Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Could Air India's Flying Returns be the new king for short haul award flights in the U.S.?


On December 23rd Air India's Flying Returns program launched a new award chart for travel on Star Alliance partner airlines. Of note is they have moved to distance based awards which makes some redemptions much cheaper. In particular, flights under 500 miles within the U.S. and within India are only 5,000 points one way in Economy Class. In this post we focus on the U.S. as this could be a new route for earning/redeeming for those who are earning a lot less miles with United due to its revenue earning model.

Here are the charts for travel in the U.S.:

Old chart up to December 22nd:


New Chart as of December 23rd (in 1,000s):


As you can see flights in the U.S. that are under 2,500 miles have all become cheaper, especially those under 500 miles! Now you can fly one way for only 5,000 points if the flight is under 500 miles and Air India even provides us with charts showing which flights in the U.S. can be had for those 5,000 points






This redemption rate is half of what United MileagePlus charges for one way flights on these routes but there is one big caveat. There aren't many ways to earn Air India Flying Returns points outside of India other than flying on their Star Alliance partners, so the question is do you credit your United, Air Canada and other flights to Flying Returns instead of the other programs? Potentially yes, as Air India awards based on flight mileage/fare class (not revenue based like UA) For example here are the earn rates for UA & AC:


Now that British Airways short haul flights in North America are 7,500 Avios each way, the 5,000 point redemption level from Air India is one of the best on paper and it essentially matches Alaska Airlines 5,000 miles for under 700 miles although with more route options.

Thoughts everyone? I'm not well versed on Air India's FR but on paper it looks like a decent option. Would love to see more analysis from others to see if this really could be a great new option for short haul travel in the U.S.!


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