How to Book Etihad (Economy, Business and First) Using Points

by Sanjay

Etihad’s first class ‘Apartment’ is one of the most sought after first class experiences in the sky. Each Apartment is a fully-enclosed, private suite with a separate bed and reclining seat. Your Apartment even includes a vanity mirror and minibar! The service is impeccable and you can fresh up with an onboard shower before landing.

The Etihad Apartment is the most spacious first class cabin bookable with American AAdvantage Miles.

The Apartment is also an excellent opportunity to use credit card points and frequent flyer miles in lieu of cash. One-way apartment fares for the elusive New York Kennedy (JFK) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) route start at over $15,000.

  1. Building Up Points and Miles Balances to Fly Etihad
  2. Finding Open Award Seats on Etihad
  3. Using Credit Card Points to book the Etihad Apartment
  4. Using American AAdvantage Miles to fly Etihad’s Apartment

To book reasonable Etihad Apartments at a relatively reasonable rate, you’ll need miles in a frequent flyer program that partners with Etihad. Credit card points from certain American Express, Chase Ink and Sapphire and Citi ThankYou cards can be transferred directly to many of these programs.

While Etihad does not belong to a global airline alliance, they do have an extensive partnership network, which means there are a plethora of strategies to book The Apartment or any Etihad award ticket. 

Etihad Guest

Surprisingly, Etihad Guest is often not the most economical option to book The Apartment. While searching and booking seats online is a breeze with Etihad, the redemption rates range from pricey to ludicrous.

Guest First seats (the same seats that all partners can book) start at a somewhat justifiable 136,460 miles for the New York to Abu Dhabi route. Avoid the ‘OpenSeat’ seats that are priced at anywhere from 900,000 to 2 million Etihad Guest miles plus over $600 in surcharges.

For big spenders and those who value an uncomplicated redemption, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, and SPG Starpoints to Etihad and book online.

Etihad allows first-class passenger who book with Guest Miles to take advantage of free chauffeur service, a privilege they do not extend to those who book with partner programs.

ANA Mileage Club

An American Express Membership Rewards transfer partner, the Air Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club frequent flyer program can be the most effective way to book The Apartment, if booking round-trip. One-way travel is not allowable using ANA miles.

The ANA first class award chart includes some bargains, such as New York to Abu Dhabi round-trip for 195,000 miles and London or Paris to Abu Dhabi round-trip for 120,000 miles. ANA only allows round-trip redemptions, but offers the flexibility of one stopover on either leg and the option to book an open jaw return. Business class is also a great value, at only 104,000 miles, round-trip from New York to Abu Dhabi.

ANA Mileage Club Award Zones

Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to use ANA Mileage Club to book any open award seat on Etihad. Since December 2017, ANA has restricted Etihad redemptions to routes where the two airlines have an official codeshare agreement in place. The airline calls this a pause, but has not made any indication if or when the pause on non-codeshare redemptions will be lifted.

Before transferring AMEX Membership Rewards to ANA, it’s worth understanding a few caveats:

  • Membership Rewards points transfers to ANA Mileage Club typically take about 36 to 48 hours to post. ANA agents aren’t supposed to put tickets on hold while transfers are pending – but I’ve had some success in the past.
  • Mileage Club miles expire after 36 months regardless of any activity in the account. For this reason, I would not recommend speculatively transferring miles to ANA without a specific redemption in mind.
  • Mileage Club offers a ‘family account’, which allows family members to pool miles. A family account costs 1000 miles to apply, and applications take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to process

Asiana Club

Asiana Club is an often overlooked option to book Etihad because Asiana miles are difficult to book. However, Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints can be transferred to Asiana at one-to-one ratio, and come with a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. It can take up to two weeks for Starpoints to transfer to Asiana, so I recommend having a backup option ready or prepare to be flexible on travel dates in case availability changes during the transfer period.

The award chart to redeem Asiana miles on Etihad offers excellent value, with one-way rates on the New York Kennedy (JFK)  to Abu Dhabi (AUH) route running just 80,000 miles (the equivalent of 65,000 Starpoints) in first class. Even better, Asian doesn’t require payment of any additional cash surcharges on mileage tickets.

Asiana Award Chart Originating in the US/Canada

Korean SkyPass

Korean SkyPass is a good option — actually, the only one — bookable using Chase Ultimate Rewards. Korean Skypass requires round-trip travel on partner rewards and does pass along hefty fuel surcharges. A first class redemption on JFK to AUH prices out at 210,000 miles and over $600 in surcharges.

SkyPass Award Chart for Etihad

American AAdvantage Miles

American Airlines makes booking Etihad – particularly the Apartment on JFK to AUH – more challenging than some of its other partners. The effort is often worth it however, with one-way rates at  a reasonable 115,000 and no additional surcharges.

If space is available, it is possible to  include flights on American Airlines or Oneworld partners on either end of an Etihad ticket to enable positioning or to reach your final destination.

Redeeming with American can be a great option if your final destination is in the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent. However, if you want to travel from the Americas to or from Asia, Africa, or the South Pacific you’ll be in violation of American’s rules prohibiting transit through a third region. The only way to book a prohibited routing is to book two separate awards tickets – which will likely be extremely expensive.

Learn more about the secret hacks you can use to book Etihad flights with American miles.

Use the table below as a quick reference to figure out your best strategy for redemption. Before booking, learn more about how to search for open seats.


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Shawn Keith January 21, 2019 - 11:34 am

@sanjay thank you for this excellent guide. I’m looking to search the EY website to ultimately redeem with AA points. My friend told me that I need to be searching for O only and that I’ll see better availability with roundtrip searches. Can you clarify these points for me? Thank you!

Sanjay January 21, 2019 - 5:39 pm

Glad you found the guide helpful!

The “o” code your friend mentions is the fare class ticket code that Etihad uses to tag First Class award inventory, which is bookable by partners such as American Airlines. If you follow my guidance in this post to search for “guest seats” you will effectively be searching O seats.

Your friend is also right that you will likely get better results by searching for roundtrip travel. The trick, as mentioned in the guide, is to always search for this inventory as if it is originating in Abu Dhabi, even if you actually plan to start in the US or elsewhere. That hack will trick the system into displaying O award inventory, including for flights that originate in the US.

Hope that helps!


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