Air France KLM Still Shutting Down Accounts, Sending People to Airport to Ticket Awards

For the last two and a half years I’ve written about customers having their accounts shut down by Air France after transferring points in from a bank partner and redeeming an award.

An Air France auditor claimed at the time, “[T]he use of our frequent flyer accounts as boxes opened to transfer miles with our non air partners won’t be allowed anymore.”

While Air France swears that’s not the policy, their anti-fraud folks went off the rails. If they didn’t shut down accounts, sometimes they just blocked ticketing and required customers to go to an airport to complete their purchase.

A lot of good that does for someone who lives in a city Air France doesn’t serve! And airport agents often don’t even know what to do if you do show up.

I pushed this up the flagpole in New York, in Paris, and in Amsterdam. The problem seemed to quiet down for awhile, although I’ve Air France anti-fraud measures still or again seem out of control as in the past couple of months I’ve heard from readers more or less weekly.

One commenter shared this story yesterday:

We booked a flight for our son last night. It said to call in. The hours given on the confirmation indicated the office was closed. So we called in today and they’d cancelled the reservation.

The agent then told us we’d screwed up because we should have gone to the airport to have the ticket issued. I told her there is no Air France office at Portland. She said then go to Delta.

I told her that the Delta desk is closed in the middle of the night. I also asked how long they held the reservation. She said three hours. I then asked how I can do anything when their office is closed and won’t open for more than three hours and the agent had no answer.

But it gets better.

We were able to re-book the reservation. Again it didn’t go through. The agent then said we had to drive to the airport to get it ticketed. I decide not to argue and hang up.

I called customer service. They tell me the agent is wrong and that Delta cannot issue Flying Blue award tickets and that I should speak to Flying Blue. So she transfers me to them and another agent tells me that I have to go to the airport and be there is less than 3 hours or the ticket will cancel. Three hours. Not a second more.

So I’m back on the phone and no one seems to have the correct answer. Flying Blue says go to the airport. Air France reservations says if I go to the Portland airport they can’t issue the ticket so don’t go.

Bottom line is the problem that you identified has not been corrected. Just thought you might like to know. As for me, I see no solution. We have no way to get our tickets issued in before the 3 hour window runs out.

I do find them still super frustrating and of course the lack of knowledge on the part of agents compounds the problem. If you’re going to put anti-fraud measures in place, offer a reasonable path to verify legitimacy.

Delta cannot help with a Flying Blue award ticket.

As a general matter one can reduce the likelihood of all this:

  1. With an older Flying Blue account — open one now if you think you might need one in the future
  2. With a reservation made by phone rather than online.

That’s not fool proof but in my experience things go through more smoothly with an aged account booking awards over the phone when transferring points in from a transfer partner like American Express, Chase, or Citibank.

I understand the desire of a frequent flyer program to combat fraud. Delta has new restrictions on last minute award redemptions from Russia, China, and Africa. But at the end of the day it’s the program’s job to manage risks without causing the program itself to be too difficult to use.

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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Pingbacks

  1. […] According to wheretocredit.com, the T-fare segments would earn 30% mileage flown if credited to Delta and the B-fare segments would earn 100% mileage flown. That’s nearly 10,000 miles earned on the above itinerary if credited to Delta (similar figures to other SkyTeam partners like Air France/KLM). In fact, I would recommend crediting these to Air France / KLM Flying Blue as some people think this will help avoid one of their trigger-happy account shutdowns or requests to go to the airport to ticket an award. […]

Comments

  1. We JUST Had this happen. Was told to go to JFK. Got to the ticket counter, and they were PISSED. They said this keeps happening, and they can’t book awards, all they can do is call. So even the ticket counter staff doesn’t know what’s happening.

  2. It’s funny you should mention this. As I have read on your blog before about this problem, I was cautious about a Citi transfer I completed just a few days ago. I had previously set up an AF Flying Blue account and it seems to had disappeared, so I set up a new one. Before actually transferring the miles, I called AF and asked them if I would be able to transfer into my just opened account to which they said “yes”. After transferring the miles, I waited (nervously) and the miles appeared after 10 minutes or so. I immediately proceed to book the flight and it was ticketed. I made it, I am writing this from my destination.

  3. I work for a government agency, this sounds like us. Two employees give different answers because the organization has poor communication and training.

  4. Frequent flyer miles aren’t free and there is no way to transfer them back to the bank. I read about this issue a long time ago, and crossed Air France off my list of redemption partners.

  5. I remember that AF will close the account if you register it but only for award searching. So it is quite contradictory whether you should open it early or late…

  6. Has this ever happened to someone whose account had miles credited to it from a flight on AF? Somehow, I got miles from AF when I traveled on an AS award. I just successfully booked a 15k award on Czech using the FB miles. I’m hopeful that would give my account some legitimacy .

  7. Frankly this verges on fraud, and I’ve never transfered points to this program for this very reason. I think a generic warning should be in place whenever writing sbout the program. What responsibility do credit card companies have if they advertise transfers to an aifline but the aifline, in effect, dies not honor the transaction?

  8. Open an account and claim one Delta flight to it (actually a better deal than DL sometimes if you buy a cheap F ticket) or credit your E-rewards there. Then when it’s time to transfer a transferrable point currency, you won’t look like you’re doing something wrong

  9. @ Kira:: then that explains how my old account mysteriously disappeared. I guess now I will be protected since after the transfer and redemption I was left with 500 miles.

  10. This is utter garbage. How can you be a legitimate transfer partner of multiple bank programs, and not let people transfer points into your miles and then book a ticket? I would be so upset if this happened to me. Totally changes the game if you have to fly with them now and them (or at least credit flown miles to their program) to be able to book an award and be less “suspicious”.

  11. I can already hear the Morgan & Morgan ads: If you were defrauded of your points in a CC rewards program….. for the people.com…
    Damages might start with the Annual Fees being refunded to customers.
    Air France may think they are bigger than Chase, but they are not bigger than Chase, Citi, Barclays, and AMEX. In fact, if they hear from that cabal, they will willingly sell a whole lot of seats to customers using reward points, and then cheerfully ask what else they can do to help them.
    I think the article referenced an “auditor” as the origin for shutting down this charade. An “auditor” may not be happy with the skimpy profits generated by these rewards points customers, but without that program, the seat would probably go empty.
    As long as the airlines aren’t selling every seat to a frequent flyer program, they will make money by selling those seats to reduce capacity, upselling those customers, capturing non-refundable fares sold to named individuals, luggage fees, change fees, etc. These all required the seat to be ticketed in the first place, so unless Air France wants Chase, etc, and/or Morgan & Morgan coming to their country and blasting their radio waves with cliches from the Declaration of Independence, they will stop harassing their customers and tell their auditors to shut up and audit.

  12. @Gary – how long can you age an account without actual miles activity before they close the account?

  13. Ellos cuando se fusionaron con KLM no avisaron y mi cuenta en esa compañia desaparecio.
    Reclame y nunca encontraron mi cuenta con suficientes millas para volar desde Sudamerica hasta
    Mexico y aunque les lleve y mostre mi tarjeta de cliente la respuesta fue que todo habia desaparecido.
    El programa de Air France es una estafa.

  14. @Gary curious if there is anymore follow up on this situation (prior to taking the risk of transferring my UR and SPG points to Flying Blue)?

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