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You may be familiar with some of my posts on using AA miles to redeem on Etihad flights. This post deals with a trick when doing the opposite redemption, that is, using Etihad miles to book redemption flights on AA.
Etihad provides decent value when redeeming on AA to the US. These are not bookable online, you need to call the Etihad guest service centre on 0345 608 1225. Heres a link to the award chart that the Etihad agents use to work out the required miles. You’ll see that a one-way Europe to US is 30K in economy. This includes flights involving a connection, meaning 30K Etihad miles gets you to pretty much any city served by AA, including the west coast. Etihad doesn’t have a fuel surcharge on these redemption, so overall taxes will be low. Remember American Express has Etihad as a transfer partner, providing a potential way of getting Etihad guest miles.
Good as the above redemption is, there is even better value coming from the USA to Europe. The award chart in this direction has an EO column, which stands for Economy Off-peak. Off-peak is defined as 15th Oct to 15th May. Travel home in-between those dates and you can do it for just 20K Etihad miles.
Things get a bit weird
Now here’s where things get a bit weird. The chart says returns cost x2 one-way, which seem reasonable enough. However, Etihad phone agents interpret this as meaning a return starting in Europe will always be 2x30K miles, even if the USA-Europe flight is at an off-peak time. It works in favour of those starting in the US, with reports of people getting returns for 40K miles during off-peak.
If you’ve followed my train of thought thus far, it’s not hard to figure out what the trick is. If you are booking a return flight starting in the UK, and your flight home is during the off-peak time, you should book your journey as 2 one-way tickets. Your outbound will cost 30K, but your return will be 20K, saving you 10K guest miles compared with booking it as a return ticket.