An Introduction to Air France and KLM’s Flying Blue programme

Just like British Airways and Lufthansa in their respective alliance, Air France / KLM is of equal importance in Skyteam. Today we’ll give an overview of their Flying Blue programme.

[Membership Tiers and Benefits]

  • Explorer: entry level
  • Silver: 100 XP, benefits include 50% bonus miles, additional baggage allowance, priority check-in and boarding, plus free standard seat selection
  • Gold: 180 XP, additional benefits include 75% bonus miles in lieu, and complimentary access to Skyteam business lounge
  • Platinum: 300 XP, additional benefits include 100% bonus miles in lieu, free preferred seat selection and Platinum hotline

Similar to British Airways’s Premier, Flying Blue also has an invitation-only tier: Club 2000 (Air France) or Skipper (KLM), which is usually awarded to people who contribute significantly to the airline’s business. A personal assistant will escort you from the check-in counter to boarding at selected airports, and you can also expect unlimited upgrades.

Full list of benefits is here. Silver is equivalent to Skyteam Elite, whereas Gold and Platinum are Skyteam Elite Plus. The number of XP you earn from a flight depends on the distance:

There are five different bands, and premium economy, business and first earn double, triple and quintuple XP compared to economy class. Interestingly they don’t discriminate against discount / sale fare buckets, although fares can be hugely different within the same cabin class.

Note that all domestic flights fall into Band I – this is a big disadvantage if you frequently fly within, say, USA or China.

The way your status is promoted is quite different to other programmes. Once you’ve accumulated 100 XP, you are promoted to Silver that is valid for 12 months, and the 100 XP is deducted from your account. In the next 12 months, you’ll need to accumulate another 180 XP to reach Gold.

Flying Blue has a soft landing policy. For example, even if you haven’t flown once after reaching Gold, you will drop to Silver instead of Explorer after 12 months.

Gold and Platinum members enjoy complimentary business lounge access across the Skyteam Alliance. Bare in mind it doesn’t apply to domestic flights though, and it’s honoured on an ad-hoc basis – a lounge being Skyteam doesn’t mean you gain access automatically, but it depends on the airline you are flying with and the airline who operates the lounge.

[Airline Partners]

To date Skyteam has a total of 19 members, including Delta, Aeromexico, China Eastern and China Airlines etc.

Flying Blue also partners with Virgin Atlantic, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and China Southern. You can redeem award tickets online for some of them.

Because of the joint venture, Flying Blue has a deep connection with Virgin Atlantic. In fact, it might be worth crediting your Air France / KLM flights to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club instead to climb up the status ladder much faster. We’ll talk about it later when we write about Flying Club.

[Earn Miles]

Flying Blue was one f the first to adopt revenue-based earning in Europe. The award miles you earn depends solely on the fare of your ticket:

Explorer members earn 4 miles for every euro spent. This includes carrier-imposed surcharge, but not airport tax or departure tax etc. In general, it is not too bad for economy class or full-fare business class flyers, but those who buy discounted premium tickets suffer the most.

[Spend Miles]

Flying Blue’s redemption also changed to a dynamic revenue-based model recently. Overall it is still zone-based, but there is no longer a publicised redemption chart.

Flying Blue provides a calculator that tells you the minimum redemption price for a given route:

I’m not aware of any sweet spot, unfortunately.

Thankfully Flying Blue does run a regular promotion called Promo Rewards. The list of destinations is updated monthly, and you enjoy a discount of between 20% and 50%. Sometimes it can be a great deal, especially for long-haul business class.

Due to its exclusivity, Air France’s first class La Premiere is only redeemable by Gold and Platinum members. It’s not open to partner programmes either.

There is also a boomerang trick, which allows you to pay one-way price for two itineraries.

[Non-Airline Partners]

You can opt to earn Flying Blue miles when staying at major hotel groups. Flying Blue has a special reciprocal programme with Accor: you earn miles when staying at Accor, and Accor points when flying Air France or KLM.

Flying Blue offers a hotel booking platform called hotels for Miles. You can redeem your miles for hotel stays.

American Express offers four Flying Blue credit cards in France and the Netherlands. In addition to earning miles via everyday spend, some of them come with bonus XP too. If you are a Platinum member, holding the Platinum card also allows you to gift Platinum status to a friend.

[Summary]

If you reside in a city other than London in the UK, Air France / KLM may be a more practical option for you than BA. It’s worth considering the Flying Blue programme if you fly them regularly.

It’s a shame that after the introduction of dynamic pricing, it’s hard to use their miles to good value nowadays. However, if you could find use of a couple of Promo Rewards and short hops to Paris or Amsterdam, it may not be a bad deal after all.

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