Before I get to the review, let me explain the ways you can go about redeeming miles. For people that have accumulated airline miles, there are two prevailing thoughts on how to use them. The first is redeeming for a product that gives you the most value. For example, redeeming 60k miles for a business class ticket that would cost $3,000 if you were to pay with cash. This gives you a value of 5 cents per mile ($3,000/60,000 miles = 0.05 cents/mile). The second is using the redemption that costs the least number of miles so you can put the savings into another trip for the future. An example of this is using 30k miles to book a ticket in economy class that would usually cost $600. This gives you a lower value of 2 cents per mile ($600/30,000 miles = 0.02 cents per mile) but now you have miles left over for a future trip.
Up until this particular trip, I have always fell into the latter. I usually preferred sacrificing comfort and indulgence for the opportunity to travel more. When I called American Airlines to redeem their miles on their partner airline Etihad, I did so fully intending to book economy for my wife and I. This would have came at a cost of 15k miles per 1 way ticket from Abu Dhabi to Maldives. When the customer service rep looked into my inquiry, she informed me that only business class redemption’s were available on this flight since economy was fully booked. The redemption was 30k miles per ticket. I thought about the opportunity cost the higher redemption might have for a future flight but gave her the green light to book business class. And it was probably the best redemption decision I have ever made in terms of value. Had I booked that same business class ticket using cash, it would have cost 6,345 AED or $1,727.47 per ticket. Using this redemption, my wife and I got an incredible value. of 5.7 cents per mile.
As for the product itself, you really feel like you’re getting the most for your miles when you book with Etihad. When your flight originates from Abu Dhabi, you reap the benefits before you even arrive at the airport. Etihad offers a luxury chauffeur service for business class travelers where a Mercedes or BMW will pick up you up from your hotel/home and take you to the airport. This service was offered in various cities worldwide before Etihad pared it down to their hub city. Unfortunately, I had a one-way car rental from Dubai so I was not able to utilize this service. Upon checking in at Abu Dhabi airport, my wife and I had complimentary access to the Etihad Business Class lounge. You can read about that experience here. After spending over an hour at the lounge, it was time to head over to our gate for our flight to Male. Our plane was parked on the tarmac away from the jet bridge and a shuttle would ferry us there. The first shuttle was only for first class and business class passengers. It was 75% empty and they could have easily fit an additional 30-35 passengers. At that point it became clear that Etihad really goes the extra mile in adding to the exclusiveness for their first and business class customers. Once seated on the plane we were immediately offered beverages and given a menu. The choices are seen below.
I went with the scrambled egg option while the wife opted for the vanilla pancakes. I’ve never had chicken sausage before and while I would have preferred beef, it still tasted pretty good. I took a bite from the wife’s pancakes and kind of wished I ordered that instead. Both were delicious but the pancakes were a tad bit better. The flight was about 4 hours long and the flight attendants came by routinely to ask if we wanted any beverages. The cappuccino was good but not much different than any other cup of cappuccino I’ve had. And they gave a pouch with eye covers and socks.
Since we were flying in the Airbus A320, our seats were not the fully lay-flat seats seen in the Boeing 777 or Airbus A380. They still reclined a great deal and were plenty comfortable. Just prior to landing, we were given an expedited customs card which allowed us to go to the front of the line for immigration/customs. Looking back on it, the value we received for the extra 15k miles per person was tremendous. Had I booked economy (if it were available), the 15k miles per person saved might have been enough for two one-way saver award tickets or one round trip ticket anywhere in the continental U.S. on American. Perhaps the total maximum value would be $450 on the 30k miles saved. By booking business class, the extra 15k miles spent per person netted us a benefit of $900-$1000 per ticket. That is called getting value for your miles. It may also have me rethink my strategy when booking future award flights.