08 May 2017 15:07 IST

Miles to go before you fly high

Based on the airline and the calculation method, miles are added to your account

Many airlines have come up with lucrative options to lure customers through their Frequent Flyer Programme (FFP). By allotting airline miles, they are offering freebies and a chance to travel free by redeeming these miles. Should you take the bait?

Reward points

For starters, airline miles are basically loyalty programmes, wherein an airline traveller accumulates certain amount of miles based on the distance travelled or the money spent on the air ticket. It is similar to shopping with a credit card, where you get points on purchases, and after accumulating minimum points, you can redeem them.

However, the miles credited to your account vary with the airline and their method of calculation. Take Vistara Airlines, for instance, where the air miles are calculated based on the ticket price (exclusive of taxes and other charges) and cabin class rather than the miles travelled. Air India, in turn, calculates air miles based on the sector (domestic or international) chosen and the booking class (economy, business or first class). Also, you can receive or transfer miles to your family or friends which, in turn, could be used to either buy tickets or upgrade to a higher cabin class.

You get bonus miles if your cabin class is higher. For instance, Jet Airways’ Jet Privilege has a five-tier membership — Blue, Blue Plus, Silver, Gold and Platinum — while flying returns (FR) by Air India has four tiers. You get an additional 25 per cent bonus miles (for domestic) if you are a silver grade member. The higher the class, the better are the services — complimentary cabin upgrade vouchers, priority check-in, baggage allowance and lounge access.

Know it well

Membership of Frequent Flyer Program of Air India, Jet Airways, Etihad Airways is open to all individuals above 12 years and across nationalities. One can enrol by fulfilling the KYC procedures and, upon completion, a unique number is provided that can be used by the member while booking tickets.

After the journey, the miles are credited to your account. You need to fly a minimum number of times to earn airline miles (from the respective airline with which you hold membership). For instance, with Jet Airways, to redeem, you need to record a minimum of 5,000 miles . In the case of Air India, you need to fly minimum of five times to use your FR points.

You also get air miles credited to your account if you take another airline across domestic and international borders, provided the flight has a code-sharing agreement with the membership airline. For instance, Jet Airways has partnered with many airlines such as Etihad Airways and Air France. You can also add miles to your account by staying at designated hotels or using specific car rentals such as Hertz.

However, if you are not a frequent flight traveller, you can still earn miles by using credit or debit cards having tie-ups with the airlines. For instance, Jet Airways has a tie-up with HDFC Bank to offer Jet Privilege credit card where you get four JP miles for every ₹150 spent. Similarly, on American Express card, for every ₹100 spent, you earn six JP miles.

What’s the catch?

The minimum air miles required to get benefits are quite high. For instance, if you fly Jet Airways, in a classic economy one-way flight from Delhi to Mumbai, you earn 532 miles; you need to travel approximately 10 times to earn 5,000 miles (minimum requirement to redeem) . However, if you want to earn a free one-way ticket for the said route, you would need 8,500 miles. You also need to pay for taxes and other charges for the award ticket earned.

Also, you can earn airline miles if you travel with other partnered airlines. Only select partnered airlines credit miles when you travelwhile travelling can help you make the most of the air miles.

While transfer or purchase of air miles is possible, it becomes costly. If you want to transfer, say, your JP miles, the minimum would be 500 with no maximum limit. However, you have to pay ₹200 for every 500 miles you transfer. If you want to purchase your JP miles, then you will have to pay ₹1.25 per mile with minimum purchase of 500 miles. Same amount is charged in the case of Air India.

Also, the miles held by each member come with an expiry date. For instance, JPMiles (Jet Privilege) and Air India’s flying return points are valid only for three years.

The usage of air miles is not applicable during the ‘blackout’ period such as Diwali, Christmas or New Year. So utilise the miles earned as and when possible; you never know when the airline service providers would change their terms and conditions. Happy flying!

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)