Off the bat, I’ll say that this award route won’t be of use to everyone. I have a lot of family in India so I tend to book awards for myself and family members to the subcontinent. One of my favorite awards is an intra-South Asia roundtrip award using US Airways miles. In coach, its costs 25,000 miles. In business, it costs 30,000 miles. In first, 40,000 miles.
Yeah, that’s right. Business class roundtrip is only 5,000 miles more than coach, and first class only 15,000 miles. The South/Central Asia region, according to US Airways, includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Chagos, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. This includes the hubs of Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways, two Star Alliance carriers.
Officially, you can’t have stopovers on an intra-region award, but you can do an open-jaw. My most recent award in this region was Bangkok-Singapore-Mumbai, Mumbai-Singapore-Hanoi, all on Singapore Airlines in business class for 30,000 miles roundtrip and about $70 in taxes. I got to spend an entire day in Singapore and got to have an open-jaw to visit Vietnam.
In case you’re not aware of how large South Asia is, Bangkok-Singapore is about a 2-hour flight, Singapore-Mumbai is about 5.5 hours each way, and Singapore-Hanoi is about 3 hours each way. I’d say that’s a decent amount of time to be in Singapore Airlines Business Class, especially given the small upcharge from economy when it comes to US Airways miles.
I was playing around with award tickets for a relative on United.com and noticed that there was availability on Singapore Airlines in First Class from Delhi (DEL) to Singapore (SIN) on the Boeing 777-300 nonER version. This is a big caveat, since there was no award availability from Mumbai (BOM) to Singapore (SIN) on the Boeing 777-300ER (77W) aircraft.
I flew a 777-300 nonER flight with Singapore Airlines last year, and while my business class seat was the angled lie-flat, the First Class cabin had the newer flat-bed version that’s on the Boeing 777-300ER.
This Delhi-Singapore flight was clearly bookable with United miles. The question now was just if it was bookable with US Airways, which doesn’t allow partner redemptions online. US Airways also has a caveat in their partner award chart that says “Award redemption on the Singapore Airlines Suites, First Class and Business Class cabin products on the A380, B777-300ER and A340-500 aircraft is currently unavailable.” This pretty much excludes all US routes, since those are the only aircraft that come to the western hemisphere.
However, the Delhi flight is not one of those aircraft, as the B777-300 isn’t the same as the B777-300ER. I called US Airways and asked to hold an award for 1 person, and they actually saw the space for SQ
There was only 1 seat available. I checked back later and there was no 2nd seat. Still, this is a great way to get Singapore Airlines First Class on an award to/from India. You can fly to Singapore as part of a larger award, then connect to the Singapore-Delhi flight. If you depart Singapore in Singapore First Class, you also get access to The Private Room, one of the more exclusive First Class lounges in the world.
I’d like to say that this is true for all 777-300 routes, like Singapore-Dubai, but I’m not seeing it everywhere. I believe Delhi used to have a 777-300ER which was switched to a 777-300, opening up availability, but I simply can’t explain why there is First Class space available almost everyday on this route.
If you are doing an intra-region award, US Airways is the best choice, as it is 40,000 miles roundtrip in first (and that is cheaper than United’s 50,000 miles one-way!).
If you are adding this segment as a larger USA-India reservation, US Airways charges 160,000 miles round-trip in first, while United charges 80,000 miles one-way in first.
One tip with US Airways miles is that it’s cheaper to fly to South Asia if you begin your award in the Caribbean or Mexico/Central America, where you will pay only 120,000 miles round-trip in first class. I’ve highlighted that in the chart above.