How To Redeem Miles On Air India To/From San Francisco

Filed Under: Air India, Awards

Air India has long intrigued me, partly because of the insane stories which come from the airline, and partly because I really want to fly them.

India’s prime minister confirmed earlier in the week that Air India will be launching 3x weekly flights between Delhi and San Francisco as of December 2, 2015.

Since then, Air India has published their timetable for the new route between Delhi and San Francisco, which will operate Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays with the following schedule:

AI173 Delhi to San Francisco departing 2:45AM arriving 6:00AM
AI174 San Francisco to Delhi departing 10:00AM arriving 3:35PM (+1 day)

The flight is blocked at 16hr45min westbound and 16hr5min eastbound, making it one of the longer flights out there.

The good news is that Air India is releasing a good amount of award space on most of these flights. In general I’m seeing one first class, two business class, and at least two economy class award seats per flight.


I’m kind of surprised they’re not making more first class award seats available. Air India’s 777-200LRs feature eight first class seats per plane, while their 777-300ERs features four first class seats per plane. They also seem to make one first class award seat available per 777-300ER flight, so I guess they’re just somewhat consistent regardless of actual capacity or demand for seats.

Now I realize in general Air India might not sound like an airline most people are dying to try, though I think there are two things which make this route potentially interesting:

  • This is the only nonstop flight from the West Coast of the US to India
  • Surely I’m not the only one intrigued at the prospect of flying Air India

If you’re so inclined, what are the best ways to redeem miles for travel on Air India between San Francisco and Delhi (and beyond)?

Air Canada Aeroplan (transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest):

  • Economy: 50,000 miles
  • Business: 75,000 miles
  • First: 105,000 miles

Avianca LifeMiles (frequently sells miles for ~1.4-1.7 cents each):

  • Economy: 42,500 miles
  • Business: 78,000 miles
  • First: 111,000 miles

Singapore KrisFlyer (transfer partners with American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, and Starwood Preferred Guest):

  • Economy: 52,500 miles
  • Business: 97,500 miles
  • First: 132,500 miles

United MileagePlus (transfer partners with Chase Ultimate Rewards):

  • Economy: 42,500 miles
  • Business: 80,000 miles
  • First: 140,000 miles

As you can see, Avianca LifeMiles has the best redemption rates for travel in economy. For first and business class, Air Canada Aeroplan is marginally cheaper than Avianca LifeMiles, though I’d say the best program for you depends on your points balances. If you have a ton of Membership Rewards points, Aeroplan isn’t a bad option. If you’re looking to buy miles as inexpensively as possible, Avianca LifeMiles is your best bet.


Bottom line

While Air India isn’t launching the world’s longest flight, as many of us had hoped, this is still a cool new route. I hope to try this route within the first month or so that it’s in service.

What do you make of Air India’s new San Francisco route? Worth taking for the convenience, or would you rather add a connection to avoid them?

  1. This is tremendously convenient for me, as I was planning a trip to India next fall anyway and SFO is a more convenient airport for us. Our available time is limited, and having the nonstop allows more time overall on the subcontinent. We’re a bit adventurous anyway, and in our experience the vast majority of flights are perfectly acceptable. Though flying in biz or 1st is a no-brainer for a flight this long.

  2. I flew Biz on their 787 from LHR to BOM and back. Although the config is 2-2-2 I was happy with the aisle seats that I had in both directions. Food left a lot desired and this is from a person of Indian origin. Service was good, seats were good and I slept decently. First class may be a little better.

  3. I find it amusing that @archon seems to think he would prefer AI due to limited time at the destination. AI is of course routinely late by four, eight and even 24 hours. And you better hope no senior bureaucrat decides to spend an extra day in SF thus delaying the flight by a day. AI does not care about passengers as its sole job is being a platform for bribes and thus loses a billion dollars a year. Anyone voluntarily flying AI needs to have their heads examined! Expect no sympathy! You have been warned!

  4. I would rather make 10 connections than fly Air India. I flew AI once, intra-India. The hour-long flight felt like an eternity. Even the slightest bit of turbulence scared the crap out of me. I can’t explain it; it was just a very uneasy feeling. Something I never felt when flying US airlines, LH, CX, etc.

  5. How To Redeem Miles On Air India To/From San Francisco? — Asked no one ever . . . 😉 I’m sorry Lucky, but you’ve conditioned us against Air India! Your trip report, however, should be interesting!

  6. Miles listed for Singapore KrisFlyer seem to be for east coast awards. Mileage requirement for West Coast is different. 42.5k, 90k and 125K for economy, business and first respectively.

  7. It still amazes me that airlines are quicker at launching routes than tfl (Transport For London) changing a bus route. I might try this route at some point if I ever start planning an economy round the world trip.

  8. Everyone knows the best way to India is with ME3 or with an East/SEA carrier (SQ, CX, MH, TG etc.)

    Why does IA even bother? It’s not like it’s a captive market? Or maybe it’s catered for the Hindu nationalist pax who get freaked out at other pax who don’t consume vegetarian meals?

    After all someone was murdered by a mob in India this week for supposedly storing beef in his fridge.

  9. @The Real Babushka is wrong abiut Hindus and wrong about the reports she cites

    Hindus do eat meat. Have you never been to an Indian restaurant? Since 85 percent of Indians are Hindus if Hindus did not eat meat no Indian restaurant would serve meat! It’s beef they may shy away from for religious reasons just like Jews/Moslems stay away from pork albeit for very different reasons.

    Secondly since most Indians would rather not fly Air India ( in fact the so called nationalists are the most prominent in asking the airline be privatized) it can hardly be catering to the so allies Hindu nationalists. If I had to make a guess they are not many of them but if they are they would fly the Asian airlines and avoid the ME airlines.

    Thirdly the actual story is that some thieves were caught stealing Cows. They denied it but the crowd found remains on their premises and sadly killed the offender. The Indian media has been trained by sixty years of one party rule to mislead and you have been misled. Yes the incident is regrettable but there has been a sixty year period of a single party driving poverty and communalism and we are seeing the results. Bad things happen everywhere as we saw most recently in Oregon.

  10. @Marcus its quite obvious youre a paid Indian troll. Facts are completely out of balance. Yes the Congress wasnt a bunch of saints, but they werent all bad. Secondly most RWers I know prefer flying the ME3 coz of the “foreign” aircrew, as they believe white skin is superior to brown

  11. I snagged AI 174 in FC outbound SFO next April and AI 127 inbound to ORD using UA miles so I get to sample the LR and ER equipment but would love to read your trip report before then Lucky. Sure AI is no Emirates or LH FC (adore both) but I am still excited to try them.

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