Swiss Airlines and United Airlines, along with Lufthansa and Air Canada, offer a low $700s round trip fare from San Francisco to Mumbai BOM. This article evaluates different ways to ticket and credit flight options to India among the different Star Alliance carriers to earn the most redeemable award miles in United Mileage Plus.
First point to note is $710 to $730 are very good low fares for California to BOM Mumbai, India. This is the lowest fare I have noticed for this route in 2015 on Star Alliance flights. China Eastern has had lower fares in the $600s, but that fare requires travel via China and many itineraries force overnight layovers in China.
Star Alliance: United, Air Canada, Swiss, Lufthansa
San Francisco SFO – Mumbai BOM Friday Feb 5 – Friday Feb 19, 2016
$710 to $725 round trip economy K class.
This is an economy K class fare, regardless of Star Alliance airline, and that presents several different earning scenarios for redeemable and elite qualifying miles.
This article examines three different redeemable award miles earning possibilities with different ticket purchase options.
- Buy ticket on United.com as U.S. resident member of Mileage Plus. Fly United Airlines and/or Swiss Airlines flights on economy K class ticket and credit flights to Mileage Plus account.
- Buy ticket on Swiss Airlines website as U.S. resident member of Mileage Plus flying Swiss Airlines flights on economy K class ticket and crediting flights to Mileage Plus account.
- Buy ticket on Lufthansa website as U.S. resident member of Mileage Plus. Fly Lufthansa flights on economy K class ticket and credit flights to Mileage Plus account or Miles & More account.
Each of these ticket purchase scenarios is examined.
Scenario #1 – United.com ticket purchase for United Airlines and Swiss Airlines flights on economy K class ticket. Credit flights to Mileage Plus account.
This would be a common purchase and credit to buy a ticket from United.com and earn miles through Mileage Plus. Base member earns 5 redeemable miles per $1.
SFO-BOM $585.00 base fare on United.com for redeemable miles (RDM) earned.
Flight Miles = 20,486 miles SFO-EWR-ZRH-BOM-ZRH-SFO. United Mileage Plus members earn 1 elite qualifying point per flight mile in economy K class.
Redeemable Award Miles earned with United Mileage Plus
- Mileage Plus Premier = 2,925 RDM
- Premier Silver = 4,095 RDM
- Premier Gold = 4,680 RDM
- Premier Platinum = 5,265 RDM
- Premier 1K = 6,435 RDM
Scenario #2 – Buy ticket on Swiss Airlines website. Fly only Swiss Airlines flights to India on economy K class ticket and credit flights to Mileage Plus account.
All Swiss-operated flights on a ticket purchased through Swiss Airlines sites or an online travel agency like Expedia earns miles by a different set of United Mileage Plus rules for earning redeemable award miles based on flight miles.
These four Swiss Airlines flight segments, SFO-ZRH, ZRH-BOM, BOM-ZRH, ZRH-SFO in economy K class earn 9,908 RDM in United Mileage Plus. Swiss Economy K fares earn 50% redeemable award miles based on flight distance of 19,816 miles.
This Swiss Airlines itinerary includes an overnight in Zurich on the outbound segments. There are possibilities for overnight layover in Zurich in both directions. Zurich Airport has convenient and fast train connections to central Zurich and there are XRH airport hotels.
Overnight layovers can be a good thing on a flight itinerary this long, and about the same distance whether traveling via Europe, Middle East or Asia. You will be spending 35 to 40+ hours seated on a plane.
San Francisco-Beijing-Mumbai = 8,876 miles. Air China.
San Francisco-Shanghai-Mumbai = 9,301 miles. China Eastern.
San Francisco-Abu Dhabi-Mumbai = 9,384 miles. Etihad.
San Francisco-Hong Kong-Mumbai = 9,585 miles. Cathay Pacific.
San Francisco-Frankfurt-Mumbai = 9,785 miles. Lufthansa.
San Francisco-Zurich-Mumbai = 9,908 miles. Swiss.
Scenario #3 Buy ticket on Lufthansa website as U.S. resident member of Mileage Plus. Fly Lufthansa flights on economy K class ticket and credit flights to Mileage Plus account or Miles & More account.
A ticket purchased on United.com for Lufthansa-operated flights earns miles based on Ticket Base Fare, just as in scenario #1.
Lufthansa Airlines Economy K booking code presents a problem for the United Airlines Mileage Plus member when the ticket is not purchased through United Airlines sites. Lufthansa Economy K operated and marketed flights earn 0% miles in United Mileage Plus.
Mileage Plus members want to avoid Lufthansa K class flight segments, unless purchased as a United Airlines issued ticket. [Update 11/13, see comments to this post regarding no credit for UA Mileage Plus member getting miles credited for LH economy K segments.]
United.com ticket for SFO-BOM flying Lufthansa outbound and Swiss inbound.
$730.09 Feb 5-19, 2016 (base fare $591.00 in economy K class)
As long as you buy tickets with Lufthansa economy K class flight segments through United Airlines website, then the flight earns 5 to 11 RDM per $1 on the $591 base fare, depending on your elite level.
The problem with Lufthansa K fares for United Mileage Plus members is when you buy the LH economy K fare through the Lufthansa website.
SFO-BOM $724.20 on Lufthansa website with same itinerary as seen in United ticket screenshot above flying Lufthansa outbound and Swiss inbound.
Lufthansa economy K class does not earn miles with United Mileage Plus. You will not earn any redeemable award miles for 9,784 miles flown from San Francisco to Bombay via Frankfurt on two Lufthansa flight segments.
Mileage Plus members earn 50% miles for the Swiss Airlines operated flight segments flying 9,908 miles back to SFO and earn 4,954 RDM.
Applying the Lufthansa and Swiss flights to Miles & More earns 25% flight miles for 4,923 RDM on this SFO-BOM round trip itinerary. These may end up orphaned miles if you don’t use Miles & More frequently.
Conclusion – All Swiss flights on a Swiss.com ticket purchase is best for earning Mileage Plus redeemable award miles.
United Mileage Plus non-elite members will earn almost 4x redeemable miles compared to purchasing the same itinerary on a United Airlines issued ticket.
All Swiss Airlines operated flights are the best mileage earning itinerary in this situation for Mileage Plus members seeking to earn the most redeemable miles from a long distance SFO-BOM ticket .