You Don’t Have To Be Rich To Fly Etihad’s First Apartments

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On Saturday I took Etihad Airways’ inaugural A380 flight between Abu Dhabi and London. While Etihad is only the 12th airline to take delivery of the A380, they’ve innovated in ways that we haven’t really seen from other carriers.

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Etihad A380 First Apartment & The Residence cabin

The highlight of their new A380s are The Residence and First Apartments. The Residence features a three room suite and butler service, and is unattainable for most of us. I doubt miles will ever easily be redeemable for it, and at $20,000-40,000 for a one-way ticket, it’s not something I think most of us will be springing for anytime soon.

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Etihad The Residence bedroom

But as far as I’m concerned the First Apartment was the real show stopper, and where we saw the most innovation. Etihad has really taken first class to a whole new level by creating a suite that’s so big that you can actually walk around in it when the door is closed. It’s simply unbelievable.

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Etihad First Apartment A380

While I’ve mentioned it before, what I think is worth emphasizing is that you can already redeem miles for Etihad’s First Apartment between Abu Dhabi and London. Here’s how:

Redeem American Airlines miles on Etihad

Etihad and American have a partnership, which means you can redeem American Airlines miles for travel on Etihad. American doesn’t levy fuel surcharges on Etihad award tickets, so the cash co-pay component would just be for taxes.

Up front I think it’s worth clarifying that US Airways Dividend Miles can’t be redeemed for travel on Etihad. That’s because Etihad is only an American AAdvantage partner, so until AAdvantage and Dividend Miles merge in the second quarter of next year, there’s no way to redeem US Airways miles on Etihad.

Etihad A380 First Apartment award availability between Abu Dhabi and London is fairly readily available through the end of the schedule. Many flights even have two first class award seats.

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Etihad-A380-Award

You can search award availability on Etihad’s website, and if there’s “GuestSeat” space then you can also book it with American miles. Here’s a primer on searching Etihad award space.

Best of all, redeeming American AAdvantage miles for travel on Etihad between Europe and the Middle East is a heck of a deal, at just 40,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in first class. That allows connections within Europe or the Middle East as well, if you’d like.

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Etihad A380 airshow between Abu Dhabi and London

If you’d like to redeem American miles for travel between the US and Middle East in first class (which allows you to route via Europe), that will set you back 90,000 miles one-way.

Personally I’m a fan of booking that Europe to Middle East award separately, since I tend to think it’s a better value and you can have a stopover in Europe that way.

For what it’s worth, Etihad’s second A380 route will be between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, and I’ve yet to find saver A380 first class award space on it.

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Etihad First Apartment bed A380

How to get American AAdvantage miles

Even if you don’t have an existing balance of AAdvantage miles, it’s quite easy to build up a balance from scratch. Here are a few of the best ways:

AAdvantage credit cards

If you’re able to apply for credit cards in the United States, this is pretty much a no-brainer. You can easily pick up 100,000+ AAdvantage miles by applying and being approved for the personal and business Citi AAdvantage cards:

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

Current offer: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within three months
Annual fee: $95, but waived the first year

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

Current offer: 50,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within three months
Annual fee: $95, but waived the first year

This would give you more than enough points for a round-trip first class award in the Etihad Apartments between Europe and the Middle East!

Beyond that, Citi also offers the Citi Executive® / AAdvantage® World EliteTM MasterCard®, but that card has a very high annual fee. I probably wouldn’t pick up this card unless it has a very high sign-up bonus.

Transfer from Starwood Preferred Guest

While the Citi cards often have lucrative sign-up bonuses, the best cards for every day spending are hands-down the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express.

SPG Starpoints are one of the main flexible-points currencies, and one of the few variations of miles or points that I consistently value above 2 cents each.

That’s because in addition to all the awesome ways to use SPG points, you also receive a 20% bonus when transferring Starwood points to their airline partners, provided you’re transferring in 20,000 point increments.

So for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer, you’ll receive 25,000 AAdvantage miles.

It’s also worth noting this is a standard benefit of the SPG program, not of the credit cards specifically.

Buy AAdvantage miles

American often offers a bonus on purchasing miles. This can be a great way to top off your account, or even purchase the full number of miles needed for an award.

The current promotion runs through January 2, 2015, and offers tiered bonuses based on how many miles you’re purchasing.

If you max out the bonus you can earn up to 45,000 bonus miles when you buy 80,000 miles. That means you can acquire 125,000 miles for a total of $2,572, which is ~2.06 cents per mile.

AAdvantage-Bonus

That’s not a rate at which I’d speculatively purchase miles, but if you think of it in terms of a round-trip first class ticket in the Etihad Apartments for less than $2000, that’s an absolute steal.

Bottom line

One of the awesome things about our hobby is that there’s almost no airline product in the sky for which you can’t redeem miles. I’ve redeemed miles for some of the most amazing onboard experiences, from an onboard shower on Emirates, to a double bed on Singapore Airlines, to a Porsche tarmac transfer on Lufthansa, to an hour-long full body massage courtesy of Thai Airways, etc.

When airlines introduce new products they often try to keep them exclusive by limiting award availability, so it’s great to see that Etihad Airways has opened up availability pretty quickly.

Have you redeemed miles for Etihad’s First Apartment yet?

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Comments

  1. Yesterday I booked DUB-LHR-AUH-BOM trip in EY A380 F and EY 789 F for 40000 AA miles and about £70 (US$100). Simply unbelievable value!!!!

  2. Just a heads up buying AA miles is now cap at 100,000/year. So you can max out promo at 151,000 (80,000 + 45,000 & 20,000 + 6,000)

    Makes getting into 1st easier

  3. Hi Ben. Did you happen to quickly check the new business cabin on the EY 380? If so, any brief thoughts?

    With a family of 3, we often have to alternate Biz and F (or even Y!!!) I know it’s a tough life. Award space on the EY apartment is my new goal in life though 😉 Congrats on being the first review and for ponying up the cash to do so. KUDOS.

  4. Lucky,
    From Europe to Africa, are award tickets allowed to connect via Middle East or no? I know they’re allowed from US (only on Qatar if over-water carrier as well), but was looking for clarification on the routing rules for European origination awards. Surprised I don’t know this.

  5. Lucky
    It seems if you try and book through AA, it defaults to giving you British Airways for flights from London-Abu Dhabi

    How do you do it so that you get an Etihad routing?

    But it’s a great deal– 20000 points one way economy, but only 30000 and 40000 for Business and First respectively.

  6. @Adi-T, read the article buddy! You have to search on Etihad’s website for “Guest First” availability and then you would have to contact AA via phone to book.

  7. How can I book a connection in Europe on an AA award? Does it possible to use an BA flight as a connection or is there no published fare?

  8. @Andy, If I were you, I’d book 2 F and 1 business on EY A380. Each apartment can easily accomodate 3 people (there are 3 seat belts in each apartment, after all.)

  9. @ ocm — Yes, you can book Etihad and BA on a single American award, though you’d have to book by phone and there does need to be a published fare.

  10. @ Andy — It was a nighttime flight so didn’t get an amazing view of business, though it did look really good. Definitely one of the best hard products out there, in my opinion.

  11. Ben – Will MLE-AUH-LHR-JTR(Santorini) work? I already booked my one way to MLE, but I’m not sure if MPM will let my go from the maldives to Santorini…it’s sort of going backwards once you get to london.

  12. Joey, I hope Etihad prevents anyone who isn’t in first class from hanging out in a first class apartment. (I think Ben confirmed that in a comment to his inaugural flight article.) Imagine if 9 people from business hang out in the 9 apartments, all using the first class lavatories, all talking, all moving between the cabins. It would totally downgrade the luxury of the first class cabin.

  13. @Tara, it’s really up to the flight cabin manager to make that decision. Your example may be to the extreme given the suggestion I gave to Andy was to book 2 in F and 1 in J on the same EY A380 flight. If Andy is able to persuade the flight cabin manager to let the person in J in the F apartment for a portion of the flight, then kudos to him! If not, then there’s always next time! Like Lucky said in the title of this blog post, you don’t have to be rich to fly in an EY Apt! 😉

  14. I’d hope that if it was a family member they would allow them in F. I’ve seen plenty of instances where J and Y pax join F pax for meals in the F cabin, use F lavs and so forth. Generally hasn’t been too much of a problem. Of course the space available in these suites definitely changes the potential.

  15. Pavel, which airlines have you been on that allowed Y pax to have meals with friends/relatives in F? I’m not generally one who freaks out over the occasional family member visiting F pax, but access to F food seems a bit surprising.

  16. Lucky, would you I be able to mix classes on a single award? LHR – AUH in F and AUH – MLE in J all for 40,000 miles? I’m having to check each leg separately on Ethiad Guest and it shows up as available with a layover.

  17. I’ve had colleagues who have flown Y and joined clients or coworkers of ours in F. IIRC, my friend did it as well. Mostly on SQ as that’s the carrier we use predominantly but it’s also been done on CX. Now, I can’t verify the Y pax had F food but I’d be mildly surprised if they enforced strict culinary segregation. 😀

  18. Thanks for such an inspiring blog, Lucky!
    I finally pulled the trigger and booked this amazing “seat” for my first First experience!

  19. @ rs — The Colombo fare isn’t using any throwaway ticketing. No rules are violated when you fly all segments.

  20. Lucky, what do you think the best way of getting from Amex reward points to booking Etihad is? I’ve got time on my side, so would you think points.com to turn amex rewards -> US airways points? Or amex rewards -> ANA? Alitalia?

  21. @ Alex — ANA is definitely your best bet. US Airways doesn’t partner with Etihad, so you’d have to wait till they merge with AAdvantage.

  22. @ Lucky, would you be able to mix classes on a single award? LHR – AUH in F and AUH – MLE in J all for 40,000 AA miles? I’m having to check each leg separately on Ethiad Guest and it shows up as available with a layover.

  23. @lucky, agreed, but my point is that the airlines are looking at increasing these fares (as websites are discovering/publishing these “loopholes”

  24. Hey,

    Can I fly Geneva – Abu Dhabi – Maldives on the 40’000 AA miles award or is the stop in the middle east too much?

    Also, do you know how long in advance do the First Class awards on Etihad open up?

    Thanks for your help.

    Philippe

  25. Great, but I don’t seem to find any open seats for October…

    Should I book an award on available flights (not a380) and change if it opens up? Are changes free with AA miles?

  26. @ Philippe — There’s no fee as long as the origin and destination remains the same, so if you have dates you have to travel, that’s what I’d do.

  27. Lucky, I’m seeing F space on the A380 in July when I search DEL-LHR, but when I search for just the AUH-LHR leg, it’s coming up sold out. Same flight, same day – there’s availability if connecting from DEL, but none if originating in AUH. Any rationale to this? Am I likely to have trouble booking this via AA?

  28. @ James — Some airlines do use married segment logic when it comes to awards, though in my experience Etihad doesn’t, so that is odd. Unfortunately I’m guessing the individual segment wouldn’t be bookable in this case.

  29. Any guesses as to which AUH-JFK flight will be switched over to the A380? I’m thinking of an advance booking in F…

    There’s the current EK 103 02:40 departure from AUH currently operated with the Jet Airways aircraft, and then EK 101 with the 10:45 departure. I’m guessing it’ll be 101, but would appreciate views.

  30. Ben,

    Booked on Apartments later this year. It seems I can’t choose the meal or seats online? Have you found a way to do this? Thanks!

    James

  31. @ James — It’s just for dietary restrictions, they don’t have a “Book the Cook” menu or anything.

  32. Hi

    Just need to understand.
    When you run the search on EY website it’s stated that you need hundreds thousand miles to get an award ticket. But with AA you just need 40k miles each way to fly in F?

    Is it working also with other ff programs?

    Thanks in advance
    Kite

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