New Delhi: Air India Ltd on Friday said it will upgrade war heroes travelling economy class with the airline to business class.

People who have been awarded military honours including Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Ashok Chakra, Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra will qualify for the scheme from June.

The gallantry awards are given to personnel of all military branches for acts of bravery in the face of the enemy.

“Its a small way to say thank you. And it will not hurt us commercially also," an airline official who declined to be named said, explaining how this new offering will work.

Air India currently allows passengers to upgrade from economy to business class at the check-in counter by paying a fixed amount of 4,500- 6,000, depending on flight duration and seat availability, even though actual business class fares are much higher.

A Delhi-Mumbai business class ticket was available for about 30,000 on Air India and Jet Airways India Ltd and about 20,000 on Vistara on Monday, while economy class tickets were upwards of 6,000.

The awardees will have to show their identification cards at the check-in counters and once the check-in procedure is completed, they will be upgraded at the airline’s boarding gate depending on seat availability so that there is no revenue loss to the airline.

Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani approved the scheme this week. The scheme will be applicable only on domestic flights.

Air India has about 140 aircraft in its fleet and connects over 52 cities nationally, besides 24 cities in US, Europe, Australia, South East Asia and the Gulf with non-stop services.

New York-based former Jet Airways CEO Steve Forte said it was a good move.

“Its a wonderful programme," he said. “It should be copied by other nations. Go Air India."