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Specifically, a First Class or a Business Class award….
The Airline: Amercian Airlines
The Arbitrage: Book the American Airlines flights using Etihad Airways miles
The cost: 50,000 Etihad miles (plus minor fees) for a one-way flight from anywhere in the US to anywhere in Europe on American Airlines – or vice versa. Note that the operating carrier must be AA. This isn’t a OneWorld airline and you cannot add any other airlines into the mix.
You can also (unrelatedly) book a one-way transcontinental flight (JFK-SFO/LAX) for 25,000 Etihad miles.
The transferable currencies you need: American Express Membership Rewards or Citi Thank You points.
In more detail:
Etihad Airways has an award chart that is specifically on flights on their partner American Airlines. You will note that there is a column for B/F (Business / First) and another for Premium. I haven’t found a situation where the Premium price comes into play. Even on a three cabin aircraft, a seat in Business is the same price as one up in First.
If you booked these flights with American Airlines AAdvantage miles, you would pay 57,500 for a flight in Business Class or 85,000 miles for a flight in First Class.
If you are short on AAdvantage miles or prefer to save them for more fantastic redemption opportunities as I do, this is a great hack. Even greater if your preference is First Class, however, you should note that AA only has First Class on very few flights to Europe and what they do won’t blow your mind. Still, it can be a great experience for 50,000 points! And that would also get you entrance to the Flagship lounge and exclusive Flagship First Dining.
To find availability:
You can use AA.com but unfortunately, you can’t sort by month AND by the carrier. But there is availability to be had both ways JFK-LHR, for example, in First.
If you find availability, you should also be able to book something like LAX-JFK-LHR all in First for 50k.
And you should be able to mix and match First and Business as well.
Connections are allowed. Stopovers are not allowed and will force the award to price as two awards. Awards can be canceled up to 24 hours before departure for a 20% penalty of your miles or up to 96 hours prior for 10% of your miles. You should be able to make a free change before that time.
Some of the rules are not clearly written and the agents get clarification on a case-by-case basis. For instance, one document I had found online indicated I could book a stopover but, in several attempts, I was denied each time – with the award priced as two.
1-877-690-0767 and press 1, 4, 1, 1 to get to the right desk which will most likely be a nice agent in Serbia. Tell them what you want and they’ll find it. If you see the award availability on AA.com (again, make sure it’s on AA metal, not BA or Iberia, etc) or on ExpertFlyer, they will be able to see it.
They can also hold the award for 24 hours if you need time to transfer. Of the two transfer partners, only Amex will be instant. Citi can take around 7 days, so you can’t hold the seats that long. If using Citi, you’d need to transfer speculatively.
The agents I spoke to seemed friendly and competent.
You’ll notice I mentioned at the outset you can also use this domestically. If you can find a transcon three cabin First class award seat available on the JFK-LAX/SFO route (review), you can book that for a steal of just 25,000 Etihad miles. Using AA miles, that same flight would cost 50,000 each way!
To get the points:
You can acquire or spend on any American Express Membership Rewards earning cards like the 100,000 point offer on now for the Business Platinum card (or personal Platinum if targeted) or get 50,000 points with the Citi Premier’s current signup offer.
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