Earning miles: easy. Using miles.... don't even get me started. Even if you know all the best tips, sometimes there just aren't seats. Short of calling the airline and begging for them to create a seat out of thin air we're often left helpless, at the mercy of those who decide which seats get sold and which can be redeemed for miles. When the bean counters throw us a bone it's important to take advantage. Quickly.
Etihad First, one of the most luxurious ways to fly, is wide open for this coming summer using either Etihad or American Airlines miles from the US to the Emirates and beyond. It's nearly as good going the other way and still decent between London and Abu Dhabi. As a matter of note, if you find availability on one of their A380 aircraft which service London and Abu Dhabi as well as New York and Abu Dhabi, you'll wont receive First class pictured above, you'll receive the first class apartment pictured below, one of the most stunning (and over the top) airline seats in the world.
Booking: To book at the best rate using 90,000 American Airlines miles one way for first class between the US and the Gulf or 40,000 miles between London and Abu Dhabi you'll need to find "Guest Seat" Availability on Etihad's website. When you find "Guest Seat", which means least possible miles required availability, you can lock it in directly using Etihad miles online or if using American Airlines miles, phone in to book. No guest seat, no American availability. Sadly American does not show the award space online nor is it bookable online. You'll have to search on Etihad's website but after finding the space a phone call will do the trick!
Tip: Try to find space on their A380 which features the First Class Apartment. If you have flexibility the airline is known for releasing this coveted award space from London to Abu Dhabi and USA to the Gulf as the date approaches. Essentially, whatever seats are free they will make available using miles, it just might be very close to the travel date and you'll need to keep checking.
Ok ok, it's not a freaking apartment on a plane and it doesn't feature a semi private chef to cook you whatever your eccentric mind can dream up but it's a hell of a way to travel. American Airlines Business Class, especially on their 777-300 wide body aircraft is top notch and directly in line with Cathay Pacific and the rest. American does not charge taxes and fuel surcharges on it's flights to or from London making it one of the best ways to cross the pond. For next summer including peak months like July it's wide open using miles with as many as seven business class seats.
Booking: The best way to book this is with American Airlines miles where you will pay just 50,000 miles each way from the US to Europe or vice versa for flat bed business. It's an outstanding rate and given that they don't tack hundreds and hundreds in surcharges it's even better. For example, it's 50,000 miles and $5.60 from New York to London. If using American miles isn't an option you can try to lock in the space using your British Airways miles at a worse rate for more dough. It's still a great seat! Simply login at aa.com and search "using miles", business class and look for seats at the "Saver" level of 50,000 miles.
Tip: Book these now. Summer travel is peak, American is overdue to make their miles worth less and there are enough seats to take the whole family in style at the moment.
The only thing better than flying business class or first class is doing it using miles and saving your cash for a great hotel or experience abroad. This is a rare and terrific opportunity to get some real value out of your miles while bringing your travel to new heights!
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