Anatomy of an Award: Free Oneways and Etihad Diamond First Class for 40,000 AAdvantage Miles and $37

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This is another post in my Anatomy of an Award series, in which I take a real award I’ve booked and break it down step-by-step to elucidate the award booking process. If you have a real award you’d like to write up in a similar post, please contact me, and you can write a guest post.

Etihad Diamond First Class looks like an aspirational award if I’ve ever seen one. Here’s a YouTube promotional video of the suite . That’s the definition of travel porn–a 6’8″ bed, dinner seating for two, a huge TV, your own minibar.

I just booked an award–actually four separate awards–for two people that will allow them to enjoy Etihad Diamond First on an eight hour flight for 40k AA miles and $37 per person as part of a trip to the Maldives, London, and Paris with two free oneways tacked on.

The Awards

#1

Chicago to LaGuardia

one month later

JFK to Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi to Maldives

This award was 45,000 AA miles and $30 per person. Etihad is not a member of any alliance, but AAdvantage miles can be redeemed on Etihad flights. I find their availability to be pretty great in all classes on most routes. Etihad’s hub is Abu Dhabi.

The main award is New York to the Maldives in Etihad economy. Chicago to New York is a free oneway tacked onto the award for one month before the main award.

Note that the free oneway comes into LaGuardia and the award continues from JFK. In cities with multiple airports like New York (JFK, LGA, EWR) or Washington (IAD, DCA), you can fly into one and out of another no problem en route. The airports are considered “coterminal.”

I called AA and found the award space. I put it on a five day courtesy hold and moved onto the next award.

#2

Maldives to Abu Dhabi (Etihad Pearl Business)

Abu Dhabi to Paris (Etihad Diamond First Class)

This award was 40,000 AA miles and $37 per person. The flight from the Maldives is on a two cabin plane and business class features seats like you might find in a domestic first cabin in the US–nothing too special. It’s the 7:40 minute flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris that’s the star.

You get nearly eight hours in an Etihad Diamond First cabin for only 40,000 miles. That’s an amazing value considering the product and the length. Consider that Abu Dhabi to Paris is about the length of London to New York, which is 62,500 miles is Paris.

What this says is that on the AA chart, Europe to “Indian Subcontinent Middle East (which includes the Maldives)” is a sweet spot especially for premium awards, considering its 20k/30k/40k price point for economy/business/first.

Also note that USA – Europe, Europe – India/Middle East/Maldives is cheaper in economy (20k + 20k = 40k) during Europe’s off peak season on AA’s chart (October 15 to May 15) than USA – India/Middle East/Maldive (45k) without a stopover in Europe. Taking a stopover in Europe and breaking the award into two awards saves miles as I noted a few weeks back.

For this award, I did the same as with the first award: I reserved it for five days.

#3

Paris to London

This 80 minute flight is crying out for an Avios redemption. For 4,500 Avios and $20 per person, I could choose between about ten daily flights with award space departing Orly or Charles de Gaulle.

I booked this online at BA.com. Business could have been had for 9,000 Avios, but I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra Avios for no neighbor in the middle seat and a hot meal.

#4

London to JFK

two months later

Newark to Seattle

Seattle to Vancouver

This is the second free oneway–New York to Vancouver. Don’t forget free oneways can go to Canada, the USA, Mexico, or the Caribbean, so my clients opted for an international free oneway. Just like the first free oneway, this one takes advantage of the coterminal NYC airports, flying into JFK and out of Newark.

The main note on the London to JFK is to choose American economy instead of BA economy to avoid hefty fuel surcharges. In economy, this award was 20,000 AA miles and $177 per person.

Don’t depart London if you can help it. The taxes included a whopping $100 Air Passenger Duty and a $53 Passenger Service Charge.

This award can be booked online–even with the free oneway. See this post for how to do it.

After booking awards 3 and 4 online, I circled back and ticketed the awards I had held–1 and 2. That way I ensured all legs were ticketed or none were. It’s important to get your order right.

So the final tally was 105,000 AAdvantage miles, 4,500 Avios, and $264 per person. That included a trip to the Maldives, stopovers in London and Paris, a free oneway to Vancouver, a free oneway from Chicago, a business class segment, and eight hours in Etihad Diamond First.

Recap of some key point

  • The cheapest way to get into Etihad Diamond First Class is to fly between Abu Dhabi and Europe. Some of the flights are quite lengthy, so at 40k miles, this is an incredible deal. You don’t have to start/end in Abu Dhabi either. Abu Dhabi’s region includes India and the Maldives, so Delhi-Abu Dhabi-Paris is 40k for 12 hours of flying in Etihad First.
  • You can fly into one coterminal airport and out of another en route. This is inconvenient when you are connecting in a city, but very convenient when tacking on free oneway. I’ve given two examples where the main award used JFK but the free oneways flew into LaGuardia and out of Newark
  • From October 15 to May 15, it’s cheaper in AAdvantage miles to fly USA to Europe, stop, Europe to India/Middle East than without the stop.

20 Responses to Anatomy of an Award: Free Oneways and Etihad Diamond First Class for 40,000 AAdvantage Miles and $37

  1. Love this post! Amazing!

  2. This post was very educational and helpful.

    It looks like it becomes 120K round-trip (less the CDG-LHR) for USA-Maldives (or USA-CMB, which we’d be interested in). The remaining debate is whether this routing (USA-Europe in economy, Europe-subcontinent in First) at 120K AA miles beats USA-subcontinent in Business with UA miles. I couldn’t say.

    • You’re right that if you flew Oct 15 – May 15, it would be 120k per person to fly US – Europe in coach, Europe to Sri Lanka in Etihad first and back. I would rather do flat bed biz the whole way than half coach/half first because the difference between coach and flat bed biz is much greater than flat bed biz and Etihad first. But both United and AA miles can be used for oneways, so you could go oneway with each type.

  3. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the only way you got award #1 for 45K miles is because Etihad flys out of ORD, thus allowing the ORD-MLE trip. Other than JFK and soon to be IAD, I don’t think you can pull that trick from any other US airport. It only works with airports Etihad flys out of. I.E., couldn’t do it out of or returning to dfw.

    • That’s not quite the rule, but you may be right in practice. The rule is that Etihad must have a published fare between the beginning and end of the routing, which in this case was the start of the free oneway and MLE. Airlines routinely publish fares to cities they don’t serve when a partner serves the city. So Etihad may publish a fare between cities other than NYC, ORD, and IAD to MLE. I don’t know off the top of my head. They do not publish a DFW-MLE fare, so a free oneway DFW-NYC would have been impossible.

      • ExpertFlyer shows that the only MLE fares available are from Etihad-served cities.

        For the last trip, you can change JFK-Vancouver to Cathay Pacific if availability opens up closer to the date. I think that’d be better than 2 flights on AA/AS. Though the arrival time kind of sucks.

  4. MidTierStatus

    Is it possible to book this without a true stopover using two separate AA award reservations, say DFW-FRA and FRA-BOM (via Abu Dhabi) with a couple of hrs in FRA or would they force you to combj e and reprice?

    • Just book two separate awards. Call up, reserve the first. Hang up, book the second. Call back, and book the first. This will incur $50 in phone fees instead of $25. To avoid that extra $25, you could make make something about the routing illegal so it breaks into two awards. But in your example, the time in FRA would need to be over 24 hours to break into two awards.

  5. Very interesting post! But, as a newbie, I think I’m confused. So could I use AA miles to fly BOS-JFK on AA, then JFK-AUH-CAI on Etihad first all on the same award? And if so, how many AA miles would that be round trip? If you say yes, I’ll use your service to book it:)

    • That award wouldn’t work because AA has a little known rule prohibiting an award from North America to Africa routing through the Middle East. You could fly BOS-JFK, stop, JFK-AUH on one award though, making BOS-JFK free.

  6. Would it work if I was flying out of LAX to New York for #1 award? Did you do this only on the phone or can I do this on AA website?

  7. This is a great find! I’m interested!

  8. Is the only way to find Etihad availability to call AA?

  9. I noticed you got two free one ways. One at the beginning from ord to new york and one from new york to Vancouver. So you’re getting two stopovers in new york . Is that valid?? So could I do lax-dfw(5months)-fra-dfw(2months)-ord??

  10. I have 93000 miles on etihad and from
    Chicago they r not giving me anything
    I don’t know what to to do

  11. 1 – Where do I check availability for these? Expertflyer mentions “Promotional Upgrade only (R)” seat for award flights from say, AUH-CDG. Apparently, that means those are only upgrade seats (and not award booking).
    I could not find those on AA website either.

    2 – I am trying to book:
    Ticket #1: BOM-AUH(stopover)-CDG
    Ticket #2: CDG-ORD(stopover) + free oneway to LAX.
    Is ticket 2 possible? Can you add a free oneway from an international gateway on a one way flight?
    PS – Good idea on avoiding London. Thanks!

    3 – You mentioned in your comments above (response to MidTier Status) that the layover in CDG for the two tickets has to be more than 24 hours for it to be legal. I dont doubt your expertise, but my experience says that – if you book them separately, no one is going to care how much of a layover you have in CDG between the two tickets. Could you reconfirm that?

    • You do not search Etihad space on expertflyer. Try etihad.com.

      #1 is not possible. #2 is. #3, if you book it as two separate awards, make the layover any length of time you want.

  12. Also, Can I do the Ticket #1(BOM-AUH stopover-CDG) with first class? Is the stopover in AUH legal?

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