With the coming AA devaluation, many people are trying to secure what they feel would be the best redemptions before the sweet spots disappear. Definitely an award that is high on many people’s redemption/wish list is Etihad’s First Apartment, exclusively on their A380. I have also locked in one more in this incredible cabin myself and am looking forward to experiencing it yet again.
If this is you and this is an award you want to book, here is how you can book Etihad’s First Apartment using American Airline miles. It is not as simple as booking partners like Qantas but can still be done in a relatively easy fashion – if you know what to do. This will help you with that.
Everything You Need To Know To Book Etihad’s First Apartment On The A380 With AA Miles
Finding Etihad’s First Apartment
First of all, let’s check to see what routes Etihad flies this fantastic first class cabin (and, of course, the rest of the plane!). Unlike Emirates’ A380, Etihad only flies their A380 on a few routes and not all of the flights on those routes are A380s. This chart will show you the routes they fly and how many AA miles you will need for a one way flight.
One thing to note about the chart is that Abu Dhabi and Mumbai are both in the same award region for AA (Middle East/Indian Subcontinent). That means that any flight you take to Abu Dhabi with AA miles will allow you to also continue to Mumbai at the same amount.[table “” not found /]
On each of those routes, some of the flights each day are flown by another aircraft, like a 777 or a A340. So, when you get to the page to search for them, make sure you take note of the aircraft the flight is using!
Note: The Mumbai <-> AUH flights will begin May 1 aboard the A380. The Melbourne <-> AUH flights will begin June 1 aboard the A380.
Finding Etihad’s First Apartment Award Availability
To find award availability, you actually have to search on Etihad’s website (it does not show up on AA’s site). This is not hard to do at all!
- To start, go to this link. This is the page for Etihad awards. Once there, ignore any award miles it says are required since you are booking with a partner (AA) and that operates by a different chart.
- Now put in your cities. You can search by one way or roundtrip.
- Select your date(s)
- Select your preferred class of travel (for the First Apartment, you select First)
It displays award availability for that day with the option to select other days within a week timeframe. You can easily move your dates back and forth using the arrows.
This is important – the space you are looking for is Guest First. This is the saver level awards and that is the only space you can book into with partner miles. Ignore the First Freedom section (though it can be helpful to see if Guest First may open later by seeing how many First Freedom seats there are).
Searching For Open Dates
Yes, you can simply tab through the dates on the bar, but it can be helpful to tell at a glance which dates have Guest First space available (though many times it will be on the flight that is not using the A380). To be able to tell at a glance, here is a chart to show you the award miles it will show if there is Guest First on that date and which routes it goes with. Note: the actual numbers may vary slightly so mostly look for the first numbers and the amount of numbers.[table “” not found /]
Booking Etihad’s First Apartment With AA
The next part is a little bit different from usual awards. For some reason, for a while the US-based AA agents have been unable to see Etihad award space in business or first class. So, you will go through all of that above and find your dates only to have AA tell you their is no availability.
Australia To The Rescue!
Fortunately, other call centers can see the space. Many people, myself included, like to call American Airlines’ Australia call center. The times I have done this, they can find the space promptly and are able to ticket it for me.
To call them, you will need to call this number (check this page for a complete list of global numbers) – +61-2-9101-1948. Of course, this call will incur long distance charges so consider using something like Skype or Google Voice to keep the cost down. The hold time for me was under 3 minutes each time so it should not be a long time.
Call Again, Maybe?
Some people have had issues with them getting ticketed sometimes. One of my tickets was taking longer than usual (it has taken 5 days before from the time AA puts the request in with Etihad until I receive the ticket confirmation) so I called to check and miraculously, it went right through while I was on the phone with them! 🙂 So if it takes too long, feel free to call back and check.
Put It On Hold
Another option is to put the flight on hold (you can hold award tickets for 5 days before ticketing) and then call the US number to actually book the ticket. This can help to if you want to add flights at the start/end of the Etihad First Apartment flight segment (since that will likely be the hardest one to secure).
Making A Bigger Trip
While flying Etihad’s First Apartment is indeed a thrill, you probably want to make it part of a nice big trip, especially when you are spending that many miles. You can add other segments before or after the Etihad segment. If you do this at the time of booking or while it is on hold, it will be free.
If you add on after the flight has been ticketed, it will cost you $150 to make those changes unless you have AA Executive Platinum status (waived for them). That may be worth it if a segment opens up award availability and you were going to have to buy the ticket in the first place.
If you are departing on the A380 flight from London, you will have some high fees/surcharges for departing from London. A better idea would be to depart on a oneworld airline from a different airport in Europe, fly to London to connect on Etihad, and then continue. Even if you have to pay to get to that other airport, it will still likely be cheaper than the fee.
AA Award Rules With Etihad
There are some important things to consider about using AA miles for Etihad awards. If you try to fly from Europe to Australia using Etihad as your carrier, you will need to book as separate awards for a total of 100,000 miles for first class.
The same is true for travel from the US to Australia. If you want to fly Etihad all the way, it will cost you 90,000 miles for US to Abu Dhabi and then another 60,000 for Abu Dhabi to Australia. That is a really pricey award!
Finding Availability At All
New York <-> Abu Dhabi is pretty hard to find! But, availability does open up once departure gets closer. Right now, I am finding availability on several days within the next couple of weeks. Thanks to AA’s award rules, you could book something now on a different Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi and then pay the close-in booking fee of $75 to change it if you can book the A380 within 21 days of departure.
London <-> Abu Dhabi is not as easy as it used to be but there is still availability out there. Summer time is a popular time for travel to London so do not expect to find much award space on that route during great weather/vacations in London.
Mumbai <-> Abu Dhabi is only a 3 hour and 20 minute flight so there is not as much competition for that flight. There is really decent availability from the time they start flying the A380 on that on.
Australia <-> Abu Dhabi is becoming more difficult. Melbourne will likely be the easier of the two to find space on as it will be a new aircraft on the route and Sydney is more popular. Since Qantas is a oneworld airline, you can always fly to/from Melbourne and then tack a Qantas flight on from Melbourne to Sydney (or where ever else you want to go in Australia).
If you really want to fly Etihad’s First Apartment before the miles go up, it will require some flexibility. If you have that flexibility, you will definitely be able to fly it on at least one of Etihad’s A380 routes. Just make sure you check often and be ready to call!
Etihad’s First Apartment was easily the best flight I ever had and I absolutely loved having such a spacious area for my “seat” to Australia and London. While the bed onboard Cathay Pacific may be a bit more comfortable and the food on other airlines may have an edge at times, I still love Etihad’s First Apartment. If you want to enjoy it before the cost in AA miles go way up, start working on it now!