Flying eight hours in Etihad’s Apartments was a bucket list item checked for me. I won’t try to put words to the experience other than: DO IT.
Where can I fly in The Apartments?
The Apartments, not to be confused with The Residence (which has a separate bedroom and can’t be booked with AA miles), is available exclusively on the Airbus A380 aircraft. Abu Dhabi based Etihad has over 50 destinations but only but only five of those are operated by the A380. In 8 hours I did manage to sleep about two hours AND take a shower onboard, which is limited to five minutes of hot water.
To/From Abu Dhabi:
– New York
– Mumbai has been removed to add capacity to Paris**
At 14~ hours, Abu Dhabi to either New York or Sydney will be your choice if you want the most air-time. London and Paris clock in around 7-8 hours depending on direction and air traffic.
How do I search for award space?
I would recommend paying the $5 monthly for a base Expert Flyer membership. You can also try the $10 month “Pro” version for free for 5 days.
If you see one or more seats and you want to book, you should be smooth-sailing. This seat availability is pretty much real-time, I’ve watched it adjust as my seat was ticketed roughly 90 seconds later. Remember, you can set seat alerts on Expert Flyer if the flight you want does not have space at the moment.
Here is a peek at the lounge in the Etihad a380 which can be accessed by First and Business class passengers. There were other guests when we were in the lounge so I didn’t want to photograph them. (not my photo below)
The FREE method of searching for seats
If you want to search without paying, and I won’t blame you, Etihad Guest has you covered. Plug-in your cities and dates on this page, choose “first”, and then click “search flights”. On the next page click “proceed without logging in”.
You will be looking for the first column of “Guest First” seats. Notice the two seats left, the same number we spotted on Expert Flyer. In the case of Paris, they operate a 777 and A380 each day, make sure you are looking at the correct flight with the A380 aircraft to access The Apartments. I can’t tell you the feeling when you search for Etihad First award space only to realize it isn’t on the A380 aircraft, so disappointing.
How Many American Miles?
I will start with an easy number to swallow, as few as 62,500 AA miles one-way. If you want to fly from Abu Dhabi to New York, you are looking at 115,000 one-way, whoa! On the bright side, American Airlines credit card holders receive a 10% rebate of points, up to 10,000 per calendar year. That 62,500 mile route can effectively be 56,250, really not too bad.
How about that 62,500 AA miles option, that will get you from nearly anywhere in Europe to the Middle East/Indian Sub-Continent one-way. That means you could, in theory, fly from Iceland to the Maldives for 62,500 miles one-way.
Since you are booking with American Airlines miles, you can mix and match OneWorld partners and fly up to FOUR segments per one-way award. That means you could fly British Airways, then Etihad, and finish off with SriLankan Airlines.
If you are like Alyssa and I, you’ll want to maximize every stop possible. American Airlines allows 24 hours layovers when flying on an international itinerary. That means you could fly Reykjavik, Iceland to London, stay up to 24 hours, fly London to Abu Dhabi, stay up to 24 hours, fly Abu Dhabi to Colombo, Sri Lanka, stay up to 24 hours, and then head to Male, Maldives. (sorry that was a long sentence)
That sample itinerary would be with British Airways, Etihad, and SriLankan, all for 62,500 miles plus fees. You would of course have to find award space on each segment, read my post about finding OneWorld award space. We flew Hyderabad > Mumbai > Abu Dhabi > London > Barcelona for 62,500 miles plus $75 in fees.
Note that not every flight in Europe and the Middle East will operate a first class cabin, in those instances, you’ll have to downgrade individual flights to business class. If just one of the four flights are in first class (The Apartments from London to Abu Dhabi), the entire itinerary will still be charged as first class, 62,500 miles one-way.
Ready to Book
American Airlines allows you to hold an award reservation for 5 days, even without miles being in your account. If you see Etihad Apartments award space on your date, I would call American Airlines to hold it, then start planning travel around it to see if you can make it work. There is no risk or obligation, it will just cancel if you don’t lock it in. I’ve once held three separate award reservations at the same time as I was piecing together our around the world #1 trip.
Many people, myself included, have the best success booking Etihad awards using American miles by calling their Australian hub: +61-2-91011948 (Download Google Voice to make the call)
Don’t you just love extras? American Airlines will allow you to change the routing of your reservation so long as the start and end points don’t change. If you decide you want layover in Madrid rather than London on route to your final destination, that is permitted so long as there is award space available in your cabin.
Another perk, you can change the dates of your travel without incurring a charge. If you need to push your one-way trip back by a week, that is allowed provided award space is available.
You can check out the region definitions, Europe is very broad, and AA miles required between each region, here. And if you really want to make your brain ache, read all the in-depth rules for routing, here.
For traveling couples, choose seats 3A and 4A or 3K and 4K on the Etihad a380 since they have a dividing wall that lowers allowing you to sleep side-by-side. (awwwww..)