Travel

The best ways to fly to India with points and miles

India is a top destination for many travelers. You can occasionally find flight deals to India, especially if you are patient and have flexible travel dates. If you find a good flight deal, you may want to use a credit card travel portal to book your flights.

Otherwise, you may want to redeem points and miles for flights to India. This guide will discuss some of the top airline loyalty programs to use when booking award flights between the U.S. and India.

Whether you are booking paid flights or award flights, remember to consider booking positioning flights in the U.S. and India. Doing so may unlock more award options or better pricing. Let’s get started.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

ANA Mileage Club

If you’re looking to book a round-trip award, booking with ANA Mileage Club may be a good option. ANA is a member of the Star Alliance but also partners with some airlines outside Star Alliance, including Etihad Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

You can redeem ANA miles to fly round-trip between North America and Asia (which includes India) at the following rates:

  • Economy: 55,000 to 70,000 miles on ANA-operated flights; 80,000 miles on partners.
  • Premium economy: 84,000 to 99,000 miles on ANA-operated flights; not available on partners.
  • Business: 100,000 to 115,000 miles on ANA-operated flights; 136,000 miles on partners.
  • First: 195,000 to 210,000 miles on ANA-operated flights; 240,000 miles on partners.

You’ll still pay these rates even if you fly one-way. So you’ll only want to consider ANA Mileage Club if you plan to book a round-trip award.

For example, here’s an economy round-trip award operated by Singapore Airlines that you can book for 80,000 ANA miles plus 84.30 Singapore Dollars (about $64):

Economy round-trip award on Singapore Airlines. ASWBE-I.ANA.CO.JP

However, taxes and fees are a lot higher on ANA-operated awards. Here’s a premium economy round-trip award operated by ANA that you can book for 94,000 ANA miles plus 817.90 Singapore dollars (about $618):

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Premium economy award operated by ANA. ASWBE-I.ANA.CO.JP

If you need to earn ANA miles to book your award, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio or Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio (with 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points transferred).

Related: Quick Points: Book mixed-cabin awards with ANA Mileage Club to stretch your miles

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is another option for flights between the U.S. and India.

You can redeem for flights on Virgin Atlantic, although the taxes and fees are often too high for this to make sense. For example, consider the following off-peak awards from New York to Mumbai via London:

Award flight on Virgin Atlantic, New York to Mumbai via London. VIRGINATLANTIC.COM

The award costs jump higher for Virgin Atlantic-operated awards on peak dates, though. Combined with the high taxes and fees, these awards won’t appeal to most travelers.

Award flight on Virgin Atlantic, New York to Delhi. VIRGINATLANTIC.COM

You can also redeem Virgin points according to off-peak and peak zone-based charts for long-haul flights operated by Air France and KLM. Here’s the pricing you should see for one-way awards between the U.S. and India operated by Air France or KLM:

  • Economy: 28,000 points off-peak to/from eastern U.S., 38,000 points peak to/from eastern U.S., 31,000 points off-peak to/from central or western U.S. and 41,000 points peak to/from central or western U.S.
  • Premium economy (only on Air France): 56,000 points off-peak to/from the eastern U.S., 76,000 points peak to/from the eastern U.S., 62,000 points off-peak to/from central or western U.S. and 72,000 points peak to/from central or western U.S.
  • Business: 110,000 points off-peak to/from eastern U.S., 120,000 points peak to/from eastern U.S., 122,500 points off-peak to/from central or western U.S. and 132,500 points peak to/from central or western U.S.

But in practice, the rates you’ll see for awards operated by Air France and KLM on the Flying Club website may not match the award chart rates. For example, these awards operated by Air France and KLM cost 27,000 points (1,000 points less than we’d expect).

Award flights, cheaper than Virgin Atlantic’s award chart rates. VIRGINATLANTIC.COM

If you want to earn Virgin points, you can leverage the following transferable currencies:

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: When and how to book Delta awards with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Flying Blue

The Flying Blue program is another option for award flights between the U.S. and India. One-way awards between the U.S. and India start at 35,000 miles in economy, 65,000 miles in premium economy and 95,000 miles in business.

Award flights, Miami to Mumbai, in Flying Blue program. FLYINGBLUE.US

For example, we could book the one-way KLM-operated economy award that costs 27,000 Virgin points plus $219 (see the previous section) for 35,000 Flying Blue miles plus $125.

KLM award travel, New York to Delhi, vs. Flying Blue. KLM.COM

Finding business class awards at the starting rate of 95,000 miles can be challenging. But you can easily check award pricing by cabin around your desired travel dates by looking at the bar above the results. Unfortunately, as you’ll see in the one-way business class award example below, the taxes and fees are rather high on business class awards.

Business class award travel, New York to Delhi. KLM.COM

If you want to earn Flying Blue miles, you can transfer any of the following transferable currencies:

Related: This month’s Flying Blue Promo Rewards

Air Canada Aeroplan

An Air Canada jet. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Air Canada Aeroplan award prices follow region-based award charts. The U.S. is in the North America region and India is in the Atlantic region. However, most one-way awards between the U.S. and India have a distance of 6,001 to 8,000 miles and hence are priced as follows:

  • Economy: 55,000 to 80,000 points for Air Canada-operated flights; 55,000 points for partner-operated flights.
  • Premium economy: 70,000 to 100,000 points for Air Canada-operated flights; not offered on partner-operated flights.
  • Business: 85,000 to 200,000 points for Air Canada-operated flights; 90,000 points for partner-operated flights.
  • First: 120,000 to 225,000 points on Air Canada-operated flights; 130,000 points on partner-operated flights.

However, if you combine Air Canada-operated flights with flights operated by partner airlines, you may see different pricing.

Aeroplan’s rates are higher than what you’ll find with other programs, especially once you consider the partner booking fee.

Air Canada Aeroplan award travel, San Francisco to Delhi. AIRCANADA.COM

But, if you want to add in a stopover or have inflexible travel dates, you may find that the Aeroplan program is best for your trip to India. I had little trouble finding partner awards pricing as expected from major cities in the U.S. to major cities in India.

If you need to earn Aeroplan points for an award, you could use the Aeroplan® Credit Card. However, if you need points more urgently, you could leverage the following transferable currencies:

Related: Complete guide to Aeroplan’s stopover and routing rules

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles can be a good way to book Star Alliance awards between the U.S. and India. You can book round-trip promotional awards on Turkish Airlines or its partners between the U.S. and India at the following rates:

  • Economy: 68,000 miles.
  • Business: 105,000 miles.
  • First: 154,000 miles.

You can also book a one-way promotional award for half the cost in miles of a round-trip award. There’s plenty of economy award availability on Turkish Airlines-operated flights from the U.S. to India for 34,000 miles plus $128.80 one-way.

TURKISHAIRLINES.COM

You can also find some availability on Star Alliance partners. For example, here’s a one-way business class award on an Air India-operated flight from New York to Delhi for 52,500 miles plus $277.90.

Business award travel on Turkish Airlines, New York to Delhi. TURKISHAIRLINES.COM

If you want to earn Turkish miles to book an award, you can transfer Capital One miles at a 1:1 ratio, Citi ThankYou Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio (if you have the Citi Premier Card or the Citi Prestige Card), Bilt Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio (with 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points transferred).

Related: 10 things to know about flying Turkish Airlines

Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca LifeMiles is another option you could use if you want to fly Star Alliance airlines between the U.S. and India.

You’ll usually find one-way Star Alliance awards between the U.S. and India for 47,000 miles in economy, 90,000 miles in business and 120,000 miles in first.

LifeMiles award travel, San Francisco to Delhi. LIFEMILES.COM

But one interesting part of the Avianca LifeMiles program is how it prices mixed cabin awards. For example, you could pay just 3,330 miles more to fly Air India business class instead of economy class from Hong Kong to Delhi on the following award.

Flying business class Hong Kong to Delhi costs little more than flying economy class on LifeMiles. LIFEMILES.COM

If you want to earn Avianca LifeMiles, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio, Capital One miles at a 1:1 ratio, Citi ThankYou Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio (if you have the Citi Premier Card or the Citi Prestige Card) and Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio.

Related: Can’t find award availability with Avianca LifeMiles? Don’t give up until you try this trick

United MileagePlus

United MileagePlus offers reasonably priced economy awards between the U.S. and India on most dates. On most dates, you’ll find one-way economy awards for 46,800 miles plus modest taxes and fees. For example, here’s a calendar view of economy awards from Austin, Texas, to Delhi:

Typical calendar view of economy awards from Austin to Delhi. UNITED.COM

You’ll likely end up on Air India if you’re looking for the least-expensive one-stop routing:

One-stop routing, Austin to Delhi. UNITED.COM

But keep an eye out for other Star Alliance carriers, such as LOT Polish:

LOT Polish route, Chicago to Delhi. UNITED.COM

United MileagePlus awards between the U.S. and India are often expensive in premium cabins. So unless you have a lot of United miles, you’ll likely want to utilize other programs if you want to fly in premium cabins. Here’s an example of some of the least expensive business and first class awards I found between New York and Delhi:

Some of the least expensive travel options, New York to Delhi. UNITED.COM

If you want to earn United miles, you have multiple options. For example, you can use a United credit card or transfer rewards from Chase Ultimate Rewards at a 1:1 ratio, Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1.1 ratio (with 5,500 bonus miles for every 60,000 points transferred) and Bilt Rewards at a 1:1 ratio.

Related: 6 things you need to know about United Airlines MileagePlus

Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska Mileage Plan provides some nice options between the U.S. and India. Based on Alaska’s new simplified award chart, you’d expect to see one-way awards starting at the following rates between the U.S. and India:

  • Economy: 42,500 miles
  • Premium economy: 55,000 miles.
  • Business: 65,000 miles.
  • First: 80,000 miles.

But in practice, you may find less-expensive awards when you search on Alaska’s website. For example, here’s a Japan Airlines-operated economy award from Seattle to Bangalore for 35,000 miles plus $31.

Japan Airlines award travel, Seattle to Bangalore. ALASKAAIR.COM

And here’s a Japan Airlines-operated business award from New York to Delhi for 60,000 miles plus $30.

Business award travel, New York to Delhi. ALASKAAIR.COM

Alaska Mileage Plan may be very appealing if you want to build a stopover into your one-way award. For example, you can book the same Japan Airlines itinerary shown above with about a week stopover in Tokyo for the same number of miles and just slightly higher taxes and fees.

New York to Delhi via Tokyo. ALASKAAIR.COM

The primary downside of redeeming Alaska miles is the difficulty you may face in earning Alaska miles. That said, you can earn miles through Alaska credit cards, the Alaska Mileage Plan shopping portal and by transferring rewards from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio (with 5,000 bonus miles for every 60,000 points transferred).

Related: Maximizing redemptions with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

American AAdvantage

Finally, American Airlines AAdvantage provides some good options between the U.S. and India. You can fly one-way awards that involve American’s partners between the U.S. and India at the following rates:

  • Economy: 40,000 miles.
  • Premium economy: 62,500 miles.
  • Business: 70,000 miles.
  • First: 115,000 miles.

You’ll usually see reasonable taxes and fees if you avoid British Airways-operated flights. Also, American’s large network within the U.S. makes it easy to connect within the U.S. at the start or end of your award.

It’s relatively easy to find economy awards involving American’s partners for 40,000 miles each way. For example, here’s a one-way economy award on Qatar Airways-operated flights from Los Angeles to Bengaluru for 40,000 miles plus $41.80:

Qatar Airways-operated one-way economy flight, Los Angeles to Bengaluru. AA.COM

And here’s a one-way business class award on Finnair-operated flights from Dallas to Mumbai for 70,000 miles plus $12.30:

One-way business award flight, Dallas to Mumbai, on Finnair. AA.COM

The biggest downside of American Airlines AAdvantage awards is that it can be difficult to earn American miles. But you can earn miles through American Airlines credit cards, Bask Bank and the AAdvantage shopping portal. Plus, you can transfer rewards to AAdvantage from Bilt Rewards at a 1:1 ratio and Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

Bottom line

This guide discussed various ways to redeem points and miles for flights to India. The best program for you will depend on various factors, including award availability, what points and miles you currently have and how you want to fly.

Booking flights is just the start of your trip planning. Luckily, you can also redeem hotel points in India — and there are some excellent properties to consider. For example, Hyatt’s Alila Fort Bishangarh near Jaipur is spectacular. You can stay at the world’s only Category 1 Park Hyatt in Chennai. And the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Agra offers views of the Taj Mahal from its roof-top infinity pool.

If you don’t want to plan what to do in India once you book your flights, Elsewhere (owned by TPG’s sister brand, Lonely Planet) may be able to plan the perfect trip for you.

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