The Trick To Booking Mixed-Cabin Etihad Awards With American Miles

I was chatting with Zach Honig the other night regarding a two-segment Etihad routing he was trying to book with American miles. While there was availability on both segments, the agents couldn’t see the full itinerary, and could only see the shorter segment when searching a new reservation.

The reason?Ā Each segment was in a different class of service. (Well, that’s not the reason American agents were giving, but it’s the correct answer all the same). šŸ˜‰

Etihad doesn’t organically display mixed-cabin itineraries in their web interface, and I don’t think the back-end systems are particularly transparent either.

I realized that while we have a robust thread on Ask Lucky discussing the various pitfalls of booking Etihad awards with American miles, we haven’t written about the mixed-cabin situation on the main page of the blog for a few years.

And fortunately there’s a super easy solution.

What’s up with mixed-cabins?

Basically, ifĀ you’re trying to combineĀ Etihad flights in multiple classes to a single award, sometimes American’s system will give a false negative, and tell agents space on one of the segments isn’t available even when it is.

This is rooted in how Etihad structures their award search, I believe, asĀ the Etihad Guest web interface is similarly limited.

For example, let’s say you want to go from Sydney to Mumbai. If you search for Sydney to Mumbai in first, you will often see a “Sold Out” message.

Long-time readers of OMAAT know to search segment-by-segment in order to seeĀ true availability, and if you search for just Sydney to Abu Dhabi, you’ll see there is indeed one seat in Guest First:

Now, thereĀ are three daily flights from Abu Dhabi and Mumbai, two of which have first class cabins:

For those who aren’t familiar with Etihad fare codes, P = The Residence, F = First, and J = Business.

So if you then search for just Abu Dhabi to Mumbai, there of course isn’t going to be and first class space on the A321 flight. But there is space on the late-night 77L flight:

That connection is too long for Etihad to display on their webpage, butĀ it shouldn’t be a problem to addĀ the segment using American miles.

For a shortĀ flight, most people would be fine with a connection in business class, so if you search forĀ that option separately, there’s space on every flight:

The challenge, however, is that theĀ AAdvantage agent won’t be able to see this business class space in their system if they’re looking in conjunction with the first class segment.

Fortunately, the workaround is pretty simple

As long as there’s Guest availability on Etihad.com, American should have access to the space. So if you need a mixed-cabin award, you’ll want to ask the agent to try building the itinerary you’re after in a new reservation.

I can almost guarantee that they’ll be able to see the space on the lower cabin award, or on the upper cabin award, but not the two combined. It’s tempting to put the “difficult” longhaul segment on hold, but it wouldn’t be my recommended strategy.

If you’ve already held the first class segment, you have a couple of options. You could open a bottle of wine and prepare to spend hoursĀ if not days getting the agent to work with the help desk and the liaison office to contact Etihad and hopefully have the space manually inserted into your reservation. If you’re nostalgic for US Airways, this is a validĀ strategy.

For the rest of us though, the fastest way out is to just start over.

Inexplicably, if you build the itineraryĀ starting with the lower class of service, American agents have no problem seeing the space. I generally hold the problematic business or economy segment, then add the first class segment.

It’s bonkers, but itĀ works.

Does this work with Etihad Guest awards?

AAdvantage has no problems booking mixed-cabin awards on any other partner carrier, so my suspicion is that this stems from system limitations on Etihad’s side. Etihad Guest doesn’tĀ like to mix cabins on some partner awardsĀ — and of course, the Etihad website doesn’t display mixed-cabin itineraries in the search results.

The challenge here is that the Etihad call center isĀ so inconsistent, that even a simple booking can take a painfully long amount of time.

Etihad doesn’tĀ technically allow holds, so if you do encounter this glitch, you’d have to find an agent who was competent enough to create a record with the lower class segment, and then add the higher segment, all in a single call.

Bottom line

I have no idea why this functions this way, butĀ Etihad imposes some weird logic on their systems in general, and the needed workarounds don’t really surprise me anymore.

Fortunately, this one isn’t all that complicated.Ā If you need to book a mixed-cabin award on Etihad using American miles, make sure to start with the segments in the lower cabin, and then add the higher cabin flights.

Have you run into any other issues booking mixed-cabin awards on Etihad?

Comments

  1. I’m a little sad the Residence review is being drawn out this much. We followed you being excited about it, came with suggestions etc. and now it’s like you forgot about telling us how it actually went.

    For you, the trip was the culmination. For us, the review is. Alas, we’ll have to wait weeks and weeks.

    It’s like being invited to the movies while getting told how great the film is going to be. We’re sitting there for the commercials, but when the movie comes on, all we get to hear is how great the movie was.

  2. @William Y – I think the only connection between this post and Lucky’s Residence review is that they’re both on the same airline. Personally, I was just trying to book a mixed-cabin award on Etihad using AA miles last week, and was losing my mind until I realized Etihad wouldn’t show availability on routes with mixed cabins (was looking at HKG-AUH-JFK, and only AUH-JFK has F). Now, that’s not allowed by AA partner routing rules, but that’s another story šŸ˜‰ Bottom line, I found this post incredibly helpful and timely for my own travels. Thanks, Lucky!

  3. @William Y – Oops, I think I misinterpreted your concern in my last post. I thought you essentially meant you were tired of hearing about Etihad — now I understand you’re eager for Lucky’s Residence post. Sorry! I’m eager, too!

  4. What about booking mixed cabin awards on etihad with ANA miles? Does ANA have the same issue, and if so, do you have a recommended work-around?

  5. A good tip I will try next time.
    A couple of times I’ve wanted to try Etihad first when travelling from London to Doha but obviously the Abu Dhabi to Doha flight would be in business and both times I’ve tried to book this I’ve been told there’s no availability. Even though I tried to explain about the second flight being a lower class.

  6. The bylines aren’t as obvious as previously, so I didn’t realize this was Tiffany writing until I got to “open a bottle of wine”… and the idea that anyone would be nostalgic about USAir award bookings. šŸ˜‰

  7. See your exemple, the solution will be make SYD-AUH on business (longest haul) and AUH-BOM on First (shortest haul). This solution is terrible.

  8. Wondering if anyone has advice for me on a related issue. I have a reservation on Etihad, CMB-AUH-IAD, booked with AA miles, first segment in business (highest class of service on the A321) and second segment in first. The first segment departs Colombo at 4:40 in the morning, then a 2-hour connection in Abu Dhabi.

    After I booked, I decided I’d rather switch to the evening flight out of Colombo the previous night (leaving about 7.5 hours before my booked flight), spend the night in Abu Dhabi, and continue on to IAD as booked. This longer, overnight connection doesn’t show as an option on Etihad’s website when searching CMB-IAD, but it should be doable as the layover is only about 10 hours.

    There’s Guest Seat space on the Etihad website in business when I search for CMB-AUH, but when I call AA to switch my first leg, I keep getting told that there’s only economy seats available. Any ideas?

  9. “Inexplicably, if you build the itinerary starting with the lower class of service, American agents have no problem seeing the space. I generally hold the problematic business or economy segment, then add the first class segment.”

    So, you put the lower class on hold, get the record locator, and call back and ask them to add a segment (which is the upper class segment)? Is that right?

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