Etihad First Class Award Booking Trick is Back – Use Your American Miles Now

Etihad first class awards are the primary use I’ve had for American AAdvantage miles over the past several years. I use them every year for my annual Maldives trip. I’ve used them for flights to India, to Nepal, and elsewhere in the region. And I’ve even paid additional miles to travel beyond the ‘Mideast and Indian Subcontinent’ to Asia.

Without Etihad awards my American Airlines miles drop from being my most-used currency to one of the least useful, since space on Cathay Pacific is so much harder to get than it used to be, and getting awards on American itself is less than desirable and nearly impossible.

Two years ago we stopped being able to book most premium cabin awards between the US and Abu Dhabi on Etihad by calling American Airlines in the U.S. However the simple workaround was to ring up American’s Australia reservations line (using Skype or other inexpensive method to dial up 02-9101-1948) which connects to agents in Fiji using a different system.

Etihad stopped showing availability on its website for premium cabin awards from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi when searching for space one way. Awards from Abu Dhabi to the U.S. were there, but nothing from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi.

The trick was to search for roundtrips originating in the UAE and space from the US to Abu Dhabi would appear for the return. American’s Australia reservations line would have access to this space even when searching one way so you could find the space through the roundtrip trick at and ring up Australia (Fiji) to book the space.

Then two months ago the workarounds died. American only had access to Etihad premium cabin award space between the US and Abu Dhabi for the most part about a month out from travel. You couldn’t book travel further out even dialing up Fiji (or New Zealand or other international call centers).

I had been told that American was aware of the issue and working on it. They haven’t restored access for agents to US call centers, however access to Etihad awards are once again possible via the Australian call center.

What’s more the trick of searching for US to Abu Dhabi on the Etihad website as part of the return portion of a roundtrip that originates in Abu Dhabi works again for finding space, and that space is bookable when dialing Australia reservations.

With American and Etihad in a political spat, American killing their codesharing with Etihad, it’s unclear how long this partnership would last. However it remains one of the best uses of miles in the world. First class is 115,000 miles each way between the US and Mideast or “Indian Subcontinent” which includes the Maldives. Get booking using this trick for sure!

Update: To be clear agents at the Fiji call center, reachable via the Australian reservations number, see the availability. At off hours for that center the number rolls over to Trinidad and those agents will not see availability. So check which center you’ve reached. If you’re getting bounced to Trinidad try ringing the UK which appears to see availability.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hope EY destroys the leAAches for taking our own award space. Sincerest – an EY elite

  2. Can someone explain or point to a URL where this is explained? Per the website, it says “GuestSeats: We reserve seats on all our flights for Etihad Guest members only” (so I get that I need to sign up and become a member) but it only says “Guest First”. What is “Guest First” and why isn’t “The Residence” an option under “GuestSeat”?
    Per the website “OpenSeats: You can also use your Etihad Guest Miles to book any available seat on all flights with Etihad Airways and our partner airlines”. What is “OpenSeat” “First”, what is “OpenSeat” “The Residence”? Why isn’t there three columns under GuestSeat, column 1 for “GuestFirst”, column 2 for “First” and column 3 for “The Residence”?
    How do I find “The Residence” availability on the A380?
    Is the goal here just to see the availability, yes or no? Disregard the miles + AED listed?
    What is the max distance I can go for 115,000 miles?
    How difficult is it to get 4 seats? 3 seats? 2 seats?
    Please help me understand. Thank you in advance.

  3. I booked etihad business class through America. a month ago using the US call center.

    I made a change 2 weeks later, they quoted me 150 for first ticket and 25 for the next. then they billed me $300. They’re a bamboozling bunch!

  4. Etihad and Qatar announced they are dropping code share with AA. Maybe, AA miles will no longer get flights on those two. Not clear yet.

  5. The number given for the American Airlines Australian branch (in Fiji or Trinidad) does not work.

  6. Is it possible to book Etihad for NYC to SE Asia with a stopover in AUH with AA miles? I have enough AA miles for a one way redemption but would like to fly back from HKG or Singapore via another airline if possible.

  7. @Gary, any info as to what the issue was with booking EY premium more than about a month out? Or why the issue still affects some call centers but not others?

  8. When an airline that mainly flies to places I’d never think of visiting makes travel more difficult, I don’t care.

  9. AA is such a horrible company that a simple award booking will need so many tricks to get it done

  10. Called Australian call center to Booked one way First class in Jan 18 from BOM-AUH-JFK-ATL
    For 105000 got 10k Miles discount due to Aviator Card

  11. your BOM-AUH is on Etihad too? I had trouble with the agent asking fro DEL-AUH-JFK too.
    Also, can i do DEL-AUH-JFK-YYZ fro 115K?

  12. I got Bom-Auh flight EY 205 first class
    You can use jet airways from Bom-Auh or Del-Auh business to catch Ey 101 auh-jfk than AA to yyz for 115k

  13. Hi Gary – Awesome news, many thanks for the update. Question for you or anyone else in the know: I called and secured seats on the following routing: MIA-JFK (J) / JFK – AUH (F) / AUH – JNB (J). Have the itinerary on hold but agent advised this routing is two awards of 115K (US – ME F award) and 55K (ME – Africa J award) rather than a single award of 120K (US – Africa F award). Does this seem correct? 120K is a great deal, 170k not so much for a single F segment even if it’s First Apartment.

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