Using American AAdvantage Miles For Middle East Travel

I’ve been living in hotels for over a month now, and I know the thing a lot of you were looking forward to with my “hotel life” was lots more trip reports. And I know the past month has been fairly boring on that front.

The truth is it’s because I’ve been wrapping up “loose ends” on both coasts. I spent the first couple of weeks in Seattle as I still had some commitments there, then spent over a week in Sicily with friends, and now am in Florida spending time with my parents. So I’ve been taking care of those commitments before starting my “real” nomadic adventure.

But you better be ready, because the next month is going to be exciting on the travel front. Really, really exciting. You’re going to get more trip reports than you’ll know what to do with.

I don’t want to reveal all of my summer travel plans, though I will outline my next trip, which starts later this week. As part of it I’ll be experiencing:

  • Jet Airways Premiere/Business Class
  • Qatar Airways 787 Business Class
  • The new Hamad International Airport in Doha on opening day
  • Etihad’s inaugural Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles flight

Middle-East-Trip

Let me explain, in the same order in which I booked (as opposed to the order in which the trip will take place):

Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles in first class on inaugural Etihad Airways flight

Last October Etihad Airways announced they would be launching daily service to Los Angeles. This would be their longest flight, and for that matter the longest nonstop flight to Los Angeles, at ~8,400 miles.

So as soon as the flight opened up for reservations I took a look at award space, and I saw that there was first class award space on the inaugural. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity, so figured I might as well.

Etihad-Airways-First-Class
Etihad Airways first class

Originally the flight was supposed to be operated by a 777-200LR, which Etihad Airways is acquiring from Air India. So I was excited to a review a new aircraft type. Unfortunately they’ve since announced that for the first couple of months the flight will be operated by an A340-500, which I’ve flown before in first class.

Etihad-Airways-A340
Etihad Airways A340-500

At 90,000 AAdvantage miles one-way without any fuel surcharges, I’d say that’s quite a good value.

I planned that back in October, and have been putting together the rest of the “pieces” of the journey over the past week, as my plans have firmed up.

Jet Airways & Qatar Airways business class to the Middle East

When it came time to plan the outbound flight, I decided that no matter what I would review two new products enroute to the Middle East using American AAdvantage miles. I have a sizable balance of American miles, and want to redeem as many of them as possible before the next devaluation.

So the AAdvantage partner airlines operating flights between the US and Europe/Middle East that I haven’t yet flown include:

  • Airberlin Business Class
  • Iberia Business Class
  • Jet Airways Premiere Class
  • Qatar Airways Business Class

I have plans to fly Airberlin and Iberia business class later next month, so I focused my efforts on finding award space on Jet Airways and Qatar Airways.

Jet Airways flies from Newark and Toronto to Brussels, with continuing service to India. There’s no easy way to search their award space online (at least that I know of), so I phoned up American and they were able to find Premiere Class award availability on my preferred date from Toronto to Brussels.

Jet-Airways-Business-Class
Jet Airways business class

Qatar Airways had business class award space on their nonstop flight from Brussels to Doha the following morning (and just about every other day, for that matter), after a three hour layover. This flight is operated by their Boeing 787, which features their reverse herringbone business class.

So I’m very excited to review those two products which don’t seem to be reviewed all that much.

And at 67,500 AAdvantage miles one-way without fuel surcharges I’d say it’s also quite a good value.

Checking out the new Hamad International Airport

As luck would have it (or not?), I’ll be flying out of Doha on the day that the new Hamad International Airport opens. While Doha’s old airport had a nice Qatar Airways Premium Terminal for first and business class passengers, the rest of the airport was basically a shack.

Qatar-Airways-Premium-Terminal
Qatar Airways Premium Terminal Doha

The new airport looks much nicer, and I can’t wait to review it. Here’s to hoping it all runs smoothly.

Checking out some hotels in Doha and Abu Dhabi

As I explained in a post late last week, there are some great hotel deals to be had in the Middle East in summer. So I have plans to check out the St. Regis Doha, St. Regis Abu Dhabi (I’ve already stayed at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island), Hyatt Capital Gate, and a few others.

Bottom line

This is only the first of a few trips I’ll take over the next month, so stay tuned for lots of trip reports!

Comments

  1. Drop me a note when you are in the UAE. I’m up in Ras Al Khaimah but happy to drive down to Dubai or AD to meet up if your schedule permits.

  2. @Lucky,
    Did AA allow you to combine the Jet to BRU and Qatar to DOH on the same award so it was only 67,500 for both flights?

  3. A bit concerned you’re not aware of the MERS virus in the M.E, Lucky…You are aware of it, right?

  4. @ Ben — You are going to live in the middle of the effing desert in the summer. You are insane!

  5. I just came from 2 weeks in Jordan/Israel/West Bank and in May I got there 102F! It will be brutal for you. But really waiting on the reports.

  6. Enjoy the trip Lucky! Excited to see these new products. Also be bold and drink a beer once in a while!

  7. @Lucky

    Im taking the EY flight on June 6, do you know anything about the Chauffeur service ex-LAX? Do you know if they will provide it? The website doesn’t state it. Would be a shame if they wont provide one, especially for a drive only city like LA.

  8. Heavens to Betsy, you people do realize we have fcuking air-conditioning in the Middle East, right? And if Americans can tolerate living in places like Texas and Arizona during the summertime, I’m sure Lucky can survive for a few days in the Middle East?

  9. @ Nick — We have a seatmap and we know that the cabins will basically be identical to the rest of the longhaul fleet (including first class), though I don’t think we have any *actual* pictures of the cabin yet.

  10. @ Alejandro — There are a lot of things I’m willing to try/compromise on. Drinking beer isn’t one of them! 😀

  11. @lucky – you can check jet availability on their own website ( you need and account). I have never verified whether the availability they show matches what is available to partners. Perhaps it would useful for you to investigate.

  12. @ Andrew — As of now they haven’t announced that they’ll be offering it in LA. My guess is that they will soon enough, but they just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  13. @ SK — I tried that, and as a member without any miles in my account there was a message saying “you are currently not eligible to redeem online.”

    So maybe members with miles in their account can search, but I can’t, sadly.

  14. Ben,

    I see you used Jet Airways & Qatar on the same award. This is where I’m a bit unclear. Can you combine any of AA’s partner s to construct an award? Can you intermingle one world carriers with AA’s partners for awards as well???

    BTW- currently, I’m in route back from AUH as I write this and we stayed at the Ritz Carlton Grand Canal. It’s a year old and prob one of the nicest Ritz I have ever stayed at. You should strongly consider that property while in the UAE

    Adam

  15. @ adam — Yep, American lets you mix airlines on an award, even if some are oneworld and some are non-oneworld partners. The only caveat is that the overwater carrier has to publish a fare between the origin and destination. In this case Jet Airways publishes a fare between Toronto and Doha, so it’s allowed.

  16. Lucky, Hamad in Doha is actually open right now, but only to a few airlines (flydubai, etc.) It’s a beautiful airport from the inside and out (I haven’t seen it air side yet). If you want to do a meetup in Doha, and grab dinner at a local spot, let me know.

  17. Ben,

    Thanks for clarifying!!! So would it be possible for me to construct an award with my AA miles that looks like: NYC —> Bru —> TLV using Jet Airways then El Al???

  18. I really liked the Hyatt Capital Gate. Great architectural marvel and the suites are fairly nice. They also had a free happy hour of sorts at the pool during my stay. One free drinks and they kept bringing small appetizers. Nothing to make a meal out of but a nice gesture nonetheless.

  19. Nice!!

    Any info on what cities Etihad has through fares to from L AX? For example, can I fly to Male on one award (they didn’t have a published fare last I looked), or Capetown or Dar es Salaam?

  20. @ Beachfan — In looking at fares out of LAX, looks like Etihad publishes fares to Male. It’s a moot point whether or not they publish a fare to Cape Town or Dar es Salaam, as American doesn’t let you route from the US to Africa via the Middle East, as ridiculous as that rule is.

  21. Be warned that your visit to the new airport in Doha will be before the QR lounges are complete. They’re not going to have them open until July. I’m bummed because I’ll be there next month and will miss out. Construction photos look amazing.

  22. Don’t forget to write the detailed review on your TPA->ORD flight. Need to know what kind of boxed rose’ they’re serving.

  23. @lucky and @Andrew: Wife and I will be on the EY flight June 4 (in F), and I just called EY to ask same limo question. They suggested to call back next week for more detail and to book, and explicitly said to not use the website at this point for that flight.

    Will also have chance to check out new Doha airport en route to DAR / JRO, but unfortunately only in Y.

  24. @Lucky – I hope that you’re not underwhelmed by the QR 787. I was. Actually by all of QR as a whole. Admittedly, maybe I had way too high expectations with all the talk of “5 Star Airline.”

    Also, the new DOH airport is already open and low cost airlines are operating there since April 30th. They’re doing a phased launch. Do you mean you’re going on the day QR moves there? They begin on May 27th, I believe. I suppose they may be selling that as the “real opening day.”

  25. Lucky, I’m on a AUH-JFK direct on Etihad Business class but also see availability on their Jet Airways leased aircraft operated by Etihad, is there much difference in seats? Should I stick with Etihad Business on their own plane or change to Etihad’s Jet Airways leased Business Class? What would you do? Thanks

  26. Hi Lucky

    can you tell me your favorite middle eastern cities? I want to burn some AA miles and plan for 2 weeks in the middle east but not sure which cities to hit up (never been there).

  27. Ben,

    Just curious… Why didn’t you book the non-stop from PHL to DOH? No availability, or you wanted to make sure you got to try Jet Airways as well?

  28. @ Neet — Etihad has a staggered business class product, while the Jet Airways plane has a herringbone seat. I’d say Etihad’s hard product is marginally better, but both are quite good.

  29. @ danny — I’ve only visited Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. I didn’t really enjoy Doha, I thought Dubai was fascinating/glitzy/shallow (so is worth seeing), and Abu Dhabi actually has some culture. The top of my bucket list in the Middle East is Muscat, as I’ve heard Oman is fascinating.

  30. @ Coutureguy — Because I wanted to sample two products. Also keep in mind Qatar Airways’ hard product is better on the 787 than the 777.

  31. Ben, Having just flown AB business for the third time, I would say you are magnanimous for wanting to try it out. Admittedly I am spoiled by Singapore, Cathay and Asiana. AB has not trained their FAs to provide premium class service, though they were very pleasant. The new flat beds are mighty uncomfortable. The old ones were better. It is the only business class I have been truly unhappy about. The fact that they want to give me 50 Euros for my new suitcase they destroyed doesn’t make me any happier.

  32. My friend has been there for 2.5 years building that airport. They finally did a soft opening last month.He is at the moment picking his friend up from the new airport right now. It is open but not all of it. The lounges are not open yet, and only a few of the retail. There is no exchange place and he is not sure if there is a ATM. He is going to send me a picture to give you that the local media does not have.

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