an airplane cabin with a desk and chairs

My Painful Experience (Not) Using AAdvantage Miles

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I’m glad to be back in the game, though I was off to a bit of a painful start. And by a bit of a painful start, I mean a very painful start.

Booking a flight to Heathrow has always been on the cards, since I study there soon. Last Christmas, I purchased 270,000 AAdvantage miles as part of a Buy Miles promotion, so I’d be able to facilitiate these flights more cheaply.

I was certainly thrilled when American Airlines made it an option to book Etihad awards online from Asia to Europe, as it meant I could book my London flights off the system (British Airways releases a fair amount of award space on the route, though not nearly as much as Etihad – they didn’t have any seats for my first leg to London). Or so I thought.

an airplane cabin with a desk and chairsInvalid request error occurred.Etihad’s A380 business class has been on my bucket list for a while

Trying to book an Etihad award on the AAdvantage website

Two days ago Mom phoned me up panicking, saying that London flights were selling like hot cakes in anticipation of the new school year, especially from freshers like me. I sprang to action, excited that I’d have a new plane ticket booked by the end of the night.

I found the award seat on the Etihad flight that I wanted, so I clicked into it, hoping for a smooth purchase.

a screenshot of a flight selection

However, once I got to the tax billing page, I realised that page only allowed payment with a United States credit card, which I don’t have. GAH!

a screenshot of a computer

I tried to switch over to the Hong Kong website, though booking with miles kept automatically redirecting me to the U.S. website, so I wasn’t able to book anything online.

Calling American’s Hong Kong office

At this point I decided to call American’s Hong Kong hotline to see if I can find a ticket from there. The agent on the other end said that they weren’t able to book Etihad awards through the phone, even though they partnered with Etihad. They mentioned they were able to book British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Finnair awards, though there was nothing available. I hung up, called again, and was given the same information, so clearly it didn’t seem like a worthy workaround.

Calling American’s Australian office

At this point I was a little frustrated. I’ve read on One Mile At A Time that certain Etihad awards can only be booked on American through the Australian office. So I tried my luck with them. I was pretty surprised to hear that they also couldn’t book Etihad awards from Hong Kong to London, and were also only limited to only Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Finnair. This meant that I couldn’t use my miles to book Etihad awards at all.

Wait a second, the award space doesn’t even exist!

As I’ve stated in a previous post, only Etihad Guest awards are bookable using AAdvantage miles (Business Flex tickets aren’t). The easiest way you can check is by going onto Etihad’s website, where you don’t need an account to check if there’s availability – there’s a red button that allows you to check without logging in.

Go figure that there wasn’t actually Guest Business award space on the dates I needed, and the award space on American’s website was phantom. So at this point I gave up.

a screenshot of a computer

I ended up booking a flight on another airline, which cost me more money than I’d ever pay for a ticket…stay tuned.

Bottom Line

The main takeaway I have from this booking experience is that I have to be careful when buying miles. I only realised after I bought 270,000 AAdvantage miles that I’d run into issues with my credit card, and it definitely backfired on me this time around.

I’m not looking forward to calling the AAdvantage hotline whenever I find British Airways award space online, though I guess that means I’ll be flying them a few times in the future.

How has your experience been using AAdvantage miles to book with a non-American credit card?


  1. I just successfully booked an reward ticket using with one trick: (1) Hold your reservation after you figure out the flight combination. (2) Call AA call centre in Hong Kong to process the payment.

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