The Big Travel Guide to AMEX Membership Rewards Points: Part 8 – Best Ways to Fly to India and 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 and hotel partners when the time comes.

Folks in the miles & points hobby know earning transferable points, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, are the best way to get Big Travel.  This can mean a First Class adventure around-the-world, family trip to Europe, or so many other options!  And it’s easy to earn AMEX Membership Rewards points from some of the best American Express cards.

The AMEX Membership Rewards points program has many direct airline and hotel partners.  

Plus, you’ll get access to other indirect partners as well, which gives you choices for flights to the India, which an amazing travel destination!  And you’ll have great options for travel to the Middle East too!

Or you can keep it simple and use AMEX Pay With Points to book flights through the Membership Rewards travel portal and get a fixed amount per point.

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

We’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

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

India is an amazing favorite travel destination.  And Mumbai is one of Emily’s top international shopping destinations.

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

Emily’s First Trip With Miles and Points Was to India!

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.

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

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.

1.   Air Canada

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
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 Mumbai, and 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 cities 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.

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 82,500 Air Canada Aeroplan miles for a one-way, non-stop Business Class award flight between New York (JFK) and Cairo on partner airline Egypt Air.

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, we recommend searching the United Airlines website for “Saver” level awards.

2.   ANA

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, we found a sample round-trip itinerary from San Francisco to Delhi.  You’ll pay 80,000 ANA miles plus ~$839 in taxes and fees.  You’re likely better off paying cash for the same flight, but you’ll want to run the numbers.

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.

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
  • 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

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.

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

Here are the prices for one-way Star Alliance partner flights using Singapore Airlines miles from North America to India:

  • 45,000 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 69,000 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 90,000 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

And for one-way Star Alliance flights to the Middle East, you’ll pay:

  • 55,000 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 110,000 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 145,000 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

Singapore Airlines has different prices for their own 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 on Singapore Airlines cost:

  • 46,000 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 98,000 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 138,000 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

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

  • 55,000 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 110,000 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 145,000 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

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

  • 52,000 Singapore Airlines miles in coach
  • 102,000 Singapore Airlines miles in Business Class
  • 143,000 Singapore Airlines miles in First Class

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 usually 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.

Keep in mind, you’ll pay high taxes on Singapore Airlines award flights, which can be in the hundreds of dollars.

So it might not be worth redeeming miles for a coach ticket.  But it could make sense to pay 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 our research, we 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 we found cost:

  • 40,000 Delta miles in coach 
  • 100,000 Delta miles in Business Class

Delta does occasionally offer award sales with even better prices, so watch out for those!

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

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

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

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.

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%.  

Flying Blue now has an award calculator tool to allow you to see how many miles a flight will cost, but you need to log into your Flying Blue account to get to it.  And 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

If there are no award flights available for your desired travel dates, or you just can’t find an itinerary that meets your requirements, you can always redeem points for airfare using Pay With Points through the Membership Rewards travel portal.

When you use your AMEX Membership Rewards points towards air travel, you’ll get 1 cent per point towards your ticket.  And folks with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express can effectively get ~1.54 cents per point using the Pay With Points perk to get 35% of their points back when they book coach seats on their selected airline, or Business or First Class seats on any airline.

For example, we found a round-trip United Airlines coach flight from Newark to Delhi in May 2019.  This flight costs ~$771 or ~71,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points.

If You Find a Cheap Paid Fare It Can Make a LOT More Sense to Use AMEX Pay With Points

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

That means that booking through AMEX Travel is cheaper AND you can earn frequent flyer miles when you fly!

Folks with the AMEX Business Platinum can get an amazing deal using Pay With Points if the flight is on their selected airline or for a booking any airline in First or Business Class.  These flights will get 35% of points back!  So in this example, the net cost for a round-trip flight between Newark and Delhi would be ~50,155 AMEX Membership Rewards points (77,161 points – 35% rebate).

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 Rewards.  During certain months, you can book a round-trip flight from designated US cities for as few as 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 or any Business or First Class flight because you’ll get 35% of your miles back!

Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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