Flying Blue will be reinvented on April 1, 2018

Don’t take the word April Fools Day literally KLM/AF.

KLM/Air France operate a common frequent flyer program called Flying Blue, and the program is also shared by other airlines such as their associates’ HOP! and Joon, and others such as Transavia, Kenya Airways, Tarom and Air Calin. With two of the biggest airlines in Europe being a part of their portfolio, it is a key player in the European space, however, given their focus on the Indian market now, and also their close cooperation with Jet Airways, they are getting more and more traction around this side of the world as well.

Now, it has been known somewhat that Europe is the next big bastion of revenue based frequent flyer programs. They are clearly taking a leaf from their American friends, and KLM/AF Flying Blue is one of the next in line for a revamp. They have announced the revamp today and this will kick in on April 1, 2018, as mentioned above.

Earning changes to Miles

Flying Blue Earning partners

Flying Blue Earning partners

Flying Blue is going the Air Vistara way in terms of earning miles. It does not matter how far you fly, the only thing that matters is how much money you spent buying that ticket. For instance, you could score an Amsterdam – Mumbai ticket for Euro 100 perhaps, but that will only give you 400 to 800 miles going forward depending on your tier. In this spirit of how things will proceed, you even get miles for ancillary revenue such as paid seat assignments, extra baggage and meals.

Miles will be earned on the back of revenue on Air France, KLM, HOP! and Joon flights. If you buy a Jet Airways flight or a Delta flight marketed as KLM or AF, of course, you can earn Miles in this scheme of things as well. Miles will be earned as per tiers:

  • Ivory: 4 miles per EUR spent
  • Silver: 6 miles per EUR spent
  • Gold: 7 miles per EUR spent
  • Platinum: 8 miles per EUR spent

On other carriers, you’ll continue to earn miles basis distance. For instance, you want to credit a Bangalore-Amsterdam Jet Airways flight to Flying Blue, no problem. You still get miles basis distance flew and class of ticket.

The validity of miles has become complicated now. If you take a flight with KLM/AF or SkyTeam partners, you get to extend all your miles for two years now. However, if you take a non-SkyTeam partner airline such as Jet Airways and credit to Flying Blue, only other miles get extended, not all of them.

Status Earning changes

To earn status, you have multiple ways to measure engagement with the airline. Some airlines do it on the number of flights, some on the basis of miles flown and others on a hybrid multiple such as tier points which take into account the class of service and distance flown. In this case, Flying Blue is going for a hybrid model. They will give you XP for every flight you take and credit in the program. XP is earned on Air France, KLM, HOP!, Joon, AirCalin, Kenya Airways, Tarom and SkyTeam partner flights.

Surprisingly, no distinction between the various fare classes here. Which means you buy a cheap ticket or an expensive last minute one in Economy, you get the same XP for qualifying to the next tier.

To qualify through the ranks, you need the earn enough XP. 100 XP for the Silver tier, 280 for Gold Tier and 580 XP for the Platinum tier. Once you reach a certain tier, you get as many XP deducted from your account and then the tier journey starts again. That means excess XP get rolled over for your next tier qualification.

This implies Flying Blue will implement a non-calender year approach going forth to membership years. After obtaining an upgraded tier, you get to have 12 months to requalify. This unshackles from the current rigmarole of having to get through every calendar year. However, it also takes away the potential 27 months of membership in one go.

If you do not manage to get the appropriate number of XP, you will be soft-landed to a new lower tier.

Redemption Changes

The changes are not just limited to earning, but also how you’d burn miles. The 50% off promo awards will continue to exist, also the redemption chart for Skyteam airlines. For their own airlines, however, Flying Blue is looking to move to an anytime pricing, which means you’ll pay different amounts for different flights.

A simple example. USA-Europe currently costs 25000 miles in an economy redemption. Now, it would depend on where you fly to. SFO and NYC will get different pricing, and also which airport you fly from in Europe.

Bottomline

While earning status is going revenue-based or pseudo-revenue based around the world, the trend of anytime pricing for tickets on redemptions is a harmful one. This will only encourage customers to move away from earning miles and be a free agent where they can.

What do you think of the changes to the Air France / KLM Flying Blue program? Bad, very bad or pathbreaking?

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