5 reasons why it is a good time to be earning airline miles in India right now

I often get asked about how to score a mileage ticket, but I don’t get asked as often about how to earn the miles. People think miles are earned only by flying, something that has changed over the years. Miles can be earned with so many activities, and every activity counts towards your goal for that reward ticket.

So stay with me for a moment and let me build my argument. As someone who has been travelling for a lot of years (maybe not as long as some of you who have been flying since I was in my diapers!), I’ve noticed a genuine shift in the way airlines have moved from rewarding loyalty to withdrawing all the perks to putting them back in there. For instance, there was a time when airlines would be generous with lounge access, then it just became bare minimum, and now it is back to a bit of generosity again. So, expect them to be giving more in this competitive environment.

  • Airlines have restructured their mileage programs to be more giving. JetPrivilege is entirely restructured, and I wrote a post about that yesterday. Club Vistara we still don’t know the whole deal yet. I would expect a restructuring of the Air India program to be less miserly as well sometime soon.
  • Co-branded Credit Cards are a major source of miles now. You have some very generous products in the market such as the Air India SBI Credit Card, which give you upto 90,000 extra miles just to spend INR 10 Lakh per annum on their cards.
  • There is a big market out there emerging for secular mileage earning cards in itself. The Citibank PremierMiles, Citibank Prestige, HDFC Diners Club cards are some examples of this. The beautiful part of this arrangement is that you get to use the miles on partner carriers, when you want and how you want them, so you are not locked into one carrier for your spending, unless you really like them.
  • Miles are not just earned from flying or spending on credit cards anymore, there is at least one debit card product out there, and I am sure hoping there will be more.
  • We can earn miles with a lot of other activities as well. Shopping, eating out and having a mutual fund account or test driving a car are just a few of those activities.

So, there you go. I’m sure there are a lot more reasons to be in the game right now, but these are my top 5. There are enough ways to earn miles for doing things you would anyways have done, so why not take that kickback off the table by restructuring your way of doing things a bit.

What do you think of starting to earn your miles now?

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. @Shipra, it’s 16k worth of Indigo vouchers and 10k worth of Taj, so effectively 26k, i.e 6.5% 🙂

    Anyway, it’s not about percentages as such. I’m already Silver on Jet and will probably become Gold soon, but that’s all because of my international travels (more so because of Etihad and Malaysian actually).

    For domestic, I value the arrival/departure time and on-time performance far more than anything else. So far Indigo hasn’t let me down. 🙂

  2. @Shan – Getting 16k worth Indigo vouchers for a 4lakh spend equates to a 4% return. This is what the other cards like Citi Prestige offer; earn 4 miles for every INR 100 spent.

    To share with you my own experience, I vouched for Indigo until last year and then they charged me for 1 kg extra baggage for a box of sweets last Diwali. I have never flown them after that and changed my I loyalty to Jet.

    In hindsight it was a great decision, because in 8 months I am silver and just 2 flights far from becoming a Gold. The best thing is that as a Silver I do get upgraded to business occasionally.

  3. I travel to US at least 4-5 times a year on official trips paid by my employer.

    I consider myself a budget traveler, and constantly seek value for money. I really can’t spend 10L on credit cards in a year. Based on my research and cost of tickets, unless my company is paying for the tickets, I definitely avoid both Jet and AI. If one can plan a little in advance, both Go air and Indigo are always cheaper. Even among the last minutes fares, indigo is a shade better.

    Here is my recommendation/personal opinion for someone like me:

    a. Avoid both AI/Jet cards, since low cost airlines are usually cheaper with consistent service. Also, using cashback cards (ex: HDFC platinum) gives a better value for money than airline cards.

    b. Always prefer an US based airline FF program, given the no fuel surcharge scenarios and generous award charts. Even flying domestically, see if you can use earn AA/United miles on Jet flights.

    c. Travel overseas to exotic locations (not london/paris/tokyo) thanks to the consistent award charts of US FF programs. Just look at American’s India-Europe award chart, you can travel from Kochi to Ivalo, finland for 20K one way and only pay airport taxes.

    d. Focus on hotel points instead of airline miles with the ongoing promotions (Accor, CC, IHG), in a manner that money spent should be significantly less than value received for a future holiday.

    I have traveled to 12 countries in the last 5 years using this strategy, along with my wife

  4. @Rohan: There are many out there who like you, don’t like to fly AI but still have the card.
    Two reasons for having the card: One is that it arguably has the best earning potential of any Indian credit card out there, especially so with the devaluation of Citi PM.
    And second, Star Alliance redemptions !

  5. I would’ve agreed with Shan until a couple of months back. But of late not only has Jet revamped its FF program, but also their rates have become a lot more competitive compared to IndiGo. I have always stayed away from AI because of their frequent delays & hence haven’t applied for the AI SBI card.

  6. I agree AJ, though I have to say that unless you travel internationally frequently (not many do!), you’re essentially stuck with only 2 options, Jet and Air India (Vistara doesn’t have enough network to count as an option, but it’s getting there). Both of these in my opinion are unnecessarily expensive and their value does not justify the price. I personally always fly Indigo or GoAir because their product is great (superb on-time performance, flight times which match my schedule) and comes at a good price, almost always cheaper than AI or Jet. Another reason for flying Indigo is because the Amex Platinum rewards card gives 16k worth of Indigo vouchers on a spend of just 4L per annum.
    All in all, if I compare with the US, I think we Indians on a whole have skipped the “Up in the air” miles hungry generation and directly gone to low cost, no frills gen Y. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

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