I find the Air France KLM Flying Blue program incredibly frustrating for booking awards. There are false positives for award space on their website, customer service representatives are often rude and incompetent, and most importantly they have a penchant for shutting down newly opened accounts that members transfer points into (such as from American Express Membership Rewards and Citi ThankYou Rewards) and immediately redeem awards from.
As a result I’ve limited the coverage I’ve given to the program. I don’t recommend using it for most purposes because I simply find the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
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 saw the response of 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.
Aside from account shutdowns, new accounts were being told they had to ticket awards at the airport. As Flying Blue explained to me,
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 cities.
- 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.
Air France Ticket Counter, Washington Dulles
Any program treating their members that way I knock down several notches even apart from their earn and burn proposition. So I don’t get too worked up over changes that are coming to that program, although those changes are noteworthy because they represent a spread of changes.
- The program has 12 million members
- Changes will take place between the first quarter of 2016 and complete in the first quarter of 2018
And you know those changes won’t be good (emphasis mine):
“The 10 years of Flying Blue were an opportunity to take stock and set new ambitions, said Frederic Kahane. The objective is to improve greatly the satisfaction index, preserving the program’s economic balance. ”
They’re talking about simplification while analogizing to the changes Delta made moving to revenue-based mileage earning for flights:
The first priority will be to simplify the rules. “Many customers say they are understanding it,” admits Frederic Kahane. Other companies like Delta have already begun this work of simplification “, he says. The American company, Air France-KLM partner, has decided, there is already one year to replace the miles calculation system based on distance traveled by a new structure based on the ticket price.
They’re promising to introduce lifetime Platinum status for members who spend 10 years at the Platinum level, which is strange since they already offer lifetime Platinum. (Indeed, my award booking partner is a lifetime Platinum though I believe his is a carry over from KLM lifetime Platinum prior to the merger.)
Meanwhile Silvers will see a cut in benefits similar to what Delta did to their silvers:
Silver will now wait for the Platinum and Gold are awarded for boarding. They do not benefit, either, priority luggage delivery and priority access to security checks and immigration.
None of this should be surprising. They certainly aren’t the first non-U.S. frequent flyer program to take the revenue-based plunge. And they’ll be following British Airways’ huge devaluation so it’s only surprising that we haven’t seen even more changes, more quickly, and from other European programs as well — though they tend to move a little more slowly in Europe.