Flying Blue is (finally) listening to its customers!

Monday, November 6, 2017 marks a real turning point in Air France-KLM’s Flying Blue loyalty program, the leader in Europe. But this announcement will really transform the world of European loyalty programs, just like the move made by the American airlines 4 years ago. Today, Flying Blue announced a major simplification, resulting in the switch to being Revenue Based.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpg1cuz6KT0

Some elements to understand the impact of this transformation on the travelers of the Franco-Batavian airline.

Revenue based ? Wha’s that ?

As the name implies, this is a loyalty program based entirely on the revenue generated by customers, rather than any other factor, in this case, for airlines, the distance traveled in miles.

The current situation

Currently, the Flying Blue program allows you to accumulate miles based on the distance traveled. Of course, it’s true. But not only. The fare paid, materialized by thebooking class (a travel class is broken down into several booking classes that materialize thefare level) is already taken into account with percentages that evolve according to the price paid.

Example of a mileage earning table, which takes into account the price paid in the earning percentages

So Flying Blue is already revenue-based? Well yes, it already is, which makes today’s announcement a bit pointless. This has at least the virtue of simplification…

What about tomorrow?

So what does it really change?

  • This prevents “smart guys” from doing so-called mileage-runs (finding attractive fare combinations that maximize miles)
  • This necessarily penalizes travelers who are based abroad and who benefit from a more attractive fare due to yield management, which allows them to compete with national airlines in foreign countries

And overall, it makes the mileage gain fairer for everyone: those who paid more earn more, and the airline can retain a percentage of the ticket price so it makes much more economic sense.

What about Flying Blue?

With Flying Blue, miles will be earned according to the following scheme:

  • 4 miles earned for every euro spent for Ivory members
  • 6 miles earned for every euro spent for Silver members
  • 7 miles earned for every euro spent for Gold members
  • 8 miles earned for every euro spent for Platinum members

This scheme is only valid for Air France, KLM, HOP and Joon and, as a major innovation, it will be possible to earn miles on seat options, meals, etc.

For the other SkyTeam alliance airlines, the current rules apply,with a percentage of the distance flown depending on the booking class of the ticket.

And what does this mean for statuses?

This is where Air France has been clever and finally combines the best of both worlds: while mileage earning (the cost for the airline) is directly linked to income, status earning is now totally uncorrelated with the fare paid. Only the distance and the travel class count now.

XPs and their accumulation

Like British Airways and its Tier Points, Flying Blue is introducing XP points (for experience points), which are accumulated as follows:

XP accumulation scale on Flying Blue, valid for all SkyTeam flights or flights marketed by AF/KL/A5.

This makes things much simpler, and will probably please avgeeks: if they find a good fare, they will accumulate the same number of experience points for the same travel cabin.

Note that season ticket holders will double their XP points but only on domestic flights, although the card is now European.

The notion of qualifying flight disappears from now on, but the number of XP accumulated by flight replaces a little bit this system.

Air France KLM AMEX cardholders will earn 15 XP per year if they have an AMEX Silver, 30 XP per year if they have an AMEX Gold and 60 XP per year if they have an AMEX Platinum.

The new qualification thresholds

The new qualification thresholds are as follows:

  • Silver : 100 XP over 12 months
  • Gold: 180 XP over 12 months
  • Platinum: 300 XP over 12 months
  • Ultimate: 1800 XP (on AF/KL/A5 only) over 24 months

For comparison, it took 15 qualifying flights to be Silver (minimum 75 XP on the new scale), 30 qualifying flights to be Gold (150 XP on the new scale) and 60 qualifying flights to be Platinum (300 XP on the new scale), which is almost equivalent.

This also makes it possible to get rid of the thresholds for French residents, which are different from the thresholds for the rest of the world.

Lifetime status and XP rollover

According to the joint study by Flight-Report, The Travelers Club and TravelGuys in 2016, the rollover of miles as well as the “lifetime” status were popular at Flying Blue: this possibility is maintained in the new program, and Status Miles balances will be converted into XP as of April 1, 2018 according to the principle of 4 XP per 1,000 status miles. Rather generous.

Unchanged benefits

The benefits of each status are unchanged for now.

Conclusion

We have not been so positively surprised by the Air France KLM group for a long time. If the transition to revenue-based seems logical from a financial point of view, the criteria for obtaining simplified status are a real progress, and respect frequent travelers and their wishes. Will this lead to a decrease in the number of Elite? Perhaps at the margin, for those who qualified by segments and at the limit, or those who qualified because their booking class was at the top of the pyramid. For real frequent travelers in any case, no risk.

Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier Delestre-Levai
Olivier has been into airline blogging since 2010. First a major contributor to the FlyerTalk forum, he created the FlyerPlan website in July 2012, and writes articles with a major echo among airline specialists. He now co-runs the TravelGuys blog with Bertrand, focusing on travel experience and loyalty programs.
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