2021 has been a roller coaster of a year in terms of travel, or the lack of it. Given the year has been practically useless, at least for those of us in India, in terms of travel, I thought it would be hard to keep up with my travel loyalty. However, I just thought of putting my update out there, and hearing from all of you about your loyalty strategy as well. Let’s go in the order of airlines, hotels, and anything else left. Today, it’s time to talk about airline status.
In terms of airlines, I do have Air Vistara, right on top as one of my preferred airlines to fly across India. Having earned Platinum status with them a couple of years ago, after Jet Airways went under, I was on track to making it again when Covid-19 hit. Last year, Vistara, however, extended status for a year, which means I have it till October 2022 now to earn back my status with them, for now. After that, they also change their evaluation criteria to focus on higher paying customers, offering them Platinum status with effect from 2023 onwards. So the frequent customers in the back of the bus won’t be feeling the love any more.
For me, the key perks of Vistara Platinum were the Priority Connect phone line, and the no-fee reschedule features. Free seat assignment also comes along, and I have not used the FlyEarly feature recently. However, I am on the fence about re-earning status with Vistara, given their recent nickel and diming approach and making loyalty a one-way street.
I have been a BA Executive Club Gold for about eight years now, and before that, I used to keep American Airlines Executive Platinum status. Since there are no oneworld airlines in India, and travel abroad is not possible for now, I am not sure how this year will pan out for my British Airways status. The good thing is, British Airways has already extended status till December 31, 2022, so hopefully, I’ll get a year of using the status and earning it back sometime soon. This will give me access to the perks of British Airways Gold and oneworld Emerald on other members of the alliance.
Perks I keep my BA Gold status for is First Class Lounge Access at BA and other oneworld member carriers, apart from excess baggage and priority handling.
A couple of years ago, with Jet Airways gone, I took to Emirates for some of my travel outside India (given Vistara is still in its infancy with the global network map it intends to create). I managed to fly enough to get to Silver with them. Since then, the status has been extended till January 2023.
Emirates Silver gives me a complimentary seat selection on the airline, apart from extra baggage allowance and Emirates Business Class Lounge Access in Dubai. Not just that, as a part of the Your World Rewards collaboration between Emirates and Marriott, Emirates Skywards Silver, Gold and Platinum members earn 1 Skywards Mile per USD 1 spent on top of Marriott Bonvoy points on all eligible stays at participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels and resorts worldwide.
Etihad was my go-to carrier back in the day for many trips when Jet Airways was around, and thanks to their collaboration with Citibank back in the day, I’d also received Etihad Gold status. Since then, Etihad made a move to grant statuses for two years and also a soft landing was put into place. I’ve since been downgraded to Silver, and status extended for the time being, given the pandemic. But I received an email from them for a new Gold Status granted complimentary. I still haven’t had any opportunities to use this status, though.
However, suppose I get around to using this status. In that case, I’ll be able to use the Etihad Business Class lounges with a guest and get priority boarding and fast-track immigration and baggage.
I’ve received United Mileage Plus Silver status as a part of being a Marriott Titanium Elite and part of the Rewards Plus partnership between Marriott Bonvoy and United. Marriott Titanium Elite and Ambassador Elite members receive United Mileage Plus Silver status, allowing for Complimentary access to Economy Plus at check-in, Complimentary Premier upgrade confirmation as early as the day of departure, one complimentary checked bag so on.
Shipra and I have been visiting Shipra’s parents, where the only connectivity we have are SpiceJet’s 737s, IndiGo’s A320family and Alliance Air’s ATRs. By whatever stroke of luck, somehow, SpiceJet has been the one getting the best scheduling for me for some of these trips, and hence I’ve been flying them despite their broken planes sometimes. Consequently, I enrolled myself in their SpiceClub programme, and I now have a few flights credited on them. So, now Shipra and I are both SpiceJet Silver Tier members. Not sure if that is a badge of honour or what exactly is it?
I signed up for a Delta Platinum status match in 2021, but despite my best effort, I could not hang on to my Delta Platinum status, which was granted to me for three months, which means I am a Delta Silver in 2022. I could look at it again when global travel opens up, but for now, this is it. I only had one trip over to France, which I put on Delta, and the rest of my Skyteam plans kept falling apart, including the plan to fly over to the States. At least my EQM was carried over to 2022!
The good news is that despite being a lowly Silver, Delta will give me access to many perks, although deep down in the pecking order. Such as complimentary upgrades, but after Diamond, Platinum and Gold Medallion members. Also, I get to check in a free bag.
As soon as I knew that my Skyteam status was not going to be retainable, though, I also signed up for the ITA Airways Volaire Programme and asked them to provide me with a Status Match, which they did. They also signed up with SkyTeam. As a result, I will continue to retain status on SkyTeam top tier whenever this status goes live.
While I am a Vistara loyalist, I am also an IndiGo loyalist of sorts. I will also give Air India a fair chance in 2022 if I am flying that way after the Tata Group has acquired the airline. Since their own Flying Returns programme is horrible, I used the long-standing Singapore Airlines promotion to offer elite miles for mileage transfers to earn myself Star Alliance Gold. While I was on the fence about this, I jumped on it when the airline offered a 15% bonus. Star Alliance Gold will give me lounge access plus, hopefully, early boarding in India.
Where do you stand with your 2021 airline status, and where do you see yourself heading in 2022? Also, any tips for me to improvise what I am doing?
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Ajay, why don’t you ditch Vistara status and go for KrisFlyer. My understanding is that it is pretty reciprocal. So when you fly the Maharaja or Vistara, you credit to the same pot. Granted you may miss out on upgrade vouchers, etc (I’m not too familiar with Vistara scheme) but significantly pumping up your krisflyer balance would get you a SQ long haul redemption more frequently in one the best first class cabins in history. Especially when Corona finally dies down…
would you be also doing a review/strategy of your credit cards?
I can add my experience of Swiss Airlines.
I am member of their loyalty program “Miles and More” of Star Alliance. Since the beginning of the Corona mess, I travelled so many times (19 times) outside Switzerland that they offered me the Frequent Flyer Silver card (valid till 2024), which allows me to use the Business check-in and the Business lounges even if I fly Economy. And I also earn some more miles. Miles can be added when using other Star Alliance companies like Turkish or Egyptair. Since 2020, flight dates can be changed free of charge. Fortunately, a lot of countries like Turkey, Mexico, Egypt, EU states, Dominican Republic don’t have flight bans, so we can enjoy travelling in these countries.
Since autumn 2020, Swiss planned flights to India, trusting the always repeated fake promises of the Indian government to “extend the flight ban until the end of the month”, but after a while they got tired of that.
I had the Jet Airways loyalty card, the best loyalty program in India, but they went bankrupt (I could use my last miles by booking a hotel). I also have the Air India Flying Returns, but I renounced to use it even before the superstitious terror, because the system is much to complicated for an awerage brain like mine. It took me many hours, with the help of a Air India employee, to enrol by giving my electricity invoice, maybe my shoe size and I don’t know what else, and I receive from time to time an email of Flying Returns, so long that it would take me hours to read and understand with the help of an Indian friend. Fortunately Air India is also member of Star Alliance, and if we are allowed again to travel to India in a few years, when senior citizen shall stop dying of old age thank to the vaccine, I shall earn Indian miles again, like in the good old time I travelled 5 times a year to India.
Let us not loose hope.
Thank you Ajay for your very useful informations.