When I saw that American Airlines added the ability to book Etihad awards online yesterday, my heart sank. Would the floodgates now be open, quickly decimating what remains a treasure trove of award space?
The answer appears to be no, at least for now. That’s a relief. If I’ve lost you already, let me go back and explain.
Etihad and American Airlines have partnered for years. Up until last night, you could only secure award seats on Etihad using your American Airlines miles by calling in. And even that was often met by frustration, for AA’s U.S. call center only has access to a subset of the total award space Etihad made available to its partners.
It seemed likely this was an AA-imposed block, though AA always and continues to deny this. In any case, there was a workaround. By calling AA’s Australian call center, you could secure space that AA agents in the USA could not see.
So when AA made Etihad bookable online yesterday, the big question was whether it would still block space. Upon further research, AA is still blocking some Etihad award space. That’s really great news for you.
Great news? How is blocking space good news? The answer is simple: because now you know about it and most people don’t. Instead of all the Etihad award space lying there on AA.com like low-hanging fruit for every Tom, Dick, and Harry to snatch, those who learn the tricks of the AAdvantage program will still have access to additional space by calling the Australian call center.
That’s always the struggle, isn’t it? It certainly is nice to book online versus over the phone. But when you must call to book, you already have a big advantage over most, who assume that if the space does not show up online, it is not available.
Some call my viewpoint on this selfish. I’m willing to stipulate that. But award space, particularly in premium cabins, is a classic supply/demand problem. There’s already insufficient space for all who seek it. Why make it even easier, essentially allowing the space to be booked by those who just stumble upon it? I want easier access to award space for myself, my clients and my readers. Is that so bad?
I will create a guide next week to help you smartly search for Etihad award space. In the meantime, just understand that what you see on aa.com may not represent what is actually available. And be happy about that…