If There’s A Problem With Your Etihad Award Ticket, American AAdvantage Won’t Help You

During all of the years that the big U.S. airlines were asking the federal government to limit competition from big Mideast carriers (restricting consumer choices and raising prices), American Airlines managed to retain its frequent flyer partnership with Etihad. That remained true even as it deepened its relationship with the Abu Dhabi-based airline’s competitor Qatar Airways that’s a couple hundred miles away in Doha.

American Airlines became the most subsidized airline during the pandemic, not only accepting approximately $10 billion in direct taxpayer cash but also receiving a $5 billion subsidized loan. For all of American’s struggles, its frequent flyer program is profitable. And redeeming miles for international business and first class travel on partner airlines – like Etihad – remains great value for consumers.

Although American’s website remains glitchy for showing Etihad award space, the AAdvantage program retains access to seats that are made available by the Etihad – even while Etihad’s partner Air Canada Aeroplan frequently does not.

However if things go wrong with your Etihad award redemption, American is telling its own agents that they just aren’t going to be able to help.

  • If a schedule change requires Etihad’s assistance to fix an itinerary, American will no longer ask for that assistance.

  • If a misspelling in a name requires a correct, American will no longer ask for that assistance.

Etihad A380 First Class Cabin

Here’s the memo:

American Airlines has found Etihad simply too difficult to work with fixing problems, and is no longer even going to try. For quite some time it was impossible for American to issue infant tickets (at 10% of the paid fare) alongside Etihad award travel. And they’ve been unable to fix the glitches in how their website displays availability. Now they’re saying that Etihad just doesn’t fix problems when their staff ask.

That means you need to be very careful in making any initial booking. And it also means, especially if you’re booking far in advance (such as more than 90 days out), you want to be sure it’s on a route that’s not going to see flight cancellations or major rescheduling that create the need for a ticket re-issue. American just isn’t going to be able to help with that if there isn’t new award space to book you into.

Etihad A380 First Class Seat

Personally I’ve found Etihad to be difficult to work with on the ground, but outstanding once you’re in the air. I just flew an Etihad Apartment trip on their Airbus A380 and it was frankly phenomenal. I’d genuinely missed that level of flying on trips with my family (securing three first class award seats on a top carrier can be tough).

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Sorry to be a pest with my repetition, but why are AA miles worth your evaluation?

    No JAL, no Cathay, no Qantas, restricted BA, and now no Etihad.

    AA premium awards Tpac start at 450k it seems.

  2. Thanks for the heads up! I’ll Shepherd my two reservations one for the A380 & shower the other for AUD IAD. Hopefully neither will change and I’ll jettison one. AA has been sweet spot with EY
    Oh well.

    One hack for AA award travel is last minute bargains.

  3. A little confused by this. I have 3 business award tickets booked auh-jfk (booked with AA miles) and might need to add a lap infant seat. Is AA still able to handle or do I need to call Etihad?

    anyone with recent experience doing Etihad lap infant tickets, I’d appreciate datapoints.

  4. Still better than Aeroplan who just cancelled all the EY F tickets and said f u you’re on your own.

    And now is blocking all EY premium space.

  5. @Beachfan, likely because many of us still have large stacks of AA miles from the SimplyMiles promo a couple years back that paid 240 AA miles per dollar donated to a particular charity.

  6. I almost got bumped on an American Award ticket in J on Etihad when my seat when out of service and dealing with Etihad in Abu Dhabi was a sh!tshow. Fortunately another seat opened up at the very last moment in an otherwise full cabin but it was almost a disaster.

    My own feeling about Etihad is its materially overrated, particularly in the 787, with mediocre lounges (maybe this improved with the new terminal at AUH that just opened), so-so service and food that’s no better than American long haul and maybe even worse. Etihad is fine, but not much better than US carriers.

  7. Up to fairly recently, AAdvantage and Aeroplan were great sources for EY premium flights in/out of their Australian ports through much of their schedule.
    No more; you may pick up the odd close-in flight which is no good for long-term planners. F flights are simply not there at all.
    Very disappointing as EY is/was(?) in my top 6 airlines for long-haul.

  8. This is really nothing new. AA will always hang you out to dry, given the opportunity.

    It seems they are only committed to take your money, once accomplished, any assistance is gratuitous and should be warmly received but not expected.

    Buyer beware…

  9. Booked three AUH-HFK FC tickets using AA miles few months ago. Headed to the airport 24 hours later, but forgot to verify/confirm the ticket number. Did not get any notification from AA, at the airport i was informed by the Etihad rep that they have cancelled the ticket due to some inventory issue and that i need to call AA to get it fixed. I called AA, only to hear, ” sorry for the inconvenience”. Even, at the time of call, the AA website was showing the F availability, but i was not looking to taking risks. Went to DOH and booked DOH-JFK.

  10. You want AA to be responsible for Etihad incompetence

    They don’t want to get involved because customer service in the Middle East is terrible

    I’m sure they tried

  11. Impressive that they put this in writing given that they have a legal obligation to passengers they’ve ticketed to handle flight cancellations. A dream exhibit for small claims court.

  12. Yeah, so shouldn’t this articles headline be aimed at Etihad and not AA? Sounds like it’s an EY issue(s) and not Americans fault….

  13. Curious what’s happened at Etihad to have this change of heart with partner carriers recently. Why even bother partnering with them at this point if it’s affecting the relationship between AA/AC and their own customers.

    @Ann – Aeroplan paid out 50k point per EY F ticket as well as accommodated on any other airlines that had reward space available, including EK, without any upcharge. How on earth is the way that AA is handling this (according to this memo) better?!

  14. @beachfan
    You clearly haven’t used AAdvantage if that’s all you know about it much less say those three programs aren’t redeemable with aa miles.
    It’s not a perfect program by any means but you don’t know much about mileage if you think 450k is the going rate for TPAC redemption

  15. The other issue with booking EY using AA is that AA lets you put itineraries on hold, but EY doesn’t hold their inventory. I didn’t realize this until an AA agent called me to let me know that I only had 24 hours to ticket the EY flight, not the 72 hours that AA.com said I had.

  16. I’ve got a lot going on in life and while I’m getting older (58), perhaps I overlooked it in the memo. So if you kindly point myself and others where it says that Etihad is too difficult to work with? What the memo says is “EY is currently not approving any requests” which is a lot different than they are too difficult to work with. The title also implies that AA doesn’t want to help, but again unless I forget how to read English, EY will not accept these requests and as a result as much as Advantage trained agents would like to assist they are unable.
    The call volume with these types of requests at any airline is insane and results in two airlines tying up resources that in most, not all, cases where it’s unnecessary if the member did their own research or could learn how to spell their own name correctly. All of these factors impact their NPS scores from other members who have to sit on hold for hours due to another member’s laziness or inability to spell their name correctly.

    It would be refreshing to actually see a non-biased and/or non-opinionated article but I won’t hold my breath on that one.

  17. Recently hung out to dry by AA on a BIZ Class REVENUE BA code share!!! Just as PAUL above said: “This is really nothing new. AA will always hang you out to dry, given the opportunity.” Purchased through AA outbound BA – return AA metal. Remember this was REVENUE BIZ CLASS!!! BA cancelled BOS-LHR-FCO 3 hours before flight time – AA was LITERALLY no help. AND their computer rebooked us TWO days later going BOS to CHICAGO!!?!?!?! then FCO? Uh – geography much?!? When I called – AA said not our problem and also the agent basically threatened to cancel the AA ‘rebooking’ via Chicago because (and I quote) “We should not have rebooked you at all – that is a mistake and should be cancelled and you need to call BA” I quickly hung up. Callled BA twice, finally getting an agent who bent over backwards to rebook us out of BOS on a NON ALLIANCE airline!! We got a LUFTHANSA non stop in biz. So th-h-h-h–h-h- (Raspberry) to AA.

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