HYDERABAD: Imagine flying to the US with your spouse in premium business class for as little as Rs 350 even though actual tickets cost a steep Rs 10 lakh. Or how about paying Rs 14,000 to fly from Hong Kong to London, Oslo to Minneapolis, and Seattle to Taipei all under Rs 14,000 even if the actual price comes to Rs 5 lakh?
That’s possible if you are a frequent flyer and have diligently accumulated air miles from your past travels.
Unfortunately, though Indians are flying frequently on domestic routes these days, they are less lucky than foreign travellers. It’s because unlike foreign carriers, who credit loyalty points to passengers for every flight they take, few of our domestic carriers have attractive air mile programmes.
Take for instance IndiGo, which runs no such loyalty programme and yet manages to get repeat customers. While SpiceJet has SpiceClub membership to reward customers with points, it has stopped adding new entries. Jet Airways’ JetPrivilege was an exception, rewarding flyers handsomely with points or miles, while Vistara’s frequent flyer programme Club Vistara has miles to go.
National carrier Air India too runs a frequent flyer programme, which is part good and part bad. Good because it allows members access to 27 other airlines that are part of the Star Alliance programme. Bad because, it takes years to accumulate sizeable points as Air India’s tickets are often steep, forcing passengers to fly other low-cost carriers.
In short, even if you fly frequently on domestic routes, you rarely are compensated for your loyalty. In contrast, foreign carriers like American Airlines or British Airways sell miles, not just air tickets, through special sales. So, you buy air miles and get bonus miles as a reward.
But don’t lose hope. Here are some ingenious ways to accumulate air miles and with a bit of smartness, patience and luck, you too can travel at a fraction of the cost. Some credit cards allow you to accumulate air miles every time you swipe your card for groceries and goods. Air India has tied up with SBI to offer an Air India SBI Signature Credit Card, which lets you earn 4 miles for every Rs 100 spent.
As a bonus, if you spend Rs 100 to book Air India tickets, you get 30 miles. Similarly, Vistara too offers co-branded credit cards, but experts say such co-branded cards make customers captive to one airline.
How to beat this? There are standalone credit cards like the Citi Bank Premium Airmiles card, which rewards you with air miles every time you spend 100 bucks. But the catch is: such cards come with an entry load. For Citi Bank, you pay Rs 20,000 upfront, but get 10,000 air miles instantly in return and Rs 10,000 worth luxury hotel stay with Taj Hotels.
Pro-tip:“Register for Frequent Flyer Miles (FFM) programmes for any flights that you book, irrespective of whether you fly with the airline in future or not. Also, airlines tend to give free upgrades to FFM registered travellers. Get travel credit cards to spend for daily expenses and earn points, which you can use to book tickets, or for upgrades or booking your hotel stay or for priority check-ins,” says travel enthusiast Jimeet Ved.