Outstanding Etihad First Class Award Space Returns to US Routes

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  • Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: Earn triple points on direct purchases from US airlines and US hotels, and double points from US restaurants and grocery stores.
  • Citi Prestige Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after $3000 spend within 3 months; triple points on air and hotel; double points on dining and entertainment. (Offer expired)
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Etihad has the world’s best first class on their Airbus A380 — the First Apartment. Their ‘regular’ first class is a fully enclosed suite, and arguably one of the world’s 5 best first class products though unquestionably top 10.

For the past several months Etihad has been releasing first class awards Abu Dhabi to the US, but not from the US to Abu Dhabi except at the last minute. The good news was that Etihad would release even Airbus A380 First Apartment seats on the New York JFK – Abu Dhabi routes close to departure.

They appear to have changed their award availability pattern.

  • First Apartment seats for New York JFK – Abu Dhabi are no longer reliably being released close to departure.

  • However many more first class awards are available from the US to Abu Dhabi than before.

Citi and American Express points transfer directly to Etihad.

This makes the fastest earning Membership Rewards cards even more valuable.

And it makes the points earned via the Citi Prestige Card even more valuable as well. Here are the 15 things I love about Citi Prestige which includes the 50,000 point signup bonus after $3000 spend within 3 months..

And Etihad awards are bookable with American AAdvantage miles.

New York Abu Dhabi But What About the A380 First Apartment?

While there were several days in the next week with first class award space open for travel on their Boeing 777-300ER, there’s no space for the A380 flight.

The nice thing though is you can see at least 2 first class seats per day New York JFK – Abu Dhabi for July 1-4 (and also in the next couple of days) on that Boeing 777 flight.

The A380 First Apartment does appear to be selling, over the next week we see it sold out or with 1, 2, 3, or 4 seats (out of 9) available for sale. In the past 3 or 4 paid seats left would mean something available as an award however. And tomorrow’s flight, with 4 seats left, has no award seats open.

San Francisco – Abu Dhabi is the Best Flight for First Class Availability

This flight is available close-in, a few months out, and even has 2 first class award seats available all the way most days of the week through mid-May (but not quite end of schedule).

Dallas – Abu Dhabi Available About 2/3rds of the Time

Dallas – Abu Dhabi first class awards for at least 2 people are available at the last minute.

They’re available booking about 6 weeks out.

They’re available booking farther out, too. In fact my experience has been that Dallas – Abu Dhabi is available at least two-thirds of the time. The problem of course is that this isn’t a daily flight. It operates Wednesday / Friday / Sunday in each direction.

This is the second best flight for first class award availability all the way through mid-May. It’s as wide open as San Francisco, but only operates 3 days a week.

Los Angeles – Abu Dhabi Available Through July (And a Smattering After)

Two first class award seats are available close-in, and most days through the end of July.

There are occasional dates of availability in August and September, but it’s not available farther out.

Washington Dulles – Abu Dhabi Available Through September

Two first class award seats are available close-in, and most days through the end of September.

Availability disappears after that.

Booking the Airbus A380 First Apartment

Flights from Abu Dhabi to the U.S. have been much easier to get for awhile. Space is tough on Abu Dhabi – New York JFK, though, with availability showing up only on the Boeing 777 flight and not the A380 flight most of the time — and then only a few days in September and October.

Availability gets better in November and December, disappears late in December and comes back almost every day February through mid-May. There’s even a few days with A380 First Apartment space during this period.

Etihad also operates their Airbus A380 Abu Dhabi to Sydney, Melbourne, London, and Mumbai. Non-US destinations are far easier to get than New York JFK is.

Sydney, for instance, has reasonable availability but watch out because there are two Sydney flights and only one is an A380. Melbourne, similarly, has two flights — one an A380 and the other a 777, and you can find availability at times on both.

If flying Etihad to Australia I’d be willing to take whichever flight had first class award space on the A380 and if I wanted to fly to Sydney but only found space to Melbourne I’d be willing to buy or redeem 4500 Avios for the short Melbourne – Sydney leg (or vice versa). Melbourne is worth a visit though, it’s a fantastic dining city.

Finding Availability and Booking

You can search for Etihad award availability on Etihad’s website.

Book awards using American AAdvantage miles (you may need to ring them in Australia for their agents to see the space) or book with Etihad’s own miles.

You can transfer points from American Express Membership Rewards or Citi ThankYou Rewards to Etihad Guest.

Where to Go With Etihad Award Space

Etihad Guest charges more miles the farther you fly. American AAdvantage uses a region-based award chart. You can fly to Abu Dhabi and Etihad provides a car service anywhere in the UAE.

In fact you can take the complimentary Etihad car to and from Dubai, or the desert on the border of Oman to someplace like Starwood’s Al Maha resort.

You can also connect elsewhere in the Mideast like Egypt, Iran, and Qatar. You can connect to anywhere in the “Indian Subcontinent” which includes countries like Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Post-March 22 American now charges 115,000 miles each way between the US and Mideast or India in first class, up from 90,000 miles each way.

Earn points for this:

  • Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express: Earn triple points on direct purchases from US airlines and US hotels, and double points from US restaurants and grocery stores.
  • Citi Prestige Card: Earn 50,000 bonus points after $3000 spend within 3 months; triple points on air and hotel; double points on dining and entertainment.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®: Earn 60,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 month. (offer expired)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Needing 300000 miles.

    The whole point of Brexit was the elites are tone deaf to the plight of the masses. “Let them eat cake” and your head will roll in the revolution.

  2. @Credit — 300k? 115k each way via American, price varies but isn’t bad LHR-AUH at all and you earn Citi points at 3x on air/hotel. It’s a lot of points but for one of the best products in the world. And in any case the news here is that space that hadn’t been available at all — US->Mideast in advance — has opened up.

  3. The head of EK was spot on when he talked about people’s less willingness to pay for F. You have to wonder if EY is truly selling any seats at the extreme front end of the A388? Give it three years, you’re going to see them reconfiguring that plane with PEY.

  4. @Tony the market for F is thin, but they don’t have many 380s, the cabin has been full when I’ve flown it and I’ve been onboard when they’ve sold the Residence as well. Looking out the next few days we see 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 of 9 seats open.

    No question the world direction has been more towards J and away from F. So some carriers have abandoned F, others have limited the aircraft it flies on, and others have shrunk their cabins.

    And don’t bet too heavily on premium economy, the ones that work have pretty small cabins, you’ve seen carriers overinvest there and learn their lesson like Turkish.

  5. Maybe in theory it is the best produce. Yes, the suite and the set up is nice.
    I much prefer Singapore Airlines attention to detail. Although Singapore Airlines offers a great product, when things go wrong throughout the trip or on ground, they are not capable of a good solution.
    I flew this product last week again from Abu Dhabi to London in 3A and 4A which are the most perfect seats with couples with the nicer color leather (the lighter beige), the Butler and the Chef were absolutely awful, and borderline rude.
    We had flown in Business from Male (Maldives) to Qatar 2 days before and we had a much better experience in the newly remodeled A330.
    The butler made inappropriate comments that he did not know where to serve us after we moved to the bar for a 2nd. He lied to us and told us that the bar was full because of the Soccer match. When we went there to try it out we only saw one other person from UK.
    Then the chef screwed up the order. Neither one of us, could get the Seabass. Then he told us that there was no extra fish boarded. From my previous First Class on Eithad I knew that there is a way that Chef can make a different entrée based on demand and they feature different types of sauces. He said that we only had to order within the menu. They all seemed so rushed. It seemed that they were short staff. The Purser came and told me what she can do for us. I told her that I do volunteer work for orphanages in Africa and I need some stuff for kids in Orphanages in Morocco and perhaps in Mozambique where I am going next.
    She never came back. So, her entire “Schpill” of what can we do to make your flight more enjoyable was a complete disaster and BS.
    So, if you want to burn a lot of miles and you think that it is going to be an out of the world experience please think twice.
    We should have just booked the Qatar in Business. We loved the First Class Safa Lounge in Doha and the Free Doha Tour, and the free room at the First Class Safa lounge but I think the business class product of Qatar will be sufficient, unless you are a large person and you really need the bigger space. The only bad thing about Qatar is that the bed space is narrow and not much selection on entertainment.
    Everything else is superior and we already miss Daphne (our sweet business class Qatar Flight Attendant from the Phillippines who said certainly to every request we had. We did not care for the stupid Purser they had from Sri Lanka who could not even converse in English. Daphne was amazing. So, request her on your next flight, LOL!
    I will give Etihad First Class Apartment (do not be fooled by the statement Apartment), it is just a First Class space with a little larger space and a very uncomfortable chair that does not recline much. The entertainment options are extremely poor, unless you want to watch some limited new releases or subtitled Bollywood movies!
    I have no idea what is the meaning of a Butler trained by Savoy. It does not mean much to me anymore after our experience on Etihad!

  6. Most of the availability shown in this post is quoted from 235,112 and up. Since only one date and one flight is shown, (and after looking again I don’t see anything that says these quotes are for R/T), I kept thinking: ‘why bother’, who is going to be able to spend 470K miles for SAN-AUH?

    However now that I realize these are R/T quotes, and especially since one can get a one way award for half the price, that’s a very different matter. 😉

  7. Thanks…

    That didn’t occur to me, since if you search for two awards with most programs, say AA or SQ, they quote you the ‘per person’ rate, not the combined rate.

  8. @Alan Louganis

    Thank you so much for posting your experiences – I echo your assessment as this “I will give Etihad First Class Apartment (do not be fooled by the statement Apartment), it is just a First Class space with a little larger space and a very uncomfortable chair that does not recline much. ”
    I honestly feel the EY First Apartment is very overrated, being hyped up by the bloggers all over but in reality it is nothing more than a cubicle in the sky with very uncomfortable seat. The soft product has been so inconsistent in every aspect except one – that is the trend of going downhill.

    Also agree with your comments on Qatar – we have flown their old business class seats and their new business class seats – we actually prefer the old one which we just flown again ZAG-DOH-SYD for a very long flight. We had an adorable, fun-loving Korean FA and a passable purser from India. The foods were nice. Despite cost cutting the amenity kit contents were still above many other airlines in its class. I am so glad we have not gone out of our way to use EY from LHR (and pay the high taxes).
    QR has replaced CX to become our airline of choice for the routes we fly. We look forward to another trip on QR next January – this time we would be on their A380F. Should be very nice.

  9. @Gary, just a word of caution to your readers: this is the worst premium product I have ever experienced and it is not worth wasting all these valuable miles for redemption. This is our experience with Etihad burning 435K AA miles! We flew in late April 2016 one way:

    EY407 BKK-AUH in Business
    EY171 AUH-LAX in First

    Etihad has pick up and drop off transportation service for First class passengers. That was not communicated with us by email or otherwise until we were on the actual flight. You have to book your transportation service 24 hours prior to departure. From the slow nonchalant agents in BKK (were wearing LH badges for some reason!!!) who were processing coach ahead of Biz and the horrid BKK lounge of Louis Tavern to the terrible onboard food and service. Their affiliated lounge at BKK (Louis Tavern CIP Lounge) was terrible with horrid food and no amenities whatsoever. Their lounge at AUH was decent, but lounge benefits and services (such as spa) were NOT outlined at arrival and we found out about the range of services when it was time to board. This was a failure to communicate. The widely blogged about AUH F lounge was not open yet when we flew Etihad in April. Further, Arriving at AUH at ~6 AM was a total disaster. The lounge was nice but to get there you have to go through the airport and its facilities were filthy. I am talking about feces on the men’s room floor – it’s a shame that they spent $$$ billions on this beautiful airport but no follow up on maintenance and upkeep in the early morning hours. Sure, not Etihad’s fault, right? But there was no fast track for premium passengers or any other assistance for that matter to get us to our departure/lounge areas. Traveling with kids and first time at AUH, to go through long lines transit security at 6 AM was an ordeal until we protested and security personnel opened the priority/premium line, not Etihad employees. So there was no fast track for premium passengers or any other escort or assistance to get us to our departure/lounge areas. US Border control and customs were at hand and all passengers were cleared in AUH was very convenient. But again, arriving at LAX was another disaster where we were led around the airport to the outside of international arrival to retrieve our luggage. Very confusing and disorganized!

    The hard product on the plane was beautiful but the space was not adequate in my experience. As I mentioned before, the seat was not 100% 180 degree flat and for a 6’2″ guy like me it was very uncomfortable – I slept maybe ~2 hours total and arrived totally exhausted at LAX. When traveled on JL in F, I was presented with my PJ amenity after dinner and asked to go change in their huge F bathroom. And when I returned to my seat, I was pleasantly surprised that my 100% flat bed was ready with sheets and all. I slept so good on that JL flight all the way to LAX that I did not regret missing my breakfast. Had similar great experience with TG in F – but, unfortunately, not the case with Etihad. The much touted Etihad’s First Class Apartment, was not on our plane neither were any showers, or at least we weren’t told about them! The bathrooms in F were of a normal size found on the economy side.

    I am sorry to say that I’m left with the opinion that the crew was lazy and disinterested – or, maybe they took longer naps than they are supposed to. I don’t like overbearing service or too much attention and like to be left alone. But this was a 16-hour flight and when you don’t get any service for over 10 hours, you start to wonder. During the flights final hours, I was starving!!! I had to go to the front looking for food (really) 2 hours before landing. They were sitting around chit-chatting and told me to go back to my seat that they will come and take my order. That took another 40 minutes!!! We were served at the convenience of the crew. Huge failure on this factor!

    Lentil soup is good and nutritious especially in the cold winter months – but in First class??? give me a break!!! The food in F should be an experience with 5-star restaurant presentation and not only edible or acceptable. On the EY407 in Biz we were served potato soup and chicken sandwich. I have had better food on US domestic coach flights when they served food! On the EY-171 in F: What ever happened to the widely advertised 8-course tasting menu? The scallop appetizer was served cold and it was smelly (not fresh). The Salmon dish was good but of an appetizer portion. For desserts, they piled bunch of cakes on a plate, that was the presentation! On the F leg, I ordered sparkling water and it was served promptly. I also ordered glass of port and it was good and served generously. The menu did contain a variety of Champagnes, wines, and other premium alcoholic beverages.

    The objective of flying is to get from point A to point B, but flying in F should be an experience. So to be generous, I’d give Etihad First Class experience 4 on a 10 points scale. Contacted Etihad and reported the deficiencies and was offered 15K Etihad points. This was like adding an insult to injury. These 15K miles will be orphaned in my account (worthless). We do travel as a family of 4 meaning that we have to move all our points (from TYP, UR, and MR) to Etihad to maybe get enough for another one way trip. But is it worth the trouble? Burned once, should we take our chance once again? Please understand that I’m writing all this to give you all a heads up as what to expect with this airline and its widely advertised premium service (recent ads with a well known Hollyweird superstar) and the continuous plugs by bloggers!

    Check out the flights’ photos in my signature link!

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