A while ago I wrote about the maintenance you need to make on your Air India account to be able to redeem miles going forward. While that is one of the new security features that has been introduced by the airline, there are quite a few changes under the hood which are also taking place, and in line with the change list that was shared earlier this year as things to be expected.
Travel Points introduction
Like I indicated in this post, Air India is looking to introduce a segment count/tier points kind of system going forward, where you can qualify not just on the basis of number of miles earned, but also on the basis of segment count or perhaps travel in higher class fares. While the system is not officially announced, I notice that I can now see my travel points on my profile. I would expect an announcement soon on the system of Travel Points.
Number of miles accrued changes
Here is how you can earn miles on Air India flights from December 1, 2015. If you are buying a very cheap fare (E class), you get 10% of miles. If you are buying a full fare economy ticket, you get 100% of miles flown on domestic flights and 125% on international flights. If you book a full-fare business class ticket, you get 200% of miles flown and so on. Have a look at the chart below:
For reference, this is the earlier chart for accruals across Air India flights (simpler and much uncomplicated). While this is not a direct way to go to revenue-based accrual, it indeed is a step back in time, even further back from the earlier 2013 program perhaps. In this case, the 500 mile minimum, on a cheap E-class fare perhaps only nets the member about 50 miles.
This change makes them move towards revenue-based earning (again!). For Economy fliers, JetPrivilege trumps because they offer a minimum of 100% miles to passengers on flying Jet Airways and code-shares
Expiry of miles changes downwards
Under the old-program before December 1, 2015, the expiry of miles was due at the end of 3 calendar years after the year of earning. So, for instance if you earned miles in January 2015, you could hold them till December 2018. Here is how it was stated in the T&C:
Flying Returns miles shall be valid for redemption during the year of accrual and three subsequent calender years. For example: Miles accrued in CY 2013 shall remain valid upto 31st December 2016,accrued in 2014 upto 31st December 2017, accrued in 2015 upto 31st December 2018.
Now, under the new program, miles will expire 36 months from the date of earning. This is slightly lesser than their peers at JetPrivilege, who offer 13 quarters to miles expiry and not on a monthly basis, which could get slightly messy!
Cost to reinstate expired miles goes up 600%, but still nominal
Earlier, expired miles costed INR 0.1/mile to renew for a full year from the date of expiry, however you had to go to the office of Air India to get it done. Now, you’ll still need to go to the offices of Air India, but you will need to pay INR 0.6 per mile, and you can extend only for a 3-month period, not a whole year. However, with the 9-months period now coming in within which you could do this, the net timeline is the same of
New Base tiers introduced: Primary Active
Earlier, the privileges of an Active member were activated once you took your first flight. Then you could earn miles via all sorts of ways and you could spend for upgrades or mileage tickets for your family/friends/anyone else. This was the trap that allowed the notorious travel agents to literally steal miles from their customers who fly Air India. Air India now fixes it with a new proposition, comes in Primary Active.
You become a Primary Active member when you credit your first flight. You can earn all the miles you want here on, but you can only redeem them for your own upgrades and mileage tickets issued in your own name.
When you credit 5 flights, you become an Active member, and you can use your miles for upgrades for anyone.
Purchase cost for miles goes up 25%
Earlier, you could buy miles for topping up your account at INR 1/mile. Now the cost goes up to INR 1.25/mile. However, the limitation that you can buy only 50% of the mileage balance in your account stays as it is.
Miles for buying tickets directly on the Air India website largely go up
Currently, you earn 500 miles as a bonus to book directly on the Air India website or mobile app. This changes here on, with a bigger bonus for business class travellers, and people flying abroad with Air India, as compared to domestic flyers.
Upgrade vouchers cannot be transferred anymore
In the Air India scheme of things, a Silver tier member used to get 1 domestic upgrade voucher, a Gold tier member 2 domestic upgrade vouchers and a Maharajah used to get 3 domestic upgrade vouchers. These vouchers could be transferred to anyone you chose so far, however this has changed with immediate effect. New vouchers to be issued here on will be valid for your own use only and have no option for a transfer of the voucher.
Child members can be registered within 2-12 years age
A new hidden feature which does not find mention on the membership website is that members between 2 and 12 years of age can now earn miles with Air India Flying Returns. This makes them the second Indian program after JetPrivilege to offer child memberships.
Air India has been offering the ability to pool miles with your spouse for a long while, but a family membership is not in the wings it seems.
These are some of the changes I could spot on the new Flying Returns terms & conditions. I’m sure there are more coming!
What do you think of these changes, readers? How does this affect your situation? What would be your mileage accrual strategies on Air India going forward?