pay attention to the aircraft.
- Starting in December Etihad will be offering their Airbus A380 on New York JFK – Abu Dhabi.
- The second JFK flight and the San Francisco flight are operated using Jet Airways aircraft (“Jetihad”) which is not up to the same standard as Etihad’s
Second, search Etihad’s website for Guest First space. That’s the ‘low level’ space, and American AAdvantage generally has access to that space.
Once you find the space on the Etihad website, call American Airlines to book that space (you cannot search the space at AA.com, and you cannot book it there, fortunately American will waive the telephone booking fee).
When Does Etihad Release First Class Award Space?
There’s really no way to predict Etihad’s patterns.
- They are in general very good about releasing award space in advance.
- Often a year in advance award availability is very good, although it may not open right away when the schedule opens. If it doesn’t, wait a week.
- You won’t find more than 2 first class seats at a time.
- They’re inconsistent about whether or not they release award space at the last minute. Often they don’t even on empty planes. No one is as aggressive as Etihad about selling cash buy ups. Still, there can be last minute space.
There’s no way to ‘set an alert’ (a la Expert Flyer) for Etihad first class award seats. You just have to watch for them.
Fortunately as I say space is usually quite good in advance, whether 6 months or a year. It goes in waves though, it will disappear and come back, so if you don’t see what you want wait a week and check again, wait another week and check again. And if seats on a given flight haven’t sold, they might open within days of travel.