One Surprising Award Redemption Benefit to the US Airline Fight With Gulf Carriers

When United went revenue-based in its frequent flyer program, it was still possible to earn 1 mile per mile flown crediting flights to United’s Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines and their KrisFlyer program.

United didn’t like the prices it was paying Singapore Airlines for award tickets and wanted to renegotiate. Singapore wasn’t interested in renegotiating. United removed Singapore space from its website to reduce the number of awards booked at the higher prices. And with a standstill on the contract, we got three years of crediting United miles to the Singapore program ‘at the old rate’.

Presumably the contract ran its course and that’s when a new deal meant the end of the gravy train crediting United flights to Singapore but the incident reminds something about how these relationships work: although there are standards and templates, each Star Alliance partner negotiates bilaterally with every other partner over mileage credit and redemption prices.

We have another interesting stalemate that has frozen redemption prices to the benefit of frequent flyers.

Yet for quite some time you could still earn one mile per mile flown crediting to their ‘partner’ Etihad. And you can still book awards on American Airlines at the old, pre-devaluation pricing using Etihad Guest miles.

Etihad and American once had a close relationship, but with Delta, United, and American lobbying the federal government to abrogate its Open Skies treaties with the UAE and Qatar in order to limit those airlines’ flying to the U.S. it became strained. American has even announced that it would kill codesharing with Etihad and Qatar.

Now, American and Etihad finally seem to have managed to renegotiate. American AAdvantage will award miles for travel in Etihad’s Airbus A380 Residence, something which had been held up by a new contract. And the loophole to earn full mileage flown when crediting American flights to Etihad has been closed.

Strangely Etihad’s award chart for American Airlines travel (.pdf) remains untouched. I have to imagine that this is just a ‘slow to roll out’ change, because there have been changes to the American-Etihad relationship (that was simply much delayed as the relationship between the two partners frayed as the former tried to use the US government to stab the latter).

While bad relationships between airline partners are never good for members in the long run since those partnerships drive value — AAdvantage members aren’t better off with the gutting of the Alaska Airlines partnership, with the upcoming loss of the Jet Airways partnership to Delta, or the coming end to their Gulf Air partnership — in the short term we can benefit from a standstill in terms while partners are unable to renegotiate.

American Airlines Business Class Boeing 787-9

American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards both transfer to Etihad Guest. Etihad Guest will let you redeem first class US-Hong Kong for 67,500 miles each way on American, or business class US-Europe for 50,000 miles (if you can find availability). This may change, but we’ve likely enjoyed nearly two years longer than we otherwise would have thanks to a political blood feud between the carriers.

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, 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. I get it …. but I only get so much vacation time and opportunities to travel abroad at length. Why would I spend that time on a legacy US carrier if I have a plethora of other options with better hard/soft product?

  2. The real trick is finding AA award space that Etihad can see. I’ve been through this multiple times, with competent agents who know how to search for availability, and availability given to Etihad does not match AA’s saver inventory or anything on Expert Flyer.

  3. “If can find them” is right. Why transfer valuable Amex points when you won’t be able to use them? Feels like clickbait.

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