Loyalty programs are a popular strategy used by bigger brands especially in the hospitality sector to retain customers. When it comes to airlines, these are referred to as the Frequent Flyer Programs or Frequent Flyer Miles or Frequent Flyer Rewards based on where you are. Which brings us to the question, what are frequent flyer miles? Traditionally it was a loyalty program meant to reward flyers who flew frequently with a particular airline in the form of miles which they could reimburse as free or discounted flights and some other facilities as lounges access etc. Though it is an old, tried and tested concept across the globe, there are only a few players in India offering the said Frequent Flyer Reward Programs making it a very small club indeed. A big reason for the same might be the limited number of full service airlines operating in the market and the frequent price wars between the low cost carriers. Though no such program is ideal for everyone, choosing the best which matches your lifestyle, sector and the benefit it offers can help get you the best returns in terms of redeeming meaningful returns.
A common misconception is that you have to be a frequent flyer with the airline to gather enough Miles (points). However with the increasing use of co-branded frequent flyer cards, partner offers as well as the availability of schemes to buy miles, it has now become easier to stack up your points even if you don’t fly regularly with the airline in question.
Frequent Flyer Programs in India
- Flying Returns by Air India
- Jet Privilege by Jet Airways
- Club Vistara by Air Vistara
Run by the old guard of the Indian Aviation, Air India, this is probably the oldest FFP program in India. Being a member of the Star Alliance, it does offer a bevy of benefits with the Star Alliance Partner Airlines across the globe. However the issue with this particular program is that the service isn’t as good as the other private players and the avenues to redeem miles/points is limited.
Being the biggest full service private airline, Jet Airways, it has perhaps the most successful Frequent flyer program of the lot. The number of ways to accrue the points is also quite solid with partnerships across industries from cobranded frequent flyer credit cards to tripadvisor to partner hotels and restaurants. That it has flights all over the country and has the bandwidth to redeem points across a huge basket of partners makes it one of the best such programs in the country. However because of its popularity cashing in the miles to book flights also becomes difficult especially during the holiday season. However it is more of an inconvenience than a proper issue with the program.
The newest player on the block and hence will take time to create the network of partnerships as with the earlier player. However customer service is top notch and it allows for a scheme called status match wherein if you’re a higher tier member of another airline, you can apply for a similar/equivalent tier for club vistara as well. The biggest advantage is the lack of competition, redeeming flights is generally a breeze compared to the other more popular programs and it also offers more points for flights with higher fares (given that it calculates the points based on the fare and not distance). The biggest issue with the program is however its partnerships. It has just 2 international partner airlines and it is not possible to redeem points for anything except flights which make it difficult given the limited routes it currently operates on. That said, it is a new entrant in the market and the program should only grow with time.
Read: Best Budget Airlines
Given how easy air ticket booking has become with the advent of smartphones and the customer synergies between the travel industry, hospitality and retail, it is prudent to invest time in selecting a good customer loyalty program to be a part of. It is a thriving industry in the west where these programs have evolved over time to become a stable industry and with the exponential growth of air traffic which the country has seen, it will only get better.
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