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It has been a few days of writing extensively about nothing else but
JetPrivilege Intermiles. I wrote a while ago that JetPrivilege was planning to cut away from its 25-year-old history and start afresh. Amidst some other unpopular decisions, we broke the news ahead of the programme about the transition to new brand identity. Today, the programme has been officially launched, and I can tell you a lot more. First things first, your loyalty is now no longer to an airline, but a website. That website is called intermiles.com.
In a press release, JPPL claims that the company has been on an exciting transformational journey over the last five years to expand from an airline-centric programme to emerging as an everyday travel-and-lifestyle rewards programme as discerning consumers have shifted beyond transactional rewards and cashback. As per the same press release, the number of InterMiles managed is 33 billion over the six months ending October 2019. I am not sure if managed means earn+burn total or miles outstanding at the moment.
JPPL states that the name InterMiles suggests the interchangeable nature of the rewards currency where it can be earned and redeemed across platforms including airlines, hotels, dine, shop, fuel, among others, which is the first and fundamental essential shift from being the loyalty programme of Jet Airways to being a stand-alone loyalty programme. The programme also adopts a red colour which is opposite to the blue colour tones seen for years, to adopt its new independent identity. Also, notice the move from being a privilege benefits programme to being a miles programme.
Fundamental Changes in the InterMiles Loyalty Programme from JetPrivilege
The JetPrivilege loyalty programme, at its core, was a loyalty programme of an airline, meant to provide benefits to the customers of the airline. As the Jet Airways proposition went away, InterMiles has focussed on becoming a travel loyalty programme, providing benefits on largely no-frill carriers in India, where network, price and timings are the usual decision factors. This fundamentally alters the nature of the programme from an airline programme to something else. As for the choice of no-frills carriers, they can’t help it. India is after all 80% a no-frills carrier market.
The best part is, as I will share further, the benefits on no-frill carriers come without those airlines prima-facie chipping in anything into the programme. In this, the programme has started to compete with MakeMyTrip Black rather than let’s say Vistara or Air India’s loyalty programme. What does the programme ask for in return? To be loyal to InterMiles.com and its partners, which is very OTA’ish, again.
InterMiles: New Loyalty Programme
The earlier JetPrivilege programme used to give tiers based on the number of miles flown or the number of flights taken with Jet Airways and other airline partners annually. The programme used to look up your 12/18/24 month activity to see if you qualified in any of the three windows and give you the status accordingly.
The new programme now gives you a tier based on the travel and experiences you book with InterMiles as the intermediary or using co-brand spends. The window of evaluating activity is now just 12 and 18 months, doing away with the 24-month window. Activities that count towards earning InterMiles include:
- Revenue Flights purchased on any airline on www.intermiles.com
- Revenue Flights purchased through any booking source, on select Partner Airlines (currently only Etihad Airways), for bookings made in specified booking classes (i.e. ‘RBDs’).
- Spends and charges incurred on InterMiles co-branded credit, debit and corporate cards as communicated by the Programme from time to time. This includes activities such as enrolment bonus, renewal bonus, spends threshold bonus, and plough back InterMiles.
- InterMiles accrued by a Corporate under its Account as a part of the Business Rewards+ Programme
- All other Programme Partner services and benefits booked/purchased through www.intermiles.com or directly with the Programme Partners (such as dining, car rentals and so on)
- All InterMiles purchased under the Buy InterMiles option on www.intermiles.com
- All Bonus activities linked to Qualifying Activities, including but not limited to Tier Bonus and Cabin Bonus.
InterMiles: New Tiers, Benefits & Qualification Criteria
The more InterMiles tries to change, the more it also wants to remain the same. That is why, the core set of benefits of this new programme still drive towards giving facilities to members such as Jet Airways used to do earlier, even if the programme has to pay for these to the service providers. At the core, there are five tiers:
- Red: Earn 10,000/13,000 Qualifying InterMiles in 12 Months/18 Months
- Silver: Earn 15,000/20,000 Qualifying InterMiles in 12 Months/18 Months
- Gold: Earn 40,000/55,000 Qualifying InterMiles in 12 Months/18 Months
- Platinum: Earn 80,000/110,000 Qualifying InterMiles in 12 Months/18 Months
In many terms, InterMiles tries to compensate for the same things it tries to cut away from, benefits at the airport and on-board an aircraft. But unlike earlier where you could use your JPMiles and Upgrade Vouchers to upgrade domestically as well as internationally, everything is now just domestic. Here is a brief snapshot of the benefits.
In this, InterMiles uses some of the ideas of the past, from their Jet Airways days. The elite bonuses remain the same as the days of JetPrivilege, also the attempt to provide a meal, lounge access and seat selection to their members. However, while it was unlimited free earlier, you now get credits for each of these in your account, allowing you to use these benefits a finite number of times a year.
Here are the benefits explained:
- Complimentary Lounge Access will be provided four times a year to Platinum Members and two times a year to Gold Members. You need to book your flight with intermiles.com to avail the benefit. The list of lounges is expansive but only available inside India. You can book lounges at the origin airport as well as transit airport (if the transit is over 90 minutes), but not at the destination airport.
- Complimentary Seat Select benefit offers a wavier on seat select charge when booking either a Revenue Flight or an Award flight on www.intermiles.com. On attainment of a tier, Members will be issued with benefit credits as per their tier entitlement (1 For Red/Silver, 2 for Gold, 4 for Platinum). Members need to be logged-in into their InterMiles Account to utilise this benefit while booking their flights, and can’t use them later. The benefit can be utilised by the Member for any passenger (self or any other passenger not necessarily an InterMiles Member). Each credit of this benefit can be utilised only for flights within India and on a per passenger per segment basis. This benefit must be utilised on bookings with travel date within the validity of the benefit.
- Complimentary Meals on Flights: This benefit waives meal charge when booking either a Revenue Flights or an Award flight on www.intermiles.com. On attainment of a tier, members will be issued with benefit credits as per their tier entitlement (1 For Silver, 2 for Gold, 4 for Platinum). Again, members need to be logged-in into their InterMiles Account to utilise this benefit while booking their flights only. The benefit can be utilised by the Member for any passenger (self or any other passenger not necessarily an InterMiles Member). Each credit of this benefit can be utilised only for flights within India and on a per passenger per segment basis. This benefit must be utilised on bookings with travel date within the validity of the benefit.
- Elite Tier Bonus InterMiles will be earned on Etihad flights and Revenue Flights, Hotel stays, Shopping, restaurant table reservations and tours and activities booked through www.intermiles.com. Platinum Tier members will earn 75%, Gold 50% and Silver 25% of the base miles earned. Earlier, activities such as hotel stays and table reservations and so on only earned miles to spend, and not tier miles.
- 50% Cancellation waiver on Award Flights: This benefit is only extended to Platinum Members. It allows you to get 50% of your miles back when you cancel an award flight four times in one membership period. To avail the benefit, you need to cancel at least 72 hours before departure. This benefit can only be used on non-refundable award flights. However, the convenience fee will not be refunded to the Member on the utilisation of this benefit.
- Discount on Excess Baggage: This is an optional benefit, and the member has to choose to get this benefit into their account if they want it. Available to Gold and Platinum members. Depending on the airline, Gold members will get one upfront discount/waiver of INR 375 on excess baggage, and Platinum members will get two vouchers of INR 750 for excess baggage.
- Complimentary Fuel: Again, an optional benefit, which needs to opt-in. Gold Members get 2,000 InterMiles on opt-in, and Platinum members get 5,000 InterMiles on opt-in, which they can use only towards fuel redemption at IOCL petrol pumps. Essentially, one could get free fuel worth up to INR 1,250 with this benefit.
- Discount on Hotel Booking: A third optional benefit, which allows you to get a discount on a hotel stay if you were to opt-in. Gold members will get an INR 1,000 discount on INR 8,000 hotel stay (or over), and Platinum members will get an INR 2,000 discount on INR 12,000 hotel stay(or over).
- Etihad Airways benefits continue to be offered to Silver/Gold/Platinum members.
Credit Card Partnerships
The credit card partnerships all remain, at least for now. ICICI Bank and IndusInd Bank have already renamed their Jet Airways co-branded cards as InterMiles cards, for instance. American Express and HDFC Bank still have not, as of November 14, 2019. The new programme replaces the Jet Airways discounts with discounts on Etihad Airways tickets (10% for J and 5% for Y, booked via intermiles website), and a higher number of miles for Etihad Airways bookings made via the intermiles website. Platinum members continue to get the cards for free.
There are no longer any free ticket benefits on these cards, but there is an offer to get miles back on international redemptions via cards.intermiles.com. I am not sure if this is a one-off offer or will be ongoing at the moment.
Flights earning and redemption
JPPL continues to confuse us with how do they decide which trip will get how many miles. For instance, have a look at this screengrab below, where the same price on the same day gets you different intermiles.
In terms of redeeming miles, JPPL has removed their slabs, and just clubbed it into two chunks: Standard Flights and Flexi Flights. The standard flights look like the baseline option and the Flexi flights, are well, just a name to get higher miles for the same route.
For instance, have a look at the following ask for a Delhi-Mumbai redemption, where the baseline miles cost 8,000 InterMiles instead of earlier 8,500 JPMiles. The second section of Flexi Flights says you get Flexi Flights at 15,000 InterMiles onwards, and the redemption goes up to 35,000 InterMiles.
Same thing for all the other routes I checked. All the flights continue to be non-refundable, and you cannot cancel or change these flights at all.
The Core Changes
With the programme moving away from the hands of an airline, to a website which is mainly akin to an OTA, the programme tries very hard to keep a sense of familiarity and change at the same time. Like I said earlier, this is more about miles than privileges. Then, the change starts from cosmetic ones such as colour and name. It tries to remain more of the same by trying to re-invent the same benefits one had on Jet Airways, but on no-frill carriers. However, due to cost aspects, these benefits are limited and not unlimited.
The most significant setback, however, is that you are forced to plan much for things which were a given in the earlier programme. For instance, let’s say I was planning to head to Delhi from Mumbai for a meeting. Later, I’ve decided I’d attend a friend’s wedding over the weekend as well, and will now need excess baggage. Also, while I was planning for the trip, I was going to eat lunch before getting on the flight. Now, I need to decide weeks or days in advance if I’d like to use my meal benefit on the plane. Also, does it mean I get a sandwich or a cookie jar, we don’t know. I think JPPL needs to add more functionality here than what is currently offered to amend bookings later, in which they need a stronger partner such as Cleartrip or MakeMyTrip than Easemytrip.com which is presently powering their backend. Last but not the least, while the miles were changed over to InterMiles, the upgrade vouchers outstanding have disappeared.
Overall, I think an honest attempt from JPPL, but there needs to be a lot more to make this work.
What do you make of the new avatar of JetPrivilege, now called InterMiles?