Do you need to be an Air India Elite to get access to Star Alliance rewards?

Last week, I put out my first thoughts on the Air India Flying Returns’ program, after they joined in the Star Alliance. One of my first observations was that it is more expensive to burn on Star Alliance partners than to burn on Air India’s own metal for international travel.

In the comments section, reader Krishnakumar makes a note:

Just spoke to Flying Returns agent over the phone. He says that since I am Base Member of flying returns, I cannot redeem AI miles on Star alliance. You need to be Silver , gold or Maharaja member !

To which I was very surprised. However, today he came back reconfirming this statement:

Dear AJ,

I reconfirmed. FR told me that one has to be Silver and above to be able to burn FR miles on any Star Alliance Airline.

Other than flying AI more, is there any quick way of getting Silver status on FR? Of course SBI AIR India card gives you silver status after spending 5 Lacs which I feel is time consuming and not very efficient way just for getting silver status.(I would rather spend 5 lacs on Citibank PM than SBI) .

Now, this sounds very surprising to me, and if it is true, then it does not sound very right that Air India bars some of their members from gaining access to the Star Alliance inventory. In fact, except for publishing the award charts and routing rules, Air India has not published/updated any terms and conditions to this effect about how Star Alliance earn and burn will work. For instance, there is not even clarification right now if the miles earned on Star Alliance carriers will be elite qualifying miles or just plain redeemable miles.

While I am trying to find out this first hand, I just wanted to check the experience of other readers. Have you heard or experienced the same thing?

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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 AJ,
    FYI, managed to book an award ticket on Star Alliance using flying returns miles, even though i’m a base member.

  2. Hi AJ,
    I have been following your blog for a while now, and i must say i racked up quite a few flying returns miles, thanks to the information i get from your blog. I have got myself both the Citi PM card and also the AI SBI Signature card. Now, coming to the above mentioned report, i tried to redeem some of miles for an award ticket from JNB to NBO on South African Airways yesterday at the AI city office in Hyderabad. The executives there weren’t sure of the procedure for the same, but after a few calls told me that i need to pay about Rs. 8700 in taxes for the award ticket, which i did. But after that they told me that the system is not confirming the ticket even though there are tickets available. Their RM is still trying to figure it out and I’m still waiting to hear from AI.

  3. Let’s hope this doesn’t start a trend considering it’s not a horrible proposition (for them) that the airlines to get more people flying them and/or using their co-brand credit card.

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