In 2014, Air India joined the Star Alliance. The airline first integrated their network with Star Alliance, and in February 2015, they started offering Air India miles redemption on Star Alliance member airlines using Air India Flying Returns. Initially, it was only possible to walk into the Air India office to make a booking. Then, they were able to issue tickets on the phone as well.
Here is the currently valid Air India miles redemptions award chart for Star Alliance airlines. Like you would note, Air India uses a complicated crossover of a Zone-based chart with a distance based-chart, which makes you have over 60 categories.
One of the member projects for Star Alliance member airlines was to bring online redemption capabilities across the 28 member airlines by the end of 2018. The clock has been ticking for Air India along with other member carriers who don’t provide such a facility yet, and Air India has finally met the deadline this past week. Life was made easy by Star Alliance developing tools to provide a centralised inventory to all member carriers via their digital toolbox.
Now, you can use your Air India miles to redeem your tickets across Star Alliance member airlines. You need to log in to your Air India mileage account, head to the section Pay with Miles, and then search for tickets. Check the Search for Star Alliance member airlines instead of Search for Air India option.
The second option will nevertheless show you Air India flights as well if available. But in a lot of cases, you will find the tickets to be very expensive as compared to Air India’s redemption chart. Like, here is a look at the Air India redemption to Europe v/s Lufthansa on the same day. You will notice that redemption prices double, and First Class is never shown, at least in the many searches I made since I discovered the Star Alliance redemptions being enabled.
While the USA flights from India are pretty ok with a 25% markup, the starkest difference in miles required is on the European segments, where if you wanted to opt against Air India’s metal, you would have to pay double. Have a look above. Below is an example of United to the USA available for 100K miles in Economy, while Air India would have given you their metal for 80K miles.
But there are also good use cases, which Air India always keeps promoting, given that the inventory is available aplenty. For instance, the intra-USA flights on United for 5000 miles.
Remember, Air India charges INR 1000 per segment they issue, so if you did a longer flight over two to three segments, you would get a higher bill.
On the minus side, I think the website is still evolving, so the ability to show connections is limited, or perhaps non-existent at the moment. Only direct flights show up, and the connections don’t. Best to call and book those.
On the plus side, it is a start, and I don’t have to wait up to book smaller itineraries on the phone. Kudos to Air India for booting up this redemption set up.
Have you booked Star Alliance flights using Air India Miles Redemption? What has been your experience in booking these?