Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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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 4 carriers operate flights from North America to India: Air Canada, Air India, American Airlines, and United Airlines. Air Canada only operates in Canada, while Air India, American, and United support the U.S.
In this guide, we’ll explore the best ways to fly to India with points and miles. Understandably, the first instinct is to look at Star Alliance frequent flyer programs, since 3 of the 4 aforementioned airlines belong to the same alliance.
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!
There are quite a few nonstop flight options between North America and India:
Both Air India and American Airlines offer first class on their nonstop flights. 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 Delhi||China Eastern (Shanghai) to Delhi||KLM (Amsterdam) to Delhi and Mumbai|
|Air China (Beijing) to Delhi and Mumbai||EL AL (Tel Aviv) to Mumbai||Korean Air (Seoul) to Delhi and Mumbai|
|Air France/JOON (Paris) to Delhi and Mumbai||SWISS (Zurich) to Delhi and Mumbai||Lufthansa (Frankfurt/Munich) to Delhi and Mumbai|
|British Airways (London) to Delhi and Mumbai||Turkish Airlines (Istanbul) to Delhi and Mumbai||Qatar Airways (Doha) to Delhi and Mumbai|
|Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong) to Delhi and Mumbai||Finnair (Helsinki) to Delhi and Mumbai|
|China Airlines (Taipei) to Delhi||Japan Airlines (Tokyo) to 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 5 major transferable rewards points: American Express transfer partners, Capital One transfer partners, Chase transfer partners, Citi transfer partner, and Marriott transfer partners.
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!
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 points on one-way tickets!
For all Air Canada and partner flights, the one-way redemption costs will be according to the following distance-based award chart:
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 points!
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), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), 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 (through Zurich), Turkish Airlines (through Istanbul), Air China (through Beijing), or Singapore Airlines (through Singapore). You’ll have to connect in their hubs, 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:
We generally recommend searching for award availability via Aeroplan’s own website. Here’s how:
It’s easy to earn Aeroplan points as Air Canada is a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy.
Amex and Chase points, as well as Capital One miles, transfer to Aeroplan at a 1:1 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 from 3:1 to 2.4:1.
Hot Tip: Chase has also recently launched the Aeroplan® Credit Card, which earns up to 3 Aeroplan points per $1 on purchases.
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)
This card is undoubtedly the #1 card for luxury travel benefits. From the best lounge access (of any card) to statement credits, to complimentary elite status, you can’t go wrong.
When it comes to cards that offer top-notch benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better card out there than The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Make no mistake — the Amex Platinum card is a premium card with a premium price tag. With amazing benefits like best-in-class airport lounge access, hotel elite status, and tremendous value in annual statement credits, it can easily prove to be one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet year after year.
This is the go-to card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants and those who want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!
The American Express® Gold Card is definitely a game-changer.
With this card, you can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants and you’ll also earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x.
There isn’t another card on the market that offers a 1-2 punch like this. Of course, there are a number of other benefits of the Gold Card as well, including extra monthly dining rewards and more.
If you’re a business owner, we would recommend taking a look at the numerous American Express business cards that earn Amex points, as well as come with numerous travel benefits.
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. Although United Airlines doesn’t maintain a fixed award chart, here are some base prices for one-way tickets if you’re redeeming United miles aboard United Airlines flights:
|Award Redemption Costs To Fly to India With United MileagePlus (United-operated Flights)|
|Cabin Class||United Miles Cost||Taxes and Fees|
|First||N/A (United doesn’t offer first class)||~$42|
Here are base prices for how much it would cost to fly to India when redeeming United miles for partner-operated one-way flights, like on SWISS Air or Turkish Airlines:
|Award Redemption Costs To Fly to India With United MileagePlus (Partner-operated Flights)|
|Cabin Class||United Miles Cost||Taxes and Fees|
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.
Here are a few great routes you can book using your United miles:
Here’s how to book these awards:
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!
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 United Cards
With priority boarding privileges, no foreign transaction fees and more, MileagePlus members will definitely enjoy their partnered card.
You travel United all the time, but you have heard that there could be ways to make your travel experiences even better, including priority boarding, free bags, and more miles.
You should consider the United℠ Explorer Card, because this card does all that and more!
Perfect for frequent United flyers who want premium perks like United Club access and free baggage benefits.
The United Club℠ Infinite Card is a premium card designed for the most dedicated of United frequent flyers who are looking for a card that provides the opportunity to earn extra United MileagePlus miles and receive lounge access via a yearly United Club membership.
United frequent flyers will find that the United Club Infinite card provides an enhanced experience on their United flights thanks to the money saved on each flight and the conveniences it provides.
The United Quest card is a fantastic option for United flyers looking to earn more miles and enhance their flights.
The newest addition to United’s lineup of cards is the United Quest℠ Card. With it, you can bolster your United MileagePlus miles, thanks to the bonus categories, while enjoying the card’s many perks designed to help save you money on each United flight.
The United Gateway card is a great option for those looking to earn more United miles without paying an annual fee.
The United Gateway℠ Card is a great option for those looking to earn more United miles without wanting to pay a credit card annual fee. Plus, the card offers other solid benefits like a 25% back on United inflight purchases, purchase protection, and rental car insurance.
The United Club Business card is a great option for frequent United flyers looking for United Club access.
The United Club℠ Business Card is a premium card option for dedicated United loyalists seeking a card that offers complimentary United Club access, helps them earn and retain status, and doesn’t skip on the benefits.
From free checked bags to upgrades on award tickets and the ability to earn Premier qualifying points, there is plenty to the United Club Business card that United flyers are sure to love.
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 one-way flights we’re looking at:
|Cabin Class||Avianca LifeMiles Cost||Taxes and Fees|
Here are some example routes you can book with Avianca LifeMiles:
Hot Tip: Be aware that Avianca also tacks on a booking fee of its own on award flights.
To book Star Alliance partners with LifeMiles, follow these steps:
LifeMiles is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One Miles, and Marriott Bonvoy.
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.
Recommended Citi Card
Frequent flyers will enjoy 3x ThankYou Points at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, air travel, and hotels.
The Citi Premier® Card is an excellent option for anyone looking for an all-around travel rewards credit card. The card helps you earn points fast with great 3x bonus categories such as restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, airfare, and hotels. Plus, it offers access to airline and hotel transfer partners, doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, and has a reasonable annual fee!
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). It’s also not possible to book one-way flights on Star Alliance flights with ANA; you’ll need to fly round-trip.
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 round-trip, connecting flights on ANA metal as follows:
|Departure Point||Class of Service||North America (Zone 6)|
|Low Season||Regular Season||High Season|
|Asia 2 (Zone 4)||Y||55,000||65,000||70,000|
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 round-trip award chart for Star Alliance flights we’re looking at:
|Cabin Class||ANA Miles Cost||Taxes and Fees|
|Economy||80,000||Variable (depends on carrier)|
|Business||136,000||Variable (depends on carrier)|
|First||240,000||Variable (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:
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-mile bonus.
Recommended Marriott Bonvoy Cards
A great option for Marriott hotel fans who want a no annual fee card and automatic Marriott Bonvoy elite status.
Casual travelers who like to frequent properties that are part of the Marriott Bonvoy collection of brands may want to consider the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card.
The Marriott Bold card rewards cardholders for Marriott stays and gives them a boost towards Marriott Bonvoy elite status.
Marriott loyalists will love this card's annual free night award, automatic elite status, and up to 17x points per $1 on Marriott hotel stays.
If you’re a frequent traveler and a Marriott loyalist, there’s a lot to love about the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card. The card comes packed with several great benefits like a free hotel night once a year, automatic Silver Elite status (with a fast-track to Gold Elite status), and multiple options for redeeming points.
The Marriott Bonvoy Bevy card gives you automatic Marriott elite status and helps you earn more Marriott Bonvoy points on your everyday purchases.
The Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card, the latest mid-tier offering in the Marriott Bonvoy lineup of cards, offers cardholders automatic elite status and ways to earn more Marriott Bonvoy points on each of their stays and daily purchases.
A premium card for Marriott fans who want perks like an annual statement credit and Free Night Award, plus a fast track to Marriott elite status.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card is a premium card designed with road warriors and Marriott Bonvoy loyalists in mind.
So is the card a worthwhile addition to your wallet?
Technically, you can fly on British Airways, Korean Air, or Finnair in addition to Cathay Pacific and JAL, but they’re generally not favorable due to either award costs or huge fuel surcharges.
Let’s dive into Cathay Pacific followed by JAL.
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 Class||Alaska Miles Cost||Taxes and Fees|
It’s well known that Cathay Pacific is a sweet spot for redeeming Alaska miles.
As far as JAL goes, you’ll be able to fly in business for 65,000 Alaska miles one-way. See below for the complete award chart for one-way flights on JAL:
|JAL Contiguous U.S. and Alaska to India and South Asia|
|Cabin Class||Alaska Miles Cost||Taxes and Fees|
Here are some examples of great awards to India:
Follow these instructions to use your Alaska miles to book JAL awards:
Hot Tip: Searching award availability for JAL 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.
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 applying 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 if you’re an elite member. Non-elite members are limited to 150,000 miles per year.
Alaska Airlines often offers discounts of up to 40% on purchased miles, so do look to buy miles at those times.
American AAdvantage has a pretty simple award process. Although award prices on its own carrier-operated flights are dynamic and change with demand, you can find lower prices here on one-way flights than with Oneworld partners:
|Cabin Class||Award Cost (Starting From)||Taxes and Fees|
Meanwhile, all Saver-level, one-way Oneworld awards to India from the U.S. cost the same, as shown in the following table:
|Cabin Class||Award Cost||Taxes and Fees|
|Economy||80,000||$40 to $160 (except British Airways and Iberia)|
|Premium Economy||125,000||$40 to $160 (except British Airways and Iberia)|
|Business||140,000||$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.
Here are some examples of great awards to India using AA miles:
The best way to book using AA miles is by searching for award availability on British Airways and calling AA to book:
Hot Tip: Cathay Pacific might operate different planes on the same routes, which can result in less-than-desirable seating configurations. Be sure to check which airplane you’re flying before booking!
Earning AAdvantage miles is made easy by the variety of co-branded credit cards offered by both Barclays and Citibank.
If your AA miles are not enough, you can top off your balance with Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio. 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.
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.
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:
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:
Another added benefit is that Amex 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:
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.
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 Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy, Capital One Miles, and Citi ThankYou Rewards.
Recommended Chase Cards (Personal)
A fantastic travel card with a huge welcome offer, good benefits, and perks for a moderate annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® card is one of the best travel rewards cards on the market. Its bonus categories include travel, dining, online grocery purchases, and streaming services, which gives you the opportunity to earn lots of bonus points on these purchases.
Additionally, it offers flexible point redemption options, no foreign transaction fees, and excellent travel insurance coverage including primary car rental insurance. With benefits like these, it’s easy to see why this card is an excellent choice for any traveler.
A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.
The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options. Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.
Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!
This all-purpose cash-back card offers great bonus categories, including bonus points for every purchase you make!
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is easily one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market. There aren’t many no-annual-fee credit cards that offer multiple great bonus categories like 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% back on all other purchases.
When paired with other Chase cards in the Ultimate Rewards family, you can transfer that cash back into points if you wish – making it one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet.
Don’t forget too, there’s 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
The Freedom Flex card is an excellent no-annual-fee card that still earns big with 5% cash-back on travel and other bonus categories.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ sure does pack quite a punch — especially for a no-annual-fee card.
The Freedom Flex card is an incredible option for those looking for a well-rounded cash-back card, or a powerful point-earner when paired with a premium card in the Ultimate Rewards family.
Business owner? Check out our guide to the best Chase business cards.
There are several other frequent flyer options to fly to India, including Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Korean Air, or Singapore Airlines. We did not include these in our main analysis for one or more of the following reasons:
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.
There are plenty of ways to fly to India with points and miles. Although your options for flying nonstop are limited to Air Canada, Air India, American, and United 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
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 United Club℠ Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy Bold® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
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.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Bevy™ American Express® Card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® card, click here.
Alaska Airlines will impose fuel surcharges on all its flights, as will Avianca Airlines and Flying Blue.
Air France/KLM will impose fuel surcharges on most flights. Notable exceptions are Delta and Xiamen Airlines.
ANA imposes fuel surcharges on Air India flights, Lufthansa, ANA (~$400 round-trip), Austrian Airlines, and limited fuel surcharges on Air China.
Air Canada and United does not pass along any fuel surcharges.
Alaska Airlines only charges 50,000 miles one-way in economy for Cathay Pacific flights 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 AAdvantage miles for round-trip Cathay Pacific business class.
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.
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This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.