Our $38,000 Maldives Trip for less than ~$2,700 – Part 6 Going Home 1st Class

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Part 6 - Etihad First Class Flights (MLE-IAD)

Our time at the Maldives had come to an end and we were sad to leave.  Our host picked us up in a golf cart and loaded our luggage for the short drive to the departure jetty.  We returned to Male the same way we arrived through transfers arranged by Park Hyatt and described in Part 3 of this trip report.

 

Saying Goodbye to Paradise

 

Our speed boat arrived and we boarded along with a few other guests.  After getting to Kooddoo, our Park Hyatt agent took our passports and got our boarding passes for the short Maldivian flight to Male.  An agent greeted us in Male to walk us from the domestic terminal to the international terminal - just a short walk down a sidewalk.

After checking in, we headed to the lounge in Male for the short (less than an hour) wait until boarding time.

 

 

Flight #1 - Etihad Airways EY 279

Male (MLE) - Abu Dhabi (AUH)

Depart: 7:30 PM

Arrive: 10:55 PM

Duration: 4h 25m

Aircraft: Airbus A333

Seats: 2D & 2G

For our return flight, I was able to book us in First Class!  The aircraft is setup with 2 rows of first class seating in a 1-2-1 configuration (8 seats), 8 rows of business class seats also in a 1-2-1 configuration (32 seats) along with 191 economy seats setup in a 2-4-2 configuration.  Seatmap by Seatguru.

 

Etihad A333 Diamond First Class

 

The seats were HUGE!  There was also a sliding door for more privacy.  We selected the center seats so we could sit next to each other.

 

Etihad A333 Diamond First Class

 

In addition to providing pajamas to first class passengers, we were provided with amenity kits.  We had an amazing dinner before changing into our PJs.  The flight time was only about 4 and half hours and we were quickly in Abu Dhabi.

Since we had an overnight layover of 12 hours, I decided to stay in the Premier Inn airport hotel to try to get a few hours sleep instead of trying to sleep in the lounge as recommended by View From the Wing.  It was only $53 - very basic but clean.

We didn't sleep very well and got up early at 6am.  We showered and was out the door by 7am.  We wanted to spend as much time in the Etihad First Class lounge as we could.

 

Etihad Abu Dhabi First Class Lounge

 

We sat down to an amazing cook to order breakfast - no buffets here!  After breakfast it was time for our complimentary 15 spa service that we reserved as soon as we arrived in the lounge.  I went with a foot massage and my wife got a back massage.  15 minutes went by too quickly, but it was a nice treat.

 

Etihad Abu Dhabi First Class Lounge Spa Service

 

We still had about an hour until boarding time after our massages, so we sat at the bar area for some tastings.  We had a chance to talk to the bartender from Serbia and learn all about his life.  Finally we headed out towards the gate and cleared US Customs and Border Controls pre-clearance facility.

There was a another lounge past the pre-clearance checkpoint that we went in since we still had about 20 minutes before boarding.  Finally we boarded the Boeing 787-9 for our final journey home.

 

Etihad Boeing 787-9

Flight #2 - Etihad EY 131

Abu Dhabi (AUH) - Washington (IAD)

Depart: 10:35 AM

Arrive: 4:20 PM

Duration: 14h 45m

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9

Seats: 1D & 1G

This Boeing aircraft is setup with 2 rows of first class seat and 7 rows of business class seating in a 1-2-1 configuration (8 first class seats and 28 business class seats) along with 195 economy seats setup in a 3-3-3 configuration.  Seatmap by Seatguru.

 

Etihad Boeing 787-9 First Class

 

The seats were HUGE just like on the Airbus A333.  We again chose the middle section seats so we would sit next to each other.  On this flight, the first class cabin actually had an onboard chef that would take care of all of our meals.  Here is the menu:

 

Let me take you through our dinner:

 

Starter

 

Gulf Mezze

 

Palate Cleanser

 

Chestnut & Rosemary Risotto

 

Chocolate Cake & Cappuccino

 

It was an amazing meal.  Since it was such a long flight, we also had some snacks throughout the flight and breakfast before landing.  After dinner, it was time for some sleep, we changed into our PJs and relaxed.

 

 

One last thing I wanted to mention before I show you how I booked these award flights, Etihad offers a chauffeur service for first class passengers.  So when arriving at Washington DC, our driver met us at baggage claim, collected our bags and drove us home (about 35 miles) in a BMW 7 series.  Unfortunately as of August 2016, Etihad has eliminated this service for partner airline award tickets - luckily I booked it before it was eliminated.

 

Booking the Award Flights

While the current retail cost of this flight is almost $6500/each - we booked these award flights for 90,000 American Airlines miles before the March 22, 2016 AA changes (currently these flights cost 115,000 AA miles).

You are not able to book these awards on American Airlines website as it does not show Etihad Airways award space.  In order to find available award space, head over to Etihad.com.  After creating an Etihad Guest (frequent flier program) account, be sure to login in at the top right hand side of the website.

 

 

Next click on the 'Book flights' button:

 

 

Enter your departure and arrival cities, dates, and travel class.  It's best to search segment by segment and I like to start searching for the longest flight first.   So for my trip above, let's search AUH-IAD first, then we will search MLE-AUH.  Hit 'Search Flights' button:

 

 

Unfortunately there is no 'GuestSeat' space on our desired date.

 

 

We can start the search over, or just click on the next day on the calendar, May 19th.  There are two 'GuestSeats' left on this day.  Next we write down (or take a screen shot) the flight number, date, & time.

 

 

Since the above flight leaves on Friday May 19th, we will want to search Thursday May 18th for the MLE- AUH flight since there is only one flight per day.  Here are the results showing there are five business class award seats available.

 

 

Now that we have the flight information for both of these flights, we call American Airlines award reservations too book the flight.  When I booked our flights, I ran into an issue - even though Etihad's website showed award availability, the US based American Airlines reservations system could not see or book the space for me.

After a google search, I came across this post by One Mile at a Time that said to call American Airlines Reservations in Australia.  With nothing to lose, I used Skype to call the number he listed and sure enough, they were able to see and book the award space for me.  Taxes were only ~$76 for both tickets.

 

Wrap Up

We had an AMAZING $38,000 luxury trip to the Maldives for only a couple thousand dollars and 470,000 miles & points.  Five years ago, I wouldn't have thought it could be possible.  I'm in the process of planning our next amazing trip (SE Asia) for my 40th!

 

 

I started this blog to show you how to do the same.  I'm in the process of creating a beginner's course which will be complete shortly - please sign up (click on box at top right side of website) to be notified when it is live.

 


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