Air France KLM’s Flying Blue shut down the account of someone who simply transferred points in from American Express Membership Rewards and redeemed those points for a ticket. The American Express account, Flying Blue account, and tickets were all for the same person. (American Express no longer even lets you transfer points to other people any more.)
I learned about readers who had had similar experiences and I also heard from a fraud unit employee who actually claimed they wouldn’t permit transferring in points just to book awards.
[T]he use of our frequent flyer accounts as boxes opened to transfer miles with our non air partners won’t be allowed anymore.
Air France is adamant that such a policy does not exist.
What certainly is a problem was relayed by a Flying Blue supervisor last month:
a supervisor on the helpline has said that they’re randomly flagging new accounts that have points transfer into them and won’t allow tickets to be paid for online — requiring a trip in-person to an Air France airport ticket counter.
I asked Flying Blue to clarify. Here’s what they said:
Our Flying Blue program has enacted a new automatic security process that will alert us to certain transactions to prevent fraud. If this happens, our agent cannot issue the ticket and the customer must go to an Air France agency to process the payment. We understand and apologize that this process may generate frustration for the members.
Here’s the thing:
- Many Americans live nowhere near an Air France ticket counter. That’s precisely why Air France has partners like Delta and Alaska, to bring those customers to Air France flights.
- Airport agents seem to have generally no idea that members are being directed there to issue award tickets and most do not know how to proceed.
Airlines need to combat fraud, but the byzantine hoops that Flying Blue seems to make some reasonable percentage of new members trying to book awards jump through makes transfers to Flying Blue in my view very much juice not worth the squeeze… unless you’re well-positioned to invest time up front driving to an airport location and waiting there for a supervisor to assist with ticketing. Make sure you’re going to be able to go (1) when the ticket counter is open, but (2) during off-times. And expect it to take about 45 minutes once you find someone who knows how to help.