As an expat based in India for the most part of last decade, I have narrowed down on ways to effectively use miles to enjoy luxury vacations from the subcontinent without breaking the bank.
Despite the fact that there is no Oneworld partner airline based in India, I am still loyal to American Airlines frequent flyer program, solely on the value of their award chart from where I live. This might come as a surprise to some, given the diversity of frequent flyer programs out there, but stick with me. There are some really great values when looking out at the AAdvantage world from the Indian Subcontinent.
Using American AAdvantage Miles from India
American Airlines’ AAdvantage program is my favorite and go to frequent flier program when it comes to award travel. Its partner award chart offers fantastic value in both Coach and Premium cabin travels, particularly when used with top-notch partners like Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways and Qatar.
India to Europe on Finnair, Etihad or Qatar
Considering Europe is about seven to eight hours from India’s major cities, the rates from India to Europe are remarkable.
- Economy – 20,000 miles one-way
- Business Class – 42,500 miles one-way
- First Class – 62,500 miles one-way
It’s also possible to secure these rates on British Airways, although that airline will add a heft additional fare to your mileage award.
India to Asia on Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, and Japan Airlines
Another incredible value is flying to Asia on incredible carriers like Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines. The prices using AAdvantage are so good it’s hard not to fly first.
- Economy: 22,500 miles, one-way
- Business: 40,000 miles, one-way
- First: 50,000 miles, one-way
Flying Fancy Middle Eastern Carriers Easily
American’s frequent flyers are disadvantaged when it comes to taking advantage of Etihad and Qatar Airways. If one flies between two other regions via the Middle East, American will price the awards as second segments. India seems to be an except. Although I haven’t seen this published anywhere, I frequently book flights from India through Abu Dhabi (Etihad) and Doha, Qatar to third regions, and American always prices out the tickets as a single award, coherent with published award chart prices
American makes other exemptions for Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong, as well. It’s also possible to fly Qatar Airways from the U.S. to Africa via Doha, or to connect in Hong Kong to get to East Asian destinations.
Step One: Searching For Flights
Many of the partners I use in Asia and the Middle East do not appear on the American Airlines website in searching for mileage awards.
- Cathay Pacific
- Etihad Airways
- Qatar Airways
Instead, British Airways website shows just about every Oneworld partner eligible to book using American. Award seats on Etihad can be searched directly on its website.
You’ll need to have a British Airways Executive Club account to search for flights using its website, but those can be created online for free.
Qantas Frequent Flyer is another great database to search for Oneworld flights.
Booking with American
The best way to book these awards is to call American Airlines AAdvantage call center at 800-882-8880.
AAdvantage allows a generous five-day hold for bookings made at least 14 days prior to departure and a standard 24-hour hold for last-minute departures.
- AAdvantage charges a $75 fee for bookings made within 21 days of departure.
- Date changes are complimentary within 1 year of ticket issue date.
- A redeposit fee of $150 is charged in case of cancellation.
Earning AAdvantage miles as an Expat
While American’s rewards chart is fantastic for someone living in India (or traveling onward from India), earning miles here can be a bit more tricky.
Living in India, I sorely miss American’s late partnership with Jet Airways, as when flying domestically I really don’t have any way to credit my travel to my frequent flyer program.
Most Oneworld airlines operate flights out of India with British Airways, Qatar, and Cathay Pacific being the most popular ones. You can credit paid flights on those carriers to the AAdvantage program.
Since most of my flying is long-haul, I manage to stick to Oneworld partners and at the end of the day don’t miss out on too many AAdvantage miles.
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®can be an excellent way of hoarding AAdvantage miles, Mastercard is widely accepted in India and this card does not have any foreign transaction fees.
The AAdvantage program has regular promotions where they sell miles for around $0.017. You can buy up to 150,000 miles per account per year.
Without any immediate partners on the Indian Subcontinent, American AAdvantage is often overlooked as an award travel option.
But given the availability, award prices and airline products one has available in this region AAdvantage is actually my favorite choice for award travel.
Due to an editing error, a previous version of this post incorrectly listed Iberia as a redemption option in India. Iberia has terminated its Madrid to Mumbai service.