Why I Like the New Air India Flying Returns


The relaunch of Air India Flying Returns is one of the most exciting events in the loyalty space in this region in the last few months. As usual it got its required reviews from various media journalists and experts in the field.

Having tracked the Flying Returns and other airline FFP’s since its launch and having launched the British Airways Executive Club in South Asia and many other loyalty programs, there are reasons I like what I see with the new Air India Flying Returns.

Every customer Loyalty program centers around 3 foundational criteria, namely:

  • Creation of the core customer proposition.
  • Creating an ability to motivate and influence customer behaviour.
  • Building with an eye towards keeping long term sustainability and financial viability in mind.

Air India Flying Returns addresses a balance of these issues while keeping in mind the complexities of integrating with a diversified audience, in this case ranging from members of the Star Alliance, members of Tata Neu, and the core Air India traveler.

As always, the ultimate success of a loyalty program is measured by what you do with the program and its various segments to motivate desired behviours in key customer groups.

A solid starting point of considerations in creating effective FFP and Customer Loyalty programs includes:

  1. Design the structure for the basic core and ensure a reasonable value proposition at the base tier member.
  2. Create a structure that enables flexibility and leverage to incentivize and motivate desired behaviour.
  3. Define the core audience you need to acquire & retain and ensure the value proposition improves exponentially for these.
  4. Keep enough leeway and budgets to refresh the program with new benefits and features as you discover new segments and new customer behaviour.
  5. Make sure these changes are incremental and do not change the program in a negative way for the end customer.

A simple illustration of how not to design programs is the recent withdrawal of airport lounge facilities by credit card companies. This happened due to two concerns:

  1. It became uneconomical for card companies to support the benefit financially due to the growing universe of customers that earned the privilege. We could call this “poor sizing and planning.”
  2. The value of the benefit became diluted as the lounges became more like railway platforms than an oasis of peace and tranquility.

The next phase of development for Air India will come as it merges with Vistara, a domestic and international full-service carrier known as Tata SIA Airlines. The airline is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines.

Merging Flying Returns with Club Vistara will create big challenges as many flyers are customers of both airlines. We will be sure to hear lots of noise in social media when that happens and hopefully Air India will properly anticipate the needs of its passengers as it merges the two programs.

As the new program settles in and Air India incorporates feedback from the marketplace, we will keep an eye on additional incremental changes that chart the future of Flying Returns.

About the Author:

Brian Almeida, CLMP™ is Founder of Strategic Caravan, a highly tenured and recognized force in the customer loyalty markets of India and Asia. Strategic Caravan has hosted Loyalty Academy workshops in Mumbai and Bengaluru over the past two years, with more to come in the future. He is a keen observer of the market and publishes his thoughts here on the relaunch of Air India Flying Returns. This article is updated from his original LinkedIn posting.


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