Hey Travel Junkies,
India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. With that diversity comes a tremendous amount of opportunities to experience. You’ll find many different types of food, culture, and even languages within India’s borders.
Unfortunately, given its proximity opposite of the United States on the globe, the most direct route to India would be digging a hole through the earth. Since current technology doesn’t make that a reality, the next best option is to fly to India. These flights halfway around the globe typically aren’t cheap. That’s where points and miles come in.
There aren’t many non-stop routes from North America but three airlines do have flights to India: Air Canada (from Canada), Air India, and United. Delta has announced a route set to start in 2019, but it currently is not operating yet.
Air Canada, Air India, and United are all members of Star Alliance, so if you’re looking to minimize the number of stops to India, you’ll want to consider these options. However, there are some other options that will save you more points, so if you have the flexibility in your schedule for an additional stop, you’ll be able to save a lot of your hard-earned points. Also, keep in mind that award space on these non-stop routes can be tough to find.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to fly to India with points and miles.
1 Alaska Airlines MileagePlan
1.1 Economy Flights on Japan Airlines
1.2 Economy Flights on Emirates
1.3 Business or First Class on Cathay Pacific
1.4 How to Book Flights with Alaska Airlines MileagePlan
1.5 How to Earn Alaska MileagePlan Miles
If you’re wanting to take the long journey to India in luxury, Alaska Airlines MileagePlan is one of the best ways to do it. Alaska has different award charts for different partners, so the number of points you need will depend on which airline you fly.
Economy Flights on Japan Airlines
Using Alaska MileagePlan to book a flight to India with Japan Airlines is one of the cheapest ways to get to India across the board. Flights on Japan Airlines to India will only cost 35,000 points one-way. Taxes and fees vary, but are $56 for departures from India and only $42 from the US.
You’ll struggle to find more comfortable economy seats for your trip. On most of its fleet, Japan Airlines offers what it calls “Sky Wider Seats” which have 33 to 34 inches of pitch and are about 19 inches wide.
You’ll find this seat on most of Japan Airlines’ 787-9, 787-8, and 777-300ER aircraft. Other aircraft have traditional economy seating.
Japan Airlines flies to a number of US cities. If you start in one of these cities, you won’t need a positioning flight:
- Boston (BOS)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Honolulu (HNL)
- Kona (KOA)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- New York City (JFK)
- San Diego (SAN)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle (SEA – starting March 31, 2019)
Economy Flights on Emirates
For economy flights, you’ll find numerous options flying Emirates. Flights on Emirates to India cost 42,500 points one-way, or 85,000 points round-trip. Taxes and fees are fairly modest as well. Expect to pay $29 for taxes and fees for flights departing from the US, and $61-63 for flights departing from India.
Emirates flies from a large number of US cities. If you originate in one of these cities, you’ll only have one stop in Dubai on your way to India.
- Boston (BOS)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Dallas (DFW)
- Ft. Lauderdale (FLL)
- Houston (IAH)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- New York (JFK)
- Newark (EWR)
- Orlando (MCO)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Seattle (SEA)
- Washington DC (IAD)
Similarly, Emirates flies to almost as many destinations in India:
- Ahmedabad (AMD)
- Bengaluru (BLR)
- Chennai (MAA)
- Delhi (DEL)
- Hyderabad (HYD)
- Kochi (COK)
- Kolkata (CCU)
- Mumbai (BOM)
- Thiruvananthapuram (TRV)
The sheer number of departure points in the US and destinations in India should make Emirates a popular option for flying economy to India. Given its plentiful award seat availability, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get there either.
Business or First Class on Cathay Pacific
The journey to India can be a long one, and you may want to book in business or first class. Alaska Airlines has some of the lowest business and first class options to India when you fly Cathay Pacific.
The award chart above shows the one-way costs. Round-trip in business class costs only 125,000 miles while first class costs 140,000 miles. That’s a tremendous value for your miles given the amount of time you’ll spend in the air. Additionally, you can add in a stopover in Hong Kong, adding another destination onto your trip if you desire.
Cathay Pacific First Class availability can be difficult to find. Business class is a bit more reliable. Your best bet for either is to search as soon as the flights become available, about 11 months before your departure, or within 2 weeks of flying.
When searching for award availability, your best bet is to call into Alaska directly. Unfortunately, Alaska doesn’t show Cathay availability online, and availability will be limited compared to what other sites may show. Because of this, calling in will help you see what is available. If you do want to know if there is any availability in advance, you can search on British Airways’ website.
Cathay flies out of several US airports including:
- Boston (BOS)
- Chicago (ORD)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- New York (JFK)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Washington DC (IAD)
- Seattle (SEA)
How to Book Flights with Alaska Airlines MileagePlan
Booking partner flights with Alaska Airlines MileagePlan is a mixed bag. Some let you book directly online while others require you to call in.
If you’re wanting to book a Japan Airlines or Emirates flight to India, you can book your flight online. Simply click the “Use Miles” box before starting your search to see award availability.
Remember, you can include one partner per direction. So you can do a round-trip with Japan Airlines there and Emirates back.
If you want to book Cathay Pacific, it will take a bit more work. You can’t book Cathay Pacific tickets online with Alaska Airlines. You’ll need to first find award availability, and then call Alaska Airlines to book your ticket (1-800-252-7522).
To find Cathay Pacific award availability, use British Airways to search. First, open a free British Airways Executive Club account. Then do a search to book a flight with Avios.
I recommend searching each flight separately. For example, if you are starting in Chicago, search Chicago (ORD) to Hong Kong (HKG). Then, after finding that availability, search for flights from Hong Kong to your destination in India. British Airways doesn’t always show connecting availability correctly, so this will help avoid that problem.
Once you find award space, call into Alaska to book. Be aware, Alaska doesn’t get the same availability for award seats as other partners. Just because it was available to British Airways doesn’t guarantee it will be available to Alaska. However, the only way to find out is to call.
Alaska will also let you book a free stopover on each direction of an award ticket. If you’re travelling on Emirates, you can stopover in Dubai. If you’re flying Japan Airlines, you can stopover in Tokyo. And if you’re flying Cathay, you can stopover in Hong Kong.
How to Earn Alaska MileagePlan Miles
Alaska miles are a great way to get to India. Unfortunately, they are rather difficult to earn because no major bank program transfers to Alaska.
Your best option is to sign up for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Credit Card. Bank of America has a business version as well.
The next best way is by transferring Marriott Bonvoy points. For every 3 Marriott points you transfer, you’ll receive 1 Alaska mile. If you transfer 60,000 Bonvoys, you’ll get a bonus 5,000 Alaska miles. While this isn’t the best use of your Bonvoy points, it is an easy way to top off your Alaska account if you need a few more miles for your redemption.
Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card
30,000 bonus points after $1,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more by visiting our
credit cards page.
All Nippon Airways Mileage Club Miles
All Nippon Airways (ANA) is a Japanese airline with a wonderful, although slightly limited, award chart. The biggest limitation is that award tickets must be booked as a round-trip. This means you’ll need to find availability to and from India in order to book your ticket.
ANA has different award charts for flights operated by ANA and flights operated by their Star Alliance partners. The best use of ANA miles will be flying economy or business on Star Alliance partners, or flying any class of service on an ANA operated flight.
The best value comes flying on an ANA operated flight. Although the deals are better, navigating the award prices is a little bit trickier.
For flights operated by ANA, the award price will depend on when you travel. ANA has prices for three seasons: Low-Season (L), Regular-Season (R), and High-Season (H).
In the award chart above, you are looking at the prices for the Asia 2 region and North America. Asia 2 includes flights operated to Mumbai and Delhi. Although the award chart says departure is from Asia 2, the pricing is the same as if you departed from North America. The prices are in round-trip prices, because ANA doesn’t allow you to book a one-way award ticket.
To determine seasonality, you have to consider all flights on your itinerary. The pricing will be determined by the highest season on each leg. If your flight from the US is in low season, and your return flight is in regular season, it will price it half of your flight as low season and half as high season. In this case, it would cost 60,000 points for economy, 89,000 points for premium economy, 105,000 points for business class, and 195,000 points for first class.
You’ll have to consider the seasonality on each leg. Since you’ll be routing through Japan, you have to consider the following:
- The seasonality between the US and Japan on your outbound flight
- The seasonality between Japan and India on your outbound flight
- The seasonality between India and Japan on your return flight
- The seasonality between Japan and the US on your return flight
To better illustrate, let’s go through a quick example. If you are departing the US on February 1st and returning February 14th, what would your ticket price as?
First, evaluate each direction of your trip. From the US to Japan, your flight would be during the low season, and then from Japan to India your flight would be during the regular season. So the entire outbound portion of your flight would price as if it is during regular season.
For your return flights, you have to consider both again. Flights from India to Japan are during regular season, and flights from Japan to the US are during low season. Again, the regular season would dominate and your ticket would price as if it is during the regular season.
Since both legs would be treated as travel during regular season, you would need the amount of points required for regular season travel.
If you aren’t traveling during the low season, don’t let that deter you. You are still getting some amazing rates to travel to India. If you travel business class during the high season, it will only cost 115,000 points in business class, which is only 15,000 more points than the low season. 115,000 points to travel round-trip half-way around the world in business class is one of the lowest rates you’ll find for premium cabin travel to India.
As a member of the Star Alliance, you can book Star Alliance award flights.
If you want to travel on a Star Alliance or other ANA partner, you’ll still have some competitive rates. You will still have to book a round-trip flight, which can be a bit limiting if award availability isn’t there, but the prices are still some of the lowest you’ll find to Asia.
If you’re traveling on a Star Alliance partner, you’ll need 80,000 points in economy, 136,000 points for business class, or 240,000 points for first class. The real stand-out is for economy and business class. There are other programs you can use for better value on Star Alliance first class.
Travelling on a flight operated by a Star Alliance or partner airline doesn’t have seasonality changes either. The price in the award chart above is the price you’ll pay regardless of when you travel.
Another great aspect about booking an award flight with ANA is the flexibility it offers. If you’re booking an ANA or Star Alliance award, you can have 1 stopover and 2 open jaws. Stopovers and open jaws are a great way to get more value from your points.
A stopover would let you have a stop on your way to or from your destination. You could easily stop over in Japan for a few days on an ANA operated flight.
An open jaw is really valuable if you’re trying to explore more of India. You could fly into Mumbai and out of Delhi if it fits your travel needs.
If you are booking a Star Alliance or partner award flight, you will find the greatest flexibility with booking a Star Alliance flight. The flexibility exists because you can mix different Star Alliance airlines. For partner award flights, you can only fly on that single partner.
That’s a lot of information, and the complexity makes it harder to navigate ANA’s award booking rules. Let’s break it down into a chart to compare the options described:.
|ANA Operated Flight||Star Alliance Flight|
|Book multiple airlines||No||Yes|
Thankfully, booking an award flight with ANA isn’t so bad. Let’s explore how to book a flight with ANA.
How to Book Flights with ANA
Booking a flight with ANA miles is rather easy. All Star Alliance and partner airlines can be booked online except for Garuda Indonesia. If you’ve found award space elsewhere and it isn’t showing up online, you can call ANA to book the flight and have the phone booking fee waived.
On the ANA site, you’ll need to login to your account and simply click the big button that says “Award Booking.” You will be directed to a screen to enter your flight details. If you have flexibility, I recommend clicking the option to show ±3 days so you can see more options. This is especially valuable when trying to travel in a premium cabin where award space can be more scarce.
For ANA flights, they may show seats that are “waitlisted.” This means that you aren’t guaranteed a seat. If you have the flexibility to cancel last minute plans, this can be an okay option. Just don’t count on your waitlist clearing. Only ANA flights will be waitlisted,; Star Alliance flights will always be bookable immediately.
Additionally, ANA will show mixed-cabin awards. This means that some of your flights will be in business, but some may be in economy class. ANA does make it clear from the start so be sure to double check. If your flight is mixed cabin, it will still cost the same amount of miles as the highest cabin. So even if a 1-hour flight is in business and 20 hours are in economy, you’ll be paying the same price as if it is a business class trip.
Once you find the flights that you want, proceed to booking. Be aware that ANA does pass along surcharges, so the cash out of pocket may be a bit higher than desirable.
How to Earn ANA Miles
The best way to earn ANA Miles is by transferring American Express Membership Rewards points. You will earn 1 ANA mile for every Membership Rewards point you transfer.
ANA also has a co-branded card which earns ANA Mileage Club miles directly, but it doesn’t have any bonus categories so earning miles is slow.
Cards to Help Earn more ANA Mileage Club Miles
The American Express Gold Card is a great way to earn American Express Membership Rewards that you can transfer to ANA. The 4x bonus at grocery stores is a great way to help earn more points from your daily spend.
Another option is the American Express Platinum Card. In addition to the points, you get access to Centurion Lounges which are some of the best lounges in the US.
American Airlines AAdvantage
American Airlines AAdvantage program is a great way to fly to India. Although award prices are somewhat higher than with other options, the ease of earning AAdvantage miles makes it easy to earn enough for flights to India.
The AAdvantage program costs the following amount of miles for one-way flights to India:
- Economy – 40,000
- Business – 70,000
- First Class – 115,000
There are some restrictions to flying to India with AAdvantage miles, but you can fly the following routes:
- Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong (HKG)
- American Airlines to Hong Kong (HKG), Cathay Pacific to India
- Etihad Airways via Abu Dhabi (AUH)
- Qatar Airways via Doha (DOH)
How to Book Flights with American Airlines
You can book flights on American Airlines, Etihad or Qatar Airways on American’s website. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific can only be booked over the phone.
To find space for Cathay Pacific, search for space on the British Airways website. Once you’ve found space, call American at 800-882-8880 to book your award ticket. Normally American charges a phone booking fee, but you shouldn’t be charged it since these cannot be booked online.
If you want to book Etihad business or first class, you might have to call to book. At the time of publishing, American’s site only shows premium cabin award space on Etihad up to 30 days from departure. If you want to book a flight further out, you’ll need to find availability on Etihad’s site. Specifically, you’ll want to find “Guest Seat” space then call American’s Australia or New Zealand call center to hold award space. Once you’ve done that, you can call the US call center to pay the taxes/fees.
How to Earn American Airlines AAdvantage Miles
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles are fairly easy to earn, despite having none of the major bank programs as a transfer option.
Both Barclays and Citi offer personal and business AAdvantage credit cards. Bonuses on these cards are typically are around 50,000 points or higher, making this a great way to build your AAdvantage balance quickly.
50,000 miles after $2,500 spend in 3 monthsLearn more
Cards to Help You Earn More AAdvantage Miles
There are a lot of great cards that will help you earn AAdvantage Miles. Between personal and business cards issued by Barclays and Citi, you have plenty of options.
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCard
60,000 AAdvantage miles after first purchaseLearn more by visiting our
credit cards page.
If you’re not yet familiar with the Avianca LifeMiles program, you should start getting to know it.
Avianca is a Star Alliance member that has quite a few sweet-spots in its award chart. What really makes it stand out is that Avianca doesn’t charge a lot of fees that you’ll find with other airlines. For example, booking an award ticket with Avianca will avoid fuel surcharges and close-in booking fees.
Avianca no longer has an award chart published, but from past history we can expect the following rates to apply for flights to India:
- Economy – 42,500 points
- Business – 78,000 points
- First – 108,000 points
There are quite a few Star Alliance airlines that you can fly to India, including Turkish Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and SWISS to name a few.
One of the best uses of Avianca LifeMiles is to fly Lufthansa First Class – though, you can only book within 14 days of departure.
How to Book Flights with Avianca LifeMiles
Booking flights with LifeMiles can be done online. The LifeMiles tool isn’t the most friendly for finding award availability. Search using United first, then book on the Lifemiles website.
Sometimes Avianca doesn’t have the same award availability as other partners. If you’ve found the availability elsewhere, you can try calling in at 1-800-284-2622, but LifeMiles representatives aren’t known for being the most helpful over the phone.
How to Earn Avianca LifeMiles
Avianca LifeMiles partner with American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Capital One. American Express and Citi transfer 1:1, whereas Capital One transfers 2:1.5, so stick with Membership Rewards or Thank You Rewards when transferring.
You can also earn LifeMiles directly from the LifeMiles credit card issued by Banco Popular.
Finally, LifeMiles often have great award sales where you’ll get an extra 125-150% bonus points. Generally, it isn’t a good idea to buy miles, but this is one of those rare exceptions. If you’re needing to top off your account, doing it during one of the promos is a great choice.
Cards to Help Earn Avianca LifeMiles
You have several great American Express cards that can help you earn LifeMiles but it really helps that you can also use Citi and Capital One cards to get your hands on more miles.
Using Delta SkyMiles to get to India poses a great value, despite not having a set award chart.
Delta is part of SkyTeam, and many award flights to India will route via Europe. Later this year, Delta is scheduled to start flying non-stop between the US and India which will make using SkyMiles even more valuable for flights to India.
Until that route launches, your route will be via Europe. You’ll fly either Delta, KLM, or Air France to Europe.
Because Delta uses dynamic pricing, it can be difficult to pin down how much a flight will cost. Thankfully with Delta, you can search for 5 weeks of award availability which helps you get a feel for how many points a flight should cost. Expect to pay the following based on class of service:
Economy: 50,000 points plus plus $47.90
Business (Delta One): 135,000 points $36.50
While it isn’t the fewest number of miles needed to fly to India, particularly in business class, using Delta SkyMiles is a great value for flying SkyTeam to India. Delta SkyMiles are also easy to acquire compared to other programs.
How to Book Flights with Delta SkyMiles
Booking flights with Delta SkyMiles is pretty easy. You can search and book completely online. From the home-screen, be sure to select “Advanced” and select Miles to be sure you’re doing an award search.
Select Advanced to search for flights with Miles
Delta can show up to 5 weeks of availability, which is very helpful if you’ve got flexible dates.
After you find the dates that work for you, just click the date and proceed to book your flights.
How to Earn Delta SkyMiles
You can earn Delta SkyMiles directly from the Delta SkyMiles credit cards. This is the best way to build your balance. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points, but there are other partners that can save you more points. Additionally, you’ll have to pay taxes on any points transferred from American Express to Delta.
Cards to Help Earn More Delta SkyMiles
American Express issues 4 personal Delta SkyMiles cards and 3 business Delta SkyMiles cards. With 7 cards available, it is easy to grow your SkyMiles balance. The bonuses vary, but you can expect to earn 60,000 or more points from each card.
Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card
35,000 SkyMiles after $1,000 spend in the first 3 monthsLearn more
45,000 SkyMiles & (5,000 MQMs) after $3,000 spend in the first 3 months plus $100 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within your first 3 monthsLearn more
A great alternative to SkyMiles is Flying Blue which is the loyalty program of Air France and KLM. As a part of SkyTeam, you can book the same Delta Flights using Flying Blue points.
Similar to Delta, Flying Blue uses dynamic pricing — the number of points needed may vary depending on your travel dates. However, unlike Delta, it does maintain a published saver level rate so you can see how low the price can go. You should always check Flying Blue saver rates to be sure you’re paying the least amount of points. Another difference between Flying Blue and Delta SkyMiles is that you’ll need fewer points with Flying Blue, but the taxes and fees are a bit higher.
When should you use Flying Blue rather than Delta SkyMiles? Flying Blue is great when you have more transferable points available. Every major bank program transfer to Flying Blue, making them easier to accumulate than SkyMiles.
Flying Blue costs as low as 34,000 miles for economy tickets, or 85,000 miles in business class. Taxes and fees start around $100, but can be above $400, especially for business class tickets.
Flying Blue wins if you have bank points, and are willing to pay higher taxes and fees. Delta SkyMiles win out if you want to minimize the taxes and fees you’re paying, and you already have a stash of SkyMiles to work with.
How to Book Flights to India with Flying Blue
Flying Blue makes it incredibly easy to book flights online. Simply navigate to Air France. On the homepage, select “book with points.” You’ll be prompted to login.
From there, you can manage your search. If you have flexible dates, check the “I am looking for travel around this date” box. It will show you a calendar view for a few weeks of award availability.
Once you’ve found a date that works for you, select it. You’ll then be shown every available flight for that day. The lowest price flight might not be at the top, so you may need to scroll down a bit to find yours. Once you’ve found it, select it and continue with booking.
You can also choose to run these searches from KLM’s site.
How to Earn Flying Blue Miles
Flying Blue points are easily earned through bank programs.
You can transfer points to Flying Blue from every major bank program including American Express, Capital One, Chase, and Citi. The transfer ratio from Capital One to Flying Blue is 2:1.5 but the others are 1:1.
Keep your eye on American Express and Citi. They sometimes offer transfer bonuses to their partners. This can really save you a lot of points and make it an even better value.
Cards to Help Earn Flying Blue Miles
Since Flying Blue partners with every bank program, be sure to maximize your Chase cards first. Whether you get the Chase Sapphire Preferred,Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ink Preferred, you’ll be well on your way to earning the points you need.
Another favorite is the American Express Gold Card as it offers 4X points per dollar spent at grocery stores. Since food is a big cost for many people, this is a great way to earn tons of points on everyday spend.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
A final option for Delta flights is Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Virgin Atlantic isn’t part of an airline alliance, but has partnerships with different airlines around the world. Virgin Atlantic has some great redemption options on their partner airlines.
One of these redemption sweet spots is flying Delta to India. The biggest hold-up is that you can only book a non-stop flight from New York City (JFK). You can use a positioning flight to New York to take advantage of this deal.
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will be the cheapest way to book Delta flights to India. Flights in economy cost 40,000 points plus $5.60 in taxes and fees to India. Return flights cost about $40 in taxes.
If you want to fly business class, you can fly Delta One Suites for only 60,000 points.
How to Book Flights to India with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Virgin Atlantic makes it easy to book online. If you’ve ever booked with Delta, the website will feel very similar. Delta flies from New York (JFK) to Mumbai (BOM). Simply plug in the airports, click the drop down menu and select booking with miles. You can choose to search for flexible dates to get a 5-week view of award availability.
If you’re searching for Delta One business class, select “Upper Class” when searching. Then, you can complete your booking online.
Most people don’t have a stash of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles just sitting around. If you need to transfer points in, you should call Virgin Atlantic Flying Club at 1-800-365-9500 and have them put the flights on hold. Once your points have successfully transferred you simply call back to complete the booking.
How to Earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Miles
You can transfer points from American Express, Chase, or Citi to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Citi and American Express have offered 30% off promos in the past. If you’re able to take advantage of these promos, you’ll save a lot of miles. Transferring during a promo would mean you’ll need to transfer only 47,000 points for business class to India.
Cards to Help Earn Flying Club Miles
Since you can transfer from all three major bank programs, there are a lot of good options for earning Flying Club miles including the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Ink Preferred and several American Express cards.
There are a lot of great ways to get to India using points and miles. Whether you’re looking to fly economy, business, or first class you’ll be able to get to India with points and miles and without paying a lot out of pocket.
You can fly to India in economy class for as low as 35,000 miles in economy, 62,500 miles in business, or 70,000 miles in first class.
Regardless of which option you choose, with these 5 options, you’ll be sure to find the best way to fly to India with points.
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