India is the most populous country in the world, and its popularity as a tourist destination continues to grow. The deserts of Rajasthan, the majesty of Taj Mahal, and the beauty of South India’s nature are all among the top attractions in the country. As more destinations in India become popular with tourists, the demand for flights rises.
Best Indian Airlines
India has a handful of its own airlines that offer daily flights on domestic routes throughout the country. For the most part, these are the top airlines for flights within India because of their reach and connectivity within the country. They have all built a fairly dominant market share within India, as most of the large, international airlines don’t fly to the smaller domestic destinations around the country.
While the big international airlines fly into hubs like Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) and Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport (BLR), very few of them fly to smaller destinations, like Udaipur and Agra. Because of this, the first three airlines on this list are the best airlines to use for Domestic flights within India.
1. Air India Airlines
Air India is the most bonafide of the domestic airlines in India. For starters, it is the only major carrier in India that isn’t classified as a low-cost airline. Its planes are often larger and newer, and its in-flight services are usually far superior to the other domestic airlines on this list.
As the largest airline headquartered in India, Air India offers a much broader route network than either of the low-cost carrier choices that appear next in this section. Its owner, Tata Sons, also recently consolidated its operations with the joint venture Vistara, which offers flights throughout the Middle East. On top of that, Air India Express is a subsidiary of Air India which operates as a regional airline, helping the carrier to offer more direct flights to places throughout India.
As the biggest airline in India, Air India is also the only airline in India to be a part of a major international airline alliance. Air India is a part of the Star Alliance, which is one of the largest airline alliances in the world with partners on every continent. A few of Air India’s most notable partners include Lufthansa, SWISS, United Airlines, Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, and Singapore Airlines.
2. Indigo Airlines
Outside of Air India, there are two other large airlines in India. They are both budget airlines, but there is one that clearly stands out above the other, at least in our experience. Indigo Airlines appeared to be head and shoulders above the other airline on this list during our time in India, due to its great customer service, broad network of non-stop flights, and on-time arrivals.
As a budget airline, there are certain things you should expect. Naturally, the seats aren’t as comfortable as major international airlines, and there is slightly less legroom. The food and drink service on board is usually also very limited and almost nothing is complimentary.
However, while there are fewer services offered on the flights, the ticket prices are jaw-droppingly low. We bought a flight on Indigo from New Delhi to Udaipur for $30.
3. Spicejet Airlines
Of the three major airlines in India, Spicejet is easily the worst. We booked three flights with the Spicejet airline, and only one of them ever took off! One of our flights was entirely canceled a couple of weeks before we traveled, and another was delayed three whole days.
The only Spicejet flight we actually flew on was from New Delhi to Jaisalmer, and it was delayed 36 hours. Once we finally took off, the quality was very similar to that of Indigo. But considering that 36 hours late was the closest to on time that we got with all three of our flights, it is pretty hard to recommend Spicejet over Indigo!
Indigo Vs. Spicejet
Indigo and Spicejet are the two major budget airlines in India. While they offer regional flights at similar prices, one of the airlines is drastically better than the other.
In our experience, Spicejet is one of the worst airlines in the world. We normally love budget airlines, but Spicejet is the kind of carrier that gives budget airlines a bad name. While I normally think that people compain too much about Spirit Airlines and Ryanair, Spicejet is actually deserving of the major complaints that it gets.
Indigo, on the other hand, is a pretty solid budget airline. While the in-flight services are a bit limited and the seats could be more comfortable, Indigo offers great value thanks to its average comfort level and shockingly low prices. While any airline can be subject to delays and cancellations, it seemed like much fewer Indigo flights were being delayed in comparison to Spicejet.
Best International Airlines that Fly to India
While the first three airlines on this list are the best for getting around India, they offer very few routes throughout the rest of the world. If you want to get from the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, Africa, East Asia, or Oceania to India, you need to fly on a different airline. The rest of the airlines on this list operate mainly outside of India but offer consistent flights to the country from other parts of the world.
4. Delta Airlines
Delta Airlines is the supreme airline in the United States, and it is often the best choice for Americans traveling to India. It operates a broad flight network on its own, and its partners in the SkyTeam Alliance help it to serve a robust network of destinations throughout the world via codeshare agreements. While American Airlines offers plenty of international flights too, Delta Air Lines is superior in terms of comfort, in-flight services, and reliability.
We flew on Delta and its partners to get to India from the United States, and we were very pleased. We flew from Washington DC to Paris on Delta, then Paris to New Delhi on Air France. On the way home, we flew KLM from Delhi to Amsterdam and Delta from Amsterdam to Washington DC.
Between Delta and its major partners like Air France, KLM, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Air, and Saudia, there are usually plenty of options to get to India. Delta and its partners also utilize advanced baggage tracking, which helps to make sure your bags don’t get lost or mishandled by the airline when traveling. This can’t be said about American Airlines and its partners!
Often regarded as the world’s best airline, Emirates takes air travel to a new level – especially if you can afford to fly in first class. Depending on where you are coming from, Emirates may be an option for you. While its airfare is often higher than other airlines, its premium services offered in-flight are industry-leading, even in economy class. The complimentary meals, airport lounges, in-flight entertainment, and excellent service are truly special.
Emirates flies all over the world and can get you to India from just about any continent. If you have the money and there is a flight route that makes sense, Emirates sits at the very top of the airline industry and is always a great choice. It is also known for having the best business class in the world, which is an option for travelers who want a bit more comfort without paying the astronomical prices of first class.
Lufthansa is the national airline of Germany, and it is respected as one of the classiest airlines in the world. It is a member of the Star Alliance along with Air India, and this partnership helps it to offer a very broad network of flights throughout the world and to India. If you are coming from Europe, Lufthansa is likely the best airline you can take to get to India.
Lufthansa has a great frequent flyer program, and its fleet size has expanded in recent years. This massive fleet, coupled with tens of partners all throughout the world, makes it one of the best airlines to fly on to India from Europe. Its position in Germany also makes it very central for flights from North America and South America, which makes it a popular choice for travelers from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.
7. British Airways
British Airways is one of the biggest airlines in the world, and its membership of the OneWorld Alliance makes it even more of a giant. This alliance contains other giant members, like American Airlines, Qantas, Japan Airlines, and Qatar Airways. While British Airways has really struggled with cancellations and delays in recent years, this bad reputation is fairly new and may not be permanent.
We’ve had more bad experiences with British Airways than good ones, but it’s hard to deny British Airways’ robust route network to India. Considering that India was a British colony until pretty recently, the Indian government and the United Kingdom share very strong economic ties. British Airways’ partnerships with American Airlines and Qantas, the two largest airlines in the United States and Australia, respectively, help it to connect even more countries to India.
American Airlines is the largest airline in the United States. While it also struggles with reliability issues, its sheer size and robust network can’t be denied. When you combine that power with the power of British Airways via the OneWorld Alliance, you get a very strong combination that can offer convenient flights at a fairly low cost.
8. Etihad Airways
While Emirates gets a lot of hype, it isn’t the only world-class airline in the United Arab Emirates. Etihad Airways operates out of Abu Dhabi, and it is a real force in the Middle East. The UAE’s geographic position in the heart of the Middle East makes it a great waypoint for travelers to India coming from Africa, Europe, and other places in the Middle East.
While it is hard to rival Emirates, Etihad Airways does offer one key comparative advantage: lower airfare. Etihad Airways offers great service at a pretty great price, and it offers flights all over the world. This broad network of flights can connect people from as far as New York and Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi, and then onward to New Delhi, Mumbai, and other popular Indian cities.
9. Turkish Airlines
Like Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance. With so many partners all over the world, this alliance helps Turkish Airways connect passengers from different countries with ease.
Istanbul is Turkish Airlines’ main hub airport, and it just so happens to be very conveniently located between the Americas and Europe and India. While Lufthansa may be known as the classiest airline in Europe, Turkish Airlines offers a similarly robust route network and is a member of the same alliance. For flights from Europe and the Americas to India, Turkish Airlines is a very popular and convenient choice.
10. Cathay Pacific
Lufthansa is the national airline of Germany, and it is one of the classiest airlines in the world. Lufthansa is a member of the Star Alliance along with Air India, and this partnership helps it to offer a very broad network of flights throughout the world and to India. If you are coming from Europe, Lufthansa is likely the best airline you can take to get to India.
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