Friday - Feb 22, 2019

Travelled from/to India with Air India? Did you claim your miles for travel?

Part 1:  Introduction
Part 2: Etihad Airways
Part 3: British Airways
Part 3.1: Depositing British Airways travel to American Airlines and Alaska
Part 4: Emirates
Part 5: Air India
Part 6: Cathay Pacific
Part 7: Jet Airways
Part 8: Singapore Airlines
Part 9: Qatar Airways
Part 10: Lufthansa
Part 11: Malaysian Airlines

In part 1,  we have seen the overview of claiming the miles for your travel, and these miles can be used for future travel. In this post, we will go through the several choices of claiming miles for travel with Air India.

Air India Operates Boeing 787

Air India Operates Boeing 787 to various Non-US International destination 

As always, I would like to take an example and explain what you get for travelling with Air India. Let us take a scenario of a round trip between Chicago -> New Delhi in Economy Class (Booking Class L).

Air India Operates Non-stop flight from Chicago to New Delhi

Air India Operates Non-stop flight from Chicago to New Delhi

Air India is a Star Alliance member, being a part of the global Airline alliance expands the possibility of earning and redeeming miles.  Air India offers Frequent flier miles for travelling with them and Air India lets you credit your miles to any of the Star alliance members and its partners.

We will go through some of the sweet spots with the miles you earn for travelling between Chicago and Delhi.

Air India Partners

You can deposit your miles to any of these Partners

The Frequent Flyer Program to select depends on various factors like travel profile, future travel needs, status with Frequent Flyer Program, Miles already accrued in a Frequent Flyer Program etc..

We will find some of the best frequent flyer programs you can deposit your travel with Air India. The most obvious choice would be Air India’s frequent flyer program “Flying Returns

What can you do with the miles if you choose to credit your travel to “Flying Returns” program?

If you choose to deposit your miles to Flying Returns program, you will earn a minimum of 7,476 miles for a round trip travel between Chicago and Delhi. You can estimate the miles you can earn for other routes using the Mileage Calculator.

You can earn 3738 Flying Return miles for a one way trip from Chicago to New Delhi

You can earn 3,738 Flying Return miles for a one way trip from Chicago to New Delhi

What can you do with the miles you earned?

Option 1: Redeeming for Travel with Air India

You can redeem these miles for your future travel with Air India,  The number of miles needed for an economy round trip award ticket from Chicago to Delhi is 90,000 miles and 41,250 INR in taxes and fees. (180,000 miles and INR 49,531 for Business class). you can also book one way awards for half the amount of miles.

Need 45,000 miles and INR 19,750 for a one way ticket

Need 45,000 miles and INR 19,750 for a one way ticket

Option 2: Using for Air India upgrades

You can use your Flying Returns miles for upgrade to Business class if you buy a high fare economy ticket. You would need 75% of the miles need for an Economy award ticket. You can even upgrade your family or friends with your miles. You can pool your miles with your Spouse.

In the above example you would need 33,750 miles and INR 4,200 to upgrade from high fare economy to Business Class

You need to pay more for your economy ticket, to use miles for upgrade

Option 3: Redeem for travel with Star Alliance Partners

You can use your miles to redeem for awards with Star Alliance Partners. you need 55,000 miles for the same route (Chicago to New Delhi) if you want to fly with Star Alliance Partners like Lufthansa or Turkish Airlines.

Taxes and fees would be approximately INR 34,000 with Lufthansa. Taxes and fees vary depending on the exchange rates and other factors

Option 4: Upgrade Star Alliance tickets.

You can also redeem “Flying Returns” miles for upgrading Star Alliance tickets.

Please follow this link to find the rules and the booking classes eligible for upgrade.

So, if you decide to upgrade your Lufthansa ticket from Chicago to New Delhi, you would need 56,000 flying return miles (27,000 miles from Chicago to Frankfurt and 29,000 miles from Frankfurt to New Delhi)

Booking classes must be Y,B (Flexible Economy), these fares are expensive than the lowest economy fare.

In Conclusion, Air India Frequent flyer Program is not great for redemptions as taxes are charged on International Routes and Upgrades are available on high fare economy fares only.

What is the best choice?

If you want flexibility: Deposit your Air India travel to United Airlines

Since Air India is a Star Alliance member, you can deposit your miles with United Airlines (UA). For a round trip between Chicago and Delhi, you could earn 7,467 UA-Mileage Plus miles.

You can use United Airlines-Mileage Plus miles for domestic travel in USA with United Airlines.

UA-Mileage Plan miles can be used for Domestic US Travel

UA-Mileage Plan miles can be used for Domestic US Travel

You can use United Airlines-MileagePlus miles for travel with Air India International Routes

You need only 42.5K UA-Mileage Plan miles (55K miles + 19,750INR  required by AI)

You need only 42.5K UA-Mileage Plan miles (45K miles + INR 19,750 taxes required by AI)

United Airlines Mileage plan charges less miles than Air India for the same itinerary with Air India which makes it great choice and you can boost your UA-Mileage plan miles with many Chase Credit Cards.

If you want to redeem for Domestic Travel in India: Deposit your miles with Air India-Flying Returns Program

If you  do not expect to travel anywhere other than Within India, then the best choice would be to deposit the travel miles with AI-Flying Returns program. Air India doesn’t add fuel surcharges to domestic awards.

AI would charge miles based on the distance, where as united Airlines will charge 20,000 miles flat for any distance within India.

Domestic Travel

With AI-Flying Returns: Need 3,500 Miles + INR 150 for a one way award ticket from Chennai to Bangalore

UA-AI Award

With UA-Mileage Plan: Need 20,000 Miles for a one way award ticket from Chennai to Bangalore


It is great that Air India is a part of the Star Alliance. If you have paid for your ticket with Air India, do make sure to claim your miles.

If you want your miles to be more flexible, deposit your miles to United Airlines (UA) to  use for domestic US Travel or for long distance travel with Air India.

If you want your miles for domestic travel in India, deposit them to Air India -Flying Returns Program.

Disclaimer:  Links mentioned in this post do not earn us any commission.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analysis and any calculations shown are authors alone. Information in this post is not reviewed, approved and endorsed by any airlines, frequent flyer programs or financial institutions.

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