Our family (includes a Pre-Schooler – One more reason to have a zen like a place on a long journey) will be travelling to India in 2017 to visit our home town Chennai to spend sometime with friends & family back home. We have started to bank miles & started planning the best options for our award redemption. It probably made sense to document it so that someone in similar needs could leverage it. Our analysis would be applicable to Mumbai or New Delhi as well.
International Airlines that fly to Chennai:
Air India, Ethihad, Emirates, British Airways, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Singapore, Jet Airways, Saudia & Kuwait Airways
Origin Locations Considered:
LAX & WAS Airports. There are plenty of other airports that these airlines serve. Just a sample west coast & east coast data point.
Class of Service:
Airlines to Ignore:
Air India – Don’t recommend this to anyone – very poor quality product. Not worth exploring.
Kuwait – Serve only from NYC & No US partner airlines.
Jet Airways – Serve only from NYC.
Airlines that have high Surcharges:
British Airways, Lufthansa & Singapore
Redeeming with Alaska Miles:
Emirates – 72.5K miles + $28 one way from LAX/IAD to MAA via DXB. DXB – MAA seems to be booked as Coach. Availability is not an issue. You can search for award/book using alaskaair.com
Redeeming with American Miles:
Ethihad/Qatar/Jet Airways/British Airways/Cathay Pacific – 70K miles oneway. The miles needed is the same even if you have to connect from another US city to LAX/WAS. This is for post March 22nd award chart. If you plan to book now & travel within a year then you can get it a reduced miles of 67500. British Airways has the exorbitant surchage & fees. Except for BA award booking every other airlines require you to call AA to make the booking.
Ethihad – You can check for award availability on Ethihad’s website. Here is a good read on how you can do this. I couldn’t find any availability in Jan/Feb 2017.
Qatar – Use BA Spend Avios tool to search for LAX – DOH & DOH -MAA. Atleast 4 Business class seats available in these sectors on select dates in Jan/Feb 2017.
Cathay – Use Qantas Frequent Flyer site to search for award & verify the award on BA site before calling. You could also search on JAL site but it is a bit more clumsy looking GUI to use. Atleast 5 seats available in Jan/Feb 2017 on select dates.
Jet Airways – Use Jet Airways site to check for award availability or call AA to find out the availability.
Redeeming with BA Avios:
BA avios awards are segment/distance based award pricing. There is no nonstop flights to India in Oneworld network. BA flights also has the high surcharge & taxes. Any partner airline awards also have higher mile needs than using AA/Alaska miles. BA avios are better served for short-haul flights. BA companion pass is another option to explore but its going to be hard to avoid the high surcharges & fees.
Redeeming with United Miles:
Lufthansa/Singapore/Air India – can be booked with United miles. United Miles needed for Business class to India is lot more than what one would need with American/Alaska. United also offers non stop service to Mumbai & New Delhi from NYC.
Redeeming with Delta Miles:
Saudia airlines could be booked but recently there is a note that availability is scarce to book with Delta Miles.
Being a loyal AAdvantage & Avios members, Cathay is our best bet & in second is Qatar. Initial award spaces are released 11 months or so ahead so keep an eye on the availability & book your award. If you don’t have a family to plan around & flexible dates then award spaces open up close to travel dates as well.
All the best in your travel planning. Hope this data point helps out when you have a need.
Miles & Points for 2016:
Sponsored by BA Visa 100K promotion/ Citi AA 50K / Citi AA Business 50K/ Citigold AA 50K offer / AAdvantage EXP mileage run(200K) / SPG 25K offer /Monthly expenses