I am not sure what has gotten into Air India as they are one of the only Airlines that are moving towards consumer-friendly policies and not against it. It’s a big deal for Air India whose program Flying Return felt bogus program for last 2 years. I went on record to point that please shut down Air India (white elephant of Indian economy)
Air India has only 1225 Platinums (that is a very small number for a country with over billion People). The reason is that very few people felt any sympathy and loyalty towards Air India. Thier customer service has been on news mostly for wrong reasons. They are not mileage based airlines either. The Airline is on sale (Govt is calling active disinvestment) and their aircrafts condition is woeful (maintenance even for new aircrafts).
Finally, Air India decided that before sale they might make few loyal customers. I am not sure if the new buyer would ever be interested in running the program as it is. For short duration, what should have done very early is being done now. Making Flying Returns a strong program that people feel they should invest into. It’s a huge step in the right direction.
Let’s dive into new changes
This is one of the features of Jet Airways that allowed consumers to create their Jet Family and pool their miles together for a requirement of award tickets.
So, you can count the following family + extended family into your common mileage pool:
- Your kids
- Your Parents
- Your Parents-in-law
- Your Siblings
- Your Spouses’ Siblings
Jet Airways’ family pool allows max 7 people, and only one degree of separation (yourself, your parents, your spouse, your kids). That means your parents-in-law or your spouses’ siblings are not eligible to pool into your account together.
Air India allows pooling of 9 people and allows you pool spouse family with your account. That means you can pool – in-laws into your account. I am not sure who would be willing to do that but in theory, it is more generous than Jet Airways.
2. More miles per flight
Air India has notified a new earnings proposed chart on their Flying Returns website. Most of the proposed changes will be enabled by November.
Ticketed Point Mileage (TPM) – Ticketed Point Mileage is calculated by International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is defined as the distance between an origin point
and destination point using direct, non-stop sector miles (not kilometers).
Like you would notice, the chart is pointing upwards for most fare classes. The lowest miles earned is going to be 25% of TPM and it goes up to 120% of TPM in Economy.
3. Award ticket becomes Cheaper
Air India will massively cut down the number of miles required for first class upgrades. They used to charge between 150% to 175% of miles required for an economy redemption for Business Class to First Class, now this should go down between 33% and 99% going forward, depending on the RBD of the ticket you have purchased.
And this even works better for Economy to Business Class upgrades, where the points required will be much lesser as compared to the current requirements.
The intention is now to reward more expensive ticket holders with cheaper rewards and the cheap ticket holders with expensive upgrades, however not costing more than the cost of one redemption in this case. Back in the day, before the program was reinvented, the requirements for a redemption used to be at a flat 75% miles for Economy Redemption. Air India has also adopted different fares policy as rest of the partners. As I pointed out here, Jet Airways has been doing the same thing for a while but they are going in opposite direction.
The sweet spot is usually buying Classic Fares tickets and then getting upgrades vs buying Saver class and paying more miles for upgrades for net positive effect.
Also, an Economy to Business Class Redemption in India would go cheaper to a topmost 100 percent of Economy Class Redemptions. They earlier used to charge a whopping 190% for an upgrade.
Now, Air India has capped Economy to Business Class redemptions at a 100% of miles. That makes awards seats way cheaper. It is much easier to get upgrades now especially on long routes.
Clearly, there is a push towards making Upgrades affordable to the Flying Returns members.
3. Penalty for Date Change on Award tickets
For the all positive changes, Air India had to take something back too.
Earlier, Air India offered a free ability to do a date-change on your redemption tickets. If the new dates you wanted to travel on had availability, you could have it for no charge. The process would take less than five minutes.
Now, however, Air India is introducing a new Date Change Penalty on Award Tickets as of November 1, 2017. As per a recent communication from Air India:
- If you want to date change on domestic sectors, you will need to pay 20% of the miles required equivalent in cash.
- For international sectors, you will need to pay 10% of the miles required equivalent in cash.
Seats on the new dates would be subject to availability, of course. And you need to contact Flying Returns at least 72 hours prior to travel date to be able to reschedule your tickets. The fees are payable using a credit card on the phone itself, or offline at the ticketing centers of Air India. Remember, This is still Air India. Their web interface is still in 1990s. You can’t expect to do everything online.
If you want to cancel your ticket, the penalty still stays at 20% of miles deducted for travel.
Air India is trying to direct behavior here. Their observation is that people book tickets and then cancel them later due to their inability to fly, and this causes significant loss of time for Air India which has to manually process a refund of those points. Ofcourse, why would Air India allow you to completely handle your own travel plans? Most airlines have space for online booking where it’s easy for people to handle their tickets.