• Air India plans to release a completely redesigned loyalty program in early 2024 to match the carrier's global ambitions.
  • The merger with Vistara will bring new infrastructure to Air India, attracting loyal Club Vistara customers and expanding online services and agreements.
  • The redesign could include opening more Air India tickets to customers, allowing redemptions on all group airlines, and exploring partnerships beyond the Star Alliance.

Buried deep in the news around Air India's rebranding was an interesting note that the carrier will release a "completely redesigned loyalty program in early 2024."The Flying Returns program has long struggled with modernization, transfer partners, and earning opportunities, as well as complicated redemptions. However, the airline hopes to change that and will have some new infrastructure at its disposal.

Club Vistara meets Flying Returns

Early 2024 coincides with the merger of Vistara and Air India, bringing Vistara's far more advanced Club Vistara infrastructure under the flag carrier's umbrella. Not only will this bring tens of thousands of loyal customers to Flying Returns, but it will also open the door to using existing online services and expanding agreements. While neither carrier's platform is perfect, they have their strong suits.

Air India was cryptic in its statement, stating, "A completely redesigned loyalty program in early 2024 that will enable thousands of new redemption possibilities."This could be a nod to redesigning the booking platform to open more Air India tickets to customers, allowing redemptions on all group airlines (AI Express and AIXC) or partnerships beyond the Star Alliance.

Air-India-3 (1)
Photo: Air India

There is no confirmation of the program collaboration. However, members of Club Vistara received an email in April saying that nothing will change for now and their interests will be maintained in any new structure. Meanwhile, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson has also said Flying Returns needs a revamp to do justice to the carrier's plans. Simple Flying has contacted Air India and Vistara for comment and will update this article once one is made available.

Earning and spending opportunities

Any change to Flying Returns will have to begin with the earning opportunities. Currently, you can only earn from flights and credit cards, although the earning ratio of the latter means redemptions are always in six figures for roundtrip long-haul tickets. The program will have to add hotels, retailers, and travel partners and remake the mileage requirements to succeed in an alliance with 25 other airlines indirectly competing for miles.

This, in turn, will help improve redemptions, clamping down on the proliferation of miles currently occurring. At the least, we can expect parity between prices charged by partner airlines and Air India for the same redemption, with improved availability across the board. Features like sector-wise ticketing and punitive miles deductions for cancelations should also be removed to make the program competitive.

Love learning about points and miles? Read more of our loyalty news and guides here.

Vistara Airbus A320
Photo: Airbus

Vistara could be noted in this regard, given its strong availability and reasonable prices in economy for long-haul redemptions. However, each program has different economic considerations, and Air India's alliance partnership means it will have to carefully balance opportunities to remain profitable as well.

What do you think about Air India's upcoming loyalty program? What changes do you want to see? Let us know in the comments.

  • Flying Returns Tall
    Flying Returns
    Participating Airlines:
    Air India
    Air India