Secret Trick to Booking Etihad First Class Awards Departing the U.S. That Don’t Appear to be Available

Two weeks ago I wrote that Etihad First Apartment award availability from Abu Dhabi to New York JFK was wide open. It still is.

I’ve argued that this is the very best first class in the world.

It’s not perfect, liquor isn’t super premium and some people find the best hard (I find it very comfortable). But it gives you more space than any other first class (separate seat from bed, and when your bed is made the space is still large enough to walk around inside your suite). It has a shower onboard. And the menu is perhaps more customizable than on any other airline in the world.

The only U.S. route that gets the Airbus A380 which has this product is New York JFK, and in a matter of days the route will do double daily A380.

Frustrating to many, though, when you search award space on Etihad’s website only Abu Dhabi – New York JFK appears to be available — not flights originating in New York. It turns out that’s an optical illusion of sorts, and there’s a trick to book the New York JFK – Abu Dhabi space that doesn’t appear as though it’s available.

  • Etihad first class awards, especially on the New York JFK – Abu Dhabi route, don’t show up when American AAdvantage reservations in the U.S. searches for them. You need to call American’s Australia reservations center located in Fiji (61-02-9101-1948) if you want to book the space.

  • Etihad never shows first class awards from New York JFK to Abu Dhabi when searching one way on its website (and often not on other routes, either). You only find Abu Dhabi to the U.S.

  • However there’s a trick if you want first class awards from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi. For awhile this trick stopped working, but it appears to work again.

Search roundtrip from Abu Dhabi to the U.S., and the return flights from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi will show up on the Etihad website. And American’s Australia reservations can book them.

Searching one way on Etihad’s website you’ll see that New York – Abu Dhabi flights (both operated by Airbus A380s with Etihad’s First Apartment starting in June) show that saver awards (“Guest First”) are sold out.

However if you search for a roundtrip on the Etihad website, originating in Abu Dhabi (so Abu Dhabi – New York JFK – Abu Dhabi), then availability will show up for the ‘return flight’ New York JFK to Abu Dhabi.

The very same flights that showed unavailable for first class saver awards show up as available as the back half of a roundtrip.

Ring up American’s Australia reservations, and they can see the one way New York JFK – Abu Dhabi flights you’ve just found.

Put the award on hold, then when you’re ready to issue tickets ring up U.S. reservations. And since the award cannot be booked on the website there’s no US call center fee to ticket.

Etihad availability far in the future is outstanding, and Abu Dhabi is a great connecting point for trips to the Mideast, India, or even the Maldives.

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. Your phone # for the Australian call center is incorrect. Of the ’02’ after +61 you drop the zero. 02 is only for domestic calls originating in Australia. Also the quality of the agents at that call center is variable, so HUCA may be necessary sometimes.

  2. Last time I called AA stateside to ticket an Australian AA hold they told me I had to call AA Australia to ticket it. Should I have HUCA?

  3. Does anyboyy know how does the reservation for the residence work for couples, do we need to pay double points or the points for one person + some kind of add-on?

  4. Secret??? Its been pimped so many times on blogs. Especially right before the last major AA award chart deval.

  5. Hi, is there a reason to put the reservation on hold with Australian call center, and get it ticketed with US call center? Will there be a higher fee if booked with the Australian call center? Thanks.

  6. Not sure i understand the “trick.” Let’s say I want to fly jfk-auh-jfk. Is the point to put both legs on hold and then call back to book just one leg?

  7. @Schatter: You can book straight with the Australia call center but if for some reason you need a couple of days to finalize your arrangements, calling the US call center is probably easier.

    @LALA: The “trick” is useful to check availability on the JFK-AUH and that’s pretty much it. Once you see availability on the day you want to fly, call AA Australia and just put the JFK-AUH on hold. Hope that makes sense.

  8. Thanks! This is great.

    Any tips for booking 3 tickets? There are certain days with 2×2, maybe I could find a way to combine the flights?

  9. Been in the game for a while, but totally missed out on this trick. Not anymore… thanks!

  10. I just tried 3 times to book and all 3 agents told me there is no availability yet on Etihad’s website they show 2 seats remaining for all 7 of the dates I asked them to look at. Did this die already or is american blocking access at this point? I am not sure what is going on but I did speak to the agents in the South Pacific by calling the Australian number and they all told me only economy was available.

  11. I just tried as well and getting same response as JC even though it shows availability on Etihad website.

  12. JC & Patrick, I’m having the same issues as you guys. Etihad shows space on 3 dates, AA is telling me they don’t see any. Bummer.

  13. Same here – AA in Australia not able to see any EY space, even though the Etihad website shows guest availability. This seems to be happening even for AUH-JFK, not just the other way around. Anyone else having any luck?

  14. Same issue on June 22 looking for November. See availability by doing a reverse search but AA Australia cannot see it.

    Interestingly same situation for J seats but AA *could* put that on hold.

  15. Good that it works on AA miles…does not work using Etihad’s own miles! Crazy. I’ve had to fly out of DFW in F with the family which is a pain.

    Spoken with the heads of Etihad in the US, the revenue team and the absolutely useless customer service people and they all acknowledge this is “odd”. Yet no one will do anything.

    Therefore – don’t rack up Etihad miles as 1) more required than others and 2) can’t use them when / where you’d like.

  16. Any tips to book (one-way) JFK to AUH with Etihad directly?
    I’ve got tons of miles on Etihad (and not AA) but not showing any availability for one-way sector.
    Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  17. It seems not working anymore.
    I tried various days that shows guest business in Etihad and aa reservations can’t see them 🙁
    I called both American and Australia customer care.

  18. AA call centers all over the world are facing issues finding EY business class availability. Anyone know what the real cause is?

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