The longer I’m in the points and miles game, the more value I see in booking first class flights. Unless you’re a millionaire, how else would you get the opportunity to drink expensive champagne in pajamas after taking a shower in an airplane? Living out this fantasy on Etihad First Class is even easier than you would think. Here’s a step-by-step guide for booking Etihad First Class Apartments using American Airlines miles.
Step 1: Earn Enough American Airlines Miles
Etihad First Class Apartments is only available on A380s. Currently, Etihad A380s fly the following routes to and from Abu Dhabi:
- New York (JFK)
- Paris (CDG)
- London (LHR)
- Sydney (SYD)
Based on American Airlines’ award chart, you will need a minimum of 62,500 miles to fly Etihad First Class Apartments one way.
- US to Middle East: 115,000 miles one way / 230,000 round-trip
- Europe to Middle East: 62,500 miles one way / 125,000 round-trip
- Australia to Middle East: 100,000 miles one way / 200,000 round-trip
Luckily, it’s relatively easy to earn American Airlines miles. Both Citi and Barclays offer personal and business American Airlines credit cards with sign-up bonuses typically ranging from 50,000-75,000 miles. While Citi has a 24-month rule for bonuses on AA cards, it’s possible to receive an offer without the restrictive language which still makes these cards readily churnable.
Step 2: Find Etihad Award Availability
Once you have enough miles, it’s time to start searching on etihadguest.com! You will need an Etihad Guest account to search award flights so either log in or sign up to get started.
Any date that has Etihad Guest First availability is fair game.
If you see this, you won’t be able to book the flight with American Airlines miles so try searching for alternative dates.
American Airlines allows bookings 331 days out, and you will have less trouble finding availability if you can book your flight early. JFK to AUH is notoriously difficult to book, so consider booking AUH to JFK instead.
If you find availability but aren’t sure of your travel dates, you may consider booking it anyway as there is no fee to change the dates of travel if the origin and destination stay the same. You can also cancel the itinerary and redeposit the miles for $150 for the first passenger and $25 for each additional passenger refunded at the same time.
Step 3: Call to Book Your Award with American Airlines
It is not possible to book Etihad flights with American Airlines miles online. For some reason, agents in the US American Airlines call centers cannot access Etihad business and first class flights. Instead, you will have call American Airlines Australia (+61 2-9101-1948 and press 3) or New Zealand (+64 09-308-4014).
So how do you call Australia or New Zealand from the US? Enter Google Voice. All you have to do is load some money on your account and place the call. Calls to Australia are 1 cent per minute and calls to New Zealand are 2 cents.
I recently had luck calling the New Zealand number. The agent was able to find the availability immediately and the entire call including waiting to be connected with an agent took about 20 minutes and cost 42 cents.
When booking your award, make sure to ask for both the AA and Etihad reservation numbers.
Step 4: Wait for the Award to Ticket
It can take a few days for your award flight to be ticketed by American Airlines. You may find the miles were deducted from your account but you weren’t yet charged for the fees.
This is what my reservation looked like for two days after booking. I received an email from American Airlines once the tickets were issued.
Make sure to keep an eye on your reservation to confirm that it has ticketed because you won’t be able to fly if it still says “On request”.
Etihad First Class Apartments is a bucket-list redemption, but you might think it’s unobtainable because booking it takes a few extra steps. I was originally intimidated by this process but was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was book Etihad First Class Apartments with American Airlines miles. For about 30 minutes of extra work, I was able to book two first class seats from AUH to JFK. These flights are worth about $20,000 and cost me less than $100 out of pocket. Those extra few minutes on the phone were totally worth it!