Etihad First Class Awards Using AAdvantage Miles Are Back

Yesterday I posted about the concerning situation, whereby Etihad first class award tickets didn’t seem to be bookable using American AAdvantage miles. This isn’t the first time where American has had trouble accessing Etihad awards, and in the past they were always quickly fixed.

What made this different was that it was only first class awards which couldn’t be booked, while economy and business class could be booked as usual. That’s the first time we’ve a glitch like that.

Naturally it made me a bit suspicious. Long term I do think we’ll see a trend whereby many airlines restrict premium cabin award space exclusively to members of their own frequent flyer program, as Singapore KrisFlyer already does, and as Cathay Pacific is considering doing.

The good news is that this doesn’t seem to be the case here, as AAdvantage miles can once again be booked for travel in Etihad first class as usual. As a reminder, here’s a post about how to search Etihad award space — as long as there’s “Guest” seat availability, it should also be bookable with American miles.


So what happened here? It certainly could have just been a system glitch. It’s also possible that Etihad was testing new functionality for making different space available to members of different programs. That’s especially feasible given that they just announced an award chart devaluation, whereby the cost of premium cabin redemptions are going up significantly, in some cases.


Even though this was a false alarm, I do think there’s a lesson to take away from this. Some airlines already restrict premium cabin awards to members of their own program, and that’s a trend we’ll see expanded further.

My philosophy in this hobby has always been to “earn and burn.” Opportunities arise, and opportunities go away. The “earn and burn” mentality goes beyond award redemption costs. While miles devalue, the opportunity to efficiently redeem for certain products will go away over time. While in general it makes sense to save/invest your money, in the case of miles it makes sense to burn ’em as fast and efficiently as you can!

So book those Etihad A380 First Class Apartments, already!



  1. Good news. I like your screen shot, but there hasn’t been A380 Guest First space available on JFK-AUH or AUH-JFK on any day post Dec-1 launch through end of schedule for a while now. Is this an old screen shot?

  2. Earn & Burn is fine advice if you’re a single digital nomad. But what if you’re booking as a professional couple that have to juggle conflicting schedules and finding twice the award availability? Forget it if you’re a family, who also get hit on the earning side since kids can’t earn non-flight miles.

  3. @ Stannis — To clarify, I’m not suggesting everyone should be able to redeem miles the second they earn them. Instead, my point is not to look at miles as a retirement fund. Tons of people earn them for decades on end and say “oh I can redeem them when I retire.” I’m just saying to try and redeem them as quickly as possible, whatever that might mean given your circumstances.

  4. @ John — It was indeed a screenshot I took when the space first appeared, though I have seen instances of space being released since then as well.

  5. my guess is that whatever A380 F availability JFK-AUH is released will be gone in 3, 2, 1…

  6. Just tried to upgrade from J to F CAI-AUH and the AA agent did not see the seats that the Etihad website says are available under Guest First…

  7. There was TONS of availability in First Apartments yesterday and in the days prior.

    Today however (now that AA redemptions are back..) I haven’t seen any.

  8. I have seen one date today for an Apartment on LHR-AUH but can’t remember when exactly…but that was really all.

  9. Stannis, don’t forget you can change the dates without incurring a change fee. I have changed my Etihad itinerary several times, date changes and even one routing change, and all of the changes were fee-free. Maybe you wouldn’t want to do that for an average trip, book and then change one or more times, but Etihad first class is pretty special.

  10. I was able to book AUH-LHR round trip about a week ago using my AAdvantage miles. It took a few days to ticket but I’m confirmed now! Taking that flight when I’m over in Abu Dhabi on my Christmas Day mistake fare.

  11. For the folks who are already ticketed and set to go, I would recommend booking and confirming your chauffeur pick-up/ drop-off ASAP, in the event that Etihad decides to follow Emirates and do away with chauffeur service for award bookings.

  12. Did all availability disappear? I don’t see any Guest First available in either direction for AUH-JFK route between Dec 1 and May 5.

  13. @ Jorwed — Odd! On the plus side, had no clue Etihad was flying a three cabin plane to Cairo. That’s exciting news!

  14. Lucky maybe time for another post mentioning how all availability in F on the A380 is now gone to both AA and also Etihad members.

  15. @ Spizzy — I don’t suspect there’s much to it. Etihad has always been wildly inconsistent when it comes to releasing space, so I would assume it’s temporary at this point. If it’s still the case in a week or so, I’ll be sure to follow up.

  16. Saw EY F availability for one Guest First seat for a AUH-MXP flight later this month

    Called up AA, they couldn’t find it. Asked the agent and try again and she still couldn’t it. Don’t know what’s going on.

  17. Just a data point.
    Changed the dates for one of my upcoming LHR-AUH in EY F (yes, managed to find availability on EY website!). Right after my ticket was put back to “On Request” on the AA website, the original seat which I had given up immediately became available via “GuestFirst” on the EY website.

  18. If I’m looking to book SIN-AUH-JFK in First on AA award ticket, will I be charged the miles from Asia2 to NAmerica (67,500) or will it be Asia2 to Middle East (45,000) plus Middle East to NAmerica (90,000)?

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