The Trick To Redeeming American Miles On Etihad

Filed Under: Advice, American
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A bit over a week ago I wrote about the rumor that American and Etihad may be cutting ties, as Etihad instead pursues a partnership with United. This would be a blow to the value of American miles, as redeeming for travel on Etihad is one of the best uses of AAdvantage miles.

Current American AAdvantage Offers

Some suggested the partnership would be ending within 24-48 hours, though that was never my understanding. My sources suggested that we were talking weeks, and not days, until these partnership changes kick in (and like everything, there’s always a chance this falls through).

Etihad’s A380 first class cabin

Nonetheless I generally recommend making any Etihad redemptions using American AAdvantage miles sooner rather than later.

The AAdvantage redemption I just booked on Etihad

Personally I redeemed some American miles for flights on Etihad last night. I’ll be going to the Waldorf Astoria Maldives later this year, and decided to book Male to Abu Dhabi to New York for 70,000 American miles, with Abu Dhabi to New York in business class on Etihad’s A380. I’ve reviewed Etihad’s 787 business class before and have reviewed their A380 first class, but figured it was time to review their A380 business class.


Etihad’s 787 business class cabin

Or at least I figure it’s a good option to lock in for now, until something better opens up.

Anyway, in order to book my ticket I needed to use a “trick,” as the American AAdvantage agents in the US couldn’t see the award space. So I figured I should post a reminder of this trick for anyone else who is in a similar boat.

The trick to redeeming American miles on Etihad

In general American AAdvantage members should have access to the same saver level Etihad award space that Etihad Guest members have access to.

The best way to search Etihad’s award space is through Etihad’s website — you don’t even need to log-in. Just follow this link, and enter the city pair you’re looking for (in some cases you’ll want to search segment-by-segment, as they don’t always show logical connections).

You’ll want to look for any “GuestSeat” availability, regardless of whether you’re looking for travel in economy, business, or first class. The “OpenSeat” availability won’t be bookable with American miles, as that’s their equivalent of a “standard” award.

American’s website doesn’t show Etihad award availability, so you’ll then have to phone up American AAdvantage to book. The catch is that for several years now, American AAdvantage agents in the US haven’t seen much of the Etihad award availability.

It’s anyone’s guess if this is intentional or if it’s a glitch. If the latter, they’re certainly aware of it, but haven’t made it a priority to get it fixed.

Fortunately there’s a workaround — American Airlines’ call center in Australia has access to all Etihad “GuestSeat” award availability, as it should be. Assuming you’re outside Australia, their phone number is +61-2-91011948, and the easiest way to phone them up inexpensively is through Skype or Google Voice. The call center is open 24/7, and the process shouldn’t take much longer than calling American’s US call center.

This workaround has existed for years, and still works reliably. Note that you can either book your award directly through the Australian call center, or you can have the itinerary placed on a five day courtesy hold, and can then phone up the US center to ticket, if you prefer (once it’s on hold, they can ticket that space).


Etihad Airways A380

Bottom line

I know a lot of people get frustrated by American “blocking” Etihad awards, though the good news is that there’s an easy workaround, and it has existed for years. Just phone up American’s call center in Australia, and they should see all the “GuestSeat” availability that Etihad Guest shows.

This worked with the itinerary I just booked — the US agent couldn’t see availability from Male to Abu Dhabi or from Abu Dhabi to New York, but the Australian call center saw both without an issue.

Have you used the Australia call center trick to book AAdvantage awards on Etihad?

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Comments
  1. AA won’t allow you to redeem ET from North America to Asia on a single award — despite the fact that its a shorter routing than going west from much of the USA. Extremely annoying, especially since CX and JL awards now seem harder to come by.

  2. Lucky how did you book MLE-AUH-JFK for 70k AA? My understanding is you cannot transit the Middle East on an India-US award without splitting into two awards, no?

  3. I just recently did this (EY F on their A380 from AUH-JFK) and it was a piece of cake. I asked the Australian call center to put the award on hold for me and then called up the American call center with my identifier and asked them to finalize things. It was an extremely straightforward process.

  4. Booked AUH to JFK a while back using the US call center. In and out in just a few minutes.

  5. @tiffany; Thanks for the info! Is that new? I noticed that a number of posts discussing AA routing rules on other prominent blogs don’t list the Middle East as a transit exception for US-India.

  6. Flew male to jfk last august after a stay at Como Cocoa Island. Not a bad set of flights but the a320 is always a let down over a wide body.

    Booked some EY awards two weeks ago from SYD to IAD. CK desk couldn’t see the award and swore that no one else would be able to. I hung up and called Aus and they booked it immediately. Hilarious but odd.

  7. Fun Fact: Whilst the phone number stated in this article is indeed an Australian number, you will only reach an Australian agent during a narrow 9-5, M-F window, and even then it’s no certainty. You will most likely speak to someone in Fiji, which is no bad thing as that office has dramatically lifted their game and are very efficient.
    Should you phone well outside business hours in those time zones, you will be diverted to a AA US call centre, and well, maybe you can get what you want, maybe not.
    If you are expecting to chat with someone with an Australian accent (or Fijian) you will be disappointed as all agents seem to have a generic American accent! 🙁

  8. Any idea when the next AA points sale gonna happen? I need to top off my miles to book Etihad lol

  9. I wonder if the AA Australia call center work around would work for Qatar Airways business class awards, too? I tried over a long period to book PHL or ORD – DOH to JNB or CPT for November and December without success using the AA website and calling the US call center.

    Any thoughts?

  10. @Matt, transit in ME from North America to Indian Sub Continent on a single award has been like that for a couple of years. Las time I used was a year ago for my January trip (MLE-JKF-AUH in F).

    There is another trick that Lucky hasn’t posted yet, is how to find and book First Class Apartment from JFK to AUH, which is harder than AUH-JFK if you don’t know how to do it.

  11. Every time I ring AA using the Australian number from within Australian in Australian business hours the phone call is answered by the call centre team in TRINIDAD!!!

    So this whole workaround Australia thing ?! Yeah right…

    That said, the AA Trinidad folk have been able to book SYD-AUH and AUH-CDG into first using AA points.

  12. Well, so much for accumulating 215K AA miles (each for wife and I). Planned for SYD-AUH-JFK at some point, but not within a year.
    Luckily I’ve got 600K+ UR, so Etihad would still be an option if this happens. But other than CX (which I just flew F), what good options are there for AA?

  13. I did India to Chicago using the US American Call center, they didn’t have any issue. It showed in the Etihad as guest availability and they were able to book it.

  14. Saw a guest seat in business from JFK-AUH and AA wouldn’t let me book it both at the US and Australia call center. The guy who answered at the Australia call center sounded French.

  15. A lady based in RUH. I had a similar situation recently for an award seat (the last one) between RUH-AUH (B789 biz), had to call either AA Australia /AA center in Asia to sort it out.

    Btw I recently got on EY B788-1000 AUH–>ICN and QR Qsuite A350-1000 HND->DOH. Quite different level of service for an overnight flight. Would rather burn my AA miles for QR than EY.

  16. This has driven me crazy for years – seeing guest space, not being able to book! Now I know why. Should the Etihad booking go away (and god forbid Qatar go away too…) this is a serious devaluation to already seriously useless AA miles. Given how hard it is to use AA miles on American, and with BAs surcharges rendering them useless too, this would be one of the last nails in the coffin.

  17. If EY and AA have a breakup, I assume we will be able to fly the tickets that are already issued with AA miles. However, will we be able to change dates etc after the breakup? Or cancel an award and redeposit miles?

  18. I call the New Zealand number around 9pm ET and never seem to have a problem finding Etihad availability. Australia, on the other hand, hasn’t worked for me.

  19. I would love to do this same trip, but about 18 mos from now and I expect Etihad and AA to not be married anymore. 70K in Bus. to Male from the US is a pretty good deal in my mind.
    Good post.

  20. Careful if you put the award on hold with the Australian call center and then you call the US agents to book it. When Australia agents put awards on hold the taxes are stored in Australian dollars. If you call the US center later, ask them to re-store the taxes in US dollars otherwise the award will never go trough booking and will remain on hold…..
    @Apu – If I remember correctly, in order to book JFK-AUH if F is to search for round-trip awards. Otherwise you’ll never see availability on their website.

  21. I tried HUCA with the Australia call center and got nowhere despite the seat I want being available on Etihad’s website. No luck. Will try New Zealand Tonight.

  22. I called the New Zealand call center and they were able to see the seat I wanted. The guy couldn’t confirm the reservation immediately thought and said he would add it to the queue and it might take 24 hours to process. Will see what happens.

  23. Woke up this morning with a confirmation email from AA in my inbox. New Zealand call center worked for me the first time around. Cost me 2 cents per minute with Google Voice.

  24. I had great luck calling the Australian number about a month ago. In fact, I called twice in two days and got the same representative, who was very helpful. I needed to call back again though, and for the next week I must have called 30 times and got Trinidad each and every time, no matter the time of day. They said that they would show the same availability as Australia would, but they not find open seats for the dates that I wanted. I ended up calling the US number and getting the travel booked.

  25. Is there any way to use my AA miles to upgrade an Etihad seat that is already booked? the conversion between dollars and miles seems to be in the miles favor right now. I don’t have any Etihad miles but i do have American.

    Thanks

  26. @ Nathan — Unfortunately not. You can outright book an award ticket, but can’t upgrade on Etihad using American miles.

  27. AA started blocking Etihad business class award tickets from today. Even Australian/ New Zealand call centers cannot see it!!! If you see upto 4-Seats available under “Guest Business” in Etihad award search you are out of luck. If you see Above 4 seats american agent is able to book, This happened just today early morning at 2am EST while i was on the phone with AA Australian agent.

  28. How can I book JFK- AUH- MALE in first class with AA miles? Does anyone know how many miles it would cost?

  29. Lucky – Does this method no longer work as mentioned by Rhobby?

    I tried calling the US and Australia call center but no luck even though EY website shows availability.

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