Big changes to Air India Flying Returns: Child Membership introduced, upgrade transfers stopped, new base tiers

A while ago I wrote about the maintenance you need to make on your Air India account to be able to redeem miles going forward. While that is one of the new security features that has been introduced by the airline, there are quite a few changes under the hood which are also taking place, and in line with the change list that was shared earlier this year as things to be expected.

Travel Points introduction

Like I indicated in this post, Air India is looking to introduce a segment count/tier points kind of system going forward, where you can qualify not just on the basis of number of miles earned, but also on the basis of segment count or perhaps travel in higher class fares. While the system is not officially announced, I notice that I can now see my travel points on my profile. I would expect an announcement soon on the system of Travel Points.

Number of miles accrued changes

Here is how you can earn miles on Air India flights from December 1, 2015. If you are buying a very cheap fare (E class), you get 10% of miles. If you are buying a full fare economy ticket, you get 100% of miles flown on domestic flights and 125% on international flights. If you book a full-fare business class ticket, you get 200% of miles flown and so on. Have a look at the chart below:

Screenshot 2015-12-02 12.25.00

For reference, this is the earlier chart for accruals across Air India flights (simpler and much uncomplicated). While this is not a direct way to go to revenue-based accrual, it indeed is a step back in time, even further back from the earlier 2013 program perhaps. In this case, the 500 mile minimum, on a cheap E-class fare perhaps only nets the member about 50 miles.

Screenshot 2015-12-02 12.28.00

This change makes them move towards revenue-based earning (again!). For Economy fliers, JetPrivilege trumps because they offer a minimum of 100% miles to passengers on flying Jet Airways and code-shares

Expiry of miles changes downwards

Under the old-program before December 1, 2015, the expiry of miles was due at the end of 3 calendar years after the year of earning. So, for instance if you earned miles in January 2015, you could hold them till December 2018. Here is how it was stated in the T&C:

Flying Returns miles shall be valid for redemption during the year of accrual and three subsequent calender years. For example: Miles accrued in CY 2013 shall remain valid upto 31st December 2016,accrued in 2014 upto 31st December 2017, accrued in 2015 upto 31st December 2018.

Now, under the new program, miles will expire 36 months from the date of earning. This is slightly lesser than their peers at JetPrivilege, who offer 13 quarters to miles expiry and not on a monthly basis, which could get slightly messy!

Cost to reinstate expired miles goes up 600%, but still nominal

Earlier, expired miles costed INR 0.1/mile to renew for a full year from the date of expiry, however you had to go to the office of Air India to get it done. Now, you’ll still need to go to the offices of Air India, but you will need to pay INR 0.6 per mile, and you can extend only for a 3-month period, not a whole year. However, with the 9-months period now coming in within which you could do this, the net timeline is the same of

New Base tiers introduced: Primary Active

Earlier, the privileges of an Active member were activated once you took your first flight. Then you could earn miles via all sorts of ways and you could spend for upgrades or mileage tickets for your family/friends/anyone else. This was the trap that allowed the notorious travel agents to literally steal miles from their customers who fly Air India. Air India now fixes it with a new proposition, comes in Primary Active.

You become a Primary Active member when you credit your first flight. You can earn all the miles you want here on, but you can only redeem them for your own upgrades and mileage tickets issued in your own name.

When you credit 5 flights, you become an Active member, and you can use your miles for upgrades for anyone.

Purchase cost for miles goes up 25%

Earlier, you could buy miles for topping up your account at INR 1/mile. Now the cost goes up to INR 1.25/mile. However, the limitation that you can buy only 50% of the mileage balance in your account stays as it is.

Miles for buying tickets directly on the Air India website largely go up

Currently, you earn 500 miles as a bonus to book directly on the Air India website or mobile app. This changes here on, with a bigger bonus for business class travellers, and people flying abroad with Air India, as compared to domestic flyers.


Upgrade vouchers cannot be transferred anymore

In the Air India scheme of things, a Silver tier member used to get 1 domestic upgrade voucher, a Gold tier member 2 domestic upgrade vouchers and a Maharajah used to get 3 domestic upgrade vouchers. These vouchers could be transferred to anyone you chose so far, however this has changed with immediate effect. New vouchers to be issued here on will be valid for your own use only and have no option for a transfer of the voucher.

Child members can be registered within 2-12 years age

A new hidden feature which does not find mention on the membership website is that members between 2 and 12 years of age can now earn miles with Air India Flying Returns. This makes them the second Indian program after JetPrivilege to offer child memberships.

Air India has been offering the ability to pool miles with your spouse for a long while, but a family membership is not in the wings it seems.

These are some of the changes I could spot on the new Flying Returns terms & conditions. I’m sure there are more coming!

What do you think of these changes, readers? How does this affect your situation? What would be your mileage accrual strategies on Air India going forward?

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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. Hi. How are we suppose to pool miles? There is no option to add spouse name in flying returns login.

    Kindly advise.

    Thanks and Regards.

  2. Excellent summary.
    The Primary active status is a total surprise. It’s not listed anywhere. Can you provide details on the qualification time period? And where on the profile does it show current status on flights to go to reach Active?

    BTW their award booking engine has not been updated for this Active/ Primary Active status. The other day my wife decided to use my points for a local award for herself. She was able to book herself a free ticket. Her cc has been charged for the taxes. She has a Booking code also but the reservation DOES NOT have a ticket number!! We were confused.

    Your blog just helped me connect the dots & the mystery of the missing tkt number is finally solved! I discovered I am “Primary Active”.

    Will AI issue a boarding pass against a paid PNR that is missing a ticket number on travel date and honor the PNR?

    Thank you.

  3. Hi Ajay,

    Thanks much for sharing the details. It is a definite heads-up while Flying returns program is now in the middle of a revamp.

    However, I visited Flying returns website, I could not see any of this info listed there (except the new Miles accrual structure). was wondering if there a separate link in their website that lets you see all this. Or, did you get to see them after you logged in post KYC formalities?


  4. No detail is available on AI website regarding “Primary Active”. I have completed 5 flights in the last 2 years but my status is still Primary Active. Is there some time frame to this 5 flight rule.

  5. Hi, Has anyone had any success with KYC. I had filled in the details on 2nd and am still waiting. I had done it for all my family members and none of the accounts have been validated. Getting across to AI is a pain. No luck with the call centre yet.

    • Its going to take loads of time. If you are planning to travel soon or if you escalate it, just send a passport copy of yours to can look it up from their website). If everything goes right, they verify your account within 3 working days.

  6. I’m done with Air India — the new Indian Railways…

    I’ve flown the airline extensively over the last 18 months and quickly figured out it had only two things going for it — Dreamliners on the domestic sector, and an attractive frequent flyer programme. The Dreamliners have been replaced by the creaky 321s, and the frequent flyer programme has now become a joke.

    Getting AI to do what it was supposed to — accept your status and ship you a kit, issue a lounge card each time you check in, refund tickets on a charge of INR 200 per sector — is a huge pain. The airline is most reluctant to do this and makes you feel like a criminal for asking for benefits which automatically accrue to you on most other airlines. I had to call all sorts of people to get them to ship me the Gold Card and the kit, months after I achieved that status.

    The airlines operations are another story — delays, surly crews, non-functioning in-flight entertainment, non-reclining seats, torn upholstery, filthy loos, rickety planes.
    It was worth putting up with all this pain, and dealing with SBI (which is up there in PSUness with AI — a marriage made in heaven) only for the FF programme. Using and SBI card to book tickets, I was able to collect about 350,000 miles and redeem 156,000 for two business class tickets to Rome in July.

    Now the same tickets would need 360,000 miles, which is really not worth it. AI tells me this is worth it as now there is no cash component to be paid on reward tickets.

    The cash component was only INR 25,000 on each ticket, so it still does not justify the 1.5 times increase in the miles required.

    Time to pull the plug on this white elephant and guzzler of my tax rupee.

  7. Air India Devalues all it”s redemption drastically. Increases it more than 100% . Absolutely Gutted !! They have done this without giving any time to members . Worst Airline , Worst new CEO !

  8. @theflyingsikh, that is because they have done away with YQ (fuel surcharge) on international flights. However i could see them raising miles required otherwise too.

    They have also removed last min upgrades (<4 hrs) , wherein one could upgrade for 50% of mileage required.

    All in all very disappointing changes introduced none the less.

  9. @AJ,
    Hi, do you have any idea that when will Air India’s FFP systems be upgraded. I have been calling them for 3 days in a row but the answer is ‘they don’t know’. I uploaded the documents as requested by them,but I am yet not able to redeem my miles.

  10. The latest mileage earn and burn rates are SHOCKING!

    450 miles to earn on the lowest booking class for a Bom-Lhr one way
    90 miles to earn on the lowest booking class for a Bom-Del one way

    90,000 miles to redeem a one way Bom-Lhr in Business. Before these recent changes it was 50,000 miles for the same journey.

    Think Air India hates frequent fliers.

    No thanks, But Thanks Air India.

  11. Miserable! Absolutely gutted an already stingy earnings chart, and with the costliest redemptions domestically.
    I think members can shift to a *A partner. United or SQ or even Turkish?
    What do you think?

  12. Hi
    Another really good post. Any idea on what’s happening to their redemption charts, I am going they don’t change. I noticed business class ticket Delhi Italy delhi on dream liner is just 78000 miles and I would like to take that next year!

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