Redeem American Airlines Miles: Part 9 — Redeeming for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

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Let’s talk about how to use American Airlines miles for awards to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent. American Airlines has the best award space to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent by far and some of its nicest partners fly these routes.

Etihad First Suite on 787
Etihad First Suite on 787. I have mine Booked for May.

 

“Redeeming American Airlines Miles” Series Index

Middle East and Indian Subcontinent

The Middle East and Indian Subcontinent are two regions on the American Airlines award chart, but have the same prices to fly to either.

The Middle East is defined as:

  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • the United Arab Emirates

The Indian Subcontinent is defined as:

  • Bangladesh
  • India
  • Kazakhstan
  • Maldives
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uzbekistan

The Partners for Middle East and Indian Subcontinent Awards

As I noted in the post on American Airlines award routing rules, it is a standard rule that you cannot transit a third region–awards between Region A and Region B cannot transit Region C unless specifically allowed.

American Airlines partners with direct flights to the Middle East or India from North America:

  • Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi)
  • Qatar Airways (Doha)
  • Jet Airways (Mumbai)
  • Royal Jordanian (Anman)

Other American Airlines partners with hubs in the region:

  • Gulf Air (Bahrain)

There are three exceptions that apply to awards between the United States and the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent that do allow you to transit a third region, which opens up our routing possibilities:

1.  You can connect in the Middle East on the way to the Indian Subcontinent, utilizing the airlines mentioned above.

2. You can transit Europe en route to the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent from North America.This means that any partner that flies between the United States and Europe or Europe and the Middle East is potentially useful:

  • American Airlines
  • Airberlin
  • Qantas (London to Dubai)
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • British Airways

3. Recently, American added the exception that you can transit Hong Kong (on Cathay Pacific Airlines only) between North American and the Indian Subcontinent, which is great news for those who live on the West Coast since routing via Hong Kong is faster than routing via Europe or the Middle East. Not to mention it’s another routing option for everyone, i.e. more award space, and Cathay Pacific’s premium products are superb

Award space on American Airlines, airberlin, British Airways, Finnair, Qantas, and Royal Jordanian is searchable on aa.com. Here’s how to search aa.com.

Awards space on Iberia, Qatar, and Cathay Pacific is searchable on ba.com. Here’s how to search ba.com.

Award space on Gulf Air is searchable on Expert Flyer. Here’s how to search Expert Flyer.

Award space on Etihad is searchable on etihad.com. Here’s how to search etihad.com.

Award space on Jet Airways is searchable by calling American Airlines at 800-882-8880.

Pricing

From North America to the Middle East or Indian Subcontinent, American Airlines charges:

  • 40,000 miles one way in economy
  • 70,000 miles one way in Business Class
  • 115,000 miles one way in First Class

Economy and Business are decent values. First Class prices are very expensive, although the product available is top shelf. Read my trip report of Etihad First Class from Chennai, India to Los Angeles.

If you can, use Alaska miles– it only costs 62,500 miles one way in Cathay Pacific Business and 70,000 miles in Cathay Pacific First Class to India or the Middle East.

American is not the leader to the Middle East and India because of its pricing as much as its partners. American partners with two of the big three Middle Eastern carriers, Etihad and Qatar. Add in the other Middle Eastern and Indian partners, and American really has a lock on the region.

Booking the Awards

To book 99% of Middle East and Indian Subcontinent awards, you need to call American Airlines at 800-882-8880. You will not have to pay a phone fee since the award is not bookable online. I recommend searching award space on aa.com, ba.com, Expert Flyer, and etihad.com before calling and feeding the agent the date, cabin, and flight number of each flight with award space instead of relying on the agent’s searching skill.

Routes

There are too many routes to cover all of them, so I’ll restrict myself just to the direct Etihad and Qatar flights from the United States the Middle East.

Etihad flies from six American cities to Abu Dhabi and from there throughout the region including 11 cities in India and three in Pakistan.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 6.57.44 PM

Etihad flights feature First, Business, and economy class.

I find award space to be excellent on Etihad. This is my go-to airline when I am looking for award space for MileValue Award Booking Service clients to the Middle East and India. With flexibility, you can find two seats in any cabin.

Qatar flies from ten American cities to Doha and from there throughout the region including 13 Indian cities.

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 2.52.52 PM

Qatar’s flights to the United States do not feature First Class, just Business and economy.

In my experience, Qatar award space is not as strong as Etihad award space.

I realize I haven’t said much useful information about the award space to the Middle East, but it is difficult to sum up space on dozens of routes across several airlines and cabins. Better to just tell you which airlines to start with and where to search that award space.

Bottom Line

American Airlines has amazing partners to the Middle East and Indian Subcontinent, topped by Etihad and Qatar. Award prices to either from the United States are the same.

First Class Awards are pricy but economy and Business class are decent values. If the award doesn’t fly directly from North America, the only other routings allowed are:

  • connections in the Middle East en route to the Indian Subcontinent
  • connections in Hong Kong en route to the Indian Subcontinent
  • connections in Europe en route to either the Middle East or the Indian Subcontinent

For a limited time, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ MasterCard® is offering 60,000 bonus American Airlines miles and Admirals Club lounge membership, among other awesome benefits, after spending $5,000 in the first three months.Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.44.21 PM

By meeting the $5,000 total spending requirement you’ll earn at least 65,000 American Airlines miles. With just a little more spending on the card, you’d have enough to fly Business Class from the United States to India or the Middle East!


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. Does it make sense to use AA points to fly from IAD to TLV with either Emirates or Qatar? Can you fly a different AA partner, for the same number of miles, from Abu Dhabi or Doha to Tel Aviv? If yes, which airline is best to get from Abu Dhabi or Doha to Tel Aviv?

  2. Quick question…how long can I stopover on an award ticket using AA miles on Etihad? I’m trying to combine awards to transit AUH to DEL and back, but might need to have a stop over of more than 24 hours. My flights look like this: MAD-LHR-AUH(stop for 12 hours)DEL, then DEL-AUH(Stop for 36 hours)-SYD. I know on the first stop I can do it, but will AA allow me to stopover for 36 hours on the return before heading out to SYD? Thank you.

    • Check out all the posts in this series, especially the one about routing rules. You’ll find that you can never have a connection longer than 24 hours on a single AA award.

  3. Hi Scott! what are your thoughts on flying from Brazil to Abu Dhabi on Etihad? I am trying to figure out the best way to the Maldives…but I will be in Brazil. Perhaps the best option is to come back to America and fly from here?
    Thanks

    • Best in what sense? There is a direct Sao Paulo to Abu Dhabi flight. I’ve never checked its award space, but it’s probably good. Awards from South America to Middle East are very expensive on the AA chart, but only a bit more than North America to Middle East, so it’s cheaper than flying home first.

  4. This series on AAdvantage is really helpful, thank you!
    Do you know of any blackout dates for redeeming awards on QR?
    There are zero awards available in economy from US to DOH looking ahead Jun 2 to 21. (Business is available but I am trying to book 4 (!) seats at once.) Award seats are available before and after these dates.

    Second question, if I may – I will need to do SFO – “DFW or other QR city” – DOH. Do I have to find MilesAAver award seats on the SFO – DFW leg in order to book this award as all partner based awards book at MilesAAver levels?

    Thank you thank you!

    • 1. There are no blackout dates. There are plenty of dates with no award space. You found 20 of them in a row.
      2. SFO-DFW needs to be at the MileSAAver level to book SFO-DOH at the MileSAAver/partner price.

      • Thank you! I’d guess those seats aren’t released for some reason as it is ALL US cities to DOH for the same dates.

  5. Hi Scott,
    Am relatively new to points and awards. Thanks for the extremely useful information!
    So for example, for a one way business class award ticket using AA miles, in order to minimize taxes, would the following itinerary be valid: HEL-LHR-AUH-BLR (Finnair and Etihad)? Also, if I understand rules correctly, any layover must be <24 hours? Thanks again, for all the useful information you have on your website, and continue to provide!
    SKhare

  6. Thank you so much for the useful information. This is an advance planning for my try to India (DEL) for January 2018 as my retirement present to myself… I’m planning to use my AA miles to fly LAX- AUH. Hoping to fly in first class. Spend 3 days in Dubai. Then Continue AUH-DEL on EY -economy for USD 118,00. Returning DEL-LAX again using my AA miles. Is this a doable itinerary, is there a route restriction? I thank you for your expert opinion…

    • Yes, that would all be allowed. If all in First Class (except AUH-DEL with cash), you’ll pay 230,000 AA miles unless AA changes the price again.

      • Thanks Scott
        Yike 230,000miles… Sure enough was dreaming … First class is out … Maybe business class but for sure economy…
        Eva

  7. Thanks Scott for all the awesome info that you put out often, especially this series. I am planning a trip for my family of 4 from SFO to Chennai(MAA) & stopover in Europe somewhere, i.e. Spain, Portugal on the way back. I have 200K united & 250K American miles that I can use for economy. I am thinking of using united to MAA & american on the way back, MAA to Europe & Europe to SFO & was wondering if this was the optimal use of my miles. Thanks in advance

  8. Hey Scott, two important corrections for you:

    1.) The best place to search RJ award space is aa.com, it is very accurate. BA sometimes does not show long-haul RJ space strangely enough.

    2.) RJ most definitely has direct flights to the US and has had them for a very long time. They fly direct to ORD, JFK, and DTW, all on their new 787’s. My family flies on the ORD route regularly.

    Hope this helps, love the site.

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