Has AA killed the best UK redemption out there?

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In the last 10 months, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the Maldives twice, thanks to what is in my opinion is the single best redemption out of the UK/Ireland. But as a result of a stealth change that took place earlier this year, it looks like I’ll be needing a LOT more miles if I want to do it in the future.

redeem american miles on etihad





The excellent Etihad airways flies from Heathrow (and Dublin) to their home hub in Abu Dhabi (ABU), and onto the Maldives (MLE). To do this using Etihad’s own loyalty miles (Etihad Guest) requires an eye-watering amount of miles.

However, Etihad has significant partnerships with various airlines, one of which is American Airlines (AA). This, amongst other things, allows you to book Etihad redemption flights using AA miles. You simply check the availability on Eithad.com, and then phone AA.

The deal

Prior to 22 March this year, AA charged 60K miles to fly LHR-ABU-MLE return in the superb Etihad Business Class (compare that to 220K Etihad miles). AA also traditionally charges low taxes and fees. As someone who lives in Ireland, I availed of the DUB-ABU-MLE route for the identical number of miles, but with the added benefit of no UK APD, resulting in a total cash outlay of £100 for two people. You can see why I’m such a big fan of this redemption.

redeem american miles on etihad
Etihad Business Class

There was a major AA devaluation on 22 March which took some of the shine of this redemption, as the one-way cost went up from 30K to 42.5K AA miles. But on it’s own it’s still a great redemption.  A return in biz class for 85K AA miles plus £50 a person.

The deal killer?

However on 6 May, AA did a somewhat stealthy change to its region definitions (and this is where it gets a wee bit technical, but bear with me). Previously, AA considered Middle East/India as a single region. Now however there is a Middle East region and an India region, and crucially the Maldives is placed in the India region. When you remember that AA does not allow a single redemption that involves flying through a 3rd region, it is apparent that you will no longer be able to fly LHR-MLE (or DUB-MLE) on a single AA award, as that involves going from Europe to India via the Middle East, i.e.  the connection is via a 3rd region.

So what was once one redemption is now two redemptions. LHR-ABU is 42.5K AA miles. ABU-MLE is 30K miles. This means a return journey in biz will cost 145K AA miles, which is a staggering rise compared to the 22 March cost of 60K miles.

There is a faint possibility that the route might still be priced as a single reward. AA has an internal list of routing “exceptions” that it applies, which overrule the general “no transiting via a 3rd region” rule. This list however is not publicly available, so no one knows if they have added a new rule that will allow using the Middle East as a transit region to the India region.

We can but hope !


  1. Jester says


    Still on the theme of Etihad redemptions using AA miles and routing through the Middle East, could I ask the following — it’s just that, with the region re-classification you mention above, I’m now a little nervous! :o)

    If someone wanted to redeem AA miles on Etihad first to Australia one-way (e.g. LHR — AUH | AUH — SYD or PER), would this still be priced at a (post-devaluation) amount of 115,000 miles? (I get this figure from the AA parter award chart and selecting Europe as my departing point. Belt ‘n’ braces, too — and knowing that Qantas is, unlike Etihad, bookable on AA.com — Qantas 1st is priced on AA.com at 115,000 AA miles one way [LHR–DXB | DXB–SYD], so I assumed Etihad would be priced identically? About this, I concede, I may be wrong or, at least, I’d very much welcome confirmation re Etihad mileage to Oz in Apartment class!

    Thanks, Ian / All !!!

    • Ian says


      I’m no expert on AA, but it looks to me like europe to South Pacific (i.e. Oz) will be priced as two awards. But it’s possible that there is an exception to allow the transiting via AUH. Sometime when you have a few spare mins (or 30 depending on how busy the call centre is) you should phone up AA and get them to price out the route for you.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Jester,

      My understanding is that there is an exception in place which means you can go via Doha on Qatar to Australia/South Pacific on one award but that’s it. I have had some luck in the past though booking awards that technically break the rules, so it’s always worth trying! If you do want to give that a go, I usually find that it works best if you make a normal (within the rules) booking first and then start making adjustments to it with the call centre. In your case, I would book on qatar and then try to get the flights adjusted to Etihad. So long as origin and destination remain the same, there shouldn’t be any change fees either

      • Joe Deeney says

        If you’re set on trying the the FIrst Class ‘Apartment’ (and I would be!), you might want to consider using Avios on Air Berlin from Berlin to get to Abu Dhabi first and then using AA Miles on Etihad from there.

        For most people, Avios are definitely easier to get hold of than AA Miles, and 12,500 in Economy (6 hour day time flight so Economy isn’t bad) or 37,500 in Business + a handful of taxes is a great deal. I was actually really impressed with Air Berlin Biz Class, and you get a chauffeur on both ends of the journey too which is a great touch.

        First Class to Oz from Middle East is 100,000 Miles rather than 115,000 too so there’s a bit of a saving.

        Alternatively, Qatar, Qantas or Cathay Pacific should all be possible and are all excellent!

        It’s slightly more inconvenient, but on such a long flight (even in FIrst!) breaking it up isn’t such a bad thing – and you have the opportunity to see Abu Dhabi/Dubai if you’re inclined to do so.

        • Jester says

          Joe / Ian,

          Thanks so much for the above — all extremely interesting/enlightening points and all very gratefully received!


    • Ian says

      As per my article, there is an outside chance that the Maldives route will remain @ 42.5K, but I’ll not know until I hear of someone successfully booking it.

      Outside of that, a big problem with redeeming on AA is that the Milesaaver rewards are really hard to come by, and often they will be 2 stops to get you across the atlantic. But I have saw rare examples of 57.5K AA for a 1-way biz LAX-DUB, which routes via 1 stop in PHL/JFK. As there is no non-stop AA flights into DUB, 1 stop is as good as it gets from LAX, and I think 57.5K AA plus £4 to get home from LAX is a pretty impressive redemption. Note that if you are looking from a UK persepctive, AA on the cheaper milesaaver awards will often offer a route that includes a BA flight, which immediately increases the taxes.

      • Ian says

        I should also add that if you DO see one of the 57.5K redemptions on AA that takes your fancy, and it’s all on AA metal, remember that not only can you book Etihad flights using AA miles, but you can do it the other way round, that is book AA flights using Etihad miles. Eithad charges 50K miles for Europe to/from USA and ancedotal evidence suggests that they will price a booking that includes a connection as 1 award. Etihad currently does not charge their “carrier surcharge” when booking partner awards, so the fees will also be low.

        Compare that to 62.5k/ 75K avios off-peak/peak with BA, plus £300+ in charges.

    • Joe Deeney says

      Hi Adam,

      In terms of getting hold of AA Miles, the best routes for me are the credit card, Rocketmiles and the AA estore.

      The credit card earning rates are quite generous (given the relative value of AA Miles compared to Avios these days) so I tend to put as much spend as possible through that or my SPG card. Remember you can transfer from SPG at an effective rate of 1:1.25.

      RocketMiles is interesting because of the big first booking bonuses combined with the fact that you can book for anyone and transfer the miles to anyone…

      Until Quidco started featuring IHG again, I put all my bookings (quite a lot) through the AA estore at 3 Miles per Dollar I think. Quite often there were decent Miles bonuses for spending a certain amount in a given time period too. Also worth noting that fairly often I would get Miles for Points bookings, and (I think) always for best rate guarantee and using free night certificates. The rather ludicrous cash rates at the Intercontinental Park Lane were extremely helpful in that regard…

      I don’t have personal experience, but I think they are/were on erewards too?

  2. Ian says

    Err, I was answering a tweet question instead of yours, sorry about that (I’m kinda new here)

    Anyhow Tom has all the angles covered. There was a time that an MBNA AA card would get you 35K bonus miles, but that’s long gone you only get 5K now.

  3. Adam says

    Thanks for everyones response.
    I dont apply for credit cards for income reasons, do AA do mile purchase offers reguarlly that would potentially make this viable.
    Outside of eshopping i can aquire AA miles via erewards but only a potential 4k a month max over 2 x accounts.
    Any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.

    • Jim says


      Just curious (or being immensely dumb – sorry): have you used two different email addresses which pay miles into the same AA FF account? I ask mainly as I also do e-Rewards into my AA account, but would be interested in doubling up for sure. Or is more like a US VPN at work.



      • Adam says

        Hi Jim,
        I was thinking more on the lines of two AA accounts, one in my name, one in the wifes. Using the different accounts for each leg of the journey.

    • Joe Deeney says

      AA do have sales, but they tend not to be that good. Probably better buying SPG Points when there’s a sale on and transferring I think.

  4. Adam says

    It would be great to see an article which covers all major airlines inc a cross reference chart maybe showing which airlines or hotel points can be converted or redeemed to each other to give best value.
    Sorry guys, im not knowledgeable to give it a go! ?

    • Joe Deeney says

      Consider it done – I’m going to be focusing on doing some more ‘resource’ style posts over the next few months I think and something like that would definitely be useful. Might be a while little while until I get round to it though!

    • Ian says

      Adam, your starting point should be here:-
      View oneworld and other airline award chart

      That’s basically AA’s 3rd party award chart. It’s important not to take that chart “as is”. Firstly, the route you want to take has to be a route that is provided by the other airline (and on their own physical planes). Secondly, as noted in my article, AA has a rule that means you can not go via a 3rd region when flying from 1 region to another, unless there is an exception for it. Unfortunately, the exception list is not publicly available AFAIK.

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