Etihad Releasing A380 First Class Award Space To Australia!!!

In late December 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’s A380 First Class Apartment product is amazing

As far as I’m concerned the highlight of the Etihad A380s are the First Apartments, which are the most spacious first class seats in the industry.

Etihad A380 First Apartment cabin

Not surprisingly, initially Etihad didn’t make any saver level First Apartment award seats available on the A380. That’s pretty normal for airlines, whereby they want to keep the product “exclusive” at first by blocking awards, and in many cases even blocking discounted paid tickets.

Etihad is now releasing A380 First Apartment awards to Sydney

I was very pleasantly surprised, however, when in late December Etihad began releasing First Apartment award space between Abu Dhabi and London, which is the launch route for the A380. They were actually releasing a substantial amount of First Apartment award space, often two seats per flight:


This continues to be the case.

The second route on which Etihad will operate the A380 is Abu Dhabi to Sydney, which launches as of June 1, 2015. The flight will operate with the following schedule:

EY454 Abu Dhabi to Sydney departing 9:50PM arriving 5:40PM (+1 day)
EY455 Sydney to Abu Dhabi departing 9:50PM arriving 6:25AM (+1 day)

I’m really excited about this route. While Abu Dhabi to London is probably Etihad’s “flagship” route, a 6-7 hour flight isn’t really enough to truly enjoy this amazing product.

Etihad A380 First Apartment seat

A 13-15 hour flight between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, on the other hand, is plenty of time to enjoy the product, get a good night of rest, etc.

Etihad A380 First Apartment seat

While Etihad didn’t initially release A380 First Apartment award space between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, they now are. Etihad is releasing two First Class Apartment award seats between Abu Dhabi and Sydney on many flights.

This applies both between Abu Dhabi and Sydney:


And between Sydney and Abu Dhabi:


For what it’s worth, Etihad is also releasing plenty of award space on this route in their Business Studio:


That being said, I think the incremental cost of First Apartment is well worth it.

Redeem American miles for Etihad First Class Apartments

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.

The best way to redeem miles for this flight is through American AAdvantage. Travel between the Middle East and Australia is actually one of the sweet spots on the American AAdvantage award chart. They charge:

  • 60,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in first class
  • 45,000 AAdvantage miles one-way in business class

As a reminder:

  • The American AAdvantage routing rules don’t let you travel from Europe or the US to Australia via the Middle East, so you’d need to book separate awards for positioning, assuming you’re not originating in Australia or the Middle East. There’s an exception for the Qantas flights between London and Melbourne/Sydney that connect in Dubai, since they’re considered “direct” flights.
  • You can’t redeem US Airways Dividend Miles for travel on Etihad, since they’re not one of their partner airlines — that being said, Dividend Miles will be merged into AAdvantage in the second quarter, at which point you’ll be able to.
  • For no additional miles, you can include positioning segments within the Middle East or within Australia/New Zealand, as long as there are no connections of over 24 hours.

Bottom line

Etihad’s A380 First Apartment is arguably one of the best first class products in the world. I’d argue the hard product is hands down the best in the world. Add in the fact that American’s award redemption rates between the Middle East and Australia are ridiculously lucrative, and this is a heck of a deal.

This is possibly one of the best award redemption values ever.

(Tip of the hat to Gabe)


  1. @lucky I wonder if you happen to know: obviously you can fit 2 people in that space, so one on the seat one on the bench, how would that work ticketing wise would you think? Do both people need to be in First Apartment or can I smuggle someone up?

  2. @ Jay — You can only book one person per First Apartment, and while you can seat multiple people in one during a flight, they have to be in the same cabin. You can’t bring someone from another cabin up.

  3. Lucky, in terms of AA routing rules are Qantas flights from LHR>SYD/MEL a special case? I take it they are considered direct flights even though you stop at DXB?

    I wish QR would release A380 award space as well!

  4. @ Pat Butcher — They are a special case, since it’s a “direct” flight. I’ll update the post to reflect that. As far as Qatar goes, they do release first class award space last minute on the A380.

  5. Do you realise that The Residence is award-bookable in the pictures above? Well, it is a couple million miles but it is bookable.

  6. @ Alan — No, you can only book one passenger per First Apartment. It’s The Residence that allows you to book two passengers for the same price as one.

  7. Thanks for the heads up! Got LHR-AUH-SYD in First Apartment for early June! Good use of 100K! See you in Doha!

  8. And Qatar still “blocking” Premium awards on their A380 – F**ck. I need to change my flight (F on A380) but I don’t want to fly on A340/A330.

  9. @ Denis — They’re releasing a limited amount of space very close to departure. So it’s not impossible to get Qatar A380 first class award availability.

  10. The problem is that I have 4 tickets issued separately (QR, EK, AF, KL) with different miles programs, which each has a rule and availability… They’re only releasing F seats on QR38, on the other flights just Y seats.

  11. This is one of the best news ever. This will come in handy to redeem my Load of AA miles on something as amazing as Etihad first apartment. I’m looking at doing LAX to London to Abu Dhabi (One way/paid) or taking the direct from LAX to Abu Dhab (using miles)i then from Abu Dhabi to Sydney and SYD to LAX. This will be fun to plan. Thanks for sharing Ben.

  12. Lucky, is Etihad still running out of food in First? I’m reluctant to book them because of this issue. thanks!

  13. @ ILDC — I had two flights where they did, but many others don’t have that issue. Seems to mostly be an issue on daytime flights. If you’re redeeming miles, I certainly wouldn’t be reluctant to book them because of that.

  14. @ Jorge — I’ll be posting the actual flight review as part of the trip report from that trip. I’m currently publishing the trip report for the trip I took with my dad.

  15. “The American AAdvantage routing rules don’t let you travel from Europe or the US to Australia via the Middle East, so you’d need to book separate awards for positioning,”

    so where do they expect you to connect? Asia?

  16. Think they’ll have any availability end of decemeber/first week of jan when the award chart opens up? Or would they be more likely to block this time because its a high season?

  17. As a follow-up to Etihad not infrequently running out of food, they also seem to have a problem with weather forecasting (leading to 12+ hour delays) and logistical/administrative ineptitude when it comes to something they hail as a success (pre-clearance). Despite all of that, do you still think it’s worth flying them? Not a rhetorical question. I would love to book myself in one of the Apartments, but not if there’s a decent chance of the aforementioned happening.

  18. I think the Etihad apartments may have just surpassed Emirates first as my aspirational award booking for 2016…. there’s a shower on board both, right?

  19. Lucky, what is the best way to get into A380 from SFO – SYD? if I use AA miles to redeem on Etihad, can I do SFO-AUH (layover) – SYD in one award booking? or it has to be two award tickets redemption (SFO-AUH) and then (AUH-SYD)?
    You also mentioned on Qatar being a special case, so if I redeem AA miles on Qatar A380, it will count as one redemption for ticket award for SFO-DBX(layover)-SYD?

  20. @JT: The routing rules are simple enough: If you are starting in North America, you’ll have to book this as a separate award. You can’t fly from North America to Australia via the Middle East, and you can’t fly to the Middle East via Australia. Most likely from North America you will need *four* one-way awards to do a round trip, since you also can’t route to or from Australia via Asia, and Qantas essentially don’t release any premium cabin space between North America and Australia. In theory you could do SFO-AUH (90k in first), AUH-SYD (60k in first), and SYD-LAX-SFO (72.5k in first), but the SYD-LAX flight will never be available.

  21. @ JT — You’d have to book separate awards to get to/from North America. So JFK-AUH and AUH-SYD would need to be on separate awards.

  22. @ KellyCA — You’d need two bookings on Etihad. I’m saying you can do Qantas LHR-DXB-SYD on a single award, but you’d still need to book a separate award to get to the UK. There’s no way to get US to Sydney via Abu Dhabi on one award.

  23. @ Westin — They’re definitely more likely to block it than otherwise, though there’s still a chance. You never know.

  24. @ lucky – This post just made my day! I was able to book a seat on AUH-SYD for November. I had been planning to take a trip to Australia this November and have been looking at flight options recently, so this worked out perfectly. Now I just need to work on the positioning and return flights, haha. Thanks Ben!

  25. I’m planning a trip to India for my partner’s “big 0” birthday in April 2016, and want to fly one way on Etihad and the other on Emirates. Unfortunately, our jobs prevent last minute scheduling. Any tips on the best way to get two tickets in F from the east coast on Etihad using AA miles? Do they reliably release some seats at 330 days, or is the best strategy to look for seats in business class, and hope that first will open up near departure?

  26. @ Mike — Congrats on the round birthday! They actually do release two first class seats in advance on many routes, so you should have no issue locking that in. Good luck!

  27. Lucky – re: your response to Lantean. Do you mean we can fly to Australia via Asia, as in flying CX, on one award ticket?

  28. Ben – If you buy two apartment seats, is a couple allowed to sleep together in one and leave the other one empty during sleep time?

  29. Thanks for sharing this info. Was going to book Virgin Australia business both ways for a November trip but am now booked into a Etihiad A380 First Class Apt on the way home and after spending a few days in the UAE will check out the First Class Suites on their new 787 to IAD.

  30. Are you sure about positioning flights? EF shows fare rules as you need to use VA for any AU/NZ connections and I’m not sure how one can work that.

    Also you need a published fare.

  31. @ Joe — Depends where you’re originating/connecting to, but I do see some published fares to other places in Australia out of Abu Dhabi.

  32. Hi Lucky:

    As a resident in Australia, Virgin Australia’s Velocity point is one of our most common FFP currency which happens to have access to 2 of the world’s best first class at the moment: Etihad apartment and Singapore suite. For a trip from SYD-LHR, it will cost 187.5K VA points on Etihad with no fuel surcharge (YQ), or 157k (1.35 x 116.26k VA to KF conversion) on SQ suite plus $300-400 in YQ.

    In your experience, how does the two products compare? Assuming both have available seats, would you pay 187K for EY apartment or 157K + $300-400 for SQ suite? From your report, it sounds like you prefer Etihad’s hard product over SQ’s, but not very happy about their service? (Unfortunately, AAdvantage miles are not that easy to come by in Australia, so it’s not really an option for us….)

  33. @ Michael Kao — Both AMAZING products, arguably two of the world’s best. Would have to give slight edge to Etihad Apartment for the hard product, though, and would probably choose that in your situation.

  34. Hi Michael, where are you able to see the VFF redemption ability for F? I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find it.

  35. anyway to search for space easily? spent about 20 mins doing some random searches for SYD-AUH-LHR with no luck. painful doing it a week at a time!

  36. @Frump: if you look at Velocity’s award chart, it clearly states first class. You can’t book it online though, you need to call. I can confirm you definitely can book first class as I’ve done a dummy booking on SYD-AUH-JFK for 187.5k on F. Beauty of velocity award chart is it’s distance based so they don’t care how you route it, as long as there is award availability with Etihad guest, they can book it.

    @Andrew: sometimes you need to check the award space separately, ie, SYD-AUH then AUH-LHR on Etihad guest rather than SYD-LHR. Once I tried GRU-BNE and it showed nothing. But when I did them separately, they were there. I called and booked GRU-AUH-BNE no problem.

  37. I’m wondering how Kelly D got LHR-AUH-SYD for 100K miles? If that’s AA miles it shouldn’t work with the routing rules, and if ethiad miles is seems as it should be more than 100K.

  38. @ Peter S — That’s the cost when booking it as two awards. 40,000 miles London to Abu Dhabi, 60,000 miles Abu Dhabi to Sydney.

  39. @ BT — Can’t say I’ve noticed an exact time, sorry. And if you’re trying to redeem American miles, keep in mind it’s also about when they open their schedule, and not necessarily when the partner opens their schedule.

  40. Quick question…if i wanted to fly Etihad from DEL to SYD connection through AUH and onto the A380, is that possible? Would it be one award or two? I know the flights I want from AUH-SYD are available, but when I try to go from DEL, it won’t pop up the right flights that I want (at least on Etihad). Thoughts? Thanks for the help.

  41. They may have tightened up their inventory control, or we’ve snatched all of the seats through the full schedule. I hit a number of dates between the inaugural and end of schedule and couldn’t find a single First Apartment available at the partner level (Guest First).

  42. Would you know whether there would be availability for 4 in business? Would love to book a trip for my family of four.

  43. Lucky, I’m having trouble finding availability (AUH->SYD) in July. There’s some space in June and Aug. Is this just because July is a popular month or might there be a chance some seats are being held back?


  44. @ Dan — It’s probably simply booked out at this point, given how many people have been booking it lately. Keep checking back, though, because space could open up.

  45. In theory 160K miles (100K AS and 60K AA) for One way LAX-DXB(EK)/AUH-SYD(EY) I may have to do one of those next year. Coincidentally thanks to the merger I have just enough AA miles once the programs merge.

  46. @ Lucky

    So I know when they first released space for the SYD route that all of December was blacked out. Obviously its a busy travel month so EY is trying to sell the seats so having but at some point I assume they will make it available for December at some point. Any guesses on when that will be?

  47. @ Daniel — It’s anyone’s guess, as they progressively release space as the departure date approaches. It might just be within a few days of departure, but I’d keep monitoring.

  48. @Lucky
    I apologize if this has been mentioned on other parts of this page; but do fees on the Etihad page reflect actual cost for redemption on AAdvantage?

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