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!
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
- 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 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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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:
- Chase United MileagePlus Explorer Card
- Chase United Club card
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- Chase Ink Bold (no longer offered for new sign-ups_
- Chase Ink Plus
- Chase Freedom (IF transferred to the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Bold, or Chase Ink Plus)
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
- EVA Air
- Singapore Airlines
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!
The best way to earn Aeroplan miles is through American Express Membership Rewards, using the following cards:
- American Express Everyday and EveryDay Preferred
- Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
- American Express Business Rewards Gold
- The Platinum Card from American Express
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.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.
You pay 50,000 Aeroplan Miles to fly coach 1-way from Chicago to Pune, India.
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.
You would pay 75,000 Aeroplan miles to fly 1-way from Newark to Chennai, India.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.
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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