Picture courtesy of nationalgeographic.com
I have been writing about AAdvantage awards to the Maldives before. However since it has access to not just one but two gulf carriers and the most complex award rules for travel to such a region I figured it's a good idea to tackle this again with learning from my upcoming booking.
AAdvantage has a number of spelled out and more elusive award rules.
1) The over-water carrier needs to publish a fare for the destination pair (often the biggest issue)
2) You can't transit a third region with these exceptions
North America to/from Indian Sub Continent/Middle East can connect in:Europe
North America to/from Africa can connect in:Europe
North America to/from Asia 2 can connect in:Asia 1
Central/South America to/from Indian Sub Continent/Middle East can connect in:Europe
Central/South America to/from Africa can connect in:Europe
Central/South America to/from South Pacific can connect in:S. America 2
South America 2 to/from Indian Sub Continent/Middle East can connect in:Europe
Indian Sub Continent/Middle East to/from Asia 1 can connect in:Asia 2
Indian Sub Continent/Middle East to/from South Pacific can connect in:Asia 2
Africa to/from Asia 1 can connect in:Asia 2
Asia 1 to/from Europe can connect in:Asia 2
Asia 1 to/from South Pacific can connect in:Asia 2
3) you must be within 125% of MPM – often this isn't an issue at all
4) You must adhere to the routing as given in the published fare (not true for all fares/ routes!)
So what carriers can take you there?
A) Cathay Pacific
Instead of going to the Maldives – go to Colombo which is less than 500 miles away from Male. Thankfully Sri Lanka and Hong Kong are in the same zone so you pay the same prices you'd be paying for just going from the US to Hong Kong!
Cathay Pacific flies from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver. Cathay Pacific is also starting flights from Newark (EWR) on April 2014 – this option has the best availability by far, though it has no first class.
If you like to continue to travel on miles us 4,500 BA Avios to go on British Airways to Male.
The good news is also that Cathay Pacific 'publishes a fare' from most major US airports so you won't have trouble convincing the agents book that flight for you.
B) Qatar Airways
Qatar is another great option. They publish fares from many major airports in the United States. However availability has become much tighter since their official Oneworld joining date. I could not find more than a one day (!) in May/June next year in business class for each of their US destinations going to Doha!
In my recent calls the agent required me to use a routing that is given in the published fare to get the correct price as one award.
i.e. if the published fare showed SFO-ORD-DOH-MLE that's the routing you have to adhere to
Etihad is launching flights from Los Angeles from on June 2014. This was my prime candidate. So far Etihad also has good award availability and flies from these US airports:
– New York
– Los Angeles (June 1st)
Etihad has also recently started to publish one fares for business class to Colombo (but this is in the Asia 2 zone, so one can't stop in the Middle East).
No fares exist to Male (MLE) though – that seems more than a coincidence.
What you can do though is fly to Thiruvananthapuram, India. From there Air India will take you to Male for just $131 one-way.
This only works in business class – not in first class.
Alternatively you can book the Abu Dhabi – Male leg as a separate award for 50,000 in business and 70,000 in first class with AAdvantage.
D) Malaysia Airlines and British Airways
I will not cover them since British Airways requires and airport change and has enormous fuel surcharges. Malaysia Airlines only has one flight the the United States and a very mediocre business class product.
The best options are Cathay Pacific and Qatar to the Maldives. However both have drastically reduced availability recently and it can be hard to find any available dates. I will most likely try Etihad and it's first class product for myself and find another innovative way to get to the Maldives from Abu Dhabi