Star Alliance Air India Award Availability

GOOD MORNING! There are certain milestones we all remember in our lives. For some it may be their wedding. For some it may be the day they met Justin Bieber. For some it may be the day they were deflowered by Lufthansa first class. For me it’s definitely the day that Air India joined the Star Alliance, which is today.

The courting process between the Star Alliance and Air India started back when I was still in diapers, and today it actually finally really actually really finally happened…. really! As of today — July 11, 2014 — Air India is a member of the Star Alliance!

Air-India-Star-Alliance

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to try Air India’s first class product, which is available on their 777-300ER aircraft. They have a total of four first class seats, so in terms of the overall first class “cabin footprint,” it’s probably very similar to TAM.

Air India operates three routes to the US:

  • Chicago to Delhi
  • New York to Delhi
  • Newark to Mumbai

Air-India-USA-Destinations

All US routes are operated by 777-300ERs, featuring:

  • 4 First Class seats
  • 35 Business Class seats
  • 303 Economy Class seats

What does Air India award availability look like?

While Air India has only been in the Star Alliance for a few hours, so far the Aeroplan website, ANA website, and LifeMiles website are displaying Air India award space. So what does it look like?

Air India first class award space

For the US flights the general trends I’m noticing are that:

  • They release at most one first class award seat per flight (which isn’t surprising since there are only a total of four seats)
  • The Chicago to Delhi route has a lot of first class award space, while the Newark to Mumbai and New York to Delhi flights don’t have a lot of award space

On the Chicago to Delhi route I’m seeing first class award space most dates, though oddly there are some periods where there’s not space for weeks at a time, and then they go back to having space every day (maybe they have blackout dates?).

Here’s first class space for the first week of August:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-1

Here’s first class space for the first week of next March:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-2

Here’s first class space for the first week of next June:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-3

For what it’s worth, first class award space is also excellent out of London, where they have once daily 777-300ER service:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-4

Air India business class award space

Air India releases business class space on a lot of longhaul flights, though for the most part it seems to be just one business class seat per flight to the US. So if you’re traveling alone, Air India might be a nice addition to the Star Alliance, but they’re not especially useful if traveling with someone else.

Here’s availability on Chicago to Delhi for one person:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-12

And New York to Delhi:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-13

And Newark to Mumbai:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-11

Air India economy class award space

Not surprisingly, I suppose, Air India economy award space is excellent across the board, on all three of their US routes.

That includes the Chicago to Delhi route:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-8

New York to Delhi route:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-9

And Newark to Mumbai route:

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-10

Air India domestic award space

Domestic award availability is excellent across the board. There’s no shortage of space in either business or economy class.

Air-India-Award-Availabiliy-7

Redeeming Star Alliance miles for Air India

On the whole, the Star Alliance sure isn’t as lucrative as it used to be for redeeming miles on partner airlines. With United’s devaluation earlier in the year, and US Airways leaving the Star Alliance, there aren’t many economical options remaining.

Mileage requirements for booking Air India between the US and India on a few of the most popular Star Alliance programs are as follows, one-way:

ProgramEconomyBusinessFirst
Air Canada Aeroplan50,00075,000105,000
Avianca LifeMiles40,00065,00092,500
United MileagePlus42,50080,000140,000

Air-India-Award-Space-101 Air-India-Award-Space-101

It’s worth noting that Aeroplan is not imposing fuel surcharges for redemptions on Air India as of now.

Air-India-Aeroplan

Bottom line on Air India joining the Star Alliance

I know I’m more excited than the average person about Air India joining, and can’t wait to fly with the Maharajah.

But even if you’re not just excited because you’re darn curious about what they’re like, I do think they add quite a bit of value to the alliance. Even if you’re not wanting to fly them longhaul, being able to earn and redeem miles as well as get alliance benefits when flying them domestically is a big win, in my opinion.

Stay tuned, I’ll be checking out Air India soon!

Comments

  1. “They have a total of four first class seats, so in terms of the overall first class “cabin footprint,” it’s probably very similar to TAM.”

    … and that’s where the similarity ends.

  2. You could fly EWR – BOM and do the Westin Mumbai, then fly the Canadair CRJ-700 to Agra and stay at the Radisson Blu. A more “non-Aman” or “conventional” stay compared to 2012 that would be, but it would also mean another visit to the Taj Mahal! You could fly to Varanasi from there…stay at the Radisson…and fly via DEL back to ORD (via NRT?), and that would make for a great Indian trip…

  3. Lantean,

    YMMV of course but friends who have flown AI have almost all commented on the worn state of the cabins, even on their “new” B787s. However I hear catering is generally decent and pricing is competitive.

  4. Have flown biz and economy on air india, and won’t make same mistake again, these people shamelessly keep passing gas for hrs, eats home cooked meal for hrs, keeps talking so loud.

  5. I heard that flying Air India economy class from Chicago to Delhi in the middle seat of a 5 seat row on the back of the plane for 15 hours and 10 minutes is one of the best experiences ever. Lucky: could you take one for the team and try that option? Cannot wait for the review 🙂

  6. Ben – FC and J may not be that bad but most Indians would never fly AI Y long haul if given a choice, hope that is telling enough 🙂

  7. Aah… forgot to mention, friends of mine who flew once by mistake – found roaches travelling with them, of course, for free! Ben – take some pics of those if you come across any 🙂

  8. Forgot to mention I have many Indian friends that live in the US and when flying to India to visit family they wouldn’t fly Air India even if they got the tickets for free.

  9. Any recent AI F trip reports?

    I think I know the answer, but I’ll ask anyway: do they serve caviar?

  10. 1 of 35 Business Class seat is a bummer 🙁

    So to book Air India using United, we check award availability and then call United?

  11. @echino – No caviar – but I would not be surprised to find a variety of insect eggs in their regular dishes!

  12. I flew return Chicago – Delhi last year, flight was good. Problem was while returning – due to storm in US, several flights were cancelled. Rather than operating extra flights, Air India just kept moving passengers to the next day. But while doing this, they were not informing the next day’s passengers that they will not fly that day.

    Infact they were boarding previous day’s passengers at another gate!!! There was chaos at airport as people were shouting at them for not informing in advance.

    My parents had to come to the airport at 3 AM in the morning to pick me up (I’m from Delhi). It was painful experience with a 6 month old. My previous experience with them has been the same, if everything is ok, they’re ok. But if something goes wrong, do not expect any help from them, it’s a govt. airline with employees having secure jobs. They have no motivation whatsoever to resolve customer complaints.

    So cross your fingers everytime you fly Air India

  13. These reviews are based on hearsay. Hey Santastico, quit being an Internet jerk. I am an Indian who would GLADLY take any “free Air India tickets” that you can afford. Let me know if you can afford to buy any.

    Air India had its challenges years ago, which ended when they got 50 shining new 787s and 777s. The food is actually nice and the cabin was really clean.

    Also, jim – racist much?

  14. OMG he wants to fly Aerolinas, lol LOT, Ethiopian roulette, AI well you would need some form of intelligence to willingly fly them. The joys of an oldie watching the learning process. Then there was the vomit comet, three weeks in a row had to Sin-Bom, eat dinner but not breakfast, I was warned! Noticed a lot of the flight didn’t touch the breakfast so I wasn’t, lady next to me sprayed perfume into handkerchief, how quaint! About 30 minutes after breakfast a noticeable rush for the bathrooms was underway, people were panicking to push to the head of the queue, noticed some of the people who did not eat breakfast were not even reacting to the commotions, seen it all before? The the first person in one of queue’s vomited this caused an involuntary reaction from most people in the queue and from a lot passengers sitting as well! After experiencing it for 3 flights in 3 weeks, never have I flown them since nor will again. Moral of the story, No it is not a one of, always carry after shave on board all flights, the horror of hearing projectile vomiting spreading throughout the cabin and watching the FA’s calmly placing bins in the isles, it wasn’t the first time? I will get the Absinthe out for that trip report!

  15. @ a$]-[u — Correct, though I would guess that the space shows up on united.com soon enough as well, it may just take a day or two.

  16. @ Lantean — They charge 105,000, 195,000, and 265,000 miles in economy, business, and first, respectively.

  17. @ Nick, Racist really? I posted comment about my bad AI in flight experience and I am now a racist! Wow. I pity you! BTW, ” Main racist nahin hoon” Tumara dimaag kharab hain kya?

  18. LOL @ Jim retaliating to “Indian Nick” in “Hindi” … LOL LOL LOL …

    Nick yaar – you know very well dost – desi (Indian) will stay a desi where ever he goes in this world!

    Jim yaar – chill maar… bade bade deshon me aisi choti choti baatein hoti rehti hain
    Jim buddy – chill man! In big countries such small things keep happening 🙂

    PEACE !

  19. @Nick: It is Friday. I will ignore you. 🙂 I can imagine you are a legitimate Indian by naming yourself Nick. Enjoy Air India 🙂

  20. @jim Quit being so shamelessly innocent. You were not posting about Air India, but about the people in the plane. Should I repeat what you said to jog your memory: “these people shamelessly keep passing gas for hrs, eats home cooked meal for hrs, keeps talking so loud”.
    And FYI, tu chutiya hai.

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