American Airlines AAdvantage miles are a popular currency. Australians can easily buy AAdvantage miles, including at generous discounts that are available in regular promotions. American Airlines also has a competitive award chart, meaning award flights are relatively good value. And American does not charge fuel surcharges when redeeming AAdvantage miles for travel with most partner airlines.
In addition to Oneworld airlines, American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be redeemed to travel on partners including Etihad Airways. This is a great value way to book Etihad Airways flights, especially in Business and First class, while not paying any fuel surcharges. (You can also redeem Virgin Australia Velocity points for Etihad flights, but the Etihad carrier charges on some itineraries are astronomical.)
The AAdvantage frequent flyer program uses region-based award charts. One of the quirks of redeeming AAdvantage miles is that itineraries requiring a transit through a “third region” are not generally permitted. For example, if you book an award flight from Region A to Region B, but there is a stop in the itinerary in Region C, you would be charged the sum of separate awards from Region A to C, and C to B. This will be more expensive than the published price for an award from Region A to B.
There are some exceptions to this. For example, itineraries from Australia to Europe generally require a stop somewhere in Asia. American Airlines therefore has an exception here that allows itineraries from Australia to Europe with a transit through “Asia Region 2”. This zone encompasses most of South-East Asia and China. However, there are limitations on itineraries through “Asia Region 1”, which includes Japan, as well as the Middle East. Itineraries on Japan Airlines through Tokyo-Narita are permitted as a single award, as are Qatar Airways flights via Doha. But, until recently, itineraries on Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi could not be booked as a single award if they started or finished outside of the “Middle East” zone.
Etihad awards via Abu Dhabi are now available as one ticket
This has recently changed. It’s now possible to book the following AAdvantage awards on Etihad Airways between two cities outside the “Middle East” zone, with a transit through Abu Dhabi:
- Australia to/from Europe and Africa
- Asia to/from Europe and Africa
- Africa to/from Europe and North America
In any of the above examples, Etihad flights can now be booked as one AAdvantage award ticket and the award will be priced as a single award from the origin to the destination.
In practice, this represents a significant discount when redeeming AAdvantage miles to for Etihad Airways flights from Australia to Europe. Under the old system, it would cost 122,500 AAdvantage miles for a one-way Business ticket (80,000 miles from Australia to Middle East, plus 42,500 miles from Middle East to Europe). And First Class previously cost 162,500 miles. But with the new system, Etihad awards to Europe will cost only 85,000 AAdvantage miles in Business or 115,000 miles for First class.
How to redeem AAdvantage miles for Etihad awards
Etihad Airways award flights cannot be booked on the American Airlines website. Instead, you’ll need to call American Airlines on 02 9101 1948. No booking fees apply as you cannot book online.
To search for Etihad Airways award availability, you can search for “Guest Seat” availability on the Etihad Airways website. If a Guest Seat is showing as available on a flight you wish to book, this should also be available to book with AAdvantage miles. However, we do recommend calling American Airlines to check before buying or transferring miles to AAdvantage as award availability can differ slightly.
Now is the time to redeem AAdvantage miles for Etihad award flights
There have been some rumours that American Airlines could soon end its partnership with Etihad Airways. So far, there is no evidence that this will actually happen in the near future. However, there have also been separate rumours that American Airlines could soon follow United’s terrible example and remove award charts.
Either way, it’s not certain that it will still be possible to redeem AAdvantage miles for Etihad awards, at current prices, in the long term. Etihad awards are now the lowest price they’ve ever been, so now is the time to redeem your AAdvantage miles!
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: New AA award routing rules allows Etihad on single connection
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