Club Vistara Update: validity of Points and Vouchers extended; tricky one on Status assessment!

In a bid to keep their most engaged travellers together, most airlines and hotel chains have been very generous with their moves to make sure they come back to them once travel starts again. While there are tonnes of brands to talk about, on the hotel side, IHG, Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott are a few important ones which have extended status and points expiry. In terms of airlines, while many airlines are extending status (all the American majors, Delta, American, United and other airlines have already granted their member one more year of status for free).

In the Indian context, Club Vistara was the first to move, however with a holding pattern back in the day. Vistara had stated that they would stop assessing status for members between March 18 and April 30, 2020. Right after that, they were grounded, so obviously, this was useless as points continued to expire in the process.

Air India, which made an announcement later, decided to keep all point expiries on hold and status expiry as well till August 2020. Similarly, InterMiles has stopped all points expiry till July 2020.

Club Vistara will extend the validity of Points and Vouchers.

In a late-night announcement from Club Vistara, the programme has announced that it is going to extend the validity of all points and vouchers issued to Club Vistara members.

If your vouchers are expiring from March 25, 2020, onwards, Vistara will reissue one-class upgrade vouchers and complimentary tickets issued to customers (co-branded cardholders, status members and so on), valid for four months after they begin operations. Similarly, if your CV points are expiring, you get new points valid for four months after Vistara starts operations again. One-Class Upgrade vouchers issued as a promotion won’t be renewed.

There are pros and cons to this approach. Pro is that the date is four months out for using them. Cons are that you don’t know if you are based in a state where the lockdown gets extended, you don’t know how you get to use them in the new situation as well. And with a short timeframe to use the vouchers and points, there would be many people who would come dissatisfied at the end of this four-month period. For programmes which have kept their expiry periods longer, or have a policy of not expiring points, I don’t foresee this problem happening.

Also, like someone pointed out, this approach is not a catch-all. For instance, if Vistara starts operating on May 4, to use the example, and someone has points expiring on May 5, tough luck then.

Club Vistara will freeze status expiry till September 30, 2020.

Club Vistara has also extended the status of everyone whose status expires between March 18 and September 30, 2020, till September 30, 2020.

While I am appreciative of this approach, there is a massive problem, which I hope Vistara realises. Vistara does not follow a calendar year approach towards status assessment, so when Vistara opens the floodgates of assessing customers who would not have started travelling again, it will make them lose their benefits for no fault of theirs. On the other hand, Vistara is already headed into a sea change of how their programme tier assessment will work, so that will be no good to customers as well.

In the case of status, it would work better if Vistara took the new programme forward by a year, if not less, and follow a carry forward approach or a straightaway extension approach. They need to give everyone more time to qualify for status again and push forward the difficult path to status, given the 2021 proposal was designed for when the long-hauls would have started. In the current scenario, I’d imagine Vistara would focus on getting back their domestic network back in place before they put the widebody to work outside of the country.

Also, as the ex-CSCO of Vistara would have put the Golden Rule at Vistara,

Do unto others, as you would have them do to you

Unfortunately, the current line of thinking looks otherwise. With Vistara having given up their lounge at Delhi Airport, Vistara has just struck that line out of their website material, and there is no assurance about how will that benefit be replaced. This is similar to how Vistara quietly walked back on meet-and-assist when Platinum tier was launched, however, no one used to implement it at their stations.

Bottomline

Vistara has finally moved on a situation that needs to be addressed; however, more needs to be done in my view. The current solution is not the one that encourages people to behave responsibly; instead, is one which assumes they need to get back on a plane at the earliest as the lockdown ends. I see how that helps the airline, by encouraging people to use their points and vouchers and retain status at the earliest.

However, not the most responsible thing to do. Business travel will take time to come back, and the first people to get on a plane will be the ones who are stuck away from home, as a couple of cousins of mine who are away from their home due to a family emergency at their parents’ end-March. But if the way China is to be used as a roadmap for travel, after surging back to 30% of previous demand, but the needle isn’t moving any further.

What do you make of the current exceptions at Club Vistara?


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