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Flying Blue Makes Big Changes, Moves to Revenue-Based System

Nov. 06, 2017
7 min read
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The frequent flyer program of Air France and KLM, Flying Blue, is undergoing a big makeover in 2018. As of April 1 of next year, the Flying Blue program will be moving from a distance-based mileage earning to a revenue-based program, among other changes.

Because Flying Blue is completely overhauling its program in a rebranding it's calling "Flying Blue Reinvented," there are many changes to most areas of the program — from earning and redeeming to elite-status qualification and more.

Flying Blue is a program frequently utilized by not only Europe-based passengers, but also US-based travelers trying to book SkyTeam awards. Because you can transfer points from the three major transferable currencies — Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and Amex Membership Rewards — there is definitely interest in the US in how the program will change.

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How You'll Earn Redeemable Miles

If you fly with KLM, Air France, Hop! or Joon, you'll earn miles with Flying Blue based on how much you spend. The number of miles you'll earn will not only be calculated based on the the pre-taxed, base cost of your ticket, but also based on the cash you spend on seat options, extra luggage and if you decide to purchase from the à la carte menu.

As of April 1, 2018, here's exactly how much you'll earn, based on elite status level:

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

The new mileage earning rates aren't the most favorable. As a point of comparison, United Airlines flyers earn at the following rates: 5 miles per dollar spent, 7 miles per dollar spent, 8 miles per dollar spent, 9 miles per dollar spent and 11 miles per dollar spent for members, Premier Silvers, Premier Golds, Premier Platinums and Premier 1Ks, respectively.

Flying Blue says that your account balance of award miles won't change when the program changes — between March 31, 2018, and April 1, 2018. The number of miles you'll earn will be the same no matter the distance flown or the flight operator — whether it's Air France, KLM, Hop! or Joon.

In addition, Flying Blue clarified that partner earning will remain the same as its current structure — even after April 1, 2018. This means that you won't earn miles in the new revenue structure when flying with Flying Blue partners. For example, if you fly Delta in the US, you'll continue to earn redeemable miles under the current distance-based structure.

While for lower spenders, or those who fly primarily in economy, a revenue-based earning structure is generally bad news, for more premium flyers who frequent business class and higher cabins, the revenue-based structure could be good news. For example, if you were to book a one-way first-class ticket from New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) in the current structure, you'd earn approximately 10,920 award miles. However, in the structure that will be implemented in April 2018, for the ticket, where the pre-tax amount hovers around the $8,200 mark, you'd earn 32,800 miles. Both of the examples are for an Ivory member, or the most basic level of membership.

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How You'll Spend Redeemable Miles

As of June 2018, Flying Blue miles that you've earned can be used toward booking award tickets with Air France, KLM, Joon, Hop! or Transavia. The number of miles needed will be based on your origin, destination and flight date. At this point, that's all we know about how awards will be priced. Flying Blue confirmed it will release an award chart at the end of Q1.

Flying Blue says that you'll be able to book any available seat using miles. Unlike with the current Flying Blue rules, the number of seats that are available to book using miles will no longer be limited per flight. Until the last available seat on the plane has been booked, you'll be able to put your miles to use.

Also, as of June 2018, Flying Blue will introduce a Miles & Cash option. With the new option, you'll be able to pay for up to 25% of your award ticket with cash.

How You'll Qualify for Elite Status

Currently, you'll earn Flying Blue status based on how many Level Miles you've earned while flying or how many qualifying flights you've taken. However, that's about to change with the introduction of Experience Points — or XP. How you achieve status will no longer be based on Level Miles and qualifying flight, but instead, how many XP you earn. Here are the levels of status and how many XP are required in order to get that status:

  • Silver: 100 XP
  • Gold: 180 XP
  • Platinum: 300 XP

According to Flying Blue, XP will be calculated based on the type of flight (domestic, medium-haul or long-haul) and the class of service. Here's a look at how many XP you can expect to get based on what class of service you're flying, and what type of flight it is, including with SkyTeam partners:

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So, you'll need to fly 10 times between Paris and New York in economy in order to lock in Silver status (100 XP). However, the higher your class of service, the quicker it'll become to get status. If you fly between New York and Paris twice in La Première, Air France's first class, you'll get Silver status. There will be no changes for the benefits that come with Flying Blue elite status.

You'll need to meet the XP requirement level within a 12-month rolling period, rather than a calendar year. This new XP program change will take affect as of April 1, 2018, and Level Miles and/or qualifying flights already in your account will be automatically converted to XP on March 31, 2018. As of that date, the conversions will be as follows: 1,000 Level Miles will become 5 XP, and 1 qualifying flight will become 7 XP.

A benefit of this XP structure is that if you were to come up just short of qualifying in a 12-month period, your extra XP will roll over into the following qualification period. Say, for example, you earn 220 XP in a qualifying period — enough for Gold but not Platinum. The surplus 40 XP will roll over to the following qualification period.

Overall, these are some interesting, if predictable, changes from Flying Blue. As is the trend with many frequent flyer programs, Flying Blue is switching to a revenue-based system, so this is a devaluation for most. There are still some questions, however, such as what redeeming miles will look like. However, we do know that Air France will reveal an award chart at the end of Q1, but we don't know specifics. In addition, the program will be launching a new website with a redesigned interface in 2018.

We are getting plenty of notice — the first changes will begin on April 1, 2018.

*This post has been updated with new information following a conference call with Air France-KLM.

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images