Etihad First Class No Longer Bookable With American Miles?

Filed Under: American, Awards

One of my three favorite uses of American AAdvantage miles is for travel in Etihad Airways first class (my other favorite uses are of course Cathay Pacific first class and Japan Airlines first class).

While the AAdvantage award costs to the Middle East aren’t quite as low as they are for travel to Asia, it’s still an excellent value given that Etihad is usually quite good about releasing award space, and has a great product.

American can’t access Etihad first class awards

Unfortunately at the moment it appears as if American AAdvantage doesn’t have access to any Etihad Airways first class award space. American has access to economy and business class award space as usual, though not a single first class award seat, best I can tell.

There have been instances in the past where AAdvantage members couldn’t redeem miles for travel on Etihad, due to a variety of IT glitches. However, none of those issues were limited to first class, which is the concerning thing about the lack of availability here. I’d be less worried if American didn’t have access to all Etihad space, but the fact that it’s limited to first class is worrisome.


What could be causing the blocking?

What are the possible explanations for why Etihad first class awards aren’t bookable right now? I suppose it’s possible that it’s some sort of IT issue related to the fare bucket out of which American pulls Etihad first class space. That’s what I hope the problem is.

What do I suspect the problem is? I think it’s part of a long term trend we’re seeing. Over time, airlines will make less and less premium cabin award space available to members of partner frequent flyer programs, and rather make that space available exclusively to their own members. Cathay Pacific is actually considering exactly this right now.

Etihad Guest just announced an award chart devaluation, and as part of it they’re making first and business class award and upgrade costs go up in a vast majority of cases. Long term it wouldn’t really surprise me if that impacted partner airlines as well, as they work to deliver value to members of their own program, as opposed to members of partner airlines’ frequent flyer programs.


Bottom line

I certainly hope this isn’t the end of Etihad first class awards using AAdvantage miles, as it’s one of my favorite first class products out there. And I certainly don’t want to believe it. Hopefully this is just some sort of a glitch.

I do suspect eventually this will become a reality for many “premium” airlines, though I hope the time hasn’t come for Etihad yet.

I’ll do some further research, so make this as “developing” for now.

What’s your theory as to why AAdvantage members can’t book Etihad first class awards?


(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. on a serious note… Alaska issues with Emirates awards was specific to F as well… so there is hope.

  2. Simple solution to this trend…stop those ridiculous credit card bonus offers in the US. People are litterally flYing first class for free and exploit the sYstem!! The long term result is what we’re seing step by step.

  3. I read this travel blog daily, but have never commented until now. I am currently in the process of planning a trip (LHR to AUH) specifically to use AA miles on a first class, A380 redemption. I will be severely upset if AA is locked out indefinitely. Already souring my first international trip 🙁

  4. It’s probably for the same reason you can use AA miles to book any proper first class in Saaver on AA… greed. It’s a silent devaluation. When will you bloggers see it.

  5. @Andre- If your first international trip required flying a $10,000 first class flight to be happy, you’re going at travel the wrong way.

    Plenty of fun to be had other ways.

  6. Oh no, need to book one of these for my Mom for early April. Would suck if I couldn’t do that for her, she is so excited about it.

  7. I have a reservation on request right now. Will it not ticket? It was ticketed last week but I had to change one of the none etihad legs.

  8. @Rob

    i’m in the exact same situation… but i’m not worried, the seats are already committed. i believe it will ticket just fine.

  9. Hi Lucky, irrelevant comment here.
    As a fan of the blog and student from Hong Kong studying in the UK, I noticed that you have been enjoying Cathay Pacific flights a lot, and this passionate love of Cathay Pacific seems to be shared by many reviewers. While I am not yet fortunate enough to try out their business class and first class products yet, as a student flying back and forth between Hong Kong and London, I often find Cathay’s economy class to be not that different from other airlines; in fact, I enjoy BA’s A380 economy class product more than Cathay’s even though many of my friends seem to disagree. Also, when reading your airline reviews, I noticed that Cathay is not as good in terms of hard products compared to many other airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Etihad, and personally I didn’t find Cathay to be better than other airlines I have tried in terms of service. While I understand First Class will present a completely difference experience compared to mine, being stuck in coach 13 hours every 2 months, I would still like to know what is it that makes Cathay Pacific so desirable for so many reviewers?
    Thanks 😀

  10. Once they realized that a million people used AA miles to book A380 F space they probably had enough….

  11. Since we’re entering the peak summertime travel time is it possible this is just a demand based seasonal restriction?

  12. it seems as if the easiest way to figure this out would be to try to book on one of EY’s other partners — has anyone tried this, successfully or not?

  13. i love this retarded logic that redeeming credit card bonus miles is somehow “exploiting the system”. do you really believe citi doesn’t realize cardmembers will figure out EY and CX redemptions? they seemed to be quite happy pushing 100k sign up bonuses last year and raking in millions in qualifying spend. how in the world is using the miles for premium cabin travel exploitative?

  14. This is pretty sad news. Hopefully temporary, but potentially not the case. Really annoyed as I just bought some SPG miles to transfer to AA to top up my account to redeem for the EY F apartment at some point this summer. Hopefully AA will reinstate the space.

    I understand how airlines want to reward their own frequent fliers more so than their partners, but this kind of undermines the whole “alliance” concept at least with regard to the loyalty programs. All it does is encourage people to scrap the Citi AA card, Delta Amex, United Chase card, etc in favor of the SPG Amex or standard Gold/Platinum Amex where they can transfer miles to whatever program as needed based on what space is being published.

  15. I heard from a pretty reliable source that EY was indeed going to start blocking F awards for AA and all other mileage programs that can book EY flights, so only EY’s own miles can be redeemed for F awards.
    Didn’t know it would start this soon though…
    No more free Apartments folks.
    It sucks, but it makes sense for EY.

  16. @pavel…i live in Europe and there’s a reason why we don’t have any bigger problems finding award space on almost every airline (including CX), whereas it’s much more challenging in the US!

  17. @ Lantean — Indeed, though I’m guessing that wasn’t a glitch but rather was quite intentional.

  18. @ Cream — Thanks for reading! I agree in economy it’s probably not that great, though I do think in first class they’re significantly better than most other carriers. I’d say in economy they’re probably comparable to many international carriers, virtually all of which are better than the US airlines.

  19. @ Markiteight — Except for the Middle East summer is actually sort of low season, given the horribly hot temperatures.

  20. @ NB — Not sure that would necessarily help. A lot of the glitches in the past have been specific to the American/Etihad relationship, and didn’t impact other partners.

  21. This must be really recent as I booked lax-auh last week for sping 2016. Requested Thursday and ticketed Friday.

  22. @James

    protect from what? ninjas?
    or do they prefer to shuffle air between continents like Lufthansa does now?

  23. Well, if EY cuts out AA Awards for F cabins, increases their own chart to ridiculous levels for F cabins, then congratulations. Either they are going to give F for free via op-ups, or fly F cabins for empty.

    There is not so much demand to fill their F via revenue each time.

    I think they should reduce their own charts for premium cabins. I’m neutral on how they deal with space to partners.

  24. Now I’m going to be paranoid that even though I was ticketed weeks ago, by the time of the trip I’ll find myself downgraded or switched to another type of aircraft. I hate worrying. I wanted to fly on the A380 all of the way from AUH to JFK so my trip isn’t until 2016. I’ll have to start drinking.

  25. Seems fair of EY to restrict partner awards, especially since up until last week one was able to book F seats at a significant discount compared to booking with their own mileage.

    Not sure why people think it is a bad thing that they fly the cabin with perhaps two seats less filled (which would be the ones potentially booked on AA awards). Having two seats less filled is hardly flying a cabin empty. On top of that the 500USD (per seat) or there about they get for an award will not make any impact on their bottom line and I think they will use the potentially empty seats to provide last minute upgrades to members of their own FF program.

    Also don’t think the EY redemption rates are inflated, more a matter of the AA redemption rates being ridiculously low. In the current economy where the IATA mentions that profits in the airline industry are up 80% (and margins doubled in some regions), there is really no need for airlines to give away seats.

  26. @ flyingfish — Do keep in mind that Etihad is also EXTREMELY aggressive when it comes to selling upgrades for cash. Maybe they prefer business class tickets plus $500-1,000 over miles. But agree in general.

  27. just late last week I was available to upgrade my etihad award travel from J to F for a flight the next day; there was availability showing on etihad so I called advantage and they made the change for some miles.

  28. I fail to see an issue here.

    If it is just a system glitch then it will be rectified in due course, in which case AA guys have nothing to worry about.

    If Etihad are in the process of restricting premium cabin award redemptions to members of their FFP (as a Brazilian friend who is an EY captain mentioned may happen), well then you had your fun and made the most of it. Be grateful. It’s not like members of States-based FFPs don’t have access to a great many number of other aspirational international premium cabins. Although it remains to be seen how many go the route of SQ / CX etc in the coming years.

  29. “Also don’t think the EY redemption rates are inflated, more a matter of the AA redemption rates being ridiculously low.”

    Only if you believe that business class is worth a minimum of 5 or 6 times coach or that first is worth at least twice as much as business. If you think about it, the differences in AA’s redemption rates between coach, biz, and F are much closer to reality.

  30. Hi all. I just called AA and booked AUH- IAD for 16 March in F on the 787 without issues. 🙂

  31. I think Etihad is going to curtail cheap point redemptions on it’s top shelf First product for *all* frequent flyer schemes, because as Chancer indirectly discusses, Etihad believe that the First Apartments are worth an order of magnitude over Economy fares (and it’s a valid belief I think).

    They want to see return on this investment and the super cheap point redemptions of AAdvantage strike discord with the value Etihad place on this offering.

    Just enjoy that advantages were had, and still manage in some cases to get under the slowly dropping barrier at present. Etihad wanted to give us a cheap taste, but now we are hooked… Lol.

    I suspect Etihad would rather half the A380 First Apartments were empty (but the other half was filled by higher margin pax, in op-up and full revenue pax – who would more than match in margin a full cabin of AAdvantage redemptions) in future than continue along the current redemption arbitrage game (buying cheap points on non-Etihad Guest schemes, for premium flights on Etihad). Despite the howls from some quarters, there will still be demand for the First Apartments (it just goes from “steal” to “tolerable”).

  32. It’s almost impossible to book AA in F or J these days using AA miles. At least we can still get Etihad J seats without paying huge fuel surcharges, which is more than you can say for AA or BA.

  33. Try AA are lobbying government against the ME3 carriers. I hope this is the first step in wider retaliation. As EY gold this pleases me no end. Use your AA miles on AAs disgrace of a product. I’ll enjoy my apartment

  34. Also have seats on request. Got in under the wire I guess, booking on Sunday. Hopefully they go through. Already seeing my miles have been pulled, but seats are still on request.

  35. @Kieran

    I doubt that “Etihad would rather half the A380 First Apartments were empty” since they sell those F seats to biz class passengers for $600 at the gate… they certainly do NOT want to fly empty seats. they are not Lufthansa.

  36. No problems booking LHR – SYD in F on the A380 using American miles a couple of hours ago.

    Another over-reaction maybe???

  37. If they really restrict F seats just book J and ask for cash upgrades. Apart from A380, Ey doesn’t charge that much anf it’s still much cheaper than full paid F class.

  38. “Try AA are lobbying government against the ME3 carriers. I hope this is the first step in wider retaliation. As EY gold this pleases me no end. Use your AA miles on AAs disgrace of a product. I’ll enjoy my apartment”

    Did you find a used condom left behind by AA flyers in your Apartment? Otherwise, what accounts for such resentment of AAdvantage members? Unless your gold status at Etihad somehow gets them to open up F seats on any date/route that you like, there’s no reason for being so rudiculously smug.

  39. @Lantean To clarify, the seats being empty of super-cheap AAdvantage point redeemers, as you note I said Etihad will be looking more to full revenue and op-up passengers being in these cabins. Yes, those F upgrades may be bought for full revenue J passengers for hundreds of dollars, but that hundreds of dollars on top of the thousand of dollar fares already paid for J class. Etihad has already got more out of those pax than they ever do out of an AAdvantage redemption for First.

    Etihad don’t mind the seat going empty if the alternative is that they are almost paying to have an AAdvantage redemption pax fill it.

  40. I got stung by this again today! AA agents claiming that they don’t see any F inventory for JFK-AUH, even though it’s showing up on as bookable GuestSeats. Was able to put a J ticket on hold though.

  41. Hey Guys,

    I was trying to get an estimate on how the points work on AA for Etihad and at the moment you can only book British airway through AA website. Also one thing I noticed was that the screen displayed the total points + additional cash required to purchase the ticket. I thought you could book the tickets straight with points but this is not the case, they also ask for significant amount of cash on top of the points. The cost from IAD to Mumbai for round trip business class was 135000 miles+1200 in cash. Can anyone confirm their experience?

  42. In fact the award seats system is similar to revenue system F A J C D I booking class and it varies with distribution via the system. However, since they program it somehow American uses less miles to redeem, that means their interline agreement will trade less value to each other in any monetary terms, this also due to the sharing position of the alliance (AA seems the biggest, so they can pay less to other carriers for seats or codeshare ) . In this way, airlines like CX, JL or BA will have to protect their “revenue from award” in order to distribute evenly to other carriers, for example, when there are two seats available on JL or CX, you may only find 1 seat available from AA system or BA or Qantas or Qatar will see 2 together.

    Of course, some carriers protect their own members by leaving one spare inventory and thats why sometime you see those members can redeem it from their own carrier.

    You also see many carriers they do not want their members to redeem on other carriers, one simple reason, cos they dont want to pay other carriers if you do so.. Just simple. Thats why all internet site will not have abilities to search those seats OR the carrier wants you to redeem on their rivals ! You can see how this conspiracy theory works or not by looking at some carrier’s site. I am sure it s not IT glitch or they dont have time or money to develop as the API are everywhere like KVS , expertflyer.. it is just simple like assemble Lego and even all search engine can search.. Bottom line is… they want all loyalty members loyal to their own airlines ONLY. Dont want you to spend anything anywherse else

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