Air India Flying Returns: The Ultimate Guide for Indians

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Air India, India’s national carrier, has undergone significant changes since its acquisition by the TATA group. These changes include merging with Vistara, placing the largest fleet order among all airlines, and undergoing a complete rebranding, including its loyalty program, Flying Returns. Despite many of its aircraft still featuring outdated amenities, which are slated for retrofitting into the new livery, it remains the exclusive provider of direct long-haul routes. The revamped Flying Returns program aims to enhance the flying experience for Air India’s frequent flyers, offering them increased convenience and benefits.

Here’s an ultimate guide on the revamped program from the Indian’s point of view!

Membership Tiers & Benefits

The Air India Flying Returns program consists of four tiers, beginning with the entry-level Red tier, which requires no specific qualifications and can be achieved just by signing up. Advancement to higher tiers is contingent upon meeting criteria such as tier points or revenue flights with Air India and its Star Alliance partners within the preceding 365 days.

Upon achieving a new elite status tier, members enjoy its benefits for a year, subject to renewal based on recent activity within the same timeframe.

The qualification requirements for each Flying Returns elite status tier are as follows:

  • Red: Automatically attained upon enrollment in Flying Returns.
  • Silver: 15,000 tier points (with at least 4,500 tier points on Air India) or 30 flights (with at least four flights on Air India).
  • Gold: 30,000 tier points (with at least 9,000 tier points on Air India) or 60 flights (with at least eight flights on Air India).
  • Platinum: 45,000 tier points (with at least 13,500 tier points on Air India) or 90 flights (with at least 12 flights on Air India).

The primary benefit of Flying Returns Red status is the accrual and redemption of points. Below are the primary benefits offered at each Flying Returns elite status tier beyond those of the preceding tier:

  • Silver: Star Alliance Silver status, 50% discount on standard seats for domestic flights, one upgrade voucher for a domestic flight, priority check-in and boarding, reduced change fees for domestic flights, increased baggage allowance of 10kg on weight-based systems, and priority waitlist clearance.
  • Gold: Star Alliance Gold status, lounge access with one guest, complimentary standard seat selection on flights, two upgrade vouchers for domestic flights, Fly Early benefit on domestic flights, enhanced baggage allowance on Air India and Star Alliance partner flights of extra 20kg, one free change per ticket for domestic flights up to 24 hours before departure (and for international Air India flights up to 72 hours before departure), and reduced cancellation fees for domestic flights.
  • Platinum: Complimentary seat selection on Air India flights, three upgrade vouchers for domestic flights, two free changes per ticket for Air India flights up to 24 hours before departure, and waived cancellation fees for domestic flights as well as 20kg extra baggage allowance.

Earning Reward and Tier Points

Earning Through Flying Air India Flights

Reward and tier points can be earned on Air India flights according to the following structure:

For every ₹100 spent:

  • Red members: Earn 6 reward points.
  • Silver members: Earn 8 reward points.
  • Gold members: Earn 9 reward points.
  • Platinum members: Earn 10 reward points.

Additionally, when booking through the Air India website or mobile app, members receive a bonus of 2 reward points per ₹100 spent.

Furthermore, regardless of elite status tier, members earn 6 tier points per ₹100 spent on Air India flights.

Earning through Star Alliance Flight

When travelling in eligible fare classes with Star Alliance airline partners, you have the opportunity to earn both reward and tier points. Reward points are determined by your flight distance and fare class, as outlined on the partner airlines page. Additionally, for every 2 reward points earned when flying with Star Alliance partners, you’ll receive 1 tier point.

Cobranded Credit Cards

Presently, Air India offers two co-branded cards with SBI Card.

These cards allow you to earn up to 4% reward points on all purchases, with certain categories excluded. When using these cards for booking Air India flight tickets you can potentially earn up to 30% in reward points. Additionally, you can earn a good chunk of points on completing spending-based milestones on these cards. With Air India’s increased focus on its loyalty program, we are likely to see the introduction of new co-branded cards shortly. Check out their reviews from the links above!

Transfer Partners

Banking Transfer Partners

The conversion of reward points to Air India’s Flying Returns miles is facilitated through the following banking partners: SBI Card, Axis Bank, Citi Bank, ICICI Bank, and HSBC Bank. The transfer ratios are as follows.

SBI Card

All SBI Miles cardholders have the option to transfer their accumulated points to Flying Returns points at a 1:1 ratio.

Axis Bank
  • For Axis Burgundy Magnus and Axis Burgundy Private customers, the transfer ratio is 5:4.
  • Axis Magnus & Axis Reserve card holders can transfer at a ratio of 5:2.
  • Other Axis cardholders can transfer at a ratio of 10:1.
  • Axis Atlas cardholders can transfer at a ratio of 1:2.
    Air India’s classification as a Group B transfer partner for Axis Bank Edge Rewards transfer means larger-scale mile transfers are possible.
  • Citi Bank Premier Miles points can be transferred at a ratio of 2:1
  • Citi Bank Prestige points can be transferred at a ratio of 1:4
  • Citi Bank Ultima points can be transferred at a ratio of 1:5
  • ICICI Bank Private Metal credit card points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio
  • Other eligible ICICI credit and debit card points can be transferred at a 6:1 ratio
  • HSBC Premier credit card points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio

Car Rental Partners

Flying Return Points can be earned through card bookings with the following car rental partners:

  • Zoom Car: Earn 5 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Discover Car: Earn 10 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Earn 5 points per ₹100 spent

Hotel Stays

You can accumulate Flying Returns Points through hotel stays at partnered establishments:

  • Roseate: Earn 7 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Soneva: Earn 5 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Evolve Back: Earn 7 Points per ₹100 spent
  • The Set Collection: Earn 5 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Rainforest: Earn 10 Points per ₹100 spent
  • The Grand Dragon Ladakh: Earn 20 Points per ₹100 spent
  • The Leela Palaces: Earn 5 Points per ₹100 spent


By spending at the following Lifestyle brands, you can accrue Flying Returns points:

  • The Bicester Collection: Earn 5 Points per EUR 4 spent
  • IGP: Earn 10 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Ferns N Petals: Earn 11 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Kiehl’s: Earn 5 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Tattva: Earn 13 Points per ₹100 spent


By spending on the following Experiences, you can accumulate Flying Returns points:

  • GetYourGuide: Earn 10 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Fratelli: Earn 11 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Sherpa: Earn 25 Points per ₹100 spent
  • KidZania: Earn 7 Points per ₹100 spent
  • Antara River Cruises: Earn 10 Points per ₹100 spent

Buying Points

Air India offers the option to purchase points, although the value may not be optimal, it can still be useful when you’re just short of points and need to save money. While there haven’t been any sales on points yet, you can enhance your return by using cards that offer bonus points for airline purchases, like the Axis Atlas card. To buy Flying Returns points, simply login to your profile and navigate to the ‘buy points’ section. Points are available for purchase at ₹1.5 each.

Redeeming Flying Returns Points

Redeeming for Air India Flights

You can utilize Flying Returns points for either booking award seats or upgrading your seat class. Air India offers two fare types: Value Fare and Prime Fare. The Value Fare presents two fixed values, indicating the maximum and minimum points required when booking tickets early. In contrast, Prime Fare is typically accessible when purchasing tickets closer to travel dates, offering flexibility but at a premium. For instance, a one-way journey from CCU to DEL with Value Fare ranges from 5,000 to 8,500 Flying Returns points in Economy, while the Prime Fare demands 10,500 points, more than double the lowest Value Fare.

For international flights, opting for Economy fare often proves beneficial, especially during peak seasons when revenue prices soar, making redemption highly advantageous. Take, for example, the DEL to LHR route, served by ex-Etihad 777, requiring 30,000 Flying Returns points for an Economy ticket. However, the redemption rates for Business and First Class escalated significantly, with Business Class passengers needing 1,25,000 points and First Class passengers requiring 1,55,000 points for a one-way ticket. Considering alternative programs like Air Canada or Singapore Airlines, which allow bookings for Star Alliance flights, it’s often more economical to reserve premium cabins through these avenues.

A notable advantage of booking with the Flying Returns program is the availability of more seats in the same class. Therefore, it’s advisable to secure seats with Air Canada or Singapore Airlines first and then utilize Flying Returns to book additional seats for accompanying travellers.

Though the old award chart has been obsolete you can easily calculate the miles requirement with this miles calculator.

Redeeming for Star Alliance Flights

Despite Air India’s assertion that all Star Alliance partners would be bookable online upon the launch of the revamped program in early April, the Air India website still specifies that award flights operated by United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Austrian Airlines can be booked online. However, award flights operated by other Star Alliance airlines must be booked via phone.

Only one-segment awards on Star Alliance airlines are bookable, and there is no published award chart for these partners. Instead, Flying Returns members are directed to input their flight details into the points calculator to determine award rates. It’s recommended to prioritize booking Air India flights, as award bookings with other Star Alliance partners typically require significantly more points. For instance, a First Class cabin from DEL to SFO costs 300,000 Flying Returns points with Star Alliance partners, whereas it costs 235,000 points with Air India, representing a 65,000-point saving for a direct flight.

Furthermore, Flying Returns points can be redeemed for upgrades on Star Alliance flights also.

Family Pooling

Air India offers a unique family pooling feature for its members, unlike most other programs. In this system, a family head is appointed who determines how much percentage of other family members’ points will be pooled into their account. Up to 8 family members can be added to the pool, with a maximum of 9 individuals including the family head. Whenever any family member earns points through transfers or revenue flights, the designated percentage of miles is automatically transferred to the family head’s account.

To set up a family pool, the head of the family pool needs to submit a request to customer care through this link, specifying the percentage allocation. The process typically takes 7-14 working days to complete.

Points Expiry

Reward points expire 24 months from their acquisition date, yet every time you embark on a paid flight operated by Air India, you have the opportunity to prolong the expiration date by another 24 months for all your reward points.


While Air India may currently lag in terms of its hard product, the airline is undoubtedly heading in the right direction. With the largest number of fleets on order, they have declared their commitment to enhancing their services. A notable step in this direction is the introduction of India’s first A350 flights, recently launched on international routes. The revamped First and Business Class cabins are particularly impressive, bringing Air India closer to global standards.

However, there is still much work to be done, including the improvement of hard products through the retrofitting of new configurations and enhancing staff performance. Moreover, the recent enhancements to their Flying Returns loyalty program indicate promising developments. The next five years will be critical for Air India’s journey towards improvement. As India emerges as a hub for aviation enthusiasts, it deserves a flagship carrier that reflects global standards and contributes to India’s recognition in the aviation industry.

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