17 Tricks and Things to Know About Air France KLM Flying Blue

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With US airlines regularly offering less value for their points, I’m putting together this series with background, tips, and tricks for frequent flyer programs programs whose points:

  • can be very useful to you
  • that you can earn easily by transferring in from bank rewards currencies.

I love flexible points far more than earning points in a single airline frequent flyer program. That helps me to diversify so I don’t get hurt as badly when one airline program devalues and that gives me the points I need, when I need them with the airline that has availability for the award that I want.

Here’s my tips for the Air France KLM Flying Blue program.

My Biggest Flexible Points Balance is With Chase Ultimate Rewards

A real go-to for the past 5 years has been the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It’s been reliably the most rewarding card for spend.

There’s a 50,000 point signup bonus (after $4000 spend within 3 months) and they’ll give you 5000 more points for adding a no fee authorized user to your account and making a purchase in those same 3 months. The card earns double points on travel and dining. So they start you off quickly with points, and you accumulate points quickly for your spending.

Chase points transfer to:

  • Airlines: United, Korean, Singapore, Air France KLM, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways
  • Hotels: Hyatt, Marriott, IHG, Ritz-Carlton

Air France KLM Actually Partners With Everyone

Air France KLM Flying Blue also partners with Citibank, American Express, and Starwood Preferred Guest. So you’ve got all the major transferrable points currencies covered, and it’s a place that you can pool your points from several different cards.

The Citi Prestige Card earns triple points on air and hotel and double points on restaurants and entertainment.

The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express gives you 5000 bonus miles when transferring points into 20,000 miles. So you effectively earn 1.25 miles with the airline of your choice of over 30 airlines.

Important Tips, Tricks, and Cautions Using Air France KLM Flying Blue Miles

Here are 17 things a US-based frequent flyer should know about the Air France KLM Flying Blue program:

  1. Great award availability. They make far more award space available on Air France and KLM flights to their own members than they do to partners. I find really good space between the US and Europe, even on West Coast routes.


    Los Angeles – Paris for 2 Passengers in Business Class

  2. Unique partners. And they allow online booking for most partners. You can search availability and book online at AirFrance.us for Air France; KLM; Delta; Alitalia; Czech; TAROM; Aeroflot; Aeromexico; Kenya Airways; Air Europa; Saudia; Korean; China Airlines; Vietnam Airlines; Middle East Airlines; Garuda Indonesia; China Southern; China Eastern.

    They also partner with Air Mauritius, Aircalin, Air Corsica, Bangkok Airways, and Ukraine International Airlines.

  3. Award holds are permitted. Flying Blue will allow you to put awards on hold, generally for 48 hours, even without miles in your account.

  4. You can take advantage of anomalies in their award regions. Europe is split up into 3 regions (“Europe 1/2/3”) which are:

    • Europe 1: Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom
    • Europe 2: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden
    • Europe 3: Albania, Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Canary Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Western Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine.

    Notice that Tel Aviv is part of Europe. You get to book Israel awards for the US-Europe price.

  5. Monthly discounted awards. Flying Blue offers promo awards each month, discounting certain markets 20% – 50%.

    The current promo awards let you book travel between Vancouver (West Coast!) and anywhere Air France flies in Europe for 31,250 miles each way in business class — that’s 50% off. So you could fly between North America and Israel in business for 62,500 roundtrip.

  6. US-Hawaii is just 15,000 miles each way in economy, even from the East Coast of the US. Oddly, Hawaii to the Caribbean is just 12,500 miles — so continuing on from say Atlanta (or throwing away a segment beyond Atlanta) saves miles.

  7. Mexico is the same region as the US, so it’s the same cost to fly to Mexico as an award within the 48 US states.

  8. A stopover is permitted on a roundtrip award (but cannot be booked online). An open jaw is permitted as well but must be within the same region (so you can fly into Paris and out of Amsterdam, but cannot fly into Paris and out of Africa).

  9. Flying Blue adds fuel surcharges to award tickets. These can be high for US-Europe (or anywhere – Europe) but are discounted for economy award tickets.

  10. Phantom award space sometimes showing on the Flying Blue website (especially for Kenya Airways) so if you’re booking partner awards, don’t just rely on what AirFrance.us says about availability. You may want to call (and put an award on hold!) before transferring points.

  11. Flying Blue has challenging phone agents. They don’t all know the rules, or seem to want to be helpful, so you do find yourself hanging up and calling back.

  12. It’s important to open a Flying Blue account NOW if you don’t have one rather than waiting until you need to actually transfer points into an account. That’s because of Flying Blue’s fraud procedures. Last year Flying Blue was causing problems for some customers transferring points into their accounts. The most common problem, a fraud prevention measure, was online award bookings erroring out for some members at the payment stage and requiring customers to issue tickets in person at the airport. The requirement to issue tickets at the airport has long also been a common issue for awards for travel originating in Africa.

    Create a Flying Blue account now, since it costs you nothing to do so. Then you’ll have a more aged account to use later rather than a brand new one you transfer points into right away which could reduce risk even further.

  13. Flying Blue doesn’t permit ‘mixed cabin’ redemptions such as an economy domestic flight in the US connecting to a business class international flight. In the past I was able to book by phone and fax in an authorization letter, informing Flying Blue that I was accepting a voluntary downgrade, but I haven’t been given this option recently.

  14. You can also only book travel 10 months in advance, not 331 (or 355) days out like with many airlines. Air France and KLM will publish award inventory farther out, so partner frequent flyer programs may be redeeming Air France space when Air France’s own cannot.

    You can book awards up to 24 hours prior to departure for long haul travel, and up to 3 hours before departure for short haul.

  15. Miles expire after 20 months, and the only way to extend them is to credit a flight. So only transfer in the points you need. Chase transfers are instantaneous and so are American Express transfers, so you can find the seats you want and then transfer.

  16. First class awards are only for Flying Blue elite members and there are only extra miles awards (no saver awards) for first class. So use Flying Blue for business and economy, unfortunately you won’t get into Air France first class unless you have elite status with them and the extra miles awards probably aren’t worth it anyway if business class is available.

  17. Fees are reasonable. There are no close-in redemption fees, and changes cost 45 euros before departure of first segment for saver awards (Flex awards can be changed at no fee). Cancelling and redepositing miles is $70 for US members.

The bottom-line I think is that Air France’s miles are best used for Air France and KLM business class awards when partners like Delta and Alaska aren’t offering space. And the program is strategically useful for its oddball airline partners, promo awards (especially to Israel), and oddball discounted routes that match your travel needs.

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I noticed on the flyingblue website, in the benefits section for their elite members (Silver and up), they list the following benefit:

    Greater availability of award tickets when travelling in Business Class.

    Any thoughts on what this means? I’ll be close to Silver this year after an SFO-ATH business class trip and I’m wondering if it makes sense to do a mileage run on Delta to get status. FWIW, availability already looks good without any status.

  2. Got a couple of round trips LAX-AMS in J upcoming.

    Is flying blue a better credit than Delta, where I already have 29000 miles? (I also have 60K ultimate rewards points)

  3. I called them yesterday asking about upgrating my Delta flight with flying blue miles and was told that it is not possible.

    And I am pretty sure that it is possible.

  4. I am in the same boat as @Michael. I have a Z class Delta flight to the UK and am debating whether I should credit to Virgin Atlantic or Flying Blue. Anyone with any thoughts on advantages/disadvantages between the two. FYI, great discussion Gary.

  5. Gary, the promo has to involve Air France KLM flight, yes? So probably we would never see a discounted West Coast to Asia? Be nice if we could fly on CI for 50%, or even just 25% off on their new 777-300ER cabin.

  6. HUACA I am KLM platinum and I have found on numerous occasions if you don’t like the answer hang up and call again. I once made a mistake booking a flight to India (it was 12:05 the morning before instead of 12:05 that night) which was a rather stupid mistake I know. I didn’t catch it until a few weeks later. The first rep I spoke with said it would be 800 euro to change the ticket, the second 500, the third was 200, which I finally accepted. I have noticed that the Dutch platinum line reps seem to be more knowledgeable then the French ones.

    Also a few tricks I have noticed, fly from ZWE (Antwerp trainstation) and sometimes you will save big time (2 weeks back I saved 1000 euro on a biz class seat to RUH via DXB) be careful though as they will check your stamped train ticket. So you must actually go on the train leg there.

    Secondly sometime Budapest and Dus also have better deals so if you don’t mind the extra couple hours on the train for DUS or the extra flight for BUD then it’s a good deal. For example I got business class from BUD to IAD (via paris and return ams) for 1050 euro two years back in August. The same direct ams or Cdg flights were over 3000 euro, and I had a nice two day side trip to BUD. Remember though you need a 12 hour or longer layover to get your bags back on the return, then call in and cancel the last segment.

    Also be warned as KLM has only upgraded the business class seats on all of the 747 787 and I believe most of the 777 (look at the seat maps the new seats have a small leg on them where the old ones are only a square chair). None of the A330 are upgraded and they are all the angles business class which I always end up sliding down on the floor in the middle of the night. They are miserable so I would consider an extra hour or two with another route on the new seats then with those back breakers.

    The only other thing to pay attention to is that KLM/AF has sometimes discounted fares which only earn 25% of the miles. So watch out which one you get as sometimes for an extra 50 euro you can earn 100% on that super long haul (think South Africa for example).

    In the end I live in AMS and I am still glad I dropped delta as they just kept punishing the sky pesos program. I like Bluey but just wish they would invest in better business class and economy products and amenities. I did like the viktor and Rolf bags but now they have gotten rid of those and have now a really cheap looking one from jantanminiau. Also don’t forget the most important thing when flying bluey- the delft Blauw houses (made in china I think) I have a small village and always keep my Klm houses app up to date on my phone. They are still a nice extra I think.

    All in all better food on AF then KLM but the new KLM seats are very competitive and they seem to have more new ones then the new AF seats (and btw AF seems to be on strike like 5 times a year).

  7. Your post is interesting but pertains only to us based flyers. Thank you ben o above for more useful tips out of europe.
    I consider there are 2 huge drawbacks to the FB program.
    Number 1, you’ll only get 25% of the miles if you fly discounted coach on AF and KLM metal. Without a bunch a credit card you’ll get nowhere.
    Number 2, the award chart to asia is insane. I want to fly CDG to Tokyo next spring, they’re asking for 200k roundtrip. Crazy.

  8. I’m really annoyed that their website doesn’t show the miles expiration date. I logged into my account today to find 60k miles expired on August 1st. I had credited 500 miles from a survey back in May, so I thought I was in the clear. However, it seems only flight activity will reset the expiration date. I have a flight with Delta in about a month that I was planning on crediting to Flying Blue. I’ve contacted customer service, so I have my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to reinstate the miles.

  9. I have a stash of UR and AMEX points that I can instantly transfer to AF/KLM who are always my first choice when I am looking for a transatlantic redemption. The inventory available is always great with many choices. Great program. Some of the KLM stock is a little dated so I avoid them but AF Business is a good overall product for long haul. I wish JP luck in trying to get his points reinstated. The Flying Blue program really is for Frequent Flyers! No buying a magazine subscription for $10 on their on line shopping portal here!

  10. Hi Gary,

    Thank you for the detailed tips.
    Just wondering though, assuming one cannot book the Promo Awards they offer, wouldn’t you say that a better option is transferring UR points to Korean Air SKYPASS and redeeming through them a flight on Air France/KLM to Europe in Business?
    Thanks
    Leonardo

  11. Hey guys one small correction. I just learned today that KLM will upgrade its a330s by the end of 2018, so only 2 more years of sliding down the old seats and landing on the floor. 🙂 It is still good news just a bit slow to implement. Last year I know an FA told me it wouldn’t happen.

    If you live in NL (I guess France for AF) there is an Amex card that allows you to also earn points for purchases. KLM purchases count for MQM and I think they give you some as a sign up bonus (and segments each year after) I have the Platinum as it provides a couple of interesting perks. For one since I am plat on KLM FB and my wife is a 2nd on my Amex she can also have platinum (I think only one gifted plat per year though) also you can split out KLM Payments over 3 months (as normally it acts like a charge card where you pay in full each month), also 1.5 miles per euro spent on KLM. Either way it is not very competitive with some of the USA cards I had in the past but for NL KLM point earning its about the best you can do. Actually there are not many point earning cards in NL at all.

  12. “I think is that Air France’s miles are best used for Air France and KLM business class awards when partners like Delta and Alaska aren’t offering space.”

    I don’t get this comment with regard to Delta. I never see good value on Delta redemptions anymore, because they price all their tickets at close to a 1c value. When I look for business class that costs $2500, they want 250,000 miles; when the ticket is $900, they want 90,000 miles, etc. If you can still get to Europe business class for 125k miles, then that beats Delta hands down.

    Am I missing something?

  13. Please note that Flying Blue will tie the award miles costs to the inventory. Meaning that when paid fares go up for a flight, so will the miles for an award. Now this happens in large steps (eg 25K for an empty flight, 100K for a full flight), but in the near future these increases will happen more gradually.

    Another major change is that Flying Blue mileage earning will become spend-based. Be warned!

  14. Just for your info
    If you ever travel with a company that is affiliated to FLYING BLUE and is not Air-France, you better keep all the boarding passes on that affiliated airline…because this is what they will ask you as a proof.
    I am trying to get my missing miles credited to my account and I have no more those boarding passes, thinking that they could track all my trips with my electronic ticket.
    I thought that the tracking would be done correctly, at least now all of you can reap the info from a traveller who thought that once your Flying Blue card was done, you did not have to track your air miles!

  15. gary can you explain the east coast to hawaii possibility? economy or business from any of the washington dc airports?

  16. I wish #16 had been first. It would have saved me the trouble of not only reading the rest, but taking half a page if (now useless) notes.
    I had been under the impression that KLM was the back door way to fly DL in F on points. So, without FB status, thereally is NO way to get an F ticket with miles/points?

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