Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 8: India & Middle East

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You get lots of travel flexibility with AMEX Membership Rewards points.  Because if you don’t have set travel plans for a future trip, these transferable points give you the option to choose from multiple airline partners when you’re ready to book.

Folks in the miles & points hobby know earning transferable points, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, are the best way to get Big Travel.  

The AMEX Membership Rewards program has 17 direct airline partners.  Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well, which gives you choices for flights to the India, which is one of my favorite travel destinations!

And you’ll have great options for travel to the Middle East too!

Or you can save time (and potentially points) by using AMEX Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

With AMEX Membership Rewards Points, You’ll Have Lots of Flight Options to India!

I’ll show you the best ways to use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for flights to India & the Middle East!

The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points:

AMEX Membership Rewards Points for Flights to India & Middle East

Link:   The Ultimate Guide to American Express Membership Rewards Points: All the Ways to Get to India

Link:   Which Miles & Points Should You Collect for Award Flights?

AMEX has several direct airline transfer partners that are great for flights to India & the Middle East.

India is one of my favorite travel destinations.  And Mumbai is one of Emily’s top international shopping destinations.  Emily and I were fortunate enough to travel to India several times using miles & points.

If you’re planning a trip to India, you can read tips and experiences from our trip reports.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Emily Enjoyed Her Colorful Experience in a Local Shop in Mumbai

When you’re transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to an airline partner for flights to India or the Middle East, consider:

  • Destination you’d like to visit
  • Which airlines fly from your home airport
  • Your airline & alliance preferences

Keep in mind there are a limited number of non-stop flights from the US to India or the Middle East.  So you’ll likely have to connect via Europe or Asia.

For more details on connections, here’s my previous post on using AMEX Membership Rewards points for flights to India.

If you’re planning a trip to India or the Middle East, I recommend setting aside some time to plan your award flights.

Because these flights typically require a lot of points or miles.  So you’ll want to confirm all the details with the airline partner before transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points.

If you don’t have the time or don’t want to book your own award tickets, you can consider using an award booking service.

1.   Air Canada

Link:   Air Canada Award Chart

Link:   How to Use AMEX Membership Rewards Points for United Airlines Award Tickets

You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Air Canada Aeroplan at a 1:1 ratio to use for flights to India or the Middle East!

Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance.  This means you can redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles for award flights on partner airlines like:

  • Air India
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Egypt Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)
  • SWISS Air
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

Keep in mind, you’ll pay fuel surcharges when you redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles on certain airlines.  These charges can range from ~$50 up to several hundred dollars.

From the US to India, one-way award flights cost:

  • 50,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 65,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
  • 75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 105,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

If you’re looking for non-stop flight options from the US, Air India flies these non-stop routes:

  • Chicago and New York (JFK) to Delhi
  • Newark to Mumbai
  • San Francisco to Delhi
  • Washington, DC to Delhi (starting July 2017)
American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

You Can Use Air Canada Aeroplan Miles to Book Non-Stop Award Flights to India

And United Airlines flies non-stop to Delhi and Mumbai from Newark.

Air Canada also flies non-stop between Toronto and Delhi.  And seasonally between Vancouver and Delhi.  So you can connect from the US through one of these cities to India.

Keep in mind, it is very unlikely you’ll find Business Class or First Class award seats available on the non-stop flights.

For folks not in the non-stop departure cites or who would like better Business Class options, you’ll have to connect through Europe or Asia.

As an example, you can fly SWISS Air Business Class from New York (JFK) to Delhi with a layover in Zurich.  You can book this one-way award flight online through Air Canada Aeroplan for 75,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

You’ll Have More Options for Business Class Award Flights to India If You Connect via Europe or Asia

And from the US to the Middle East, one-way award flights cost:

  • 40,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in coach
  • 67,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Premium Economy
  • 82,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in Business Class
  • 115,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles in First Class

These are the destinations Air Canada includes in the Middle East region:

  • Algeria
  • Bahrain
  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Tunisia
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen

As an example, you can use 80,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles for a round-trip, non-stop award flight between New York (JFK) and Cairo on partner airline Egypt Air.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Redeem Air Canada Aeroplan Miles for Non-Stop Award Flights to Egypt!

To find available award seats to India or the Middle East on Star Alliance partner airlines, I recommend searching the United Airlines website for “Saver” level awards.

You can read my step-by-step guide to using AMEX Membership Rewards points for United Airlines and partner airline award flights.

2.   ANA

Link:   ANA Award Chart

ANA is also part of the Star Alliance, which means you can book award flights to India or the Middle East on partners like Air India or United Airlines.

You can NOT book one-way award flights using ANA miles.

For a round-trip award flight to India, you’ll pay:

  • 80,000 ANA miles in coach
  • 136,000 ANA miles in Business Class
  • 240,000 ANA miles in First Class

And to the Middle East, you’ll pay:

  • 65,000 ANA miles in coach
  • 104,000 ANA miles in Business Class
  • 195,000 ANA miles in First Class

Keep in mind, ANA adds significant fuel surcharges (up to ~$1,000) on certain partner award flights.

For example, I found a sample round-trip itinerary from San Francisco to Delhi.  You’ll pay 80,000 ANA miles plus ~$527 in taxes and fees.  You might be better off paying cash for the same flight, but you’ll want to run the numbers.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Be Mindful of Fuel Surcharges on Certain ANA Award Flights

But the sweet spot using ANA miles is for award flights to the Middle East, because the airline has a partnership with Etihad.  And unlike other ANA partners, there are no fuel surcharges when you use ANA miles for Etihad award flights.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Use ANA Miles to Book Etihad First Class Award Flights and Pay No Fuel Surcharges!

You can fly non-stop on Etihad to Abu Dhabi from:

  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles
  • New York (JFK)
  • Washington, DC

Then connect from Abu Dhabi to other destinations in the Middle East or India.

You’ll need to call ANA at 800-235-9262 to book Etihad award flights.

3.   Singapore Airlines

Link:   Singapore Airlines Award Chart

Singapore Airlines is another Star Alliance airline.  So you can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Singapore Airlines to book award flights on partner airlines like Air Canada or Air India.

You can also redeem Singapore Airlines miles for award flights directly on the airline.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Singapore Airlines Is Part of the Star Alliance, So You Can Redeem Miles for Award Flights to India or the Middle East on Partner Airlines Like Air India or United Airlines

Singapore Airlines has different prices for award flights to India and the Middle East depending if you’re departing the US from the East Coast or West Coast.

From the West Coast to India, one-way award flights cost:

  • 36,125 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 76,500 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 106,250 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

And from the East Coast to India, one-way award flights cost:

  • 44,625 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 87,125 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 112,625 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

One-way award flights from the West Coast to the Middle East cost:

  • 40,375 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 80,750 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 110,500 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

Note:   These prices reflect the automatic 15% discount you get for booking online.

For award flight prices from the East Coast to the Middle East, you’ll have to call Singapore Airlines because the prices vary by route.

The good news is Singapore Airlines award flights are easy to book online.  But if you plan to fly the airline to India or the Middle East, expect a lengthy flight itinerary.  Because you’ll likely be connecting via Singapore to get to your final destination.

For example, I found a one-way Business Class award flight from Los Angeles to Delhi.  But you’ll have 2 layovers, including in Tokyo and then in Singapore.  The total travel time is 30+ hours.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Singapore Airlines Award Flights Are Easy to Book Online! But Prepare for a Lengthy Trip With Layovers If You Fly the Airline to India or the Middle East.

Keep in mind, you’ll pay high taxes on Singapore Airlines award flights, which can range from ~$450 in coach to ~$600 in First Class.

So it might not be worth redeeming miles for a coach ticket.  But I wouldn’t mind paying taxes for a Business Class or First Class seat, which might otherwise cost thousands of dollars!

4.   Delta

Delta does not publish an award chart.  So you’ll need to search specific award flights to find prices.

From my research, I found the cheapest one-way award flights to the Middle East cost:

  • 35,000 Delta miles in coach 
  • 85,000 Delta miles in Business Class

And to India, the cheapest award flights I found cost:

  • 40,000 Delta miles in coach 
  • 97,500 Delta miles in Business Class

Keep in mind, you might find limited available Business Class award seats, especially when using Delta miles for partner airline flights.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Check the Delta Award Calendar for Available Award Seats Before Transferring AMEX Membership Rewards Points

Delta is part of the SkyTeam Alliance, so you can fly to India or the Middle East by connecting through Europe or Asia on partner airlines like:

  • Air France
  • Aeroflot
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Virgin Atlantic

The best departure options are from Delta hub cities:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Cincinnati
  • Detroit
  • Los Angeles
  • Minneapolis
  • New York
  • Salt Lake City
  • Seattle

For example, I found a one-way Business Class award flight from Atlanta to Mumbai for 97,500 Delta miles.  This flight is on partner airline Korean Air with a layover in Seoul.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Although redeeming Delta miles is not always the cheapest option for award flights, there are some advantages.

For example, the award calendar is easy to search.  And you can book award flights quickly online.

5.   Flying Blue

Link:   Flying Blue Promo Awards

Flying Blue is the frequent flyer program for Air France and KLM.  You can transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to the program at a 1:1 ratio.

Folks planning to travel to Israel can find amazing deals using Flying Blue miles.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

Fly to Israel for Fewer Miles When You Book Flying Blue Promo Awards

That’s because each month Air France and KLM discount award tickets on certain routes to Europe by 25% to 50%But Israel is considered in the same region for purposes of the Flying Blue Promo Awards.

For example, when there’s a 50% discount on coach award tickets, you can book a round-trip award flight to Tel Aviv for 25,000 Flying Blue miles plus taxes and fees.  That’s an incredible deal!

Keep in mind, the taxes and fees vary by flight, but usually range from ~$200 in coach to ~$500 in Business Class.

Save Time (and Possibly Points) Using AMEX Pay With Points

Link:   AMEX Pay With Points 

Link:   Now Get 50% of Your Points Back With AMEX Business Platinum

Instead of transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points directly to airline partners, you can redeem points for airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal.

When you redeem points through the AMEX travel portal, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket.  And folks with the AMEX Business Platinum card can effectively get 2 cents per point using the Pay With Points perk to get 50% of points back.

You can potentially save time and avoid blackout dates by booking airfare this way.

For example, I found a non-stop, round-trip United Airlines coach flight from Newark to Delhi in March 2017.  This flight costs ~$800 or ~80,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

American Express Membership Rewards Points For Flights To Middle East

You Can Avoid Award Flight Blackout Dates by Redeeming Points for Airfare Through the AMEX Travel Portal

You could book this same flight by transferring points to AMEX airline partners Air Canada or ANA.  Assuming award flights are available on the same dates, you’d pay:

  • 80,000 ANA miles 
  • 100,000 Air Canada Aeroplan miles

Folks with the Business Platinum can get an amazing deal using Pay With Points if the flight is on their selected airline.

For example, if United Airlines is your selected airline, you’ll pay ~80,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for the sample round-trip flight to Delhi.  But you’ll get 50% of your points back.  In the end, you’ll only use 40,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points for a round-trip flight to India!

Bottom Line

For award flights to India & the Middle East, you’ll get the most options by transferring AMEX Membership Rewards points to Star Alliance partner airlines like Air Canada, ANA, and Singapore Airlines.

If you’re looking to fly Business Class, you’ll have more options if you connect through Europe or Asia, instead of flying non-stop.

Don’t forget certain airlines add fuel surcharges on partner award flights to India & the Middle East.  So run the numbers to make sure you’re getting the best deal!

That said, you can find good deals without any fuel surcharges thanks to certain partnerships.  For example, you can use ANA miles to book Etihad award flights to Abu Dhabi.  But you’ll have to call ANA to book these flights.

If Israel is in your travel plans, keep an eye out for monthly Flying Blue Promo Awards.  During certain months, you can book a round-trip flight from designated US cities for only 25,000 Flying Blue miles plus taxes and fees, which is an amazing deal!

Or you can use AMEX Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal to book cheap coach airfare.  This can be an amazing deal for folks with the AMEX Business Platinum booking a flight their selected airline.

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5 responses to “Ultimate Guide to Big Travel With American Express Membership Rewards Points Part 8: India & Middle East

  1. This is awesome, thanks for doing this. Can you do another series like this for chase ultimate reward points and options for India? I’m trying to decide whether to accumulate Amex or chase points with India in mind so a good comparison would help! Keep up the great work.

  2. 104k ANA miles Roundtrip to Abu Dhabi in Business on Etihad? I did not realize that and it is an amazing steal. I am surprised that’s not exploited more.

  3. Can i book MCI (or ORD) to BOM with ana miles in EK to skip fuel charges?