Home > American Airlines, British Airways, India, OneWorld > Redeeming Miles for India (OneWorld)

Redeeming Miles for India (OneWorld)

Continuing this mini-series on getting back to the Motherland, I bring you Part 2: Using the OneWorld Alliance to get to India! If you missed Part 1: The Star Alliance, see here.

General Information about the OneWorld Alliance, as it pertains to travel to India

OneWorld includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong), Japan Airlines, Royal Jordanian, and Finnair (Finland), in addition to American Airlines and Qanta(Australia) … however, AA doesn’t fly to India anymore, and Qantas will likely not be used for a USA-India trip. As you can see, the options are not as abound as with the Star Alliance. This alliance was becoming promising for India, as Kingfisher was supposed to join in early 2012; however, that airline is in the process of going out of business. Whoops.

If you don’t live in a city with international service, American Airlines should be able to get you to the international gateway city in the USA. However, because there are no alliance members within India, OneWorld can only take you as far as the international gateway to the country using your miles. After that, you’ll need to book another ticket or find other means of getting to your intended destination. Below is a list of all the international gateways in India served by OneWorld, and what airlines fly there.

Delhi (DEL): British Airways (via London Heathrow – LHR), Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong – HKG and Bangkok – BKK), Japan Airlines (via Tokyo Narita – NRT), Royal Jordanian (via Amman – AMM), and Finnair (via Helsinki – HEL)

Mumbai (BOM): British Airways (via London Heathrow – LHR), Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong – HKG and Bangkok – BKK),  Royal Jordanian (via Amman – AMM), and Qantas (via Singapore – SIN)

Bangalore (BLR): British Airways (via London Heathrow – LHR) and Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong – HKG)

Chennai (MAA): British Airways (via London Heathrow – LHR) and Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong – HKG)

Hyderabad (HYD)British Airways (via London Heathrow – LHR)

The Various Mileage Programs

There are really only two mileage programs that are useful for earning and redeeming miles for India within OneWorld.

1) American Airlines AAdvantage

I like AAdvantage, as I think it offers some great value for certain trips – South America and Asia, to be exact. However, I don’t find India to be one of their strong suits, at least compared to United.

AA bases their prices on the cost of a one-way ticket: 45K each way for coach, 67.5K for business, and 90K for first class. Notice how each of these prices are more than those of United. To make matters worse, these higher prices come with some restrictions, which I’ll explain below.

The AA All-Partner Award Chart, with the one-way prices for North America to India boxed.

  • Routing: In order to qualify for the 45K/67.5K/90K prices, you musttransit the Atlantic Ocean on trips from the US <-> India (even though for those of us in California, it’s shorter distance via the Pacific).
    • If you want to route via Tokyo on Japan Airlines, you will have to book 2 awards: One for USA to Asia Zone 1 (one-way 32.5K coach/50K business/62.5K first) and one for Asia Zone 1 to India (one-way 22.5K coach/30K business/45K first). That means that routing via Japan makes it 55K/80K/102.5K one-way, and routing via Hong Kong makes it 60K/90K/112.5K one-way.
    • Unless you’re willing to pay a mileage premium, this limits your options to British Airways, Finnair, and Royal Jordanian (as well as Ethiad, which will be discussed in Part 4).
  • Fuel Surcharges on British Airways flights: British Airways charges fuel surcharges to all of their partners, so using your AA miles for flights on BA will cost you a lot in terms of fuel surcharges, about $700 on a coach ticket or $1300 for a business ticket. This really sucks, considering that BA has a great footprint in India.
  • You can only book on the phone: As of now, AA’s site only displays awards for AA (which doesn’t fly to India) and Alaska Airlines (which, you’ll likely guess, doesn’t fly to India either). That means you must call and pay the $25 phone booking fee.
  • One-way awards: Like I said, AA allows one-way awards, which is good.
  • Stopovers only at the North American gateway: With one-way awards comes yet another restriction. AA has a peculiar stopover rule, in that you can only stopover at the North American gateway. To explain this clearly, this is the city in which you’ll either leave North America or enter North America. So if I make an itinerary that’s Dallas-New York-London-Delhi, Delhi-Hong Kong-Los Angeles-Dallas, I can only have stopovers in New York and/or Los Angeles.
    • This is great in building in future domestic trips, even a free one-way flight to Hawaii. For example, I can fly Los Angeles-London-Mumbai-London-Los Angeles-Honolulu, and schedule my last flight to Hawaii for months after my return from India. It’s the same mileage price and only costs a few more dollars in taxes. As long as I leave within a year of ticketing, I can make free changes if I keep the same destination.
  • Award fees: One great thing about AA is that they allow free changes anytime! That is huge! They do have the $25 phone booking fee, $150 cancellation fee, and $75 fee for booking within 3 weeks of the flight.
  • Holding awards: AA has a very generous holding policy, allowing you to hold awards for up to 5 days.
  • Ease of Earning Miles: As of now, AA is only partners with Starwood, where you get 25,000 AA miles for every 20,000 SPG points transfer. My favorite way of earning AA miles is applying for Citibank AA Visa and AmEx cards … every 18 months, you can apply for 2 AA cards at a time. The current bonus is 50,000 miles per card, meaning you can earn 100,000 miles in one signup. You can then apply for another business card a few months later, getting another 50,000 miles.

Therefore, I think using AA miles, Royal Jordanian is the way to go since it combines the lowest mileage price + lowest taxes. After that, Cathay Pacific, which requires more miles but avoids nasty surcharges. There are other options to use AA miles or to fly OneWorld airlines. I’ll talk about these in Part 4: Non-Alliance/Free Agents.

2) British Airways Avios

If there’s one program which has caused frequent flyers both angst and happiness in the past year, it’s British Airways. The airline absolutely gutted their rewards program back in November, and made it more expensive for long haul flights; short-haul flights, on the other hand, became very affordable to redeem. BA’s miles are also very easy to obtain (Lucky calls them “the sluttiest loyalty program in the industry,” since they are partners with every major transfer program). Let’s discuss:

  • Pay Per Segment: You’ll notice that I didn’t say how many miles it is to fly from the USA to India. That’s because Avios charges you per segment, meaning you’ll pay more to fly with a connection because different routings have different prices. Here is the link to a great Avios calculator, courtesy of the Wandering Aramean, with the cheapest redemption coming in as NYC/Chicago -> Amman -> Mumbai at 42.5K one-way in coach/85K business/127.5K first on Royal Jordanian. However, this goes up for anybody on the west coast or in cities that don’t have international flights. Check out the calculator and use major cities in the U.S. as origins. You’ll be amazed how high the prices can go. 😮
  • Fuel Surcharges on British Airways AND partner flights:British Airways is notorious for this. If you fly British Airways, you’ll pay hefty fuel surcharges, from about $600 in coach to $1300 in business. If you use your miles for Royal Jordanian, you’ll pay taxes of about $500 roundtrip from Chicago to Mumbai in all classes. If you fly Cathay Pacific, expect to pay $700 roundtrip from L.A. to Delhi in all classes.
    • Like I said in Part 1, I don’t find Economy awards with fuel surcharges to be a good use of miles. If I’m charged fuel surcharges, I try to go in either business or first class, to make the miles worth it. (The reason why you pay more taxes for Royal Jordanian or Cathay Pacific when using British Airways miles is because British Airways collects the fuel surcharges that American Airlines doesn’t).
  • One-way awards, Stopovers, and Open-Jaw: Like I said, you’re still paying per segment, so these benefits are a byproduct of that.
  • Award fees: British Airways does not have a close-in booking fee, so that’s a plus. You can cancel an award for $40. I’ve found their fees to be reasonable.
  • Holding awards: Nope. You must ticket immediately. However, their cancellation fee is only $40, compared to other airlines which can run up to $150.
  • 2-for-1: There is one redeeming factor about BA. If you sign up for the Chase British Airways Visa and spend $30,000 on it in one calendar year, you’ll earn a 2-for-1 voucher (in addition to 37.5K+ miles: 1.25 miles/$ or 2.50 miles/$ on BA purchases). This 2-for-1 voucher is only good on British Airways flights, but basically allows you to book 2 award seats for the price of 1. However, you still have to pay fuel surcharges, which can be upwards of $600-$1900 depending on class of service. This still makes getting 2 tickets worth it; from Los Angeles to Mumbai, it would be 100K miles roundtrip in coach (50K/person); 200K miles roundtrip in business (100K/person); and 300K miles roundtrip in first (150K/person). If you’re in coach, you’ll pay about $1300 in taxes for 2 people, so it effectively comes out to paying 100,000 miles for a free ticket in coach which isn’t bad if paid tickets are high in price. You’d pay about $2400-$3000 in taxes for 2 people in business or first which is still not bad, considering that British Airways has excellent business and first class products. Those $2400-$3000 in taxes/fees are the same as purchasing 2 coach tickets outright, so you can think of it as using your miles to upgrade a discount economy ticket to business or first class.
  • Ease of earning miles: Like I alluded to earlier, BA miles are incredibly easy to earn. My first BA miles came from the Chase British Airways Visa last year, which had a 100,000 mile signup bonus for spending $2500 in 3 months. Unreal! BA is also a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards (which often has transfer bonuses, like the current 50% bonus: transfer 1000 Amex points, get 1500 Avios), Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Starwood.

So now you see why I’m such a huge fan of United Airlines miles – they make award redemptions to India very easy. Please note, though, that I still find value in American Airlines and British Airways miles. In fact, my first post on this blog extolled the value given by both of those programs for a trip I made to South America. I’m also currently building up my BA point balance for future domestic trips and my AA point balance to fly to Asia on Cathay’s first class. British Airways Avios points are great for domestic trips on American Airlines since you’ll never pay more than $10 roundtrip or $25 for a trip to Hawaii.

And hey, you haven’t even seen my Skyteam post yet.

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  1. sri
    November 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    how can I redeem my BA avios to fly from chicago/newyork to mumbai/chennai/delhi I am looking for next summer. How many avios are required and how can i do that ?

    • Amol
      November 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      You can use Avios to redeem on any OneWorld partner that flies to India (British Airways, Royal Jordanian, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines), but it will be a lot of miles since BA charges per segment (and you need at least 2 segments to get from USA to India with OneWorld) and they charge fuel surcharges that are in the hundreds of dollars (maybe even >$1000 for a trip to India).

      I’d recommend looking into using Avios for Royal Jordanian via Amman, since their fuel surcharges are much less than those BA charges themselves. You’re looking at 90K roundtrip at least for coach, double for business, triple for first.

      I recommend other miles for India, especially United miles.

      • sri
        November 9, 2012 at 6:46 pm

        Thank you for your quick response. How do I do the reservation on Royal Jordanian ? is that through BA website or have to call BA aiways ? How do i find out the open seats for avios ? can we combine AA and AVIOS miles in booking partner tickets (e.g., 60K on AA + 30K avios) . I am trying to reserve for a family of 6 with 360K in avios + 70K in AA + 70K in delta…. it is a stretch but trying….

      • Amol
        November 9, 2012 at 6:54 pm

        You can’t combine AA miles and Avios to book one award, but you can book one way with Avios and book the return with AA miles (since each program allows one-way awards).

        RJ availability can be found with the British Airways site, though you may have to search segment by segment (instead of typing in ORD-DEL, try ORD-AMM and AMM-DEL).

        360K in Avios is good for maybe 3-4 coach tickets to India, but I really hope you compare how much a paid ticket is to how much an award ticket with fuel surcharges is. 70K AA miles can get you a one-way to/from India, but you’ll need 90K to get a round trip.

        You need 80K Delta for a coach ticket to India if you redeem on partner airlines or on Delta to BOM at the low level (which is tough to do).

    • Amol
      November 9, 2012 at 6:42 pm

      You can use Avios to redeem on any OneWorld partner that flies to India (British Airways, Royal Jordanian, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines), but it will be a lot of miles since BA charges per segment (and you need at least 2 segments to get from USA to India with OneWorld) and they charge fuel surcharges that are in the hundreds of dollars (maybe even >$1000 for a trip to India).

      I’d recommend looking into using Avios for Royal Jordanian via Amman, since their fuel surcharges are much less than those BA charges themselves. You’re looking at 90K roundtrip at least for coach, double for business, triple for first.

      Overall though, I recommend other miles for India, especially United miles.

  2. Sam Sang
    November 27, 2013 at 6:18 am

    hi – since Kingfisher was banned from OW are there any other good options to travel within India? For eg. I just booked BOM-JFK on Etihad F but would ideally like to fly GOI-BOM-JFK-(long stopover) – YVR. Does Jet do this? I have had a really difficult time finding award availability on Jet.

    Thanks!

    • Amol
      November 30, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      No real options for intra-India travel. Most people just buy connecting flights.

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