As I mentioned in the Introduction Post, American Express Membership Rewards points (much like all of the transferable currencies) are great points to stockpile because they are so versatile. Amex MRs are also fairly easy to earn, which makes them just that much better to use for your award travel to India!
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Introduction – Getting To India Using Your MRs, URs, TYPs or Starpoints
Part I – Getting To India Using Your MRs
Part II – Getting To India Using Your URs
Part III – Getting To India Using Your TYPs
Part IV – Getting To India Using Your SPG Starpoints
American Express offers many cards that earn Membership Rewards points, including their EveryDay card (which earns 20% more MRs every month you make 20 or more purchases with the card). Please note that the PRG offers a 50k offer and the EveryDay offers a 25k offer using the Incognito trick. While I appreciate your support, that’s a substantial number of points so make sure you’re looking for the higher offers! American Express offers several other card options that earn MRs, so I highly encourage you to head over to the American Express site and check out the options.
Now that you know how to earn the MRs, the more complicated process is how to use those hard earned MRs to get you to India! Your MRs will transfer to 17 different airlines across all 3 major airline alliances. Those airlines include:
|Airline||Alliance||Transfer Ratio||Transfer Time|
|Air France/KLM||SkyTeam||1:1||Same day|
|Aeromexico||SkyTeam||1:1||Up to 7 days|
|British Airways||OneWorld||1:0.8||Same day|
|Iberia||OneWorld||1:0.8||Up to 7 days|
|Cathay Pacific||OneWorld||1:1||Up to 7 days|
|Air Canada||Star Alliance||1:1||Same day|
|ANA||Star Alliance||1:1||2-4 days|
|Singapore Airlines||Star Alliance||1:1||Up to 3 days|
|Virgin America||N/A||1:0.5||Same day|
|Virgin Atlantic||N/A||1:1||Same day|
|Jet Blue||N/A||1:0.8||Same day|
|Hawaiian Airlines||N/A||1:1||Same day|
|El Al||N/A||50:1||Same day|
As I said before, the transfer times are just an approximation based upon data points I could find (as well as personal experiences), but it is important to be cognizant of these transfer times when you are planning your award booking(s).
Another caveat is that although I will be including general advice for getting to India on your MRs, your home airport will play an important role in finding availability or determining cost. For example, since British Airways operates under a distance based award chart, the cost for someone traveling from the West Coast may be lower than the cost for someone traveling from the East Coast. I will also assume for purposes of this post that you would be flying into Delhi (DEL).
Unfortunately, approximately a year and a half ago, Delta decided to take down its award chart. Without a published award chart, that means that it is difficult to give a number of miles that it will take to get to India. Since Delta does not fly to India, you will need to utilize a partner that does for at least one segment of the trip.
As a general ballpark, from a Delta hub airport, you can expect to see roundtrip award tickets cost approximately 80k in economy and 140k in DeltaOne (business class). Oddly, I could not get Delta Comfort+ award seating to price out on this route (presumably because Delta does not fly to India). These rates all assume you can find low level award space on the route, which surprisingly did not seem to be too difficult. One-way flights are available for half the quoted cost, though the taxes and fees ranged from $200 to $600+ depending on your routing. Look for routes operated by China Southern (CZ) flights if you want to keep your taxes and fees low.
Also keep in mind that Delta allows you to route via the Pacific or the Atlantic on this route, so your options for flights should be pretty wide open. Delta is a good option to India if you can avoid the high taxes and fees routes.
Alitalia is a SkyTeam alliance member that is based out of Rome (FCO). That means that their route network is not especially well suited for redemptions to India (especially if you are flying from the U.S.). In addition, you can redeem your MilleMiglia miles for travel on Delta, China Southern, Air France, KLM, etc. flights. Alitalia will levy fuel surcharges on partner award tickets, though they are not going to be as bad as the likes of British Airways. The trick to booking Alitalia awards is to have some miles in your account so they consider it active. From there you can call and place your award ticket on hold for about two (2) weeks. You can then transfer the needed miles and then call back to get the ticket booked.
Alitalia has a separate award chart for SkyTeam partner redemptions and lists the entire Indian Subcontinent as its own region.
Between North America and India, award tickets will cost you 80k miles roundtrip in economy and 100k miles roundtrip in business. From what I can tell, availability is quite good for both economy and business class space. While the economy class rate is very reasonable (and comparable to Delta), the fuel surcharges are likely going to make Delta the better choice if you are looking to fly economy. Conversely, if you are looking to fly business class, Alitalia offers one of the best options both in terms of award ticket cost and availability.
Alitalia does not allow one-way award tickets on partner airlines, so you have to book roundtrip tickets when utilizing partners. Lastly, while you must book the most direct itinerary, you are allowed one voluntary stopover. That means that if you are looking to utilize the stopover enroute, it is better to transfer your MRs to Alitalia rather than Delta – even factoring in the fuel surcharges.
The US phone number for Alitalia is 800.223.5730.
Air France/KLM (FlyingBlue)
Air France and KLM share a frequent flyer program called FlyingBlue. Since FlyingBlue is a SkyTeam alliance member, you can redeem FlyingBlue miles for travel on Air France, KLM, China Southern, etc. flights. FlyingBlue can be finicky to work with, but they offer some decent value for flights to India. FlyingBlue groups the Indian Subcontinent into its own award zone.
Roundtrip award tickets will cost you 80k miles in economy and 200k miles in business class. Again, availability looked pretty wide open for both cabins. Depending on your routing, you can expect $200-$300 in taxes and fees for roundtrip economy tickets and $350-$800 in taxes and fees for roundtrip business class tickets.
One-way award tickets are allowed at 40k in economy and 100k miles in business, but no stopovers are allowed. While the economy class rate is right in line with the other SkyTeam transfer partners, the business class rate is twice that of Alitalia. Accordingly, I would be looking to Alitalia (if you want a stopover) or Delta for business class tickets. I personally find FlyingBlue slightly easier to use for award tickets than Alitalia, but considering the cost difference and the free stopover Alitalia offers, I would strongly recommend going with Alitalia over Flying Blue. With that said, searching for space via FlyingBlue will give you a good idea of what inventory should be bookable by Alitalia.
Aeromexico does not list India in their award charts, though they do state that you can use their miles to book on any SkyTeam alliance flights. I would assume you would need to call Aeromexico to have them price out the ticket for you in this particular case. However, I actually do not consider this a huge loss as Aeromexico’s redemption rates across the board tend to be some of the worst on offer and I would not expect anything different for flights to India if you do call and inquire.
British Airways and Iberia somewhat share an award program where both have a distance based award chart, so your home airport is really going to make the biggest difference here in how much an award ticket to India will cost you. Unfortunately, last year American Express and British Airways/Iberia devalued their transfer rate slightly to 1:0.8. As both British Airways and Iberia are members of the OneWorld alliance, you can use your Avios to book British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines or American Airlines flights to India.
The upshot of using Avios is that you can build in an itinerary that flies from the U.S. to Hong Kong (HKG) or Tokyo (NRT/HND), or from the U.S. to London (LHR) or Doha (DOH), and then on to India if you wanted. That actually opens up a lot more possibilities as you are not restricted to routing via the Pacific or Atlantic. The downside of this is that due to the distance based award chart, your particular routing may cost you substantially more Avios.
There are no direct flights between the U.S. and India operated by a OneWorld carrier, so you are going to need to connect somewhere. Here are the one-way award ticket costs you can expect for the various most direct routings assuming you are flying out of New York (JFK):
- British Airways – JFK-LHR-DEL – 45k Avios + $340 in economy, 135k Avios + $757 in business class and 160k Avios + $757 in first class.
- British Airways – DEL-LHR-JFK – 45k Avios + $302 in economy, 58.5k Avios + $449 in premium economy, 135k Avios + $574 in business class and 160k Avios + $574 in first class.
- Qatar Airways – JFK-DOH-DEL – 45k Avios + $278 in economy and 125k Avios + $402 in business class.
- Qatar Airways – DEL-DOH-JFK – 45k Avios + $212 in economy and 125k Avios + $333 in business class.
- Cathay Pacific* – JFK-HKG-DEL – 47.5k Avios + $37 in economy, 82.5k Avios + $37 in premium economy, 142.5k Avios + $37 in business class and 177.5k Avios + $37 in first class.
- Cathay Pacific* – DEL-HKG-JFK – 47.5k Avios + $59 in economy, 82.5k Avios + $59 in premium economy, 142.5k Avios + $65 in business class and 177.5k Avios + $65 in first class.
- Japan Airlines* – JFK-TYO-DEL – 55k Avios + $79 in economy, 110k Avios + $79 in premium economy, 165k Avios + $79 in business class and 200k Avios + $79 in first class.
- Japan Airlines* – DEL-TYO-JFK – 55k Avios + $101 in economy, $110k Avios + $101 in premium economy, 165k Avios + $109 in business class and 200k Avios + $109 in first class.
*Note that neither Japan Airlines nor Cathay Pacific offers a premium economy or first class product on their routes to or from Delhi (DEL). That means if you paid for the premium economy or first class flights, only your trans-Pacific flight would be in that cabin.
If you were traveling between Los Angeles (LAX) and Delhi (DEL), you can expect your cost to go up a bit if routing through London (LHR) or Doha (DOH) and down a bit if routing through Hong Kong (HKG) or Tokyo (TYO).
Again, keep in mind that these are price ranges for flights between New York (JFK) and Delhi (DEL) with the most direct routing, so your award ticket cost may vary from these numbers depending on your home airport, number of connections needed and destination in India. Also keep in mind that British Airways does not levy their usual hefty fuel surcharges on partner redemptions, but they do if you redeem for British Airways flights through London (LHR).
Award space tends to be best on these routes either very close in, or very far out. Premium cabin award space on these routes is pretty decent across the board at the time of writing, though Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines are consistent with opening up additional space starting ~30 days from departure.
Lastly, it is important to remember that the transfer ratio is 1:0.8, so your flight that costs 45k Avios will actually cost you 56,250 MRs. In light of the cost, unless you have a glut of Avios you want to burn, you are better off transferring your MRs elsewhere for a redemption to India – especially if you are looking to travel in a premium cabin.
Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program uses a distance based award chart, so this is another airline that will depend on your home airport for redemption costs. Cathay Pacific is a member of the OneWorld alliance, so you can use your Asia Miles to book Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and British Airways flights to India.
For flights operated solely by Cathay Pacific from the West Coast of the U.S. (LAX or SFO) to India, you can expect a roundtrip cost of 90k miles for economy, 108k miles for premium economy, 145k miles for business class and 220k miles for first class. One-way award tickets are allowed at the rates of: 55k miles in economy, 66k miles in premium economy, 85k miles in business class and 130k miles in first class.
For flights operated by partners or a combination of partners and Cathay Pacific from the West Coast of the U.S. (LAX or SFO) to India, you can expect a roundtrip cost of 65k miles in economy, 95k miles in business class and 130k miles in first class. One-way award tickets are not allowed on partner redemptions.
For flights operated solely by Cathay Pacific from the East Coast of the U.S. (JFK) to India, you can expect a roundtrip cost of 110k miles for economy, 132k miles for premium economy, 175k miles for business class and 260k miles for first class. One-way award tickets are allowed at the rates of: 70k miles in economy, 84k miles in premium economy, 110k miles in business class and 160k miles in first class.
For flights operated by partners or a combination of partners and Cathay Pacific from the East Coast of the U.S. (JFK) to India, you can expect a roundtrip cost of 85k miles in economy, 115k miles in business class and 155k miles in first class. Again, one-way award tickets are not allowed on partner redemptions.
What is wild though is the Asia Miles program allows you to make up to 5 stopovers, 2 transfers and 2 open-jaws at either the origin, en-route or at the turnaround point (destination)! That means you could put together an itinerary where you hop all over Asia all on one award ticket. Depending on how you routed yourself, that could offer some truly exceptional value.
If you can get the stopovers and open-jaws to work for your itinerary, Asia Miles should be a top contender for you to transfer your MRs to for your next trip to India. If you will not be utilizing the stopovers, then I would say there are better options out there for your MRs.
Air Canada (Aeroplan)
Air Canada is a Star Alliance member, so you can use your Aeroplan miles for redemptions on Air Canada, United, ANA, Air India and Singapore Airlines (among others) flights to India. In other words, you are going to have a ton of options!
Aeroplan groups the entire Indian Subcontinent into the same award zone, so your redemption rate will be the same regardless of where in India you are traveling to.
A roundtrip award ticket will cost you 100k miles in economy, 130k miles in premium economy, 150k miles in business class and 210k miles in first class.
Aeroplan does allow one-way award tickets at half the cost of the roundtrip award ticket cost. While I do love Aeroplan miles, the redemptions to India are not very good. Unless you are having difficulty finding availability elsewhere, I would look at other transfer partners for your MRs.
ANA is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your Mileage Club miles for Air Canada, United, ANA, Air India and Singapore Airlines (among others) flights to India. Again, in other words, you are going to have a ton of options!
ANA places India in the Asia 2 award zone, so your award costs will remain the same regardless of which destination in India you choose. However, ANA uses a different award chart for ANA operated flights than they do for partner operated flights.
For ANA operated flights, ANA uses a Low, Regular and High season award chart, so you are better off going to ANA’s website to determine your award ticket cost as there are a lot of variables at play.
For roundtrip partner flights (or even if only one of your flights is on a partner airline) between the U.S. and India, it will cost you 80k miles for economy, 136k miles for business class and 240k miles for first class.
ANA does not allow for one-way award tickets (there is a way around this which I have previously outlined here, though I do not think it is necessarily worthwhile unless you have Mileage Club points to burn). ANA can present a very good option for coach or business class redemptions to India and their product is fantastic. I would give ANA some serious consideration for your next India trip!
Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can use your KrisFlyer miles for Air Canada, United, ANA, Air India and Singapore Airlines (among others) flights to India. Again, in other words, you are going to have a ton of options!
Singapore Airlines is one of several airlines that utilizes a separate award chart for partner awards. The Singapore Airlines specific award chart puts India in Zone 6, while the partner award chart puts India in the Central, South Asia award zone.
For Singapore Airlines operated flights from the East Coast of the U.S., you can expect roundtrip prices of 105k miles for economy, 177k miles for premium economy, 205k miles for business class and 265k miles for first class.
For Singapore Airlines operated flights from the West Coast of the U.S., you can expect roundtrip prices of 85k miles for economy, 167k miles for premium economy, 180k miles for business class and 250k miles for first class.
For Singapore operated flights, one-way award tickets are allowed at half the price. Also keep in mind that the quoted rates do not factor in the 15% discount you would receive from booking your award ticket online. With that said, even factoring in the 15% discount, these rates are not especially competitive.
For roundtrip partner redemptions between the U.S. and India, it will cost you 105k miles for economy, 195k miles for business class and 265k miles for first class.
Overall, Singapore is not really very competitive when it comes to award ticket prices to India. There are definitely much better redemptions to be had elsewhere with your MRs, so I would not transfer them here.
From what I can tell, Virgin America does not offer any partner redemptions from the U.S. to India. While you could potentially piece together multiple partner award tickets, it simply is not worth the hassle and frustration given the high taxes and carrier imposed fees that Virgin America passes on. You are better off looking elsewhere for MR transfer partners that can get you to India.
Virgin Atlantic operates out of a very small market in the U.S., but they do fly to Delhi (DEL) and Mumbai (BOM). The major downside to this program is that the taxes and carrier imposed fees/surcharges are outrageously high – especially on premium cabin redemptions.
For redemptions on Virgin Atlantic between New York (JFK) and Delhi (DEL), you are looking at a roundtrip cost of 77.5k miles + $856-$1,027 for economy, 125k miles + $1,416-$1,700 for premium economy and 180k miles + $1,730-$2,076 for business class. That is absolutely absurd!
As reader DJ pointed out to me in the comments, the flight between London (LHR) and Mumbai (BOM) is actually operated by Jet Airways instead, so that is something to keep in mind if you were looking to get in on the Virgin Atlantic on board bar.
Virgin Atlantic does partner with All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Singapore Airlines, though you need to call Virgin Atlantic at least 14 days prior to departure at 1.800.365.9500 to receive pricing and book. From what I have been able to find, you can expect pretty outrageous taxes, fees and surcharges on these redemptions (think $1,000+ for business class redemptions).
Although the mileage redemption rates (ignoring the outrageous taxes and fees) for economy are actually not horrible, the fact that your MRs transfer to Virgin Atlantic at only 1:0.5 makes Virgin Atlantic the single worst MR transfer partner for award tickets to India in my opinion. When you factor in the outrageous taxes and fees, I would strongly recommend you avoid this option at all costs unless you literally have no other option.
JetBlue does not fly to India, so transfers to the TrueBlue program will do you no good. Cross this airline off your list right from the start for an award redemption to India.
Hawaiian Airlines does not fly to India, however their partner Korean Air does. However, Korean Air only flies to Mumbai (BOM) in India. In addition, you would actually need to redeem 2 award tickets for this routing – 1 between the U.S. and Seoul (ICN) and 1 between Seoul (ICN) and Mumbai (BOM).
For Korean Air operated flights between North America and Seoul, you can expect roundtrip award ticket prices of 100k miles for economy and 200k miles for business class. For Korean Air operated flights between Seoul and Mumbai (BOM), you can expect a roundtrip award ticket cost of 30k miles for economy and 60k miles for business class. One-way award tickets are not allowed and all segments of your flights must be operated by Korean Air.
That makes Hawaiian Airlines one of the worst transfer partners for redemptions to India. Not to mention they also offer only one destination in India. As such, I would strongly recommend you look elsewhere for a MR transfer partner that can get you to India.
From what I can tell, El Al does publish an award chart for redemptions to Mumbai (BOM), but it is unclear if the award chart is for flights from El Al’s hub at Tel Aviv (TLV) or elsewhere. I believe this is the award ticket cost for flights from Tel Aviv, so you would need to find your own way to Tel Aviv, or book one of El Al’s flights from the U.S. From New York (JFK) or Toronto (YYZ) to Tel Aviv (TLV) you are looking at 1,400 points for coach, 3,000 points for business class and 5,000 points for first class. From Los Angeles (LAX) to Tel Aviv you are looking at 1,800 points for coach, 4,000 points for business class and 5,400 points for first class.
El Al also uses a winter and summer season points system which changes according to your travel dates. The Winter Season (“WS”) is January 1 – March 24 and November 1 – December 31, while the Summer Season (“SS”) is March 25 – October 31. El Al’s sole India destination is Mumbai (BOM), which will cost you 1,500 WS/1,500 SS for economy and 4,000 for business class.
One-way award tickets will cost you half of the prices quoted above. Since El Al is not a partner in any of the airline alliances, it does not appear that it is possible to redeem El Al Matmid miles for an award ticket to India on any other carriers.
It is important to remember that your MRs will transfer at a ratio of 50:1 to the Matmid program, so you are looking at 5,000 MRs for every 100 Matmid points. That means an economy award flight to Mumbai (BOM) will cost 200,000 MRs, which is beyond horrible. And that is without even factoring in if you would need to route yourself to Tel Aviv as well. Accordingly, I would look elsewhere for good redemptions to India unless you will already be in Tel Aviv.
Emirates uses a zone based award chart, so your redemption cost will largely depend on your departure airport and your arrival airport. If you are looking to redeem for flights operated by Emirates, I would recommend you use their Miles Calculator to determine the cost.
For flights operated by Japan Airlines between North America and India, you can expect roundtrip rates of 70k miles for economy, 145k miles for business class and 215k miles for first class. You will need to get yourself to one of Japan Airlines’ gateway cities in the U.S. on your own however.
For flights operated by Korean Air between North America and India, you can expect roundtrip rates of 95k miles for economy and 140k miles for business class. As with Japan Airlines, you will need to get yourself to one of Korean Air’s gateway cities in the U.S. on your own.
It does not appear that one-way award tickets are possible on Japan Airlines or Korean Air flights. Some of these rates are not bad, while others are not exactly competitive. The economy rate for Japan Airlines operated flights is actually quite good and Japan Airlines economy product is probably my favorite in the sky. I would definitely not rule Emirates completely out as a viable redemption option to get you to India!
Although Etihad is not a part of any major airline alliance, they do have several strategic partnerships with airlines such as All Nippon Airways (ANA), Asiana and Korean Air. The award charts for all three of these partners is distance based and varies, so I would recommend that you go to Etihad’s respective partner pages to determine your mileage redemption rates.
For reference though, most of your flights are going to run over 100k miles for a roundtrip economy award ticket, so I would strongly recommend you look elsewhere to transfer your MRs for an India trip.
To redeem for any partner awards you have to contact the Etihad service center at 888-8ETIHAD at least 14 days prior to the intended date of travel.
As you can see, the MR transfer partners offer a lot of options for finding award availability to India. Hopefully this guide has helped to shine a little light on how to utilize and maximize your MRs for a trip to India!
Stay tuned for the next installments on your best redemption options for TYPs, URs and SPG Starpoints!
What is your favorite way to redeem MRs to get to India?
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