The Maldives are one of the most coveted destinations in the entire world. Located in the the Indian Ocean, not far from India and Sri Lanka, this collection of thousands of islands houses some of the world’s most lavish resorts, most occupying their own island.
My fiance has always dreamt of going to the Maldives for her honeymoon, and with us being frequent fliers, I had to figure out how to best utilize our miles / points to get us there. I’ll soon be writing a more detailed post about redemption options to the Maldives in general, but for now, let’s focus on how I did it for our honeymoon.
- Flights from San Francisco to Mauritius
- Lodging in Mauritius
- Flights from Mauritius to Luxor
- Egypt Lodging
- Flights from Cairo to the Maldives
- Maldives Lodging
- Flights from the Maldives back to San Francisco
Most award programs price their award tickets out by regions. You look at an award chart. You pick which region you’re in, and you pick which region you’d like to go to. Airlines typically draw similar boundaries where regions start and end, but in the Middle East / India / South Asia, the lines vary more between carriers. For example, United considers Cairo to be a part of the Middle East while the Maldives are part of Central Asia. American Airlines has a region called “Indian Sub-Continent / Middle East,” and despite the fact that the Maldives and Cairo are over 3000 miles away, they’re still both located in this region.
American Airlines Indian Sub-Continent / Middle East ~ Note how Egypt and Maldives are in the same region.
United Airlines Middle East and Central Asia ~ Note how Egypt and Maldives are in different regions.
On the American Airlines Partner award chart, a one-way ticket within the Middle East in Economy is 17,500 miles, and in Business Class, it is 25,000 miles. As Cairo and Male are within the same region, that’s all you need to go between the two. Contrast this with United’s award chart, where an economy between Cairo and Male (hopping between two regions) is 20,000 miles and a business class ticket is 35,000 miles.
See the AA award chart for partner flights below (click the chart to see it on the AA website):
There are no non-stop flights from Cairo to the Maldives, and if you try to book with a OneWorld carrier, you likely won’t find any award availability with a reasonable routing. In comes the American Airlines partner, Etihad Airlines. Etihad is based out of Abu Dhabi and as of last month, they fly to the Maldives. While I had to wait until 331 days before my flight to book, I decided to check availability the few days before I could book. I called up the American Airlines Agent to inqure. No matter what day I had her check, there were always at least two business class and two coach seats available on both legs (CAI-AUH and AUH-MLE). Wow! Forgive me for being overly excited about this, but if you’ve ever searched for award availability to the Maldives, you know that finding one seat in coach is a rarity. Finding two is unheard of, especially in business class. All this availability was making me confident. I don’t typically fly American Airlines (and when I do, I credit my flights to Alaska Airlines) so my mileage balance was zero, but I transferred 40,000 Starwood points to American, and after the SPG bonus, that translated into 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles. Five days later, the points were in my account, and it was time to book.
It was shocking that I could get CAI-AUH-MLE (over 3000 total miles) in Business Class for only 25,000 miles a ticket. I called the agent, told her the flight numbers I wanted, and within ten minutes, my tickets were booked.
Another neat thing about this award ticket route is the fact that there are two daily flights on Etihad from Cairo to Abu Dhabi, and the first one is operated by a full 3 cabin international configuration Airbus A330. So despite the fact that the flight is only 1400 miles, we will be getting lie-flat seats and a widebody plane to Abu Dhabi. We’ll land at 7PM, go searching for the best Arab food we can, and then hit the sack to rest up for our journey to the Maldives!
There are even more perks to this route than great availability, great value, and 3-cabin widebodies (at least to AUH – it’s a 2 cabin A320 to MLE). The flights are also at great times. Most other flights from the Middle East to the Maldives are red-eyes. You’ll leave at 1AM or so and get into the Maldives around 6AM. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I typically never feel quite right the day after a redeye. This Etihad routing lets you stay the night in a hotel in Abu Dhabi, resting up for the next day’s journey. We get into Male at 2:30PM, and the last seaplane departure to the Conrad Maldives leaves at 4PM – plenty of time. I’m excited that we’ll be able to arrive on the island after a full rest in a hotel, rather than 3 mediocre hours of sleep on a plane.
Maybe I’m over-celebrating this booking, but here’s why I love it:
- Great value redemption: 25,000 miles for international Business Class and over 3000 total miles traveled
- Excellent award availability: If you call 10 or 11 months in advance, the seats will be there in both coach and business. If you’d rather spend less miles, you don’t need to sleep on either of these flights, and they’re not super long – economy tickets would be just fine.
- One of the flights has an international 3-cabin configuration. Lie flat seats – woot!
- Spend the night in Abu Dhabi and arrive early enough for dinner. I’ve never been there before, I don’t know when I’ll get the opportunity to go again, and I’m thankful to be able to quickly see a new place! We are going to stay at the Aloft Abu Dhabi with a Cash + Points reservation for 2800 SPG points + $45.
If you and your significant other are thinking about taking a trip (or honeymoon) to the Maldives, consider spending some time in Cairo. See the pyramids and take in the sights. And then from Cairo, book a one-way or round-trip award with American miles on Etihad via Abu Dhabi. It’s an excellent value with excellent availability.
And by the way, my honeymoon isn’t until October 2012 so you will have to wait quite a while for the trip report! 🙂
CAI-AUH-MLE Type of Points Used: Starwood Preferred Guest (transferred to American)
Number of Points Used: 40,000 SPG Points
Fees: $65.80/ticket + $50 phone ticketing fee, $181.60 Total
Aloft Abu Dhabi Type of Points Used: Starwood Preferred Guest
Number of Points Used: 2800 SPG Points
Fees: $45 (cash + points redemption)