Has Our Great Hack For Booking Etihad Awards With American Miles Died?

At several points in time American Airlines has been unable to book premium cabin awards on Etihad, especially for travel between the US and Abu Dhabi. For the last two years the workaround has been to call the American Airlines reservation line in Australia which rings in agents in Fiji.

I simply Skype over to them and they book whatever I need. More often than not US agents cannot see premium space on Etihad, but agents in Australia can. The point of sale (US versus Fiji) and the systems they’re using has been the difference that has made Etihad awards bookable.

Etihad first class awards are the primary use I’ve had for American AAdvantage miles over the past several years. I use them every year for my annual Maldives trip. I’ve used them for flights to India, to Nepal, and elsewhere in the region. And I’ve even paid additional miles to travel beyond the ‘Mideast and Indian Subcontinent’ to Asia.

Without Etihad awards my American Airlines miles drop from being my most-used currency to one of the least useful, since space on Cathay Pacific is so much harder to get than it used to be, and getting awards on American itself is less than desirable and nearly impossible.

I currently have 3 roundtrips books New York JFK – Abu Dhabi flying Etihad’s first apartment. I’ve flown the product half a dozen times already. But I’m wondering if these will be my last.

Because the Australia reservations line hasn’t been able to see Etihad award space that the US reservations line cannot recently. The ability to access more or less whatever Etihad offers its own members has disappeared. (Note of course that American Express and Citibank points transfer to Etihad Guest.)

The US reservations line can still generally see awards from Abu Dhabi to elsewhere in the world, for instance I’ve had no problem booking Abu Dhabi to Australia or Singapore with a domestic call.

Has anyone successfully used the Australia reservations line to secure Etihad award space in recent days?

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. Last week, I booked First Class with Etihad Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles using the the American Airlines USA based call centre, after initially telling me that they couldn’t see any available on their system – the agent went away for a few minutes and then confirmed availability. 2 seats confirmed.

  2. I booked two seats in F JFK-AUH a couple of weeks ago. I needed one more in business and the NZ agents saw it one day and gone the next, and not to be seen since…. please tell me this is temporary or there is some other workaround.

  3. Booked 2 seats MCT – AUH – LAX last Sunday (MCT – AUH in J, AUH – LAX in F) through the Australian call center – no issues.

  4. On 8/26 I booked DEL-AUH-JFK in F Apartments. Tickets have been issued. This is a close in booking as I am traveling mid-September.

  5. Booked business class AUH-ORD on Sep 1 (and flew it within 6 hours of reservation no less). Had to wait about 30 min on the phone while the agent confirmed ticketing but no problems with the Aussies 🙂

  6. So what I experienced based on my calls is that they can see availability for the next few months, but cannot see it beyond 2-3 months from now. So short term availability seems to exist. That tells me this is deliberate and not just a glitch

  7. @Gary

    Looked for DEL-AUH-JFK business yesterday. Showing available on Etihad.
    Called US, could not see AUH-JFK.
    Called Australia and booked tickets.

    Thanks

  8. AU and NZ overflow and afterhours is now routed to Jamaica, and they seem to have the same visibility as the US agents. Make sure you call during normal business hours AU/NZ time to get the Mindpearl agents Suva, who have direct GDS access as the call center handles calls for multiple airlines.

  9. So glad you posted about this Gary! I have been trying to book AUH-JFK in F for Apr 18 and EY and EF both say plenty of availability. I have called AU, NZ, US, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, China lines, which routed to Fiji and Trinidad call centers, as well as those in Brisbane (China) and Liverpool (France). No dice. This is frustrating to say the least. Only seats in Y. I think this is a technical issue, as you said, from the past few days–I have been trying since last Tuesday. Please tell the people at AA to get on this!

  10. Sorry yes – Trinidad not Jamaica! 🙂

    Odd though. Haven’t had any issue with Suva call center finding availability – is it literally just this weekend? I’ve called them end of last week with no issues…

  11. For what it’s worth, no luck at either the Trinidad or Fiji call centers (calling via AA Australia phone number) for first class tickets JFK-AUH next June, even though availability showing at Etihad site. I asked the CSRs where they were based, which is how I know which location I was reaching. Called about 9:15 am Sydney time Sept. 4.

  12. Ask if you are talking to Aus/ Fiji as it DOES divert to Trinidad at times. They have been excellent at some partners, but EY (and LAN?) not so. The mindpearl agents were “retrained” by supervisor Joanne after a conversation I had
    with her a few years back! Maybe a callback needed , Gary?

  13. Thanks, Terry R. Not sure whether to see this as just a temporary glitch or a permanent change in AA policy. But if the latter, why even retain the relationship with Etihad at all? (Or is that shoe soon to drop?)

    Gary, if this does prove to be a permanent change, a post providing advice on what folks can still do with their AA miles would be very valuable.

  14. Gary,
    I have been seeing this for past 2 weeks as well. In the past I would call UK and book it, but that is also gone. They ALL see economy space but not business of F – I wonder if JonNYC has any idea why AA is blocking space?

  15. AA asked me to send a compalaint through the web support form. I wonder if it is a true glitch they will take notice if a few hundred of your readers get to it?

  16. I tried to book EY today and no luck either. They did do an upgrade of their IT systems that had a 3 day outage …

  17. Is this an ongoing problem? Are AA’s Australia CSRs (reachable at +61-2-91011948) unable to book Etihad J or F? I see plenty award availability on Etihad’s site for next year. Is calling the New Zealand call center (at +64-09-308-4014) the solution (as one of your twitter followers suggested)? Or is there another work-around?

  18. I am having trouble booking ORD to HYD via AUH on Eithad “I Class”. US, Australia, UK agents don’t see any space on Etihad though I clearly see 2 Etihad Guest seats available in business class. Their guess is that the EY flights are being shown as 9W. And for obvious reasons 9W availability is zero on American.

  19. Called AA. They think the 9w code share is affecting EY flights. 9W has blocked all premium award seats to be booked using AA miles. US and UK bound EY flights are being shown as 9W for booking purposes. Which means none of the premium cabins are shown available. Hoping this issue gets resolved by Dec 31 (last day for booking 9W) unless the AA IT department fixes it sooner.

  20. @Gary – I just can’t figure whats going on. Spoke to AA for almost 1 hour including their help desk but in vain. Etihad Guest business is available from AUH to JFK but AA doesn’t seem to find any availability. It’s frustrating that AA thinks that its due to unavailable seats when it could be something else entirely. Only Economy seats are shown available for AA.

    Does anyone else use ExpertFlyer to find availability? What does it show on it?

  21. @gary this just started working for me again. Booked next April in EY F and J. Same dates that I tried to Book for over a month (end of August to end of September) Today, NZ agent saw exactly what I saw available on Expertfyer. What a relief!!

    Give it a shot, curious if it is really working again.

  22. I checked on the Ethihad member site and see no availability in C from New York to Abu Dhabi; only in Y under the lower “Guest” listings. There is under the higher “Flex”. However OK from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok.

  23. I feel everyone’s frustration.

    I booked my initial business class flight, DEL-AUH-LAX very early in the morning (2-4am PST) through the Australian call center.

    Unfortunately at the time only economy on the first leg.

    Worked to find some business class seats and changed 3/4 tickets, calling around the same time.

    Eventually found one last business seat but neither US, Australia, or NZ call centers saw availability.

    Finally called around the same time as the first two and Australian call center found the one seat, BUT could not book it.

    Still gonna work at it.

  24. Hey guys, just wanted to share my success story. After reading in a Flyertalk forum that someone had success booking 1 first class ticket for Feb of 2019 using the AA US call center a week ago, I decided to give it a try.
    I am happy to say I now have a reservation on Etihad’s first class apartments from AUH-JFK on March of next year. 2 Tickets for the Honeymoon!
    Tips:
    Since I speak Spanish I decided to call the Spanish-speaking call center directly. A wonderful lady in Mexico City picked up my call
    I called on a Friday Night at 11:50pm (not sure if that makes a difference)
    We looked at a couple of dates and she was seeing availability in all of them.

    Happy booking!

  25. I was just able to book MLE-AUH-JFK in Business/First via the Australia call center!

  26. Woohoo!! So glad I came across this today. Had been having trouble booking EY availability that was showing on their site, but not being able to do so when I called up AA. These were for relatively last minute flights in August 2018. Used the trick to call the NZ AA call center at +64-09-308-4014 (which seemed to forward to the Trinidad call center). Called around 615pm on a Sunday. They instantly saw the EY availability!

    Thanks, Elgin for the #s!!

  27. Still Works. Tried booking DEL-AUH-LAX. Was looking for 4 seats. I can see 2 guest business and 2 guest first class availability on Etihad website. Called US call center, they cannot see any availability. Google search landed me to this link. Saw the last comment on this post called NZ AA call center +64-09-308-4014 and voila!!! they can see the availability. Put them on hold for 5 days.

  28. @Engima

    Thats awesome! Yes it worked for me as well. Not sure why the AA call center in the US has so many issues. Have an awesome flight!

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