If you happen to be flying on an Etihad Airways route between Abu Dhabi and New York (JFK), London Heathrow, Melbourne, Mumbai or Sydney, and have enough airline miles, you can exchange that annoying cramped economy seat for an apartment with more amenities than you can imagine.
That’s because beginning in 2014 Etihad, one of three major Middle Eastern carriers, expanded the footprint of its first class offerings – by a bunch.
Residence Or Apartment
In 2014 Etihad began offering both a three-room Residence (one per plane) and nine very large private first-class suites called Apartments. The aircraft is a double-decker Airbus A380.
The Residence offers a private living room with a leather sofa, 2 dining tables and a 32-inch flat screen entertainment system. There is a separate bedroom with a double bed and a dedicated lavatory, complete with shower.
Each Apartment has a leather armchair, a bench that folds out into an extra-long twin-size bed, a 24-inch flat-screen TV, minibar and fully stocked vanity. Apartment dwellers have access to a shared onboard shower on a scheduled basis.
The million-dollar question is, how much does it cost? A 3-hour one-way flight from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai in the Residence will run about $5,000. The 14-hour flight from New York to Abu Dhabi $32,000.
The same two flights in an Apartment are $960 and $8,400, respectively. Since it’s possible to use airline miles instead of cold hard cash to pay for your flight, maybe the trip is slightly more affordable.
Note: There will be taxes and fees of up to several hundred dollars in addition to the miles being redeemed – depending on the route chosen.
The Etihad Guest rewards program (free to sign up) offers one way to accumulate and use miles to pay for your ride. The number one way to accumulate those miles, of course, is by flying on Etihad Airways.
You can also rack up Etihad Guest miles through non-airline partners including co-branded payment cards, retail chains, car rentals, hotels and many more.
Full details including points conversion, exclusions, terms and conditions are available on the “How to earn miles” webpage.
If you’re a member of the Etihad Guest rewards program, you can accumulate Etihad Guest miles from Etihad’s non-alliance partner airlines. Simply provide your Etihad Guest rewards membership number when booking your flight.
You can also use airline miles from partners to purchase Etihad seats. Two options stand out–American Airlines AAdvantage miles and All Nippon Airways’ (ANA) Mileage Club.
Although partner miles can’t be used to book the Residence, which must be secured using Etihad Guest miles only, you can use partner miles to reserve an Apartment.
Two other partners, Korean Air (SkyPass) and Virgin Australia (Velocity Rewards) are possibilities, but both have significant restrictions that make them difficult to use.
Using Partner Miles
If you want to use partner miles instead of Etihad Guest miles to book your Apartment, you have to do it through the partner airline by calling and speaking to a booking agent. The agent should be able to see your flight on his system and book your award flight for you.
Be aware that Etihad flights do not show up on partner airline websites so going there will not help. The best way to find a flight is on the Etihad website.
Finding A Flight
Use the award search page on Etihad’s website to find a flight. Simply provide the route, dates and class of service and you will get results for a week at a time.
If you’re planning to book the Residence, (using Etihad Guest miles) choose that as your Guest travel class. If you want an Apartment select First as your travel class.
When you get to the flights page, for the Residence, you’ll see any flights with an open seat along with the number of Etihad Guest miles required for a one-way reservation. As for an Apartment, make sure you look under the Guest First column since that’s the level that allows the use of the lowest number of miles.
Also, make sure you note the type of aircraft. Only the A380 is fitted with Apartments and the Residence. Other types of aircraft are not.
Using Etihad Guest Miles
The cheapest route using Etihad Guest miles is from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Mumbai, India. To book the Residence will cost 544,629 Etihad Guest miles one way. If you want to fly between New York and Abu Dhabi using Etihad miles, you will give up a cool 3.5 million+ miles each way.
Apartments are considerably less using Etihad miles. That Abu Dhabi to Mumbai trip, for example, costs just 32,073 miles. New York to Abu Dhabi is a much more reasonable 117,556 miles.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
Non-alliance partner, American Airlines through its American AAdvantage rewards program offers an even better deal than what’s offered by Etihad.
The flight from New York to Abu Dhabi costs just 115,000 AAdvantage miles one-way. Remember that’s in an Apartment – not the Residence.
Abu Dhabi to Mumbai will cost 40,000 miles. That’s more than the 32,073 Etihad miles you would use, but helpful if you already have an AAdvantage account.
All Nippon Mileage Club
Another Etihad non-alliance partner, All Nippon Airways (ANA) has lower redemption levels than Etihad Guest or AAdvantage with one important catch – you must book a round-trip.
The Partner Flight Awards webpage is a bit complicated, but there are deals to be had if you are willing to wade through the charts.
For example, a roundtrip between New York and Abu Dhabi is only 195,000 miles or 97,500 miles each way. That’s 17,500 miles less than the next best deal of 115,000 miles via AAdvantage.
Oddly, travel between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai isn’t quite as impressive. That round trip ticket will cost 150,000 miles (75,000 each way), which is 35,000 miles more than AAdvantage or, if you will, more than enough miles to fly round-trip between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai using Etihad Guest miles!
A quick comparison of the information above shows that – depending on the route – there are (relative) bargains to be found, mileage-wise. For example, using Etihad Guest miles, New York to Abu Dhabi costs 117,556 miles. The same trip using AAdvantage miles is only 115,000 miles.
Even better, if you have access to ANA miles, you can fly from New York to Abu Dhabi for a bargain-basement 97,500 miles. Keep in mind that you have to book a round trip so the total cost is 195,000 miles.
Don’t forget to take availability of bonus miles, point transfers and other tactics into account when deciding which awards program to use to book your Etihad “lap of luxury” flight.
You might want to consider a big credit card sign-up bonus to give you a nice head start on this adventure or top off your account to get you in redemption range. For more see: Personal Credit Cards With Sign-Up Bonuses of up to 50,000 Miles.