Monday evening we will know what will be the new Club Vistara program looking like. So, we are only a day out from the grand unveil. The other day I asked to listen to your views on what will change. Now here is my turn to put my guesses on the table.
- No differentiation on fare classes for facilities: Air Vistara will continue to offer the new Club Vistara program privileges regardless of fare classes booked to customers. It is an easy low hanging fruit for them since they are a comparatively new airline, taking on two big airlines in the space (Air India & Jet Airways). Jet Airways recently started limiting benefits on various lower fare classes, which has people angry at their reasoning.
- Introduction of a Platinum Tier: When Vistara launched, they were new off the block. So, it worked very well for them that they only launch 3 tiers for their loyalty program. Now, they’ve achieved some scale, having flown 2.5 million passengers, they would start feeling the need to offer a Platinum Tier. Also, remember, the Gold Tier is easy to achieve now with the credit card, where they’ve bundled it with the Axis/Vistara Credit Card, so now they need to add a new tier to make a true top-tier.
- A move to miles, from revenue-based accrual: At the time of the launch of Air Vistara, it looked like a great idea perhaps to put out money as a measure to loyalty, but pure money measures are only being used with non-legacy carriers such as SouthWest & JetBlue. Legacy carriers (read full-service carriers) are still giving weightage to the miles travelled model. Even JetPrivilege went pseudo Revenue-based but still uses miles as a measure of the amount of business. Also CV points right now don’t align with the models of burning, where Club Vistara still needs to put out a table of points to burn, rather than doing a straight forward revenue-linked burning.
- Upgrades for elite tiers: One of the key feedbacks I’d provided to the then CCO of Vistara was that the program did not allow their road-warriors who are largely housed in Economy an opportunity to sample their Business Class product at all. Now, there seems to be some sort of soft criteria for upgrades, and I do see people upgraded time to time, but I’d expect the airline to launch some sort of upgrade instruments to come in line with the market (AI & Jet both provide these vouchers).
- Introduction of flight count for loyalty (re)qualification: Simply put, on a limited route network for Vistara, they have seen the phase where people have sampled the airline and the initial curiosity has died down. Now, to drive repeat business, which is the purpose of a loyalty program, they need to start looking at the number of flights as well, to ensure people who do a lot of short sectors with them don’t get deprived of the loyalty stickers and benefits. I mean, imagine a guy based in Varanasi, doing perhaps a weekly Varanasi-Delhi flight with them in Economy. If he planned his trips well in advance, he may still not be getting to even Silver tier due to the short route and the pricing on the segment.
- An Invite-only Tier?: This is something that airlines around the world have done, such as the United Global Service and American Airlines Concierge Key. Members get meet & assist services and a top-tier agent line who can move the rules around to accommodate them. The Concierge Key was a key character in Up in the Air, along with the protagonist Ryan Bingham. In India as well, while Air India provides Meet & Assist to the political class, Jet Airways has a running list of members who are accorded Concierge services (earlier called Meet & Assist). This includes notable personalities, who are welcomed at the airport and escorted to the plane and so on. Like British Airways’ Special Services. With the invite-only tier, Vistara can create that exclusive halo around their brand, by reaching out to people who influence travel budgets, by giving them an above-the-top experience.
- Free Cancellations: I expect this benefit to come to the Platinum & Gold Tier, where Vistara adds flexibility to the plans of various top-tier members by giving them flexibility to reschedule and cancel tickets. This is already a benefit for JetPrivilege Platinum members, and Air India Gold & Maharajah tier (albeit for a small cost of INR 200)
I think there will be three set of changes in the new Club Vistara. New top-tiers & invitation-level tier will come in. New Perks will come in for members such as Upgrades and Cancellation Waivers. And the requalifications will be made faster, such as on miles flown or flight counts.
What do you guys think? Still some hours to go before the new version of Club Vistara is out.