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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Current offer: 60,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $3,000 within three months
Annual fee: $99, but waived the first year
Current offer: 70,000 AAdvantage miles after spending $4,000 within four 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.
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.
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?