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Update: Link to Etihad Press Release about Route

According to USA Today and Will Horton of Centre for Aviation, Etihad Airways will begin service to Los Angeles from its hub in Abu Dhabi beginning on June 1, 2014. This is fantastic news for those with AAdvantage balances, especially those on the West Coast!

From Etihad’s own website. Etihad’s Diamond First Class is a fully enclosed suite.

The introduction of Etihad’s long nonstop from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi will be a great jumping off point to the Middle East for West Coast flyers. It strengthens the value of an AAdvantage mile and helps avoid (or at least mitigate) some of American’s more annoying award routing rules!

How do I book an Etihad award with AAdvantage miles? What is the award space picture? What kinds of taxes and fees can be expected on an Etihad award? Why is this so great for West Coast flyers? What destinations does this open up? 

I wrote a thorough destination-specific article back in March detailing how to book an Etihad award to the Maldives. The principles in that article apply to all Etihad awards. For more information, make sure to check out my post, Getting to the Maldives on Etihad Using American Airlines Miles.

The only place to search for Etihad award space is on Etihad’s own website. It’s fairly intuitive, and you are looking for “Guest Seat” availability. “Open Seat” availability is  accessible to Etihad’s own frequent flyers. American Airlines phone agents are only able to see Etihad award space if there is “Guest Seat” availability.

Once you verify the space on Etihad’s site, simply call the AAdvantage desk at 800-882-8880 to feed the agent the flights and book. You won’t be able to avoid their pesky $25 per ticket phone reservation fee, however.

Note that the Etihad website isn’t currently displaying availability on the LAX-AUH route. You will need to call AAdvantage directly to book for the time being. I spoke to an agent who saw two first class and business class seats on many days in June, July, and August. First class space was a bit harder to come by. The agent also noted that most days had five economy seats. Perfect for families!

Are there fuel surcharges on Etihad awards?

No. American only assesses fuel surcharges on British Airways and Iberia flights.

Can I book Etihad segments as part of an Explorer Award?

Unfortunately, no. Etihad is a partner of American and not a member of the oneworld alliance. Only oneworld airlines can be included in an Explorer Award. Scott wrote up these distance-based AAdvantage awards. Make sure to check out his great post, American Airlines Explorer Award: The Rules.

Though Etihad is excluded from Explorer Awards, newly announced oneworld partner Qatar Airways can be incorporated into an Explorer Award. For more information on Qatar, check out my post Qatar Award Space Bookable with American Airlines Miles.

What type of plane is flying between Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi?

Etihad will be using a 777-200LR which they are likely acquiring from Air India. The plane will likely have a three-cabin configuration featuring (Diamond) First Class, Pearl (Business Class) and Coral (Economy Class) seating.

First Class is a fully enclosed suite. Check out this video and drool.

Business class is a fully flat bed that looks world class.

Economy class is economy class.

Why is this so great for West Coast flyers?

Several reasons, actually!

American has quite a few frustrating award routing rules (you can read them in Scott’s post The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards). American annoyingly only allows routing through Europe or the Middle East when going from North America to the Indian Subcontinent. The LAX-AUH nonstop on Etihad will get you to the Middle East/India with one convenient stop while complying with that rule.

Best of all, you can avoid transiting London-Heathrow and paying British Airways fuel surcharges which was previously one of the only ways to reach India via North America in one stop.

Any other good news?

Another frustrating AAdvantage rule is that “the airline that operates your flights must publish a fare for your origin and destination pair.”

To give an example, Etihad flies to Abu Dhabi from Chicago, New York-JFK, Toronto,  and Washington-Dulles. If you wanted to fly on an Etihad award from, for example, Washington-Dulles to Bombay via Abu Dhabi, Etihad would need to publish a fare.

If someone previously tried to book LAX-IAD-AUH-BOM on American/Etihad it wouldn’t be allowed on one award, as Etihad did not publish a fare from Los Angeles to Mumbai. You would either need to book a separate LAX-IAD award or pay cash to position yourself for the IAD-AUH flight.

With the introduction of the LAX-AUH route, West Coast flyers can now book  LAX-AUH-India as a contiguous award ticket. Though smaller cities like San Diego probably won’t have routes published to India and beyond, it’s likely far less expensive to position to Los Angeles than Chicago, New York, or Washington D.C. with a cash ticket.

Recap

Etihad just announced service from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi beginning on July 2nd, 2014 with three-cabin configuration.

This route increases the value of AAdvantage miles for West Coast flyers. They can connect to India and the Middle East in only one stop while avoiding British Airways fuel surcharges and London-Heathrow.

The flight also helps Southern Californians skirt the annoying award rule regarding published fares or at least book a more affordable flight to LAX as opposed to the East Coast.

Award space is currently plentiful on the route in all three cabins (two seats in business and first class most dates and five in economy). Space is oddly not searchable on Etihad’s site but AAdvantage phone agents can see and book the flights with ease. Etihad features luxurious enclosed suites in their Diamond First Class product. Don’t hesitate to pull the trigger if you have award travel plans for next summer!

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