When it comes to loyalty programmes, the trends have moved mainly towards airlines offering the members of their loyalty programmes more availability compared to other carriers which they may be partners with. This is done because the airlines want to reward the loyalty of their members who may have accrued miles for a redemption ticket over the loyalty of members of some other loyalty programme where they don’t engage with the member.
For instance, you can only book the Air France La Premiere First Class experience as an award ticket if you are a Platinum or Ultimate tier member of Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue Loyalty Programme. However, we are witnessing a different take in India, which I’m scratching my head about.
Is Vistara offering more seats to other airlines for redemption over their loyal members?
This trend was discovered purely by chance, but I’ve been working on this for many days to establish that it is the way it is. I was looking to book a redemption ticket on a route where Vistara has 15 flights a day, and Vistara turned nought on every one of these flights regarding award availability for its members. For days at a stretch. And as you can see, there is no availability across Economy, Business or Premium Economy for so many days in a row.
But try your luck booking the same ticket with United MileagePlus, and voila, you will have availability open up for 14 out of the 15 flights on May 20, 2023.
Now, admittedly I first thought I got this wrong. So I asked my friend, who was looking for a seat, to transfer some miles to United and see if it worked. It did (that is where the 15th flight zeroed out). It ticketed for him very well.
And I also looked at the GDS via ExpertFlyer. Even here, I saw that there were 14 flights on May 20, 2023, available for redemption in Economy Class (at least one seat). Except, none of these seats was available to their own members.
This was not an isolated case. I also went through other routes to check on the availability of Vistara customers versus the customers of United MileagePlus and Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. While the availability for SQ KrisFlyer always matched the availability for Vistara’s customers, United MileagePlus always seems to have more seats available for redemptions.
This brings me to ask a question. Why is Vistara undercutting its member base who are looking for redemptions in a high-fare era but providing that availability to other carriers who will pay cash for it? I don’t fathom many people wanting to use their Club Vistara points to redeem for United flights. Still, I expect people arriving in India on United or other airline redemptions to use their United MileagePlus miles to travel around with a United redemption. So, there would be a cash inflow in the business if Vistara provided more seats to United MP members than United provided to Vistara members.
Club Vistara has not been offering seats to their own huge loyal member base for redemption tickets. However, they have been offering a tonne of availability to their partner carriers, who arguably pay cash for these tickets. This is the reverse of a global trend where airlines gate their award availability for their members to an extent to make them feel privileged and provide fewer seats to partner airlines.
What do you make of this move by Club Vistara, and what are your thoughts on this?
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