Flying Blue, Air France-KLM’s frequent flyer program, will limit the number of XPs a customer can roll over from one year to the next. This is bad news for members seeking Platinum for Life status.
The devaluation of frequent flyer programs is commonplace and takes many forms, but yesterday’s announcement by Flying Blue that it has decided to limit the famous XP rollover so appreciated by its members was unexpected.
What is XP rollover?
Flying Blue members earn XPs for their flights, enabling them to earn and retain their status. A much-appreciated feature of this program is the so-called rollover: if a member earns more XP than necessary to maintain his status, the surplus is carried over to the following year.
If, for example, a gold member who needs to earn 180 XP to maintain his status earns 250 XP, he will start the following year with 70 XP, which will make requalification easier and even help him reach platinum status.
This program feature is particularly appreciated by passengers seeking Platinum for Life status.
Flying Blue Platinum For Life status
With Flying Blue, there is only one status you can earn for life: Platinum. For this, you need to be platinum for 10 consecutive years.
Platinum status is retained with 300 XP, so Platinum for life requires 3000 XP over 10 years, with never less than 300 per year to avoid being downgraded.
That’s where the rollover comes in. A passenger who travels a lot may accumulate surplus XP in the first few years, which will be carried over from year to year. And if he travels really a lot he can accumulate his 3,000 XP in less than 10 years, and just has to wait for the deadline. so that the famous status can be awarded even if he no longer travels with an airline allowing him to credit to the program (Air France, KLM and Skyteam member airlines) during this period.
That’s what happened to me.
After being platinum for 5 years and then demoted to gold, I resumed my quest for the Grail and accumulated over 3,000 XP in 5 years. From then on I patiently waited 5 years and obtained my Platinum for life status.
In the meantime, I’ve hardly flown on Air France, KLM or Skyteam, apart from two or three domestic flights a year on Air France.
Why ? Firstly, because the quality of service was deteriorating, especially on medium-haul routes, and secondly, because the prices offered were far more expensive than the competition, especially once again on medium-haul routes, for an inferior service.
And when you accumulate 3,000 XP in 5 years, that means you’re still flying a lot, and always flying with the same airline is a bit like always going to the same restaurant. In the end, you get bored and want to get some fresh air.
Finally, we weren’t going to make Travelguys credible by only reviewing Air France or KLM flights.
What’s new in the XP rollover?
As from requalification periods starting after November 1, 2024, it will no longer be possible to carry over more than 300 XP. Of course, this only applies to Platinum members. For all others, having this number of XPs means moving up to a higher status and resetting the counters.
During a one-year transition phase starting November 1, 2024, each 300 XP earned above the 300 XP surplus cap will be converted into an additional year in the Platinum for life counter. After this period, it will no longer be possible to accumulate more than 300 XP in surplus.
Concretely speaking, members who have XP years on their account today will not lose them, and will see them converted to years in 300 XP increments. In future, however, they will no longer be able to accumulate surplus XP above 300.
This means that a Flying Blue member who becomes Platinum after the reform could, at best, only acquire lifetime status in 9 years, whereas before a frequent flyer could acquire it, at least mathematically, in 5 years or even less, depending on flight volume.
Why is Flying Blue introducing this reform?
Here’s what the Flying Blue website says:
Surplus XP helps members qualify for Flying Blue Elite status in future years by counting eligible flight activity in previous years, and it is something our members value. To ensure the longevity of the programme, including Platinum for life benefits, Flying Blue is evolving to ensure that those members who enjoy Flying Blue Platinum status continue to choose Air France, KLM, Transavia, Aircalin or any of our SkyTeam partners when they decide to fly.
I’m not sure what the longevity of the program has to do with it, even if it’s obvious that the easier it is to obtain lifetime status, the harder it is to deliver the associated benefits, and the greater the risk of devaluation.
On the other hand, the benefits are obvious in terms of revenue: the program no longer wants “big” customers to get their 3,000 XP fast enough, and then feel free to go to the competition and fly on other airlines if it’s more interesting for them.
Exactly our profile and what we did! And that will no longer be possible.
This may have a side-effect, but not as big as the current one. A passenger who has reached his 300 XP surplus may say to himself “I have no interest in flying with them this time, so I’ll look for the airline offering me the best deal”. It’s a situation that will of course occur, but we’re talking about arbitrations that will take place at the end of the qualification period, maybe a month or two a year, and not over periods of 3, 5 or 7 years!
Is Flying Blue going too far?
It’s clear that this announcement will grate on the nerves and disappoint many customers. But is this program reform unfair?
Flying Blue ensures that members cannot enjoy its (almost) highest status without flying regularly with Air France, KLM or a partner airline before reaching lifetime status.
We’re talking here only about platinum members and lifetime status counters, whereas many loyalty programs require a minimum number of flights with the airline for any status. United, Turkish Airlines, Aegean and ANA are among them.
The reform of Lufthansa’s Miles&More program goes even further in this direction, as half of the points will have to be earned by flying on a member airline of the program and not on alliance partners.
There is no such limit with Flying Blue.
On the other hand, the rollover of XPs is quite unique and specific to Flying Blue, and there’s no way to compare.
From the customer’s point of view, this is inevitably bad news, because he legitimately feels that if he does his 3000 XP he has done his part of the contract, no matter how long it takes, and that this reform is unfair.
From the program’s point of view, there are two issues at stake: limiting the number of lifetime platinum members and earning money.
Putting a limit on surplus XP makes it less unlikely that a customer will lose his status in a bad year and have to start from scratch for his lifetime status, but, in our opinion, if it’s sure that some customers will be affected, but not that many a “mattress” of 300 XP is still a nice security.
We see more of an impact on program revenues. The more flights a passenger takes to earn XP, the more flights they take to earn award miles! And these award miles are purchased by the airline that the passenger flies from the loyalty program! Limiting surplus XP has less to do with XP than with selling miles!
A decision that is totally in line with Flying Blue’s subsidiarization and the fact that the business model of a loyalty program is the sale of miles!
That’s why you don’t have to earn a certain number of miles on Air France or KLM, and why partner airlines are also included: what matters is the sale of miles and nothing else.
What is at stake here is not the revenue of the airlines, but that of Flying Blue.
But to answer the question of whether Flying Blue goes too far, our answer is no. It’s an economically sensible decision, and Flying Blue is becoming just a little less generous than before in an area where it was much more generous than other programs.
In fact, Flying Blue statuses are fairly easy to achieve. Compared with the competition, few programs offer lifetime status, and none offer rollover.
But it’s certain that for passengers who fly a lot and exceed their 300 XP per year, the pill will be very hard to swallow.
What strategy for current Flying Blue Platinum members?
Many passengers affected by the measure have asked us what to do.
Knowing that the future rules are clear and the schedule known, we have only two things to say.
1°) From their requalification period starting after November 1, 2024, once the 300 XP surplus has been reached, they have no interest in flying Air France, KLM or a partner airline if they find a better flight elsewhere (fares, product, schedules, etc.).
2°) In the meantime, if they can, they’d better accumulate as much XP as they can and “load up” to benefit from the conversion of every extra 300 XP into a year in their lifetime platinum meter. Provided you’re sure you can accumulate full 300 XP increments.
By limiting the number of surplus XPs a passenger can carry over from one year to the next, Flying Blue is (somewhat) combating the proliferation of Platinum for life status, but above all trying to boost its revenues by preventing very frequent flyers from being tempted to fly with the competition once their status has been mathematically achieved.
In the end, few people will be affected, but these are the best customers, and for them the blow will be hard to take.