Is American Blocking Etihad Awards?

One of my favorite uses of American AAdvantage miles is for travel on Etihad. Their new A380s arguably offer the best first class product in the worldthe First Class Apartment.


I’ve written in the past about how to redeem American AAdvantage miles for travel on Etihad, and about Etihad’s first class award availability trends.

Historically you can search Etihad award availability through Etihad’s website, and if there’s “GuestSeat” availability, then American miles can also be redeemed for the flight. You just have to call American to book.


However, for a couple of weeks people have been reporting issues with redeeming American miles on Etihad, whereby American agents can’t see Etihad award availability. There have been discussions about this in the Ask Lucky forum since mid-November.

I’ve received dozens of questions about this over the past couple of weeks. Many immediately assumed that this was some stealth devaluation of AAdvantage miles, given that the space seemed to be blocked starting around the same time American announced their award chart devaluation, which kicks in for bookings as of March 22, 2016.

I wouldn’t be so quick to draw conclusions. This isn’t the first time American has had issues booking Etihad awards. This year alone they had the same issue in January and June, and in both cases they were just IT issues which were eventually resolved. I have no reason to believe this is any different.


What makes this especially strange is that different call center seem to have access to different amounts of Etihad award space:

  • I’ve found some Etihad award space bookable via American’s call center in the US (it’s not that American doesn’t have access to any Etihad award space)
  • People have reported more luck using American’s UK call center for booking Etihad awards
  • American’s Australia call center seems to have access to virtually all Etihad award availability

So while I don’t know what’s causing the availability discrepancy, booking via American’s Australian call center will do the trick for now. I still don’t necessarily believe this is intentional, but rather is some sort of tech issue. That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me if this is intentionally low on American’s list of IT issues to fix. 😉

If this award space is suddenly no longer bookable via American’s call center in Australia, then I’d assume it’s intentional.


Bottom line

This isn’t the first time American has had trouble booking Etihad award availability, so I believe it’s likely just a similar IT glitch. The good news is that for now you can get around the issues by calling American’s call center in Australia, as they seem to have access to full Etihad award availability.

Have you encountered this issue when trying to redeem AAdvantage miles on Etihad?


  1. Lucky – I am seeing a pattern of no business or first class seat except maybe immediate (3-5 days in advance) from the US to AUH. Do you think that is intentional on Etihad’s part? Do you think there would be any luck on redeeming a JFK – AUH A380 first class flight before 22nd march (doomsday?)

  2. I have had no issues booking EY C ZRH-AUH-ZRH through the European call center on Nov, 25. ^

    Still hoping to see F availability opening up close to departure…

  3. I had to book via the Australian call centre to find space, but now that I’m trying to ticket something even weirder is happening! I have my original itin (AUH-LHR-JFK-YVR in EY/BA/CX F), and it seems that whenever I check my AA account different flights are showing up. Now I have two other sets of flights, including AUH-JFK-YVR in EY (9W) F and CX J for two days prior to my original itin (which still shows up).

    Any idea why different flights are showing up? Never seen that before.

  4. I have had no issues booking with American award call center number. I booked few weeks back and have been changing my award dates, upgrades, etc. Each time the AA agent was able to view the award availability and it matched what I saw in Etihad website.

  5. I’m only seeing Saver level award availability for JFK-AUH about 10 days out in First and ~25 days out in Business. Is that about normal for EY or do they at times release saver level award availability further in advance?

  6. Hi,

    I had the same issue in booking Etihad awards from Melbourne to Abu Dhabi in first class. I checked the Etihad guest site and it showed space but American only had access to economy class awards. What I did was call the AAdvantage number based in Australia and they had the seats immediately.

  7. A related, but separate issue, is thst Ethad appears to have zero award availability for first class on the A380 leaving or returning to JFK for months into 2016.

  8. @ErickG Etihad blocks award space on the A380 because that is their improved hard product. As you may have seen, there might have been more space on the “Jetihad” 777 to JFK. You will notice the same A380 trends on Etihad’s routes to SYD, MEL, and LHR. If you really want to try out the double decker’s product, consider taking the new flights from AUH – BOM (starting in May).

  9. I’ve been checking daily for weeks and it seems all Etihad guest first award space from the US is all but gone through the calendar (other than Jetihad). Wonder if that’s a glitch or intentional.

  10. Seriously, I do not understand why lucky and others like these “apartments” so much.

    From the pics, they look like a prison cell with a flat screen TV and leather furniture.

  11. There is NO Eithad award space FROM any US airport TO Abu Dhabi that has been released in recent days. No Y, J or F. (AUH to US is quite freely available.)

  12. Last week I tried to book one-way Abu Dhabi to either Dulles or JFK and gave a range of 3 dates and couldn’t get anything in business, and this was for May 2016 and Etihad’s site showed availability, so I do think it’s definitely a glitch or nefarious. We ended up having to book with Qatar instead because they had plenty of availability in business to Dulles.

  13. @Chris I would agree with you in that I think much ado is made about the Etihad A380 “First Apartments”, yet cut back the spin and hype, and it’s really nothing more than a seat, a hard bench, a narrow strip of carpet, and some shallow storage bins. Does it offer a modicum of privacy with the manual door shutters closed, yes, but not really any greater than any other enclosed suite. There is nothing particularly revolutionary or overly luxurious here, and after flying it about a dozen times, I think the ergonomics could have been considerably improved.

    While I wouldn’t refer to it as a prison cell by any means, the spin/hype seems far advanced of the actual hard product. Maybe Emirates’ proposed railway sleeper like suite might prove more revolutionary.

  14. I had the same issue every now and then. Called American said no availability, hang up and call again a few hours later or next day, seat is available. Once I called again a few minutes later, got a different person and seat was available…

  15. Just called the AA EXP line, and the agent saw no award availability for my return trip from AUH to IAD in J. Called the Aussie line, and booking was taken care of in 5 minutes. So annoying, but at least it’s done.

  16. After seeing availability on Etihads site, multiple agents at AA said there was nothing available in J for a YYZ-AUH-ORD trip. Called AA In Australia and had my ticket booked in 5 minutes.

  17. I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting ANA reps to see EY space as well. Maybe it’s something on EY’s end?

  18. It took a lot of persistence and hard work, but everything paid off eventually. I was initially able to get C Class on the A330 between GVA-AUH and First Class on the B777 on the AUH-SYD segment. Not the most ideal booking on the SYD leg, not only because it wasn’t on the A380, but it meant a 14-hour layover in Sydney while awaiting my flight to HNL. I refused to give up. One day before departure from Geneva, F Class became available. Two days before we departed Abu Dhabi, F Class also became available on the A380 to SYD. The fact that AA doesn’t charge re-deposit fees for upgrades and flight changes on the same route made it all the more sweeter. We loved every second of both flights.

  19. To add to my previous post….all my dealings were with the U.S. Call Center and the AA agents were awesome.

  20. I think the same thing is happening with redeeming CX! Several agents say they can’t see any CX availability for an entire week, while on BA it showed plenty of available seats…

  21. When you say “American’s Australia call center seems to have access to virtually all Etihad award availability,” you mean all GuestSeat availability right? I want to make sure “virtually all” doesn’t also mean OpenSeat.

  22. I was able to book through the AA Australian service but my flight status is still “On-Request” after 48 hours. Is anyone experiencing this kind of delay ?

  23. Called Ausie line – were not able to get LHR-AUH-MLE for January in Business. Neither could the US customer service. (02) 91011948 within Australia or +61-2-91011948 outside Australia, but I’m not quite sure there is any real glitch in the US system. Any one else with this issue?

  24. Lucky – Quick question. I just tried the american and australian office for a flight from AUH-DEL in Business on EY 218 on 1st FEB and it shows availability for guest seat (doesn’t show how many seats are left) and I called both centers and they couldn’t see it. But it seems that the australian call center can see the availability if it shows availability for guest seat and it shows the “seats left”. Thoughts?

  25. Saw one GuestSeat on the A380 from AUH-SYD on 1/18/16, AA USA desk couldn’t grab it but Australian could. Thanks for the tip! One weird thing is that the Australian desk charged me a $150 fee because this was an update for an award that was originally DXB-SYD on Qantas. As an EXP I should have that waived right? I sent an email to AAdvantage customer service to confirm.

  26. Tried to put an AA award on hold through the USA call center. AUH-JFK A380 J on 1/24/16. No love. Guess will need to call Aussie desk and try that.

  27. I think there are two different issues being conflated here.

    1) AA agents in the USA call center cannot see/book seats showing as available GuestSeats on Etihad’s website. AA agents in Australia have no problem seeing and booking those same seats.

    2) Business or First GuestSeat availability on flights outbound from the USA is currently non-existent. I cannot find a single available seat on any date from any USA destination served by Etihad.

  28. “Tried to put an AA award on hold through the USA call center. AUH-JFK A380 J on 1/24/16. No love. Guess will need to call Aussie desk and try that.”

    Just called Aussie desk and had this on hold in under 12min. They def seem to be seeing most space since the agent also offered me the daytime flight operated by 9W’s 77W (no thanks!).

  29. American seems to have extended it’s “up to 75,000 bonus mile” promotion to 4 January 2016… so you can get 200,000 miles for $0.018/mile… that’s a round-trip US-AUH in an A380.

    BTW the food on Etihad is way, way better than on Emirates. Most of it is freshly prepared on board, and they have all kinds of unusual items such as fresh carrot juice. And the suites are also much more comfortable. Emirates is glitzy, if you enjoy upscale proletarian aesthetics, and cramped seats with your head brushing against the air vents. Really poor design.

  30. PS The Jet Airways experience isn’t really any different. Have taken it many times out of SFO, and from AUH. Slightly different interior, but superb food both ways.

  31. I am having the same problem as “yc” (December 3, 2015 at 5:34 pm) post. I was able to book a reservation, but it still not ticketed. The status is “on request” after 72 hours. This is for LHR-AUH-MEL and had to go it via the Australian call center as well.

    Does anyone have experience with ticketing taking more than 72 hours?

    Thank you

  32. Tom P: Yes, I had this same issue repeatedly when I’ve booked my Etihad flights recently. The first flight didn’t ticket and on the 4th day I called the AA Australia number again and they forced ticketed it, so it wasn’t a problem. This weekend I called and booked a ticket and after 72 hours it still hadn’t ticketed and I was going to call the next day but overnight it ticketed, so about 12 hours late. Not sure why Etihad takes so long to process but AA seems to be good about forcing it through if you call them after 72 hours has gone by, or if you’re not in a huge hurry then give it a few extra days and it should get taken care of.

    BTW, the Australia number is a lifesaver! This past weekend I tried calling the U.S. number for something and the wait was over an hour because of the coming snow storm on the East Coast, so I called Australia instead and got right through. The international call isn’t free but my time is valuable and it’s well worth it to me!

  33. Thank you Russell. I am not in a hurry so I’ll give it an extra day. I am confident the process is moving because I entered the Etihad record locator on the Etihad website and the reservation is there already, though it is not ticketed yet on the American website. Looking forward to the EY first class on the A380.

    I am new to the first class international “quest” but am sold on it. I did Cathay Pacific first earlier this year, and next week to Tokyo on JAL first. Now business class seems boring and not so special!

  34. Same issue with US Call center, booking JNB to AUH and AUH to JFK in business and US reservation can’t see anything, nada, zilch. I added cash to my Google voice account and called with my laptop, worked like a champ.

  35. Just happened to me. Found Etihad availability. Called normal US number and the agent couldn’t see any space in any class on either flight. Called Australian number and they booked it right away without issue. Oh, and I didn’t have to sit on hold for 15 minutes either.

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