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It looks as though the longstanding workaround to booking American Airlines awards flying Etihad–calling the Australia/New Zealand reservations office–is no longer a workaround. I hope this isn’t the case, as redeeming AAdvantage miles to book premium Etihad cabins to the Middle East and on to the Indian Sub-continent region is/was one of the best uses of AAdvantage miles.

Background

Booking Etihad premium cabin award space with American Airlines miles has always been a bit tricky. It was do-able, though, if you followed these steps:

  1. You cannot find Etihad award space on aa.com, you must search on Etihad Guest’s website, week by week, and find GuestSeats (saver level, should be bookable with partner miles).
  2. You often cannot find award space originating in the United States with a one way search. Instead you have to follow the steps outlined in Trick For Finding/Booking Invisible Etihad 1st Class Award Space.
  3. After finally locating your desired award space, you have to call the Australia or New Zealand AAdvantage call centers to get them to put the space on hold and/or book since American agents often can’t find Etihad GuestSeat award space that does show up available on Etihad’s website.

Despite those inconveniences, there’s always been a real incentive to push through thanks to the 115k AAdvantage mile price tag to fly to or from the Middle East or Indian Sub-continent region (where the Maldives are located, for instance) in one of the best First Class products in the sky.

The Problem

As of late, Step #3 described above has become problematic. There have been tons data points rolling in not just from other bloggers, but people across the frequent flyer community, that the agents in the Australia and New Zealand AAdvantage offices can no longer see Etihad award space that they previously were able to book.

To be perfectly clear, when you call the Australia or New Zealand AAdvantage office, you are actually connected to Fiji. That has always been the case. It has always been the agents in Fiji that could book the Etihad award space the American AAdvantage agents couldn’t. They have been using a different system, until recently. It is these same agents in Fiji that can no longer see the Etihad (GuestSeat) award space showing up on Etihad’s website and therefore cannot book it.

Testing

I decided to double check this issue myself. I carried out tests with award space I found on Etihad’s website, flying an Etihad First Class Apartment (on the A380), for an outbound and return within the next three months…

…as well as for an outbound and return farther out, in February of 2018.

Calling the Australia Reservation Line (+61 02-9101-1948)

I called the Australia AAdvantage Office two different times to test separate agents. Both confirmed that they were located in Fiji and not Trinidad, which was something I asked outright (and that you need to ask outright as well). I knew from reading others’ experiences that sometimes, if you call outside of typical office hours for the Pacific region, you’ll be routed to Trinidad and those agents have (typically) never been able to see nor book Etihad award space as the Australia/New Zealand lines could.

Neither agent could find the award space pictured above.

Calling the New Zealand Reservation Line (+64 09-308-4014)

Again, I called the New Zealand line twice to test two different agents. Both confirmed their location in Fiji and neither could find the award space above.

I asked the final representative I spoke to connect me with a supervisor, which didn’t help as the supervisor was located in the United States. I asked them about the availbility of the award space I had found, and explained that I could see it as availble on etihad.com. No dice.

Is This an IT Problem?

Sadly, it doesn’t look like it.

Etihad’s website was scheduled for maintenance that was supposed to be finished by 1pm Gulf Standard Time on September 17, 2017.

With an eight hour difference from Eastern Standard Time, that would have been 5 am ET on September 17. I purposely waited until today, September 19, so that system maintenance wouldn’t interfere. It’s possible the site maintenance is still interfering with Etihad Guest’s systems, but I’d guess not at this point.

Bottom Line

It looks like we’ve lost our workaround to booking Etihad flights with AAdvantage miles–at least those touching the United states. The AAdvantage office in the United States should still be able to see and book awards departing from Abu Dhabi to other Etihad destinations around the world, which is some sliver of hope to cling to. But that won’t matter so much to the majority of you.

If anyone has had any success (or failures) booking, please share your experiences in the comments.

Hat tip View from the Wing

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