One of the things I love about the award travel game is finding interesting ways of utilizing the award charts of the various airlines. American Airlines does not allow stopovers on their award tickets, which is disappointing because stopovers are a great way to add value to your trip. But that does not stop you from utilizing their award chart to your advantage to work in a stopover in Europe en route to India for as little as 2,500 additional miles!
American Airlines has some of the strictest routing rules out there when it comes to award tickets in that they do not allow stopovers and require you to take the most direct routing in most instances. That can present an interesting issue when you are talking about flights to somewhere like India (or anywhere within the Indian Subcontinent zone) since no OneWorld carrier flies direct from the United States to India. That means you would need to transit a third region to reach your ultimate destination. With limited exception, American Airlines does not allow you to transit through a third region to reach your destination.
Since no OneWorld carrier offers a direct flight between the United States and India, American Airlines provides a “third region exception” for transit between the two countries in either Europe or Hong Kong (HKG) when flying Cathay Pacific.
While I do love Cathay Pacific and the lounges in Hong Kong (HKG), the more interesting routing is via Europe. If you were in a hurry to reach your ultimate destination of India, you could simply transit through any of the European airports that are serviced by OneWorld carriers that fly direct between Europe and India. In case you were wondering, here is the list of those flights:
- Finnair – Helsinki (HEL) to Delhi (DEL)
- Finnair – Helsinki (HEL) to Goa (GOI) (*seasonal)
- British Airways – London (LHR) to Delhi (DEL)
- British Airways – London (LHR) to Bangalore (BLR)
- British Airways – London (LHR) to Chennai (MAA)
- British Airways – London (LHR) to Hyderabad (HYD)
- British Airways – London (LHR) to Mumbai (BOM)
What you will notice is that the majority of the flights on offer route through London (LHR) on British Airways. That means you are going to get hit with British Airways’ fuel surcharges that they kindly pass on to you, as well as the UK Passenger Duty Tax. This is something to keep in mind when opting to utilize this “stopover” trick as flights from Helsinki (HEL) on Finnair will offer substantially better value. The downside is that Finnair only offers 2 destinations in India.
One-way award flights between the United States and India will cost you 40,000 miles in economy, 70,000 miles in business class and 115,000 miles in first class.
But let’s take a look at the award ticket prices if we do one award ticket between the U.S. and Europe and one award ticket between Europe and India. For flights between the U.S. and Europe, you can expect a cost of 22,500 miles for economy during off-peak dates, 30,000 miles for economy during peak dates, 57,500 miles for business class and 85,000 miles for first class.
Off-peak dates for economy redemptions are January 10th through March 14th and November 1st through December 14th.
For flights between Europe and India, you can expect a cost of 20,000 miles for economy, 42,500 miles for business class and 62,500 miles for first class.
So, how do these options compare?
- No “stopover” between the U.S. and India – 40k miles for economy, 70k miles for business class and 115k miles for first class.
- “Stopover” between the U.S. and India (off-peak) – 42.5k miles for economy, 102.5k miles for business class and 147.5k miles for first class.
- “Stopover” between the U.S. and India (peak) – 50k miles for economy, 102.5k miles for business class and 147.5k miles for first class.
As you can see, for economy redemptions during off-peak dates, you can build in a “stopover” in Europe for a mere 2,500 miles. Your “stopover” in Europe does not have to be in London or Helsinki either. Rather, it can be anywhere in the Europe award region! That means you could fly to Paris for 3 days, then fly Paris (CDG)-Helsinki(HEL)-Delhi (DEL) for only 2,500 extra miles! All things considered, that is some pretty stellar value in my opinion.
Although the premium cabin options for this routing do not offer very good value, the economy redemptions offer some exceptional value if you can find the available award space. This will work for all of the Indian Subcontinent as well, so if you are traveling to somewhere like the Maldives or Sri Lanka, you can utilize this trick as well. Just remember to try and avoid British Airways flights so you do not get hit with their fuel surcharges and the UK Passenger Duty Tax!
Has anyone taken advantage of this option?
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