Air India Upgrade Awards become (very) expensive!

One of the use for Air India Flying Returns miles was to apply them on Upgrades for domestic flights. About three months ago, one fine day, Air India decided to change all the nuances of their frequent flyer program. While the award charts for AI and Star Alliance redemptions went up crazy, one of the changes was also on the ability to apply your miles for an upgrade to your ticket for a seat in a higher cabin.

I’d almost forgotten about this little nuance, till I was going through FlyerTalk today, and I noticed this incident:

wanted to upgrade a del-hyd flight the other day & ai now wants 17.5k miles for the upgrade….it used to be 4.5k miles earlier so now its almost 4 times the amount….

So I went over to the Flying Returns website, where all they say about redeeming for upgrades is:

Flying Returns members can also redeem miles for upgrading the eligible paid class tickets in domestic and international network of Air India. The miles required for economy to business class upgrade depend on the RBD/Booking class of the Economy class ticket to be upgraded and range from 60% to 190% of normal economy class redemption miles for that sector.

Sure enough, there was no way to find out the number of miles to redeem on the website. Amusingly, it costs 20,000 miles to book a redemption ticket in Business Class, so I am wondering why would someone want to pay money, and then also pay 17,500 miles to upgrade to business class when they can pay slightly more and just redeem for business class directly.

Another problem that comes apart from the lack of transparency on how many miles required for upgrade, is the fact that Air India wants you to go over all the way to the city office to get an upgrade processed, while they could have done it on the phone before. Wonder what causes that change of heart?


Air India has lost the edge. While they should have been focusing on rewarding frequent flyers who are sticking with them in spite of their bad reputation, their continuous tantrums as an airline and so on, they are just pushing them away by making it very difficult to redeem their miles in a reasonable fashion. Perhaps they should stop claiming the false slogan that they are the World’s Most Rewarding Airline Loyalty Programme, and change their copy to this:


What do you think about the recent changes to Air India Flying Returns? I am still getting to the bottom of this pit.

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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. i already commented in one of the blog that it is one of the worst program with very bad customer care.

  2. While the number of miles required for an upgrade is crazy, if you are booking via the call centre on an unpublished rate you should be careful. Couple of days back I was booking a first class ticket on redemption class and while I knew it costs 2L miles the executive on the phone kept its 2.32L miles. It took atleast 10 minutes for him to find out the correct miles required even when the flying returns website clearly states the number of miles required.

  3. @AJ
    I agree with you!
    A business class redemption from Del-Bom needs 20k miles whereas it requires 17.5k for an upgrade. Why will anyone upgrade in that case. And there is no reason why a person will ever buy an expensive fare on Air India.The number of miles have also been increased for SA. For a business class redemption, it asks you for more miles than Singapore Airlines need for a First Class redemption.

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