Air India is on a hyper mode with more changes to their frequent flyer program coming than the ones that can be digested in one go. In the past few days they have announced (but not implemented) a lot of changes to the FFP:
- A Family Pooling feature coming up
- Upgrades on flights to be cheaper using miles
- Air India will give more miles for your flights
However, there is another change coming and this is not good for the consumers. See, 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.
So, for example, you are travelling Mumbai-Delhi. An Economy Class redemption costs 10,000 miles on Air India metal. So if you are not able to travel on your desired date and want to move the date, you would now pay INR 2000 (20% of the number of points) to be able to move your ticket around. If you were travelling Business Class on a redemption ticket which costs 20,000 miles, the change penalty would be INR 4000.
Similarly, on travel abroad, you’d pay 10% of the cost. For instance, if you wanted to reschedule your flight between Mumbai and London which would cost 80000 miles in Business Class, you’d have to pay INR 8000.
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 centres of Air India.
If you want to cancel your ticket, the penalty still stays at 20% of miles deducted for travel.
Air India is trying to direct behaviour 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.
I don’t think this is a bad move, and Air India is well within their right to charge extra for a reschedule done once the ticket is issued. This is a standard practice in some other airline programs that I can recall, such as Delta and AAdvantage. What I don’t like is the part where it is not a fixed INR fee but a % of the number of miles. So, those flying further pay more.
However, elite tier members in other programs are still afforded the flexibility to rebook without a fee, and I hope Air India takes that into account as well when implementing the new policy. As of now, no mention of it on the notification they have put out for members.
This is a good move for Air India if they are trying to reduce the number of people taking away award seats and then deciding not to travel or travel another day. Remember, award seats are always limited and hence if one person is not using them someone else may have had them originally who needed them more.