How to Fly on Air India Using Miles

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Air India recently joined the Star Alliance.  This means that you can book flights on Air India with airline miles from Star Alliance airlines, like United Airlines, Air Canada, and Avianca!

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

You Can Use Star Alliance Airline Miles on Air India

This is great news for folks who want to use airline miles to travel to or around India!

Where Does Air India Fly Internationally?

Air India flies to several destinations in:

  • North America
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Middle East

1.   North America

Air India flies from the following North American cities:

  • Chicago (ORD) – nonstop to Delhi
  • New York (JFK) – nonstop to Delhi
  • Newark (EWR) – nonstop to Mumbai

So you can fly nonstop to India from 3 US airports using Star Alliance airline miles.  The bolded cities above, Chicago and Newark, are United Airlines hubs which makes it easy to connect to other cities in the US.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

Air India Flies Nonstop From Delhi to Chicago and New York (JFK) & From Mumbai to Newark

How Many Award Seats Are Usually Available?

For nonstop flights from the US, the Chicago to Delhi flight usually has 1 First Class award seat and 1 coach award seat available per flight.

If you want to fly Business Class to India, the Newark to Mumbai flight usually has 1 Business Class award seat.

If you search for flights far out in the future (like 2015), you can usually find 2 coach seats on the New York (JFK) to Delhi and Newark to Mumbai flights.

But award seats keep on changing, so keep checking!

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

You Can Usually Find More Award Seats to Mumbai If You Look ~1 Year in Advance

2.   Europe

You can also connect to Air India via Europe or Asia.  So you could book a United Airlines flight to Frankfurt and connect to an Air India flight to Delhi.

Air India flies to the following cities in Europe:

  • Frankfurt (FRA) – to Delhi
  • London (LHR) – to Delhi and Mumbai
  • Birmingham (BHX) – to Delhi
  • Paris (CDG) – to Delhi
  • Milan (MXP) – to Delhi
  • Rome (FCO) – to Delhi

Frankfurt is a major Star Alliance hub that allows easy connections to other flights.  You can usually find 1 Business Class and 2 coach award seats on the Frankfurt to Delhi flight.

You can usually find several coach, several Business Class, and 1 First Class award seats available on the London-Heathrow to Delhi flight.  You can also find several coach and several Business Class award seats on the London-Heathrow to Mumbai flight.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

Air India Flies to London, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Rome, and Birmingham in Europe

3.   Asia

Air India also flies to the following Asia cities:

  • Bangkok (BKK) – to Delhi and Mumbai
  • Hong Kong (HKG) – to Delhi
  • Osaka (KIX) – to Delhi via Hong Kong
  • Seoul (ICN) – to Delhi via Hong Kong
  • Shanghai (PVG) – to Delhi
  • Singapore (SIN) – to Delhi and Chennai
  • Tokyo (NRT) – to Delhi

So you can fly from North America to India via Asia, through Star Alliance hubs like Bangkok, Seoul, Singapore, and Tokyo.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

Air India Flies to Delhi From Bangkok, Hong Kong, Osaka, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo

Where Does Air India Fly in India?

One of the best things about Air India joining the Star Alliance is that it’s the 1st airline in India to join a major airline alliance.  So folks can use airline miles to fly to smaller cities in India.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

You Can Use Star Alliance Airline Miles to Fly to These Destinations in India

This means you can fly from Kansas City to Kochi, India or from Las Vegas to Lucknow, India on 1 award mileage ticket!

However, you might not be able to find award seats on Air India Express or Air India Regional flights.

Which Miles Can I Use to Fly Air India?

All Star Alliance airline programs have access to Air India award tickets!  Here are some of the best programs:

1.   United Airlines

Link:   United Airlines Award Chart

You can fly with United Airlines miles from the US to Central Asia (India) for:

  • 42,500 United Airlines miles 1-way in coach (85,000 round-trip)
  • 80,000 United Airlines miles 1-way in Business Class (160,000 round-trip)
  • 140,000 United Airlines miles 1-way in First Class (280,000 round-trip)
How To Fly Air India Using Miles

United Airlines Award Chart for Award Tickets on Air India to India

United Airlines does NOT charge fuel surcharges on award tickets, so this can be a good option.

You can earn United Airlines miles from these credit cards:

2.   Air Canada Aeroplan

Link:   Air Canada Award Chart

Between North America and the Indian subcontinent Aeroplan charges:

  • 50,000 miles 1-way in coach (100,000 round-trip)
  • 75,000 miles 1-way in Business Class (150,000 round-trip)
  • 105,000 miles 1-way in First Class (210,000 round-trip)

Aeroplan does NOT collect fuel surcharges for tickets booked on Air India.  So this is great for folks with Aeroplan miles and American Express Membership Rewards points.  Because American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to Aeroplan.

If you’d like to mix-and-match Star Alliance airlines on an award to India, Aeroplan does NOT charge fuel surcharges on the following partners:

  • Air China
  • Brussels Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • EVA Air
  • Singapore Airlines
  • SWISS
  • Turkish
  • United

And there are low fuel surcharges on LOT.

So flying from Austin, Texas, to Delhi, India, using Aeroplan miles would look like this:

  • Flight 1 – United Airlines from Austin to San Francisco
  • Flight 2 – EVA Air from San Francisco to Taipei, Taiwan
  • Flight 3 – Air China from Taipei to Shanghai, China
  • Flight 4 – Air India from Shanghai, China to Delhi, India

And you do NOT pay fuel surcharges!

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

You Can Use Aeroplan Miles to Fly From Austin to Delhi, India

The best way to earn Aeroplan miles is through American Express Membership Rewards, using the following cards:

3.   Avianca LifeMiles

Link:   Avianca LifeMiles Award Chart

Avianca LifeMiles charges the following prices from North America to Central Asia (India):

  • 40,000 miles 1-way in coach (80,000 round-trip)
  • 65,000 miles 1-way in Business Class (130,000 round-trip)
  • 92,500 miles 1-way in First Class (185,000 round-trip)

However, LifeMiles has several restrictions on their use, such as:

  • You can NOT have different cabins on connecting itineraries (So you can NOT fly coach from Kansas City to Chicago and then Business Class from Chicago to Delhi)
  • You are NOT allowed a stopover
  • LifeMiles does NOT allow longer connections like other programs

However, if you just want a simple nonstop flight, LifeMiles’ prices are very reasonable and they do NOT charge fuel surcharges.

You can earn LifeMiles with the US Bank LifeMiles Visa and top off accounts with their frequent sales on LifeMiles.

 

How Do I Search for Air India Flights?

Air India has just joined the Star Alliance, so not all websites (like United Airlines) will show available award seats yet.  However, you can search for award seats on other websites and call United Airlines to book!

The best website for searching Air India awards is the Air Canada Aeroplan website.  To use it, 1st create a free Aeroplan account.

TIP:  After creating your account, add your Aeroplan number to AwardWallet, which makes it easy to log into your Aeroplan account with 1 click for future use.

Searching for a Coach Seat

Once you have logged in, hover over “Use Your Miles” and click “Travel” to get to the award booking engine.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

TIP: For nonstop flights from the US, the Chicago to Delhi flight usually has 1 First Class seat and 1 coach seat available per flight.

If you want to fly Business Class to India, the Newark to Mumbai flight usually has 1 Business Class seat.

The best way to search is to find the longest flights 1st, then add any domestic connections.

For example, 1st search for flights from Air India gateways like Chicago, New York, or Newark.  Then search for flights to get to 1 of those cities.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

Searching for Coach Award Tickets From Chicago to Pune, India

You pay 50,000 Aeroplan Miles to fly coach 1-way from Chicago to Pune, India.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

A 1-Way Coach Ticket to India Costs 50,000 Aeroplan Miles and ~ $25 in Taxes

You could also use 42,500 United Airlines miles or 40,000 Avianca miles!

If you had to connect to Chicago, you would use the Aeroplan or United Airlines websites to search for a coach award seat to Chicago.

Searching for a Business Class or First Class Seat

You have to change the “Preferred Cabin” to “Business/First” to search for a Business Class or First Class award seat from Newark to Chennai, India.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

Change “Preferred Cabin” to Business/First Class to Search for Business Class or First Class Award Seats From Newark to Chennai

You would pay 75,000 Aeroplan miles to fly 1-way from Newark to Chennai, India.

How To Fly Air India Using Miles

It Costs 75,000 Aeroplan Miles + ~$25 in Taxes to Fly 1-Way From Newark to Chennai in Business Class

You could also use 80,000 United Airlines miles or 65,000 Avianca miles.

Is It Worth Using Miles for Domestic Air India Flights?

You pay 20,000 United Airlines miles to fly 1-way in coach within Central Asia (India) and 35,000 United Airlines miles 1-way for a Business Class ticket.

You pay 15,000 Avianca miles to fly 1-way in coach within Central Asia (India) and 30,000 Avianca miles to fly 1-way in Business Class.

You pay 50,000 Aeroplan miles to fly round-trip coach.  And 75,000 miles round-trip in Business Class within India because they do not allow 1-way flights within India.

Airfare in India tends to be rather cheap, with most 1-way flights costing ~$100.  Using 20,000 United Airline miles for a ~$100 ticket means you would only get a value of 0.5 cents per mile (~$100 cost of 1-way flight in India / 20,000 United Airline miles), which is very poor!

However, Air India offers a lot of domestic flights in India.  So you can add domestic India flights to international Star Alliance award tickets for the same mileage price and just a few dollars in taxes.

Bottom Line

You can book flights on Air India using Star Alliance airlines miles, like United Airlines, Air Canada, and Avianca!  So you can use airline miles to travel to or around India!

You can fly nonstop from North America to India.  You can also fly from North America via Europe or Asia.

You do NOT pay fuel surcharges when you use United Airlines, Air Canada or Avianca miles.  But Avianca has a lot of restrictions when using miles.

The best website to search for award seats on Air India is the Air Canada website.

You can add domestic flights within India on Air India to an international Star Alliance award ticket for the same amount of miles.

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18 responses to “How to Fly on Air India Using Miles

  1. Really informative and helpful post. I’ve been wondering how best to use my MR points for travel between North America and India. Thanks so much.

  2. Great post. This will be very usefull for next year.

    Question, if we try and book for 2015, how likely do you think that their would be multiple award seats available in a flight? It seems that they are quite stingy at the moment (based on your post). Thanks.

  3. Air India’a award availability is a joke, they are happy to fly empty planes but still don’t want to upgrade passengers or have more award seats. Govt. airline with no ambitions 🙁

  4. Great post, but I won’t fly Air India even if they give me free tickets…. Worst airline(and this is coming from an Indian)

  5. Hi,
    First time trying to book flight to Europe for four of us using our AU miles traveling in June 2015 departing from the east coast. Any advice for finding four seats on economy award on same flight would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  6. +1 @ Ashish

  7. its an option to India but not the best for the same amount of miles. if they improve availability then this option will move up quickly.

  8. Good information….in the off chance that my only option to get to India is to swim there from the US. You could not pay me enough money to fly Air India! Way too many horror stories from my parents and family with regards to being stuck on tarmacs for 10+ hours, luggage that NEVER arrives (ever). Granted these were from a decade ago, and maybe…MAYBE their service has improved. But…I’ll let you fly them first and do a trip report! 🙂

  9. Is it possible to check for Etihad and/or Air India award flights anywhere in a similar fashion to viewing Cathay Pacific availability on the British Air website? Thanks.

  10. gautam sundararajan

    Does Air India only allow standard awards redemption on United?

  11. To those that are hesitant to fly Air India..hope I can add some colour.

    From my recent experiences (all flying in Economy class):
    PROS:
    – Air India consistently has the best leg room of all the airlines I have ever flown in Economy. This feedback aligns with other people’s experiences with Air India.
    – For many domestic and international sectors, they are now using relatively new Dreamliner aircraft. This provides electronic dimmable windows, charging points under seats, USB ports on the entertainment system, adjustable headrests.
    – No issues with baggage delivery or flight delays in my experience.
    – Food is generally decent (only experienced with Asian Veg meals), but I remember one flight where the food containers were disintegrating as I was eating.
    – For some reason, flights are sometimes empty, like my Mumbai-London flight in Dec where I and most other passengers had 2 or 3 seats each to ourselves.
    – If you fly Air India long-haul (Europe/US India), the loyalty miles earned on Flying Returns will redeem with very good value on domestic Air India flights.
    – Very generous baggage allowance (46kg London India in Economy!)

    CONS:
    – On London-India sectors, cabin crew service is quite basic. They seem to know little about customer service and professionalism. Looking at them doesn’t really instil a great amount of confidence in their ability to handle an emergency situation. You sometimes get the feeling they think they are doing you a favour by being there. If you don’t ask for anything specific, though, you will generally be ok. Their domestic sectors crew is much better. Having said all that, crew on Jet Airways is much much worse. I refuse to fly Jet Airways whenever I have the option.
    – Even on new Dreamliner aircraft, the entertainment systems may or may not work as the hardware is not maintained that well. If it doesn’t work, they may or may not respond to any request to change seats, and as my sister has experienced once, may even respond rudely.
    – Headphones provided are ill-fitting.

    All in all, Air India has always been notorious for being one of the worst airlines on all fronts. However, in recent years, the airline seems to have attempted to turn itself around and my experiences have overall been positive due to the comfort in Economy class. If you are ok with taking the chance that in-flight customer service may not be up there with the best, then I believe it is a very compelling option.

  12. One thing to add to my review above. Not sure if other airlines do this, but Air India aircraft have rolling foot massagers on seats (instead of basic footrests which some airlines don’t even have). It is possible that this is a feature of the Dreamliner aircraft though, rather than Air India cabin design. In either case, the foot massager is quite relaxing.

  13. Booked using United Miles AI flight – Delhi to London and am wondering how to select seat using AI booking code. Web Checkin on Air India site does not seem to be working. Please help.

  14. Hello,

    Booked (using United Miles) flight on AI and got AI Booking Code as well. But do not see an option to select seat on AI and was wondering if there is a way to select seat before hand or will it be done only at the airport.

    Please help.

    Thanks,

  15. @John/@J.Smith,

    You need to go to the AI website and click My Booking under Manage Your Trip. You can then View the booking as guest by scrolling down and entering your web reference number and your name. This should pull up your reservation. After that you can change the seat option using the hyperlink on your name and selecting “Seat Preferences”. It’s a little weird navigation but it works!

  16. Glad I found this, i was able to book a ticket for india using united points, very helpful.

  17. Guys, any idea or suggestions on how to use about 150K -200K Air India Miles? is it possible to sell them?