Vistara changing qualifying criteria for elite tiers from 2021

When Vistara launched its loyalty programme back in 2014/15, the airline became the first domestic carrier in India to move to a revenue-based system of earning and assessing elite membership. Then, the CCO, Giam Ming Toh, who was on deputation from SQ, had told me that Vistara had made a conscious decision to ensure their fliers were not just flying enough with them but also giving them enough revenue, and also because this is the way airlines would operate in the future. True enough, all US-based carriers went for revenue as a parameter since then. Delta was the only one who had announced their move to revenue back in 2014 w.e.f. from 2015.

Singapore Airlines itself has a revenue-oriented programme, apart from KrisFlyer, called the PPS Club. The Priority Passenger Service (PPS) is for passengers who have accumulated S$25,000 worth of PPS Value within a year. PPS Value is acquired while flying Singapore Airlines Suites, First Class or Business Class on Singapore Airlines, or Business Class on SilkAir. Think of it as SQ’s above-the-top-tier recognition, just like British Airways has the Gold Guest List, American has the Concierge Key and so on.

Vistara, over the years, has reassessed the programme a couple of times. First, they added the Platinum Tier back in 2016, which I think was consciously left out on launch day to be able to offer another upgraded elite tier later. Then in 2019, the airline changed the perks you get with the tiers and the upgrade requirements on the induction of the 737 and launch of their international operations.

Now comes their most significant change to date. Vistara has notified members that from January 1, 2021, Vistara will be changing the qualification criteria for earning the various tiers at Vistara.

For reference, the current criteria to qualify for the various status tiers on Vistara are:

  • Silver: 15,000 tier points or 20 flights
  • Gold: 25,000 tier points or 30 flights
  • Platinum: 35,000 tier points or 40 flights

Vistara’s notification states that come January 1, 2021, members will be able to (re)qualify for Vistara tiers when they made it compulsory to have tier points as well as a flight count necessarily to earn status. The new requirements to earn status are:

  • Silver: 15,000 tier points and four flights
  • Gold: 25,000 tier points and six flights
  • Platinum: 35,000 tier points and 8 flights

In this requalification requirement, Vistara states, as is the rule, that Economy Lite fares get no tier points but just a flight count. Also, the 4/6/8 flights need to be flown necessarily on Vistara itself (not on codeshare partner airlines) to ensure you get your status. Here is the screengrab from their mail last night.

In doing this, Vistara has moved the goalpost from attracting frequent economy class domestic passengers or frequent regional passengers to focus on frequent long-haul passengers or frequent short-haul business class passengers. I hope you can re-read that sentence to figure out the nuance of how Vistara has played its hand right now.

With the new programme qualification guidelines, here is how much money you need to spend ex-taxes on Vistara to be able to earn or retain the status:

  • Retain Platinum: INR 318,181 (roughly INR 3.2 Lakhs)
  • Upgrade Gold to Platinum: INR 350,000 (INR 3.5 Lakhs)
  • Retain Gold: INR 250,000 (INR 2.5 Lakhs)
  • Upgrade Silver to Gold: INR 277,777 (INR 2.8 Lakhs)
  • Retain Silver: INR 166,666 (INR 1.7 Lakhs)
  • Upgrade Base to Silver: INR 187,500 (roughly INR 1.9 Lakhs)

First and foremost, I can’t be thankful enough for Vistara giving everyone 11-months notice towards this change. Let me add some perspective to this:

  • Vistara needs time to change their IT systems
  • Vistara, per their communication, want to make their tiers more value-based

Is this a devaluation? I don’t think so. Is this a process of elimination, yes. With one swoop of the pen, Vistara is ensuring that they limit their ranks of Gold and Platinum members to a select few, those who do pay for their higher-end fares. This is very much in line with the American standards of airline loyalty now, and Vistara is signalling that the programme is going to account for long-haul revenue as well, as this year they start operating their medium to long-haul flights on the Boeing 787-9 and the A321neos as well.

With this move, Vistara has levelled up with Air India, where you need to earn a certain amount of revenue to be able to get into the Golden and Maharaja Tier ranks. UK’s earlier loyalty journey was based on their level up with JetPrivilege, which was India’s most significant loyalty programme and their prime competitor. With JP out of the way, they don’t need to worry about providing big perks for small money.

If you requalify anytime during 2020, you still get to hold on to the status for one-year. Also, the contracts Vistara has to provide complimentary Gold Tier with other partners such as Axis Bank stay for now. Will this change? I don’t have access to their agreements to be able to comment on that. One thing is for sure. There will be soft-landing for those who don’t qualify.

But with significant revenue ask comes great load on the airline to provide loyalty benefits worth sticking around. Air India is tardy in this department. Vistara Platinum is just about a tad bit incrementally better than Vistara Gold at the moment. The perks need to vastly enhance when the request to spend (much) more money to garner status is coming in. Do I want them to offer me a unicorn every time I am at the airport? No. But I want stuff such as same-day standby on another flight being computerised rather than me having to queue up at a counter precisely one hour before the flight and then run through the security check to get on an earlier flight. I also want a lifetime loyalty programme where I don’t have to bother about this stuff once I’ve given 5-7 years of loyalty to the airline.

Is this a cost-cutting move coming through as a change? Maybe that was the starting point, or perhaps that is the result, but yes, there will be lesser people to reward at the end of this exercise unless everyone decided that perks were so crucial that they would be willing to fly to the UK/Tokyo to retain them. Business Class flyers anyways don’t need the perks since they get access to (almost) all the perks when they fly J.

What do you make out of the changes to the Vistara frequent flyer programme which will be set in 2021? 

Comments

  1. @Ajay

    I think you’re ignoring the fact that Eco-Lite tickets on domestic flights don’t get any tier points. Effectively, the required spending would be even higher than the the one’s you’ve posted here, if somebody is in the habit of booking eco-lite fares as well.

    • @Aayush if someone is “in the habit” of booking eco-lite tickets then they should forget status altogether or upgrade their ticketing habits to standard at least.

  2. Great article Ajay.
    Personally disappointed with the new changes. Assuming an average Eco ticket cost of 6K, one would need close to ~55 flights to maintain Platinum. Not sure if that is worth the effort. I guess Axis Vistara Infinite becomes more important in the current context.
    Maybe a devaluation / fee increase of the card is next

  3. Good thing Vistara gives 1 yr for changes to kick in but equally true with current network it eliminates most traveling economy on domestic circuit. They need to atleast spread out network to give everyone fair chance . Will take 30 – 40 domestic flights on UK domestic every yr but they want 35K tier points that not possible to match untill flying Business . I think this is a very good write up, sums up intent of the CV program. Only anomaly currently are the Cards .
    With the current benefits i guess i cant extract much value & will not chase Platinum tier for 2022, not worth it.

  4. Retrograde step. Vistara barely has connections beyond their hub in Delhi and a few connections out of Mumbai. If you are not based in Delhi and fly mostly domestic, retaining Platinum will be very tough.

    Also, Platinum in Vistara doesn’t provide many of the benefits Jet used to provide. One can’t block exit/front row seats during web checkin and Vistara never upgrades customers at boarding gate. These used to be standard features with Jet. As for the lounge benefit, most people now have credit cards to avail of it.

  5. Hi,

    Should people who enjoy CV Gold status thanks to Axis Infinia card be worried? We were told that gold status wil remain as long as we hold the card.

    Thanks,

    • Guys ,

      got the below mail from Vistara

      Dear Sir,

      Greetings from Club Vistara!

      In regards to your query, please note that CV members with Gold tier by virtue of their Axis Infinite Card will stay unaffected of the recent updates. Every year as per the renewal of the credit card the tier will be renewed to CV Gold.
      Please feel free to write to us in case of any further queries.

      Warm regards

      Bearer of happy news

      Club Vistara

      Now, it makes even more sense to own a credit card that offers a gold membership than worry about planning your flights to maintain gold status. In my view, which flight we book, ceteris paribus, should be guided by price alone.
      Thx
      Gtm

  6. No qualms against the direction Club Vistara is heading towards, but I feel that Vistara could’ve gone ahead with this development after creating a more robust network. Ex-HYD, my travels on Vistara’s current network barely puts me in Gold, in terms of segments flown. Add a service to BLR & MAA, I’d quite comfortable make it to Platinum, even with the new critera by throwing in a few premium economy segments here and there.
    My days of gunning for status with domesic flying are over I guess.

  7. It’ll be interesting to see how they treat the Card partnerships which both come with Tiers as part of the package. It makes the cards more valuable should they retain the feature. If the thrust is to make the program more exclusive, I don’t see the card features lasting.

  8. I feel this is highly undervaluing the loyalty of customers who fly very frequent, short sectors in economy/premium economy. As you said – only frequent business class flyers would realistically be able to attain this status. This renders working toward status rather pointless.

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