Redeeming Etihad Miles On American Can Be A Great Deal

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While many of you are probably familiar with redeeming American miles on Etihad, the Etihad Guest program may be a bit less familiar. After all, the airline you want to fly and the airline you should redeem miles through in order to fly your desired airline are often completely different things.

Etihad Guest miles are becoming easier to earn

The Etihad Guest program is increasingly one to pay attention to, given that it’s now transfer partners with three of the four major transferrable points currencies. You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Starwood Preferred Guest points to Etihad Guest.

That means Etihad miles can be racked up at an accelerated rate through the Citi Prestige® CardPremier Rewards Gold Card from American ExpressAmex EveryDay® Preferred Credit CardStarwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, etc.

Through June 15, 2016, Amex Membership Rewards is even offering a 30% transfer bonus to Etihad Guest.

Etihad-Transfer-Bonus

When I wrote about that bonus I highlighted how it lowers the cost of many redemptions on Etihad. For example, Etihad Guest charges 117,560 miles for the A380 First Class Apartment between New York and Abu Dhabi, meaning at the moment you only need to transfer 91,000 Membership Rewards points to book that ticket.

Etihad-A380-Apartment - 1

Redeeming Etihad miles on American can be a great deal

It’s worth looking at some of the other airlines on which you can redeem Etihad Guest miles, as they have a unique array of partners. On most partner airlines, redemption costs aren’t great. However, some might be surprised to learn that Etihad Guest has excellent redemption rates for travel on American, which largely match American’s pre-devaluation costs.

Here’s Etihad’s award chart for travel on American:

Etihad-Guest-American-1

Here’s their award chart for domestic redemptions:

Etihad-Guest-American-2

And then here’s an explanation of what all of these codes mean:

Etihad-Guest-American-3

There are a few things to keep in mind when redeeming Etihad Guest miles on American:

  • You have to book at least 14 days before your intended departure date, which is quite restrictive given that American makes a lot of awards available last minute
  • There shouldn’t be fuel surcharges, but the taxes may be a bit higher than if booking through American; it shouldn’t be too substantial, but don’t expect them to exactly match what American charges
  • The availability Etihad has access to should match the saver space which American is showing their own members
  • You have to book these awards by phone, and Etihad’s call center can be a bit frustrating to deal with
  • You can redeposit award tickets for a fee of 10% of the number of miles you redeemed (ie, if a ticket cost 50,000 miles, you’d pay 5,000 miles to cancel)
  • You can change award tickets for a fee of 100AED (~27USD)
  • Etihad Guest miles expire two years after they’re issued, regardless of whether or not there’s activity on your account

With Amex’s 30% transfer bonus at the moment, this means you could transfer the following number of Amex points to Etihad for the following one way redemptions:

  • A domestic US award for 10,000 Membership Rewards points
  • A321 transcon first class between SF/LA and NY for 25,000 Membership Rewards points
  • US to Europe, Asia 1, or South America 2 in first class for 49,000 Membership Rewards points
  • US to Asia 2 in first class for 52,000 Membership Rewards points
  • US to South Pacific in first class for 56,000 Membership Rewards points

American-First-Class-777-01
American’s 777-300ER first class

These are some incredible values, and rates are of course even less for business class.

Bottom line

The more I look at Etihad Guest redemption opportunities, the more I realize that there are some very good values to be had. Etihad’s award pricing for travel on American is very similar to what American charged pre-devaluation. Add in that we’ll likely see transfer bonuses with some frequency, and I think Etihad Guest could start to become a really useful mileage currency.

Now, keep in mind that American isn’t great about consistently opening up award availability on their own flights. That being said, at times they seem to make tons of space available, which I typically cover on the blog. So it’s far from impossible to snag American premium cabin award availability in advance.

At a minimum, being able to book American A321 first class awards between LA/SF and NY at the old rates (or better, when you factor in the transfer bonus) is great.

American-A321-First-Class-01
American’s A321 first class

No, the booking process isn’t easy, and yes, the 14 day advance purchase is restrictive, but this is still a redemption option I could see myself frequently using.

Could you see yourself redeeming Etihad Guest miles for travel on American?

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Comments

  1. No no noooo wrong please don’t steer your readers in this direction. EY miles are a nightmare. Call center agents (across all call centers) make up rules as they go. They might be useful only for partners that can be redeemed for online (Etihad, air Berlin, air Seychelles ..)

    A lot of them will tell you you will be charged segment by segment for award travel (JFK to LAX via DFW= 25,000 in economy) – this is not the case and has been confirmed time and time again, but again, agents make up what they want.

    They consistently do not have access to a lot of AA award space even if you see it available everywhere else-

    It is a FF program wild Wild West, seriously, and you’ll spend many hours stressing over how to get rid of them. Please check out the numerous numerous numerous threads on FT> Etihad Airways

  2. @Lucky – Thanks for the post. I’ve had my own troubles redeeming Etihad miles on AA. The 14-day restriction is a downer, especially if you’re trying to get transcon premium seats (which, as of late, have mostly been released only a few days in advance).

    Strangely, when I tested out the Etihad call center last week, I encountered an odd situation. I chose a sample AA metal flight (JFK to LHR) on August 11. Etihad said they were showing one business class seat available. But on AA’s website (and on ExpertFlyer), there was zero saver level award availability. For other flights I tested, there was saver level availability on AA and ExpertFlyer, but the Etihad agent couldn’t find it.

    Any recommendations here? Should I try explaining to the agent what I’m looking at? HUCA is always an option, but I’m just trying to get a sense of what inventory Etihad’s actually looking at (if it isn’t saver level). Thanks!

  3. Not sure if this is still true, but a few years back EY had a policy that you could not mix classes of service on an AA award — so for example you could not do a domestic F flight connecting to an international J flight, which can be quite constraining.

  4. On the Europe Award chart for American Airlines using Etihad Guest miles there are prices listed from Europe to Asia… since American Airlines doesn’t fly between these zones , does that means you have to route through the USA?

  5. Gotta agree with Sean, I wouldn’t recommend it to many people Lucky. They’re difficult to book with (to say the least) and often times inventory does not match.

    Additionally, we don’t need to swamp a valuable niche program overrun with a swarm of people. I could see Etihad pulling an Emirates and axing these redemption rates overnight if too many people start flooding their call centers. Sorry to be a downer.

  6. Lucky,

    So are you saying that EY peak for 12.5K in Y for US domestic travel is the same as an AA Anytime seat – which runs 20 to 30K? That would be interesting, as I’m trying to book coach award travel in July as there is not a single seat for a single day of Saver availability for the entire month.

  7. Please Lucky, you are steering people the wrong way here.

    1. Etihad’s call center is a COMPLETE nightmare. I will never get back the 6 hours of my life that I wasted with them.

    2. Etihad will make all award tickets have a $1 revenue basis which will trigger all sorts of taxes that do not apply to award tickets (e.g. some of the ones that kick in when AA adds YQ for BA and IB award itineraries).

    3. American’s availability on its own metal is great every now and then but is otherwise useless.

    4. Inventory doesn’t match. They have a really hard time even when you ask them to long sell a ticket.

    5. See #1. If you ever have to change anything, you’re completely screwed. There is like 1 good agent in the Manchester call center and 0.5 of a good agent in the Mumbai call center.

  8. I’ve used the Etihad call center several times, never for an awards ticket, always paid, and even that is a NIGHTMARE! These are simple things like calling in to get a seat assignment (which can’t be done online even though it says it can) and it is a fiasco! Etihad may fly a great plane and have great lounges, but the backend is a hellscape, enter at your own risk.

  9. AA has pretty much zero (entire months have 0 seats) direct LAX-NYC transcontinental biz/first availability. Neither does United. What the hell happened? I used to have no problems finding a couple seats multiple days a month, but now its literally nothing for even an off peak month like October. If they’re going to hike the mileage prices, they should at least have some better availability.

    I haven’t seen this mentioned on any blogs – has anyone looked into this at all?

  10. @LV – I’ve found that there is limited (though predictable) availability on AA nonstops between JFK and LAX/SFO if you look 2-3 days in advance of departure. For example, right now, there’s saver business and first availability for nonstop JFK to LAX departing tomorrow and Thursday. For first class, the flight schedules for saver availability aren’t all that bad, and some are scattered throughout the day. For business, however, the only available saver level awards leave JFK between 8pm and 10pm.

    So, if you’re trying to plan a trip in advance, you may have some difficulty. But if you need an award seat in business or first on one of those flights today/tomorrow/the next day, you should have decent luck. Consider subscribing to ExpertFlyer and setting up alerts on your phone for the day(s) you want to travel.

  11. Wait, so is Etihad’s call center worse than Avianca Lifemiles’? If that’s ture, I would probably think twice before I transfer my points to Etihad…

  12. I was more interested in how you’d book Etihad space on American than the other way around…

  13. Anyone ever been able to book business class on virgin Australia lax-Syd using etihad guest miles? If so, how do you find award availability? Any other advice on trying to use AMEX MR transfer to Etihad trying to get to OZ or NZ??

  14. If North America is 50,000 E miles, and 1000 AXP = 1300 E miles, then “US to Europe, Asia 1, or South America 2 in first class for (a few less than) 39,000 Membership Rewards points,” right? not 49,000. Closer to being worth the hassle?

  15. Just called Etihad to make a domestic AA business class redemption. There are TONS of options with MileSAAver availability at aa.com (also showing as available at Qantas.com) for the date I’m looking for. They couldn’t find ANY availability when I called. I’ve called 3 times and they’ve all said the same thing. EY must have different availability than OW partners?

  16. @Bodiddely — same with me. See my other comment above. There’s no explanation unless EY has different availability than what’s available to other OW partners. It absolutely does NOT match up with AA saver level award availability.

    I haven’t explored too much, but I did see a FT thread where people were complaining about lack of availability for using EY miles on Air Berlin and Jet Airways, and there was an Etihad representative on FT trying to resolve issues. But this idea that you can use EY miles on AA with any ease whatsoever is unfortunately a farce.

  17. Hey guys
    I am finding it a little difficult to understand how the mile redemption works between EY and AA
    So, I am a hardcore one world frequent flyer (platinum on American and Sapphire on one world) and I travel a lot between ISC and US sectors
    This time, for a change, I decided to travel on Etohad instead of Qatar since EY is also a partner airline with AA

    I booked a L class economy ticket in the hopes for trying out the upgrade bidding on etihad

    Now when I look on etihad site, the mile I should accrue on L class is 16000
    But when I look at American’s partner site, it says that after the devaluation L class ticket is going to be 25% miles of the actual amount

    In this case, what do you guys recommend
    Should I punch in my AA number into the reservation and take a hit on miles or should I start a new account with etihad and accrue miles there?

    Please let me know

  18. I was so hopeful (I have 19k Guest miles about to expire, remember all those Christmas deals 2 years ago?) I could fly cross country for 12.5k but sadly I had the same experience as the commenters above. Hung up on FIVE times (two required careful listening… the recording says “the line will disconnect now. if you want to speak to an agent, press 1. YES THAT’S WHY I CALLED) and the rest after speaking to a rep briefly. Neither could find award availability WAS-SNA/LAX in January despite being off season, non peak days, and lots of availability on AA and Alaska. Using Alaska instead. What a bummer, looks like the Guest miles will go to waste. Hopefully someone has better luck!

  19. I just booked continental US domestic AA one-way flight with two segments using 12,500 Etihad miles and USD 22.88. The taxes seem excessive. The breakdown is below. I would greatly appreciate if you can shed some light on why the taxes are 4 times what AA charges.

    USD 0.08 US1 (US DOMESTIC TRANSPORTATION TAX)
    USD 8.20 ZP (SEGMENT TAX)
    USD 5.60 AY (US SECURITY FEE)
    USD 9.00 XF (US PASSENGER FACILITY CHARGE)

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