If you’re expecting to book a non-stop award from the U.S. to the Middle East or India, you’d better be ready to do some work to find award space and have flexible travel dates. While you can definitely use Chase Ultimate Rewards points to get there, it’s best to expect a connection and be pleasantly surprised if a non-stop is in the cards.
More often than not, a connection in Europe will be required. If keeping fuel surcharges to a minimum is a priority, you’ll want to be careful with awards to the Middle East and India. Fortunately, United MileagePlus is an easy go-to transfer partner of the Ultimate Rewards program.
Keep in mind, in order to transfer points to partners, you’ll need either the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card, but you can earn points across all Ultimate Rewards cards.
With that, let’s dig into some of the best ways to use Ultimate Rewards points to fly to the Middle East and India.
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
The Flying Blue program has seen a lot of changes this year but it can still be a useful Ultimate Rewards partner if flying to the Middle East or India. Keep an eye on the fuel surcharges as they can make the taxes/fees quite steep, especially if you’re flying through Nairobi (NBO) on Kenya Airways.
You can book one-way or round-trip awards but you won’t be able to include a stopover on these awards. With one-way awards, you can easily include an open jaw if you want to see multiple destinations.
Flying Blue award rates
Award rates with Flying Blue have been a bit all over the place since it shifted from a basic region-based award chart to rates that are mostly determined by origin and destination. As a result, we’ve seen redemption rates vary even for partner awards. It reminds me of Delta’s asinine variable award pricing that many of us have come to loathe.
Here are the one-way award rates I found with a few city pairs:
|Route||Economy Class||Business Class|
|New York (JFK) to Dubai (DXB)||34,000 miles||85,000 miles|
|Los Angeles (LAX) to Dubai (DXB)||43,500 miles||85,000 miles|
|Atlanta (ATL) to Abu Dhabi (AUH)||39,000 miles||96,500 miles|
|Los Angeles (LAX) to Abu Dhabi (AUH)||45,500 miles||96,500 miles|
|New York (JFK) to Delhi (DEL)||34,000 miles||85,000 miles|
|Los Angeles (LAX) to Delhi (DEL)||34,000 miles||85,000 miles|
If you’re trying to predict award rates to the Middle East or India with Flying Blue, best of luck. The Flying Blue miles price estimator is a good place to start if you want to find saver level, but not all city pairs will be available. As you can see below, sometimes Flying Blue will provide reasonable economy award rates while business class rates are absolutely nuts.
If you’re traveling to the Middle East, you might also consider booking a flight to Tel Aviv (TLV) then hopping over to Jordan continuing from there. Flying Blue considers Israel to be part of Europe and the award rates reflect that. You can find economy awards from 25,000 to 29,000 Flying Blue miles and business class for 53,000 miles one-way.
If you’re booking with Flying Blue, you’ll also have the advantage of sometimes seeing more award space on Air France and KLM flights. While surcharges can be a pain, it can be a great way to get business class space.
How to book with Flying Blue miles
Now that Air France and KLM have brought back the ability to run a calendar search, it is again a great way to search for SkyTeam awards. With award space in hand, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to your Flying Blue account at a 1:1 ratio — these transfers generally process almost instantly.
You can also call (1 800 375 8723) to put awards on hold for 48 hours, though you might have to call a couple times to find a cooperative phone agent. Another caveat to booking with Flying Blue is that it has had problems with “fraud prevention”. To prevent any issues, especially with a new account, we’d recommend calling to hold the award before transferring Ultimate Rewards points. Once the transfer processes, you can call back to pay the taxes/fees — with a card in the account holder’s name — and have the ticket issued.
British Airways Executive Club
This is a tough one, the Ultimate Rewards program is pretty limited when it comes to booking awards on Oneworld members. British Airways uses two different distance-based award charts that you’ll need to know.
Additionally, be ready for some hefty surcharges when using British Airways Avios. To top it off, British Airways also charges by the segment so connections can really add up and force you to use quite a few points.
British Airways Avios award rates
The standard award chart governs awards that include a flight on British Airways and/or one partner airline. It’s important to remember that this chart only allows for one partner to be included even if it’s multiple segments. If your award fits these qualifications, this is the award chart you’ll be using:
|Zone // Flight Distance||Economy|
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
Off Peak // Peak
*Not available in North America
|4,000 // 4,500||5,750 // 6,750||7,750 // 9,000||15,500 // 18,000|
|6,500 // 7,500||9,500 // 11,250||12,750 // 15,000||25,500 // 30,000|
|8,500 // 10,000||12,750 // 15,000||17,000 // 20,000||34,000 // 40,000|
|10,000 // 12,500||20,000 // 25,000||31,250 // 37,500||42,500 // 50,000|
|13,000 // 20,000||26,000 // 40,000||50,000 // 60,000||68,000 // 80,000|
|16,250 // 25,000||32,500 // 50,000||62,500 // 75,000||85,000 // 100,000|
|19,500 // 30,000||39,000 // 60,000||75,000 // 90,000||102,000 // 120,000|
|22,750 // 35,000||45,500 // 70,000||87,500 // 105,000||119,000 // 140,000|
|32,50 // 50,000||65,000 // 100,000||125,000 // 150,000||170,000 // 200,000|
If your itinerary will include flights on two or more partners such as American Airlines and Qatar Airways, you’ll need to look at the multi-carrier chart to determine your award rate:
Premium economy requires 50% more Avios, business class requires an additional 100% and first class requires 150% more.
If you book a non-stop award or one that includes multiple partners, using British Airways Avios will be your best bet for Oneworld awards if you have Ultimate Rewards points. However, if you are booking an award that will include a connection and only partner, this might not be the case.
Before you jump to book an award with British Airways Avios — assuming the taxes/fees make sense for you, make sure you compare the award rate to what is required by Iberia Plus which is also part of the Avios program.
Let’s say you want to book an award from Chicago (ORD) to Muscat (MCT) with a connection in Doha (DOH). If you book this with British Airways Avios, you’d need 109,000 Avios for a round-trip economy award. If you instead booked with Iberia Avios, you’d only need 100,000 Avios, though keep in mind Iberia has more restrictive rules for award tickets.
How to book with British Airways Avios
Booking with British Airways Avios is generally pretty simple. Its online search capability is quite good — though searches sometimes error out — and you can complete bookings online. If you experience a system error when you search, just rerun the search or switch browsers.
If you choose to book with Iberia Avios, you can search on Iberia’s site but its search functionality isn’t the best so you might have to search with British Airways then call (1-800-772-4642).
Whichever you use, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. These transfers generally process instantly.
In general, you’ll want to stick to using the Singapore KrisFlyer program for awards to the Middle East as United MileagePlus will be better for awards to India (see below). While Singapore won’t impose surcharges on its own flights, it will on Star Alliance partners. Since many European carriers have hefty surcharges, you’ll want to keep an eye on this.
KrisFlyer award rates
Even with the surcharges, you might find that the business class and first class awards rates with Singapore KrisFlyer make sense. Here’s a breakdown of the one-way award rates:
- Economy: 45,000 miles
- Business: 69,000 miles
- First: 90,000 miles
If you just really want to fly Singapore Airlines from the U.S., you can book a trip to India, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh but it won’t be cheap. Compare these one-way award rates to those with United MileagePlus:
- Economy: 55,000 miles
- Business: 110,000 miles
- First: 145,000 miles
If you’re set on flying Singapore Airlines business or first class, I can maybe see the appeal especially if you include a stopover in Singapore on the way. Keep in mind that stopover cost about $100 on one-way saver awards.
How to book with Singapore KrisFlyer miles
Singapore Airlines allows you to search for Star Alliances flights online so the search process is pretty easy if it works. Personally, I’ve found that it sometimes misses award flights that are available. I always check United’s search if I don’t find what I want just in case.
If your search on Singapore’s site shows space, you can book online. If it doesn’t show space that you find on United, you’ll want to call Singapore Airlines (1 800 742-3333) to book — make sure they waive the phone booking fee since it’s not bookable online.
You can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to your Singapore KrisFlyer account at a 1:1 ratio. These transfers generally process within 12 to 24 hours.
United Airlines MileagePlus
If you’re sick of all the warnings about surcharges, then you’re going to love the United MileagePlus program. Unlike other programs, United won’t pass on surcharges which leaves you with only the standard taxes/fees.
You’ll also find that it has competitive redemption rates compared to Singapore KrisFlyer to the Middle East and India when you consider the lack of surcharges.
United MileagePlus award rates
Unlike Singapore KrisFlyer, United MileagePlus’s award rates are the same to India and the Middle East. If you book a round-trip award, you can take advantage of United’s Excursionist Perk to book a free one-way flight within a region — it’s United’s convoluted version of a stopover. India is not considered part of the Middle East so you won’t be able to visit both on the same award.
These are the award rates for Star Alliance awards as well as awards that include a long-haul segment on United:
|Class of Service||United||Star Alliance|
|Economy||42,500 miles||42,500 miles|
|Business||75,000 miles||85,000 miles|
|First||90,000 miles||140,000 miles|
Now, United has all a but phased out international first class, so that 90,000-mile rate won’t mean much. However, if you can find business class space on United to Tel Aviv (TLV) or Delhi (DEL), the 75,000-mile business class award rate is a great way to go. Even 85,000 miles to India will be your best bet for a Star Alliance award if you have Ultimate Rewards points.
How to book with United miles
While United frustratingly only allows you to book awards its online system shows you — that means no calling to piece together an itinerary, it does have a very useful flexible search option. This makes it easy to see what dates have economy or premium cabin space over a two-month period. Once you find the award space you want, you can book online.
United has been known to show phantom award space on occasion so it’s best to click through the booking process or double check with Aeroplan just in case. Once you’re ready to book, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points almost instantly at a 1:1 ratio.
If you’re booking an award to the Middle East or India, plan for surcharges and be happy if you don’t have to pay them. If the surcharges are too high on an economy award and economy cash fares are cheap enough, you might consider booking through the Chase travel portal. However, even with surcharges, I think many who book business or first class awards will still enjoy the experience.
How have you used Ultimate Rewards points to fly to India or the Middle East?