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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Very well needed article Ajay. Thank you for addressing about it. There’s no doubt Vistara has been indulging in such unethical practises by pushing it’s own loyalty members into the sidelines. In peak summer season for May June some sectors like BLR-IXC(one of the highest priced revenue ticket sector) have been closed off for awards booking by Vistara. You’ll only see availability from 1st July. Also, for other sectors like you mentioned even when searching a month in advance, it’s almost impossible to find an award ticket availability. This is definitely going to affect their co branded card business, as I myself am planning to close both my co branded cards from Axis and SBI, before next renewal date as the vouchers are going to a waste.
Very good observation. I have for reasons mentioned in this article stopped using axis vistara card for last two months at least . Also even business class vouchers have started going waste. May be they have issued too many free axis vistara cards. I am anyway platinum member but that doesn’t help the cause.
Vistara is terrible in customer service and their Club Vistara Loyalty Program. They offer points and Vouchers but nothing is available when you need it. They don’t know how to delight their customers and that is why people don’t generally give a premium for Vistara over other airlines such as Indigo which is doing way better business than Vistara even without a loyalty program. Infact most Tata Group companies are like this, they Resort to unfair practices and intentionally block availability for promotional cases.
This is true, even i witnessed same. Trying to book redemption seats 3 months in adavance doesn’t have seats.. this is scam by Airlines.
It’s frankly shocking that they would deprioritise their own customers like this.
To all the fools here, let me tell you 1 simple thing. I don’t want to go into technicality but vistara and United or Sq or any of the partner airlines for that matter use different sections of the seats called RBD’s in airlines terminology. So it may have been sold out for vistara but United miles can still be redeemed. Same goes for vistara miles being used for redemption in Sq or UA etc
Hey Siddhant, thanks for name-calling, which I will probably ban you for later. But the RBD for redemptions, Economy Class in Vistara, are X. The same flow to United and Vistara, and other airlines which might have access. So, there, I went into the technicalities. So, now, who is the fool. Me or you?
The biggest fool himself is Mr Siddharth Acharya who cannot appreciate the work of the Author. Pity on him!
Ajay – I think you have created something beautiful – a forum for people to discuss/ share their views on something so different (until a few years back at least) – credit cards, aviation, lounges etc. There are uncivilized “I know everything” type people everywhere (and those fools have the audacity to ,name-call. others). Good to see that the discussion didn’t get bogged down. I just hope you let this person continue long enough to let him know how irrelevant such name calling is.
Now on the main topic – even I have experienced this especially on some trunk routes. Even when I tried booking tickets for May 4.5 months in advance using vouchers that were extended, I found just 1 business class seat to be available for for BOM-DEL for almost all of May. For return – some flights had 2 seats available, others 1. I did not know why. But based on this article – I’m assuming Vistara was giving away that seat to partner airlines.
I have been observing a trend that whenever there is a huge demand for any sector or peak season for the flyers which similarly has massive pricing then the Vistara cuts downs the quota for that particular sector even though if I am searching for around 2 months in advance. This is very unfortunate…
Simple solution – earn on SQ KrisFlyer. Get the best of both worlds – Star (inc Air India) and Vistara, and it beats the revenue based system of Vistara all day long!
Coming back on topic, this seems like a simple money grab from partner airlines. How are mileage liabilities recorded in India? Are they balance sheet?
It does seem bonkers that partners get better access but then this is India, where the likes of Jet Airways had their own branded lounge in Brussels of places but nowt within India!
Expect more of this. Extremely common with SQ due to internal versus external cost of miles.
I have actually contacted regarding this to Vistara.
What they told me was they have specific quota assigned to different airlines which is paid by that airline.
Here United is giving option to redeem points for the same flight however this is not an award flight of vistara.
Thanks for bringing up this topic. While Vistara’s service quality might have improved but the treatment of their loyal members is worst in getting enough seats available for redemption or moles upgrade for the nonrevenue bookings etc.
Basic question- I see that the united points requirement is 9600 points and on Vistara points it is 5000 points.
Eventually Vistara will get more points through united. Is it still apple to apple comparison ?
@Jas, Vistara is not in the business of collecting United Points. They will get paid cash for the ticket.
Well, Rather than handing out DEL-BOM Economy ticket at 5k Vistara points, Vistara is able to sell in Cash at a much better price to United who in turn is able to charge 9.6k United Miles which is over 200% in money equivalent to 5k Vistara Points. Win-win for both airlines who found passengers paying a much higher price for the same seats.