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What’s so special about Etihad’s route from Sydney to Abu Dhabi? It’s the longest route of the fanciest commercial cabin in the world, with the westbound flight clocking in at just under 15 hours.

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This suite with a couch/bed and seat costs only 60,000 American Airlines miles between Australia and the Middle East/India.

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Plus the Etihad A380 has a shower for First Class passengers and onboard lounge/bar.

Pretty soon I’ll head to Europe for four months, and I would love to fly the Etihad A380 between London and Abu Dhabi while I’m there. (I ran down that award space in this post.)

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The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings, so the award would only cost 54,000 miles net.

Or you can get the business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 30,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.

Or you can get both cards and get 62,000 American Airlines miles after meeting their spending requirements.

With my goal to fly the Etihad A380 in mind, I took a look at award space between Sydney and Abu Dhabi for the next 11 months, and here’s what I found.

Booking Etihad Awards with AA Miles

First read: How to Search Etihad Award Space

American Airlines doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Etihad award flights. You just find the award space, call American Airlines at 800-882-8880 to book it, and pay the government taxes on the flights. (There is no longer a fee to book American Airlines awards that can’t be booked online, like Etihad flights, by phone.)

From Sydney to Abu Dhabi, you will pay 85 AUD ($65) plus the 60,000 American Airlines miles for a First Class award.


From Abu Dhabi to Sydney, you will pay 160 AED ($44) plus the 60,000 American Airlines miles for a First Class award.

Tips for Award Searches

Ignore the miles price listed on You will pay 60,000 American Airlines miles instead.

American Airlines only has access to award space in the “GuestSeat” column. You’ll notice this space prices out for about 120,000 Etihad miles. Knowing what Etihad charges is convenient because it allows you to scan the dates at the top of your award search to see which dates have GuestSeat award space. (Again, you won’t pay 120,000 miles, but knowing what Etihad charges makes award searching quicker.)

Award Space

Etihad has two daily flights in each direction between Sydney and Abu Dhabi. Right now neither is serviced by an A380. Starting June 1, one of the flights will be serviced by an A380.

Abu Dhabi to Sydney Award Space

The first day with award space from Abu Dhabi to Sydney at the moment is June 27.

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Award space is infrequent for the first several months, but when there is space, there are occasionally two First Class award seats on the same plane like on July 6.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.18.30 PM

By mid-September award space increases some like this week with award space on three days…Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.20.58 PM

…or these back-to-back days with award space in October…Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.22.19 PM

…or these five days in a row with award space in February.
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But the bottom line on award space between Abu Dhabi and Sydney is that I see no grand pattern of availability, and it is never very good for very long. If you want to fly the Etihad A380 in First Class on its longest route, you need to find award space on the flight and build the rest of your trip around the award space. It’s not a route where you can find your hotels and activities first, and then just assume space will be easy to find.

Syndey to Abu Dhabi

Flying into the wind, the westbound is about an hour longer, and award space is MUCH better.

Here is a week in July with award space on five days in First Class from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.25.47 PM

And in July, here’s a week with award space on six days.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.26.09 PM

In August, there is a week during which award space is available on six days.Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 2.26.48 PMIn January 2016, there is a week with award space on five days.

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Bottom Line

Starting June 1, one daily frequency of Etihad’s Abu Dhabi to Sydney service will feature an A380. If you want to fly the product for 60,000 miles one way (or 54,000 if you get the 10% rebate given to people with a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard®), book your award space on these flights now for travel through March 2016.

Award space is better on the longer flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi.

I’ll continue monitoring award space on this route in First Class to improve my understanding of the award space patterns on this route.

Further Reading


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