The Best Ways to Fly to India With Points and Miles [Step-by-Step]

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If you’re a travel enthusiast, then India might be high on your radar. With the second biggest population in the world, India is a melting pot — even inside the country, it seems like there are so many different cultures wherever you look!

India’s diverse languages, customs, music, architecture, and food draw travelers from all over the world. But unfortunately, India is not a particularly convenient destination from America. Let us explain.

Only 3 carriers operate flights from North America to India: United Airlines, Air India, and Air Canada. Air Canada only operates in Canada, while United Airlines and Air India support the U.S.

Understandably, the first instinct is to look at Star Alliance frequent flyer programs, since all of the aforementioned airlines belong to the same alliance. In this guide, we’ll explore the best ways to fly to India with points and miles.

We’ll focus here on nonstop flights to India, but will also touch on some ways you can book 1-stop flights as well. There are a few sweet spots that exist with these 1-stop flights, though nonstops might be preferable for those who want to waste no time traveling around the giant country that is India!

Best Airline Programs to Book Flights to India

When flying nonstop from the U.S. or Canada, you have 3 options: United, Air Canada, and Air India.

Air India is the only option of the 3 above that has a first class product on these nonstop routes. However, Air India’s premium cabin products are notoriously bad, so we wouldn’t necessarily encourage flying with them unless you want some novelty.

If none of these options seem appetizing to you, you’ll have to take a connecting flight to expand your potential.

Most of your options for connecting flights are:

Notable Airlines That Operate Connecting Flights to India From North America
Aeroflot (Moscow) to DelhiChina Eastern (Shanghai) to DelhiKLM (Amsterdam) to Delhi and Mumbai
Air China (Beijing) to Delhi and MumbaiEL AL (Tel Aviv) to MumbaiKorean Air (Seoul) to Delhi and Mumbai
Air France/JOON (Paris) to Delhi/MumbaiEmirates (Dubai) to Delhi and MumbaiLufthansa (Frankfurt/Munich) to Delhi and Mumbai
British Airways (London) to Delhi and MumbaiEtihad (Abu Dhabi) to Delhi and MumbaiQatar Airways (Doha) to Delhi and Mumbai
Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong) to Delhi and MumbaiFinnair (Helsinki) to Delhi and MumbaiSWISS (Zurich) to Delhi and Mumbai
China Airlines (Taipei) to DelhiJapan Airlines (Tokyo) to MumbaiTurkish Airlines (Istanbul) to Delhi and Mumbai

The list above is not meant to be exhaustive; there are simply too many routes that can emerge from 1-stop itineraries. However, we listed the notable airlines that can provide a comfortable, luxurious inflight experience.

Again, since you have so many options for flights, the key is to have a lot of the 4 major transferable rewards points: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy points.

As always, flexibility is key. India is known for fuel surcharges, so be wary of those also.

Let’s start by digging into your nonstop flight options. Then, we’ll examine some ways to construct 2-in-1 vacations utilizing routing rules and connecting flights!

Air Canada Aeroplan

Lufthansa B747-8 First Class Seat 1A and 1K - Cherag Dubash
Lufthansa first class in the nose of the 747-8 is like your own private jet, but with even better service. Image Credit: Cherag Dubash

Now that we’ve provided the background for options to India, let’s dig directly into booking options! We’re going to start with Air Canada Aeroplan.

We love Aeroplan because this program doesn’t pass on any fuel surcharges, has reasonable redemption rates based on flying distance, and allows you to add stopovers for just 5,000 miles on one-way tickets!

For all Air Canada and partner flights, the redemption costs will be according to the following distance-based award chart:

Aeroplan North America Pacific Award Chart
Aeroplan North America Pacific Award Chart. Image Credit: Aeroplan

While the cost of redeeming awards with points is dependent on the distance you fly, you won’t pay for any fuel surcharges, no matter which carrier you choose to fly on.

One unique benefit of Aeroplan is that you can add a stopover, even on one-way flights, for 5,000 extra miles!

If you decide to fly on Air Canada’s business class, you can depart from either Toronto (YYZ) or Vancouver (YVR) to Delhi (DEL). There are 2 United Airlines flights from Newark (EWR) that can get you to Mumbai (BOM) or Delhi (DEL).

Booking Air India provides a lot of options for departure airports: you can choose to fly from Chicago (ORD), Newark (EWR), New York (JFK), or San Francisco (SFO).

Of course, its airline products are not very well-reviewed, so keep that in mind if you decide to fly on Air India.

For those interested in flying superior airline products and who don’t mind connecting flights, look into SWISS Air, Turkish Airlines, Air China, or Singapore Airlines. You’ll have to connect in its hubs of Zurich, Istanbul, Beijing, or Singapore (respectively), but it might be worth it to fly a solid business class product.

And if you’re interested in flying on a top-notch first class product the whole way, check out Lufthansa first class!

Here are some great example routes you can take:

  • Boston (BOS) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Delhi (DEL) on Lufthansa first class for 110,000 miles one-way (115,000 with a stopover in Frankfurt)
  • Chicago (ORD) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Delhi (DEL) nonstop on Air India first class for 220,000 miles round-trip
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Bengaluru (BLR) on Lufthansa first class for 135,000 miles one-way with a stopover in Frankfurt
  • New York (JFK) – Beijing (PEK) – Mumbai (BOM) on Air China business class for 170,000 miles round-trip
  • Newark (EWR) – Delhi (DEL) nonstop on United Airlines business class for 75,000 miles one-way
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Zurich (ZRH) – Delhi (DEL) on SWISS Air, Turkish Air, and Air India business class for 90,000 miles one-way with a stopover in Zurich

Earning Aeroplan Points

Aeroplan is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex and Chase points transfer to Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio and Capital One at a 2:1.5 ratio, but you can transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points to receive 20,000 Aeroplan points plus a 5,000-mile bonus. This brings the Marriott Bonvoy to Aeroplan ratio to 2.4:1.

Amex has a number of personal and business cards that earn Membership Rewards points to choose from, making it easy to accumulate the necessary points.

Recommended Amex Cards (Personal)

The Platinum Card® from American Express - There's currently a new welcome bonus offer of 60,000 100,000 Membership Rewards Points after spending $6,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.

This is our #1 card for accessing 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide, including Priority Pass (enrollment required). We leverage ~$4,900+ in benefits and perks from the card every year. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
American Express® Gold Card - This card has a new welcome bonus of 35,000 60,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $4,000 on purchases in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

We love using this card as it earns 4X Membership Rewards Points at restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and earns 4X Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).

There's no better card in our opinion if you eat out and/or shop at supermarkets regularly; and you'll have access to many benefits and perks. Terms apply and for rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.

If you’re a business owner, we would recommend taking a look at the numerous American Express business credit cards that earn Amex points, as well as come with numerous travel benefits.

Bottom Line: Aeroplan takes the top spot here because it gives you a variety of airlines you can fly for competitive redemption rates without paying fuel surcharges. You will also be allowed to add a stopover for just 5,000 miles to maximize your redemption value. It also partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy for transfers.

United Airlines MileagePlus

Swiss Air Business Class
Image Credit: SWISS Air

Here are 2 reasons we like United MileagePlus: very low to no fuel surcharges across the board and transfer partnerships with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Getting to India can be a tall order; planning a trip to India without fuel surcharges can quickly become a logistical nightmare. Here’s how much it would cost if you’re redeeming United miles aboard United Airlines flights:

Award Redemption Costs to Fly to India With United MileagePlus (United-Operated flights)
Cabin ClassUnited Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy85,000~$111
Business155,000~$111
FirstN/A (United doesn’t offer first class)~$42

Here’s how much it would cost to fly to India when redeeming United miles for partner-operated flights, like on SWISS Air or Turkish Airlines:

Award Redemption Costs to Fly to India With United MileagePlus (Partner-Operated Flights)
Cabin ClassUnited Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy94,000~$111
Business187,000~$111
First280,000~$42

Actually, United’s economy cost is very reasonable; it’s competitive with the best award costs for India.

The main draws of using this booking method are twofold: low surcharges with all partners, plus a transfer partnership with Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Hot Tip: United Airlines makes award bookings very easy, even on Star Alliance partners. You can do everything online, your taxes and fees will be very low, and best of all the process is simple! 

Earning United Airlines MileagePlus Miles

You can earn United miles directly with the United co-branded credit card series.

You can also earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can then be transferred to United. In many cases, these cards will be the fastest way to earn lots of United miles.

Lastly, you have the option of boosting your United miles with Marriott Bonvoy points. For every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points you transfer to United, you’ll get 27,500 United miles!

Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - This is our favorite beginners travel rewards card, which is currently offering Chase's best offer ever of 100,000 point bonus after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

The card earns 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining and 2x points on all other travel purchases, plus more. Enjoy a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, and other travel benefits such as excellent travel insurance coverage, including car rental insurance and no foreign transaction fees, this card is a very rewarding card.
Chase Sapphire Reserve® - This premium card will get you access to 1,300+ airport lounges. as well as a number of other card benefits. The current sign up bonus is 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. You'll also get a $300 travel credit per year which wipes away a big chunk of the $550 annual fee. As an extra bonus, until 12/31/21, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit.

Earn big with this card, earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® card - A solid, no annual fee card that earns you a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first 3 months. Earn 5% cash-back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, and 5% on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Then earn 3% cash-back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash-back on all other purchases, but you won't get any travel benefits with this card.

Recommended Chase Cards (Business)

Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card - this is our #1 recommended business card and right now comes with a 100,000 sign up bonus after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. This bonus is worth $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Pay your cell phone bill with this card to receive up to $600 in cell phone insurance coverage per year; as well as a number of other benefits.

Earn 3x on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, plus 1x on all other purchases — with no limit to the amount you can earn. All for an annual fee of $95.
Ink Business Cash® Credit Card - Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

This no annual fee business card earns up to 5% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year, plus 2% cash-back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary.
Ink Business Unlimited® Credit Card - Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase made for your business.

Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. There's no annual fee.

Bottom Line: United Airlines is an exceedingly simple program with minimal fuel surcharges, a simple booking process, and reasonable redemption rates. It’s also a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner. If you have enough points, consider booking with United to minimize your out-of-pocket costs. 

Avianca LifeMiles

Air Canada Business Class
Air Canada Signature class on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Image Credit: Air Canada

Avianca is a Star Alliance partner. If all you care about is being able to fly to India on Star Alliance airlines and you also have a lot of Citi ThankYou Points, Avianca is your best bet.

As noted above, you’ll have the choice of traveling nonstop on United, Air India, or Air Canada, though 1-stop flights open up lots of options.

The economy and business award costs are actually extremely reasonable. The other factor that puts Avianca LifeMiles near the top of our list is the fact that it doesn’t pass on any fuel surcharges, minimizing your out-of-pocket cost.

Here’s the award chart for the flights we’re looking at:

Cabin ClassAvianca LifeMiles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy85,000~$31
Business156,000~$31
First222,000~$31

Here are some example routes you can book with Avianca LifeMiles:

  • Houston (IAH) – Newark (EWR) – Delhi (DEL) on United Airlines Polaris class
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Delhi (DEL) on United Airlines Polaris class
  • Toronto (YYZ) – Delhi (DEL) on Air Canada business class

To book Star Alliance partners with LifeMiles, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Avianca Vuela website.
  2. Click on “LifeMiles” in the bottom right corner of Avianca’s homepage.
  3. Once you’re on the LifeMiles page, hover over “Use” and click on “Airlines.”
  4. Enter your desired destination and travel dates and hit “continue.” The next screen shows availability and costs for those dates, as well as for 2 days before and after.
  5. Select your flight.

Hot Tip: You won’t be paying any fuel surcharges by booking with LifeMiles. This is an awesome way to avoid fuel surcharges on long flights to India!

Earning Avianca LifeMiles

LifeMiles is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Capital One Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy.

You can earn LifeMiles miles directly by applying for the Banco Popular co-branded card.

It’s also possible to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points if you need to top off your LifeMiles balance.

Another method to consider is purchasing LifeMiles. Avianca has periodic sales providing up to 200% bonus miles, so hold out for one of those before pulling the trigger.

Bottom Line: Avianca Vuela is a great way to book round-trip economy and business class flights to India as cheaply as possible, especially for those with lots of Citi ThankYou Points. The combination of low award costs and fuel surcharges make this program a no-brainer. 

All Nippon Airways Mileage Club

ANA New 777 The Suite First Class Cabin
ANA New 777 The Suite first class cabin. Image Credit: All Nippon Airways

We’re big fans of ANA, but unfortunately, ANA’s awesome redemption rates are somewhat muted by the fuel surcharges it imposes on routes to India (particularly nonstop flights).

Still, it’s worth discussing if you are comfortable paying $600 to $800 in fuel surcharges in return for saving points.

If you fly on Air India, you will be paying every penny of those fuel surcharges. If flying on United or Air Canada, you won’t be responsible for most of the fuel surcharges.

You can book connecting flights on ANA metal as follows: (L = Low Season, R = Regular Season, H = High Season)

ANA Asia 2 (Zone 4) Award Chart
Here’s the award chart for ANA-operated flights from North America to India. Image Credit: ANA

ANA does not operate nonstop flights to India from North America. If you’re fine with that and want to fly in ANA business class, your redemption prices will be very reasonable. Just be cautious of the ~$400 to $500 in taxes and fees you’ll have to pay.

Here’s the award chart for Star Alliance flights we’re looking at:

Cabin ClassANA Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy80,000Variable (depends on carrier)
Business136,000Variable (depends on carrier)
First240,000Variable (depends on carrier)

As far as miles costs go, the economy and business class redemptions are extremely reasonable. Taxes and fees will most likely be the determining factor here, and they vary from carrier to carrier.

Hot Tip: If you are open to taking connecting flights, you’ll be able to experience business class products such as ANA, Air China, SWISS Air, or Turkish Airlines with little (or no) fuel surcharges. 

Here’s how to book awards with ANA miles:

  1. Visit ANA’s website.
  2. Choose “ANA Mileage Club.”
  3. Choose “International” then “Award Reservation.”
  4. Log into your account.
  5. Enter your desired route and dates.
  6. Choose your desired class of travel.
  7. Choose your flights.
  8. Reserve your flight and pay for any applicable taxes and fees.

Earning ANA Miles

ANA Mileage Club is a transfer partner with Amex Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Amex points transfer to ANA at a 1:1 ratio. There are a number of personal and business Amex credit cards to choose from that earn Membership Rewards points, making it easy to accumulate the necessary points.

You can also earn Marriott Bonvoy points and transfer those to ANA at a transfer rate of 3:1. For every 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points that you transfer, you’ll receive an extra 5,000 ANA miles bonus.

Recommended Marriott Bonvoy Cards

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless™ Credit Card - Earn 3 Free Nights (each night valued up to 50,000 points) after qualifying purchases, plus 10x total points on eligible purchases in select categories. Get automatic silver elite status each account anniversary year; and a free night award (valued up to 35,000 points) every year after account anniversary. Plus, earn up to 17X points per $1 at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, and 2X points per $1 on all other purchases. Annual Fee is $95.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold™ Credit Card - Earn 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. Earn up to 14X points per $1 at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels, earn 2X on other travel purchases, then 1x on all other purchases. A solid card for Marriott loyalists looking for a no-annual-fee card offering Marriott Bonvoy Silver Elite status.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card - Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Plus, earn up to $200 in Statement Credits for eligible purchases at U.S. Restaurants within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Earn 6x per $1 at hotels participants in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program plus 3x at U.S. restaurants and flights booked directly with airlines. Annual Fee is $450. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Bonvoy Brilliant card, click here.
Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card - Earn 75,000 bonus Marriott Bonvoy points after you use your new Card to make $3,000 of eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Plus, earn up to $150 back in statement credits on eligible purchases made on your new Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

This is a solid card for business owners who will get complimentary Marriott Bonvoy silver elite status. Annual fee is $125. Terms Apply. For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business Card, click here.

Bottom Line: You’ll be able to book your Star Alliance flights at a reasonable cost of 80,000 miles round-trip in economy and 136,000 miles round-trip in business, though you may need to pay fuel surcharges (particularly on Air India). Normally, we would put ANA at the top of our list with its industry-leading business class sweet spots. But because of the fuel surcharges that can be passed on, we lowered the rank of ANA this time around.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Emirates A380 First Class Suite
Enjoy your own spacious suite and experience opulence like royalty in the Emirates A380 first class suite. Image Credit: Alex Miller

There are a handful of ways you can fly to India using Alaska Airlines‘ partners, but we’ll focus on luxury carriers Cathay Pacific and Emirates here.

Technically you can fly on British Airways, Korean Air, or Finnair in addition to Cathay Pacific and Emirates, but they’re generally not favorable due to either award costs or huge fuel surcharges.

Let’s dive into Cathay Pacific followed by Emirates.

For 62,500 miles one-way in business class or 70,000 miles one-way in first class, you can fly on Cathay Pacific to India with a free stopover in Hong Kong.

Here’s the full award chart for Cathay Pacific one-way booked with Alaska Airlines miles:

Cathay Pacific Contiguous U.S. and Alaska to India and South Asia
Cabin ClassAlaska Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Coach50,000$37
Premium Economy55,000$38
Business62,500$40
First70,000$50

It’s well known that Cathay Pacific is a sweet spot for redeeming Alaska miles.

As far as Emirates goes, you’ll be able to fly in its first class for 150,000 Alaska miles one-way, or in business for 82,500 Alaska miles one-way. See below for the complete award chart for Emirates:

Emirates Contiguous U.S. and Alaska to India and South Asia
Cabin ClassAlaska Miles CostTaxes and Fees
Economy42,500$20
Business82,500$20
First150,000$20

It’ll cost a lot of Alaska miles to fly on Emirates to India, but it might be worth it. In fact, it’s possible to fly the entire way to India in the famous A380 suites!

Follow these instructions to use your Alaska Miles to book Emirates awards:

  1. Go to Alaska’s website.
  2. Search for your desired route (make sure you select “Use Miles”).
  3. Select your desired flight and “Add To Cart.”
  4. Login to your Alaska Mileage Plan account.
  5. Pay the necessary taxes/fees and complete your Emirates booking.

Hot Tip: Searching award availability for Emirates is easy enough — you can do it on Alaska’s website. You will need to search the British Airways website for Cathay Pacific award availability and call Alaska to book. 

Here are some examples of great awards to India:

  • Boston (BOS) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Delhi/Mumbai (DEL/BOM) round-trip for 140,000 miles + ~$19 in taxes and fees on Cathay Pacific first class and business class
  • Chicago (ORD) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Delhi/Mumbai (DEL/BOM) one-way for 62,500 miles + ~$19 in taxes and fees on Cathay Pacific business class
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB) – Mumbai (BOM) one-way for 150,000 Alaska miles + ~$19 in taxes and fees on Emirates A380 first class suites
  • New York (JFK) – Tokyo-Haneda (HND) – Delhi (DEL) one-way for 60,000 miles + ~$30 in taxes and fees on 22 total hours on Japan Airlines business class

Earning Alaska Mileage Plan Miles

Although the main disadvantage of Alaska Airlines miles is the lack of transfer partners, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points and earn Alaska miles directly by signing up for the Bank of America co-branded credit cards.

You can also purchase Alaska miles. You’re limited to 60,000 miles per transaction, but you can buy as many total miles as you want.

Alaska Airlines often offers discounts of up to 40% on purchased miles, so do look to buy miles at those times.

Bottom Line: If you have lots of Alaska miles or are capable of earning a ton of them, what better way to get to India than by flying Emirates A380 first class? Otherwise, you can look into booking Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines for some awesome deals! You won’t be paying surcharges, which makes this method a no-brainer if you have a lot of Alaska miles.

American Airlines AAdvantage

Cathay Pacific First Class Seat
Cathay Pacific has a great first class product! The seat has massage functions and can comfortably fit 2 adult males! Image Credit: Alex Miller

American Airlines has a pretty simple award process. All Oneworld awards to India from the U.S. cost the same, as shown in the following table:

Cabin ClassAward CostTaxes and Fees
Economy80,000$40 to $160 (except British Airways and Iberia)
Business140,000$40 to $160 (except British Airways and Iberia)
First230,000$40 to $160 (except British Airways and Iberia)

There are a few restrictions that American places on travel to the Indian Subcontinent:

“Transpacific travel to the Indian Subcontinent permitted via Hong Kong only. Travel for the transpacific sector to Hong Kong is permitted only on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines. Travel from Hong Kong to the Indian Subcontinent permitted on Cathay Pacific and SriLankan Airlines. Travel on other partners to the Indian Subcontinent is transatlantic only.”

This means that if you fly across the Pacific Ocean, you can only do it through Hong Kong, either on Cathay Pacific or American Airlines. Otherwise, you have to fly other partners across the Atlantic Ocean.

The best way to book using AA miles is by searching for award availability on British Airways and calling AA to book:

  1. Visit British Airways and log in.
  2. Select your route, travel dates, and class of service.
  3. Note the flight number, date, and time.
  4. Call American Airlines at 800-882-8880.
  5. Ask them to search for first/business class award space on the desired airline (you might have to provide the flight number).
  6. Provide all necessary info to complete the booking.

Here are some examples of great awards to India using AA miles:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – London (LHR) – Mumbai (BOM) round-trip for 140,000 AA miles + ~$160 in taxes and fees in American Airlines business class and British Airways business class
  • New York (JFK) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Delhi (DEL) one-way for 115,000 AA miles + ~$20 in taxes and fees in Etihad First Class Apartments and 787 first class
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Chennai/Mumbai (MAA/BOM) round-trip for 140,000 AA miles + ~$160 in taxes and fees in Cathay Pacific business class

Hot Tip: Cathay Pacific and Etihad Airways might operate different planes on the same routes. For example, flying Etihad from Abu Dhabi to Delhi can be in an A321, A330, or 787. You want to fly first class on the 787. The same is true for Cathay Pacific’s regional flights, except you want to fly on the 747 for the best first class flight. Be sure to check which airplane you’re flying before booking!

Earning American Airlines AAdvantage Miles

Earning AA miles is made easy by the variety of co-branded credit cards offered by both Barclays and Citibank.

First, you can apply for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, since Barclays is more “sensitive” to hard inquiries and newly opened accounts than Citi. If possible, apply for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Business Mastercard® after that.

Using Citi’s AA cards is also a great way to earn hundreds of thousands of miles.

If your AA miles are not enough, you can top off your balance with Marriott Bonvoy points. However, using them here is definitely not your best bet, and we wouldn’t recommend transferring from Marriott Bonvoy unless you have a specific redemption in mind.

It can take up to 2 business days to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to AA.

Bottom Line: AA wins a spot in this guide because of its ease of usage. Your best bets will be booking Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, and American Airlines. You won’t pay fuel surcharges (unless you insist on flying BA or Iberia), and AA miles are easy to get through welcome bonuses. Remember to search for availability on BA.com and to make sure the airplane you’re flying is the best possible for your class of service (787 vs. A330 or A321)

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Delta One Suite Middle Seats
Try the industry-leading Delta One Suites to Shanghai or Seoul when using Air France/KLM Flying Blue to book awards to India. Image Credit: Delta

Generally speaking, SkyTeam awards are very expensive, and India isn’t necessarily a focus city for the SkyTeam airlines.

That being said, if flying on a specific SkyTeam airline such as Air France or China Airlines is high on your priority list, chances are you’re going to be booking with Air France/KLM Flying Blue.

We’ll discuss Flying Blue first.

As you might already know, Flying Blue took away its award chart and replaced it with a calculator and variable pricing. Generally speaking, the prices for round-trip awards from America will be somewhere around the following:

EconomyPremium EconomyBusinessFirst
68,000136,000170,000640,000

With this chart in mind, we definitely wouldn’t book first class (!) — that seems like a great way to throw away all your points.

You will almost always be responsible for paying for fuel surcharges in full, which is what makes this program even less valuable, with some notable exceptions.

Here are some example routes you can take to avoid $1,000+ in fuel surcharges:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Shanghai (PVG) – Delhi (DEL) for 170,000 Flying Blue Miles plus $20 in taxes and fees on Delta One Suites on the A350 and China Eastern business class on the A330
  • New York (JFK) – Taipei (TPE) – Delhi (DEL) for 170,000 Flying Blue Miles plus ~$250 to $300 in taxes and fees on China Airlines business class

Another added benefit is that American Express and Citi sometimes offer transfer bonuses of up to 35% to Flying Blue. This means that 170,000 miles will only cost ~125,926 points round-trip. This can help squeeze additional value from your points.

You can search for award availability through Air France/KLM and book awards completely online.

  1. Go to the Air France Flying Blue website.
  2. In the top right corner, click My Account and log in with your Username and Password.
  3. After logging in and being returned to the homepage, click Use Your Miles.
  4. Type in your airport information, dates, number of passengers, and class type.
    • For flexible dates, you can also search on an award availability calendar by clicking this link and selecting the checkbox underneath Dates that says You are looking for a flight around these dates.
  5. Select your flights and pay for any taxes and fees.

Hot Tip: Be careful of “phantom availability” for partners! Call Flying Blue and confirm availability before transferring your points! 

Don’t want to use your Flying Blue miles on a trip to India? Check out some other of the best ways to redeem Air France/KLM Flying Blue miles for max value.

Earning Air France/KLM Flying Blue Miles

Similar to Singapore Airlines, there are plenty of ways to earn lots of Flying Blue miles. It is, fortunately, a transfer partner with all of the 5 major points systems: Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership RewardsMarriott Bonvoy, Capital One Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Points.

Bottom Line: If you have your heart set on flying a SkyTeam partner to India, Air France will probably be your best bet. It is a transfer partner of every major points currency, there are minimal fuel surcharges when using the right airlines, and the booking process is pretty easy. 

Other Options to Fly to India

There are several other frequent flyer options to fly to India, including Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, or Japan Airlines. We did not include these in our main analysis for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. High fuel surcharges
  2. High award redemption rates
  3. Lack of transfer partners
  4. Unattractive flights/subpar airline options

For example, Korean Air charges 170,000 miles for round-trip business class, but you’ll have to pay huge fuel surcharges. On top of that, Korean Air miles are hard to earn, due to its sole transfer partner being Marriott Bonvoy.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of ways to fly to India with points and miles. Although your options for flying nonstop are limited to Air Canada, United, and Air India for U.S. or Canadian flights, you can construct some pretty cool itineraries if you have some flexibility.

For example, you can fly on Cathay Pacific to stopover in Hong Kong with Alaska Airlines. You can also fly in Emirates First Class Suites aboard the A380 all the way to Mumbai!

Be sure to seriously consider adding stopovers in other countries to get the most bang for your buck.

There’s a lot of value to be had when flying to India, especially when you fly there with points and miles!


The information regarding the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card, and Chase Freedom Unlimited® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.


Frequently asked questions

Which airlines include carrier-imposed surcharges on award flights to India?

Air Canada doesn’t impose any fuel surcharges.

ANA imposes fuel surcharges on Air India flights, Lufthansa, ANA (~$400 round-trip), Austrian Airlines, and limited fuel surcharges on Air China.

Air France/KLM will impose fuel surcharges on most flights. Notable exceptions are Delta and Xiamen Airlines.

What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book an economy class award flight to India?

ANA only charges 55,000 miles during low season or 65,000 miles during regular season for economy flights on its own metal.

What is the fewest number of miles required to fly business class to India?

Alaska Airlines only charges 125,000 miles for round-trip business class on Cathay Pacific.

ANA will charge 100,000 miles during low season, 110,000 miles during regular season, and 115,000 miles during high season for round-trip business class flights operated by ANA.

You can also use 140,000 AA miles for round-trip Cathay Pacific business class.

What is the fewest number miles required to fly first class to India?

It will be cheapest to use 140,000 Alaska miles for round-trip Cathay Pacific first class.

ANA charges 195,000 miles during low and regular season and 210,000 miles during high season for round-trip first class on ANA.

Stephen Au

About Stephen Au

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Stephen has been privileged to enjoy many premium cabin products and 5-star hotels. A petroleum engineer by trade, Stephen caught the travel bug in college when he traveled to Asia several times. After 2 years of continual promotions, Stephen quit his safe and secure career path in favor of entrepreneurship.

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34 comments

  1. Hi, thank you for all that. i am feeling quite lost after reading all this information. i am new to mileage traveling. I want to fly out of Florida going to India stopping in Europe on my way there or back. What would you suggest?

    Reply

    • Hey Marie,

      There are too many options based on the information you provided. We need more information such as what miles and points you have, what airports you want to fly out of, which city you want to stop at in Europe, etc.

      Thanks!

      Reply

  2. Gary Sandhu April 2, 2019

    A friend and I want to fly to Delhi from Los Angeles in the first week in Nov using American Express points and Chase Ultimate Rewards for Business Class. What is the best option for us?

    I have never used points and don’t know anything about the redemption of points.

    Reply

    • Hey Gary,

      It is probably best to figure out what airlines you want to fly first. This guide goes in-depth on which points to use to fly to India. Try reading through this guide and figuring out as much as you can by reading this guide.

      Reply

  3. I have 98,000 Singapore Airlines (Krisflyer) miles that will expire in a few months. Can I use them to fly from SFO (or SEA) to fly to India (DEL) business class? If not, what great deals/options to use them—I’m also interested in South America (Bolivia) or Turkey (Istanbul). Thanks for your help!

    Reply

    • Hey Lee,

      Unfortunately, you don’t have enough miles to get to India from SFO in Singapore Airlines Business Class. You’ll need 109,000 for a Saver award. You should consider a flight from SFO to Singapore in Business, which will cost 95,000 miles one-way!

      Thanks for reading.

      Reply

  4. Hey Stephen,
    Thank you for great article. I have TYP from citi and would like to utilize for a trip to South India. am based of NY/NJ area and would prefer to fly from EWR or JFK. what is the cheapest option in miles including surcharge/taxes to travel MAA (India) for example. Based on your article, seems Alaska miles for Emirates or United seems better. Do you recommend anything as best for the cheapest miles ? Am not considering business/first class at this moment.

    Reply

    • Hey, there’s too little information provided here. For example, do you want nonstop flights to India versus connecting flights?

      What miles do you have? One of the best options is using ANA miles. Another option is AA miles too.

      Reply

  5. Steve, I want to close my wife and my amex cards to avoid the $1,100 (combined) annual fees by May 7th. We have a combined ~270,000 amex points to transfer. In our chase ultimate rewards we have combined ~700,000 account. Sometime this year a trip to Delhi/Mumbai is in the cards from Houston. Two questions; 1. Which program should I transfer my amex points to get best value on business/first class to India. 2. If we weren’t to travel to India, which transfer would yield the best value on domestic US travel. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Hey Sam,

      1. You can consider transferring to ANA with AmEx points. The best ways are listed in the above article.

      2. Best value domestic U.S. travel is generally with British Airways Avios or Southwest miles.

      Reply

  6. Hi Stephen, That is great analysis. However I did not get why you mentioned answer 55k for the question What is the fewest number of miles you can use to book an economy class award flight to India?
    When there are United economy 42500k onw way. Delta 40k one way. Is 55k miles for round trip on ANA?

    Reply

  7. Hi Stephen ,

    Thank you for this wonderful article, I have 180k Chase ultimate rewards points, and I want to travel business class to india(Delhi) from LAX. What would be my best travel option with transfer of points. I think I can transfer the points to United mileage plus and travel on United airlines for 180k +Tax. But not sure if 180k is for round trip or one way?
    Thanks

    Reply

    • Hey JD,

      If you’ve got 180,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points, the best bet is to transfer to United MileagePlus. Currently, it costs 85,000 miles one-way if you can locate saver award availability. If it says anything more, it’s not the cheapest cost. Thanks for reading.

      Reply

      • Hi Stephen,

        Thanks for replying. How do I find out if there is a availability of the saver award? I only see everyday award when I look for the tickets on United.

        Reply

        • Hi JD,

          There’s no “simple” way to find availability on the saver level. You have to sift through the different dates and see what the airlines release.

          Reply

  8. Hi Stephen,
    I really enjoy reading your articles.
    I’d like to fly business class on Emirates from SFO to Chennai, India in late October, or Jan 2020. I have 125K miles on United which I don’t think can used for travel upgrades with Emirates. I’m looking at signing up with a credit card to jump start miles which can be used on Emirates. I bill about 2k/month on Credit Card with FedEx, so that’s helpful for sure.
    Any suggestions on which credit card to consider? Capital One has 2:1 point for miles on Emirates, and I’m not sure about point:miles with Bank Of America /Alaska Airlines card.
    John

    Reply

    • John,

      If you want to fly Emirates business class, you’ll want to earn either Amex points or Marriott points. In your timeframe, it may not be practical to book Emirates business class, as you’ll need time to accrue points and search for award availability.

      Reply

  9. Hi Stephen,

    Great article with lots of information. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Question: I have about 250,000 miles with Star Alliance split been United and Avianca. About 150,000 of that is with United. My wife and I are planning to visit India and we would like to fly in Business class. The plan is to fly from Houston to New Delhi/Mumbai. But since my points are split between two airlines, can I use my United MileagePlus miles to book a ticket on the Avianca website as they’re partners?

    Thanks,
    JJ

    Reply

    • Hey JJ, thanks for reaching out.

      Avianca and United are both Star Alliance partners and can largely book the same award tickets. So while you can’t use United MileagePlus miles to book a ticket on Avianca’s website, you can book your wife’s ticket with Avianca LifeMiles and your ticket with United MileagePlus miles (or vice-versa). Just make sure that the flight has two award seats available by searching for two tickets.

      Reply

  10. Hello,
    I have some Amex points, can you tell me which airlines are the best option to travel from Wichita,KS to BOM in first class?

    Reply

    • Hi Jito,

      Using Amex Membership Rewards your best options would likely be Aeroplan, Avianca, or ANA. This can vary based on availability and if Amex is running any sort of transfer bonuses.

      All three of those programs fall within Star Alliance, so search for availability on United, Air Canada, and ANA’s site, and pay close attention to the operating airline during your search.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply

  11. I am interested in using my delta miles to fly to Chennai – MAA from IAD. Prefer business class. Not sure of the best way/airlines for this award? Please help

    Reply

    • Hi kesavan

      Flying business class to India is definitely a great goal to have. If you’ve read through our guide and still need help, you can consider using my consulting services. Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].

      Reply

  12. Rakesh B Patel January 4, 2020

    FYI – Alaska Mileage Plan allows for JAL JFK -> NRT -> DEL for 60k miles one-way for Business and 70k miles for First class to NRT and Business to DEL. Layover is long at NRT though going – had not checked return layover time. Have to call in for Cathay Pacific at 62.5k for business and 70k for first to HKG and business to DEL, but availability searching requires a bit of work.

    Reply

    • Hi Rakesh,

      Thanks for your feedback. I just checked with Alaska Airlines, and the price for JFK – NRT – DEL is 62,500 Alaska miles in business and 70,000 miles in first. Cathay Pacific is the same.

      Reply

      • Rakesh B Patel April 21, 2020

        FYI – JAL is still 60k/70k for JFK to DEL – flights go via HND instead now. Bookable online, unlike the work required to search for flights on BA and call in to Alaska to book Cathay. Would be nice if Cathay was online as well. I’m sure the award rates will change at some point though with Alaska joining Oneworld. The JAL first class is usually limited to 2 seats and shows up close (within 2 months of flights) for Jan time frame. Checking for Cathay via BA did not show much availability unfortunately at the time I checked and BA likes to stick to showing their flights over partners.

        Reply

  13. How did you land this itinerary? ” San Francisco (SFO) – Hong Kong (HKG) – Chennai/Mumbai (MAA/BOM) round-trip for 140,000 AA miles + ~$160 in taxes & fees in Cathay Pacific first class”
    I’m currently looking for PHL-DEL MAA-PHL and premium economy on AA shows up a 125k miles. Wondering what I’m missing!

    Reply

    • Tabitha,

      You have to find availability for that ticket. Also, that price is in Alaska Airlines miles, not AA miles. Those are totally different mileage systems.

      Reply

  14. Hey Stephen, Can you suggest what airline partners are best for Qatar Airlines from JFK to India? I read that Qmiles are terrible for redemptions, so would my best bet would be through Oneworld? Any additional insight on that is appreciated.

    Reply

    • Hi Sameer,

      Just to clarify, are you asking which miles you should redeem for a flight with Qatar Airways? Or are you asking where you should credit the miles you will earn from a Qatar Airways flight?

      If it is a booking question then using AA miles is perhaps the best way to book Qatar flights. You can view our booking guide on it for more information.

      If you’re wondering where you should credit the miles you earn from a Qatar Airways flight, that will largely depend on which loyalty programs on the most useful to you. I recommend you use a tool like wheretocredit.com to help determine this. Personally, I would credit to American Airlines, but your mileage may vary.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply

  15. Hey Stephen, I have around 90000 Amex Points (Gold Card). Could you please guide me or let me know if there is a way to book direct flights to Bangalore, IN from SFO, which is currently offered only by United and Air India (prefer United). I also have Chase points that are easily transferrable to United but for AMEX, one has to route through Star Alliance/Aeroplan/ANA etc. and the problem with that is, you cannot book the direct flights (layover in Canada or Japan depending on which route you choose). I am looking to combine my points.

    Would really appreciate your suggestion/advice.

    Thanks
    AV

    Reply

    • Hi Arun,

      You are correct that your only two direct flight options are via United or Air India. If you prefer to fly with United, then you’ll want to transfer your Amex Membership Rewards points to Air Canada Aeroplan (their Star Alliance partner) to book the ticket. You can search for award availability directly on the Aeroplan website, here is our guide on how to do just that.

      The ticket should cost 60,000 points if you want to fly in economy and 85,000 points if you want to fly in business class.

      Best of luck with your search and thanks for reading!

      Reply

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