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.
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!
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:
- Part 1 – Transfer Partners
- Part 2 – How to Transfer Points
- Part 3 – Best Ways to Fly Within Continental US
- Part 4 – Best Ways to Fly to Hawaii
- Part 5 – Best Ways to Fly to Canada & Alaska
- Part 6 – Best Ways to Fly to Caribbean & Mexico
- Part 7 – Europe
- Part 8 – India & Middle East
- Part 9 – Africa
- Part 10 – South America
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 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.
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
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
- 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)
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.
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:
- Canary Islands (Spain)
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
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.
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.
Link: ANA Award Chart
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.
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.
You can fly non-stop on Etihad to Abu Dhabi from:
- 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 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.
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!
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.
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
- Korean Air
- Virgin Atlantic
The best departure options are from Delta hub cities:
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Salt Lake City
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.
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
Folks planning to travel to Israel can find amazing deals using Flying Blue miles.
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
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.
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
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!
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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Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
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