Air India is a Star Alliance member with a surprisingly robust worldwide route network. With a great seat in business and first class (service is another story, I hear) the carrier provides a valuable link to the Indian subcontinent. Award space has been searchable on Aeroplan and ANA’s website, but has been shielded from the masses in that it has not been searchable on united.com…until now. The floodgates are open and award space is plentiful, but now that it is out in the open, it will not last.
It is always bitter sweet to see new carriers added to the united.com award search engine. Sure, being able to book more carriers online makes it easier for most (not just many, but most) travelers who have no idea that it is possible to book space that is not visible online. But for those in the know, we will see exactly what happened when EVA, Turkish, Swiss, and LOT award space was made available on united.com — it quickly disappears.
Air India rarely allocates more than one first class award seat per flight and allocates from one to three business class seats on many routes, including routes from the United States (stations in ORD, EWR, JFK). Economy space is not all that generous on longhaul routes. Though your searches will reveal no more than four seats at a time, like Thai Airways the economy award inventory typically refreshes itself when booked — so if you are a family of six traveling, you will need to book four seats, then the last two: everything cannot be on a single ticket.
United serves both Delhi and Mumbai from its Newark hub, but award space is atrocious — Air India provides another an easier way to get to India and beyond on points, serving Australia, South Africa, and exotic destinations like the Maldives…and Kabul.
Examine the Air India route map here and if you see attractive award space on united.com, consider booking it now, for it assuredly will not last.