Last week, I wrote about how Air India is working to make upgrades cheaper using the Air India Flying Returns frequent flyer program. One of the comments I received on the post was about Air India shutting down the program after the sale,
Ajay – This may be a bit tangential to the topic on hand, but till when do you think will AI be around?
In other words, is this last chance saloon for burning AI-FR miles earned via flying or cc spend?
If you feel AI liquidation is imminent in say, next 2 quarters or so, then a guidelines post as to how best get the value out of AI-FR miles would be greatly appreciated by many.
This is a legit question in the face of the current scenario with Air India, however, I’m happy to state that basis my current assessment it is not a concern. Let me explain:
- Loyalty programs are a trove of data and patterns. Anybody who would acquire Air India would want to crawl through this data to see how an Air India customer operates and customise things for them and make customer delight happen. Remember the time JetPrivilege actually sent birthday miles to everyone unexpectedly? Or those one-off upgrades on Emirates that everyone I know receives ever so often based on your profile.That.
- You know how mileage programs are profitable, right? JetPrivilege was carved out of Jet Airways and sold to Etihad Airways. In this case, Air India Flying Returns with 2 million members as of last year, is the second biggest program in India. Assuming that Flying Returns will be sold as a part of the airline, I’d assume it will then move to become a mileage factory just like JetPrivilege did after the carve-out from Jet Airways.
- The theory we profess about marketing programs such as Flying Returns or JetPrivilege is, that they drive behaviour. Personally, I give a disproportionate share of the business to Jet Airways all the time due to the fact that they have a network fit for me, along with the Etihad partnership, and hence I choose them over others most of the times.
- Air India won’t be spending so much time making the program likeable by people, such as the current discussion about upgrades being made easier with Flying Returns, only to shut it down later. Imagine the number of people who will cry hoarse.
The first and the third reasons are perhaps also the reasons why Indigo is considering launching a loyalty program of its own.
So, basis all of these pointers, in my assessment, Air India’s Flying Returns is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. The new owners may have new ideas about how to run the program or may want to change the valuation of the points and so on, but they are definitely not shutting down the program, not without notice, and your miles won’t be worthless like Kingfisher overnight.
What do you think about the fate of the Flying Returns program once Air India changes hands?