PremierMiles Transfer: Air India Flying Returns

Since the devaluation of PremierMiles was announced last week, I am trying to post on all the options available for all of us to transfer into various frequent flyer programs, our hard earned PremierMiles. Yesterday, I wrote a post on Etihad Guest, and today, it is time for Air India’s Flying Returns program.

I’ve covered bits and pieces of the Air India Flying Returns program over the times. Air India joined Star Alliance last year, so your miles on AI can now be used for redemptions on Star Alliance member carriers as well.

On a whole, I find Air India’s program to be an expensive program, in comparison to Jet Airways, which is its only domestic competitor at the moment. Both programs do not charge a fuel surcharge for domestic redemptions at the moment, but airport charges and taxes are the same for both.

However, Air India tends to charge more number of miles for the same segment as Jet Airways, and of course, much more than Etihad Guest. Lets take an example of the Delhi Kolkata segment:

  • Air India charges 11,000 Air India Miles
  • Etihad Guest charges 6,229 Etihad miles
  • Jet Airways charges 8,500 JetPrivilege Miles

The pros of this are that you can book and cancel anytime depending upon availability, however, be aware that you will pay 500 miles as cancellation fees every time, even if you are an Air India elite. Availability on domestic flights is great, and usually seats are open till the last minute.

On international flights, Air India tends to charge fuel surcharges, on their own flights, as well as partner redemptions on Star Alliance. Also, the award chart for Star Alliance redemptions is pretty much inflated! The pain point is, unless you get a real great agent on your phone line, you will most likely have to trek to your local Air India office to be able to redeem a ticket. Also, there is rumour that Air India elites only have access to the Star Alliance inventory. Though, no one I know has been able to confirm this yet, because the Air India program has an inflated chart for Star Alliance redemptions and hence, not my personal preference to redeem on *A using AI miles.

Also, it is much easier to generate Air India miles with the Air India SBI Credit Card, over the PremierMiles Credit Card, because of the ability to get milestone benefits along the way.

My rating is 4/5 for Air India Flying Returns as a transfer partner. I take away 1 point for an inflated award chart, both domestically, and internationally for Star Alliance carriers, as well as the hoops they make you jump for any sort of award redemptions.

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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. @blankverse: I swapped my pm card to prestige just 2 days back and got both miles as well as vouchers. It doesn’t make economic sense for you to swap the card if the miles/ vouchers are not given.

  2. I asked Citi for swapping to Prestige. They say that I am eligible and my PM miles will be doubled, but the welcome miles and vouchers will not be applicable since I am swapping. Is it the norm?

  3. Hi Ajay,

    Could you point me to any resource that would help me figure out the fuel surcharges AI charges on its BOM-DEL-MXP flight ? I am not able to check online, as I dont have enough points of now.

    Thanks in advance.

  4. I think the best part about flying returns is the award availability on air india.
    What good are sweet spots, if there’s no availability when you want to fly. I’m ready to pay double the miles, if there’s last minute availability like there is on air india at times.

  5. Folks I just swapped my PM card into the Prestige Card. After deeply evaluating all the aspects, I feel it’s worth it! Besides I get to double my PM with the transfer! I have a grèat deal! Cheers

  6. @Ajay: Looks like AI isn’t fixated on that “elite member required for *A redemption any more”.
    I almost booked a *A redemption on phone today, stopped just short of ticketing.

  7. I just called Citi and they said if I convert my card from PM to Prestige i would only get half of the miles I have in my PM card so they suggested that I redeem PM miles and then convert

    Is this true?If it is , it is a ridiculous policy from the bank

    • @Maninder you get 1 prestige point for 2 premiermiles in your account. But each prestige point is worth 4 airmiles. I hope this clarifies.

  8. Hi AJ,

    AI Flying returns is not as bad as it looks if you look carefully.. There are many hidden gems in Domestic sectors which offer cheaper redemption than JP or non existent on JP.

    Pune- Goa 4000 miles ,Jammu- Leh 3500 miles ( Tickets from Delhi to Leh are very expensive and Award tickets are difficult to get on AI and Jet. So last year I flew from Pune to Jammu which was Rs 4000 and flew Jammu to Leh using 3500 AI miles.

    On some sectors like Amritsar to Mumbai, you get Economy tickets for 14000 AI miles bur Executive class for just 18500 on some days.

    Ranchi- Mumbai , ( Via Delhi on the same equipment), Bhopal to Pune is also cheaper.

    Secondly,Etihad Guest is not as good as it looks if you look carefully..

    When I asked for Chandigarh to Delhi, Etihad Agent told
    me they can redeem only on 2 flights on this sector even though Jet has 4 flights and JP inventory shows availability on all the 4.

    Secondly, When I asked about Chandigarh to Amritsar , Agent told me that I can redeem miles but can not redeem miles on Amritsar to Chandigarh sector.

    Thirdly, you cannot redeem miles on some of the 9W xxxx for digit flight nos. They told me that according to Etihad these are Code Shared flights with Jet Konnect and hence redemption not available.

    Fourth,as you already know.. miles are not returned back to you if you cancel the tickets.

    So its not as straight forward as it appears.


    • @KrishnaKumar, I am not debating the existence of nice sectors on Air India, and hence while I was tempted to do a 3.5 rating for them, I did a 4 instead. I agree I’ve overlooked the 9wxxxx flights, I will make a note of that now that you’ve pointed it out. But still, on an overall level, I think Etihad is slightly better than AI, as long as your plans are frozen ahead.

  9. Ajay

    I dont have many miles in my PM card may be 15000 miles in balance.

    I am eligible for the Prestige card. Does it still make sense to move to Prestige with the 20k fee.

    • @Maninder i like the prestige card as a whole. 4 miles per 100, a good concierge desk, a lot of status and points that come along by itself. Owing to this, i think this is a great card for the price. If you want, you should take it for the product itself

  10. Hi Ajayt,

    Need your guidance and opinion..

    I have been pondering over the weekend, and I have to come a conclusion that switching to Prestige makes best sense (especially in my case) as I have over 3 lakh miles accumulated in my PM card. So even if I pay Rs. 20 k + taxes and the conversion is 2 PM to 1 Prestige Point (50%), I still end up doubling my miles upon my conversion to Prestige as 1 Prestige Point = 4 Air Miles. Is my understanding correct?

    • @Amit, if you qualify for Prestige, nothing like it! It makes a great opportunity for you to convert you 3L pm to 6L airmiles

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