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Air India's new Flying Returns is just the Star Alliance program India needed.

Updated: Apr 5, 2024. Manprit.
Air India's new Flying Returns is just the Star Alliance program India needed. - Cover Image
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India is expected to become the world’s third-largest aviation market this year. (Source). And yet, India does not have a single airline affiliated with OneWorld or SkyTeam.

The lone Star Alliance airline is Air India, whose loyalty program thus far has been pretty worthless in terms of value for miles or focusing on for Star Alliance status.

But, things have changed now. And how!

Air India just relaunched their loyalty program. The ‘reimagined’ Flying Returns program is already getting a lot of praise from aviation geeks, and frequent flyers. In case you missed it, you can read more about the Air India’s new frequent flyer program here.

An aspect that seems to have been overlooked in the enthusiasm surrounding this development is the fact that the new Flying Returns program is an excellent opportunity to maintain Star Alliance status.

Allow me to elucidate.

The key things one looks for in a Start Alliance linked frequent flyer program are:

  1. Easy to attain and maintain elite status.
  2. Good value for points you credit to the program.
  3. Simplicity in earning and redeeming points with partner airlines.

Let’s evaluate how Air India measures up against these criteria.

Attaining and maintaining elite status.

The new Air India program significantly simplifies the process of qualifying for their elite status levels. Qualification can be achieved either by accumulating sufficient tier points or completing the required number of flights.

Tier By Tier Points By Flights
Silver 15,000 tier points (INR 250,000 spent). Min. 4500 on Air India. 30 flights. Min. 4 on Air India.
Gold 30,000 tier points (INR 500,000 spent). Min. 9000 on Air India. 60 flights. Min. 8 on Air India.
Platinum 45,000 tier points (INR 750,000 spent). Min. 13500 on Air India. 90 flights. Min. 12 on Air India.

Though not the speediest route to Star Alliance elite status, it’s certainly a viable one, especially for frequent domestic travelers within India.

Good value for points.

One of the most significant advantages of any airline alliance is the ability to consolidate miles and points.

Several Star Alliance member airlines operate flights to India, including Singapore Airlines, United, Thai Airways and Lufthansa among others. Being part of an alliance allows you to accumulate miles earned from these airlines into a single loyalty program.

However, this would be futile if the airline you’ve chosen for point accumulation does not offer good value for those points.

Fortunately, that isn’t an issue with the new Air India Flying Returns program which now offers excellent point value, particularly for domestic flights.

Point value is even greater when bookings are made in advance; a Mumbai-Bangalore award flight costs a mere 4000 points when booked ahead of time — an exceptional value indeed.

Ease of earning and redeeming points with partner airlines.

Acquiring points with other Star Alliance member airlines is as straightforward as providing your Air India frequent flyer number during booking or at check-in. Given that Air India has been part of Star Alliance for several years now, there are no initial hiccups to address; everything runs seamlessly.

Here’s how many points you can earn with Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. You can view the complete list here.

Air India points on Singapore Airlines flights

Air India points on Thai Airways flights

Redeeming Air India points for Star Alliance flights.

You can use your Air India points to book award tickets with Star Alliance member airlines. However, the value of points won’t be even close to what you can get when using the points for Air India flights.

It would be ideal to earn Air India points on Star Alliance flights globally, and then redeem them for Air India flights.

You can use the points calculator here to determine the number of points required for redemption on Star Alliance member airlines.

Please note that online booking with Air India points is available only on the following Star Alliance network airlines: United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and Austrian Airlines.

For all other airlines, you will need to call Air India customer care to book the flight.

Air India Redemption Options

Other useful benefits.

The new program of Air India offers several more benefits, making it a perfect choice for accumulating miles from Star Alliance partner flights.

Family Pool.

Air India Family Pool

Air India has launched an extremely generous Family Pool program. In simple terms, once you establish a family pool, all the points accumulated by your family members get transferred to your account (head of the family pool).

You then have the freedom to redeem them whenever you like.

Therefore, not only can you consolidate points earned across various Star Alliance flights, but you can also consolidate miles or points earned by your family members.

Points don’t expire if…

Air India Evergreen Points There is another benefit of using Air India as your default Star Alliance airline — Evergreen points. In theory, your points will stay valid indefinitely as long as you undertake one paid Air India flight (non-award) every two years.

This means all the miles accumulated on flights from Bangkok to Phuket, or annual trips to New York can be gathered into your Air India account and maintain their validity indefinitely.

More domestic flights available for redemption.

Air India now offers significantly more flights for redemption, particularly in Economy class. This feature could be especially beneficial during festive seasons and other periods when flight costs skyrocket.

When we looked for award tickets for flights in a few weeks’ time, we found award seat availability on nearly every sector.


Air India’s newly refreshed Flying Returns is the ideal candidate for being your default Star Alliance program. Particularly if you are able to fly domestically on Air India a few times a year.

From point value to validity, family pooling to availability of award flights, Air India now wields a highly robust loyalty program.

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