Air India Launches Revamped Flying Returns Loyalty Program

Air India is in the midst of a huge transformation, and 2024 is turning out to be a pivotal year for the airline.

As part of an overall brand reimagining, Air India has launched a revamped Flying Returns loyalty program.

The changes affect the earning, redemption, and expiration of Flying Returns points, and establish new names and an adjusted structure for the program’s elite status tiers.

Air India’s Revamped Flying Returns Loyalty Program

Air India has launched a completely revamped Flying Returns loyalty program, which was last updated in 2012.

The changes affect everything from how you earn and redeem points, as well as qualifying for elite status.

Earning Flying Returns Reward Points

Air India has overhauled its Flying Returns loyalty program for the first time in over a decade, with the new design and benefits beginning as of April 3, 2024.

A notable feature of these changes is that the Flying Returns loyalty program has shifted from a miles-based points earning structure to a revenue-based structure, both for Reward Points that you can redeem for flights, and for Tier Points that you can use to qualify for status.

Under the new program, members earn at least 6 Flying Returns Rewards Points per INR 100 spent (~$1.60 CAD), and these points can be used for award flight redemptions. 

These points are earned when booking with Air India, and the qualifying charges include the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges.

In addition to this baseline earning rate, elite members can earn bonus points at an increasing rate based on their status tier as follows:

  • Silver members earn 8 Reward Points per INR 100 spent (~$1.60 CAD)
  • Gold members earn 9 Reward Points per INR 100 spent (~$1.60 CAD)
  • Platinum members earn 10 Reward Points per INR 100 spent (~$1.60 CAD)

Everyone can earn an additional 2 Reward Points per INR 100 spent (~$1.60 CAD) when booking directly with Air India on its website or app. These bonus points can be redeemed for award flights, but will not count towards earning elite status.

If you credit your flights with Star Alliance carriers to Flying Returns, you’ll still earn points based on the fare class and distance flown. A full breakdown of the eligible classes and fares can be found on the Air India website.

Flying Returns members will also earn Tier Points for spending on base fares and carrier-imposed surcharges. All members earn Tier Points at a rate of 6 Tier Points per INR 100 spent (~$1.60 CAD). We’ll cover the changes to the elite status program in the section below.

Rewards Points can also now be earned by purchasing products and services through Air India’s partners, including through car rentals, hotel stays, converting points from other programs, and more.

Redeeming Flying Returns Reward Points

Air India’s Flying Returns program has also made changes to how its loyalty points can be redeemed with the introduction of Value fares, Prime fares, and a Cash + Points option.

Importantly, Flying Returns now uses a form of dynamic pricing, which means that you’ll see a range of prices for Value fares, while Prime fares are fixed. 

Value fares are a standard fare option for advance bookings, while Prime is a premium option designed for last-minute redemptions.

For example, a Value fare for a one-way Air India flight from Delhi to Vancouver in economy is listed at 87,000 Reward Points, while a Prime fare on the same flight is listed at 113,000 Reward Points.

The new Cash + Points option allows members to choose their preferred combination of points and cash when making a redemption on Air India flights, which can be useful for those who don’t quite have enough points to cover the full cost of an award flight.

Additionally, members can also redeem Flying Returns points for flights with any Star Alliance airline, subject to availability.

Flying Returns doesn’t publish an award chart, but Air India’s website includes a points calculator to help you determine how many points you’ll need for your desired airline and route. 

For example, a one-way flight from Delhi to Vancouver in business class is listed at 180,000 Reward Points with Air India, or 250,00 Reward Points with Star Alliance partners.

At first glance, it appears the award pricing for Air India flights (especially Value fares) is lower than for flights with Star Alliance partners, which price out similarly to Prime fares.

As part of the program overhaul, there are also now considerably more seats available with partner airlines, no blackout dates, and members can use their points for any Air India seat that is available for sale, with no restrictions. 

Flying Returns points can also be redeemed for cabin upgrades on both Air India and Star Alliance partner flights.

In the past, Flying Returns points expired 36 months after being earned regardless of account activity, whereas now, as long as you take an Air India flight at least every 24 months, your points will never expire.

It’s worth noting that this is one of the more restrictive expiration policies, as most other programs allow any earning activity to extend the validity of points, without requiring flight activity.

Revamped Flying Returns Elite Status Tiers

As part of the program renewal, Flying Returns has also made considerable modifications to the elite status program, including lowering the requirements compared to what they were before.

There are four tiers in the Flying Returns elite status program, including the base-level tier: 

  • Red (base-level)
  • Silver (15,000 Tier Points, including 4,500 earned through Air India flights)
  • Gold (30,000 Tier Points, including 9,000 earned through Air India flights)
  • Platinum (45,000 Tier Points, including 13,500 earned through Air India flights)

As you can see, at least 30% of your Tier Points will need to be earned with Air India, while the remaining 70% can be earned through spending and flying with Star Alliance partner airlines.

Given the earning rate of 6 Flying Returns Tier Points per INR 100 (~$1.60 CAD) spent, this means you’ll need to spend around $4,050 (CAD) to reach the Silver Tier, $8,100 (CAD) to reach the Gold Tier, and $12,150 (CAD) to enjoy the benefits of the Platinum Tier.

Alternatively, you can qualify for status based on the number of flights taken within a calendar year, outlined as follows:

  • Silver status: 30 flights, including a minimum of four Air India flights
  • Gold status: 60 flights, including a minimum of eight Air India flights
  • Platinum status: 90 flights, including a minimum of 12 Air India flights

It’s worth noting that you’ll enjoy Star Alliance Gold status beginning at the Flying Returns Gold tier, which comes with a number of benefits when flying in any class of service with Star Alliance airlines.

Flying Returns elite perks include multiple priority services, additional checked baggage allowance, lounge access, and more as you move up the program’s levels. A full list of the elite benefits can be found on the Air India website.

Another Step in Air India’s Transformation

After announcing a refreshed brand image last year, and debuting a number of new products in 2024, including the delivery of its first A350-900, a new website and app, a refreshed onboard experience, and a new in-flight safety video, Air India has now launched its revamped Flying Returns loyalty program.

Flying Returns hadn’t seen any updates since 2012, and this revamped program now aligns with the airline’s current brand identity and direction.

As with any revenue-based system, those who spend more on premium cabins and expensive last-minute fares will be rewarded more than those who look for the most cost-effective flights. 

Revenue-based earning benefits passengers in premium cabins

As Air India is set to take delivery of a staggering number of new aircraft with modern cabins, and as it begins the refurbishment of its existing long-haul fleet later this year, the airline will be a much more attractive option for non-stop flights between North America and India than it has been, especially in business class.

I also think it’s interesting to see an added bonus given for booking directly with Air India, especially as more airlines are finding ways to reward customers who book directly.

When it comes to redemptions, it doesn’t appear that the award pricing offered through Flying Returns is highly competitive with other Star Alliance programs, at least at first glance. However, Air India claims to have benchmarked the revamped program against other top programs, so it’d be worth doing a side-by-side comparison to verify this.

It’s worth noting that the program won’t be of immediate interest to many North American loyalty enthusiasts, as there are currently no co-branded credit cards or transfer partners with points currencies outside of India. However, it’s entirely possible that Flying Returns will look to establish a greater presence in North America in the coming years.


Air India continues its work to update its brand, this time with the introduction of its revamped Flying Returns loyalty program.

As of April 3, 2024, Flying Returns members can enjoy an entirely new program structure, which includes greater award flight availability, and a more customer-friendly digital interface.

Full details on the program can be found on the Air India Flying Returns website.

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