AAdvantage Changes For Etihad Create Incredible Award Opportunities

by Chris Dong

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American AAdvantage miles are best used for partner flights, both in terms of ease of finding award space and the aspirational redemptions that are possible. Apartment in the sky, anyone?

Last week, American made a seemingly small, yet significant change to a routing rule when redeeming miles on partner airline Etihad. With the changes, it’s possible to save up to 80,000 AAdvantage miles over the previous miles required.

First, These Are The AAdvantage Routing Rules 

While every frequent flyer program has its quirks, AAdvantage program has a few tricky rules to keep “creative” routings in check when redeeming miles. American has a region-based award chart that generally prohibit routing through a third region. Here are all the rules:

  1. There must also be a published fare on the trans-oceanic carrier between the origin and destination. Published fares can be found on ExpertFlyer and on free tools such as ITA Matrix.
  2. Only up to four connections are allowed on award tickets. No stopovers are allowed.
  3. You cannot exceed 125% of the Maximum Permitted Mileage (MPM) between your origin and final destination. MPM is a proprietary formula that the International Air Transport Association publishes between two cities that is accessible through paid services like ExpertFlyer.
  4. You cannot transit through a second region in order to reach your destination*. There are some notable exceptions, like the fact that…

Now You Can Transit In Abu Dhabi (Etihad)

There’s a list of exceptions to the transit rule that allow flight connections through a third region en route to your final destination. (Gary from View From The Wing has a full list.) Before last week, the list of exceptions in the Middle East region only included Qatar Airways. Granted, Qatar has an incredible business class QSuite product, and I’d happily connect through Doha anytime.

However, I always found it bizarre that it was only possible to use Qatar and not American’s other partners in the Middle East. Well, that’s now changing.

List of New Etihad Routings + Amount Of AAdvantage Miles Required

The following routings are now possible connecting through Abu Dhabi on Etihad.

Here’s the chart of miles required for first class and the miles saved due to the change.

Region 1Region 2First Class AAdvantage Miles via AUH (OLD)First Class AAdvantage Miles via AUH (NEW)Miles Saved
North AmericaAfrica195,500120,00075,500
EuropeAfrica142,50080,00062,500
EuropeAsia112,50090,00022,500
EuropeAustralia162,500115,00047,500
AfricaAsia130,00080,000 (Asia 2) or 90,000 (Asia 1)40,000 (Asia 1) or 50,000 (Asia 2)
AfricaAustralia180,000100,00080,000

The following routings are now possible connecting through Abu Dhabi on Etihad.

Here’s the chart of miles required for business class and the miles saved due to the change.

Region 1Region 2Business Class AAdvantage Miles via AUH (OLD)Business Class AAdvantage Miles via AUH (NEW)Miles Saved
North AmericaAfrica125,00075,00050,000
EuropeAfrica97,50055,00042,500
EuropeAsia82,50075,0007,500
EuropeSouth Pacific122,50085,00037,500
AfricaAsia95,00070,000 (Asia 2) or 75,000 (Asia 1)20,000 (Asia 1) or 25,000 (Asia 2)
AfricaSouth Pacific135,00080,00055,000

Etihad Routings In Practice

These are some hefty savings across the board in both business and first. Notably, if you want to fly the Etihad Apartment onboard the A380 twice, you can now do so — for far fewer miles. That’s possible on routes between Abu Dhabi (AUH) and London (LHR), Paris (CDG), New York (JFK), and Sydney (SYD). Also, A380 service to Seoul (ICN) starts on July 1, 2019.

For instance, I was able to put an AAdvantage award on hold from Paris (CDG) to Sydney (SYD) via Abu Dhabi (AUH) for 115,000 miles. Both segments are on the A380 in the Etihad Apartment. Previously, this required two separate awards for a total of 162,500 AAdvantage miles.

The biggest decrease in mileage is going between Africa and Australia (a net decrease of 80,000 miles). Casablanca is the only Etihad destination with first class service in Africa, on a Boeing 787. However, it’s possible to connect to the A380 with the Apartment in Abu Dhabi to fly onwards to Sydney (SYD). All in, we’re talking about a cool 100,000 AAdvantage miles. Before, it would require a steep 180,000 miles.

I didn’t ticket this routing but an agent told me it was possible as one award.

There’s a plethora of other new sweet spots too. Interestingly, going from New York (JFK) to Casablanca (CMN) via Abu Dhabi (AUH) is also possible as one award — I’m not sure how that doesn’t violate the maximum permitted mileage rule, but an American phone agent (using the New Zealand call center trick) was able to confirm that it was 120,000 AAdvantage miles for first class.

Using An Award Search Tool Like Juicy Miles

Etihad seats aren’t searchable or bookable on American Airlines’ website. It’s a bit of a cumbersome process to book Etihad flights with AAdvantage miles, and we’ve outlined it before.

Herein lies the beauty of a super-smart award search tool — you don’t have to know the rules on how to redeem for every single airline program or points currency. Earlier this year, Juicy Miles launched the first ever automated award search tool that works like any online travel agency or Google Flights.

Plug in your origin, destination, and dates and you’ll be given options on redeeming from 26 different airline programs, paired with transfers from American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Juicy Miles takes into account airline program changes, like AAdvantage's new rules for Etihad

Juicy Miles takes into account airline program changes, like AAdvantage’s new rules for Etihad

Not only are the options outlined, you can then follow Juicy Miles’ detailed step-by-step instructions or have someone book the ticket for you. Juicy Miles even tells you specific tricks to make this redemption go as smoothly as possible — like calling the AAdvantage New Zealand call center as I mentioned earlier.

The Upshot

Being able to redeem AAdvantage miles for partner airlines — like Etihad — is one of the few reasons why I still collect miles with the program. The changes that American made flew under the radar, but it’s worth noting that there’s now even more value when redeeming certain region pairs.

With American likely announcing a switch to dynamic award pricing on its own flights similar to Delta and United, the shining star of the program is using miles for partners. For that reason, I won’t be jumping ship from AAdvantage — at least not quite yet.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

12 comments
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12 comments

Chinmaya Prakash April 11, 2019 - 6:40 pm

Do you think they will honor refunds for already booked tickets

Reply
Chris Dong April 11, 2019 - 6:53 pm

Doesn’t hurt to give AA a call and try, I feel like they should be more understanding in this situation.

Reply
Joey April 12, 2019 - 7:28 am

The top photo is Etihad Residence……. can one redeem AAdvantage miles for Etihad Residence nowadays?!?

Reply
Chris Dong April 12, 2019 - 10:29 am

Ugh, we wish. Was for illustrative purposes only.

Reply
TW April 14, 2019 - 4:40 pm

Hey— big thanks for this. Was trying to figure out how to get home to the US from a trip to South Africa and was having trouble finding any business class avail on Qatar. Saw this— found avail through Etihad & booked JNB-AUH-LAX. Couldn’t have been better timing!

Reply
Chris Dong April 14, 2019 - 4:41 pm

Awesome, glad the post was helpful for you!

Reply
Lee April 15, 2019 - 10:11 pm

Hi is it possible to fly from Europe to AUH to ICN to BKK on one award? So 90k?

How about CDC – AUH – Singapore – KUL – Tokyo like in one of your another post? Is that possible?

Reply
Chris Dong April 15, 2019 - 10:17 pm

Hey Lee, Europe to AUH to ICN to BKK may not work since you’re backtracking from ICN to BKK. Also, I don’t think there’s a Oneworld carrier that can take you direct between ICN and BKK.

For your second routing, that should theoretically be possible — let me know how it goes for you!

Reply
Lee April 16, 2019 - 9:08 pm

Chris for Paris to auh to SIN to KUL to NRT they couldn’t price it. Could you see if it’s over MpM thing that you talked about in that post?

Reply
Emily April 29, 2019 - 2:49 pm

What is the best way to book SYD-AUH-JFK to take advantage of this as it is not searchable on aa.com?

Reply
Chris Dong April 29, 2019 - 5:18 pm

Hi Emily, try calling the New Zealand or Australia call centers and booking that way. You can search for award availability directly on Etihad’s site — it would have to fall under the “Etihad Guest seat” space.

Reply
Eric June 28, 2020 - 3:30 pm

Is it possible to make IST to ICN via AUH on the Apartment for the same 50k AA miles?

Reply

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