My friends and family are probably tired of hearing about American Airlines miles and each deal that needs to be taken advantage of, but I finally have something to show for my labors. There are a handful of flights that I want to fly solely for the aircraft, and today I can check one off that list (well almost, I booked it which is the first step). Next winter I booked a flight for $46 and 90,000 AAdvantage miles on the #1 aircraft on my list: First Class on Etihad’s A380-800. A paid ticket on this flight would cost over $8,000! I’ve previously posted about how I acquire American Airlines miles.
Etihad A380-800 First Class
Unlike the Boeing 747-400 which is another aircraft on my list, flying First Class in the Etihad A380-800 tops my list because it is likely the most amazing flying experience that money (or frequent flier miles) can buy. Etihad’s introductory video does a decent job explaining why flying first class on this aircraft is special:
The A380-800 is a double-decker airplane that places the first class seats in the front of the second level. In addition to a bar(!), shower(!), and bed/couch(!) that are available on the plane, you also get access to the first class lounge in Abu Dhabi (open mid-2016). The lounge will offer complimentary comfy chairs, food, drinks, and assorted spa things.
Booking the Ticket
In my experience, you’re more likely to find availability on the AUH to JFK flight than on the JFK to AUH flight. This news is great considering that the AUH to JFK flight is longer due to the spin of the earth. The entire flight runs over 14 hours. The Etihad A380-800 also flies a LHR to AUH and AUH to SYD route and less miles are required to book those flights. You’ll want to book before March 22, 2016, when American increases the miles required to redeem award flights. The miles required to book this particular route–AUH to JFK–will increase by 28% (90,000 to 115,000). You can book your award flight now and move the date of the flight later (subject to a few restrictions).
Booking the ticket was more complicated than I expected, but it obviously worked out. Etihad is a partner with American Airlines (although not a member of the OneWorld alliance) so I can use my American Airlines to book an award flight. American Airlines lets you search for most award flight availability on their main website, but their more valuable award flights must be booked by telephone. Etihad first class (or any class really) is the crown jewel of the American program and cannot be booked online. Searching for reward flights is pretty easy; Etihad’s website displays availability for both Etihad and partner airlines: Etihad Award Flight Finder.
Award space released to American Airlines is listed under the GuestSeat column. Once you find a date with award seat availability, it’ll look like this:
You’re just searching for availability so you can ignore the miles and money requirements as listed on the Etihad website. Once you find the availability that you’re looking for, give American Airlines (US) a call: (800) 882-8880. You’ll want to have the flight number available for the agent (EY 103 in the above-mentioned example). There will likely be no availability but have no fear, I have another trick (thank you View From the Wing for this trick). Next try calling the American Airlines (Australia) number: (61) 92-9101-1948. I don’t have a long distance plan on my cell phone so I loaded $10 onto my Skype account and paid a very small fee (under 10 cents per minute) to call Australia. If I need to change the flight I’ll likely have to call the Australia number again. Amazingly, American Airlines had availability and I booked my award flight. You could also put the flight on hold for a few days with no fee and later call the American Airlines (US) number to confirm the flight. It’s worth noting that a paid one-way ticket would cost over $8,000! This prices gives you a redemption value of about 9 cents per frequent flier mile used.
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Given that American Airlines is increasing their award flight redemption rates in March, I’ll likely never have the opportunity to fly Etihad A380 First Class again. I’m pretty excited to be able to take advantage of this rare opportunity.